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John Smith Crump

"None So Generous, None So Enterprising..."


In this day and age of countless awards and recognitions being bestowed upon the city of Columbus Indiana by the outside world, it would be nice if we could step outside the boundaries of our "national fame," and take a good, all encompassing look at ourselves. According to the internet site Columbus Indiana--Different By Design, created by Indiana University's WTIU Public Broadcast Stations, the timeline of architectural history in Columbus begins in 1942 with the dedication of the "most costliest church in the world" at the time, the First Christian Church. While this is all fine and dandy, let us probe a little deeper into our city. Let's look beyond the concrete and brick and mortar. Why is Columbus Indiana so special? What separates this city from the hundreds of thousands of other cities across the country? How did things begin here to make Columbus what it is today? Who were those special citizens that were responsible for the shaping of our city, and laying the foundation on what it has become today?

     To quote Sherlock Holmes, "therein lies the rub, my dear Watson."

     If the residents of Columbus Indiana, or the outside world, for that matter, take a good look around, they'll not find much in the way of us, as a city, paying respect to, or recognizing our forefathers. Those pioneering individuals who left their indelible mark on the city of Columbus Indiana. The role our forefathers played and the successes and accomplishments they achieved in shaping our city are as fundamentally important as was the dedication of Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church on May 31, 1942. But if one tries to find any plaques or memorials acknowledging them, there are very few, if any. Any information regarding what they did for this city is deeply buried within our public library and historical society, stuck inside folders, glued into personal scrapbooks, or hidden away within microfiche tapes, and it's sad to note that any plaques or memorials that do exist can only be found in the City Cemetery just north of 16th Street...


One of those "unrecognized" citizens who did much to shape the city of Columbus Indiana was John S. Crump. If nothing else, Crump's name can still be seen by anyone who travels west on 3rd Street, and his "Crump Theatre" has barely weathered the "in the name of progress" tribulations many other architectural wonders that were once a part of the city didn't.

     But, those colorful C R U M P letters fixed onto the side of the building don't do much in the telling of who C R U M P was...


     John Smith Crump was born February 24, 1843, the youngest son of Francis J. and Amelia Crump. Francis Jefferson Crump was born in Henrico County, Virginia in 1801, and arrived in Columbus Indiana February 13, 1822, "pennyless," as he liked to say (he had 50 cents in his pocket). As a young man, Francis left Virginia and traveled to Louisville Kentucky, where he was to find work as an apprentice in the carpenter trade. Upon completing his apprenticeship training, he moved to Columbus Indiana, and worked for Burl Glanton. Francis helped build the Orr corner, one of the first downtown business locations in the city.

     By 1874, Francis J. Crump was the wealthiest man in Bartholomew County.


Portrait Of A Young Francis Jefferson Crump I



John Crump spent the first 12 years of his life growing up on the Crump homestead, located where Mead Village is today. Sometime shortly after 1854, his family moved from the Crump Homestead into the town of Columbus, taking up residence in a house on the northeast side of 4th and Washington. Two buildings occupied this corner-area back then, one behind the other. The two story brick home, which was the Crump residence, sat on 4th Street facing the First National Bank, and another frame building on the corner of 4th and Washington was used as a millinery. After the Crump family moved from the house, it was occupied by Dr. Frederick Falk (until 1906), and thereafter, for a short time, the house was a Gentleman's Club.In 1910, these buildings were demolished to make way for a new commercial building (where Max's Jewelry is today). 


F. J. Crump's home on the north side of 4th and Washington Streets, drawn by George W. Unger, March 31, 1910, at the time of demolition. This home sat east of the corner. A millinery, owned at one time by the Williams family, actually sat on the northeast corner. A new commercial building would occupy this spot. This drawing given to Ross Crump by Don Unger


     Not much is known regarding John Crump's early years. He had a brother, Francis T. Crump, to pal around with, religious upbringing being course of the day, and strong personal and moral values instilled upon him by his father. He attended the city and county schools, but at the age of 18 and in the wake of the Civil War, he left Columbus and traveled to Madison Indiana to join the Union Army, against the wishes of his father. Everyone in Columbus knew he was much too young to enlist, thus the reason for traveling to Madison. He enlisted there as a musician, as there was no age limit for the "fife and drum corps" and became the youngest member of  Company G, 22nd Regiment of Indiana Volunteers, which was organized and mustered in on August 15, 1861.


This photo of John Crump was taken during the Civil War. John was around 18 years old. Actual date of this photograph is unknown


     The 22nd Regiment would be witness to fierce fighting throughout the time John Crump spent with the unit. They moved from Madison Indiana to St. Louis Missouri on August 17, 1861. On December 15, 1861, the regiment saw action at Shawnee Mound (Missouri) that lasted 4 days. By the time the fighting ceased on the fourth day, the 22nd Regiment had captured 1300 prisoners. From Milford (Shawnee Mound), they headed further south to Cassville, Arkansas, and fought at Pea Ridge. The month of May, 1862, found the Regiment at Corinth, Mississippi where they fought the battle of Corinth, lasting 3 days. 7,197 soldiers lost their lives. The Regiment remained in Mississippi until August 17, 1862, when they started their marched north to Louisville, Kentucky.

     One can only speculate at this point in time of the living conditions and horrors the war brought into John Crump's young mind. Battling the elements was indeed a much harsher, continual fight than battles with the Confederate army. 

     "In the morning, as usual, we took up our line of march and it rained all day. This was the fourth day. Saturday, we stood in the rain and mud all that day until four o'clock in the evening. I thought in my heart the men would perish. This day we made one quarter of a mile, and encamped by Clark's River. Some of the men on one side, and the balance on the other. The river rose so rapidly, those that got over could not get back to their tents, and of course many of them had to lay down that night in the rain without tents. We were more fortunate. We put up our tent, and cut a lot of cornstalks, and laid down for beds. In the night I heard something close by like running water. I poked my arm under my India rubber blanket, and found the stream of water pouring through our tent. I laid still and had a tolerable nights rest, for I was very tired. By daylight, the river fell low enough for us to ford it. We were all that day crossing and this Sunday we made one mile through rain and mud--our sufferings was terrible indeed. Two days marching one mile and a quarter. Monday, we pulled along through the mud, some places up to our horses bellies, until late in the night when we encamped, tired hungry and sore."

     "This has been a hard day on the poor soldiers. Commenced snowing this morning about 2 o'clock, and still snowing, the ground is now covered with snow to the depth of six inches, and very cold. The men have built huts out of boards, shingles, limbs of trees, grass, mud and every thing to keep them from freezing, many of them being barefooted. One thing is in our favor, we are in camp in the woods, and the men are chopping down trees and building large fires in front of their tents, huts, etc., which makes them tolerable comfortable. Strange as it may seem, they will have their fun, whilst I am writing I can hear the violin, banjo, and the songs, which makes the old woods sing with their cheerful and merry voices. They seem to take all this like philosophers, for they well know that it can't be helped at present. The division quartermaster has gone to Memphis, to procure such things as we most need. How he will succeed time alone will develop. We look for him back in the morning. Pray God he may come with all that we need -- should our men get shoes and socks, they will be all right."

     The preceding was written by Colonel William Lawrence Sanderson, assigned to the 23rd Indiana Regiment. Although Col. Sanderson was not assigned to the 22nd Regiment, his description of the battle between the environment and his soldiers highlights not only what his regiment went through, but Crump's regiment as well.

     Probably the greatest horror of the war that John Crump witnessed was the siege of Corinth, Mississippi. Many of the wounded Confederates that had previously fought at the Battle of Shiloh were sent to Corinth to recuperate. Thousands died. The city of Corinth was described as a vast graveyard by the soldiers of the Union army after it was captured. Those Confederate soldiers who were "lucky" enough to be buried in the city (thousands had yet to be buried) were just barely covered over. Heavy rains partially exposed the corpses, and the resulting stench from rotting flesh was overwhelming throughout the city, making it a ghastly place to be. Disease and sickness within the city was overwhelming.

     Although there are no letters home, or documents that were written by John Crump during his time spent with the 22nd Regiment, I do believe, later in his life, he shared similar stories, quietly spoken on somber evenings in the closeness of friends.

     Sickness and disease were the major causes of death to troops on both sides during the Civil War. Of the 26,672 Indiana soldiers who died during the war between the states, 17,785 died from disease. John Crump was one of the lucky ones. He became ill during the time spent in Mississippi, was discharged, and sent home.

     Any dreams he may have had of his peaceful, quiet home, were abruptly dismissed on his arrival back to Columbus. Word was circulating throughout the town that General Morgan of the Confederate Army was just south of Seymour, and headed toward Columbus. Francis J. Crump, had much to worry about. General Morgan was notorious for robbing banks in the name of the Confederacy, and Crump's bank would definitely be a target.

     Sick and battle weary, all John wanted to do was get some much needed rest.

     "It was about midnight when I heard my father knocking at my bedroom door."

     " 'Johnny,' he said, 'Morgan's coming.' "

     " 'How close is he to town?' I asked, half awake, not even offering to get up and open the door.' "

     " 'Just below Seymour.' "

     "When I learned Morgan was still twenty miles away, I was much relieved and lay down again, so that it was necessary for father to keep knocking as he talked, to keep me awake."

     " 'Johnny, the provost marshal has ordered Isham Keith and me to go to the west end of the wagon bridge and guard it.' "

     " 'If that's the case, father, then you'd better go.' "

     " 'Johnny, do you think there's any danger?' "

     " 'I don't know. There may be considerable if Morgan doesn't change his route. Think I'll take another nap until he gets here.' "

     " 'Johnny!' He knocked again to keep me awake. "Where is the shotgun?' "

     " 'Back of the door.' "

     " 'Is it loaded?' "

     " 'Yes.' "

     " 'Well, I'm going down to guard the bridge.' "

     " 'Johnny, if you hear firing, bring your rifle and come.' "

     General Morgan, however, changed his route, going to Vernon instead of Columbus.

     John's health continued to deteriorate. Although there is no record of what John suffered from, chances run high that it was either tuberculosis or malaria. Union Army doctors of the time lumped these diseases under a "diarrhea-dysentery" prognosis, the best a doctor could do in 1862. 

     On March 1, 1863, at the age of 20, John Crump departed Columbus, the first of several times after his stint with the 22nd Regiment. Besides being ill, John had just spent the last year of his young life experiencing the horrors of a terrible war, something that would remain with him for the rest of his life. He traveled to Marysville, Kansas, hoping the western weather would improve his health, and just maybe, to try and escape his past...


     During the early 1850's, Francis J. Crump, found himself in a position to invest some money. He looked outside the city of Columbus Indiana toward the new country of the western frontier, and decided that Iowa and Kansas were two places to buy land. Francis took $20,000 in cash, an extremely large amount of money in those days, had a special overcoat made for the purpose of concealing the money, and left Columbus by railroad. He got as far as the railroad ran back in those days, Paris Illinois, and jumped on a stagecoach headed for Dubuque Iowa. Already under the constant worry of being robbed or killed, the stagecoach journey took a turn for worst, when, into the trip the second day, the stagecoach lost one of its rear wheels. With no spare wheel and the closest place to repair the wheel still seven miles away, the driver announced for the passengers to spread out and find a place to spend the night and he would have the wheel fixed by 7am the following morning. With his special $20,000 overcoat on, Francis Crump asked the driver where to go. The driver pointed in the direction of a house, as his intentions were to break up the group instead of having them all descend upon the same home, and, on foot, Francis walked away from the busted down stagecoach.

     It was with much trepidation and concern that Francis approached a lone house on the prairie. Dusk was coming on. The October sky was filled with the chill of the approaching night, but nothing quite as chilly as the reception he received upon knocking on the door to the house. The woman who answered the door was cold and uncaring about this situation. 

     Thoughts of this crazy trip began to pervade his mind. Why did I leave Columbus to do this? Here I stand with $20,000 in my coat and...

     She invited him in, and he took a seat by the hearth, adding that her husband had gone hunting, and no decision about his spending the night would be made until he returned.

     He left his coat on.

     A short time later, the husband and son walked through the door, carrying squirrels and a rifle, Francis would later say, that appeared to be at least 7 foot long.

     "How-de-do?" Francis said.

     The man said nothing, and walked through the room to unload his burden.

     After a few minutes, Francis stood up and walked into the adjacent room to explain the situation regarding the stagecoach.

    If the male host's looks weren't enough to make Francis worry more about his current situation, the gruff interruption to his remarks were. The man had yet to remove his coonskin cap. His hair was long and well past his shoulders, and his sight was enough to make Francis consider spending the night out on the open prairie. The man's stern disruption was indeed very worrisome to a man carrying a small fortune hidden in his coat.

     "She told me all about it. You can stay. Go in there and sit down."

     Francis spent the next passing minutes planning an escape route from the house should he be attacked during the night. His mind was so preoccupied with worry that, when commanded to come and eat by the man, he absent-mindedly answered "no." He continued to sit by the fire with his money-filled overcoat on, his mind racing with plans of escape.

     As he was about to run from the house, the family walked into the room. The man walked over to the bureau in the corner of the room and pulled out a book.

     "Stranger, I don't know what you are, but we always have family prayers in this house before we go to bed, and I invite you to join us..."

     "Mr. Crump told me that man read one of the prettiest chapters he ever heard from the bible and that the prayer was the most eloquent one that ever was uttered by human lips," George Pence would later recall in an article concerning Francis Crump's life.

     "He said that he then took off that overcoat and went to bed and slept like a baby, and 'George? The stewed squirrels and home made hominy that we had for breakfast was the best meal I have ever eaten, before or since.' "

     Francis Crump used the money to purchase land in Iowa, as well as Marysville Kansas, and returned to Columbus safe and sound...


     Marysville Kansas was the last western outpost for those adventurous individuals who dreamed of starting a new life, decided to sell everything they had, and head toward the new land of Colorado and California. Gold had been discovered in Colorado, and Marysville Kansas was a land of great opportunity, as the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the route of the Pony Express and the Overland Stage, all passed through this Blue River crossing. Besides the possibilities of trying to escape the war, John Crump figured Marysville would be a good place for a general store, and set up business in 1863.

     During these days in Maryville, maybe John Crump's nightmares of war were rekindled, not because of the War Between The States, but possibly because of a different kind of fight.


Aug 27, [1864]

Dear Brother Minaus,

The very day I reached home from the river I found the Militia of our Co. together with Marshall & Washington were under orders to be in immediate readiness to go out and fight the Indians, who were reported to be robbing trains, driving off cattle & mules, and burning ranches & killing the inhabitants all along the government road from Marysville to Denver. Being one of the Militia of course I was under marching orders too and as I never had fought any, I thought I might as well try my hand on Indians as any body, so with the shortest notice I had my gun and fell right into line. With scanty supplies & no outfit we were put on a forces march until we reached 47 miles from here or 17 beyond Marysville. We found the town of Marysville full of men women & children who had fled there from the settlements west for an asylum. We found that although there was much exaggeration, yet many had been killed, hundreds of cattle driven off and many ranchers had driven their cattle & mules south and were probably camped in large numbers on White Rock Stream, a southern tributary of the Republican about 50 miles from where we then were. We immediately turned our course over the prairies south, procured guides and made our course way where we hoped to find Indians.


     This letter from an unknown author describes the hostilities of living in and around Marysville Kansas in 1864, which was, indeed, quite a different life John Crump knew from his "civilized" town of Columbus Indiana. 

     Sitting here at this point in time, some 140 years after the fact, I feel John had an adventurous spirit about him. To leave the comfort and security of the Crump Homestead, and enlist in the Union Army; to come back home for only a few months, and then head out for the furthest most reaches of "civilization" as was known. I believe he was searching for something that the small town of Columbus just couldn't fulfill. I feel I am capable of speculation here because of my own feelings at the age of 18. I wanted to leave Columbus and explore the world. I wanted to make my own mark. I think John wanted to make his own way through the world, without his father's local influence and affluence. He simply wanted nothing different than what we all want: To be a self-made man...


     John Crump settled in Marysville Kansas, opened a general store, fell in love, and married Emma Webber on Sunday evening, April 9, 1865. The Reverend Mr. Woodburn performed the ceremony. A card on the wedding cake included the following: "And you, Crump, we hate to part with you, but Fate has scattered our entreaties to the winds. We have known you just long enough to admire your genial disposition, and your every action has been proof that you possess the qualities which constitute an honorable gentleman. Our most kind wishes go with you as you journey through the long years on the happy road of married life." (from the Marysville Kansas Enterprise, dated April 13, 1865). I can only assume at this point in time that there had been talk of moving elsewhere, because of the "we hate to part with you" part of the statement. John had wanted to move to Nebraska, but in the end, decided to move back to Columbus.

     In 1866, John and his "new" wife, moved back to Columbus, at the request of his father. They were not destined at this point in time to spend much time here, however, as they did not like living here, and before the year was out, moved back to Marysville. In the following years, the couple would move from Marysville to Manhattan Kansas and, again, back to Marysville.

     In 1869, Francis asked his son to return home, and John gave in to his wishes, moving back to Columbus to stay here for the rest of his life. In reading various newspaper articles of the day, I have come to believe that John returned because his father was in bad health. Initially on his return, he farmed the old Crump Homestead until 1887, when he moved to town and into a grand home on the corner of 7th and Mechanic (Lafayette) Streets. Although it is speculated that John Crump had this home built around 1883, I would date the house closer to 1887 to coincide with the move from the old Crump Homestead.


Could this be a photo of the "old Crump Homestead" where Mead Village is today? This photo of Mrs. John Crump and children could very well have been taken at Francis J. Crump I (John's father) home. Francis, his wife, and immediate family are still buried there, in someone's backyard. This house would have been demolished many years ago.


Although the date of this picture is unknown, I do believe it to be taken sometime in the early 1890's, and shows the home as it was originally built. As you can tell by the next picture of the same house, the porch has been added, but in both cases, Mechanics Street (Lafayette Street) remains unpaved


John Crump's home, porch added, date unknown


     April 30, 1881 was a sad day for the Crump family, as well as many Columbus Indiana residents. Francis Jefferson Crump died at 10:30pm on that Saturday evening. He died in the lone company of Dr. Hudson, tending physician. "Francis J. Crump is a name inseparably associated with the city of Columbus," the Republican reported. Funeral services were held on May 2nd, at the William J. Lucas (Francis' son-in-law) home on Washington Street. Hundreds of people turned out to pay their respects. "They came not as the curious come, but as those who realize that in their midst there has fallen a self-made man--a man who has spent a life time of honest devotion to upright dealing, and while asking his own has extorted no more." 

     Francis Crump was laid to rest in a "magnificent metallic casket, with ten massive silver handles." The weight of the casket was 575 pounds. Funeral services were conducted by the Reverend A. Parker. The pall bearers were Dr. S. J. Barrett, Elder J. B. Cobb, Joseph I. Irwin, J. V. Storey, Christopher Martin, Samuel Hege, W. W. Mooney, H. Griffith, S. Stansifer, and Josiah Beatty. He was buried at the Crump cemetery on the old Homestead. In a day and age before the automobile, the procession to the cemetery was a mile long, many folks walking the 2 miles north of Columbus.

     "There are many acts of kindness which he did of which no one but his most intimate friends knew, and many a poor man unable to pay his rent has received a home for his family from the hands of this landlord. Thus ends the career of one of the most remarkable men Bartholomew County has ever produced. After eighty-one years of active existence, Francis J. Crump rests from his labors." Whether this "eulogy" was written by Isaac Brown, founder and editor of the Columbus Republican, is unknown... 


     It has been said that John Crump loved the theater. Was his love only fueled by his father's Crump Opera Hall? Logically speaking, I would venture it was.

     Exact origins of Crump's Opera Hall/Theatre are debated among certain circles at this point in time, with both "Opera Hall and Theatre" lumped into one generalized category. But it all boils down to whether you are talking about Crump's Opera Hall, or J. S. Crump's Theatre..


     In 1872,  Francis J. Crump, contracted for a "new" Opera Hall to be built.

     "The street floor of Crump's new building is being rapidly fitted up. One room is already occupied by a provisional store," the Republican reported on Thursday, May 23, 1872.

     Once the structure was in place, Francis hired Hege, Mathes & Company to finish the woodwork. The month was July and it was hoped the new hall would be open by September. September came and went, and on October 26, 1872, the Republican reported: "Crump's new Opera Hall is just about completed. Its appearance has been much improved by the beautiful frescoing of the ceiling. Mr. Reynolds, the artist, and his assistant have done their work in a manner that reflects much credit on themselves. Columbus has now a hall of which none of her citizens need be ashamed, though, it is much regretted that Mr. Crump did not build it a little more in the style of an opera house." 

     On October 31, 1872, the Republican reported: "The Columbus Dramatic Club propose giving an entertainment on Wednesday evening, November 6, at Crump's New Opera Hall. 'The Robber Wife' and 'Slasher and Crasher' will be represented." There was another article in the paper concerning the performance given on Monday, October 28, 1872, by White and Turner's troupe, the very first performance at the place on that grand opening day.


     Francis J. Crump's Opera Hall was, indeed, the first actual "Opera Hall" the city of Columbus had seen, but it wasn't located in the same 3rd Street location taken up by the Theatre today.  While reviewing information regarding the downtown area around this particular timeframe, it appears a possible location was somewhere in the vicinity of Washington & 4th Streets (ne corner). Will Marsh's book, I Discover Columbus, notes that the Crump Opera Hall was on the corner of 4th and Washington streets in one sentence, and "above 4th Street" in another. An ad for Cobb's Store was found in an 1872 edition of the Republican, noting the business was located inside Crump's Opera Hall, corner of Washington & 4th.



Supposed date of this picture is 1874. This Crump building was located on Washington Street, across the street from the Courthouse. The building would later become A. Tross. At this point in time, I am uncertain as to what this building was.


A comparison of the building to the right of the unidentified Crump building on Washington St., and the above picture of the Herald and Star building show an amazing similarity, right down to the decorative figure on top of the building (top left in this photo; top right above the Crump building). The Herald and The Star circa 1901. The "Illustrated Columbus Indiana: 1914-1915" booklet lists the address of the Herald Star at 225 Washington Street, which would put this building somewhere across from the Courthouse.




J. S. Crump's  "New" Theatre can be seen on the left-hand side of this picture. A postcard does exist of the Theatre, the building in its entirety. The architect of this grand Columbus Indiana showplace was Charles Sparrell.  Although the date of this picture is unknown, the building on the right side is the Belvedere Hotel. The Belvedere Hotel, built by John Crump, was completed in 1891. This picture was taken sometime after May 15, 1893, as up to that time, Crump's Railway (notice the trolley car) was "mule-powered." The trolley car in the picture is "electric powered."


    Jump to 1889:  The following is from the Herald, an early Columbus Indiana paper: "Since it has become an established fact that Columbus is to actually have a theatre worthy of the name, the next inquiry of the public is, what name will it be known by, and we have several times been asked this question. If we were to suggest a name, we would certainly say that the most distinctive and eminently proper name would be 'John Crump's Theatre.' It is customary, when a single individual builds a play-house that the house, by general consent and usage becomes known by the owner's name; so, even if Mr. Crump were to give it another name, it will nevertheless be known as "John Crump's Theatre" and to give it the name will simplify matters materially, and the house will readily become known abroad by the name of Crump's Theatre. We would respectfully urge our public spirited citizen to call his house "John Crump's Theatre," in which we have the support of all fair minded people, who are proud of his presence amongst us and who recognize the honor he adds to our city."

     J. S. Crump's New Theatre was the first move by a private individual to offer Columbus and its citizens something it hadn't had before. A first class Theatre was a bold move in such a small town, considering the population of Columbus in 1889 was around 8,000 people (according to a census report, issued sometime prior to 1895). The most logical question that comes to my mind today is:

     Why did he do it? 

     There was already the Opera Hall his father had built. Why not just continue to use it? If he was looking for an investment that paid well, a first-class theatre in such a small town wasn't the way to go. From a purely capitalistic point of view, it was a terrible investment of time and money, and it's most certain he knew he would never get rich from such an investment. 

     But John Crump didn't build it for his own riches. He built the Theatre for the people of Columbus as much as he built it for himself. His public spiritedness played more of a factor in building the Theatre than his bottom line. It could also be that he took heed of the comments in the Republican newspaper after his father built the Opera Hall in 1872, thus, wanting to live up to the desires of both the paper as well as the community. In a day and age before radio or television, the Theatre was a major form of entertainment, and, with Columbus having a "first-class" place, it secured the bookings of bigger and better acts for this small town.

     John S. Crump's New Theatre officially opened its doors on October 30, 1889, almost to the day his father's "Crump Opera Hall" opened 17 years before. 

     The new Theatre was a first step in the direction of bringing Columbus up from just a normal, run of the mill, small town to a first-class city.


John Crump. Date of this picture is unknown


      With the "New J. S. Crump's Theatre" finished, it was now important to provide adequate transportation to its patrons. Columbus, after all, was a growing community, with homes and businesses sprouting up as far out as the Orinoco Furniture Factory, as well as East Columbus. Shortly after the opening of his Theatre, John Crump went to work on building Columbus' first street car line.

    "It is thought that the street car track will be laid as far as Washington street crossing of the J. M. & I. by tomorrow night," reported the Evening Republican on Wednesday, August 6, 1890.

     By August 11th, "the last rail on the street car line, with the exception of some switches, will likely be laid tomorrow."

     On Monday, September 15, 1890, Columbus' first mule-powered street car ran from Crump's Theatre to Orinoco Avenue. "Crump's street car line was opened at 10 a.m. today to the traveling public. The city officials and press representatives occupied a front car. The public in general was given free rides for one hour, after which fare was charged. The line was well patronized this afternoon by citizens, and from present indications, will continue to be. There is no one in the city but has a kind feeling for the enterprise which has placed this city to-day another step in advance of her neighbors." (The Evening Republican, September 15, 1890).

     From the book, I Discover Columbus: "In May, 1890, after several years of idle talk about a street car system, Joseph I. Irwin, Captain Lucas, Dick Thomas, and B. B. Jones suddenly asked the city for a franchise. John Crump had been figuring on the same thing and next day also asked one and guaranteed to have his cars running in 120 days, while the first crowd asked for two years. Crump got the franchise on May 30, began work on September 15, and five weeks later the first cars ran. The entire system cost him $16, 419.00. The original line ran from Crump's Theatre to Sycamore street, north to 16th, across to Washington, and back to the Theatre. A branch line took off at 7th and Sycamore, went east through Maple Grove, and rejoined the main line further north; later a branch was built from the car barn on 16th to the Orinoco factory. Each car was operated originally by one mule and made the circuit of either line in half an hour for a nickel."

     "During the wait at the Theatre, the drivers were known to loaf in the Belvedere bar. One day, the mule on an Orinoco car kicked at a fly, knocked the single tree loose, decided to leave, and made the entire circuit without his car. When the system was electrified, larger cars were bought, but the Orinoco spur continued for many years with one mule power. When the electrics first were put on, they carried a three foot metal basket shelf in front to catch unwary pedestrians. After some years, when no one was caught in them, they were taken off. There was a sloping slot along the windows on the right side, down which your nickels rolled to the fare box--provided you "remembered" to put them in the slot."

     As you can well see, William Marsh, in writing his book, didn't quite get the dates right...



This early photo of downtown Columbus. Washington Street, looking south from 5th Street captures one of J. S. Crump's early, mule-powered, trolley cars. The Hotel St. Denis is on the right hand side of the picture



An early photo of J. S. Crump's Street Railway. Dick Gottschalk commandeers the vehicle. Many similarities exist between this car, and the one in the picture before it. But it appears that, by the time this photo was taken, the cars had been converted to electricity. Date of this photo is unknown



By the time of this photo, some, if not all, of the trolley cars had been replaced with newer ones. Both date and location of this picture of Crump's Trolley is unknown, but taken sometime after May, 1893. Crump's Railway was "electrified," and now included East Columbus


     The years from 1891 to 1893 were busy years for John Crump, as well as the overall accomplishments his actions did for the small town of Columbus Indiana. 

     Prior to 1893, John Crump purchased 8 acres of land east of 2nd and Seymour streets from John Beatty, and constructed a bigger "power house." The reason behind the addition was to provide electric lights to the downtown area, and "to anyone in the city desiring them." Many people still relied on the more reliable, gas lighting they were accustomed to.

     Another reason for the power house was to provide the existing rail system to East Columbus. Charles Crump was placed in charge of this East Columbus addition. The line would be extended to Hughes Place at the end of Indiana Avenue, and Garland Brook. The power plant would also provide electricity to the Crump home on Lafayette Street, this being the first house in Columbus to have electricity.

     Also during this time, John Crump purchased the property of the Bissell Hotel (the northwest corner of 3rd and Franklin Streets), and decided to build a first-class hotel in the city of Columbus. The Bissell building was "reconstructed," by Coats and Dunlap under John's supervision, and sometime shortly before Christmas, 1891, the Belvedere Hotel officially opened its doors for business.

     "The Belvedere will be a progressive step in the matter of the hotel accommodations of Columbus, and is destined to occupy a position that no similar establishment has yet done, it is being fitted up as a thoroughly modern American hotel," one of the local papers reported at the time.

     The Belvedere Hotel was the largest and most modern hotel in the small town of Columbus in 1891, and even rivaled other hotels in much larger cities. A bar, a billiard room, a reading room, lavatories, and most things we take for granted these days, only made the Belvedere just that much more special.

     A dinner was given by John for 124 guests, and a Ball followed on opening night to celebrate this special event. Nothing quite like it had ever been witnessed in the town of Columbus before. More than 160 people attended the Ball, which lasted well past 4am.









Front and backs of a business card from the Belvedere. Date of the card is unknown



A picture of the Belvedere Hotel, taken in the 1950's may possibly give the viewer a look into the grandness of this first, modern hotel Columbus Indiana had seen



A picture of the Belvedere Hotel, taken after its heyday. It appears the sign out front is neon. The old Gause Restaurant was located on the left side


     Life in 1895 Columbus saw the completion of the City Hall on the southwest corner of 5th and Franklin streets. On March 26th, the Herald reported: " Last night, John S. Crump tendered a testimonial banquet to the city officers and the city press in commemoration of the completion of our magnificent city hall. It is befitting that Mr. Crump should do this, as he is, today, the most pubic spirited citizen of Columbus. It shows that while a few others are complaining of this enterprising spirit of the city authorities, which was manifested in putting up this magnificent building, Mr. Crump shows his appreciation by tendering them this pleasing testimonial."

     The affair was held at the Belvedere Hotel. John Crump gave the following address: "Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the City Council and City Officials of Columbus. You have just completed the erection of a beautiful building, the City Hall, and I assure you the citizens of Columbus are proud of it. For some strange reason, they have failed to come forward and applaud you, as they should. You were elected to office by the citizens of Columbus. These same citizens, then by popular ballot, instructed you to build a market house and city hall. You have fulfilled these instructions by arduous and earnest work. The result is, we have a city hall which is a credit to our city, and of which every citizen of Columbus must feel justly proud. As one of these, I wish to congratulate you and say to you, your work has been well and faithfully done, and I have availed myself of the pleasure of inviting you here this evening to afford me the opportunity to say this to you. I have but one regret, and that is that not every citizen of Columbus is here tonight to join me in this declaration. However, I feel confident this approval is generally accorded you, and will manifest itself in time, after the political horizon becomes calm again, and petty criticisms are forgotten. It would be eminently appropriate at this time to give some review of the history of Columbus from its earliest settlement to the present time, including the first steps taken to incorporate the town as a city; its incorporation and its growth since that time, together with the various meeting places of councils from that time until now, when it enters its permanent home, but as there is hardly time for all this at a gathering of this kind. I must leave this pleasant task to some who are more conversant with the political history of Columbus than I am. However, it is a part of wisdom to investigate the philosophy of our city's progress, rather than to view with the contented egotism of success of our city's strides in numbers, wealth and power. Though the elements of progress are often complex and obscure, we may hope to unravel the tangled skein and throw some helpful light upon the subject if we look at it in three aspects common to all human life, namely, the moral, intellectual and physical. The development of this city, as all other life, inverts this order. The earliest phase is physical. A patient, systematic and untiring industry is the citizen's first virtue. To apply this force at the point of maximum efficiency requires intellectual effort. Habits of industry, the intelligent application of principles, the observation of facts in themselves and their relations to each other, the power of quick perception, which no sign, however subtle, escapes; every quality that goes to make an assured success in city lite, is at the same time both the cause and the effect of physical and mental growth. On the physical side, the resources are widened; on the mental, the ability to catch flying opportunity on the wing, and to utilize it, is sharpened. As two harmonious notes, struck in unison on a perfectly tuned instrument, will not only sound themselves, but will set a third, and this completes the accord so a legitimate development of the physical and mental life will awaken into being the moral sense that which makes the honest man what he is, the noblest work of God will make the community noble as well. Industry is power; knowledge is power, but far above and beyond both, lifting both into a higher and wider sphere of action, is the power of character. The same elements that enter into individual life go to make up corporate life. The forces that work singly can effect so much, and are enormously multiplied when used in combination. Then, gentlemen, let our new city hall represent now and in time to come, a temple whose cornerstone is integrity and equity. Whenever the prosperity or honor of our city is in consideration, let us lay aside all party lines, let us forget politics for a time, and let every citizen of Columbus hasten to the city hall and there consider and act together with but a single purpose, and that the welfare and dignity of our city."

     Mayor Beck offered the following: "No city official here but feels himself highly complimented by this testimonial. The labors of such men serving the public are not always rewarded by the commendation of those for whom they spend their efforts. A departure from the beaten way in any walk in life is looked upon usually with suspicion and worry. I am to say that, frequently, motives are questioned, but Mr. Crump in his public spirited, whole-souled, generous way comes forward on this occasion and tenders a testimonial delicate and refined in its nature that both commends and encourages. Ladies and gentlemen, I propose the toast: Our Host! None so generous, none so enterprising as he."

     By the year 1903, John Crump was 60 years old. Within his lifetime, he had been witness to Samuel Morse's first state-to-state telegraph message, the beginnings of the Pony Express, the total destruction of much of the southern United States and the death of 620,000 soldiers, the first assassination of a United States President, Goodnight and Loving driving 2000 head of cattle from Texas to Colorado, the beginning of the American cowboy, the completion of the transcontinental railroad, the opening of the Suez Canal, the formation of Standard Oil Company, the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the depression of 1893, Wilbur and Orville Wright making their first "heavier-than-air" machine flight, and the founding of the Ford Motor Company.

     The area around Columbus was changing, growing, and shaping. More and more people no longer relied on farming as a major source of income, and began to migrate into the town to work for the new companies that were springing up. John Crump's vision, his ability to "catch flying opportunity on the wing," had given much more to Columbus than he received in return.

     The Evening Republican newspaper, in several articles regarding John Crump, reported that on May 29, 1903, the citizens of Columbus honored John Crump, noting that he did more for the "city" than any other resident. While researching information for this writing, I discovered that this Testimonial wasn't given on May 29, 1903, but May 29th, 1893, and was held at the Crump Theatre. Music was provided by the P. O. S. of A. Band, and addresses given by Judge F. T. Hord, Elder Z. T. Sweeney, and Colonel S. Stansifer, songs by the Tabernacle Quartet, five minute talks by W. H. Everroad, Charles F. Remy, Columbus Duncan, Major Wm. T. Strickland, C. J. Killmeyer, and Jas. F. Cox. The Master Of Ceremonies for this Testomonial was Professor J. A. Carnagey. "After rendition of the above program, Crump's electric street car line will be thrown open gratuitously to the public from 9 until 11 o'clock pm. The band will render music upon both the Maple Grove and Orinoco circuits." (from the Evening Republican, dated Monday, May 29, 1893). 

     John Crump was awarded a gold medal, inlaid with diamonds. It was inscribed thusly: "John S. Crump, by citizens as a token of esteem for his public enterprise. Columbus, Indiana, May 29, 1893." Also on the medal were a wreath above a street car, and a theatre building in the background. I wish I could have provided a picture of this medal, but my copies were in such terrible condition that they just wouldn't reproduce well enough. Maybe some day...

     While the date reported in early newspaper issues may have been incorrect regarding the testimonial, the fact does remain that John Crump did unselfishly do more for the city of Columbus Indiana than any other resident...


Taken from the "Complete Directory Bartholomew County Indiana, 1903-1904" Pictorial section in the back of the book, a photo of John Crump from around 1903


     John Crump was a collector of artifacts, and part of his collection was displayed during the city's centennial celebration. War relics, including a gun dating back to the Revolutionary War, and another gun, manufactured in 1834, was one of two known to remain in existence, the other kept at the Smithsonian. Indian artifacts, an early spinning wheel, an old candle mold, and an early American flag dating to the Spanish-American war, used by Douglas and Johnson, and signed by both.

     Most of the relics were kept inside his safety deposit vault in his office. The safety vault "was the wonder of the entire state, the strongest and safest depositary between Indianapolis and Louisville. It was made of chrome steel, its inner walls 12 feet deep of solid granite rock. It had double combination, anti-dynamite inner doors and air tight automatic triple movement time lock doors outside. It was opened to a wondering public on New Years Day, 1892." (from the Evening Republican, January 7, 1954, column written by Laura Long).

     John S. Crump died Monday, January 28, 1920. He was 76 years old.

     I cannot think of a better tribute to the man, or a better way to end this article, than what Laura Long wrote many years ago for the Evening Republican: "John Crump left a very different town from the one he had come home to after the war. And he was himself responsible for much of the change. Because John Smith Crump, a quiet sort of man with a dry, quiet humor, a shy sort of man, a man who loved his own family devotedly, and who knew how to get on with children, a man who liked to collect things and share them--because this sort of man had chosen to invest his money in making his town a better place in which to live, other men in the same town chose to follow his good example and so the town continued to grow better and better. It is our great good fortune that his example is still being followed today."


John Crump in his later years. Date of picture unknown

© David Sechrest for the Historic Columbus Indiana website, 2004, except where otherwise noted. I began writing this article last year, but due to the complications of my appendix rupturing, it remained more in the back of my mind than toiling over words and striking the keys on the keyboard. Thanks to Francis Jefferson Crump III for his insight and help, and thanks to Joan Weinantz for providing many of the pictures on this page. I do not regret letting my copies of the 1916 and 1917 CHS yearbooks go for the opportunity to scan her scrapbook. It was well worth the trade...