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HISTORICALLY SPEAKING April flashback: A month of flight, light and fright

Photo courtesy of Doug Magers from the book “New Castle: A Pictorial History,” by Darrel Radford Kate Shelley Maxim had the honor of pulling the switch that first illuminated New Castle with electricity in 1893.

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Richard Pickering Ratcliff for some of the information used in this column, taken from his book “Henry County at the Millennium.”

April is quite a month when looking back into Henry County history – one of flight, light and fright. Local history was not only endured in Aprils past, but preserved as well.

Here are some important, interesting and enlightening April moments through the years.

Wilbur Wright

Next Monday will mark the 151st anniversary of Wilbur Wright’s Henry County birth in a small farmhouse near Millville. He was a Henry County resident for just a few months, due to his father’s work was an itinerant preacher. But the fact remains a key historical figure in world history was born here, and thousands have visited the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum to pay homage.

Two other April dates also relate to Wright:

• On April 15, 1923, a memorial to Wilbur Wright was dedicated in Henry County Memorial Park with his mother in attendance.

• On April 16, 1974, the Wilbur Wright state memorial was dedicated at the birthplace site with astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, serving as guest speaker.


On April 15, 1893, a young girl named Kate Shelley Maxim pressed a key at 7:10 p.m., illuminating New Castle with electricity for the first time.


Many no doubt remember April 2, 1974, when a tornado destroyed Kennard Elementary School. This writer’s sister-in-law, Melody (Shore) Radford was among the teachers there who huddled with children in a coat closet area while the storm tore the building apart. Amazingly, no one in the school was hurt.

The unforgettable moment served as proof positive tornado drills are important. One was held at the Kennard school the day before, and all the youngsters knew where to go and what to do, perhaps saving lives in the process.

The storm that hit Kennard was just part of the second-largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period and most violent tornado outbreak ever recorded, with 30 F4/F5 tornadoes confirmed.

Interestingly, April is also a memorable month for the Knightstown area for a positive reason. On April 4, 1967, the Charles A. Beard School Corp. opened a new community high school.

Local history

On April 25, 1902, the former home of Gen. William Grose was officially dedicated by the Henry County Historical Society as its new home. The museum continues operation today at 606 S. 14th St. in New Castle.

Other April highlights

• April 12, 1823 – A post office is established in New Castle, four days after the town was platted.

• April, 1905 – A new addition to the Henry County Courthouse is officially accepted by the county commissioners.

• April 13, 1879 – The Springport Christian Church is organized with 16 charter members, a group affectionately known as “The Sweet 16.”

• April 24, 1828 – Quakers at Spiceland formally establish a church.

• April 10, 1968 – The first issue of R. Thomas Mayhill’s Tri-State Trader, which ultimately became Antique Week, is mailed to subscribers.

• April, 1972 – Parkview Junior High School opens in New Castle.

• April 15, 1979 – Westview Nazarene Church dedicates a new facility on Ind. 38, west of New Castle.