Jon Kay on April 24, 2012

In a few weeks, I will be teaching a course on one of my favorite topics, Indiana Folklife. The course Indiana Folk Craft & Architecture (F360),  blends both the ideas of researching the expressive culture of the Hoosier state, with the hands on methods and techniques. I thought I would put it out there in case any one will be taking classes at Indiana University this summer. Here is the course description:

By exploring Indiana’s handmade objects and their makers, this course introduces students to the theories and methods of material culture studies. From tombstones and dress to log buildings and musical instruments, artifacts can serve as a lens for understanding the identities and creative lives of  people and the community and groups to which they belong.   In this course, students will learn to use historic photographs,  census records, ethnographic interviews, object analysis and a variety of other research tools and approaches to unlock  the meanings embedded in the artifacts of everyday life.



Tuesday and Thursday 8:50 am to -12:30pm
Class meets at 501 N Park
COLL (CASE) A&H Breadth of Inquiry Credit
COLL (CASE) Diversity in U.S. Credit

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Jon Kay on March 21, 2012

Cupps Chapel in Franklin County Indiana


A Fieldworker’s Tale: the Architecture & History of the Whitewater River Valley

Come learn about the folk architecture of Franklin County Indiana! Traditional Arts Indiana is excited to host a special lecture by nationally known vernacular architecture scholar Thomas Carter. On Friday April 20 at 7pm, Carter will present a entertaining and informative lecture about his years of studying the vernacular architecture of Indiana’s White River Valley.  This evening talk is free and open to the public and will take place at the Brookville Depot Building at the Whitewater Gateway Park,  in Metamora, IN.

Thomas Carter in Franklin County Indiana

Then, on Saturday, April 21, Carter will lead a day-long workshop (10am-4pm) on documenting and learning from old buildings.  Participants will learn to record a house with photographs and measured drawings. Students will learn about making site plans, floor plans, details, and elevations. No artistic talent is necessary. Tape measure and drawing boards provided. Preregistration for the workshop is required. To sign up contact Jeff Kuehl at the Columbus area Arts Council: (812) 376-2535;

The lecture and workshop is made possible by the generous support of the Cornelius O’Brien Lecture Series, with technical assistance from the Columbus Area Arts Council, and Historic Metamora, Inc.


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Jon Kay on March 2, 2012

When: Mon., March 5, 6:30 p.m.
Phone: 812-376 -2535
Price: free.

Knowledge for Not-for-Profits, an information sharing workshop, will take place on Monday, March 5 at 6:30 pm at the Jennings County Historical Society, 134 E. Brown St., Vernon, IN. This free workshop will be conducted by Jon Kay and is titled “Historic Photography.” Participants will learn how to identify and care for various types of historic photographs. Attendees are encouraged to bring personal photos to the workshop for discussion and onsite analysis. From fashion styles to photographic process types, Kay will help attendees understand a variety of ways to bring the stories behind old images alive. The workshop will also address the preservation and storage needs of old images. An avid student of vernacular photographs from Indiana, Kay will share tips and tricks for reading and understanding old images. With a reputation for his knowledge and expertise, Jon currently serves as Executive Director of Traditional Arts Indiana in Bloomington. While there is no charge, all attendees must RSVP with Jeff Kuehl.

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Jon Kay on December 6, 2011

It is a heavy heart that I write about the passing of Prince Julius Adeniyi. A descendant of Yoruba chiefs and kings in Nigeria, Prince Julius Adeniyi began learning to play drums by placing his hands on top of his grandfather’s hands during performances when he was just three years old.

An Indianapolis resident since 1971, Prince founded and regularly played with the popular ensemble Drums of West Africa. Named Young Audiences’ 2002 National Artist of the Year, Prince taught thousands of school children about West African culture through music, food, and the language of drumming, drawing on the lessons of his grandfather.

Prince entertained thousands over his decades of performing. I came to know prince, when I first became director of Traditional Arts Indiana. He worked with TAI as a master artist in our Apprenticeship program, performed concerts and residencies, and proved an amazing performer. He was truly a special man and artist, who touched so many lives.

Here is a video  short video of Prince talking about his grandfather and playing the thumb piano. I met with Prince in the winter of 2007 to talk with him about traditional drumming and his craft of making drums. I was struck by his musicianship and storytelling in this piece.


Also, here is an excerpt of an interview I did with Prince several years ago:

Jon Kay ( JK): Prince, why don’t you just tell me a little bit about how you got started playing music? What was your beginning?

Prince Julius Adeniyi (PJA): Well, my beginning goes a long way. When I was a child, say about three years old, and I see my grandfather play drums, and I want to play drums too! So, as a matter of fact, my family, my mother’s family, they are [a] group of master drummers. And my
grandfather, which is my momma’s daddy, was a very, very revered drummer, and traditional
herbalist. You know, herbal, what herbalists do, they are native doctors. And so, my grandfather, whenever he’s played the drums, I would go jump on his lap, at the age of three, and hold on to his hands. And his hands are going up and down; mine is going up and down with his, too! So, at the end of the day, when my grandfather is tired playing drums, he would clear out, and he would leave me in the small room, and then I would jump on the seat, and start trying to play the drums. So, and when my grandfather hears
me play the drums, he would peep, and look, oh! And say “that sound good!”

So anyway, my grandfather made me a small drum, so whenever he is playing the drum with the group of other people in the family, he would
tell me, “Sit down, and play your drum, too.” So, consequently, I become a drummer, like everybody else in the family. Yeah. That’s a long time ago! [laughs].

JK: Was there ever a formal apprenticeship where you, [or] when you became a drummer?

PJA: Oh yes! Well, at the age of three, as I said, I started, and there would come, there would come a time when you can actually participate in the adults’ drumming. So, they would test you. They would have you play with the adults. And then, when you play very well, they would have a celebration for you…, you know, coming to adulthood. And then, participating in what the adults are doing. So it’s a big celebration. So, that’s, that’s why I am taking [my apprentices] through the art of drumming, and the culture, and the tradition.

JK: I think that’s what I appreciate about what you do. You don’t just teach the art, you teach the whole culture . . .

PJA: The whole culture!

JK: . . . because the art is embedded in [the culture]

PJA: Yes, yes. So, I started them with the language, because when you play the drum, you are not just hitting the drum. You are not beating the drum. Some people say “Oh, let’s beat the

drums.” No, you don’t beat the drums! You play the drum. And when you play the drum, you are talking. So, I let them know that when you play
the drum, you have to say something. What you can say, you can play it on the drum. If you can talk, you can play! [laughs]. So the, the idea of playing the drum goes a long way. So, it’s not just beating the drum, get the drum and start hitting on it. That’s not playing drum. Yeah.

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Jon Kay on December 2, 2011

Florentino Solis and Alfredo Benavides at Taco Velos on Washington Street in Indianapolis

I wanted to let my listeners know about a podcast series that the TAI staff and I have been working on, Second Servings.  It is an internet radio program that explores the food traditions and cultures that give flavor to the Hoosier State.  From old time favorites like morel mushrooms and tenderloins to more recent arrivals from Indian and Latino cooks, the podcast highlights the communal aspect of food.  you can subscribe to the program through the show’s web-portal  or check it out via Itunes. This program was a partnership with Indiana Humanities’ Food for Thought initiative.

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Jon Kay on November 28, 2011

Photo by Erin Roth for Traditional Arts Indiana

I was saddened to hear about the passing of oldtime fiddler Francis Geels of Decatur, Indiana, this summer. Born in 1925 in Adams County, Indiana, Francis grew up with music in his home. On both sides of his family, old-time music and country square dancing were weekly events. He played for house and barn dances for many years until country square dancing began to wane. For years family and friends met every Friday night at Francis’s home to play bluegrass and old-time fiddle tunes. Known for his old-time style of fiddling, Francis emphasized the rhythm, danceability, and clean melody lines in his playing. Thankfully he recorded his vast repertoire of more than a 160 tunes several years ago, and he actively mentored his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in the traditional music he had learned through the years.

Paul Tyler also recorded much of this of the music of this important fiddler, as well as several other old-time fiddlers. Paul hosts a website about his fieldwork and research into fiddle music of the the Midwest.

Here is a short video I shot at his home when I visited with him in 2005. I was new to shooting video so this is pretty bad, but I wanted to share it here. I will also include a video that Paul posted to Youtube, featuring the great fiddling of the Francis Geels.


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Jon Kay on November 23, 2011

Sorry that I have been offline for a while, I have really been on the move! I hope to start the podcast back up after the first of the year. I have have heard from several folks asking if everything is okay. Yes, I have just been really busy. Since my last podcast, I hosted a fiddle contest and concert at the Indiana State Fair, took a group of artists to the Midwest Folklife Festival, produced an exhibit at the Indiana Memorial Union and helped with the planning and execution of the American Folklore Society Annual meeting in October. This is all in addition to my regular work.

Some good news, I was elected the president of the Hoosier Folklore Society, an organization comprised of scholars studying traditional arts and expressive culture. Looking forward to more good work in the new year.

All the best,

Jon Kay Moving to BC

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Jon Kay on August 19, 2011


I shot this video with my little point and shoot camera. Behind the Super 8 Hotel, Stephen Dickey along with the other members of the Grease Gravy band were playing with fiddler and instrument maker Larry Hopkins. The band came to Dodgeville, Wisconsin to play at the Midwest Folklife Festival. Sorry it is so grainy but it was pretty low light.

We are all set for a great weekend at the Folklore Village up here.

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Jon Kay on August 2, 2011

William H. Reynold’s tombstone, Clear Creek, Monroe County Indiana

In the Clear Creek Cemetery, just south of Bloomington, Indiana there are three distinctive gravestones, each of which are shaped like a blacksmith anvil with a hammers resting atop the limestone marker.  I believe these stones, were locally crafted, probably for blacksmiths who worked for the quarries producing and repairing tools.  Two of the stones sit side by side and were made for two brothers: E.C. “Ed” Douthitt (1885-1949) and W. E. “Jack” Douthitt (1900-1947).  On his 1918 draft registration card, Charles Edward Douthitt is listed as a blacksmith working in Bloomington, Indiana as a blacksmith for the Consolidated Stone Company.


E.C. “Ed” Douthitt tombstone, Clear Creek, Monroe County, Indiana

The third stone was a more elaborately carved marker for W. Reynolds (1864-1944). Like the pair of stones for the Douthitt brothers, the Reynolds stone included a blacksmith hammer, as well as a half round swag, used in making  chisels and bits for the quarrymen. The anvil, of the Reynolds’s stone also shows the straps holding the anvil in place, rendering the stone as a realistic replica of working blacksmith’s anvil. The stone was carved for William H. Reynolds, who was listed in the 1900 census as a quarryman, however by 1910 he and his son Curtis identified themselves as blacksmiths. While Reynolds trade was listed as blacksmith on the census, in the “General Nature of Industry” column of the cencus report, it states “Quarry.” In fact, most of the laborers listed on the page worked either in a quarry or in a stone mill, which means that he lived a stone workers community.


W. E. “Jack” Douthitt tombstone, Clear Creek, Monroe County,Indiana

Folklorist Warren Roberts briefly mentioned these stones in his 1978 article “Tools on Tombstones: Some Indiana Examples” which was published in the journal Pioneer America (10:1; 106-111).  While Roberts pointed out the work of blacksmiths in the limestone industry, he failed to cite or explain his research methods.  I wrote this blog to move beyond general conjecture and provide the necessary evidence to illuminate the meaning invested in these three stones.

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Jon Kay on July 28, 2011

I just finished making this video for the Indiana State Fair Master’s program. I was really inspired by Harold Stark’s story and his thoughts about making things as a memorial for those who taught him and shared information. If you go to the Indiana State Fair, please head over to the Pioneer Village and see Harold’s homemade steam engine. Also you can come to the the Masters Award Ceremony at the Home and Family Arts building on August 18, 2011 at 3pm. Should be a wonderful event. I hope you enjoy this piece!

For 31 years, Harold Stark has set up, demonstrated, and repaired farm equipment in the Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair. His interest in steam power grew out of watching his grandfather work a small 80-acre farm in Rush County. It was then that Harold first learned about working with and maintaining a steam engine. From plowing fields to powering buzz saws, steam was an exciting and important part of his youth. In 1979, he completed his half-scale steam engine, which he built as a memorial to his grandfather, uncles, and friends who fostered his lifelong interest in steam power.

Harold’s decades of service to the Fair were honored in 2010 by the State of Indiana with the Partner in Progress Award, but he stresses that he is proudest of his “work with some of the younger ones, helping to repair the equipment, so future generations can enjoy them for years to come.”

Produced by Traditional Arts Indiana • Videography by Jon Kay and Mark A. Corson • Editing by Jon Kay • Graphic design by Arle Lommel • Special thanks to: Cynthia Hoye, Indiana State Fair Executive Director • Roger Hale and Bobbi Bates, Indiana State Fair.

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A couple of months ago I featured Rich Remsberg on the Artisan Ancestors Podcast. I just found this great presentation by him at the Library of Congress. Hope you enjoy this.

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Jon Kay on July 19, 2011

Listed in the 1850 Census as a thirty-year-old Stone Cutter from New York, Henry A. Dean worked in the river city of Madison, Indiana. He was living with his wife, Amy and their infant daughter Mary. The carver wouldn’t have come to my attention, had it not bean for a beautifully carved marker in the Spring Dale Cemetery in Madison, with a carver’s signature on the lower left front side, “Dean.”
I assume that Henry Dean produced the large sandstone slab for Hannah Lanham, who passed way in 1845, just one month before her 40th Birthday.  The marker has a deeply carved relief at the top of a urn with a veil draped over it.

Because of the common practice of backdating, it is hard to know when this stone was carved. However, if Henry Dean was the carver, he probably crafted the stone while still in his early thirties, and was already an impressive stone carver.

When I went looking for Dean in the census records, he did not pull up in the database search for Ancestry Library Edition, this was because the  script of the census taker was very loose and the “D” was hard to read. However, I found the listing in on which had a transcribed version from the National Archive. I searched for another  name from the provided list, which took me to the census page an found the below entry.




I would love to find more stones carved by this early Indiana Artisan. Let me know if you know where one is.

*CENSUS YR: 1850 STATE or TERRITORY: IN COUNTY: Jefferson DIVISION: The City of Madison PAGE NO: 50A REFERENCE: 2 Oct 1850; David Stiver, Ass’t Marshal

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Jon Kay on July 15, 2011

In this video, I show how to use Google Alerts to discover new resources for your genealogical, family history and material culture studies.  This is one of the simplest ways to make the most of your limited research time.

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A few years ago, I wrote a review for the Journal of Folklore Research Reviews of a great book by folklorist Jon Lohman. In Good Keeping: Virginia’s Folklife Apprenticeships survey’s Virginia’s impressive apprenticeship program.I thought my readers might be interested in this work. Here is an excerpt of and link to my review essay.

“Apprentice programs are often conceived of as a core initiative of state folklife or traditional arts programs. Virginia state folklorist Jon Lohman initiated the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship program in 2001 through a National Endowment for the Arts grant. The attractive coffee-table book In Good Keeping provides an overview of the master artists and apprentices whom the Virginia Folklife Program supported during the first five years of the initiative. The book includes an introductory essay, generous black and white photographs, and brief written profiles of the apprenticeship pairs with lengthy quotes from the artists.”  Read Jon’s Review


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I wanted to point folks toward my recent book review for Museum Anthropology Review of Philena’s Friendship Quilt by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
“The popular pastimes of quilt making and genealogical research have grown into multimilliondollar industries and the emergence of quilting retreats and scrap-booking classes complicate the stereotypical images of women gathering around a quilt frame or a grandmother leafing through a family album. In light of the growing interest in these two genres, Lynda Salter Chenoweth’s Philena’s Friendship Quilt: A Quaker Farewell to Ohio is sure to find a large audience among the growing number of quilt and genealogy enthusiasts. The information that Chenoweth reveals, including the techniques and tools for researching the story of a 19th century signature quilt, focuses on the traditions and aesthetics that produced a quilt, while tracing the family tree of the maker and of the recipient of a quilt…. (Read More Here)

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Jon Kay on July 10, 2011

I need your help! Each month I am surprised and appreciative of number of listeners downloading the podcast. However, the program is not ranking in ITunes, which is important for taking the program to the next level. If you want to help: Log into iTunes and leave a positive listener rating. Also, subscribe to the podcast so that you don’t miss another episode, this also improves Artisan Ancestors’ ranking in ITunes and search engine rankings.


As always thanks for all of your continued support of the podcast and my various projects and programs. All the best, Jon

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Jon Kay on July 7, 2011

One time when I was splitting firewood for my grandfather, he said “Be careful with that ax, It once belonged to Abraham Lincoln.” I looked at him, not really believing him fully, “Yah, I had to replace the handle once, but that is the very ax used by Abe Lincoln.”

“Really?” I naively replied.

“Yes, of course the old head of the ax got pretty rusty, so I replaced it too, but that was the very ax used by old Abe Lincoln.”

We both laughed. I learned a lot from my Pappy, (Harry Axsom). Though he only had a 7th grade education, he knew that most folks never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

My family and I were traveling through Kentucky and decided to stop in and see Lincoln’s birthplace. On the hillside was a large memorial temple that enshrined the “symbolic” log cabin marking where the president had been born. The park ranger/interpreter explained that they had thought the small log structure had been the actual cabin, but it had turned out to be a period single-pen log building that had belonged to a neighbor of the Lincoln family.

The log cabin is an icon of the early settlers of this country. Today, the cabin is invoked as a sign of American historical identity, symbolizing the hard work and determination of early settlers who scratched out a living on the frontier.  While it is true

Log Cabin Restrooms at Lincoln's Boyhood Home on Knob Creek in Kentucky

that many early settlers made great sacrifices, it is important to remember them not just symbolically, but also as real people, who lived real lives. Kernels of truth are encrusted with the legends we love to tell, and it is our job to not over romanticize the past or our ancestors, but try to better understand their real lives and expressive forms of culture.

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Jon Kay on July 6, 2011

In this episode, I talk about the problems facing researchers who do oral histories. In recent weeks attention has focused on Boston College and the UK subpoena of oral history materials. While I don’t speak directly about this court case, I discuss what I think the meaning of the recent court ruling will be for scholars and how it impacts researchers who promise to keep oral history materials sealed.  My take is that sensitive materials can not be kept private if it is in a public archive.

I also discuss the importance of consent forms and deeds of gift forms for anyone collecting materials that might be of interest to an archive in the future. I outline the contents, limitations and purpose of Oral history consent forms.

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Jon Kay on July 4, 2011

A couple of years ago, Ada Jones, who use to coordinate the Pioneer Village in Nashville, Indiana, told me she had a recording of her mother-in-law singing old songs and she wondered if I was interested in listening to it. “I am always interested in local music traditions!” I replied. She loaned me the recording, which was on an old lacquer-disk, which takes special equipment to playback.  I contacted the Archives of Traditional Music at IU and asked if they could help me find a machine.  They digitized the antique disk of Brown County songs, many of which I had never heard. My interest piqued, I now wanted to find out more about the old woman with the strong voice on the disc. The paragraphs below are highlights from what I have discovered so far.


In the spring of 1950, Bill Jones, an Indianapolis schoolteacher, borrowed a recorder from his school and traveled to his parent’s home in Nashville, at the time his mother, Mildred M. Jones was 76.  Though she only attended school through the seventh or eighth grade, she excelled in music and loved to perform. She was active in the Nashville Christian Church, where she often played the wheezy old organ and led the congregational singing.

Music was a part of Mildred’s daily life. Her friend and local poet Marietta Moser wrote the lyrics, while Mildred directed the “Gossip Group” as it was sometimes called, in the singing:

Let catty thoughts depart, let love dwell in every heart,
Kindness prevail, always unselfishness be, from petty strife be free
Work for the right and we never can fail.
(Sung to the tune of My Country Tis of Thee)


Mildred taught the town kids the play-party game “Soldier Boy,” Bill recalled: “We children would march in a circle in the parlor, waving a flag, and singing the song. The song-game was progressive in that at the end of the repeated stanza the words ‘And you may be a soldier boy if you will come too,’ a cue for the next child to join the moving circle.”


Mart Hopper with Guitar (Nashville, IN)

Local musicians gathered to the Jones’s home on Jefferson Street for informal sessions called “musicales.” Usually two or three fiddlers would play, while Mildred accompanied them on the piano. Occasionally Mildred’s brother, Mart Hopper would come to play guitar. As the lively music filled the home, Mildred’s husband Jim, a local lawyer and banker, sat in the adjoining living room, quietly smoking his pipe.

The old disk that Ada loaned me contained seventeen a cappela songs, including old ballads such as Over the Garden Wall and Kitty Wells; popular songs from Mildred’s youth like Let Me Call you Sweet Heart and All for the Love of a Sweet little Girl; she even sang a quiet closing lullaby:




Loving Goodnight

Loving goodnight, tender goodnight,
Sweet words of parting goodnight.

Parting is only, only for night.
Meeting will come with the light. Good-Night.

Listen Here: Loving Goodnight

While this collection of songs is interesting and diverse, it represents only of fraction of the old songs that Mildred knew. Her daughter-in-law confirmed: “She knew a lot more I think; some of them she just made up or gathered from this and from that, just the way the old ballads were sung.”

Mildred Jones passed away in 1956 at the age of 80. She spent the last two months of her life in a nursing home in Columbus. Even though cancer had spread through her body and she was in great pain, she entertained the other patients by singing old hymns and folk songs.

The Patter of the Shingle
As sung by Mildred M. Jones (1950)

When the angry passion gathering in my mama’s face I see,
And she takes me to the bedroom gently lays me on her knee.
Then I know that I will catch it, and my flesh in fancy itches.
As I listen to the patter of the of the shingle on my britches.

Every tingle of the shingle has an echo and a sting.
And a thousand burning fancies into active being spring.
And a thousand bees and hornets ‘neath my coattail seems to swarm.
As I listen to the patter of the shingle oh so warm.

In a sudden intermission, that appears my only chance,
I say, “Strike gently Mama, or you’ll stick my Sunday pants.
She stops one moment, holds her breath, the shingle holds aloft.
As she says, “I hadn’t thought of that, my son just take them off.”

Holy Moses, and the angels lookin’ pittyin’ glances down.
And thou’ ole family doctor put a good soft poultice on.
And may I with fools and dunces, everlastingly co-mingle.
If I ever say one word again when mother wields a shingle.

Oh the patter of the shingle is still ringing in my ears.
On my cheeks are dried up ridges, which were once my boyish tears.
If my Mama’s only spanked me, as she used to with her hand,
I could then sit down with comfort, now I much prefer to stand.”

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Door to St Michael's Church on the Hill in Cannelton

A small town on the banks of the Ohio River, Cannelton, Indiana is known for its beautiful sandstone structures.  The Cannelton Cotton Mill is a mammoth sized block building built before the Civil War and Saint Michaels is an exquisite church made by the finest of stonemasons.   One of those talented artisans, Martin Heim emigrated from Bavaria to do the fine stonework still visible in the town. The Church history, St. Michaels on the Hill 1859-1985 noted that Heim was one of several talented carvers who moved to Cannelton specifically to build St. Michael’s Church.


Heim remained in Cannelton after completing the project and lived within a block of the church, where he continued to carve sandstone monuments. Access to quality materials coupled with his years of training and skill, allowed the carver to create some of the finest markers produced in Southern Indiana. He worked in Cannelton for over 25 years, and his youngest son Henry continued to do stone work in the community for another quarter century after his father’s passing.

According to the local paper The Economist, workers quarried the stone for Cannelton’s Cotton Mill as well as St. Michaels Church from the cliffs above where the Church is located. They harvested large slabs of sandstone by boring holes into the stone and driving wet hickory pegs into them.  The pegs expanded over night and sheared off the slabs of stone that the stonecutters then shaped with chisels and mallets.  The article noted that while at first the sandstone taken from the quarry is soft and easy to work, but after exposure to the air, it hardens and becomes more durable and resilient.

From the ornate arch over the doorway to the subtle etchings that embellish each block the stonework of St Michaels is stunningly beautiful. Built by old world masters such as Heim, the church stands as an exemplar of early Indiana stonework.

However, Heim’s personal skill and artistic design is best seen and identified in the gravestones and monuments that he produced for members of his community. On the steep hillside above St. Michael’s, is the Cliff Cemetery. Throughout this burial ground are several tower-like monuments signed with “M. Heim.”  The markers seem to be part obelisk and part tower, incorporating some of the fine architectural motifs exhibited in the church below.  The purplish red of the Perry County sandstone contrasts with the other marble, limestone and granite markers in the graveyard.

While Martin Heim identified himself in the 1870 Census as a “stone cutter” (a more general term for stone mason), by the 1880 Census he and his two Indiana born sons Philip and Henry, preferred to think of themselves as “marble” cutters. Perhaps this signaled an occupational shift from general stonework, which was prominent in the mid 1800s in Perry County to doing more ornamental masonry and monument carving later in his life.  Throughout the Cliff Cemetery are several unsigned markers that have dark native sandstone bases topped imported white marble spires. I believe Martin Heim and his sons probably produced these distinctive gravestones.

I have more research to do on the life and work of Martin Heim. Where did he receive his stone cutting training?  Did he come from a family of masons?  If you know of any other sources about this Artisan Ancestor, please let me know. Would love to find a picture or read more historical documents. Send me your thoughts,
Jon Kay

Works Cited

The Economist; Saturday 8 December 1849 (Quoting the Louisville Examiner with reference to the Cannelton Cotton Mill).

Rutherford, Michael F. St. Michael’s on the Hill, 1859-1985, & St. Patrick’s Church, 1850-1902, Cannelton, Indiana. Utica, KY: McDowell Publications, 1986.

1870 Census from Perry County showing Heim Family

1880 Census of Perry County, Indiana, showing Heim Family.

1880 Census of Perry County showing Heim Family.


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Jon Kay on June 29, 2011

I took my Indiana Folklore class to the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at IU last week. We were researching Indiana’s pottery traditions. I was specifically interested in the Museum’s collection of pots and jugs attributed to the Hendricksville pottery, in Green County Indiana. Ellen Seiber the Curator of Collections at the Mathers was very helpful and knowledgeable of the holdings. As we, both looked at the pots we tried to find commonalities between the artifacts. We quickly realized that we were unsure what “real” Hendricksville pottery looked like.

Ellen pulled out a small green pitcher that a Mrs. Witham had donated to the Museum years ago.  The piece had been made by the potter Charles Hendricks, who had made it for his mother, ever since then the family had passed the pitcher down from eldest daughter to eldest daughter. However, Mrs. Witham daughter Sybil passed away without having a daughter of her own. Sybil asked her mother to donate the family treasure to the Mathers Museum. As we compared the small cream pitcher with the other utilitarian wares, we began to doubt the family story. The pot was so different.  It was small and thoughtfully rendered. The green glaze through Ellen and I. However, as we were putting away the artifacts, Ellen called to me to come look at what she found. In a box of old shards and waste materials from near the kiln site in Hendricksville was a small piece of slag with a long drip of green glaze that matched the family cream pitcher. We had found a piece of Hendricksville Pottery.

Research and teaching museums are great places to study the works of Artisan Ancestors! Usually the staff and volunteers are very helpful and know legible of their collections, and enjoy seeing their collections used.

I would love to have people share photographs and stories of stoneware and redware items from Indiana. Very little is written on the topic and I am trying to make myself more informed about the understudied tradition in Indiana.

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Jon Kay on June 28, 2011

Deep in the Hoosier National Forest, near the Brown County/Jackson County line is the small Fleetwood Cemetery. The old cemetery has several homemade monuments that mark many last resting places. However, one of the more striking memorials is a large coffin shaped sandstone slab, that covers the grave-site. With may-apples, daisies and yucca plants crowding the site, the stone serves as a false-sarcophagus over the grave. No name or markings are visible on the massive, hand-hewn stone.


Throughout the small cemetery are several other small stones that are obviously homemade. While others were produced by skilled professions, these small memorials were probably produced by a grieving parent, sibling or child. Some of the stones are slightly blackened, perhaps showing signs of a past fire, that may have swept through the  cemetery years ago. Although, it might have been an old practice to burn off the cemetery as a controlled burn. Was this a common practice? I don’t know, just thinking it through.

For some reason, I am drawn to these small rural graveyards. With names of lost loved ones scratched into their surfaces, these markers chipped out of native stone communicate stories of personal memories and loss. I appreciate those who take care of these often overlooked landscapes.

A sign in the cemetery noted that donations to assist with the care of the Fleetwood Cemetery can be made by sending funds to:

Fleeta Authur
6594 W. ST. RD 58
Brownstown, IN 47220.


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Jon Kay on June 27, 2011

This is a traditional bed turning ceremony done by the Sisters of the Cloth of Fort Wayne Indiana. As part of an exhibition at the Indiana State Fair, Traditional Arts Indiana, invited them to be featured artists at the Home and Family arts stage. I really appreciated that they allowed me to video this presentation. I hope you all enjoy seeing the amazing work that they do as much as I did.

Gladys Gorman Douglas tells the stories of several of the quilts produced by members of the Sisters of the Cloth. An elder of the group, Gladys has taught her daughters and granddaughter to quilt.

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Jon Kay on June 25, 2011

Marker for Katherine and W.H. Durnal in the Bond cemetery (Brown County, Indiana).

I was surprised to find two very large sandstone makers, when I drove up to the Bond Cemetery today;. Probably made in the 1890s, the stones show signs of wear and the layers of the stone are flaking pealing off layers of stone and aesthetic details. One of the stones appears to have been shot at some point; a large plug is missing from the front and small pits pepper around it, probably unintentionally hit by a hunter decades ago. In keeping with the arts and craft style of the later decades of the Nineteenth Century, the stones are carved to show the rustic qualities of the natural stone. Even when they were new, the markers would have seemed earthy and sought to reveal the natural beauty of handwork. Where a generation earlier, sandstones monuments were smooth and carefully finished, these markers accentuated the chip marks and handwork.

Footstone for rustic marker.



The footstone, a marker that designated the end of the plot opposite the headstone, is embellished with somewhat random marks. Why were these stones made to look so rustic? As more and more objects were mass-produced, artisans produced work that highlighted their handmade aesthetics.


These stones mark a locally produced monument that was in keeping with the national trend to embrace the Arts and Crafts style, which influenced Tiffany glass, Stickley furniture, and Rookwood pottery, also influenced local artisans throughout the United States. I would love to know who made these markers out of local stone.


Two sandstone markers under a cedar tree in Bond Cemetery

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Jon Kay on June 23, 2011

Here is an impromptu performance of Steve “Spoon Man” Tankersley, playing the spoons outside the Salem Public Library, in Washington County, Indiana. I shot it with a little point and shoot camera and was surprised at how well it picked up the sound of the spoons. Steve learned to play from his father, but he and his kids have taken spoon playing to a whole new level. From fiddle tunes to ZZ Top, he is a virtuoso of the spoons. on July 4th 2011 in Pekin, Indiana, Steve is organizing a bid for the Guinness World Record for the largest spoon ensemble. I will keep you informed about the details. Enjoy!

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Jon Kay on June 18, 2011

The other day when I was spending the morning with my son, Zelton, I asked him if he wanted to go exploring. “Sure.” We hopped in the car and drove about ¼ mile from our house, to a place where I had been several times, but I knew he probably didn’t even know existed—the Bean Blossom Covered Bridge. Built in 1880, the bridge remains in use, though it is on a small rough stretch of road by-passed by the state highway decades ago.

Often viewed as nostalgic remnant of a “slower” and “simpler” time, the covered bridge was an innovation that made wooden bridges last longer. However, by the 1930s, steel and concrete expanses replaced most of the wooden bridges in Indiana. In fact, the state moved an old covered bridge to Brown County for visitor to cross over Salt Creek as they entered the State Park. This New Deal project shows that these obsolete structures became heritage-making symbols, as they fell out of popular use.

I think that exploring the local is an important family activity. My son is a geography buff and can recite facts and stories about places all over the world, but he was truly shocked to see this cool old bridge so close to our home, but just out of site. So, do something local with your family, which encourages a stronger appreciation of the places we call home.


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An expert in early sound recordings, Patrick Feaster talks about his personal collection of home recordings captured on wax cylinders in this episode.  While many genealogists and local historians may have tracked down photographs of ancestors and others from the late Nineteenth Century, few would imagine that they might  hear the voice of that person. However, Feaster explains that this medium,while not universally available, were very common in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  Patrick works to raise awareness about this old technology and helps salvages some of these long forgotten remnants of the past by digitizing them. Much of the audio information stored on these old wax cylinders is lost forever, in part due to poor storage condition and years of neglect; however, wax cylinder enthusiast, may also be to blame for this vanishing medium. Today, many hobbyist enjoy making their own recordings using this early DIY medium, and some buy old cylinders on eBay and shaving them so they can rerecord on the vintage media. Because of this and other forces, the audio legacy from this earliest form of popular home recording is quickly disappearing.

In this episode, Patrick talks about his discoveries, and shares a few of the treasures in his collection.  Patrick hosts the website Phonozoic where he answers questions and helps reunite people with the voices of their ancestors.Patrick received a Grammy nomination along with his collaborator David Giovannoni for their Historical Album Debate ’08: Taft and Bryan Campaign on the Edison Phonograph in 2008. (photo by Ronda L. Sewald)

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Jon Kay on June 13, 2011

My friend Jason Jackson is hosting a webinar tomorrow for Traditional Arts Indiana on the benefits and uses of the Creative Commons licensing in your projects. The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, June 14, at 12:15 p.m. (Eastern Time), and should last about 45 minutes.He was featured last month on the Artisan Ancestors Podcast. Here is the link to the free webinar. Hope you all can make it.

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In today’s show, I talk with Chris Fennell about his multi-prong archaeological study in Edgefield, South Carolina. His research combines archaeological discoveries with archival research and scientific analysis. He works with students from the University of Illinois in this field school where they explore both the Remains of a pottery production facility as well as the dwellings of both enslaved and free African-American potters. Fennell explains that due to slave traders smuggling in laborers, the pottery of this region has a distinctive style influenced by the arts of West Central Africa.

I was excited to hear about this project, because I feel that this type of long-term, multifaceted study is the future of the new humanities.

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Jon Kay on June 9, 2011

Well it might not be the Oracle at Delphi, but it was a pilgrimage we had to make. Last weekend, I took my Indiana Folklore Class on a tour of Brown County. We started by heading to the southern part of the county to see the Stone Head, which is a pre-Civil War road marker carved by Henry Cross.  We had talked about this carver in our previous class meeting. After Stone Head, we went to a nearby cemetery to see more of artisan’s work.

We then went to see the old Log Jail in Nashville and visited the Brown County Historical Society’s Quilt Show.  I had a great time with this class, think that many of them learned a lot, and gained a better appreciation of the traditions and art forms in Indiana. If any of my former students are reading this, I would love to hear back from you and tell me what you are up to these days.

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