History, Preservation, Road Trips

The story of Story, Indiana

There’s a surprising amount to tell about Story, a tiny village in the hilliest country Indiana has to offer. It’s in Brown County, about thirteen miles southeast of Nashville along the meandering State Road 135. The old Elkinsville Road continues straight where SR 135 curves sharply; that’s where you’ll find Story.

Story, Indiana

Story is named for its founder, George Story, a physician from Ohio, who settled here in 1851 after President Millard Fillmore granted him 173 acres. He built his house (below) in about 1858. By the 1870s, Story’s medical practice, a school, and a mill had been built here, and farms surrounded this burgeoning village. Locals came to call it Storyville.

Story, Indiana

Dr. Arnold Griffitt came in 1882 to continue Story’s medical practice, at which time the village was incorporated as Story. During Griffitt’s time the first general store was built here, and a post office was located inside it. From there Story grew to include a second general store, a church, a one-room school, a grain mill, a sawmill, a slaughterhouse, and a blacksmith. Through the 1920s, Story was the most prominent settlement in this part of Brown County.

Farming had always been difficult here thanks to rocky ground, and after the Great Depression began it became largely impossible to make a living on this land. Families began abandoning their farms to find other work. Meanwhile, the State of Indiana began to buy the 16,000 acres surrounding Story that would create Brown County State Park. This outmigration caused Brown County to lose half its population by 1940.

Story tried to soldier on. The general store in particular kept operating, its 1930s-era gasoline pumps with their distinctive Standard Oil glass crowns continuing to dispense fuel. The store limped along until about 1960 when the Army Corps of Engineers built Lake Monroe southeast of Bloomington as a flood-control project. That project cut off Elkinsville Road, the direct route to Bloomington, and through traffic dried up. The store managed somehow to hang on through the mid 1970s before finally giving up.

Story, Indiana

A man named Benjamin and his wife Cynthia bought most of the town in 1978, making their residence on the store’s second floor and transforming the first floor into a restaurant. About 15 years later, Rick Hofstetter bought the whole town and added lodging to the restaurant, using the store’s second floor and most of Story’s remaining buildings.

Story, Indiana

Hofstetter still owns Story and keeps it rustic. Even when the inn is full, it is said that horses outnumber people in Story. They surely appeared to on the day we visited.

Story, Indiana

Today Story is a popular place to stop off Brown County’s beaten path, especially in the autumn. Motorcycle riders seem especially to enjoy Story, as it’s a great place to stop while enjoying SR 135’s curves and hills.

Story, Indiana

Pentax K10D, 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA

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Story Inn

The Story Inn
Nikon N60, AF Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6
Fujicolor 200
2013

You’ll find this old country General Store, today operating as an inn and restaurant, in the middle of nowhere in Brown County, Indiana.

This dot on the map was an important little village until the Great Depression did it in. But I’m getting ahead of myself — come back tomorrow to read the story of Story, which is what this village is called.

I made this photograph on my first visit to Story a few years ago.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: The Story Inn

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Preservation, Road Trips

The Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

One of Indiana’s best-known covered bridges isn’t actually in our famous covered-bridge region (Parke and Putnam Counties). Rather, it’s in a deep valley in scenic Brown County, near the tiny town of Bean Blossom.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

And it’s the oldest covered bridge in the state, built by Joseph Balsey in 1880. While so many of Indiana’s covered bridges use the distinctive curved Burr arch truss, this one is built as a Howe truss.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

This bridge used to be on the main road from Bean Blossom to Nashville, at least until State Road 135 came along and bypassed it.

BeanBlossom

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

SR 135 has an interesting history here, so allow me this sidebar to tell it. When it was added to the state highway system in 1930, as SR 35, it had two segments. The first led from Indianapolis to Morgantown a few miles north of Bean Blossom. The second picked up in Brownstown, about 35 miles southeast of Nashville, and led to Mauckport on the Ohio River. That left out all of Brown County plus a little of two other counties.

By 1931, 35 was extended through Bean Blossom. You could keep driving straight and cross this covered bridge to reach Nashville, but it wasn’t state highway. Instead, 35 was routed west a few miles down what is now SR 45 to Helmsburg and then along the Helmsburg Road to Nashville, where it became Main Street. This persisted through 1934, when the modern alignment was built as a brand new road between Bean Blossom and Nashville. By 1936, US 35 had been extended into Indiana, leading SR 35 to be renumbered SR 135.

And so at no time was this bridge part of the state highway system. I don’t blame the state for not routing 135 over this bridge — the road leading away from it to the south is quite steep. The new road was built up high enough to solve that problem, as the photograph I shared yesterday shows.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

On the day we visited this bridge, as we left heading south we found the gravel to be mostly washed away and the dirt surface to be washboarded. My front tires had trouble keeping traction as I coaxed it up the hill.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

But I experienced that trouble only after we had lingered here for a while. This scene is probably much the same as it was going on 140 years ago when Balsey was building this bridge. It was lovely to soak in a little Indiana as it was.

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Misty morning Bean Blossom 4-9 1

Misty morning in Bean Blossom
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2007

One chilly April morning my sons and I headed south on State Road 135 all the way to Corydon, Indiana’s first capital, to see the first statehouse and the elm tree under which delegates drafted our state’s constitution.

On the way we passed through tiny Bean Blossom, perhaps best known for the annual festival bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe started there. But this day, our favorite attraction was the mist that hung over this deep valley. I paused for a quick photograph, and then we drove into the valley and under the mist.

Tomorrow I’ll show you an 1880 bridge on an old alignment of this road.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Misty morning in Bean Blossom

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Misty morning Bean Blossom 4-9 1

We began our Spring Break adventure heading south toward the Ohio River. We aimed to see historic sites all over Indiana, beginning with the state’s first capital in Corydon. Fog slowed that April morning’s going, at least until we reached Bean Blossom and this hollow, into which the mist had not settled. Astonished by the scene, I stopped for this photo, but I couldn’t make my camera fully capture the mist’s tendrils snaking through the trees and hanging over the road as if cantilevered.

Not long ago as we looked through photos of past Spring Break trips, my sons remembered this scene. They also remembered throwing rocks into the Ohio River. But the time we spent at historic sites had passed from their memory. It was a long time ago; they were ten and almost eight. When we take our Spring Break trip this year, visiting New York City, they will be 18 and almost 16. It will be our last Spring Break trip together, as my older son is off to college in the fall. I wonder what they will remember from this trip as many years from now.

Photography, Road Trips

Captured: Misty morning, Bean Blossom

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Photography, Road Trips

Captured: Red house

Bean Blossom, IN

My recent State Road 45 excursion started in the little town of Beanblossom (or Bean Blossom, if you prefer). If you like bluegrass music, you probably recognize it as the home of the Bill Monroe Music Park. There’s not much more to Beanblossom. But this great little red building stands on the northwest corner of Beanblossom’s main drag, State Road 135, where it intersects with State Road 45.

I recently added a Nikon N60 to my camera collection and it was along for the ride. As a modern auto-everything film SLR, it’s not the kind of thing I normally buy. But I couldn’t resist the good deal I was offered, and it made for easy shooting on this this perfectly sunny day. A couple rolls of expired Kodak Gold 200 film came with the camera, so I plopped one in and off I went. Rather than shooting the probably lousy Quantaray zoom lens that came with the camera, I attached the AF Nikkor 28-80mm lens from my similar Nikon N65.

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