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