Local man who raced horses was fined by famous outlaw

Chuck Hibner from Mt. Comfort writes, “The major office for the 2014 General Election was secretary of state. How many years do you have to go back for this to have happened before?”

I don’t know. Do any political historians know?

Do you remember the old Red Crown Service Station on Main Street in the front of the Old Longfellow School in the 1920s? All traces of the Longfellow School are gone, and an apartment building is on the site.

The service station building is still in existence. For many years, it was known as Brad’s, for Harold Bradbury. The station was a Phillips Station in 1949 and Union 76 Station in the 1980s.

Tom Van Duyn shares with us the story of his surrogate grandfather, William Thomas Cooper, who was also Van Duyn’s namesake. Van Duyn’s dad married Tom Cooper’s daughter. It seems William Thomas Cooper lived about two miles west of Willow Branch and was surrounded by all the mementos of the thrills of his active life.

For 14 straight years, Tom was a racehorse driver on the half-mile tracks of Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Iowa, Minnesota and other states.

He quit driving in 1904.

At a race in Marion, Frank James, the brother of the outlaw, Jesse James, was the official starter. Frank James was also an outlaw. After Tom won three heats with ease, James slapped a $25 fine on Tom for holding the horse back in the first heat. So he was fined by an outlaw.

Also, Tom Cooper recalled one time at the turn of the century when he was in Minneapolis after he got off of the train. An old man on the platform pointed out the Younger brothers, Cole and Jim, to him. The Younger brothers were sent to jail in Minnesota for a holdup.

When he saw them, they were on leave. The Minnesota governor had given them permission to visit Frank James in Missouri. Van Duyn’s other grandparent was Dr. Catt, who was a well-known vet before they had to go to school.

I met Tom Van Duyn at a meeting of the Upper White River Archaeological Association. These folks are concerned with the Mounds new reservoir and its effect on the Mounds State Park, and I believe they are correct with their concerns. I don’t believe we should chance destroying the ancient mounds. If you have an opinion, let the state know.

Enough. I have told you everything I know and some things I don’t. Talk to me.

Write to historian Joe Skvarenina at jskvarenina@hotmail.com or in care of the Daily Reporter, 22 W. New Road, Greenfield, IN 46140.