Stories leave a legacy

Paul McNeil from Hancock County Public Library tells us 11 Hancock County sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They can be viewed here:

SHAARD is the Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database. If you would like to do research, log in as guest. This has more in-depth information on each property, such as original assessments, grade and photographs. If can be found here:

Then of course the Hancock County Interim Report, which was the basis of the National Register in Hancock County to my knowledge, can be viewed here:” This should be helpful for those doing historical research. Thanks, Paul.

In June 1993 I had the opportunity to interview John Ward Walker of Greenfield. John is no longer with us but he told some very interesting stories of his family and Greenfield.

His great-grandfather, J. Ward Walker, came to Greenfield in 1858 and opened a general store, in which he conducted business until his death in 1904. Up to 1864, the mercantile business was conducted under the name of G.H. & J Ward Walker; from 1864 to 1868 the firm’s name was G.H. & J. Ward Walker; from 1868 to 1871 it was called Walker & Edwards, Dr. D.M. Edwards having been admitted to the partnership.

In 1871 he helped with Nelson Bradley to organize Greenfield Banking Co. Bradley was the president, and J. Ward Walker was the cashier. Mr. Walker stayed with the Bank until 1876, having sold out the store in the meantime. In the later years he stared furnishing a clothing store under the firm name of J. Ward Walker & Co.

In 1882, he located his business in the Randall block, remaining there until 1892, when he occupied nearly all of the Dudding Moore block. In September 1896 he moved to the Masonic Building, where he remained. This business was very successful and carried stock worth $40,000 or $50,000, which was a lot in those days. He employed 16 to 20 employees. He was the leading merchant in the county. Annual sales were $80,000 to $85,000, which would be $5 million to $6 million today.

Walker’s occupied the first and basement floor of the Masonic Building. As you went in the front door, there was a huge staircase to the basement. It is now covered up, but it’s still there. All business was conducted by carrier through baskets, which took cash upstairs to the office. When Walker’s went out of business these baskets went to Stout’s Shoe Co. in Indianapolis and are still being used today. Some say the baskets still have nameplate, which reads “J. Ward Walker.”

Go downtown in Greenfield to look at some of the names of the buildings; you will find the locations. Of course the former Masonic Building is the Creative Arts Center now, also known as the Walker block. By the way, John’s mother, Marjorie Walker, was the first president of the Hancock County Historical Society.

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