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1st county trophy discovered in abandoned room

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Many years ago, when the Fortville Elementary building still existed, first grade teacher Sharon (Evans) Hamm taught the children of Vernon and Buck Creek Townships how to read and write in a classroom on the school’s first floor. The school was old and had seen better days, and there were some classrooms on the upper floor that were no longer in use.

One classroom — the one directly above Mrs. Hamm’s room — was full of a bunch of old stuff. This room was not in good shape; the windows were cracked or broken, and the items were dirty and dusty. It was basically a storage room for unwanted items. Of course, what is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Upon a whim, she decided to look in this room to see what was there. She found several old trophies and pictures from the Mt. Comfort, Fortville and Vernon Township Schools. She also found a large silver trophy in the shape of a ball. Curiosity overtook her and she decided to look at this trophy a little closer.

Family discovery

Hamm had uncovered the Martindale Trophy, a silver basketball affixed to the top of a pedestal, standing over a foot tall in height. The trophy was engraved with the Martindale (a local store and sponsor of the trophy) name and the title for which it was given: “Hancock County Champions.” Around the silver orb are the names of the winning teams from 1924 through 1930: Mt. Comfort ‘24, McCordsville ‘25, New Palestine ‘26, Mt. Comfort ‘27, no one listed for ‘28, Wilkinson ‘29, and Mt. Comfort ‘30.

The team players for the winning teams from Mt. Comfort were also listed on the trophy, but no other team players were listed. Sharon didn’t know why this was. Furthermore, it was unclear if this was a sectional championship trophy or for some other competition. However, what did interest her was that on the 1924 list of Mt. Comfort players she found her dad’s name, Kenneth Evans. Yes — this was truly a treasure to her.

Soon after Hamm’s discovery, the school district decided to build a new elementary school for the students in the Mt. Vernon district, and they would be closing Fortville Elementary. Before the move into the new building, the corporation had a sale of unwanted items. Sharon was able to acquire the Martindale Trophy and a team picture of the first winners — the Mt. Comfort team from 1924 — which included her father, Kenneth Evans. Sharon has treasured this trophy and the team picture. However, she did not know much about the story behind the trophy and how it ended up in the old storage room in the Fortville Elementary School — until now.

The original county trophy

In 1920, a Hancock County Tourney (for high school boys basketball) was established for all of the county schools to come together and vie against each other to be crowned Hancock County champions.

The first Hancock County Tourney was played in the Fortville Opera House on Feb. 21, 1920. Nine games were played in one day, and the host team of Fortville won the title by defeating Greenfield in the finals with a score of 34-4. All of the county schools participated: Charlottesville, Eden, Fortville, Greenfield, Maxwell, McCordsville, Mt. Comfort, New Palestine, Westland and Wilkinson.

In 1921, the venue for the Hancock County Tourney was moved to the new Greenfield Gymnasium. The Greenfield School Corporation purchased a building from Fort Benjamin Harrison and had it moved to a site on North State Street where it was retrofitted into the gym (This building is now gone, but the old Greenfield Office Supply /REMC building is currently on that site). This building was opened on Jan. 18, 1921, just in time for the tourney. The tourney would remain at this gym through 1925. In 1926, the tourney would move to Charlottesville because they had a new gym, but it would return to Greenfield in 1927 when it would be held in the new Greenfield gym. This gym is located north of the Lincoln Park Apartment Building (old Greenfield HS/Lincoln Park Elementary School building) on North Street. It would be held in this gym every year from 1929 through 1967, when the tourney was ended for a period of over 30 years. There was no 1928 tourney (more about this later) and there was no game in 1943 due to World War II.

In 1924 an extra incentive was added to the Hancock County Tourney. In a Daily Reporter article dated Jan. 25, 1924, it was announced that “a Silver Trophy for the Winner” would be given to the Hancock County basketball team that is successful in the county tourney: “The F. E. Martindale Co. (store) has a big silver trophy in the shape of a basketball displayed at their store which will be given to the high school whose representative team wins its way though the Hancock County Tournament, which opens at the Greenfield gymnasium tonight.”

In a Jan. 26, 1924, Daily Reporter article, it was reported that “The Martindale trophy, which is to be bestowed this evening is adding to the spice of the tournament. To win the trophy finally the same school must win it three times in the county tournaments. Each team that wins it will have its name engraved thereon and will be in possession of the cup the year they win. To keep it, they must defend it, and win it three times. By this plan the cup may pass from hand to hand for a score of years or more, and become a valued prize and an institution of the annual county meets.”

Unlike the first tourney where everything was played on one day, there were basketball games played on both Friday night and Saturday. There were four teams who drew to start play on Friday night. The winners of these two matches would have to play four games total if they made it to the finals. The rest of the games started on Saturday morning. A successful team from this group would play only three games.

It was detailed in pregame reports that “two out of the first string five of the Mt. Comfort High School Basketball team, have been ill this week with the grip (the flu).” The article went onto say that this was good news for the other teams as “Mt. Comfort is a team feared and respected by all the teams in the county, this year, and if they come to the tourney in full strength are practically conceded a place in the final game, and the biggest chance of any of the ten teams to win the meet.”

The final game of the tourney was between Greenfield and Mt. Comfort with Mt. Comfort victorious 30 to 22. According to the Jan. 28, 1924, Daily Reporter article, the Mt. Comfort win was partially due to the fact that Greenfield played four games during the tourney while Mt. Comfort played only three, and Mt. Comfort’s game against Charlottesville on Saturday “scarcely caused them to extend themselves.” However, one Greenfield player noted, “If we had to lose, we lost to the cleanest team in the tournament, and the best.” It was reported that only two fouls were called on Mt. Comfort throughout the final game. As reward for their win, the beautiful new Martindale trophy would be spending the year at Mt. Comfort High School with the Buccaneers.

Preserving memories

The 1924 team of Mt. Comfort would go on to also be an IHSAA sectional champion that year defeating New Palestine by a score of 27-23, but they would lose to Anderson High School at the Earlham Regional 28-12. Their record for the season was 19-8. Mt. Comfort was coached that year by James Good. The players were Emerson Dillman, Wilbur Welling, Kenneth Evans, Leonard Stoner, Armon Kleiman, Morris Silvey, and (first name not available) Clyman. Evans and Clyman were named to the All-Sectional team. This fact amazed Sharon because her father was the All-Sectional Center, and he was only five-foot-9.

Kenneth Evans graduated from Mt. Comfort in 1925 and went on to Butler University. However, the call of basketball was strong, and he left college after only a semester and was hired by Kingen’s Meat Packing Company so he could play basketball for their company team.

And what happened to the Martindale trophy?

The trophy was awarded to the winning team of the Hancock County tourney from 1925 through 1927. In 1928, there was no Hancock County tourney. This was because Greenfield, who was the host school, had decided to have the Sixth Congressional District Tourney of County Seat Schools in the Greenfield gym. In 1929, the county tourney returned to the Greenfield gym; however, Greenfield did not participate in the tourney for the next 38 years, preferring to play against larger schools in district competitions. The Hancock County Tourney continued in this form until 1967 when consolidations and the lure of other tourneys would make the number of participants so small it wasn’t feasible to hold it any more (it would be revived in 2003 primarily because there was no county tourney at the time, and with the advent of class basketball in 1998, the IHSAA Greenfield sectional 1980-1997, which had all four school participating, was no more).  

As far as the Martindale Trophy, it was awarded for the last time in 1930, which was another Mt. Comfort win. Since this was the third time (24, 27 and 30) Mt. Comfort had won the trophy, it was permanently given to the school. A different trophy, “The Sports Shop Trophy,” was awarded in 1931 along with “The Dope Bucket.” In subsequent years, the trophy awarded at the Hancock County Tourney changed based upon its sponsor.

There is no doubt that the Martindale trophy was highly prized and treasured by those that won it, and the school was honored by its presence. However, memories fade. The history behind an object is lost, and no one remembers the importance behind an item. The once treasured possession becomes a useless thing. This is why your grandmother always advises you to “write things down” about the history of the objects that you cherish. This is so generations in the future will know the history behind those objects and those important stories are not lost.

Fortunately for the Martindale trophy, it was found by someone with a personal tie to it and who was interested in preserving it for her children and her grandchildren. And now the history is complete.

A special tanks to Greg Roland for providing some of the Hancock County tournament and gym information.

Brigette Cook Jones is the President of the Hancock County Historical Society. Contact her at hancockhistory@live.com or call the HCHS at (317) 462-7780. Visit the HCHS at hancockhistory.org or on Facebook.

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