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Joe Skvarenina column - Feb. 23, 2013

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Joe Skvarenina column - Feb. 23, 2013

‘Orphant Annie’ inspired Riley

Tim McDowell writes,” I live near Philadelphia, and I remember reading an article of yours awhile back about the cemetery where the gal James Whitcomb Riley based Orphant Annie on was buried. Is it the cemetery on the south side of U.S. 40 just past the flashing light as you’re heading toward Indy? Is there another place near here besides that cemetery? I remember you saying she was buried in or near Philadelphia, or that’s what I think I remember! I have two daughters born in the 1970s who went through the Annie mania back then. I thought it would be fun to show them the resting place of the real person Annie was based on.”

Yes, Mary Alice Smith, or Little Orphant Annie, is buried in the Philadelphia Cemetery.  The Hancock County Historical Society has a marker at the approximate location of the grave.

Mary Alice Smith was born Sept. 25, 1850, in Liberty, Ind. She came to the home of James Whitcomb Riley’s family as a boarder in 1862. According to Elizabeth Van Allen’s book, “She enchanted Riley and his brothers and sisters with weird and often-frightening tales she told them at night before they retired to bed. She made a deep impression on Riley, and he never forgot her.”

Her house, which still stands, is one mile south of U.S. 40 at Philadelphia on Spring Lake Road. She died in the house on March 9, 1924.

In 1888, Greenfield was a gas boom town and had the industry to prove it. The industrial area was between Center and Pennsylvania streets and along the old railroad tracks on Depot and Osage streets. In fact, the Old Home Stove Co. was in a building that Indiana Box used until it burned down. It’s now an empty lot near Mitchell-Fleming Printing.

This building might have also been the home of National Adjustable Chair Co.

The Greenfield Bottle and Fruit Jar plant was built in 1888 at the site of the Hardees restaurant on the west side of Greenfield. In 1897, this site became the Hollowegard Reese Bottle Work. It later became the Owens Bottle Co. It was closed in 1913 and burned down in 1923. I have been told when they built Hardees they found much glass scrap.

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

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

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