June 20, 2013

All in the name

Town of Thornhope turns 160 this year

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — THORNHOPE — This unincorporated town 11 miles north of Royal Center on U.S. 31, turns 160 this year. There was a time when the name Thornhope wouldn’t have necessarily been the name on the birthday card, however.

In a 1955 Pharos-Tribune and Logansport Press article, David Frearson writes the name of the town in those days all depended on who you talked to.

While the highway signs read Thornhope, Frearson writes, those who purchased real estate in the town would receive deed and tax receipts that stated their property stood in Parisville, which is actually what the town was known as when it was laid out in October 1853.

Mail addressed to Thornhope and Parisville would be returned, however, as this inconsistent identity continued at the post office, which only knew the town as Oak. Grain and feed trucks dispatched to Oak would often pass right through after seeing signs that read Thornhope, Frearson writes.

According to records at the Pulaski County Recorder’s Office, Parisville became Rosedale in 1873, but was changed to Thornhope in 1906 to avoid confusing it with another town in the state named Rosedale.

Oak was always the name of the post office, the records go on to state, until it closed in 1966.

“As far as I know, it’s always been Thornhope,” said Steve Bonnell, a lifelong Thornhope resident and co-owner of Pond View Golf Course, which sits outside of town near 300 East and 900 South.

Describing the town as a pseudo-suburb of Star City and Royal Center, Bonnell went on to say railroad tracks used to run through where the golf course’s clubhouse currently stands. The tracks were used to transport sand from a sand mining operation formerly stationed outside of town.

The town reached a population of 300 by 1910, according to Frearson’s article, which goes on to attribute it to the success of the sand excavating business started by Curly Godson.

At the time of the article’s publication, four passenger trains were passing through the town each day, picking up and dropping off travelers coming to and from the town’s three stores, post office, church, dance hall and three-room school.

The population has since dropped to about 60 and all that remains is the Thornhope Community Holiness Church and a grain elevator cooperative called Farmers Grain & Supply Company. The railroad tracks have been replaced by the Panhandle Pathway, a 21-mile multi-use trail through north-central Indiana.

Michael Shorter, a firefighter with the Star City Fire Department, moved to Thornhope three years ago.

“I enjoyed being on the fire department and had to stay in the district,” he said. “I like it here, it’s quiet... I heard it’s been called other names, but I’ve always known it as Thornhope.”

Kenneth Hurlburt Jr., a lifelong Thornhope resident, said he has heard from elderly members of the church that Thornhope wasn’t always the quiet village it is today.

“It used to be a pretty booming town,” he said. “I guess probably every town was back in the day.”

Frearson alludes to the former “booming” nature of the town himself, quoting in his article an F.A. McLaughlin of Royal Center, who said, “I remember we girls thought it was quite a stunt to go to Rosedale. They finally tore the [dance hall] down because the dances got too wild.”

Hurlburt went on to recall his experience with the tornado that tore through the area in April of 1974.

“It did a lot of damage,” he said. “It was very scary. We didn’t even have time to go to the basement.”

Thornhope wasn’t hit as hard as other towns in the area that day, Hurlburt said, going on to describe the damage as including blown-down trees and house trailers that had rolled over.

A small rest park can be found a mile south of Thornhope that Hurlburt said he has memories from he looks on much more favorably than the day of the tornado.

“There used to be a pavilion down there, picnic tables and a pitcher pump,” he said. “We used to ride our bikes down there on back roads and pumped water — we used to think that was pretty cool. It used to be a pretty nice little park.”

The state of the park has diminished over the years, Hurlburt went on to say, now overgrown with tall grasses and weeds. That and the loss of the railroads, stores, post office, church, dance hall and three-room school doesn’t prevent him from remembering his hometown fondly, however, calling it “the best place in the world to grow up and live.”

“Parisville, Rosedale, Oak or Thornhope. No matter what you call this little dot on the map, it’s still home to me.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or