Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana

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1900 to 1930


Louise (Lula) Barth marries Henry J. Bollinger in 1907 at the age of 19. They live in Evansville at 25 W. Eichel in a home that her mother and father, Catherine and Jacob Barth, paid a large down payment on. They did the same for Lula’s brother Ben who lived next door at 27. Marie remembers Lula’s house was paid for but the 1920 Census says it, and Ben’s, were both mortgaged. Lula’s children enter the picture quickly with twin boys Earl and Neal born the next year in1908. Henry works as a miner at the Diamond Coal coal mine at NW intersection of Stringtown Rd and Morgan Ave. Marie is born in 1911 followed by Ruth in 1913.

Meanwhile, 10 miles southeast on the Williams farm in West Franklin, mother Amelia Williams tragically dies in 1914. At only the age of 45, she dies of spinal meningitis shortly after the birth of her third son William. Andrew has no chance of making the farm work and so takes his ten children to live in Evansville where the older daughters can get work. The first world war takes place in 1911 to 1918. The boys are way too young to serve. Work is plentiful until after the war.

Walter works at messenger service about 1925 and later at Swift & Company packing house near the stockyards at the west end of W. Eichel. Swift is at corner of Read and Morgan. Earl works for them for the rest of his career as accountant. Sister Ruth works for Swift & CO. also but for a short time. Walter and Marie live with Lula for a year and a half and rent a house across the street. The great depression hits hard in 1929 –Walter and Marie are 21 and 18 years old.

Old Perspective Map of Evansville

In 1888 the perspective map of Evansville you see here was prepared. It was hand drawn with a great deal of effort since there were no airplanes at the time. It is on the internet at: http://memory.loc.gov/.

The web site allows you to zoom in on any part and can be printed. You select the amount of zoom and then click on the smaller navigation picture on the right where you want the center of the zoom to be. If you zoom in to the maximum amount you can see numbers indicating points of interest. These three views of the map (Views A, B and C) were compared to a current map of Evansville and reviewed with Walter and Marie Williams in 2001 to jog their memories. The following notes resulted.

Map - View A  (Zoom on Town Center)

Evansville was a busy river city at the turn of the century. The city was built around the ship traffic and the early layout of streets was parallel to the Ohio River rather than north-south and east-west. As the city expanded into the area shown in the upper portion of the map, it was changed to a conventional layout by the compass. The east-west road that divides the old and new layouts is named Division Street in the eastern section and Pennsylvania Avenue in the western section of town. The population in 1888 was 53,000.

There is one main road that goes from the center of ship commerce to the north-east and makes a wide sweeping curve to the north. That is Main Street. Just to the right of the sweeping curve is the main railroad yard of the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) railroad. Along the top of the View A is seen low hills and some wooded areas. To the right at the top, there is one road that angles off to the right. That is Stringtown Road. Looking straight north from 25 W. Eichel about 10 blocks distant will later become the area where Walter, Marie, Ruth and Lula will live in the early 40s.

The Willard Library can be seen behind an oval shaped driveway just to left of center of the View A. Considering the view to be comprised of six panels, Walter and Marie Williams always lived in the upper right panel. To show you more of that Views B and C have been made by zooming in on the pertinent areas. In all views the sweeping curve of Main Street is seen to give a frame of reference.

There was a lot of industry at Evansville in 1888 and up through the two world wars. There are some major industrial sites shown on the map including a Cotton Mill, furniture factory (Walter says there were many in later years), plow works and machine works each owned by Heilman, and Cook Brewery, Melzer Soap, and others.

Map – View B

This view is of the area at the Main Street curve. The train tracks can be seen down the middle. This is the area that Walter Williams grew up. Walter remembered he and Marie separately went to Baker School as children. They did not know each other then. The school is near the corner of Baker and Michigan Streets seen on View B. Marie started school there an went all the way through 8th grade. She remembers having to take summer school to pass on to high school. There now is a second Baker school a dozen blocks east. She then went to Central High School. Their rival was Bosse High. Mom remembered her 10 block walk to Baker school from her W. Eichel Ave home and how they would play marbles all the way on the sidewalk. There were curbs then she recalls.

Across Baker Street from the school is St. Lucas Church and Walter remembers it was German and called "Kirchen" instead of church. It can be seen in the map. We believe it was Evangelical and Reformed because Lillian Bollinger sought out that denomination when coming to California and found it on Orange Grove Blvd in Pasadena. Howard was baptized in St Lucas as a baby and there is a story that he wet on the minister. Walter remembers the minister was very stern. Marie’s brother Earl Bollinger played the French horn in the church orchestra and brother Neal the coronet. Lillian Bollinger's uncle was in charge of the church orchestra.

Walter lived four places in Evansville before he was married. The two in his earlier boyhood are very near (within 5 blocks or so) the court house and Walter remembers his father walking with the family mantle clock to set it by the court house clock and as a boy Walter got a kick out of the fact that it chimed while he was carrying it. The first house was on 10th Street about a block below Pennsylvania Ave and very near Main St. Then they moved across Pennsylvania Ave to Indiana St (one block above) and apparently close to 10th.

The third was a double tenement house on Governor Street, on the west side he believes, near the corner of Indiana Ave. It was there that Walter and Bob witnessed a terrible accident between two motorized fire engines. They were both on the same call and from different stations. Their paths intersected near the Williams home. There were injuries involved. Walter saw they were headed for each other but could not do anything to prevent it. On Governor Street they had a rat problem and had to fight them with sticks sometimes. The girls were upstairs and guys downstairs. A rat crawled into bed with one of the sisters and everyone was awakened by the screams that followed.

As young men, Walter and Bob moved together to a place on Harriet Street that was fairly close to downtown so was likely in the vicinity of about Virginia Street. Walter didn't know it but he was gradually moving closer to Eichel Avenue where Marie lived and also didn't realize she was waiting for him. After they were married in 1931, over 70 years ago, Walter moved in with Marie in Lula's home. Earl and Neal had moved out by then. Neal moved to St. Louis for awhile. They were able to save rent money and buy their first home at 2517 N. Lafayette Ave above Diamond Avenue (not yet built on the 1888 map). Up until after WW II, Diamond Ave from Baker to about Governor was a city dump. Howard and Bob used to play there a lot. Sometimes it would be crossed to get to Henry Reis School.

Walter's sister Grace moved to Mary St. a couple blocks away when she got married. Howard remembers visiting her there as a boy and how big the house was to an 8 year old. The staircase and the porch seemed especially large. The house may have been built before the turn of the century and could possibly be shown in the 1888 map.

Marie worked for at least 5 years or so at Plumbers Supply. It was located on Division Street not far from where Walter lived as a boy for so long. She said she walked from Eichel and it was about 14 blocks or so. There was a trolley on Main Street so she may have taken that. At least in bad weather she may have taken it. Plumbers Supply sold wholesale including heating and cooling equipment. Shortly after Marie quit, they opened another office in Louisville.

Walter's sisters were said to have walked to their jobs at Fendrich Cigar Factory. That was started in the 1850’s in Evansville and a new large factory was built in 1912 at corner of Oakley and Pennsylvania. An advertisement in 1922 shows it to be huge. It was close to where Walter Williams and his sisters lived downtown. They only had to walk a few blocks. Fendrich made Denby Cigars and used Cuban tobacco shipped up the Mississippi. It was the world’s largest cigar manufacturing factory. It also made corn cob pipes. Cigar making takes great skill to cut the leaf for best usage and roll with perfect tightness and it takes about four years to get the skills. Women are especially adept to those skills. Lula Bollinger had a much longer commute from Eichel Ave. It was about 18 blocks down Main St and 8 more blocks down Pennsylvania. There was a streetcar line that she must have used.

Marie remembers clearly her dad having a car. It had plastic like windows that could be dropped down. Her Dad, Henry Bollinger, worked at the Diamond Coal Mining Company which had a coal mine operating with the power of horses, mules and men’s aching backs. The 1888 map shows the mine to be on the north side of Morgan Ave. and on the east side of Stringtown Road. This is about 6 blocks from 25 W. Eichel Ave where the family lived. So they could easily hear the noon whistle and Marie’s brothers sometimes would go to the mine to share a hot bowl of soup with their dad. Henry worked in the mines at first and later got a position as accountant in the main offices above ground. There is a photo of the mine on a postcard in the Willard Library. We have seen on family photos that Lula’s older brother Ben lived next door to Lula at 27 W. Eichel and assume the house number where Marie and Walter bought across the street is likely either 24 or 26.

Marie supposes her mother Lula walked or rode the trolley the 18 blocks to Fendrich Cigar Co. as she worked there also. Lula was determined that her daughters wouldn't work there and sent them to Business College to be sure. Making cigars took a lot of concentration and must be very tiring.

Map - View C

In this view you can see Eichel Ave is laid out in 1888, but apparently there are no homes yet. It is to be a part of the Garvin's Park Subdivision which is at the north boundary of the city then. I suspect that Pigeon Creek, as it crosses from west to east above Morgan Ave in the north, it supported the grove of trees which are sketched there. You can see the stockyards that used to be a half block or so from the Eichel house which was near Main St. They intrigued William “Stocky” Williams, Walter’s younger brother, and hence his nickname. Walter remembers the stockyard smell being a problem some times. To make things worse, once in a while they would burn the hides and leave a pall of stinky smoke over that area of town. He remembers people from Posey County bringing livestock by the head for processing. Swift & Co was close by as it processed much the meat for shipment to other cities. There were a lot of electric streetcars but Walter always walked even as a boy. In the 1888 map there seems to be two coalmines and Walter remembers that fact. Since the Bollinger twin boys (Marie’s brothers) walked to the mine at which their father worked, we suspect it is the one shown in the upper right of View C and is seen better in the enlarged inset. It is very close to where Henry Reis school was later built – the school where Howard went to K - 3rd grade. His cousin Bob Bollinger went K-6th there. If Henry Reis were built early enough it would have been closer for Marie to walk to it. And Howard’s Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary lived only a few blocks east of that Henry Reis school.

Addresses of Relatives in 30s and 40s

Anyone who visits Evansville and has an interest in the early locations of relatives can drive by those places with this information. Lula Bollinger's home where Marie grew up, and Walter and Marie lived in their first 1-1/2 years married, is 25 W. Eichel Ave. Walter and Marie then rented a house (1931) across the street until about 1934 when they bought their first house about a half mile away at 2517 N. Lafayette Ave (between Negley and Parkland Avenues). The house cost $1700 and they paid it off in 1936. Ruth and Frank and also Neal and Lillian lived on Elsas Ave across Heidelbach Blvd from Lafayette. Their houses were adjacent and on the middle of the east side of the block. The two houses had adjacent driveways and the lots were fairly deep. Lula's house when she was married to Henry Felts was on the east side of the same street (Elsas) and was on the corner of Negley.

Walter's sister Eva and husband Bill lived at 2527 W. Franklin St. Oldest sister Lulu Orth lived at 2464 W. Virginia which runs 2 blocks north of Franklin. Sister Lillian Shelton lived at 3059 N. Grove which is west of Kratzville Rd and just north of state route 66 (Diamond Ave). Mayme lived at the parsonage she shared with another lady from the church at 1110 E. Virginia Street. Before that she lived at a church compound in Louisville KY. Brother Bob and wife Mary lived at 1920 Harding Ave. which is just north of Boonville road (Morgan Ave) and the first street east of federal highway 41. It is only a few blocks as the crow flies from the Henry Reis school that Howard and Harold attended. The school is still there at New York Ave and Reis Ave. That is just south of Diamond Ave. and just west of Highway 41.

Bill and Alice Williams lived in Indianapolis at 1740 Wade St. off the Raymond State Expressway. Howard was fortunate to be able to visit all these homes on a business visit to the ALCOA plant on the Ohio in Warrick County in the mid 80s. Coincidentally, Leroy Orth used to drive a truck for the plant. Harold and Beryl were able to visit Bill and Alice before they died.

Of Grace's kids, Edward "Wayne" Diamond worked for Southern Gas and Electric. Marlene moved to Indianapolis and very graciously took care of Bill and Alice there in their old age. The youngest, Darrel Diamond, went on to law school and became a judge in Delphi Indiana. Jack Bullock was an accountant. Billy Dartt owned a gas station on or near Franklin Street near downtown Evansville.

Howard remembers as a boy the family once drove east from Evansville, past the north end of the airport, and out into the country where they visited a farm and had a farm meal. He remembers the cellar with canned pickles and the dinner including chicken and dumplings. He wonders if it could have been a relative near Tennyson town near Boonville. Walter and Marie do not remember the visit. Could it have been an uncle or aunt Bollinger who did not move to Evansville as Lula did?

Baseball and basketball have always been big in Evansville. Bosse Field is the name of the ball diamond at Garvin’s Park that within walking distance from Walter and Marie’s family home on Lafayette Ave. It is where they to see 4th of July fireworks. Howard remembers spraining his ankle walking on a curb in Garvin’s Park. And also how the fireworks looked like they would come down on the observers. And he remembers sliding on the winter ice in the ponds there. The relatives watched the people ice skating on the ponds.

This 1888 Perspective Map is 116 years old. It was made 33 years after the Civil War ended and the same year Marie’s mother Louise (Lula) was born. When Walter Williams was born in 1908, the map was only 20 years old and Evansville likely looked very much as you see in the map. When his son Howard was born (1937) nearly 67 years ago, the map was only 49 years old. The city had expanded mostly north and east by then. The main expansion was north of Morgan Ave. and east of Highway 41. Dress Airport was added in the northeast. Garvin’s Park was added in the north. The University of Evansville in the east. After WW II many of the old factories (mostly brick) shown in the map were closed. Some were torn down and some in the downtown area were abandoned. Others mostly downtown remain empty.

Bollinger photos of 1900 to 1930

Lula and Henry Bollinger, Marie's parents

Lula and Henry Fotts

Young Walter

Young Marie

Earl, Grandma Rose, and Neal Bollinger

House on Eichel Avenue, Evansville, Indiana


Marie Bollinger, age 3


Copyright 2001 Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana