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Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

Man writes about southwestern Indiana

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

VINCENNES -- Dr. Daniel Combs will share stories from his soon to be published book "Tours Never Taken and Tales Never Told" at the Linton Pubic Library at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The talk is sponsored by the Greene County Historical Society.

In his book, Combs takes the reader on a tour of southwestern Indiana with historical facts along with numerous pictures. It also has beautiful watercolors and sketches by the talented Jerry Baum.

"This pictorial history isn't like most others where there is only one line below each picture," explained Combs. "For each picture, there is a story that includes many little known facts about SW Indiana."

A Vincennes physician, Combs first became interested in Greene County's history because of stories told to him by his parents, Daniel Wayne Combs and Ida Louise Humphrey. Both parents had roots in Greene County. Then his story expanded including Pike, Gibson, Davies, Martin and Sullivan counties.

"Every county has its own heritage and pride," noted Combs. "When you get into something someone has written, it stops at the county line. The similarities of (counties) are unreal except for hills and lowlands. We have to get rid of artificial boundaries and sectional jealousies."

Even though SW Indiana has a history of iron ore, coal, and farm land, Combs says he now understands why the area didn't develop economically.

"Along the old road and trails, the canal came through and then the railroads that by-passed most of the towns," explained Combs. "If the trains went through a town, many times they didn't stop. South and north of I-64, one can see the history of the land."

Like many Greene Countians, Combs has the same thoughts on revitalizing the area through tourism. He says tourism would be the best industry for the area and would open a vast array of tour possibilities in SW Indiana.

In his book, he describes old roads and Indian trails that he found on an 1876 Atlas. He has also visited sites of the Wabash-Erie Canal.

He explains how in the 1800s, Hoosier farmers pushed for the state to build a canal so they could send their products up to the Erie Canal and not depend on the White River that flooded frequently.

However, Combs said people didn't know about the threat of mosquitoes and thought rotten trees in the water caused malaria. Farmers would cut holes in earth-works dams and drain water causing boats to be unable to navigate in the shallow water.

Due to shallow water, shoddy workmanship and corrupt speculators, the canal only stayed open eight years.

Combs said one of his most interesting tours was when a 90-year-old friend took him on an old Indian trail that begins where Rome Trace and Yellow Banks meet and goes on to Selvin, near Dale, Ind.

Near the Yellow Banks and south of I-64, they visited the site of Taylorville Fort that was built to protect settlers from Indian raids who were traveling from the South to homestead in Indiana.

West Baden didn't have the only mineral springs in southern Indiana. According to Combs, there were also Trinity Springs in Martin County and West Sarasota Springs in Pike County.

Another interesting picture in his book is one of a large rock near High Rock in northern Daviess County with the name "Dillinger 33" carved on it. There is also a picture of an old barn where John Dillinger kept his supplies.

"Most people think Dillinger stayed in the northern part of Indiana," noted Combs, "but most of the time he hid down here in southern Indiana."

For people who have doubts about the success of Goose Pond, Combs has an interesting story.

When Linton resident Haldon Shepherd was an intelligence officer stationed in England during World War II, his English counterpart took him home to visit his (the Englishman's) parents.

When asked where he was from, Shepherd said, "I'm from a small Indiana town that you have probably never heard of, Linton."

The father said, "I have been there. That is where the Goose Pond is. I have been there to fish and hunt."

The Englishman added that he knew most of the outfitters in Linton.

"To think a person in England would cross the ocean and travel by train across the United States to hunt and fish at the Goose Pond is amazing," noted Combs.

Describing a tour of SW Indiana, Combs said it should take at least four or five days with the first day at Vincennes, the gateway to the West. It could go on to French Lick, Holiday World, and Lincoln country.

Other historic sights on the tour could include Indian trails, an Indian lookout with bowls carved in limestone, iron furnaces (hence Furnace Rd.), covered bridges, the viaduct (trestle) at Tulip, the Goose Pond, etc.

Recently, to raise money for Children of Family Services in Vincennes, Combs asked for bids on a tour that he organized.

With a friend driving a small bus, they took winners on the tour.

"We began in Vigo County and then came down and followed the old canal from Worthington to Bloomfield," Combs said. "We visited the iron smelting furnaces in Ironton, near Shoals. We went on to Trinity Springs in Martin County and covered bridges in Williams and Lawrence counties. The people loved it."

Combs described another tour he took with a high school principal and students from Vincennes, France who were visiting their sister city, Vincennes, Ind.

"I have seen things (on this tour) in the U.S. that I never knew existed," the principal said.

"I didn't start out to promote a book but to tell how interesting history is and find out about my family. I didn't realize how much fun it could be," Combs said.


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Delightful article! We cross the country to see the sights, and miss the ones close by. By the way, The Ernie Pyle Museum at Dana, In. is not so far away and is well worth the trip!

-- Posted by oldster on Thu, Feb 14, 2008, at 1:07 PM


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