Lawrence County Museum of History

Lawrence County Museum of History & Edward L. Hutton Research Library

 OOLITIC — Oolitic’s Henry Delpha family included, front row, from left, Illene Delpha Wintergerst, Pauline Delpha Baker, Mabel Delpha, Mary Ellen Delpha, Marjorie Delpha Christenberry, second row, from left, Louis Delpha, John Delpha, family patriarch Henry Delpha, Henry’s wife and family matriarch Mary Ann Bellata Delpha, Bob Delpha, and back row, from left, Bill Delpha, Jimmy Delpha and Harry Delpha.

OOLITIC — Oolitic’s Henry Delpha family included, front row, from left, Illene Delpha Wintergerst, Pauline Delpha Baker, Mabel Delpha, Mary Ellen Delpha, Marjorie Delpha Christenberry, second row, from left, Louis Delpha, John Delpha, family patriarch Henry Delpha, Henry’s wife and family matriarch Mary Ann Bellata Delpha, Bob Delpha, and back row, from left, Bill Delpha, Jimmy Delpha and Harry Delpha.

By Becky Buher,  Guest Columnist, TM News

Much continued to change during Lawrence County’s 200-year existence. Today we remember the Shawswick and Indian Creek Township communities that sprung up because of the purity and usability of the limestone found in the county.

First is the town of Limestone—we know it today as Oolitic. The Bedford Quarries Company platted it in 1896. Oolite is a type of limestone found there. 

As the limestone industry grew, immigrants came to work in the quarries and mills. 

Between 1850 and 1925, some who came were from: Austria-Hungary (40), Belgium (13), Canada (27), England (62), France (22), German Sub States (76), Germany (145), Greece (34), Ireland (205), Italy (283), Poland (5), Prussia (35), Russia (17), Scandinavia (24), Scotland (85), Switzerland (12), Wales (8).

Many who came from Italy lived in Oolitic. One was Enrico Dellefave, who was born in 1885 in Caserta, Italy. His name was Americanized to Henry Delpha. He came at age 14, and relatives guided him to work in the quarries at Oolitic. In 1910, he was a laborer, in 1920, a driller. He became an American citizen in 1922. In 1930, he worked as a derrick hooker, in 1940 a signal man. He had little formal education, but like other immigrants, he learned, survived and flourished. 

He married Mary Bellata, also of Italian descent. Their family home was located at Oolitic near the area where State Rd. 37 is today. Some say that blooms from the roses that were once in their garden can still be found from time to time. Together Henry and Mary reared 11 children to adulthood. One child, Paul, died in infancy. As American citizens, all six Delpha sons served in different branches of service during World War II. All survived: Harry, Army Air Corps; Jimmy, Army; Warrant Officer Bill was in the Navy; Louis, Navy; John, Army; and Robert, Army.

In the 1930s and 1940s, family neighbors were Italian families Annitti, Granato and Bellush. Hoosiers and other immigrant workers were: Englands, Nickless, Yeskie (German), Covey, Mitchell, New. More Italian families lived nearby: Grecco, Tosti, Magnus, Muscato, Ross. Many today fondly remember the wonderful aroma of bread baking in the families’ domed outdoor bread ovens. These hard-working immigrants contributed much to our county. Here, they provided a better way of life for their families. Like the pioneer immigrants who created Lawrence County 200 years ago, these European and Slavic immigrants helped to create the cultural American communities in which we enjoy living. 

Of the multitude of beautiful, durable limestone buildings that workers helped to create using local limestone, probably the most famous is the 1931 Empire State Building—made recognizable in the 1933 first King Kong film. The building stone was quarried at Oolitic.

The limestone for the St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church in Bedford came from Oolitic. Father M. H. Bogeman designed the church in 1893. The stone was hauled to the building site and erected for $22,000. Most of the materials and labor were donated. 

Across Salt Creek from Oolitic is East Oolitic, which was platted in 1900.  Originally called Spien Kopj, some think it was named to commemorate the South African Second Boer War Battle of Spion Kop.

West of Oolitic is the Patton Hill community, and just over the hill, the Dark Hollow community was once located. It was named for the Dark Hollow Stone Company, which operated a quarry in a shady hollow. Col. A. C. Voris, S. B. Voris, Davis Harrison and R. Rogers incorporated the Dark Hollow Quarry Company in 1877. The Monon Railroad ran a spur line to it from their Bloomington & Bedford line. The company provided stone for the Indiana State House. 

Indian Creek’s Eureka was founded in the 19th century at the site of a quarry. 

In this county, the ground beneath our feet often contains limestone. Limestone can be found everywhere— in houses, public and private buildings, schools, churches, sidewalks, gravel for roads, asphalt and concrete. In the end, the cemetery marker above your grave can be carved of limestone. 

Look for more on limestone at the museum library. Books and limestone artifacts are in the gift shop. Carvings and an exhibit of local limestone uses can be found in the gallery. For limestone architecture, mills, quarries, carvers companies, founders—access the digital touchscreen exhibit near the museum’s front desk.

NOTE: I have a particular interest in saving immigrant stories for the museum. If you have family history that you can share on your immigrant ancestors, please contact me.
Thanks,

Becky Buher
rbuher@indiana.edu

 

 

 

 

 

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