Madison County Historical Society

Madison County History


 When The Sons Came To Anderson

City was home to first camp of Sons of Veterans in 1887


Sons of Veterans - Indiana Division

It all began on Monday, July 1, 1895, the opening day of the Indiana Division Sons of Veterans annual encampment.  Their members were descendants of Union soldiers and sailors of American's Civil War which had ended 30 years before. 

The Sons had been organized in 1881 and, after only 14 years, were enjoying a huge membership all across the states formally affiliated with the Union cause in the Civil War.  Indiana was no exception as over the years 386 local organizations(camps) were eventually formed throughout Indiana's communities. 

In Madison County, eight camps existed beginning with the first one in Anderson, Vandevender Camp 33, organized in 1887.  Others included : 
  • Major Doxey 286, Anderson - 1893
  • Lesson 305, Elwood - 1899
  • J. B. Cendor 364, Alexandria - 1901
  • M. E. Conyers 10, Huntsville - 1907
  • Pendleton 105, Pendleton - 1908
  • Captain Van Pelt 33, Anderson - 1921
  • Elwood 195, Elwood - 1925
The organization which still exists today under the name Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War has met in a statewide encampment in Madison County on only two occasions, Anderson in 1895 and Elwood in 1900.  It was in July, 1895 that incoming trains brought thousands to Anderson to take part in three days of meetings, socializing, parading, and, in general, a good time.

Organizers Hold Meetings

The organization's officers spent Monday afternoon at Fisher's Music Hall conducting business necessary to formally open the encampment.  The hall was located on the spacious third floor of the Fisher Block Building.  The site was selected no doubt for several reasons.  Not only was it conveniently located in the downtown area but it also contained a large area on the third floor complete with a state and scenery that would prove beneficial on Tuesday evening when part of the encampment's annual camp fire activities were conducted there.  The building is still with us today, although the large room on the third floor is now silent and unused.  The site is 26 West 9th Street, where the Flash Back restaurant occupies the first floor.

The headquarters for the three-day encampment was in the Hotel Anderson, one of the city's finest establishments in 1895.  The hotel was an imposing four-story building fronting on the west site of Meridian Street and offered all the amenities found in any major hotel.  As part of the first day's festivities, a baseball game was held between Anderson and Cincinnati at 3 p.m.  The site of the game was most likely held at the area's most popular baseball diamond of the time, Jackson Field.

By 1895, Jackson Field had been in use by local baseball standouts for a good 20 years and over the years had produced a few players that went on the make a name for themselves nationally.  The field was bounded on the south by the Pendleton Road, now Pendleton Avenue;  on the west by an area known as Lovett's(John Lovett) addition whose eastern border was School Street, now Lincoln Street.  The remaining boundaries of the once well-known field were completed by the present CSX tracks on the north and Brown Street on the east.

That evening Anderson's Major Doxey Camp, the organization's local entity, hosted a public reception at Doxey's residence at Seventh and Main Streets.  W. E. Bundy, the national organization's Commander-In-Chief from Cincinnati, delivered a speech to a large crowd assembled on the brilliantly illuminated lawn of Doxey's home. 

An encampment meeting was held Tuesday morning followed by another baseball game in the afternoon, this time between Anderson and Indianapolis.  But, the attraction that was the signature event of the annual gathering was the evening parade that began at 6:30 p.m.  Contingents representing numerous local and state organizations along with city officials joined in the parade which formed at 8th & Meridian.  After marching 17 blocks through and around the downtown area, the parade concluded at Ninth and Meridian Streets. 

Two venues were used in order to accommodate everyone, Fishers Hall and the Circuit Court room in the court house.  Anderson Mayor Morey Dunlap appeared in both locations and welcomed all to Anderson.  He was among many individuals who gave speeches and presented musical selections. 

The official proceedings of the encampment ended on Wednesday with more meetings, another baseball game, and finally concluding at the Armory with the public installation of the newly elected officers followed by a dance and reception that evening.  The Armory was the home to the Columbia Rifles, the local militia unit, and occupied the same space once used by the Olympic Theater on the second floor of a building on the north side of West 8th Street, just two doors west of its intersection with Meridian Street.  A second-floor balcony overlooked the spacious floor below allowing guests to view the official proceedings and the social affairs that followed.

With the encampment concluded, the members headed home.  However, many of the Sons remained in Anderson to be a part of the Independence Day spectacular the following day.

By Steve Jackson, Madison County Historian 


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 Madison County Historical Society|15 West 11th Street, P. O. Box 696, Anderson, Indiana 46015-0696|(765)683-0052|