Dr. Dipa Sarkar, Historian Emerita

Dipa Sarkar, M.D., was born in a small village outside of Calcutta (Kolkata), India in 1931. She completed her undergraduate studies at Bethune College, Calcutta and finished her medical degree at the Calcutta Medical College. She began her career as a doctor as a gynecologist delivering more than 600 babies. After her marriage to Anil K. Sarkar, M.D., she changed her practice to pathology, specializing in cancer research.

Dr. Sarkar and her husband, Dr. Anil Sarkar, finished their residency in pathology in the United States, and moved to Terre Haute, Indiana in 1969. Dr. Dipa Sarkar worked as a pathologist in Union Hospital and in Clay County and Sullivan Hospitals. While working, she also taught medical and medical technology students at Indiana State University. She helped establish the Planned Parenthood clinic in Terre Haute. She retired from medical practice in 1990.

Working for the people and helping those in need became Dr. Dipa Sarkar’s passion after retirement. She was the First President of India Association of Terre Haute, and served as a volunteer and as a board member with Life Line, CODA (Council on Domestic Abuse), the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Swope Art Museum, the Vigo County Public Library, (where she taught English to foreign students) and with Catholic Charities (where she worked as a volunteer in the soup kitchen and taught the children about cleanliness and nutrition.)

Dr. Dipa Sarkar received a letter of appreciation for her work from President Bill Clinton in 1996. She was also awarded the first Aspire Higher Award given by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in recognition of her dedication to volunteer work. Dr. Dipa Sarkar has one daughter, Rumu Sarkar, PhD, a lawyer in Washington D. C.

As a volunteer for the Vigo County Historical Museum, Dr. Dipa Sarkar wrote many biographical articles of important people of the Terre Haute area and other articles of general interest that were published in the local newspaper, the Terre Haute Tribune Star.

Arts Illiana

Sherri Wright contributed several articles to Spectrum (issues 34 and 35 respectively) detailing 200 years of “Historic Hautians” for Indiana’s Bicentennial. This grouping of biographies features prominent citizens of Terre Haute’s past as well as lesser known names who left a large footprint on Terre Haute’s, and the Wabash Valley’s, history. Spectrum is a quarterly publication published by Arts Illiana: the Arts Council of the Wabash Valley.

Digital Collections

Fairbanks, Crawford (4/25/1853-5/28/1934)

Fairbanks gave much to city

Crawford Fairbanks
Businessman, philanthropist

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Crawford Fairbanks, the second son of Emeline and Henry Fairbanks, was born in Terre Haute in 1842. He comes from a family of famous lineage.

His ancestor, Jonathan Fairbanks came from Sowerly in Yorkshire, England to Boston Mass in 1633 and settled in Dedham, where he built the noted “old Fairbanks House” in 1636 which is still standing as an ancient landmark, the oldest dwelling house in New England. It remains historically famous is the object of great interest.

Crawford Fairbanks was educated in public schools and left home when he was 17. He enlisted in the Indiana Infantry, 129th Division during the Civil War and became a lieutenant. After the war he returned to Terre Haute and began his successful business career.

He soon became a partner in Hulman and Fairbanks distillery and built the American Board Co. in Elgin, Ill. He operated the Terre Haute Distillery, organized and was president of the T.H. Brewing Co., which became one of the 10 largest breweries in the U.S. He was also president of the Diamond Paper Co. of Anderson; Haverhill paper Co., vice president of Chicago Paper Co., Indiana Gas Co., and Piermont Paper Co. of New York. He owned an interest in the French Lick Hotel, was on the board of directors of the Monon Railroad and was a main stockholder of the Terre Haute Tribune. In 1910, he purchased the Tribune and two years later he built the Tribune building.

He also held interests in Standard Wheel Co., Wabash Realty Co., the Terre Haute Gazette, the Terre Haute House and the Grand Opera House. He was an avid race fan and raised horses.

He married Clara Collett, also from a well-known Terre Haute family, and they had only one child- a daughter, Sarah.

Fairbanks was one of the wealthiest men in the state and also became one of the best known politicians in this city and Indianapolis. He was a very generous man in his time and became involved in many philanthropic projects. He and his brothers donated land to the city for Fairbanks Park and Dresser Drive, which are still enjoyed by the people of Terre Haute.

In 1906, he gave the city the Emeline Fairbanks Memorial Library in memory of his mother; in 1924 the Clara Fairbanks Home for Aged Women in memory of his wife, Clara, who died in 1911. Last week, the Clara Fairbanks Women’s Center was dedicated in her memory.

He was an avid entrepreneur and a shrewd businessman but one of the most generous and public spirited citizens the city of Terre Haute has produced. Fairbanks died May 28, 1924 at the age of 81 and we still cherish his memory with fondness and respect. Handsome portraits of both Clara and Crawford Fairbanks hang in the upstairs parlor of the Vigo County Historical Museum.

Fehrenback, Rose (10/09/1880-5/03/1943)

By Sherri Wright

Rose Fehrenback was born October 9, 1880 at 936 S. First Street. Her parents were Joseph and Rosalyn (Herr) Fehrenback. Mr Fehrenbach worked for the Terre Haute Car Co. and Fairbanks & Duenweg distillery while she and her older brothers attended school. The family also lived on Sycamore Street during her childhood.

She was educated at St. Benedict’s School where her lovely voice and musical talent became evidence in school activities. Everything pertaining to music fascinated her. She was one of those rare people endowed with perfect pitch. She studied piano and voice with Florence Sage, a well-known local teacher and musician. At age sixteen she auditioned for and won a three-year scholarship in Chicago.

She was encouraged by her teacher there to try for an operatic career. When her schooling was finished she was offered a concert contract with Slayton’s Attractions and then she went on to musical comedy. Her rise to stardom was rapid.

Early in her professional career, Rose met Joseph Edward Pierce, actor and talent tenor vocalist. The two worked well together and teamed up as the vaudeville act, “A Whirl of Melody.” They toured all over the U.S. and Canada. During this time she saw the great Italian accordionist, Pietro perform and decided to add this instrument to their act. She was the first woman to play the piano accordion on the American stage. The duo traveled to England in 1913. Following that, they were booked in all the principal cities of Europe, Australia, South Africa, and India. Rose and Joseph were married in 1915. Following WWI, they performed all over the world. They had a private audience with Pope Pius XI and a command performance before King George V and Queen Mary, parents of the present Queen Elizabeth.

Joseph died in 1937 and Rose secluded herself in England for five weeks. She decided to return to the stage alone and once again met with much success. She returned to the U.S. in 1940 continued to perform until she became ill in January of 1943 and died in May of that same year. Rose never forgot her home town of Terre Haute—she came from Chicago to be guest soloist at the dedication of St. Benedict’s Church.

Gookins, James Farrington (12/30/1840-5/23/1904)

By Sherri Wright

James Farrington Gookins was born in Terre Haute on December 30, 1840. He ranks among the most distinguished Indiana artists of the 19th century. Gookins was described as a prolific painter and a dynamic but restless personality. His works included portraits, picturesque scenes of life among the river banks in mid-western, mountain landscapes set in either Colorado or in Alpine regions of Europe, and in marked contrast, a number of interesting, but rather enigmatic, fanciful paintings portraying fairies impishly frolicking amidst thick clusters of colorful flower blossoms. His painting Hummingbird Hunters is one of the highlights of the permanent collection of the Swope Art Museum. In addition, he sketched convincing scenes of living experiences, many of which were lithographed and circulated and served as visual evidence of events of the day. Gookins was one of the first Indiana-born artists to study in Europe and he, along with John Washington Love (American 1850-1880) opened the first professional art school in Indiana. The Indiana School of Art, although short-lived in Indianapolis from 1877-1879, listed among its students William Forsyth (American 1854-1935). Forsyth would also study at the Royal Academy and return to Indiana to become a famed “Hoosier Group” artist and one of the leading painters in the strong tradition of Indiana art which continues to this day.

Hyte, Charles T. (10/16/1887-5/08/1941)

Charles T. Hyte was a man devoted to education, community

Man of principle: Charles T. Hyte (center), is shown with patrol boys at Booker T. Washington School, where he served as principal until his death on May 8, 1941. The original photo is the property of Wesley Lyda. Hyte devoted his whole life to his pupils and his teaching.

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Special to the Tribune-Star

Since February is Black History Month, this Historical Treasure article features a man who made many contributions in the field of education in our community.

Charles T. Hyte devoted his whole life to his pupils and his teaching. He was a dedicated educator who deeply felt the race problems, poverty and lack of community support for African-Americans. But he was an optimist and always knew that academic achievements and exemplary personal conduct will bring about true freedom. His golden rule was to know how to disagree agreeably.

He was born Oct. 16, 1884, in Gallatain County, Ill. His father died when he was 6. His mother moved to Mount Vernon, and he graduated from high school there. While studying at Indiana Normal School, he taught to earn a living. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1925, Hyte taught in several schools outside Terre Haute but returned to become principle of Booker T. Washington School and held that post until his death on May 8, 1941.

Hyte was a charter member of the Indiana Negro Society, Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, Odd Fellows Lodge and several civic organizations.

He had no children of his own but took a deep interest in young peoples’ development. With his own funds, he financed a football team and gave them every opportunity to excel. One year after his death, a community center was dedicated in his memory. In 1942, the Charles T. Hyte Community Center opened at 1101 Washington St.

Hyte Center still continues his advocacy work. It carries out various activities, health care services, educational programs such as tutoring and counseling, referral services, social clubs, sports and recreation. The basic concept of this center was to serve economically disadvantaged but many groups are using it for meetings, conference, and training programs.

Hyte was a humble man with a big dream, which still is living on more than half a century after his death.

Historical Treasure is contributed by the Vigo County Historical Society. Its Web site is

Keaton, Joseph (7/06/1867-1/13/1946)

By Sherri Wright

Joseph Keaton was born near Prairie Creek in 1867. They moved to Terre Haute in the early 1870s where parents managed The Henderson House hotel that was located at 209 South 4th Street. Young Joe located a shoe shine stand in front of the Naylor Opera House where he perfected his acrobatics to become (in his words) “boss bootblack on Paul Dresser’s “Wabash Avenue.” He left his birthplace to try to get rich squatting land in Oklahoma. Joe was infatuated with show business and Miss Myra Cutler, daughter of Frank Cutler of the Cutler-Bryant Medicine Show. So he joined the show in 1892. After he and Myra eloped in 1894, “The Two Keatons” began traveling on their own. Their son Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton was born “on the road” in Piqua, Kansas on October 4, 1895. A quote from the elder Keaton stated, ‘His cradle was my trunk, his playground was the stage and all his friends were actors.” It wasn’t long until young Buster joined his parents act. In 1899, en route to New York City, the Keaton family stopped for a two-week visit in Terre Haute Joe performed his famed acrobatic “Man with the Table” act. It has been said that three-year old Buster made his first solo appearance onstage. Buster, of course went on to appear in silent films and “talkies,” and television.

King, Bertha Pratt (2/05/1879-1/16/1962)

School founder was women’s suffrage advocate

Bertha Pratt King Ehrmann was an avodcate of women’s rights in the first half of the 20th century.

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Special to the Tribune-Star

Bertha Pratt King Ehrmann was a native of Little Falts, N.Y., and came to Terre Haute shortly after her graduation from Smith College in early 1900. She came here to tutor Robert Smith, adopted son of Frederick Smith and Rachael Larch and made her home with them (Smith family home is now Gibault School for Boys).

She felt very keenly about the poor status of women in the field of education, jobs and thereby in greater society. They were even denied to vote, which is a basic right for every adult citizen in any democracy. Even then she knew that education is the only key to freedom!

In 1905 she, along with her friend Mary Sinclair Crawford, established King-Crawford Classical School which was at Seventh and Oak Streets. It was a private school that included primary through high-school grades and was considered a very god college preparatory school, approved by the State Board of Education.

It started with seven pupils and three teachers. However, it was not exclusively a girls’ school. Boys were in the lower grades but very few in the upper grades.

By 1916 there we no boys in the upper classes and shortly thereafter it was limited to girls only. In 1915, Mary Crawford left the school to settle in California. The school also changed its original location to Sixth and Oak streets and remained there until it closed in May 1945.

This school insisted on personal, responsibility and intense desire for acquiring knowledge. Science, sociology, English and grammar, and German and French languages were taught. Apart from that, music, drama, singing and choral music, social graces and manners were regularly taught.

Due to King’s teaching skills and organizational power, the school gained great popularity. May successful students of this school contributed greatly to society. A noteworthy one was Ernestine Myers, who was a great dance artist and later ran a classical ballet school in Terre Haute until her retirement in late 1970s.

Bertha King was acutely aware of social questions and problems of girls and women. In 1914-15 she traveled on lecture tours through Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 1919-20 she went on suffrage campaigns in Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana.

She was outstanding in literary, educational and suffrage circles in Terre Haute and surrounding areas. She spoke before clubs, churches, schools and social groups and wrote for newspapers and appeared on radio talk shows.

In 1914 she had a series of radio broadcasts on the programs “Inspiring Words” and “Interesting Women.” For six years she conducted “Good English Week,” emphasizing better English.

During her teaching years she wrote a book “The Worth of a Girl” and published numerous articles in magazines and periodicals.

She was very active in the suffrage movement and organized the Forerunners Club, whose members were dedicated to the suffrage movement. She also took active roles in Women’s Department Club and other social groups.

She and her longtime friend, poet and philosopher Max Ehrmann, were married after her retirement from teaching in 1945. Unfortunately, he died after only a short few months of their marriage.

Following his death she compiled “The Journal of Max Ehrmann,” “Poems of Max Ehrmann,” “The Wife of Marobius” and other plays for publication. The following year she wrote, “Max Ehrmann: A Poet’s Life” and published it.

After a long productive life, she died in January 1962 after a prolonged illness. She led an exemplary life and contributed her best to society with her far advances, idealistic, free and progressive thoughts. She definitely was far ahead of her time. Education was her medium and women were her cause.

Kussner, Amalia (3/26/1863-5/31/1932)

Historic tile done by famous miniature artist

On Display: The hand-painted tile was made by Minton Manufacturer around the 1870s and will be displayed at the Vigo County Historical Society museum.

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Special to the Tribune-Star

This gorgeous, Had-painted tile was made by Minton Manufacturer around the 1870s. Recently the Vigo County Historical Society acquired this tile and it will be displayed for your pleasure.

On the back of the tile is the manufacturer’s stamp and handwritten areas. There is the signature of the famous miniature artist, Amalia Kussner of Terre Haute. The tile measures 6-by-6 inches and has an ebonized frame. It is painted on Ivory and the color of the delicate paint is in superb condition. ON the tile is an engraving of “Animo Non Astutia” The Scottish arms stand for “Courage not Cunning” and was named for Sir Adam Gordon.

Kussner was born in Crawfordsville, on March 26, 1863. She was born of immigrant German parents, Lorenz and Emilie Kussner. Her parents moved to Terre Haute when she was still a baby. Her father was a gifted musician and trained as a piano repairman. He bought the Old State Bank building, using it as their residence and ran a music store called “The Palace of Music” at 213 Ohio St. There, he would repair musical instruments.

Amalia was the youngest of three children and all of them were very gifted. Her sister, Louise, was a vocalist and her brother, Albert, was an accomplished pianist/composer. All of them had a very good education and spoke German, French, Spanish and English fluently. At age 6, Amalia was admitted to St. Mary-of-the-Woods and, under the tutelage of Sister Maurice, founder of the college’s museum, she received all the encouragement as a talented child artist. Later, she graduated from the Public High School. After graduation, she went to New York and studied under Madam de Silva and Mrs. Bradshaw. However, she received no formal training as a miniature portraitist. She was determined to make this hundreds-years-old delicate art popular in America.

At this time, artists were experimenting with impressionism, symbolism or cubism, but Amalia was determined to revive this delicate art, which was getting crushed with the advent of the camera.

She used rejected ivory piano keys as her base material on which she painted miniature portraits, using delicate, pastel colored paints. Sometimes, she used porcelain tiles and painted on them, which were used around the fire-places.

In the early 1890s, she lived in New York with her mother and brother. She tried to make a living as a miniature portraitist and, with her persistence and talent, it became quite popular among the wealthy elitists of New York.

In 1897, she was commissioned to paint Edward, the Prince of Wales who later became Edward VIII. In this portrait, he was painted as the Knight of Malta.

In 1899, she was invited to Russia and painted miniature portraits of the czar, Czarina Alexandra, as well as the Grand Duke Vladimir’s wife, Maria and Grand Duchess Ellen.

After Russia, she went to South Africa and made the portrait of the Diamond King, Cecil Rhodes.

Upon returning from Africa in 1900, she married Capt. Charles Du Pont Coudert of New York. Amilia did little painting after her marriage. In 1914, she settled down in Windlesham Hall, an English manor near London and became a British citizen. The couple had no children. She died in Switzerland in 1932 of a lung ailment.

Amailia Kussner led a fascinating, life and brought back an almost dying art for all to enjoy and appreciate. It only took her talent, tenacity and enthusiasm.

Martin, Kenneth (3/14/1902-10/01/1999)

Photographer’s contributions to history can’t be measured

Making a difference: Kenneth Martin was an accomplished and talented photographer in Vigo County.

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Vigo County Historical Society

Kenneth Martin is known as probably the best and most prolific photographer of Terre Haute and all the adjacent areas. He was born into photography in 1909, one of seven children. His father, Frank Martin, opened Martin’s Photo Shop at 681 Wabash Ave. on the corner of Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue in 1906. The growing community needed a photo shop and he was a talented photographer, doing both portrait and commercial work.

Ken Martin started working in his father’s photo shop in 1928. Actually, all his brothers and sisters worked in the shop at one time or another. Ken Martin also attended Indiana State University.

Frank Martin met an untimely death form a road accident in the early 1930’s. Ken and his brother, Willard, purchased the business from their mother and continued it. Willard managed the studio’s portrait department and Ken handled the commercial and news department. In 1929, Ken married Margaret Evinger who also joined him in the photo shop and continued working there until the studio closed in 1976.

There is no doubt that Ken Martin was an accomplished and talented photographer. With the help of Martin, the Tribune-Star Publishing Co. ran the Rotogravure section in the Sunday paper form 1928 unitl 1976.

In those years, photography was no easy job. The photographer had to deal with heavy cameras, light equipment, stands and ladders, but this talents never failed. They overcame the financial difficulties during the Depression era. At times, there were 12 5o 16 employees. Ken Martin had talents, not only in photography, but also in public relations, particularly with children who were frequent objects of his art.

At the time of the Great Depression, he took photographs of people waiting in line for bread at the Salvation Army. This picture was forever etched in the memory of people of that time. He was particularly sensitive not to show their faces, but took the pictures from the back. His other favorite subjects were teaches and farmers. He also took pictures of many famous people, such as Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, John and Robert Kennedy, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Rudy Vallee, Bud Taylor and Mordecai Brown.

Ken Martin was a charter of the National Press Photographers of America and was the recipient of many awards for outstanding contributions to his profession.

After more than 50 years, Ken Martin closed his studio and retired. He had amassed a file of more than 500,000 photographs and negatives. The bulk of his collection was given to the Indiana Historical Society, with others going to the ISU Library, the Vigo County Historical Society and the Vigo County Public Library.

His contributions, through photographs, to the history of Vigo County cannot be measured. Among others, his photos are featured in two valuable sources of information, publications written by Dorothy Jerse and Judith Calvert, namely “Terre Haute, A Pictorial History” and “On the Home Front in Vigo County, Indiana 1941 to 1945”.

Melville, Rose (1/30/1873-10/08/1945)

By Sherri Wright

Rose Melville was born January 30, 1873 at the St. Clair House, located at 202 Wabash in Terre Haute. She was among America’s elite stage and screen celebrities and originator of a new theatre genre. She was the youngest daughter of Rev. Jacob and Caroline Smock and was christened “Rosa.”

Rose’s sisters, Josephine, Ida, and Maud adopted stage names and founded “The Meville Sisters Stock Company, and in 1891 she joined the company as “Rose Melville.” Ida and Rose remained together touring in Zeb, a comedy written by Ida’s husband, Samuel M. Young, Jr., also a native of Terre Haute. Zeb was about a southern Indiana hillbilly family. Among the characters was “Sis Hopkins,” an unsophisticated teenager.

In 1895, Rose was on her own—dubbed “The Artistic Comedienne.” She started in a three-act musical comedy, “Sis Hopkins,” which became a Broadway hit. Sis’s lament “There ain’t no sense in doin’ nuthin’ for nobody what won’t do nuthin’ for you,” was among the most quoted stage lines for a decade. Two humor magazines, “Sis Hopkins” and “Foolish Humor’ capitalized on its popularity and a novel was written based on the play. The “Sis Hopkins” doll with wired pigtails became a collectible.

On June 12, 1910, Rose married songwriter Frank Minzey, her stage costar. Minzey was introduced to Terre Haute audiences at the Grant Opera House in 1905. In 1910, Rose portrayed “Sis” on the silent screen in She Came, She Saw, She Conquered, and in at least nineteen “shorts.” The character Sis Hopkins was so popular, Motion Picture magazine featured Rose on its cover on the May 1916 issue.

Rose appeared in the role of Sis Hopkins more than 5,000 times before more than 5 million people. Rose served in an advisory role when both the silent and “talkie” versions of Sis were made (in 1919 and 1941, respectively,) rather than appearing in either film. By that time she had retired to her husband’s estate in Highwood, New York. Rose died in 1946 and is buried in Massachusetts.

Moench, Herman (8/11/1908-5/22/1990)

Rose-Hulman professor remembered for his dedication to school

Picture of dedication: Herman A. Moench spent nearly 56 years as a professor of electrical engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Special to the Tribune-Star

As Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology celebrates its 125th anniversary, we remember one of the most dedicated professors of this institute, Herman A. Moench, who spent almost 56 years as a professor of electrical engineering.

Moench, a Terre Haute native, graduated from Wiley High School and entered what was then Rose Polytechnic Institute, graduating in 1929.

After a brief employment with Bell Telephone Laboratories, he returned to Rose in 1930. Except for graduate study at the University of Michigan and World War II Army service, his professorship at Rose was continuous, a tenure unmatched at the college.

A lifelong bachelor, Moench was acknowledged as an engineer’s engineer and a teacher’s teacher. He served as chairman of the electrical engineering department, dean of engineering, twice acting president of the college and senior vice president. He was the governor’s appointee to the Indiana State Board of Registration of Engineers and Land Surveyors for more than 25 years.

Moench was recognized as Indiana Engineer of the year and received the Distinguished Service Award and Award of Merit of the National Council of Engineering Examiners. Rose-Hulman conferred to him a doctor of engineering in 1971, the same year the main academic building was named in his honor. Because of his lifelong dedication, he was honored by the establishment of; a chair known as the Herman A. Moench Distinguished Professorship; the Herman A. Moench Award; and the Herman A. Moench Summer Faculty Grants Program.

Moench also was active in community affairs, serving on the board of directors of the Terre Haute Rotary Club, Goodwill industries and the United Way of the Wabash Valley, and as a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church.

Moench died May 22, 1990, at age 81, His dedication to education and to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has been an inspiration to others to follow in his path. Historical Treasure is contributed by the Vigo County Historical Society.