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, Clara (8/14/1840-2/09/1911)

Clara Fairbanks supported women’s causes, benefits

On display: A portrait of Clara Fairbanks hangs in the Victorian Parlor on the Vigo County Historical Museum’s second floor.

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Clara Collett Fairbanks was born Aug. 14, 1840 to Stephen and Sarah Collett and was the youngest of nine children. Her father was a state senator representing Vermilion and Parke counties. She lost her father when she was 3 and her mother when she was 12 years old. She was raised by a loving aunt, Susana Flanders. Her father left a large fortune and Clara was able to attend the Porter School and the Episcopal Seminary known as Agnes Hall.

She was married to a local, very successful businessman, Crawford Fairbanks, on Dec. 31, 1872 and lived on Cherry Street. They had only one daughter, Sarah.

Clara was deeply religious, devout woman and lived a very simple, but busy life. She was always interested in women’s causes and particularly their health. She involved herself in many charitable organizations and donated a large amount of time and money, much of which was never made public.

In 1924, her loving husband Crawford Fairbanks built a large brick home at the corner of North seventh Street and Eight Avenue and dedicated it as a memorial to his wife. It was named Clara Fairbanks Old Ladies Home. It was a haven for aged women who were alone, rather poor, and needed care. It gave the older women comfort, shelter and dignity. Fairbanks kept $250,000 in trust to run this home. IN 1971, it merged with another women’s home, the Chauncey Rose Home, and existed until 1986. The home closed in February 1986 and the property was purchased by Union Hospital.v

In 1996, the home was demolished and a women’s health center was established in the building formerly occupied by the pathologist, Dr. Leon Blum. It was named Clara Fairbanks Women’s Health Center in honor of Clara Fairbanks for her lifelong dedication to women’s health and needs.

The facility is now housed within the Hux Cancer Center. This new center has all the modern facilities to serve the needs for health care, particularly breast cancer diagnostic care. Clara’s compassion, dedication and generosity of heart still lives on in the women’s health care facility. Union Hospital marked the site with a memorial wall containing the original cornerstone.

Portraits of Clara and Crawford Fairbanks hang in the Victorian Parlor on the Vigo County Historical Museum’s second floor.

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.

Fisher, Alice (1/16/1869-6/27/1947)

Alice Fisher had a passion for theater

Alice Fisher was born on Jan. 16, 1865, in Terre Haute, where she also attended school. Fisher had a passion for theatre and appeared in amateur productions when she was only 8 years old. In 1879, she, gifted soprano Helen Jeffers, and Hoosier Jenny Lind formed the Morris Hughett Concert Co. They were escorted throughout Indiana and Illinois by Eugene V. Debs, then a city clerk.

At age 19, Alice enrolled in Frank Sargeants’s Lyceum School for Acting in Manhattan. During her 18 years of performing, she became a star and overwhelmed Broadway, appearing in famous shows, such as “Nordeck” “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and “The Girl of the Golden West.” She was acclaimed for her rendition of Empress Poppaea in “Quo Vadis”, earning a command performance before King Edward VII. Returning to Terre Haute in 1902, she was engaged in a command performance in “Mrs. Jack” in a packed Grand Opera House where Col. William McLean presented her with the city’s loving cup engraved by Tiffany & Co. Back on the east coast, Fisher founded the “Twelfth Night Club” for New York actresses.

In 1893, Alice married a famous Shakespearean actor, William Harcourt King, at St. Steven’s Church. Well –known Terre Haute friends included miniature artist Amalia Kussner, sculptor Janet Scudder and author Theodore Dreiser. At the age of 70, she made her final New York performance in “Symphony” at Cort Theatre. Alice Fisher had lived a glorious life as an artist. She passed away on June 27, 1947, and was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery.

A large portrait of Alice Fisher hangs above the fireplace in the second floor parlor at the Vigo County Historical Museum.

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.

Hamilton, Katherine (11/25/1902-5/3/1961)

Paying Homage to Katherine Hamilton

As March is recognized as Women’s History Month, it is only fitting to pay homage to a local outstanding woman-Katherine Hamilton, who dedicated her life in the service of mentally ill patients, both on a local and national level. She became truly a pioneer in this field at a time when the families affected by this condition would be castigated to inhuman conditions. Patients would often be put in jail and have to wait until they could be admitted to mental hospitals which were also called state hospitals. Families might keep these patients hidden for fear of social stigma and shame.

Katherine Hamilton was born in 1903 to William K. Hamilton, chairman of Terre Haute First National Bank, and Carrie Hamilton. She graduated from Indiana State Teacher’s College and became a medical social worker at the University of Chicago. She later taught psychology and sociology to the nursing students at Union Hospital in Terre Haute.

On her 25th birthday, she received a call from Boston to let her know that her older sister (age 27) would be committed to a mental hospital in Massachusetts. Hearing this sad news, she immediately started research about mental illness. She was horrified to learn the fate of many patients and their families. This personal tragedy in Katherine’s life stirred a deep emotion and she vowed to help. She strongly believed that these patients could be helped if there was a facility in local communities in the same state. With her knowledge and fund raising ability, she formed the most effective county mental health association and facility of Indiana which was named after her and later changed to the Hamilton Center. In 1950, Katherine was one of the founders of this association and also the first president/ office manager/ secretary. She worked tirelessly, was well organized, and spread her vision from local to state to the national level. In Vigo County, she had a large facility with all the necessary personnel.

Miss Hamilton made vast improvements in the care of patients. She made all the efforts to get able doctors, nurses, supporting staff, and diagnostic facilities. She helped families by starting a chartered bus service and a system of Adopt-A-Patient. In 1963, a national system of community based mental health care was introduced. She was a delegate to the World Federation of Mental Health in Vienna. Katherine Hamilton was a visionary, transforming her personal tragedy into a way of helping numerous patients and families.

At the age of 58, she died in her home on May 7, 196. She left the bulk of her estate to the Vigo County and Indiana mental health associations.

The photograph shown is from the Vigo County Historical Museum files. Extensive information about Katherine Hamilton is also available for research at the museum.

Herz, Adolph (8/07/1843-3/20/1901)

Adolph Herz was prominent businessman, civic leader

For more than 50 years, Adolph Herz was a prominent citizen and leading merchant in Terre Haute. He was born Aug. 7, 1843, in Wurtenberg, Germany. At age 23, he came to the United States to have a better opportunity in life.

First he came to New York, later to Huntington, Ind. and moved to Terre Haute in 1867. At first, he worked with Joseph Erlanger, a merchant tailor.

Two years later, in 1869, Herz opened his own business, “Herz Bazaar” on South Fourth Street, just north of Ohio Street. He sold ladies’ skirt hoops and other furnishings. His business prospered and he moved to the Deming building, just east of Sixth Street and Wabash Avenue. In 1872, Herz married Pauline Einstein of New York and raised four children. They made their home at 309 S. Sixth St.

In 1907, William Riley McKeen erected a six-story building at the corner of Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue. It was a very attractive structure with green river stone trim, wide aisles, mahogany counter tops and most beautiful fixtures.

In this new building, Herz moved his large stock of ladies’ apparel, furnishings, notions, rugs, curtains, and leather goods, and employed 250 people. His new 646-652 Wabash Ave. location also had an elegant tea room where businessmen and women shoppers had enjoyed their lunch served so expertly. Herz constantly sought to improve his business and to keep his employees happy.

Although Herz was an astute businessman, he was very civic minded, finding time to devote to industrial, charitable and benevolent organizations. He was one of the promoters of the Commercial Club, later known as the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, serving as its president. A director of Terre Haute First National Bank, Herz was a longtime trustee of the Rose Orphan Home, a pioneer of the Terre Haute Retail Merchants Association, and an active supporter of the Terre Haute Social Settlement, a charitable organization.

Always ready to undertake responsibility and support civic betterment and relief of unfortunates, Herz extended benefits to his employees and Social Welfare for his co-workers.

After a long and productive business and civic life, Herz died on Dec. 17, 1917, at age 74. According to the headline in the local paper, “Terre Haute lost a man loved by people.” His business was run by his son and others, but ultimately the building was razed in 1971.

There are a few people who remember Herz, but many remember with nostalgia the beautiful A. Herz store.

Contained in the archives of the Vigo County Historical Museum is a “Memoriam” which was published at the time of the death of Herz. It is a large printed document consisting of a biography, photograph and “resolutions of respect” from numerous organizations and individuals in the community.

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.