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Tombstone Tales took a look historic people in Center Ridge Cemetery


Four days before Halloween, there were no ghost stories being told
between the headstones in a local burial ground in Sullivan on
Wednesday evening, just facts about famous people that are entombed at
Center Ridge Cemetery, a 63-acre facility that dates back to the 1920s
with land originally purchased in 1908.
Donna Adams and Tony Stringfellow hosted a 90-minute tour of Center
Ridge Cemetery in Sullivan, called Tombstone Tales, on Wednesday
Adams is the head of the genealogy department at the Sullivan County
Public Library and Stringfellow is a local dentist and cemetery and
gravestone enthusiast.
“This was the first time we have tried something like this,” said
Adams. “I did not really know how many people to expect, but I wasn’t
expecting nearly this many (approximately 40).
“I was pleasantly surprised. I think those who were here learned some
things they might not have known.”
Stringfellow was at ease talking about the composition of the stones,
some dating back to the early 19th century.
“I think everybody eventually will get a personal favorite,” he said
of learning to appreciate the craftsmanship and detail that was put
into some stones, even those in Center Ridge, some 200-plus years ago.
He talked about the intricate work done on the stone for Jeannette
Maxwell, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Maxwell, who perished as an
He also pointed out the Egyptian Revival material used on the stone of
Samuel White, a charter member of the Sullivan National Bank and
Sullivan Trust Company.
“This was being used in the 1830s and it is still being used in some
places today,” he said.
The tour visited stopped at several dozen graves including:
• Frank Kimberlin — A landowner in Gill Township who was a Civil War
soldier from Company K, 14th Indiana infantry. He served at the
battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Color Harbor
and Bull Run.
• Dr. Walker Nixon Thompson — A 1883 Sullivan High School graduate who
reportedly was the first from SHS to earn a degree, Rush Medical
College in 1986. He was one of the founders of Crowder Memorial
Hospital, which predated Mary Sherman Hospital.
• Antoinette Leach — The first woman to be admitted to the Bar in
Indiana. She served as president and vice president of the Sullivan
County Bar Association.
• Charles L Davis — A treasurer of Sullivan in 1882. He owned a
hardware business with his brother Benjamin Davis and later developed
John Davis & Sons with his father.
• Benjamin Davis — A banker, businessman and built the three-story
building that became the Index. He was one of the founders of National
Bank in Sullivan.
• John T. Hays — He was an attorney and was part of the Hays & Hays
Law Firm, located in the Sherman Building.
• John Gilkerson — A farmer who left Sullivan and was killed in a
water tank explosion in Gordon, Nebraska in 1891.
• Abe Frakes — He was originally from Fairbanks but moved to Kansas
where he was appointed register of the United States Land Office
before returning to Sullivan County to live out his days.
• Fred F. Bays — He was a prosecuting attorney for Sullivan County in
the early 1900s.
• William M. Draper — One of the earliest bottlers of soft drinks in
the Wabash Valley and was a Sullivan City councilman when the water
system was first installed.
• Adam Sajko — He was killed playing high school football for Sullivan
High School at age 17 in 1945. An award is passed out each year in his
• Ed W. Kelly — A veteran of the Civil War, 25th Indiana Infantry. He
learned the watch trade and had a jewelry business in 1867. He was
associated with fellow businessman James Catlin.
• Jethro Bass — He was a Black barber who came from Terre Haute in
1890. He was in business for nearly 50 years.
• Dr. Glen McClure — She was the first female board-certified surgeon
in Indiana.
• Will Hays — A Sullivan native who was Postmaster General in 1921 and
was president of the motion pictures Producers and Distributors of
• Cuthbert J. Sherman — Started the Sherman Foundation and Sherman
Scholarship which still exists today. Mary Sherman Hospital was
renamed in the honor of his wife Mary. He was president of Center
Ridge Cemetery and helped raise $2,800 to build the arch at the
• Tella C. Haines — A female attorney who was on the Sullivan County
Bar Association for 54 years, served on the Indiana Court of Appeals
and was a former secretary of the Indiana Supreme Court.
• Dr. John Oldman — He was a dentist for over 50 years.
• Joe K. Smock — He owned Smock & Son Drugstore from 1890 to 1921.
• W.H. Poston — He was a former Sullivan County commissioner and
served as town trustee.
• Nelson Worth — He was a bomber pilot who was killed in action on
Dec. 11, 1944.
The visitors toured the mausoleum, a rock-face granite structure that
was built in 1929.
Adams also talked about a section of the cemetery for the coal miners,
who were killed in one of four mine disasters on Feb. 25, 1925.
“I hope everybody had a good time and maybe learned a little about the
history of Sullivan County,” Adams said. “Hopefully we can do another
one of these where we visit tombstones of other famous people from our

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