Aurora is a historic river town that is situated 35 miles west of Cincinnati, Ohio, located in the Southeast corner of Indiana. Aurora was settled in the early 1800's and incorporated in 1845 and has strong historic connections to the Ohio River. Aurora is full of unique and historic buildings that preserve its older rivercity characteristics.
Clayton William Batchelor was Born on Miller Brick Hill outside of Rising Sun March 4, 1898. He enlisted in the U.S. Army June 22, 1916.
Upon his return from WWI, 20 year old Clayton began work on July 15, 1919 at Royer Wheel Company in Aurora. He married Minnie Belle "Ted" Goodrich on June 16, 1923 in Aurora and had two daughters; Martha Jean and Phyllis Anne.
Around 1920, and for nearly 30 years, Clayton was a baker by trade and was said to have made the first devil's food cake in Aurora from a mix he bought from a traveling salesman.
In 1933, Clayton was elected to Aurora City Council. He served for 12 years, with a stint in 1934 as acting Mayor. He was Aurora Chamber of Commerce Director for 18 years and President for five. He was instrumental in the construction of the first apartment building specially designed for senior citizens. Clayton served as county councilman, as well as chairman of the Aurora Park Board. In 1964, Batchelor was appointed by Indiana Governor Mathew Welsh to manage the Bureau of Motor Vehicle branch in Aurora.
In 1988, Clayton received a certificate from the government of France for helping to defend that country against Germany during the First World War. On April 24, 1991, the Aurora Park Board named the large pavilion in the city park the, "Clayton Batchelor Pavilion". In 1992, the 107th Indiana General Assembly honored Batchelor for his "immeasurable contributions to the people of Dearborn County and the City of Aurora."
When Clayton died of pneumonia February 20, 1999, 12 days shy of his 101st birthday; he was the last surviving World War I veteran in Dearborn County. Clayton and Minnie are buried in Historic River View Cemetery.
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born in Michigan, February 2, 1902. He was an American aviator, military officer, author, inventor, explorer and environmental activist. Lindbergh learned to fly planes in 1922 after quitting college. He got his start in aviation as a barnstormer. They were pilots who traveled the country performing aerobatic stunts and selling airplane rides.
In 1927 at the age of 25, Lindbergh became world famous by winning the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 reward put up by French hotelier Raymond Orteig: for the first person to fly an airplane nonstop from Long Island, New York, to Paris, France. He covered the 33.5 hour, 3,600 mile flight alone in a single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis.
On his return from Paris following his transatlantic flight, Lindbergh received many invitations requesting him to appear in various parts of the country. In response, the U.S. Goodwill Tour to promote nationwide interest in commercial aviation was planned. It was sponsored by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for The Promotion of Aeronautics. Lindbergh's Goodwill Tour lasted 95 days through 82 cities and 23 state capitals.
Ninety-two years ago, August 8, 1927, The Spirit of St. Louis flew over Aurora. Lindbergh, flying from Cincinnati to Louisville Kentucky circled over the city two or three times before starting his down-river route towards St. Louis. Before bidding goodbye he dropped a message from his plane. It was found on the roof of the Sol Vigran building (present location of the Aurora Lions Club Building) by Roscoe Hilton who had it framed and displayed in in the store window.
Because of the limited time and the extensive itinerary of the tour of the United States now in progress to encourage popular interest in aeronautics, it is impossible for the “Spirit of St. Louis” to land in your city. The message from the air, however, is sent you to express our sincere appreciation of your interest in the tour and in the promotion and expansion of commercial aeronautics in the United States.
We feel that we will be amply repaid for all our efforts if each and every citizen in the United Sates cherishes an interest in flying and gives his earnest support to the air mail service and the establishments of airports and similar facilities. The concerted efforts of the citizens of the United States in this direction will result in America’s taking its rightful place within a very short time as the work leader in commercial flying.
CHARLES A. LINDGERGH
Harry F. Guggeheim, President
The Daniel Guggeheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics.
William P. McCracken, Jr.
Assistant Secretary for Aeronautics, Department of Commerce
Lindbergh died of lymphoma on the Hawaiian island of Maui, on August 26, 1974, at age 72.
Eisenhower's Funeral Train
April 1, 1969, John Phillips of the New York Times, ABC-TV, and Ike Eisenhower were in Aurora. Phillips had come to compare how Aurora honored President Ike Eisenhower with what Kansas City did. The 34th President of the United States from 1953-1961 David Dwight Eisenhower had died of congestive heart failure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda at the age of 78.
During World War II, he was a five-star general in the Army and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe. After his death on March 28, 1969 his body was moved to the Washington National Cathedral's Bethlehem Chapel, where he lay in repose for 28 hours. He was then transported to the United States Capitol, where he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda March 30–31. A state funeral service was conducted at the Washington National Cathedral on March 31. Eisenhower's body was then placed onto a special funeral train for its journey from the nation's capital through seven states - Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri to his hometown of Abilene, Kansas.
As street lights down US 50 began flashing yellow, colors were unfurled and salutes given as the train approached the Aurora train depot on the Baltimore & Ohio Southwest Railroad at approximately 12:05pm to a crowd of nearly 1,000. First incorporated into President Abraham Lincoln's funeral in 1865, a funeral train would not be part of a U.S. state funeral again until 2018 for George H. W. Bush’s journey to Texas.
George Street Bridge
Built in 1887, the George Street Bridge over Hogan Creek is known as Dearborn County Bridge 159. Lomas Forge & Bridge Works of Cincinnati, OH, built the metal Whipple truss bridge. Having replaced a wooden truss, the structure is 254 ft. long by 23 ft. wide. It is one of the earliest iron bridges in Indiana, and one of the few remaining metal bridges of its type in the state.
The George Street bridge carried trolley cars until the 1940’s, connecteed US 50 from its opening until its relocation in 1954 and IN 56 until that route’s relocation in 1972. Two wings on both sides carried utility pipes; the west wing also carries a pedestrian walkway.
The distinct crossing was rehabilitated in 1950 when the wooden deck was replaced with a steel grid deck. Deterioration of the walkway supports required the removal of the pedestrian path in 1974 and in 1979, the entire bridge was closed to automobile traffic due to structural concerns. The George Street Bridge was rehabilitated from 1983 to 1989 and reopened to automobile and pedestrian traffic, and then rehabilitated again in 2010.
Robert A. Markwalter filed an application June 13, 1983 to add the George Street Bridge to the National Register of Historic Places which was approved by a State Historic Preservation Officer January 24, 1984. In 2014 the Main Street Aurora Design Committee, with financial backing from Stedman Machine Company, replaced the National Register of Historic Places markers which had been lost during earlier rehabilitations.
River View Cemetery
William Tinsley emigrated from County Tipperary Ireland in 1851, to Cincinnati, OH at the age of 47. As a well-known architect in his field he received commissions to design several prestigious buildings in the Midwestern United States including Christ Church on the Circle in Indianapolis, Center Hall at Wabash College, Calvary Church in Cincinnati, structures at Butler University, University of Wisconsin, Kenyon College and Wesleyan University, Indiana University and the beautiful Historic River View Cemetery on the west bank of the Ohio River, bordered by Laughery Creek in Aurora.
River View Cemetery thirty acres. It provides a beautiful, serene park for the burial of loved ones, as well as a place to stroll and enjoy the beauty of rural Southeastern Indiana. River View is laid off in lots intersected by avenues and driveways and is architecturally classified as Late Victorian/Romanesque Revival/Rural Cemetery Movement. The original plat and period expansions approximate the shape of a parallelogram. River View includes a circular plot of ground for the burial of soldiers (1897), a brick chapel (1906), The Well House (1889), Catholic Section (1875), two identified prehistoric archaeological sites, three mausoleums, a large ossuary and a 72-niche columbarium. Three early cemeteries; Aurora Graveyard, Probst (1972) & Buffington (1973) family cemeteries have been relocated there; twenty-six Aurora Mayors rest there, as well as Jesse Holman who filed the plat for Aurora in 1819.
In the early years, a rope extended from the front gate connecting with a large church bell located on the top of the caretaker’s house. As horse drawn corteges entered the gate, each driver pulled the rope which tolled the bell notifying the caretakers that the procession was entering the cemetery. In later years, the bell was mounted on the Wesleyan Church at George & Johnson Streets which later relocated outside the City of Aurora.
Though the first burial was held July 6, 1869, for Jeremiah Perry Smith, River View Cemetery was not established until one month later in August 1869. River View is a non-profit organization and governed by a volunteer board of directors. All funds from the sale of lots are dedicated to the improvement, maintenance, and perpetual care of the grounds.
Through the determination and conviction of Mary Alice Horton, former librarian of the Aurora Public Library District, Historic River View Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2013.
Aurora Lumber Companies
Many lumber yards existed in Aurora over the years, but the only remaining Aurora lumber yard today after 171 years in continuous business is Gillman Home Center.
In 1884, The Sutton Mill Co., formally owned by John Graham just south of the present grain storage for Consolidated Grain & Barge Co., lost its building and much of the lighter machinery when it was carried down the raging Ohio River during the flood that year.
At the intersection of George and Morrison Sts. was a lumber yard owned and operated by Phillip Crosby. A wooden “slide” was built from the mill to the creek, and logs were received from rafts in the creek floated in from the river. A cable was attached to the logs, and one at time, they were pulled up the slide to the mill, where they were sawed into lumber.
In the lowland which once existed in the rear of what is now Subway on US 50 was a lumber yard owned and operated by George Maines.
The Wright Lumber Co., founded by Joseph C. Wright, located at the head of Third Street was lost to fire on January 30, 1963 as well as a Wright’s office building and storage building lost to fire in the late 30’s.
In 1848, L.G. Hurlbert Sr. opened a lumber yard at Third & B & O R.R. (Third & Mechanic Sts.) the site now occupied by St. John Lutheran School. Robert Clark Mattox became a partner in the 1890's and eventually sole owner in 1906 naming the business Hurlbert-Mattox Lumber Yard before dropping the Hurlbert name. Bert Sipe operated the yard for a number of years. In 1920, Mattox sold the yard to Midland Building Industries and it became known as the Aurora Lumber Company. In 1954, the business moved from its downtown Third & Mechanic Sts. location to US 50. Delmore Hizer, manager since 1953, along with son in law Carl Petty purchased the yard October 14, 1966 with only four full time employees, including themselves. The adjacent Randall property was purchased in 1985 for expansion. In 2000, a new 8,000 square foot store replaced the 2,000 square foot store from 1954. On August 10, 2015, fire destroyed part of the lumber company requiring demolition of the 1954 showroom. In 2017, the yard became part of the Gillman family of hardware stores.
Aurora Farmers Fair
Clarence B. Wilson (Grandfather of Phyllis “Phee” Ellinghausen, Jean Petcher & Bill Petcher) began talking of creating an agricultural show in 1908. He discussed the idea with Edward Chambers/a local businessman and chicken fancier, William Ketcham/a prominent Dearborn County farmer, Joseph R. Houston/the public school superintendent, Adam Hill,/a wharf-boat owner and local coal merchant, and William Hoskins/a manufacturer.
Extra hitching posts were erected in town to accommodate the visitors. A ladies rest room was placed in the Neff Building on Second Street. Exhibit entries were accepted by Llewellyn E. Davies, fair secretary, and all were displayed out in the open where they could easily be seen. Long tables, constructed of trestles and boards, were placed in the gutters at the edge of the brick and cement pavement on both sides of Second Street from Bridgeway to Judiciary Streets.
Clarence B. Wilson was chairman for the 1909 fair. Edward Chambers was elected chairman, for the 1910 fair, by the Aurora Business Men’s Association. In 1912, Robert L. Johnson was elected president of the Fair Association, a position he held until 1959, with the exception of two years when William Neukom and T.J. Martin held the office for one year each.
In 1940, a building on the riverfront was purchased from the Indianapolis Chair Company, and all exhibits were housed there. Prior to this, exhibits were placed in the old tobacco warehouse on Exporting Street. In 1909 there were 12,000 people and over 700 entries. By 1958 the fair had grown to over 25,000 people in attendance, with over 1,600 exhibit entries.
In February, 1959, the Aurora Business Men’s Association invited the Aurora Lions Club to assume sponsorship and management of the fair. The invitation was accepted. Since 1959 the annual Aurora Farmers Fair has been organized and managed by many men and women dedicated to community needs in carrying out their international motto: “We Serve.”
Neff's Shoe Store
Bavarian shoe cobbler and beekeeper John Neff, who was born November 24, 1859, in Schneppenbach, Germany. He came to the United States about 1880 and opened a shoe store in Aurora, 1885, along with Thomas Nees. After Nees left Aurora, Neff went into partnership with Frank Schipper at which time the shoes sold in the store were made by Neff.
By 1890, John Neff was sole proprietor of the store, and sometime in that decade the shop was established in its location at 315 Second Street. Meanwhile, Neff married Margaret Frankman, and the couple had three daughters; Helen, Margaret & Ann and seven sons, though Walter and Willard died young. The five sons learned the shoe selling trade under John’s guidance. Frank and George, took over the Aurora store when their father died, John Jr. opened a store in Rushville, Fort Wayne and Harrison. Otto established a store in Indianapolis and Thomas opened a store in Lawrenceburg.
John’s grandson and Frank’s son Dan “the shoe man” Neff took over ownership of the business in 1972. The Neff shoe store closed its doors in December 2015 after 130 years in business. The iconic shoe, which hung outside the store since 1920, was removed in April 2018 and given to great grandson Dan “Boonie” Neff.
Dan Sr. often quipped that Robert Wadlow, at 8 feet,11.1 inches, the tallest man in United States recorded history visited Aurora around 1930 with his family and visited Neff’s because the store carried Peters Shoes, the manufacturer who custom made shoes for Wadlow. His shoe size was 37AA with each shoe weighing 4 pounds and were 19 inches long. From Aurora, Wadlows family went to the Dillsboro Health Resort to spend the night.
John Neff died January 5, 1935 at the age of 75 and is buried in Historic River View Cemetery.
Royer Wheel Company
Royer Wheel Co., was organized in 1848 under the firm name of T. Royer & Co.; in 1851 the name was changed to Royer, Coleman & Co., and in 1856 the Royer, Simonton & Co.
Robert A. Taft, before admission to the Ohio Bar, became involved in the reorganization of the Royer Wheel Company which began making wagon hubs and spokes in Cincinnati as early as 1866. Royer Wheel located its principal factory in Aurora, where Royer manufactured a full line of wheels for horse-drawn vehicles and autos and employed an average of 150 employees. The plant had a daily capacity of 400 sets of wheels, and claimed that their product was the best on the market and no efforts would be spared to keep it up to the highest standard of excellence. Royer products were sold in all parts of the United States, as well as many foreign countries.
John W. Herron Jr., Taft’s uncle and company manager, made a series of financial mistakes with Royer Wheel teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. In 1913 Joseph C. Small who was born in Wilmington, Indiana November 28, 1843 was appointed receiver of the affairs of the Royer Wheel Company of Aurora which was incorporated with a capitalization of three hundred thousand dollars.
On January 10, 1916, Mr. Small who was also a director of the First National Bank of Aurora sold the plant to Louis R. Moore of Cincinnati for $40,150 two-thirds of the appraised value. In later years the building housed Alton Box Company, and the George Street site today is owned by Consolidated Grain and Barge Enterprises.
Joseph C. Small died July 24, 1917 and is buried in Historic River View Cemetery.
Taft Presidential Campaign
The 1908 Presidential campaign started 200 miles from Aurora, just outside Brook, Indiana. Secretary of War since 1904, presidential candidate William Howard Taft would leave Cincinnati the morning of September 23, 1908 to travel though Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas over several weeks.
The morning of September 23, Taft and his staff boarded a five car train dubbed “The Taft Special” and headed for Indiana on a “whistle stop” campaign. As the inbound train approached the station with a blast of its steam whistle alerting the depot attendant of their arrival, the train stopped briefly in Aurora where Taft shook hands with local politicians and waved to the people gathered to greet him. He joked with the crowd, forgoing a formal speech.
Taft holds the unique honor of serving as both the President of the United States and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Taft is the only person to have presided over both the executive and judicial branches of the United States federal government.