Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

April 2, 2013

Pat’s Potpourri

Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Am I the only person in Decatur County that didn’t know that Fred Clemons was born here?

Today I’ll share information about Fred Clemons, born in Greensburg Feb. 14, 1889, a famous man in the racing car business and Indianapolis 500. He died in Indianapolis in 1945 and was buried in Greensburg at South Park Cemetery. Fred Clemons, often called “Skinny,” became well known to many people all over the world, especially those interested in cars and racing and the Indianapolis 500.

There has been a lot written about Clemons since he got in the business of racing. His work is described a lot in Griffith Borgeson’s, “The Golden Age of the American Racing Car.” The Dixon’s Graphite Special engine was originally built by Fred Clemons in 1927. He owned it when Joe Russo, Benny Benfield, Red Campbell and Bryan Saulpaugh raced it at several of the tracks in the Midwest. The car with the Clemons engine was raced in 2009 in England and you can see the car on “You Tube.” In an issue of the “National Speedway Weekly,” Clemons was mentioned several times. In “Museum of American Speed,” his cars are pictured and his and his cars’ histories are described. He was written about or mentioned in more newspaper articles than could be noted here. He is written about in Terry Reed’s “The Race and Ritual of the Indianapolis 500,” second edition, on pages 26, 66, and 68. Type his name for the Internet and you will get many stories. Mike Porter has added information about him on “Find A Grave.” Judy Bodwell, Clemons granddaughter, shared the information she has so I could pass it on to you.

First, even though this column and next week’s column are about Fred Clemons, I hope you’ll excuse my going back to one of his ancestors. Yes, I got pretty excited when I learned of this connection to something I wrote 38 years ago. In 1975, for the bicentennial, I started a series about the Revolutionary War veterans that came here from their home state after the war was over. They settled in Decatur County and when they died they were buried in this county. In 1975, I didn’t have a computer which would have made it a lot easier to look up the battles in which the veterans had fought. There were some that I couldn’t find their graves. I believe that Decatur County Historian Russell Wilhoit has found the graves of other Revolutionary veterans buried here. Maybe he will let me share those with you sometime.

The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution gave me a list of the known veterans they had and, if known, where they were buried. In some cases the burial site wasn’t known but with some sleuthing I found them, took a picture of the headstone and included that with what information found.

One of those veterans was Samuel Lloyd. For those who have one of the booklets that the Bicentennial Committee made from the series it is on page 20. Samuel Lloyd was born May 27, 1747 in Essex Co. Va. and served two years and two months as a Minute Man, primarily in Wake County, North Carolina. He was at Rolla Court House on the Haw River; at the Yadkin River; at Crawford’s Farms; on Noose (Neuse) River; at the falls of the Neuse River on the Pee Dee. He was at Guilford Court House two or three times. Saw skirmishes, mainly against the Tories. He was with the regular troops when at Rolla Court House. He served under Capt. Garrett and Cols. Lee and Crawford. He died April 24, 1834 and is buried in Sandcreek Cemetery in Decatur County.

The battle of Guilford Courthouse was fought March 15, 1781 with the Americans under the command of Major General Nathanael Green and the British forces under the command of Lt. General Cornwallis. The British commander said after the battle, “I never saw such fighting since God made me. The Americans fought like demons.”

Samuel Lloyd came to Decatur County after the Revolutionary War when land opened up. A few generations later Edwin Wallace Clemons was born, direct descendant of Samuel Lloyd. He married Anna Laura Withers, also born in Decatur County.  

Edwin and Anna were parents of Fred, Alice and Joseph N. (Alice married Edward Tichenor and at one time they lived at 743 East Central Ave.) Fred “Skinny” Clemons went to Emmerich Manual Training school in Indianapolis. He was a shop welder and parts chaser for “The little Chevrolet Brothers Mfg. Co. on W. Tenth St. in Indianapolis when his career began. More next week.