DECATUR COUNTY – Larry Colson presented us with a puzzle last week that I'm confident we can solve. You probably know Larry. He is a Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser at Colson Appraisal Service, so that's the reason for some of the references to "satellite measurement and imagery" you'll see here. He showed me how to see those satellite things, but I'm not quite the computer person he is.
Larry said, "Pat, I was born in Greensburg and have never left Decatur County for more than a week at a time, and I still don't know anything about the history of that long beautifully built stone wall at Harris City." He said he passes by it daily and thinks it's time to learn something about it.
"By satellite measurement," he explained, "the wall is about 1,080 feet along 220 SW just south of the Harris City Stone Quarry. Satellite imagery shows that it also is about 330 feet along the south side of the same field/parcel."
Larry took some great photos of the wall for us, but if you have a chance drive down that way to see it. He did say though, "It was a perfect day to take pictures of the Harris City wall. Many of the rocks are missing, but most are still there. The only problem I had was how to take good pictures of something that is 1,080 feet long. The pictures cannot possibly show the blood, sweat and tears that went into the building of this local treasure."
You may know the history of Harris City. It's now a small community, but back in the day it was known all over the country. Larry said, "There is also a cemetery in the quarry property. You can see it from the road. Our friend Russell Wilhoit would be the one to contact about that." Russell will tell us about the cemetery next week.
Larry and I are hoping that it can be discovered how old that stone wall is and who built it. He said what he can see runs along County Road 220 SW. He remembered a story I wrote years ago about the big brick home on N. Franklin that was built by B. B. Harris. Christian Rust and his wife own it, and Christian, when asked if he knew what B.B. stood for, said Harris's first name was Bright. That reminded me that Harris was raised in Kentucky. I suspect that B.B.'s mother's maiden name was Bright.
As Larry was passing by the wall one day recently he stopped to talk with someone he saw spraying for weed prevention along the wall. "I stopped and talked with him about the wall. He is Baron Deck's dad and he is the keeper of the wall. Baron is a young man who farms the Knarr property. John Knarr passed away a few years ago and Willa passed last April. "
Mr. Deck told Larry to contact Gene Grote about the history of the wall. Elaine Grote was raised in the brick house directly across from the quarry. Gene and Elaine still live just north of the quarry. (I hope to contact Gene and Elaine by next week's column.)
Mr. Deck said he was always told that there is as much wall in the ground as there is above ground. Larry said, "That makes sense why the ground hasn't eroded or settled in the long life of the wall. He also said that the quarry originally started on the opposite side of the road. I looked at the Beacon satellite photos and he is correct. There is a small quarry hole that you can't see from the road. Mr. Deck also said the wall originally continued north from the quarry to about where Gene and Elaine live. That's a lot longer than what is seen now."
Everything I've read tells how Harris came through the southern part of Decatur County while riding with John Hunt Morgan, who was born in Alabama but lived in Kentucky where his mother had been born. After crossing the Ohio River into Indiana, he had a few men scout southern Indiana. That's where and when Harris saw the blue limestone and the possibilities in the quarry. A few years later he returned and that is the beginning of the Harris City story.
I'm like Larry, it's time we know as much as possible about that wall!
Decatur County resident Pat Smith may be contacted via this publication at firstname.lastname@example.org.