After a scrumptious breakfast at the Brookville Inn on Main Street where Hubby and I are staying for two nights, we’re off for a day of adventure with our hosts from the library. They’ve got a jam-packed itinerary, and have even reserved a bus for our trip. Library genealogy expert and historian Julie Schlesselman supplies the details as we travel, and if there’s a theme for the day, it’s “Brookville mysteries.” Our first stop is the now-unused Little Cedar Grove Baptist Church, oldest church building standing on its original site in Indiana. The restored brick building is well worth seeing, but its macabre history also draws us: a woman’s severed legs were discovered there by a celebrating bridal party. (That would have been a wedding to remember.) Add in local rumors of satanic rituals performed here, and you have a site worthy of any Halloween tour.
We drive through picturesque Cedar Grove to our next stop in the mystery tour and arrive in New Trenton, site of the notorious “Head and Hands Murder.” In 1936, retired Cincinnati fireman Harry Miller was bludgeoned in a house that’s still there today. His headless, handless body was found in Kentucky; his head and hands were found partly encased in concrete in a pond 20 miles away. Four men were later convicted and executed in a case of greed and murder for hire. The victim’s house — neatly kept and surrounded by manicured lawns — stands on a bank overlooking the river. I wonder if the current occupant knows its dark history?
A drive through Big Cedar Creek takes us past another crime scene — this one more recent and still unsolved. In the spring of 2013, the skeletal remains of a missing Ohio woman were found at the side of the road. A sad monument has been erected there in her memory, a reminder that even in small towns, danger lurks.
It’s on to far pleasanter destinations. We stop at the Brookville Lake Overlook and take in the magnificent view. Here my hosts tell me about the sad history of Fairfield and Quakertown, villages which had to be sacrificed when the dam was built for flood control. Hundreds of people — as well as cemeteries — had to be relocated to make way for the reservoir.
After a drive through Blooming Grove, we stop at the Laurel branch of the Franklin County Library to visit the staff there.
Then we arrive at the most unexpected and delightful lunch venues I’ve ever encountered: Rileybrook Hall. You walk through exuberant gardens where peacocks roam and step into a magical grand hall straight out of Harry Potter. Our hosts are Tom and Rob, partners for over 40 years. Saturday dinners at Rileybrook are booked all the way through winter, and Kenny Rogers, Wynona Judd, and actress Jennifer O’Neill are among those who’ve dined at this secret spot.
The afternoon takes us to the canal town of Metamora where we visit the “Museum of Oddities,” an eclectic collection of strange and unusual objects from around the world. The proprietor, “Indiana Joe,” is a fun and colorful guy with tales to tell about each of the 2000+ objects in his collection.
To wrap up a wonderful afternoon, we all hopped aboard a canal boat for a ride — towed by two draft horses — across the Duck Creek Aqueduct.
But wait — the day isn’t over yet! For dinner we all meet up at the library for a fried chicken and potluck dinner, where everyone gets together for one last photo:
I go home with memories of a most amazing day — plus a very special souvenir presented to me by library employee and wildlife naturalist Jim Trumbull, whose fascination with Native American history makes him the local expert in the subject. He gives me an ancient arrowhead found in the area, a precious reminder of Brookville that I will keep right beside my desk, to remind me of this unforgettable visit.