By Rick Hinton
Want to buy an abandoned 19th century village to call your own? Traveling 20 miles through the wilderness stretch of State Road 135, after leaving Nashville, Indiana, will bring you to Elkinsville Road and your destination – Story, Indiana. The unincorporated community still sits secluded and firmly entrenched in the past; and with ghostly remnants seemingly making a transition from days gone by to the present. For $3.8 million it can be yours!
Dr. George P. Story received a land grant from President Millard Fillmore in 1851. Relocating from Ohio, Dr. Story set to work establishing the remote community with his medical practice, family farms, a school and a grist mill over a 20-year period. Formal creation of the village of Story occurred some 10 years later in 1882 when another doctor, Arnold S. Griffitt, took over the medical practice and continued the farming operations. He was instrumental in the birth of a general store housing the first post office. Soon the village’s first church congregation found a home. Later, a sawmill accompanied the grist mill operation, and as the story goes, there was also a blacksmith shop and slaughterhouse on the grounds. Everything needed for a small, rural Indiana community!
Alra Wheeler and his wife, Mary, entered Story’s history in 1900, purchasing the store and grist mill. The store burned in 1915. It was rebuilt, only now with a second story and “Wheeler General Store” painted across the upper facade. Wheeler died six years later. The general store, sawmill, the Wheeler home and additional land was purchased by Albert and Susan Hedrick in 1924. The store was renamed “Hedrick & Son Grocery.” Life was good for the Hedricks through the remainder of the 1920s and into the early 1930s. Businesses took root and the population grew (though it never topped 175 residents). Then … the bottom dropped out!
Buying land for the creation of Brown County State Park in the 1920s enticed many farmers to sell off their hilly, rocky terrain (today, the Hoosier National Forest region) and move on to greener pastures. Then came the Great Depression (1929-1933) when many families left their farms for work elsewhere. The aftermath lingered on. Brown County lost half of its population between 1930 and 1940. Farming had screeched to a halt. In Story, the loss of not only customers, but also Story residents themselves, began the decline of any realized future prosperity. And that was not all. …
Traveling to Story in those days was relatively easy. However, the creation of Brown County State Park, Yellowwood State Forest, Hoosier National Forest and the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area either rerouted roads or eliminated them altogether. In 1960 the area west of Story was flooded with the creation of Lake Monroe, effectively cutting the route through the abandoned town of Elkinsville to Bloomington. Isolation continued Story’s decline.
Fast forward into the 1970s. In 1978, Bloomington couple, Benjamin and Cynthia Schultz, purchased just under five acres that included the grocery store, grist mill, barn and a small rented house. They jointly shared a vision of creating a bed & breakfast in the store using their experiences in the restaurant business and as an architect and builder. The Story Inn was born! In the decade that followed, they converted the second story of the store into rooms, the surrounding cottages into guest homes and essentially re-established the nearly 24 acres that defines the town of Story. It all came to an end when they sold in 1992. Once again, Story slept.
In 1999, it all changed again to where we are today. Rick Hofstetter had heard the stories of purported ghostly activity involving “The Blue Lady.” He took it with a grain of salt and bought the town anyway. …
To be continued