“A living encyclopedia of Indiana history” is how the September 11, 1924 Democrat referred to Sarah Carmichael Harrell.

As many of you continue to read these articles, and I mention the names Hallie Harrell Showalter or Ernest Showalter, or you read the historical tidbits of yesteryear attributed to Portia Everett, if you are under the age of 70, you may ask, who were these people?

The Harrells, Showalters and Everetts. Franklin County history - particularly Brook-ville history - would not be complete without them. Yet, they probably had no idea about the future importance of their contributions. These people were not only active and productive citizens of our county but descendants of the earliest Franklin County pioneers. It's because of these three families that we have as much common every day, 19th and 20th-century history documented about Brookville as we do.

I call them the accidental historians because they never published anything in a formal book or volume form, but they contributed thousands of articles chronicling yesteryear to the local newspapers and even created special history-specific editions of the newspaper such as for the Brookville Sesquicentennial. The overall love and appreciation of yester-year followed strongly through these families for three generations. In particular, a mother, daughter and granddaughter chronicled history in newspaper columns and editorials, as they remembered it, were told it, or researched it.

The immediate progeny goes: Samuel Harrell married Sarah Carmichael in 1871; who were the parents of Hallie Harrell, who married Ernest Showalter in 1901; who were the parents of Portia Showalter who married Ray Everett in 1929.

As a bonus, not only were Hallie and Portia interested in history but so were their husbands, who contributed much to the local newspapers as well.

When she died at the age of 85 in 1929, Sarah Carmichael Harrell was the widow of Samuel S. Harrell, a prominent Brookville attorney. However, she was well-known and extremely well-respected in her own right, and at the time of her death, was one of the oldest citizens of Franklin County. Sarah, sometimes called Sallie, was born in Brookville in 1844 to Noah and Edith Stoops Carmichael. She received her education in the old Brookville College, later teaching school in Brookville and eventually Ottumwa, Iowa. Mrs. Harrell was a writer of exceptional ability and was a frequent contributor to magazines and educational journals, and was considered one of the most valued writers for the Democrat for 70 years. She started at the age of 16 by contributing letters to the paper. Many of Sarah's columns and letters to the paper were identified only by “Citizen,” not necessarily her name.

In addition, Sarah had been a member of the Indiana Historical Society and was well versed in the early history of the state and of Franklin County, having actually known some of the earliest pioneers and founders of the county. Mrs. Harrell was also instrumental in securing the Carnegie library for Brookville and served as a board member for many years.

The original Harrell house (as seen in the accompanying photo) sat on the lot at 147 E. 8th St. In 1910, Sarah had the old house torn down and a new one built. We can only assume the old house was in bad shape or had irreparable issues for a lover of history to have had it torn down and replaced with a modern one. Many meetings of the Franklin County Historical Society took place at the Harrell house, and her private collection of books was unlike any other in the area. In her house were shelves reaching from floor to ceiling lined with an array of books and scholarly volumes, each bearing a simple bookplate, “Harrell Library.” Her scrapbooks were remarkable and admired for their wide range of memorabilia.

When Sarah died in 1929, the property was willed to her two daughters, Hallie Showalter and Edna Rockafellar. A provision in the will allowed Edna, who was a widow, to continue to live in the house, and we can only assume, along with all of Sarah's personal belongings, and prized memorabilia and scrapbooks.

Sarah's older daughter, Hallie, was the wife of Ernest Showalter. The Showalters lived at 1043 Franklin Avenue. When Mr. Showalter died in December 1963, he was President-Emeritus of People's Trust Company and Secretary-Treas-urer of Whitewater Public-ations. In 1943, he and other Brookville businessmen formed Whitewater Publications, Inc., and he took over the manage-ment of both the Brookville American and the Brookville Democrat, also contributing articles and editorials.

Hallie Harrell Showalter was 84 when she died in 1959. She had spent her entire life in the Brookville community and was one of the only three descendants of Brookville's founding fathers yet living here at the time, being a direct descendant of David Stoops who came to Brookville in the early 1800s. In 1929, Hallie was appointed a member of the Brookville Library Board succeeding her mother and served in that capacity for more than 25 years. Sadly, her obituary said nothing about her contributions of writing for the newspaper. Her history-related columns ran from 1935 to 1938 in the Brookville American. The articles always appeared with a different title according to the subject matter she was discussing, and simply credited at the end with the initials H.H.S.

In 1947, Portia Showalter's father, E.W. Showalter, who formed Whitewater Publications, started a column called “A Glimpse at the Past.” It only appeared in the Brookville American and ran for 20 years, 1947 to 1967, with Portia taking over the column in the later part of 1950. In a few issues, she made light of her age and rhetorically asked what was it that she could contribute to history being so young. Little did she realize her recollections of Franklin County people, places, and things would be invaluable to historians decades later. In 1958, Portia did another short weekly article for the Sesquicentennial year called “Scrapbook Scrapple.” Towards the end of her career, “A Glimpse at the Past” columns were more about her vacations or broad subjects such as holidays and world issues. But who blames her? If she wrote a history column for more than 17 years, she had to come up with close to 900 different articles.

Portia and her husband lived on Lew Wallace Drive, today the address is known as 9111 Whitewater Dr.

Portia's husband Ray Everett wrote a column called “Sidelights,” for the Brookville Democrat. At the time, it was more nosey news and was not really history-related, but today it can be considered valuable history since many of the people he discussed have passed away, and many of the places no longer exist. Ray died in 1986. He started his career with Whitewater Publications in 1946 and retired in 1974. Portia died in 1987, at the age of 83. Her obituary made no mention of her long-running history columns, only that she was a former president of Whitewater Publications.

None of these five people obviously intended for their musings to become documented or reliable history. However, because of these accidental historians, we have so much today regarding some of Brookville's and Franklin County's early to mid-20th century history – information that appears nowhere else in our local historical record.

Library staff and volunteers took approximately a year and a half to retrieve all of the history articles written by H.H.S., Ernest, and Portia. Copies were made of all of them and then indexed for ease of use by researchers.

The library district does not have any “Harrell Library” books – or Harrell scrapbooks – or anything from these chroniclers, except what appeared in the newspapers. Does the extended family still have photos, memorabilia, and personal correspondence from these pioneer descendants – or was it destroyed? It's hard to say for sure, but I have two comments for you to consider, so you can be the judge.

A few years back, items once belonging to Ray Everett surfaced on eBay. They were purchased by a then local collector who has since moved away. The small collection included a stamp of Ray Everett's profile that appeared in the newspaper with his columns and a few personal things that one would have at a work desk.

After the death of Portia's immediate family, it was her responsibility to go through the estates. In the October 15, 1964 American, she said “Among the things I have been doing is going through boxes of papers, old letters and such that have been collected … from the time we dismantled my Grandmother Harrell's old home on Eighth street through the dismantling of my late father's home on Franklin Ave. Believe me it was a lot of papers, for both houses had attics and most of you know what that means … Among the regrets was the business of burning about two bushel baskets of cabinet photographs of elderly family friends and relatives. I had no idea who they were. I did find two that were interesting. One was Miss Kate Winscott in the heyday of her youth. This I sent off to Walter and Helen Winscott at Sarasota, Florida. The other was a picture of Miss Selena McCready who used to live down on Church Street, I gave it to Mrs. William Higgs, Polly Suhre, to some of us.”

You know what's ironic? If you read the article in this past July 31 edition, “Treasures from the Trash,” about the photos Walter Jordan salvaged from the dump, on the backs of many of those photos was written, “Property of Mrs. William Higgs.”

We just discussed Miss McCready in the October 30 edition of the paper. I wonder whatever happened to that rare photo?

Julie Schlesselman, Local History and Genealogy Dept.,