City of New Castle,Indiana

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Teaming With History

Information reprinted with permission from the Courier Times, local newspaper New Castle, Indiana


New Castle history book available now in town; Radford, Magers are authors
Donna Cronk / C-T photo
Donna Cronk / C-T photo

"New Castle" co-authors Darrel Radford (left) and Doug Magers discuss historic moments as they pose with the uniform of World War I Gen. Omar Bundy of New Castle, who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Bundy refused to retreat during a key moment in the war and The Indianapolis Star reported that his grit played a key role in turning the war in the allies' favor.
Donna Cronk
Neighbors Editor

In the early 1980s, Doug Magers started running some of his 50,000 local historical photos in The News-Republican, a weekly newspaper owned then by Darrel Radford. 
Little could the two have imagined then that they would make history of their own together. In 1992 they teamed up to write "New Castle: A Pictorial History." After two printings, the book sold out and is now a collector's item.
The two history buffs have paired up again, using Magers' photos and Radford's words with the result being a new history book released this week called "New Castle." It is one of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series.
Ten chapters are filled with nearly 200 photos (some rarely seen before) and abundant stories to explain them. The book takes readers on a journey from the town's founding in 1823 to years of prosperity, unique events and unforgettable people.
The good times rolled from The Maxwell plant (the largest automotive plant in the world at the time) to the production of unique specialties such as Hoosier Kitchen Cabinets, Jesse French pianos and iron bridges. Unforgettable people and big events associated with them include Civil War Gen. William Grose and World War I Gen. Omar Bundy who refused to retreat even after orders to do so. It was reported at the time that his determination helped turn the tide in our favor during the war. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Other well-known characters are forever part of the city's history in big ways. There's U.S. Vice President Charles Fairbanks who in 1907 rode through town and gave a speech at the new Maxwell (later, Chrysler) plant.
There's the daughter of a dentist, Catherine Winters, who disappeared a century ago and whose case remains a common discussion topic even today.
There's NBA and Indiana University basketball legends Kent Benson and Steve Alford and of course, there's their high-school home court, the largest and finest fieldhouse in the world.
Perhaps just as fascinating, the book contains stories about the common folk who contributed to the town's heritage in distinctive ways.
Magers' favorite townies are the Harvey girls. The two never dated, never drove cars and they lived lives frozen in another era. They lived their entire lives together in the same family home and walked all over town selling Avon for 50 years. They never owned a single electrical appliance. They worked at the New Castle Casket Co. where they made casket linings. Curiously, they also had a home business where they hand-stitched funeral clothing. They even modeled their products at undertaker conventions in Indianapolis and hosted an annual picnic for local funeral directors.
As for Radford's favorite tale, he points to the story of the Old Settlers' Meeting in 1891 where the town's leading organizers and citizens gathered to talk about all that had happened in New Castle's first half century. He was touched by a story about an 87-year-old man who sang a moving hymn.
Both Magers and Radford enjoy talking about the man chosen for the cover spot. The fellow getting into the vintage car is Al Sherry who worked at the New York Central Depot on New York Avenue for 75 years - from when he was a boy until the railroad forced him to retire when he was in his 90s. Even, then, he wasn't ready. Says Magers, "It killed him. He didn't live long after that."
Radford says that life is always changing but it's so gradual that that we fail to notice. 
Magers said that "history gives a chance for people to see the way it used to be."
The new book is available now at The Courier-Times front desk, The Henry County Historical Society, the Book Nook, The New Castle-Henry County Public Library and Fred's Pharmacy. It sells for $21.99.
The co-authors are open to speaking engagements. For more information contact Radford at 765-524-0530 or email him at:
Donna Cronk is the neighbors editor at the Courier-Times.