The Indiana Basketball Heritage Trail: Where Hoosier Hysteria Began
The Indiana Basketball Heritage Trail takes you to the “cradle of basketball” in Indiana where “Hoosier Hysteria” was born. This drive through the rich farm country of western Indiana lets you make a connection with the places where basketball originated in Indiana. The Indiana Basketball Heritage Trail begins in Crawfordsville. In 1890 Nicholas McCay came to Crawfordsville to direct the local YMCA. McCay had been a student at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, where James Naismith “invented” basketball in 1891. The available historical evidence suggests that McCay probably organized the first game of basketball played in the state of Indiana at the Crawfordsville YMCA around 1893, and that in 1894 the first scheduled game between teams from two different towns in Indiana was played between Crawfordsville and Lafayette (Crawfordsville won) at the Crawfordsville YMCA. The game rapidly spread to the other surrounding towns in Montgomery County, Boone County, and other nearby counties. The first five Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state basketball champions were from two towns in Montgomery County and two towns in Boone County: Crawfordsville in 1911, Lebanon in 1912, Wingate in 1913 and 1914, and Thorntown in 1915. These four towns whose high school teams won these first five state championships and which played a prominent role in making Indiana a major player in the early development of basketball are on this Trail. The Indiana Basketball Heritage Trail has two distinct segments, so if desired, you can break-up the drive into a Montgomery County segment (Crawfordsville and Wingate) and a Boone County segment (Thorntown and Lebanon).
Begin this drive in Crawfordsville, the birthplace of basketball in Indiana, by stopping at the Cradle of Basketball Historic Marker at 103 West Main Street. The YMCA building (known as the Terminal Building) which stood in the middle of the block between Washington and Walnut Street on the South side of Main Street, where basketball was first played in Crawfordsville, has been razed. The historic marker, erected by the Basketball Heritage Project, Inc. (BHP) and the Montgomery County Basketball Hall of Fame, Inc. in 2011, stands at the site of the YMCA building. Crawfordsville High School fielded a basketball team as early as 1900, and played their home games at the YMCA court in the Terminal Building until the 1919 season. The Crawfordsville High School team claimed state high school championships in 1905, 1906 and in 1910 based on their won-loss records. When the IHSAA first sanctioned a state tournament in 1911, Crawfordsville won that first state tournament by beating Lebanon in the final game 24-17.
If you stroll along Main Street about half a city block east of this marker, and cross Washington Street, you will find a large BHP window display of basketball memorabilia related to Crawfordsville and Montgomery County at 103 East Main Street. Next, walk or drive south on Washington Street to visit Crawfordsville’s Carnegie Museum (222 South Washington Street) where you will find a permanent collection of BHP items related to the early history of basketball in Crawfordsville and Montgomery County. The Crawfordsville Public Library, just across the street from the Carnegie Museum, has a local history collection and data bases that will interest history enthusiasts seeking more information about the early history of basketball in Montgomery County.
Probably the most notable player from Crawfordsville’s early years was Ward “Piggy” Lambert who played for Crawfordsville High School, and after graduating in 1907 he played for Wabash College. Lambert became the coach at Purdue University where he coached John Wooden who became the legendary coach at UCLA. Lambert is the only Crawfordsville/Montgomery County player in the Naismith (National) Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (www.hoopshall.com). Lambert and eight other men who played or coached at Crawfordsville are in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame (www.hoopshall.com). David Glascock played for Crawfordsville High School, and after graduating in 1905 he played basketball at Wabash College. He coached Crawfordsville’s 1911 state championship team. Robert Vaughn graduated from Crawfordsville High School in 1908 and then played basketball at Notre Dame and later coached at Purdue University and Wabash College. Maurice Chadwick played for Crawfordsville High School for two years after playing two years at New Richmond High School (in Montgomery County). After graduating from Crawfordsville High School in 1920, Chadwick played basketball at Wabash College. Karl Dickerson graduated from Crawfordsville High School in 1925. Faye Branham graduated from Crawfordsville High School in 1928. Paul Malaska played four varsity seasons at Crawfordsville, graduating in 1933. Malaska went to Purdue University where he was a three year starting guard. Dick Haslam played on the 1958 Crawfordsville state tournament runner-up team, won the prestigious Trester Award for mental attitude, and was selected to the Indiana All-Star team. After graduating from Crawfordsville in 1958, Haslam played college basketball at Butler University under legendary coach Tony Hinkle. Haslam coached at Crawfordsville High School after graduating from Butler. Dick Baumgartner coached at Crawfordsville High School in the 1950’s leading the 1958 team to the final game of the state tournament.
Crawfordsville High School was one of the first high schools in Indiana to field a girls’ basketball team doing so as early as 1901-02. Girls’ high school basketball struggled in the early years and ceased to exist at Crawfordsville in 1926, not to be revived until 1973. One woman who graduated from Crawfordsville High School in modern times is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame: Jacqueline Graham Burton who graduated from Crawfordsville in 1964. Although Burton did not play basketball in high school since there was no girls’ team when she was in high school, she went on to play college basketball and coached girls’ high school basketball in Indiana for a number of years beginning in 1970. She is in the Indiana Hall of Fame for her coaching.
Shannon Hardesty Cantu played girls’ basketball for Crawfordsville High School in the 1980s. She graduated in 1987 and played college basketball at Indiana University. Although not yet in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, she was a member of the 1987 Indiana High School All-Star team and was named a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame 2012 Silver Anniversary Team.
Before you leave Crawfordsville and head to Wingate you might want to check out three other local sites: Wabash College, the Rotary Jail Museum and the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum. The historical archives at Wabash College indicate that in 1897 Wabash College played a basketball game against Purdue at the Crawfordsville YMCA gym. This game is thought to be the first inter-college basketball game played in Indiana. While in Crawfordsville drive through the beautiful 60 acre park-like campus of Wabash College located on West Wabash Avenue. The Rotary Jail, constructed in 1882, is the only operating rotary cell block in the US. The Rotary Jail Museum, located at 225 N. Washington St., is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open daily for tours. The General Lew Wallace Study and Museum is located at 200 Wallace Avenue and is open daily for tours. General Lew Wallace wrote seven major books. His most well-known book, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and was made into a popular film in the 1950s. For more detailed information about these two museums and other interesting places to visit in Crawfordsville and Montgomery County visit the Montgomery County Visitors Bureau at 218 East Pike Street or consult their web site (www.crawfordsville.org). Restaurants that can be found in downtown Crawfordsville include Allen’s Country Kitchen, The Iron Gate, Little Mexico and the China Inn. There are also numerous fast food places and restaurants on the South and North side of town.
To go to Wingate, about 12 miles west of Crawfordsville, take US Highway #136 west toward Waynetown. After you cross the Sugar Creek Bridge at the western edge of Crawfordsville keep an eye out for Old Indiana Highway #55 (about one mile from the Sugar Creek Bridge) and turn right. Old Indiana Highway #55 goes directly to Wingate. When you arrive at Wingate check out the Wingate Gym, located at 112 West High Street. Wingate, with a population of 263 (2010 census), is small and the gym is easy to find. Then go to the north end of Wingate on Highway 25 to view the sign that highlights the basketball history of Wingate. Although Wingate High School began playing basketball in 1907, winning their first game 70-4 over neighboring Hillsboro, the team did not have a gym until 1925 when a livery stable was converted into a gym. Before 1925 all of their games were played on the road, and the team became known as the “Gymless Wonders.” Even without a gym Wingate won the Indiana state high school basketball championships in 1913 by defeating South Bend 15-14 (5 OTs), and again in 1914 by defeating Anderson 36-8. At that time the school had about 70 students in grades 1-12 about half of whom were boys. Wingate is also the place where the electric basketball scoreboard was invented in 1934 by two local men, Lee Haxton and Roy MeHarry. Wingate High School closed in 1954 and was merged with New Richmond High School to form Coal Creek Central High School. In 1971 Coal Creek High School was consolidated into North Montgomery High School.
The most famous basketball player from Wingate is Homer Stonebraker who graduated from Wingate High School in 1914. Stonebraker not only led Wingate to two state high school championships in 1913 and 1914, he was also a three time All American at Wabash College in Crawfordsville. While in high school he once scored 74 points in a single game. Stonebraker and two other men who played for Wingate are in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame (www.hoopshall.com ). The other two men are: Lee Thorn who was a member of Wingate’s state championship team in 1914 and Alonzo Goldsberry. Thorn graduated from Wingate High School in 1916 and went to Wabash College where he earned sixteen varsity sports letters in four years-he is the only freshman at Wabash to ever win four varsity letters. Goldsberry played four years at Wingate High School, and, after graduating from Wingate in 1920, he went to Wabash College where he was captain of the 1924 Wabash national championship team. Also in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is Jesse Wood who became coach at Wingate High School in 1912. In his second year at Wingate his 1913 team won the state championship.
Before leaving Wingate, stop by The Spartan Inn, a local café on High Street, where you can get a good country meal and an oral history lesson on Wingate basketball at the turn of the 20th century. The Inn has a sizeable collection of Wingate basketball memorabilia including trophies, pictures and newspapers articles related to Spartan greats of yesteryear. Also, while you are in Wingate you might want to take a side trip to New Richmond (about 7 miles northeast of Wingate) which was a filming site for the fictional town of Hickory in the movie Hoosiers. To reach New Richmond go North out of Wingate on Highway 25 a few miles until you come to West County Rd. 1050N. Turn right. Be sure to read the sign at this intersection concerning the movie Hoosiers. When you reach New Richmond check out the Post Office. Their hours are Monday thru Friday from 8:00 AM-12:00 Noon, and Saturday from 8:00 AM-10:00 AM. They have a trophy case with 2 old basketballs and other memorabilia. On the table next to the case are 3 photo albums containing interesting pictures, etc. If you stand on Wabash Street in downtown New Richmond and look north into the countryside, you can replay in your mind the scene in the film when the caravan of cars driven by fans, led by the team bus, came into town for a Friday night game.
Return to Crawfordsville to begin the second segment of the Indiana Basketball Heritage Trail.
To go to Thorntown, about 18 miles from Crawfordsville, follow Indiana Highway #47 northeast toward Darlington. Indiana Highway #47 goes directly to Thorntown. Thorntown High School fielded a basketball team as early as 1909, and early twentieth century Thorntown teams went as far as the “elite eight” in the state high school tournament in 1913 and 1914. In 1915 Thorntown won the fifth Indiana state high school basketball tournament by beating Montmorenci 33 to 10 in the final game. Thorntown’s star player that year was Alfred DeWitt Smith who is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Smith, a 4-yr starter at Thorntown, averaged over 20 points a game in his high school career, a remarkable feat in an era when basketball games were generally low scoring affairs. After graduating from high school in 1915, Smith went to Purdue University where he became a starter as a sophomore. Three other men who played for Thorntown High School are in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Walter Cross was an all-state guard who graduated from Thorntown in 1919. Although Cross was recruited by Ward “Piggy” Lambert to play at Purdue University, an injury in the 1919 state tournament finals ended his athletic career. Arthur Masters also helped lead Thorntown High School to the 1919 state finals, and after graduating from Thorntown in 1919, Masters played varsity basketball for four years at Purdue University for Hall of Fame Coach Lambert. John Robbins was a three-year varsity starter for Thorntown graduating in 1959. He went on to be a three year starter for Indiana State University.
Thorntown High School closed in 1974 and was merged with Western Boone High School. To learn more about the history of Thorntown High School basketball visit the Thorntown Heritage Museum at 120 West Main Street. The museum has a sizable collection of memorabilia and photos of the high school basketball teams of yesteryear on display. Although the Heritage Museum is closed from October 1 until Memorial Day, you can contact them for a tour during the time they are closed (765-436-7348) to arrange an off-season tour. The Thorntown Public Library located at 124 North Market Street also has some information about the history of local basketball.
While you are in Thorntown you may want to visit the Art Center or one of the local potters or wood workers. You also might want to pick up a map at the library and visit one of the historic “Quilt Barns” near Thorntown.
To go to Lebanon from Thorntown, take Highway 47 east to where it intersects with US Highway 52. Turn right onto US 52. Lebanon is about 15 miles from Thorntown. Lebanon was a major player in the development of Indiana basketball fever at the beginning of the twentieth century. Lebanon High School fielded a basketball team at least as early as 1908 and finished the 1908-09 season with a 22-2 record losing both times to Crawfordsville. This was the beginning of one of the earliest and longest-lived high school basketball rivalry in Indiana with Lebanon and Crawfordsville High Schools playing each other at least once every year (except 1920) to this day. Prior to the first sanctioned ISHAA state high school championship, Lebanon and Crawfordsville vied for bragging rights for which school was the Indiana state champs based on their win-loss records. This rivalry doubtlessly played a significant role in the push to implement the state high school basketball championship playoffs. Lebanon played in the final game of the first two IHSAA sanctioned state tournaments, losing to Crawfordsville in the final game in 1911 (24-17) and winning the second IHSAA state tournament in 1912 by defeating Franklin (51-11). Lebanon won the state tournament again in 1917 and in 1918.
In modern times the most recognized name in Lebanon High School basketball is doubtlessly Rick Mount, who was Mr. Basketball in Indiana in 1966. Known for his prolific scoring, Mount scored 2595 points in his years playing for Lebanon High School. To rekindle the long rivalry between Crawfordsville and Lebanon, in 1966 Mount scored 57 points (his high school career high) in a regularly scheduled game against Crawfordsville that was played in front of a crowd of over 10,000 at Butler University’s Hinkle Field House in Indianapolis. Lebanon won 104-72. Rick Mount was the first high school basketball player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine (February 14, 1966). In that edition of Sports Illustrated, Frank Deford wrote that Mount made “…Lebanon special, and not many places, pop. 9,523 ever get a shot at being special.” After graduating from Lebanon, Mount played for Purdue University and after graduating from Purdue, he played pro basketball for a number of years.
In the early years, at the turn of the 20th century, Lebanon produced a number of outstanding players who are in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The following men who played or coached for Lebanon are in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame: John Porter led Lebanon to a 51-11 win over Franklin to win the second state championship in 1912. In that game Porter score 26 points that set a tournament scoring record that was not broken until 1946. After graduating from Lebanon in 1912, Porter went to Indiana University where he won two varsity letters. Donald White played on both the 1917 and 1918 state championship teams. After graduating from Lebanon in 1918, White played for Purdue University and was the Big 10’s leading scorer in 1921. Pete Mount, the father of Rick Mount, was a four year starter at Lebanon and helped lead the Tigers to state runner-up finish in 1943. He was an all-state player in 1943 and 1944. Brian Walker played for Lebanon in the 1970’s, graduating in 1976. Walker went to Purdue University where he was the starting point guard for three years.
While in Lebanon visit the Lebanon Public Library (104 East Washington St.) which has a permanent display on the history of high school basketball in Lebanon and Boone County. The Ralph Stark Heritage Room in the Library also has a collection of historic materials and data bases related to the history of high school basketball in Lebanon and Boone County that you may access. For more detailed information about other interesting places to visit in Lebanon and Boone County contact the Boone County Visitors Bureau at 765-484-8572 or consult their web site (www.boonecvb.com).
Nearby restaurants include: The Fig Tree Café, Arni’s, Pizza King, Bekah’s Café, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Hardees, Arby’s, Taco Bell, and Steak n Shake.
When James Naismith, who invented the game of basketball at the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA in 1891, first came to Indiana in 1936 to watch the Indiana state high school championship game, he told a gathering in Indianapolis that “Basketball really had its beginning in Indiana which today remains the center of the sport.” If you drive this trail you will see the small towns and the bucolic farmland of west-central Indiana where Indiana high school basketball began at the turn of the twentieth century. On this journey you can make a connection to the places that served as the cradle of basketball in Indiana, where “Hoosier Hysteria” began, and where the memories of high school basketball are still alive among the people who live there.