Parke County, Indiana
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Local Legends & Lore

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown

Fred A. Massey of Joliet, Illinois, explains that Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown was his mother's uncle. "I can remember him coming to our house In Nyesvllle to rabbit hunt," Massey said.

Mordecai, known as Three Finger, turned an accident into an asset and became one of baseball's most colorful pitchers. He was the first Hoosier to be elected into the sport's Hall of Fame. While still a young man, Mordecai lost about half the Index finger on his right hand in a farm implement. At the time he was playing third base for his hometown at Rosedale as well as at Coxvllle and Brazil and other spots. There was no question of his ability to play the game.

After his hand healed, he discovered the finger stub gave him an uncanny ability to put a peculiar break on his curve. This provided him with the nickname that became a fixture in baseball. There was a time he was called Miner Brown because he worked in the coal mines near Rosedale. How Brown worked his way from third base to the pitcher's mound is not all that clear. There is one story that is generally accepted. In an Independent game, the pitcher for Brown's team failed to show and the decision was made to let Three Finger try out his unique breaking ball under game conditions. The rest is written In sports history books.

Mordecai's fame spread, and in 1901 he was with a Terre Haute team in the Three I League. The following year, he was with Omaha, and in 1903 he was at St. Louis. He joined the Chicago Cubs in 1904 and remained with the team as its mainstay until 1911. Brown came into his own in 1906. That year, as difficult as it might be to believe, the Cubs won 116 of 152 games.

Three Finger was credited with 26 of the victories. He was the team star for the next two seasons as the Cubs collected three straight world championships. Three Finger's great rival was the New York Giants' Big Train—Christy Matthewson. Stadiums sold out every time Brown and Matthewson were scheduled to be the opposing pitchers. In 1908, Three Finger beat Big Train in the famous playoff game that sent the Cubs into the World Series.

On October 8, 1908, Mordecal retired the Giants on three pitches in the ninth inning. The first batter grounded to third baseman, the second flied out and the third grounded to the shortstop.

Brown jumped to the outlaw Federal League in 1914 and was player-manager for the St. Louis team part of the year, and pitcher with the Brooklyn Federal League for the rest of the season. He returned to Chicago the following year with the Federal League team.

After the league folded, Brown in 1916 was back with the Chicago Cubs. He spent the next two seasons with Columbus of the American Association. He ended his professional career in 1920 after managing the Terre Haute Three I League team. He did a little managing of Independent teams over the next few years.

His final appearance as a Chicago Cub came in 1916, when as a stunt, he worked against Matthewson, at that time manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Brown's unusual break on the ball resulted in batters hitting it into the ground. He was, however, blessed with more ability than his freak break. He was an outstanding fielder, harking back to his days as a hot corner player. When he pitched the team had a fifth infielder.

Born at Nyesvllle, Indiana on October 19, 1876, Three Finger died February 4, 1948. He was 71. His election Into the Hall of Fame came a year later.

 

Tex Terry "The Bad Man of the Movies"

For fifty years, Edward Earl "Tex" Terry, the "bad man of the movies", was hit, knocked off cliffs and gunned down more times than he could remember. He was known in the b-western movies as a 'heavy'. "It was my big eyebrows. They made me a natural villain so I was always the bad guy. I never wanted to become a star. I preferred to be a character actor because I got in more movies that way", Tex once told an interviewer.

Tex Terry was born on August 22, 1902, in Parke County Indiana, near the town of Coxville (once known as Roseville). As a youngster, he learned to use a whip to drive mules in the coal mines in the nearby town of Rosedale. He used his whip skills many times in his career, first in the 1924 silent film "Don Juan" , starring Douglas Fairbanks, and in his most famous role as Brizzard in the 1958 version of "The Oregon Trail", opposite Fred McMurray. Tex worked alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest names, including Alan Ladd, Sunset Carson, John Wayne, and his idol William S. Hart. His most frequent adversaries on screen were Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Although he was often uncredited in his films, Tex had a distinctive look and style that makes him easy to spot. He also appeared in many television westerns like "Wagon Train", "Death Valley Days", "The Lone Ranger", and "Gunsmoke". In 1964, Tex married his long-time friend and Hollywood agent, Isabel Draesemer, who managed the early careers of Buddy Ebsen, and Hugh O'Brian. Isabel is most noted for her discovery of Hollywood icon James Dean.

After making his last movie in 1972 with David Brian called "The Strangers", Tex and Isabel returned to Indiana, initially settling in Mansfield, where Tex would attempt to fulfill a dream of turning the town into Frontier City. The Terry's purchased the Mansfield roller mill and several other buildings, but the dream was largely unrealized. In 1979, Tex and Isabel moved a short distance to Tex's hometown of Coxville Indiana and opened "Tex's Longhorn Tavern", which was and remains very successful. Here Tex would regale patrons with wonderful stories about his days in Hollywood. It was here, too, where everyone would understand just how genuinely nice the "bad man" was in real life. Every August, on the occasion of his birthday, Tex and 'Izzy' would have a party and everyone in the area, both young and old, was invited to celebrate, listen to his Hollywood tales, and watch his old movies. Tex Terry was also a big hit at Indiana fairs and area schools where he loved to perform his whip and roping act on stage and talk about his glory days in films.

On the afternoon of May 18, 1985, Tex died of a heart attack he suffered at home. Appropriately, the old cowboy was laid to rest up on the hill in the Coxville cemetery, very near the place where he'd been born 82 years before. Isabel Terry, his wife of 21 years, joined him there in April of 2002.

© 2005 Special thanks to Ted Osborn for sharing his information on Tex Terry. For more information, visit: www.texterry.com.

 

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The Doc Wheat Story

Coxville was the home of "Doc wheat" whose story is one of the most colorful In the county. Doc graduated from medical school In Cincinnati at the head of his class, even though he finished the course in three years instead of the four that was required at that time. He then returned to his home county to practice his profession. Doc settled first in Mecca, operating a combination pharmacy, dimestore and medical practice. Doc made the children of Mecca penny sodas and gave them "Kiss Me" gum every Sunday after church. But he kept a skeleton named John Gilbert that the children were terrified of.

After a few years in Mecca, Doc gave up the dimestore business, moved his office to Coxville and turned more and more to natural medicine, using roots, herbs and figs. He gathered quantities of these materials and what he couldn't find he bought in Terre Haute.

Once, Doc was invited to give a speech before a medical convention in St. Louis. He walked the entire distance, gathering roots and herbs as he went. Doc was a brilliant man and a renowned healer. Some still say he knew the cure for cancer. People would come from as far a way as Chicago to be treated by Doc Wheat.

His standard charge was $1.00 no matter what ailed you. After so many years of practice Doc accumulated a great deal of money. He never drank or gambled and spent only what was necessary to support himself. He never trusted banks and it was a well known fact that money was hidden all over the place. One night, two thugs broke into his office and demanded all his money. Doc refused to give it to them so they tied him up and tortured him, burning his feet with lamps- Soon, the night freight train approached blowing its whistle. Doc told them that the train always stopped (although it never did) and this frightened them away. After his death, cans and jars of money, mostly gold and silver coins, were found everywhere; in the barn, the greenhouse, the cinder pile and buried in the pasture.

Once, after his brother died, the brother's family was left destitute. So the wife and young son sold tickets to Doc's office door to assure everyone their fair place in line. Although the tickets were only 10 cents, the practice was plenty large enough to support the family.

Doc never married but was known to have one romance. In the course of his business he had an occasion to talk repeatedly with one telephone operator. Though they had never met in person, a romance budded. Finally, Doc made a date to meet the young lady.

For the special occasion he bought a fancy buggy. No one really knows exactly what happened on their date but when he got hone he was so disgusted that he dismantled his buggy and stacked it in his office and there it stayed until he died.

 

The Haunted Bridge

The Sim Smith Bridge is the only bridged in the county that has the reputation of being haunted.

Many  years ago before the building of US 36, this bridge was on the main road from Rockville to Montezuma.  A little girl from Rockville persuaded her uncle to let her accompany him in his buggy on a business trip to Montezuma. The two left  early in the day and by the time the uncle had completed his business it was nearly dark.  When they reached the Sim Smith Bridge, the full moon was high above the eastern horizon.  They heard trotting horses coming thru the bridge toward them, but though they stopped and waited to allow the approaching rig to clear the bridge, nothing ever materialized and the sound of hoof  beats faded into the distance.

(From Welcome to Parke County by Barbra Hardesty)

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