Louisa’s Gardening Essay


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Finally! It seems as if spring has finally arrived.  As we enjoy the warming weather, many turn their thoughts to their gardens, as do we here at the Wylie House.  Our annual seed sale was a great success but if you missed it, don’t worry! You can still purchase heirloom seeds from plants grown right here at Wylie House.  The Bloomington Watercolor Society is still displaying their work and Quilt Show will continue through April! We hope you’ll get a chance to visit this month!

Soon the garden will be in full bloom and looking lovely! Wylie House has a long tradition of gardens being located on the property.  We know from the family letters that their plot of land originally included enough space for a working farm, allowing them to grow a portion of their own food. In addition to vegetables, the family also grew many varieties of flowers. Louisa, in particular, was an avid gardener.


In February of 1890, Louisa Wylie Boisen wrote an essay describing her love of gardening and many helpful hints for growing flowers. The following are excerpts from this essay:

“In the first of the oldest and best of Books, we read that when our first parents were created they were placed in the Garden of Eden where grew “every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food,” and may we not suppose that beautiful flowers were there also? Our Savior bids us “Consider the lilies” and well may we learn a lesson from them and from each and every flower that grows.

To one who truly loves flowers their culture is not a task, but a pleasure which grows with the flowers and increases day by day. To plant the seed, to watch the first little leaf as it breaks through the soil, to see it grow and develop into the full grown plant and then burst forth into bud and blossom which ripen into fruit will ever be a delight and a mystery which does not diminish as the years roll on.”

“Let us not forget to plant some bulbs also, for they will reward us with an abundance of lovely flowers—the tulip perfect in form and rich in color, the hyacinth fragrant and beautiful, the Narcissus, the Crocus, Lilies of various kinds—all seldom cut down by frost yet always the first to bid Spring welcome—there are few flowers more beautiful than these.”


“We may plant the [word missing] and Crocus in the shrubbery or in the grass and a bed of tulips and one of hyacinths will last for years if rightly attended to and they repay us richly for a little care. We are not yet quite through with flowers which are almost no trouble at all when once planted and growing, for just here I want to put in a plea for the cultivation of wild flowers in the garden. We have some beautiful wild flowers about here which bear taming exceedingly well. It would be better, of course, to give them a home as nearly like the one from which we have taken them as possible, but there are some which seem to thrive very well when brought into the garden. The large white Trillium makes a beautiful plant for the border, throwing up fifteen or twenty stalks each crowned with its pure white flower. The Celandine Poppy seems perfectly at home anywhere in the garden and is not satisfied with blooming once, but blooms a second time. The Virginian Lungwort, it seems to me, can hardly be surpassed for the delicate blending of blue and pink in its graceful flowers and only too soon flower and plant disappear and are seen no more till Spring comes again. There are many more which may be cultivated with success but I will only mention the Hepatica, one of the earliest blooming flowers, the Dodecatheon Meadia or Shooting Star with a flower resembling the Cyclamen, the brilliant red Lobelia Cardinalis or Cardinal flower which blooms in midsummer, and the Eupatorium which blooms in the Fall. The Trailing Arbutus does not flourish away from its native hills, nor does the Partridge Berry, but I am sure that there are many other beauties hidden in our forests which we would do well to bring into our gardens.

Having succeeded with these, we long for more, and we think we will try to raise some annuals. And now our trouble begins. The seeds do not come up, or if they do, they soon wither and die. Let us see what is the matter. We have planted all the different kinds of seeds in a well prepared bed outdoors at a uniform depth of an inch or more not knowing that the usual rule is to cover them about their own depth with earth, pressing the earth firmly upon them, afterwards covering them with paper or boards so as to prevent them drying out, unless there is prospect of rain soon, when they may be left uncovered. I think it is generally best to divide the seed, and plant some early in March or April in the house in shallow boxes, and transplant to the garden in May. The seeds of greenhouse plants I would not plant in the garden at all. The plants raised in the house will give us earlier blossoms, for we can seldom plant seeds in the ground before the first of May. There are some seeds though which do not bear transplanting well and fortunately they can be planted in the open ground as soon as it can be worked; this is the case with Larkspur, Candytuft, Poppies and others. Sweet Peas always do better if planted as soon as possible and will thrive best if planted from four to six inches deep in rich soil. The flowers of the pansies planted in the Fall are the largest and finest. The seed may be planted out doors but I prefer to plant in boxes and keep in a pit or Cold frame. A second planting may be made in Feb. or March in the house and transplanted into the garden; they will bloom in May or June, and make fine blooms. You can hardly make the soil too rich for pansies and if they are sheltered from the hot sun from 12-3 o’clock—getting only the morning and evening sun—and if they have plenty of water, they will flourish even in the hot summer weather and be radiant in the Fall. In planting seeds in boxes it is not necessary to make the soil very rich. Let it be good and well pulverized, but in the garden most plants like rich ground.”

MVC-018S“After we have learned to raise flowers from seed we are not satisfied until we have some pot plants—indeed some persons do not have any other kind. And certainly there is great satisfaction to be had in pot plants of thrifty growth. Even the very busy housewife who hardly has time to look in the garden can have a few house plants—to take care of them requires only a few moments daily and their bright blossoms and sweet perfume gladden and cheer her often weary heart. Pot plants usually need rich soil and plenty of water and light and heat of course. In Summer we can hardly give them enough water, in winter, especially in very cold weather, they need but little. In Summer it is well if they can be sheltered from the mid-day sun, in Winter give all the sunlight possible. Chinese Primroses, Begonias and some others will do well if not exposed to the direct rays of the sun at all, but I would rather give them sunlight even if they droop a little under it at midday. The Geranium is not a favorite with all, but there is no other plant which repays us better for our care than the Geranium in all its varieties and which is more long suffering under neglect. The Amateur cannot find any plant more suitable to begin with. It is easily rooted from cuttings—with the exception of the Apple Geranium which grows best from seed—and it will grow in almost any kind of soil. It will bear the hottest sun and will not die if once in a while we forget to water it. It has no insect enemies and is very easily kept thro’ the winter. And then in each variety the leaf is beautiful and in some the fragrance is delightful; while for profusion of bloom it can hardly be surpassed. During the whole Summer the Zonale Geranium is seldom without flowers, and the colors range from white through every shade of red with flowers both single and double. The Rose, the Queen of flowers, does well both as a pot plant and as a bedding plant. I speak now of the Monthly Rose—and when grown in perfection what is more beautiful! Unlike the Geranium it can not always be depended upon. Sometimes our bushes are loaded with beautiful and fragrant blossoms, and again they fail to respond to the most careful treatment, the leaves turn yellow and drop off and the plant dies a lingering death and we cannot discover the cause. And then the rose slug and the scale bug, the thrips, the aphis and the red spider all must have a taste of it at one time or another and our beautiful roses are blighted and we are in despair. We do not give up thought and we generally succeed in having some roses in the course of the year.”


“But time fails me to speak of the many beautiful flowers so dear to every flower-loving heart. The culture of flowers when once we become interested in it is of peculiar fascination and the great danger is that [we] can never be satisfied but are always wanting more. If we could confine ourselves to a few plants and keep them always in the highest state of cultivation it would be better and then their care would never be a burden but only a labor of love and a source of recreation.

Does it pay? I answer,Yes. Not always in dollars and cents, but in health and strength and pleasure and in creating a love for the beautiful and pure. Teach the children to love flowers, let the boys help their Mothers and Sisters, give them a few plants of their own to care for. Let the girls put on their sunbonnets and gloves if they choose, and rubbers, and go into the garden with a trowel and a rake and after the heavy digging is done, let them plant the seeds and pull up the weeds, transplant the seedlings and love and care for the tender plants. What if a little healthful sunburn darkens their skin or a few freckles even dare to show themselves. Their cheeks will catch the red of the rose, their eyes will grow brighter and their spirits lighter. The love of the good and true and beautiful would take the place of the love of pleasure and of dress which ruins so many girls. And our boys would not live to linger on the hot and dusty street corners, where so much evil is learned, but would be content to stay at home and help make home beautiful and to learn the great lesson which Nature would teach us. That floriculture pays financially too, we must believe when we see the many beautiful, floral catalogues which are now being sent broadcast over our land. While some of the illustrations and descriptions may be exaggerated yet upon the whole we find that the florists deal honestly with us.

As I close this imperfect and incomplete paper I would like to pay a tribute of respect and gratitude to Peter Henderson, the well known florist of New York who died last month. I do not know of any one who has done more to help the Amateur than he. He had no secrets of trade but shared with his customers all that he thought would prove helpful to them. His books, “Practical Floriculture,” “Gardening for Pleasure,” “Gardening for Profit,” “Garden and Farm Topics,” and “Handbook of Plants and Horticulture” are invaluable to the Amateur and to the professional gardener alike, and he will be lamented by many unseen and unknown friends in many lands.”

Love Letters between Marie Boisen Bradley and Morton C. Bradley


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Among our thousands of Wylie family correspondence are numerous letters between Marie Boisen Bradley and Morton C. Bradley.  Marie was the granddaughter of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie.  Morton and Marie met early on in their time as students at Indiana University and soon began courting.  The two graduated from IU in 1900 and were married that same July.  Two children were born to the couple, a daughter, Louise in 1908, and a son, Morton Jr. (known as Bob to family and close friends), in 1912.

The pair wrote each other letters any time they had to be separated. The letters written between Marie and Morton are touching as they describe the depth of their feelings for one another and how much they miss the other and long to be together.   These letters are lovely examples of the kinds of love letters sent by couples in this time period.   Below is just a small sampling of excerpts from a selection of their letters.

MMatIUExcerpts of letter from Morton Bradley to Miss Marie Boisen [July 10, 1896]

“I was talking to my half sister. She said that she was in a crowd where my name was mentioned in connection with a girl’s here in town—somebody was wondering if I would not go with a girl here. Then someone else spoke up and said, “You needn’t worry about him going with anyone here. He has a girl in Bloomington who is the nicest, most intellectual and highest respected girl there. He’ll not go with any girl here unless it is to pass away the time.” O, how good that made me feel! …  But the compliments I have heard on you since I have been back! Just last evening one of the boys was looking at my pictures. He picked up one of yours and said “Say, there’s a pretty girl. I’ll bet she’s a nice girl.” And of course I assured him that he had struck the keynote. And he had.”

Excerpts of letter from Morton C. Bradley to Miss Marie Boisen [postmarked July 26, 1898]

“Sweetheart, although I have been away from you a very short time it seems as if months had passed since you said, “I’m so glad you came. Good bye, dear.” Do you know, dearest, that your saying that made me so happy that even now I can see you standing there with your hand in mine and your eyes telling me how much you loved me. I wanted so much to turn and tell the cabman that I wouldn’t need him, then take you in my arms and tell you that I couldn’t go, that I would stay another day. But, I knew that the parting then would be just as hard, even harder.”

 Excerpts of letter from Morton C. Bradley to Marie Boisen [Monday, 22 January 1900]

“I thanked God that He had given you to me to love and to make happy. I thanked Him that you loved me and that I loved you in the same way—with the whole heart. You had promised to be my wife and I was happy—so happy. You had changed my life; you had taught me to live a better life and I was grateful to you. You were a woman and I admired you. You had character and I loved you. You were my sweetheart and I worshipped you.

And now a year has passed. I still am grateful; I still admire you; I still love you; I still worship my darling sweetheart. And all to a greater degree than a year ago. But how can I write them stronger? I feel them—I know that my whole heart’s love, my whole life, my whole being is yours and will always be. I know that my entire happiness depends on you, dearest. I know that I wish more than for anything else that we were married—that you were now the darling wife I know you will be.

Five months, and less! My dearest, I am so anxious for our wedding day to come that were it right I would wish them gone. But still there is a sweetness in the waiting. I know I dearly love to talk to you about our wedding in blissful anticipation of the happiness I pray for. God willing, we shall be happy, my sweetheart. I will devote my life to your happiness. In doing that I know He will be pleased. For you will want me to live a Christian life.

And now that our perfect happiness is so near, I am trying more than ever to be what you want me to be. I will be what your husband should be. My darling, you deserve the very best husband in the world. And with His help, I will be that.”

Marie and Morton outside the front of Wylie House.

Marie and Morton outside the front of Wylie House.

Excerpts of letter from Marie Boisen Bradley to Mr. Morton C. Bradley [Postmarked May 14, 1901]

 “You will forgive the writing, won’t you? My position is not conducive to expert penmanship, but I love you just the same.

Dear heart, I am so sorry that you have had to go these three days without a letter from me. You know, don’t you, that if I could possibly have written I would have done so? I did all that I could—had mamma write and I hope that her letters kept you from being uneasy. Dear boy, you mustn’t be one bit uneasy now, though, for I am really and truly getting well quickly. I feel so well today. I don’t see how I will ever manage to stay in bed for ten days, but of course if it is for the best I will try to be patient. I want to get up entirely well and I know that the only way to do that is to stay in bed for a while.

Do write to me as often as you can, dear. Your letters will mean more than ever to me now that I have nothing to do but to be here and think.

Tomorrow I will try to write a longer, better letter. Now I wish I could see you, dearest. I am thinking about you all the time. I love you with my life. “


Excerpts of letter from Marie B. Bradley to Mr. Morton C. Bradley  [Postmarked Oct 20, 1903]

“Everyone sends dearest love to you, and all wish that you could have come. But most of all Mrs. wishes that! My heart was pretty heavy, dear one, when I found myself speeding westward past the billy goats grazing on the out skirts of Jersey City. But I’ve kind of picked up heart now, and much as I miss you, I intend to have a fine time, so that we will both be glad I came. Darling, I love you. Next time, which will be tomorrow, I will write a longer letter. Tonight circumstances are against me. I am down in the dining room and while the folks are trying to keep still it simply has to bubble over every so often. They all do seem so glad to see me dearest!

May God bless and keep you, my precious love. I am now, and will ever be

Your own true



No idea what is happening in this picture, but it’s one of my favorites.

Excerpts of letter from Marie B. Bradley to Mr. Morton C. Bradley [October 21, 1903]

“If only a letter comes from you tomorrow! I have so longed for one today. It seems a long time since I have had any word from my precious boy.

Everyone is impressed with the fact that I look so well. (I think too, dear, that my brown suit has made a profound impression.) I have felt so well today. It has been a heavenly day, a splendid Indian summer day. The country is wonderfully beautiful just now and the fine air is exhilarating.

But how I long for you! My heart is with you all the time. I am thinking, thinking, thinking of you all day. May God bless and keep you for me, dear one. He alone knows how I love you and long for you.

Tomorrow! I can hardly wait, for tomorrow, I know, will bring me one of your precious letters.

My heart’s love to you

I am, your own


A thousand kisses to you”


Morton C. Bradley, Boston, Mass. to Mrs. M. C. Bradley, 307 E. 2nd St. Bloomington, Indiana [postmarked Sept 27, 1905]

“I believe this letter will reach you on your birth anniversary. But whether it does or not it’s my birthday letter to you, my sweetheart-wife. I couldn’t think of letting the day go by without telling you at least some of the things my heart prompts me to say. And especially this year I must write you such a letter. For whatever of happy days the other years have brought you the one just beginning gives promise of greater happiness and completer contentment than any we’ve known. And we have been happy these other years, my sweetheart. It’s true, there have been times when we would have had conditions different. And yet through it all we’ve been happy. We had each other and we knew absolutely each other’s love—why shouldn’t we be happy? We knew each other and we loved completely and our hearts were happy. Those are the important things. Other conditions change, there are ups and downs, dark days and bright. But love, if it is love, changes only in that it grows more intense. And it is love only if it becomes more complete regardless of the changing conditions.

Such a love, my sweetheart, is mine for you. It has always seemed to me that my love for you was so great, so complete, that it wouldn’t be possible for anyone to love another with a greater or a more devoted love. And yet as the months go by and when new years begin, I realize that my love for my precious sweetheart wife has become more complete, more intense.

MarieMortonNow, I firmly believe that no one can inspire a real love, nor can anyone encourage any love to really grow unless that person is truly worthy of that love, and that never is the love greater than that person’s worth. Only good is truly loved and only to the extent that it is really good. To see good is to love it; it is only necessary to recognize it. The greater one realizes the good to be, the greater his love for it. My love for you, dearest one, has become greater every day. It’s simply that I have known you better every day. That my love should become more intense was only natural. My heart’s love today, sweetheart, great as it is, is all yours, my very life is just for you and your happiness.

Confident as I am that my love for you, my truly lovable wife, will become greater this coming year. I am just as confident that your happiness this year will be a more complete, a more contented, happiness. I believe we both can more correctly look ahead and that we have arrived at a point where there is actually more there to be seen. I think we have “found ourselves.” If that is the case, we need but to resolve and to work. If we haven’t quite reached that point, working, I know, will mighty soon bring us there. Dearie, I’ve resolved and I’m working. The results must come and they must be results commensurate with our abilities. And we know what they are, which means that we know the results not to accomplish which will mean disappointment to us. And neither of us will ever be satisfied with disappointments.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

-Allison Haack, Graduate Student Volunteer


From Our Photograph Collection

While we were preparing for the Christmas Open House, I spent some time in the Wylie family pictures searching for wintery scenes to put in our display.  I have always loved photographs and it is difficult to not be sidetracked by other images that are particularly beautiful or humorous.  I chose a few of my favorites to share with you all.  We don’t have much context for most of these but I think they speak for themselves (although, you might recognize some familiar faces from the Bradley family in the last photo).  If you are curious about anything you see, let us know and we might be about to do some research on it for a future blog post.  You can click on any picture to make it larger or just scroll through the gallery!


Girl and Kitten


Girls on the Beach

Man in the OceanStretches Laura Margeret Squirrel

The Bradley Family

- Abi Parker, Wylie House Graduate Assistant

Christmastime Told Through the Letters and Diary of Theophilus A. Wylie



Here at Wylie House we’re busy preparing for the return of our annual event Wylie House by Candlelight, which will take place Saturday, December 7th from 5:00-8:00pm.   Docents in period attire will lead tours of the house by candlelight, while seasonal refreshments, live music, games, and crafts will be offered next door in our education center.  Also, be sure to stop and look at the small exhibit on Christmas at Wylie House prepared by our grad assistant and one of our volunteers.

In the spirit of the Christmas holiday, we’ve decided to share some selections from the diary and letters of Theophilus A. Wylie pertaining to Christmastime.  Among the topics he discusses are the sending of Christmas cards, their Christmas tree, IU examinations, his views on the holiday, and family gatherings.


From diary, December 25, 1835

“This is “Christmas Eve,” a time of running to and fro from shop to shop, of all the good Pas & Mas (i.e. Fathers & Mothers) of the town to purchase “bonbons” and “joujouse (?)” [playthings] as we say in french for their little ones, have been in town this evg Chestnut & Market st are crowded with persons of the above description and dear friends of every kin, engaged in this laudable work. The book stands, had their goods, from the Bible to Mother Goose, displayed on their counters. But the toy stores and cooky shops and confectionaries, were we are sorry to say were more crowded. There is something pleasing about Xtmas the better feelings seem then to get the upper hand. I remember that last Xtmas to have been much pleased, and amused, by seeing a~ old man who had perhaps seen 70 returns of this day – toddling along the St , leading by one hand a little grandchild or grandchild’s grandchild for ought I know, and holding in the other a wooden horse of German workmanship, and behind him followed and prattled a dozen more of both sexes and of various sizes and ages, all bearing visible and substantial proofs of grandpa’s good nature. It is no unusual thing on this day to see an old gentleman walking in the streets with the greatest gravity carrying in their hands penny whistles and rattles and other seasonable goods. This looks nice & whether Christmas is popish or Xtian, or a vestige of the Saturnalia it is a pleasant time and I for one would be very sorry to see these innocent follies of other years frowned on. No body as far as I know, as yet says anything against such observances of Christ, as is here mentioned, but in these days of nice reform, it will be strange if they dont cry down christmas boxes & christmas pies as demoralizing & superstitious.

“But, in fact I know no reason why it should not be religiously observed. Why should not the recurrence of the birthday of the Savior of Men be held as sacred? If Xtmas be that day, why not consider it as one of peculiar rejoicing? If not, the commemoration of that great event, by the observing of this or any other day, would surely not be sinful.”

From letter from Theophilus A. Wylie, Louisa Wylie, December 26th, 1860

“Dear Lou,

…Yesterday the children had their rejoicing over their Christmas gifts. The stockings were all duly suspended on Monday Evening and their treasures examined the next morning. It seems to me that the happiness it gives the little ones compensates for the folly of the custom. The Old S. Presbyterians had a Xtmas tree in Dunn’s hall and the Sabbath school assembled there to receive its decorations. So you see how old Popish customs are sanctioned and observed by grave Protestant Presbyterians. You remember the story told of John Bunyan. Somebody, knowing his hatred of every thing Popish, in order to vex him when in jail sent him a present of a Christmas pie. John eat the pie and sent back word to the [one word] that he had lived long enough in this world to know the difference between Christmas and Pie. So it is with these customs, they have a popish name, but there is a good deal of difference between them and Popery….”


From diary, December 25, 1864

“Last Sab of year. Xtmas day. pr. on “time part of our lives &c” Day wet sleety, not many at ch. Thursday last very cold. Th 7 ½ A.M. -13. Wind changed Fr. though still cold. Sat. pleasant. A week of Holidays. Dr Owen not back. “Labuntur anni” quam celerrime! [How quickly the years slip by.]

Sherman invading Savannah — perfectly successful in his expedition.”

From diary, December 27, 1874

“On Thursday morning Herman (Prof. Boisen) came from Terre Haute — & made another rejoicing. All day Thursday Prof. & others (not the children) arranged a beautiful Xtmas tree in German style. A Balm of Gilead we used to call it (Canada pine or fir) was placed on a table in the middle of the parlor and decorated with bonbons, & [even] lights — The Xtmas presents were arranged on tables around it, It was delightful when the appointed hour [written above "Thursday 24. 6t P.M. ±l] came to see the joy of the little ones– Anton particularly– can’t enumerate all the presents. I became possessor of a big chair Uxoris meae carissimae donum [A gift from my very dear wife]. All received something. Next day– a family dinner — All of the family save Theoph. & Arthur C. Mellette — were present — Theophs in Philada Arthur on a trip to Colorado  Our company was — from the oldest downwards — Self & wife — Aunt Emma-Prof. Herman B & Louisa –Maggie Mellette — Brown Wylie –Dory Wylie, Richard Speck (Nephew) — then the little ones, T Wylie Mellette –Charles Mellette & Anton Boisen Mellette — Baby was somewhere about — & Lizzie Brackenridge — served the table. Gaudia et hilaritete, caenavimus — delicibus fruentes. Gratias Deo. 0. M. reddentes. [With gladness and cheerfulness, we dined -- with the pleasures we were enjoying. Returning thanks to God.]”

From diary, January 3rd, 1875

“Rev. Mr Clark — formerly of Princeton now of Iowa — preached for Mr MeN Eph VI 11. “Put on the whole armor &c” Prof. Ballantine Col. Ch. “Noah”-a man of piety & enterprize

Monday very rainy

– Thursday night relighted the Xtmas tree, which had been standing during

the week, & had another rejoicing of the children. The good things were

distributed & the tree dismantled & removed.

Yesterday open College — only 37 students in attendance.”

From diary, December 25, 1987

“Mr Minton preached an Xmas sermon from Mat. About the birth of Xt. He spoke of it as the birth day and celebrated everywhere. It is very uncertain, unknown instead the day of Xt’s birth.More like the Christmas & Xmas week is the successor of the Roman Saturnlia. We do not see however, since all Xendom nearly, directs its thoughts to the nativity — that there is any harm in joining in the celebration of this greatest event in the history of the world.

Yesterday we had our Xmas dinner — only guests Elizabeth Dennis & Seadie & The & Sam & Reba & baby. About 6 o ‘C the table was covered with gifts for the children (not many & not expensive) which they enjoyed. Afterwards went to the church where they had their children’s exhibition – Tableaus music speeches from the little ones. The last performance, was the introduction of a wagon drawn by a goat, the wagon loaded with bonbons for the S.S. scholars. Every thing went off well.”

From diary, December 25, 1881

“Vacation No chapel service.

Last night the children had their Xtmas tree — no strangers – we should not call them strangers — no one besides the family but Aunt Em & Lizzie D –were present. Tree lighted up about 7~ O’C & Children delighted.

In church to day there were allusions to Xtmas — very different from what would have been 25 or 50 yrs ago. The Presn churches, are beginning to think it not wrong to have Xtmas services.”

TAW Diary from 1883

TAW Diary from 1883

From diary, December 23, 1883

“Mr McNary Mat V 13-16 Ye are the salt of the earth &c.

Examinations closed Friday. College will commence Jan 4th.

Christmas day after to morrow. A week and a little more than a day & 1883 will be in the past time. Labuntur anni [The years slip by].

Have been sending some Xtmas cards, perhaps too many — but maybe will not have another opportunity.”


Happy Holidays from all of us at Wylie House!

-Allison Haack, Graduate Student Volunteer

Ghost Stories from Wylie House


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Halloween is fast approaching, and you know what that means – all manner of spooky and frightening stories!  Over the years, we’ve had a few of our own tales of ghosts here at Wylie House.

The first documented story we have is from 1914, and recorded in 1937.  The Wylie family had moved out in 1913, and Professor Amos Hershey and his wife, Lillian, were living in the house.  The story goes that when they moved in they found a section of work near the attic door and over the attic stairwell where the plaster had never been finished.  After some inquiry, the Hersheys discovered that the original plasterer had been working at the house when he found out that his wife had died.  He rushed home to see her one last time, and grief-stricken, committed suicide by jumping down a well.  Supposedly at the time, no one could be found to finish the plaster job because it was claimed the house was now haunted.  Mrs. Hershey had the plaster in the stairway finished in 1914, but left the spot above the doorway unfinished out of respect for what she called “the hant.”  She apparently reported no ghosts ever bothered her.

The stairwell from the third floor attic.

The stairwell from the third floor attic down to the second floor.

In 1986, Betty Landreth recalled the time she had spent at the house with her grandmother, Lillian Hershey.  She claimed that every night footsteps could be heard up on the second floor, always around midnight.  One night, Betty decided to try sleeping upstairs in the southwest bedroom.  Although it has been claimed by another person that Mrs. Hersey did not believe in a ghost or was not bothered by it, Betty recounts that her grandmother refused to sleep upstairs because of the ghost.  When Betty slept upstairs, she heard the clock chime midnight, then heard footsteps descend from the third floor, walk down the hallway, and proceed down the main stairway.  After a couple of nights, Betty decided to resume sleeping downstairs.  It was her opinion that the ghost was likely that of the plaster worker who had killed himself and that he walked the halls at night in despair.  In Betty’s version of the story, he had hanged himself.  She commented that no harm or damage was ever by the ghost.

Entryway to the attic and second floor hallway where footsteps were heard.

Entryway to the attic and second floor hallway where footsteps were heard.

In the 1960s, Wylie House was underwent a major renovation.  During this time, several strange occurrences took place.  Footsteps were heard (most often in the upstairs hallway), previously closed doors were inexplicably opened, and lights were turned on when no one was in the house.  The campus police were asked to check up on the house, but no prowlers were ever discovered.  One night a police officer found himself locked into a room on the second floor, and claims to have heard footsteps running up to the third floor.

Although John Dixon, the restoration supervisor, did not take these events seriously, many of the workmen refused to work alone in a room.  However, his opinion changed one day when he was alone in the house heard a loud noise in the kitchen.  The kitchen was still under construction, so he hurried in to see if something had collapsed.  He found that the contents of a wheelbarrow had been scattered all over the floor, there was mortar dust clouding the air, and the kitchen was freezing cold.

Later during the reconstruction, a brick mortared into the wall was found to have a curse against the Wylie family carved into it.  Dixon insisted that the brick was not a fake, because as someone who worked with historic structures, he was certain that the brick had been mortared at the time the house was originally built.  Dixon would not say what was written on the brick, only saying that it was crude language and not appropriate to be recorded in the archives.  With workmen as witnesses, Dixon smashed the brick with a hammer.  No further incidents occurred after that point.

Renovated Wylie House kitchen.

The kitchen were John Dixon found the mess from the wheelbarrow and the brick mortared into the wall.

The most recent ghost sighting took place in 2002.  Two men from the IU carpenter shop were in the house rehanging doors when one of the men reported briefly glimpsing a woman standing about a third of the way up the stairs.  He noted that she was wearing a long, full, yellow dress, but didn’t get a closer look at her hair or face to be able to determine an age.  He only saw the woman out of the corner of his eye.   He stopped short in the doorway to the parlor and asked the other worker, “Who was that?” but there was no one there.  Neither of the workmen seemed frightened by the experience.

So who knows?  Maybe the next time you drop by Wylie House for a visit, you’ll hear the sound of footsteps.  As far as we know, only one visitor, a little boy, has ever claimed to have seen anything ghostly – but maybe you’ll be the next lucky one that does.  Or maybe the only ghosts here at Wylie House are the ones in our heads as we walk through the house and imagine the family going about their day to day lives.  Either way, Happy Halloween!

-Allison Haack, Graduate Student Volunteer

The Wylie House Telephone Wire and the Seminary Square Fire


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Library and Science Building

Library and Science Building at Seminary Square, the first campus location

Before 1883 when Indiana University was still located near what is now Seminary Square, Professor Theophilus A. Wylie and his son, Brown, installed a telephone wire that ran from the University to Wylie House.  We know from the Wylie family letters that Theophilus was very excited by the telephone and regularly used it to call the college. On the night of July 12, 1883, the main academic and laboratory building at the Seminary Square location burned to the ground. Initially, it was believed that the telephone wire from Wylie House to the University had caused the fire.

In a letter to her husband dated July 14, 1883, Theophilus’s  daughter, Louisa Boisen, wrote:

“My dearest Hermann,

I sent you a letter yesterday morning telling you about the fire. This morning it seems to me that I feel even worse than yesterday. It is thought that the lightning entered by Brown’s telephone wire and that of course makes us all feel dreadfully. If Brown was careful to shut off the connection before he left I don’t see how it could be unless as Pa says it may have been near enough to the lightning rod to jump from it to the wire. I do hope that Brown did attend to it, but yet others used the wire and if it was used during the vacation perhaps he left it to them to attend to it. Pa feels terribly about it. He says it almost crushes him. . . Then too what will be the consequence of it all? Won’t this be the opportunity for those who seem to desire it, to get rid of the Laboratory? . . . It is very sad to go over there and see the leaves of books scattered all about, many just burnt around the edges. . . The blackened remains are shoveled out when they can do it but even now they are blazing some and the smoke still goes up though we had a hard storm last night again. A great deal of rain fell and there was a great deal of thunder and lightning. . .  The wall towards College Avenue was left entire yesterday but last night it was blown down, as were the other walls, but it is too hot for them to work inside yet. I suppose there are some valuable remains there. Poor Dr. Jordan loses all his fishes—the work of his lifetime. Spangler and Conger I suppose left many things in their room. . . Dr. Van Nuys lost a valuable microscope. Pa lost a good many things I believe. But I have not heard him speak of his own particular loss. He said this morning that he hardly felt as if he could survive. He feels the public loss so much and then he grieves so about the way it probably happened. If Brown can only write that he shut off the connection, I think it will make Pa feel better to think that it was not thro’ any carelessness. . . It is too sad, for it will be long before such a library can be gathered and many books can never be replaced and then they had much fine apparatus….”

The Indiana University Archives is fortunate to have extensive diaries kept by Theophilus Wylie. On June 15th Professor Wylie wrote:

“1 Cor. III. 12-15 –The Foundation & the Hilding. — Miserrimus sum [I am very miserable].Last Thursday (12 ) night — about 10 O’C the college bell range the alarm of fire. I immediately ran through the rainstorm — & found the New College building on fire. The fire had been smoldering for some time before it was notir’ed & the building was filled with smoke, — & could not be entered. — for a time it was thought that it might have been controlled, but the flames got the better of the exertions made– & the building with all its contents save a few of the tables of the Museum was destroyed. — The prin Library — the large & valuable Museum– Dr Jordan’s fishes & specimens — & library, Mr Gelbut’s Panama work — all the apparatus in my rooms, All the Laboratories and their contents — all Spangler’s things & perhaps Congers – were utterly destroyed. — The fire seemed to have originated in my room. Thus I will be more implicated perhaps than any other, as the occasion of the loss. — I feel that it is more than I can bear. Miserere nosti0 Deus Salvator! [Take pity on us, 0 Lord Our Savior!]

However, by July 20 when Louisa wrote again to her husband, she reported that: “They don’t think now that the fire kindled from the telephone wire. They think it came down the cupola into the hall where it was burning when the door was broken open. It is hard to tell. Dr. Van N. says such a stroke as that would have melted the wire.”

This new information about the fire likely helped to ease Theophilus Wylie’s sense of guilt, but he remained deeply saddened by the loss of the academic building and its contents. It was feared that the University would be moved from Bloomington to another part of the state, but the citizens of Monroe County pledged $50,000 to the University.  Dunn’s Woods was purchased to be the new site of the campus where it remains today.

-Allison Haack, Graduate Student Volunteer

Dancing in the mountains of Idaho, 1906

In 1906, Anton Boisen, who, as a grandson of Theophilus A. Wylie, had grown up in Wylie House, was working for the U.S. Forestry Service. He was sent that summer, with four others plus a cook, to the mountains of Idaho, to do some forestry surveys near Mt. Sawtell in the Henry’s Lake Forest Reserve, which was near Yellowstone Park. They camped in a remote area several miles from the nearest habitation and stayed until the weather made it necessary to return to civilization. Despite the remote location, Anton wrote a weekly letter to his mother in Bloomington and explained, “It often takes four days for a letter to reach St. A [Anthony] after we get it down to Rieker’s. It goes, you see, from Rieker’s to Trude’s, from Trude’s to Rae P.O., from Rae to Spencer, and thence by stage to St. Anthony.” In early November, he wrote a very interesting letter describing a dance their crew had attended at a nearby ranch:

Sunday morning, Nov. 4, 1906

My dearest Mother,

Another week is gone now and we are reminded very strongly that our stay here is nearing the end. Galaneau left yesterday for Laramie, Wyoming to work on the Medicine Bow Reserve and Pond will join him there. Peters and I are therefore left alone to finish things up as best we can. We shall stay in the camp several days longer and then go to the lumber camps near Spencer for two or three weeks, and after that we go to Washington….

In honor of Galaneau’s departure we took a day off Thursday and went down to a dance at the Trudes’, one of the western dances where everybody comes for miles around and stays all night. We had to go seventeen miles ourselves driving down with John Rieker and his wife and children. The Trudes have a regular dance hall or at least a building devoted exclusively to those functions and that was where we went. Everybody was invited and people were there from twenty miles away, all sorts and conditions too, Mormons and all. We were attired in our field clothes with the exception that I had borrowed a coat from Peters, not having one of my own, but we did not feel out of place for there were plenty of men there with their sweaters on. The one bright and shining exception however was young Mr. Jack Ripley who wore a full dress suit, with a white four-in-hand necktie, a diamond scarf pin and white socks and white shoes. He acted as master of ceremonies and called out all the dances.

About one o’clock in the morning the feast was served, after that they went at the dancing again and kept it up till after four when we all adjourned to the main house and sat around and talked or snoozed until breakfast time. Some of the men however went over to the bunk house and had a nice little game of poker.

The journey home was accomplished in broad daylight. It might be interesting to say that as we approached the Ripley ranch, we noticed someone up on top of the thatched roof of the stable getting down hay for the cattle. We thought it was a woman at first but on closer investigation we discovered that it was Jack Ripley in all the glory of his evening suit and white shoes and diamond scarf pin–and a black bearskin coat. As we drew nearer, he went into the stable to finish up the rest of his chores.

These dances are held once every month or so, sometimes every two weeks when the weather is not too cold and they are always all night affairs. It could not well be arranged otherwise for the guests have to come such long distances and the nights here are always so cold.

We have been having some delightful weather lately, but the end of it has probably come now for it is half snowing, half raining today, and there is several inches of snow on the ground. Sam [the cook] predicts that there will be a foot or so of snow before this storm ends….

Please give my love to all there at home, and keeps lots of it for yourself


Wylie House Basket Collection

Three baskets in the Wylie House Museum collection

In 1914, Rebecca Grace Wylie (Reba) and Laurence Seabrook Wylie (granddaughter and grandson of Theophilus Adam Wylie) were residing in Indian Oasis, Arizona, to the southwest of Tucson, within the Tohono O’odham (previously known as the Papago) Indian Reservation. On January 22, Reba wrote a letter to her Aunt Louisa Wylie Boisen in Bloomington, indicating Laurence’s interest in purchasing the Lynehurst Ranch chicken farm. By April they were residing at Lynehurst Ranch. According to Reba, the ranch was located 12 miles from Tucson near the Santa Catalina Mountains which are to the northeast of Tucson, near the Gila River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. In other letters, Reba mentions the Native-made baskets and she included the photo you see here in one of her letters home. We believe that the 12 baskets now in the Wylie House Museum collection were sent by Reba to her Aunt Louisa and cousin Marie Boisen Bradley as gifts.

Traditionally, the Pima (now known as the Akimel O’odham) and Papago created complex abstract geometric designs in their baskets. The baskets in the Wylie House collection do not reflect the traditional designs of the Papago and Pima. Rather they reflect the influence of traders and tourists on basket makers. Many of the baskets in the collection display human and animal motifs. The inclusion of these types of figural elements was a development of the early twentieth century. The small size of a number of these baskets can be attributed to the popularity of miniature baskets among tourists.

Based on physical proximity it would be easy to infer that the baskets were created by members of the Papago tribe. However, by the early twentieth century both tribes had commenced the practice of basket making for the purposes of supplying traders and tourists with souvenirs. This produced a number of changes in the style and form of the baskets being produced. Papago and Pima tribal members were known to purchase baskets from one another to sell in various markets. Therefore, without more extensive testing of materials it is difficult to determine which people created the baskets in the Wylie House Collection.

Reba Wylie with Native American girl and baskets, 1914

Dance Cards

A dance card from a Sigma Chi dance at Indiana University in 1900

Anton T. Boisen, Marie L. Boisen, Samuel B. Wylie, and Reba Wylie were grandchildren of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie who grew up here in Wylie House and attended IU. The two girls were members of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Anton was a Phi Gamma Delta and Sam a Sigma Chi, as was Morton C. Bradley, Marie Boisen’s fiancée and later husband. Sororities and fraternities of the late 19th and early 20th centuries held frequent dances and parties, judging by the letters, dance cards and party favors in our archive. Some dances were planned far enough in advance to allow for having programs printed, but some were fairly impromptu so that the dance cards were made by hand. Dances of that time and earlier were fairly formal events, with the order and kind of dances planned in advance and listed on the program or dance card. Each woman in attendance (and perhaps each man) was given a dance card that often had a small pencil attached. The idea was that when a certain dance was promised to someone, that person would write his or her name on your dance card next to the dance that was promised and in this way, no one would forget who had been promised which dance and thus there would be no hurt feelings or disagreements during the evening. The cards tended to be fairly small so as to be easily carried throughout the evening. The cord or ribbon that attached the pencil to the card also made a handy carrying device and could be slipped over a wrist or tucked into a belt. The Wylie grandchildren kept over a dozen of these dance cards. They give us a glimpse of an era when the customs and entertainment of young people were quite different from today.

Anton T. and Martin Luther King


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Newspaper clipping with Anton Boisen and Martin Luther King

The Rev. Anton T. Boisen was a grandson of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie. When his father, Hermann B. Boisen died in 1884 at the age of 38, Anton’s mother Louisa Wylie Boisen brought her two young children back to Bloomington and moved in with her parents in what is now Wylie House Museum. Anton had an interesting career, most of it in the ministry. We came across this clipping from the Chicago Daily News, June 7, 1957 and noticed that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Rev. Boisen were granted honorary doctorates from the Chicago Theological Seminary the same year. For more about Rev. Boisen, see our digital exhibit of his photographs.


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