Hazing News

Indianapolis’ demolished Confederate grave marker in context:

Originally published by

By Hank Nuwer

Indianapolis now has removed the Confederate statue from Garfield Park. This dramatic move coincided with the “Black Lives Matter” protest condemning misplaced white supremacy. Likewise, Confederate monuments elsewhere have been condemned as monumental mistakes.

Demolished Confederate grave marker. Photo by Malgorzata Wroblewska-Nuwer

“Our streets are filled with voices of anger and anguish, testament to centuries of racism directed at Black Americans,” Mayor Joe Hogsett stated before the demolition. “…Whatever original purpose this grave marker might once have had, for too long it has served as nothing more than a painful reminder of our state’s horrific embrace of the Ku Klux Klan a century ago.”

No question the monument encapsulates Indiana’s dark Klan days.

But was it the detested Klan that brought the mass-grave marker from an unsuitable location to Garfield Park?

In a word, no. My research found that the monument relocation advocate was the Southern Club of Indianapolis.

Its members were civic leaders devoted to Hoosier social issues. They all had kin from below the Mason-Dixie Line. They partook in constructive community activities, not anti-black terror.

Consider Southern Club activist and business leader Broderick Elsey (1878-1968). He served in 1931-1932 as chair of the monument committee that relocated the monument in Garfield Park.

Elsey’s Southern Club of Indianapolis work was one of his do-gooder passions. During the Twenties he also served as president of Christamore Settlement. His name graces Elsey Hall at Franklin College, where he chaired the board of directors, 1935-1960.

Another Southern Club citizen leading the lobbying to transplant the monument was David T. Praigg, a lifelong newspaper publisher and poet. He penned an epic poem about the plight of women in poor socioeconomic circumstances, as well as rousing lyrics for patriotic songs.

Another monument activist was B. Howard Caughran, a Tennessee-born lawyer and future U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. It was Caughran who delivered the invocation at Garfield Park.

Elsey and his peers in retrospect may be on the wrong side of history. But we must not confuse them with the accursed KKK.

An inspection of the Southern Club member roll in later years reveals name after name of sterling individuals, not flaming racists.

Consider member Charles P. Vaughan (1921-2007) who worked as a business editor for the defunct Indianapolis News and Eli Lilly & Co.

A member of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, Vaughan’s obituary states this: “One of his proudest moments as a journalist was criticizing the Indianapolis Board of Realtors until it admitted its first black members.”

Or consider Richard E.Todderud (1921-2001), a retired international businessman for a division of Eli Lilly. A graduate of Catawba College in North Carolina, he was chair of the board of directors for Public Action in Correctional Effort: Offender Aid & Restoration (PACE-OAR) of Marion County.

To be sure, it may be that Indiana’s KKK members jumped on the Confederate monument bandwagon 90 years ago to justify their misplaced values.

But the grave marker’s original purpose was to set in stone the names of Confederate non-commissioned officers who died in a notorious Union prison, Camp Morton. The camp by Civil War’s end was a foul place. The Ku Klux Klan era was a despicable blot on Hoosier history. But Camp Morton also was despicable.

The average American has heard of Andersonville, another foul camp run by the losing Confederacy. The commander of Andersonville, Henry Wirz, was executed after the war. Indiana Gen. Lew Wallace presided over his trial.

Camp Morton at first was a humane camp supervised by Col. Richard Owen. A bust of Owen reposes in the Indiana Statehouse. Former POWS offered testaments of his humanity when he ruled the camp.

Owen’s successors ran a filthy, unethical operation. They deserved the same public shaming as the unlamented Wirz but never were charged with war crimes.

Five thousand prisoners once crowded the unsanitary Union prison They drank creek water containing limestone. Dysentery was rampant.

At least 1,700 Southern soldiers perished. The names of 1,616 casualties of war were inscribed on the memorial.  So yes, take down the marker as the right choice, but never forget that Indianapolis shamefully housed enemies who died of illness, neglect, starvation. Put the plaques with the names of dead into the State Museum archives.

Significantly, the names of at least 24 black males are inscribed on the Garfield Park monument. They were connected to the South, although not necessarily as soldiers.

Their lost Black Lives also matter.

 Hank Nuwer is a Franklin College PSJ emeritus professor.

Photo by Malgorzata Wroblewska-Nuwer


Addendum: June 9, 2020

Author’s note: The Indianapolis Star on June 9th reported that the Ku Klux Klan connection to the Garfield Park memorial was Representative Ralph E. Updike, R., who was linked to the notorious KKK leader D.C. Stephenson. Hats off to the Star for good reporting. I should have caught the Updike connection below.

From the IndyStar: “On April 3, 1928, The Indianapolis Star reported the “passage in the House of Representatives at Washington of a bill by Rep. Ralph E. Updike of Indianapolis to permit removal of the Confederate monument from Greenlawn cemetery to Garfield Park.” The bill allowed for the appropriation of $25,000 for the move. Updike ran with the financial backing of the Ku Klux Klan.

And it was alleged Updike entered into a contract with KKK leader D.C. Stephenson that would allow Stephenson to control all federal appointments which Updike was able to obtain.”

I have verified the Star’s fine reporting.







By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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