Journey Indiana


Episode 411

Coming to you from the Morgan-Monroe State to Brownsburg to experience a yoga class - with a bit of a twist; enjoy a sneak peek of WTIU's latest documentary - Singing Winds: The Life and Works of T.C. Steele; join the gold rush in Brown County; and travel to Shelbyville to learn about the history inside every piece of Old Hickory furniture.

AIRED: November 16, 2021 | 0:26:46

>> Production support for "Journey Indiana" is provided by

Columbus Visitors Center,

celebrating everywhere art and unexpected architecture

in Columbus, Indiana.

Tickets for guided tours and trip planning information at

And by WTIU members. Thank you!

>> ASHLEY: Coming up, travel to Brownsburg

to experience a yoga class with a bit of a twist.

>> BRANDON: Enjoy a sneak peek of WTIU's latest documentary

"Singing Winds: The Life and Works of T.C. Steele."

>> ASHLEY: Join the gold rush in Brown County.

>> BRANDON: And travel to Shelbyville to learn

about the history inside every piece of Old Hickory Furniture.

That's all on this episode of --

>> TOGETHER: "Journey Indiana"!

>> BRANDON: Welcome to "Journey Indiana."

I'm Brandon Wentz.

>> ASHLEY: And I'm Ashley Chilla.

And we're coming to you from the Morgan Monroe State Forest.

This is the Indiana's second largest state forest,

encompassing more than 25,000 acres.

Today, visitors can enjoy hiking, hunting, fishing,

and even gold panning.

More on that last one in just a bit.

>> BRANDON: That's right, but first, we're headed north

to Brownsburg where producer Jake Lindsey

has the story behind Montrose Farms.

>> My husband and I were looking for just a few acres

in the country, kind of a nice quiet little area,

and we happened to find this farm.

And this farm just has something very special about it.

This was actually settled by James Brown in 1824,

and because he was the first white settler in the area,

they ended up naming the town after him, Brownsburg.

Under the Land Act of 1820, the government

was giving away free tracts of land to try to settle the West,

which this was still part of the West.

So he and his family moved up here and settled this farm.

Montrose Farms -- I actually named it Montrose Farms

in honor of my father.

So my mother grew up on a farm,

and thought this was a terrible idea.

My father was actually very ill when we bought the farm,

but he was a big animal lover,

and so he thought it was pretty cool.

>> Trying to figure out what to farm,

and because I'm vegetarian,

that limited our choices in livestock.

I don't remember how we found out about alpacas,

but once we did, we started exploring that,

going to other farms to visit, and --

yeah, we were just sold on alpacas.

Alpacas are a South American camelid.

There are six members of the camelid family.

There are two kinds of camels, llamas, alpacas

and there's two wild cousins in South America

called the vicuna and a guanaco.

There are two kinds of alpacas, Huacayas and Suris.

There are about ten Huacayas to every Suri.

The only difference is their fleece.

Huacayas grow a fluffier fleece.

They grow horizontally.

A Suri grows long, drapey dreadlocky kind of a fleece.

You stop.

We always say they have a personality kind of like a cat,

which means that they are highly intelligent.

They are very curious about things,

and they do everything on their terms.

So people ask us if they know their names.

Yes, they know their names.

Will they answer to it?

Depends on their mood.

If you ever wonder if alpacas or llama spit,

yes, they do.

It's a defensive mechanism, though.

Kind of to protect themselves from

predators or what have you.

No matter how stressful things are,

or how bad of a day you are having,

you know, work, friends, family, they are the constant.

You know, working with animals is just the most restorative,

peaceful thing, and, yeah, it's just -- I love them.

I know them all as individuals.

So it's -- oops.

It's fun to go out and connect with them.

We have been doing alpaca yoga here for about five years,

and basically, it's just a regular yoga class.

>> Alpaca yoga is a beautiful type of yoga

that can bring you outside, reconnect you with the earth,

reconnect you with nature.

There's a certain energy that the alpacas hold.

I know that sounds kind of woo-woo,

but, you just kind of feel a little more open-hearted

when you are around animals.

>> Unlike goat yoga, which you've probably heard of,

they don't jump on your back.

They are very gentle.

We use -- we use treats to encourage them to interact

with the people, but they are pretty curious

and want to see what's going on anyway.

>> It's just fun to kind of be outside and be around

all the alpacas, get to pet them.

>> Quiet nature, and a beautiful setting with yoga,

it's a great way to start your day.

>> The alpacas are very gentle creatures.

Very curious, though.

They come up to you and sniff you.

I was noticing today when I was in one of the poses on my back,

I had my legs up, and she just came up

and smelled my feet.

So they are just very sweet creatures.

Because the girls can get kind of skittish.

They will get a little surprised if they run off real quick,

but they are usually extremely gentle and docile.

>> And they like being with the animals,

because that's just a part they don't get

in their daily life anymore, most of them.

But I think people really do want to connect

with nature still, and that's one thing we can offer them.


>> ASHLEY: So Brandon, I think I talked before

about maybe wanting to get a goat one day.

I changed my mind.

Alpaca is where it's at.

I have to get myself an alpaca!

>> BRANDON: Well, I mean, think about all the benefits,

not only will you have the calmness of the yoga,

but you will also be able to make beautiful sweaters

and blankets from the wool.

>> ASHLEY: It's true.

>> BRANDON: They have more than just yoga at Montrose Farms,

and you can get all the info at the address on the screen.

>> ASHLEY: Up next, a sneak peek of WTIU's latest documentary.

"Singing Winds: The Life and Works of T.C. Steele."

>> Adolph Shulz, a colleague of Steele's from Wisconsin,

came across an old Chicago newspaper clipping

that extolled the virtues of a wilderness paradise

in the hills of Brown County, Indiana,

a place that came to be known as Peaceful Valley.

In 1906, Steele rented a team of horses and a wagon,

determined to check out the land for himself.

"I was stunned by the dramatic spectacle

spread out before me.

There was a sweep of great distances.

It was all so wonderfully appealing in its bigness,

so full of meanings, and so alive." - T.C. Steele

>> He was looking for real wilderness,

and this really offered that.

It was also very inexpensive.

He could buy property, you know, for not a lot of money.

In fact, the joke was farmers selling their property

would actually add a couple acres to the deed

just to get rid of it.

And so this offered him that kind of remoteness.

>> The hills were impassable.

They could not farm.

Most of the people who came to Brown County intended to settle

there and farm, and the trees made that very difficult.

The early settlers in Brown County saw the forest,

at least in part, as an enemy

or at least something to be overcome,

but it was also full of large, dangerous wild critters.

There were panthers still in Indiana,

at least in Brown County, at that time.

It was a scary place.

>> Brown County in 1900 was Indiana 1840.

It was very primitive.

People were very poor.

They lived in log cabins.

The town had no running water, no electricity,

not for years really.

>> Eight miles west of the Brown County

seat of Nashville was a property in tiny Belmont, Indiana,

that sat high on a hill with views over the entire county

for nearly 10 miles.

Steele began to purchase large tracts of land high above town

and set out to build a wilderness dream home.

>> It was that idea of untamed wilderness that he could

go out and find so many subjects that he could paint.

He had a very romantic idea of what Brown County would be like.

>> Steele's rush to build a mountain paradise

was motivated by more than

simply finding new landscapes to paint.

For almost two years, he had been courting

a young art teacher from Indianapolis, Selma Neubacher.

Selma trained at the Pratt Institute in New York City.

She was 23 years younger than Steele,

and was a friend of his daughter Daisy,

who had met and married Selma's brother two years earlier.

Selma had sophisticated artistic tastes.

Her companionship helped heal Steele's broken heart.

The two secretly planned to wed in the fall of 1907,

as soon as Steele could finish his new hilltop home.

Selma's youth and energy helped her overcome her fears

of moving away from the comforts of city life

to live deep in the wilderness.

"In coming to the hills,

the change for me had been very great.

I had gone from one extreme to another;

from the close-up life of a city,

to a wilderness that seemed boundless in scope;

a home in the wilderness... what an adventure!"

- Selma Neubacher Steele

>> They trudged up the road, up to this property,

and she's wearing her silk shoes,

probably wondering what she'd gotten herself into.

The mule ran out of steam or they got stuck,

and they had to get out and kind of help push their way up.

But once they got up there, she saw this beautiful view,

and that's where they made their home.

>> In her diary and letters,

Selma simply referred to her new husband as "The Painter."

Each day, Steele continued his habit of waking at 4:00 a.m.

and heading into his new wilderness sanctuary

to paint until the sun set.

Meanwhile, Selma negotiated the challenges

of their wilderness cottage.

She had to work with the local citizens of Brown County,

most of whom were subsistence farmers

who had never heard of a professional painter before.

>> The world that Theodore and Selma came from

was night and day from what they found here.

The idea of someone coming here

and creating artwork seemed ridiculous.

It just was beyond belief.

>> Compared to the small log cabins

with dirt floors that dotted the county,

the mountaintop home of T.C. and Selma Steele

seemed like a turn-of-the-century palace.

An expansive living room

with a large fireplace and stone hearth.

A full kitchen, featuring a wood stove,

and cabinets filled with canned foods and modern appliances.

A player piano.

A Victrola phonograph.

There was a stuffed peacock in one corner.

It was like nothing the residents of Brown County

had ever seen in their lives.

>> Selma really ran the household,

and then she began to entertain people from the town.

She would have something called, "Sundays at the Steeles,"

where the people from the town would come

and they would just enjoy Steele's paintings,

and she would serve them tea and so forth.

>> In a nod to Steele's love of nature,

the couple hired a famed Chicago engraver to carve

into their fireplace mantle a quote

from one of Selma's favorite writers,

"Every morning I take off my hat

to the beauty of the world."

One of Steele's favorite amenities at the home

was the construction of large, wrap-around porches

that surrounded three sides of the structure.

In order to keep out pests,

they installed screens around the porches.

As the winds whipped along the hillside,

the sounds would whistle and hum about the place,

a phenomenon that inspired Steele to dub the home

"The House of the Singing Winds."

"The old way of painting sunlight and shadow

by contrasts of brilliant light

and deep shadow is discarded,

and even shadows are painted luminous and full of color

as they really are in nature.

The sunlight diffuses the color,

the atmosphere trembles with it,

and the Impressionist tries to paint its vibrations."

- T.C. Steele

>> ASHLEY: You can learn more at

>> BRANDON: Up next, we are headed to Brown County

to meet some Hoosiers who are hoping to strike it rich,

or at least have fun trying.

Producer Jason Pear has the story.

>> I mean, it goes back over 150 years,

I mean, in terms of the first observations of gold in Indiana.

Gold is something that is not found in Indiana

in the bedrock itself.

It's derived from Canada, from Ontario,

the area around Hudson Bay and James Bay.

We know there have been multiple advances of ice into Indiana,

and actually the most common areas for gold in Indiana,

so Morgan and Brown Counties, those were actually glaciated --

not the most recent glaciation, but prior glaciations.

In those areas, generally the glacial sediment is thinner

and so it kind of has been reworked by water.

And so there's a greater chance of finding gold in those areas,

and that's partly the reason why Brown County

and parts of Morgan County work for gold prospecting.

>> I got into gold prospecting by watching the gold shows.

That's basically what started me into this.

I basically did some research

and found out there was gold in Indiana!

Most of us, we have jobs.

So we're just doing it for fun.

I think it's probably a little bit of bragging rights,

any of that kind of thing that makes the fun.

Here in the Midwest, that's all it's going to be about.

Gatesville is one of the places where it's freely accessible.

All you have to do is go in and talk to the owner in the store,

and she has no issue with letting you

go out there and prospect.

And it's gold there.

That's probably one of the first places where gold

was really kind of picked up at on South Creek.

That's why a lot of people go there.

There's lots of people that come that never get in the creek.

People like to camp.

People like to get together.

And especially with the clubs.

The clubs, we kind of make it an event.

The kids, they stay in the water which is great.

I think it's fantastic.

They get them out of the house, and they get them outdoors.

I think that's one of the best things in the world.

>> Nope.

No gold yet.

>> You start at panning.

From there, you use a stream sluice,

which is you are letting the creek flow that material

off as opposed to panning.

From there, most people go to a high banker,

which now you are using motorized stuff.

You have a motor which is now using that water.

It's doing the same thing as the creek doing.

You just got a motor now using the water to do it.

And then dredging, of course, is a big vacuum

that is sucking up material from the bottom of the creek

to run through a sluice box.

Everything is in a sluice box from that point on, usually.

For me, I just enjoy it all.

Modern day flood gold, you look for that

in the bends of the creek.

Where the creek makes a hard bend,

at the head of that bend and through the middle of that bend,

is where the new gold will be.

And that's the gold that's just washing out.

If you want to look for some of the older stuff,

which may have bigger pieces, you need to actually kind of

look to see where the older trees are.

Because there where the older trees are is probably

where the creek was at one point.

It takes a little bit of looking.

Black sand is iron sand, basically.

About the second heaviest thing before you get gold.

So you want to work your material

down to your black sand.

>> Kind of doing some test pans now.

You can see all the black sand in there.

>> No gold in there, but it's a good indicator

that we are definitely in the right spot,

right where Mike is at over there.

You're out in the wilderness.

You got your feet in the water

and hanging out with good people.

Get away from the phones and TV.

That's the big thing.

>> If you are here in the Midwest, it's strictly for fun.

You are not going to get rich.

Don't think you are going to get rich.

You are not going to get ounces and ounces.

I don't have an ounce of Midwest gold yet,

and I have been doing it since 2014, but it's fun

to just go out and look and to camp and to get to know people.

And if you are lucky, you get a little bit of gold.

>> BRANDON: You know, Ashley, the beginning of that piece

was actually shot right here in Morgan Monroe State Forest,

where they do allow gold panning.

>> ASHLEY: Maybe that's what we should try next.

>> BRANDON: You can learn more at

>> ASHLEY: Finally, let's head to Shelbyville

for a look inside the historic Old Hickory Furniture Company.

Producer Jason Pear and editor John Timm have the story.

>> There's not a lot of outlets for woodworkers,

for people that work with their hands here in Central Indiana.

We are a good haven for those people who like to do that.

It's not an easy job.

So it's an acquired taste.

People need to be committed to it.

Most of our people that have been here,

have been here a long time.

Billy Richardson is the founder of Old Hickory Furniture.

Around 1892, he started out of his barn.

He started creating hickory furniture

and sold it in Martinsville, Indiana.

And was selling it just to people who would come by

to the market on Saturdays in Martinsville.

Inns and things in Martinsville found

the Old Hickory Furniture, bought it,

and put it on their porches.

And people -- it became very popular

and eventually grew out of that barn that he was building it in,

and they bought an old abandoned church

and started building there.

It's grown since then.

The wood that we use is hickory.

The name Old Hickory made sense,

but it also was Andrew Jackson's nickname.

Billy Richardson, his father, supposedly made chairs

for Andrew Jackson's home in Tennessee.

And so the name Old Hickory fit.

It's the wood we used.

It was one the famous presidents that had this style furniture,

and we even have our signature chair,

it's called the Andrew Jackson Chair.

The company moved to Shelbyville in 1982.

We have been here since then.

So however many years that is, 40 years.

We have grown from about 15 employees.

At one point we were up at 125 people.

We're down around 60 at this point.

Everything has been here.

It's all in-house.

We work one shift.

Everything is done here from the chairs, to the tables,

to the upholstery, to sewing, weaving.

Everything's done right here in-house.

The first part of the process, when the wood comes in,

is what we call nubbing, and that's taking off

any sharp pieces or parts of the wood.

Then if the wood needs to be bent, then we bend it.

Then we cut things to size.

We have big chop saws that cut

the pieces right to the exact size.

From there, it goes to our sanding area.

So every piece is sanded.

Some of it is sanded lightly.

Some of it we sand more heavily,

depending on what the customers' desire is.

The next part of the process is if something needs to be drilled

or dowed to do our more mortise and tenon construction.

And then from there it goes to -- it stays on a cart,

and it goes to our builders.

The builders, depending on their specialty --

some of them specialize in beds.

Some of them specialize in chairs.

Some of them specialize in dressers, tables, whatever.

They will assemble the piece right there.

And then it goes to our finish sanding.

After finish sanding, it goes to our finishing department.

It gets a stain, if needed, and then a top coat protection.

The last part of the process is our quality control,

our inspection.

We put our brass tag that says

"Old Hickory, Shelbyville, since 1899."

Then we package it and put it in a box,

and it ship it to wherever it's going.

In the early days, the popularity of hickory furniture

grew pretty quickly.

It started here in Central Indiana, but quickly grew

to the Adirondacks in New York,

and then out to the mountains out West.

The National Park lodges are a perfect place for this.

It's a rustic look.

It's very environmentally friendly.

It lends itself to the rustic nature.

And so when the Old Faithful Inn was being built in 1904,

they called on Old Hickory to furnish the porches,

to furnish the dining rooms.

So in 1904, we shipped a lot of furniture out there on railcars,

and they still use that same furniture today.

We've done a lot of business in Alaska.

There's a lot of lodges in Alaska

that have a look that is conducive to what we do.

We shipped a lot to Missouri.

We do a lot in Gatlinburg, Tennessee;

the mountains of North Carolina; upstate New York.

We have customers in Canada as well.

We've shipped a few orders here and there over to Europe.

We have an order that's going to Chile, South America,

all over the place.

The style that we have is timeless.

It's something that people identify with,

as people were growing up, they go to the parks,

they go to Indiana State Parks, they go to National Parks,

they see our furniture, and somehow that resonates with them

as something that's real, that's American.

It's something that's been around.

It's a comfortable, timeless thing,

and even the younger generations

are starting to see that as well.

>> ASHLEY: I am so amazed at the time and the skill level

that goes into creating those pieces of furniture.

>> BRANDON: Yeah, and that all started

just down the road in Martinsville.

>> ASHLEY: You can learn more, maybe even shop

for a rocking chair of your own, at

>> BRANDON: And as always, we would like to encourage you

to stay connected with us.

>> ASHLEY: Just head over to

There you can see full episodes, connect with us

on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram,

and suggest stories from your neck of the woods.

>> BRANDON: We also have a map feature that allows you to see

where we've been and to plan your own Indiana adventures.

>> ASHLEY: But before we say good-bye, let's take a look

at the fall colors recently on display in Brown County.

>> Production support for "Journey Indiana" is provided by

Columbus Visitors Center,

celebrating everywhere art and unexpected architecture

in Columbus, Indiana.

Tickets for guided tours and trip planning information at

And by WTIU members. Thank you!


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