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What’s In A Name, Indy? Norwood — Part 1

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Norwood is a residential community in southeastern Indianapolis. “We are ‘A Community With Pride,’” explained Brenda McAtee, president of Neighborhood Pride Inc., which does business as the Norwood Neighborhood Association. McAtee became president in 2006. “Our organization was formed by local residents of Norwood in September of 1967,” she said. “We work to improve our community. We take great pride in Norwood.”

The general boundaries of this community are Prospect Street on the north, Sherman Drive on the east, Terrace Avenue on the south, and a line west of Vandeman Street. “The community was named after the Norwood family that had operated the Norwood Farm in Indianapolis,” according to Kaila Austin, a public historian knowledgeable about the history of Indianapolis. “The area in and around Norwood included forests and orchards that provided food for local residents in the early days of the community.”

Austin noted one of the early leaders in Norwood was Ada Harris. “She lived in Ransom Place,” explained Austin. “Miss Harris was the principal of Center Township School No. 5.” In a news article dated June 25, 1890, The Indianapolis Journal noted that Harris was appointed teacher of this school — “No. 5, Colored School, near Belt road and Big Four” — by the Township Trustee. A similar announcement was made on July 5, 1892, in The Indianapolis News.

Harris was a victim of an assault at the school in early 1899. A news article dated Jan. 14, 1899, in The Indianapolis News detailed that the “… teacher in the colored school at Norwood … was assaulted by … a seventeen-year-old [female] pupil, yesterday … The wound in her head, which was inflicted with a club, is about three inches long, and cut to the skull …” Two days later, in the same newspaper, a letter to the editor was printed from the supervising principal of Center Township Schools, W. H. (William) Cooper. In his letter, he noted Harris was the principal of the Norwood School. “The people of Norwood take great interest in their school, and would not permit such disorder to exist very long,” said Cooper. “Miss Harris is a thorough teacher, loved and honored by every child of her school.” Cooper noted that the student who attacked Harris had only been at the school for one week.

Harris survived the attack and continued her work at the Norwood School. On Sept. 7, 1903, The Indianapolis News reported that “A flag pole was raised … at colored school No. 5, Norwood … and the school, the largest colored school in the county, was given the name of Harriet Beecher Stowe.” The namesake was a woman who stood for the abolition of slavery in the United States. As an author, she detailed the truth about Americans who held human beings in bondage as property.

Harriet Beecher Stowe. (This photograph was provided by the Library of Congress, circa 1880.)

This news article noted that the school had three teachers, Harris as principal “… and an average attendance of 150 pupils.” The new flag pole was made of iron and stood 50 feet tall, according to the newspaper, and replaced an old flag pole made of wood that “… was blown down and broken about two years ago. The old pole had a historic value having been used in the battleship Kearsarge and was obtained by Harris after the exhibition of the Kearsarge on the State House grounds during the National G.A.R. [Grand Army of the Republic] in 1893.” On Sept. 8, 1903, The Indianapolis Star reported “… Bishop Alexander Walters of the A.M.E. Zion Church, who is president of the Afro-American Council, delivered the principal address …”

The Harriett Beecher Stowe School was very much part of the community, according to a number of news reports. The Indianapolis News included a news article with the subheadline of “Old Thanksgiving Custom Observed at Norwood” on Nov. 26, 1903, that highlighted an annual custom at the school for 15 years — “… the term of Miss Harris’s incumbency as principal …” — “a real Thanksgiving dinner served at the school building. The dinner, which consisted of turkey, cranberry sauce, scalloped oysters, vegetables, pumpkin pie, ice cream, and cake, was furnished by a contribution from each pupil of money, vegetables, etc., which was prepared by the parents and was brought to the school ready to be served.”

Additional information detailing Norwood will be included in Part Two of this news series.

Do you have questions about communities in Indianapolis? A street name? A landmark? Your questions may be used in a future news column. Contact Richard McDonough at whatsinanameindy@usa.com.

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