Ruby Byrd Houlehan – full of sorrows but loving life

By Karen Zach

Had such a great time enjoying Ruby Byrd Houlehan’s pictures given to the Crawfordsville District Public Library and stored in their image database.  From the photos, I became quite interested in Ruby. What a girl! 

Ruby was a pretty, popular gal, and involved in a great deal. She was graduated from Crawfordsville HS, and taught in Crawfordsville for a few years before her marriage.

A daughter of Darius Monroe Byrd and his wife, Laura Barber, Ruby had one brother, Clifford “Will”iam.  Will however passed away when he was but 19 years old, leaving Ruby an only child. The funeral occurred at the Byrd home (810 E. Market) where a quartet of friends sang and at the burial in Oak Hill, the First Baptist (according to his obituary, but likely First Methodist) Church male choir of which Will was an active member performed. Fifty friends appropriately raised their voices in one of young Byrd’s favorite songs – Sleep Thy Last Sleep as he was lowered into his last resting place!

Darius Monroe Byrd, almost always referred to as Roe was raised on a farm but his love was horses, showing, but mainly racing them.  He was the oldest of several children of Peter and Nancy (Grimes) Byrd, worked for his Uncle Ephraim when he married Laura at the First United Methodist Church on Christmas Day in 1877, later moving moved into Crawfordsville in order, I would assume, to have better advantages for the whole family. I believe they did, indeed.  He dealt in stock, especially horses, and raced them, winning many races with a beautiful and strong, Abdel horse he named for himself, DMB!  For a few years in the 1890s in any race around, DMB won first, second or third.  Another of Roe’s horses sadly got out of his stall and meandered around town, wandering into the ruins of the old Brown Flouring Mill, where he fell through the floor and broke his neck.

Not long after the Byrds moved into town, Ruby joined the First Methodist church under a Dr. Tucker during a revival. There were about 60 with her then another 20 the next day and Dr. Tucker also tallied 50 baptisms. About this time, her mother’s father, Henry Barber lived with them and passed at their home in March 1895, he having lost his wife (Margaret Linn).  He was a retired baker in town and extremely well-loved. 

Then Ruby, along with many others, and especially her good friends, Helen Bonnell, Mamie Maxwell and Madge Courtney were in the Flower Parade which was connected to the Corn Carnival in October 1900.  The girls didn’t win but the papers said, “they looked stunning in a surrey completely covered with gorgeous LaFrance roses driven by a colored coachman.”  LaFrance roses were said to be the loveliest of all flowers and with the gals dressed in white with picture hats of pink roses and white parasols trimmed with more pink roses and carrying huge bouquets of the flowers, as well, don’t see how they didn’t win. 

Born 16 February 1885, on 6 September 1912, Ruby married Arthur Earl Houlehan, who was a C’ville native, as well, his father, Thomas (wife Frances) owning a local hardware store.  Arthur attended and graduated from Wabash College and in the 1910 census was found indexed (get a lot of laughs from Ancestry indexing booboos) as a foster brother.  I looked up the way and there were lots of foster brothers.  My head is like, “What!  He’s too old to be in foster care and that’s a heck of a lot of foster brothers!”  Well, it turned out when I looked at the actual census, ignoring the index, Arthur was attending Cornell for his masters and those were his frat brothers.  Art received a wonderful job about the time of their marriage at DuPont Dye Works, as a chemist so the newlyweds moved to Wilmington, Delaware where they lived until his death. 

The Houlehans had one daughter, Louise Elizabeth, who married Bradford Burnham Flint in 1939 and later, Bertram Youmans.  Louise had one son, Steve Flint, who was so generous with the wonderful photo collection to CDPL. 

About five years after their marriage (October 1917) Arthur applied for a passport, where he noted he was going to England on “commercial business” as a chemist and would be gone about six months.  Born Feb 16, 1885 in Montgomery County, he gave affidavit that he was 32 years old, and was described as being 5’9”; had a broad forehead, brown eyes, a sharp nose, medium mouth, black hair, dark complexion and I loved this, a dimple on his chin!

So young, in March of 1924, AE Houlehan passed away after suffering a week from pneumonia.  At that point, he was assistant director in the Jackson Laboratory for DuPont.  He took charge quickly, though and made sure he set Ruby and Louise up for life, leaving all his household items, books and whatever Ruby desired to do with as she saw fit.  Stocks, bonds, property and other assets to be sold and the proceeds put in the bank by Hines & Forbes Co (his executors) into a trust fund.  He also left Wabash College money as well as paying off his pledge to Cornell.  Ruby was back in Crawfordsville to live by the end of May where she purchased a home at 610 E. Main Street where she and Louise lived.  She was active in her church and especially so in American Red Cross, along with being involved in many benefit drives.  In 1961, she went to the Methodist Memorial Home in Warren, Indiana where she passed away 21 January 1968, at the good age of 83.  Although obituaries and death records note the Houlehans are buried in Oak Hill, I do not see an entry for them on FindAGrave but do rest in peace Ruby and all!

Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County. You can reach her at Karen@