The Lincoln School For Colored Children
EDITOR’S NOTE: In 1881 Crawfordsville School Trustees ordered a school be built at the southwest corner of Spring and North Walnut Streets to serve black students in grades 1-8. Once graduated, the students attended the integrated Crawfordsville High School. This site accommodated the vast majority of black families living in Crawfordsville’s north end. Trustees purchased the lot in September 1881 for $2,000. On Dec. 3, 1881, Hinckley and Norris won the contract to build the building for $6,400. The architects designed a plain two-story red brick structure with playgrounds for all the black children who resided in that area. Lincoln School officially opened in September 1882 with 42 students. When the black population moved to the east end to work in the factories, Linclon Building 1 was renovated into Horace Mann, and Linclon Build 2 was opened on East Wabash Avenue. That building became Lincoln Rec Center and was demolished in 1981. This project began as a project historical research project to honor all those individuals who went to school in separate and unequal facilities as the law dictated.
Blanche Marie Patterson
Blanche was born on 9 August 1884 to George Franklin Patterson and Sarah Belle Keene. She was truly a woman of color; some say she was born before her time, while others think she was right on time. Born among the first generation of non-slave Black Americans, she faced a world with changing rules. Her grandmother, Mariah Gates Patterson, founded the local Bethel AME Church. Her great-grandfather, Nelson Patterson the first served the church as its first pastor. As such, she had a very religious upbringing. At a very young age, she was an accomplished musician, participating in musical performances at the local opera house for fundraisers. Local newspapers were delighted to report her performances, such as in 1898 when she played the Lohengrin Wedding March for Julius Johnson’s and Mary Dorsey’s nuptials.
During the ceremony, she stunned the attendees with her piano solo from “Rigoletto,” which the audience and newspaper reporters declared faultless. First progressing through Lincoln School for Colored Children, she graduated from Central High School in June 1902. She continued her education at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio. Wilberforce, founded in 1856, was the first college to be owned and operated by Blacks to provide classical education and teacher training for Black youth. After the inception of the Civil War, the university closed in 1862. The African Methodist Church purchased it in 1863 to ensure its survival, making it the first Black-owned and operated university in the nation. Blanche would often return to Wilberforce for its graduation ceremonies.
After graduation, she joined a traveling Minstrel Show as part of the Jubilee Gospel. Blanche returned to Crawfordsville after a couple of years to care for her sick mother. By 1911 1912, Blanche was teaching music at Lincoln School for Colored Children for an annual salary of $75.75.
After her mother passed, Blanche went into the beautician business with two of her friends. By May 1926, the newspaper reported that Blanche had one of the state’s most up-to-date and finest beauty parlors, the Petite Beauty Shop, located at 223 Ben Hur Building, a White-only building. The Black business owners could only see White clients. Blanche decided to expand the business and studied podiatry under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Anthony. At least as late as the 1930s, a podiatrist could refer to someone performing foot massages or foot care. Blanche may have received her podiatry credentials via a beauty school or been medically trained. After extensive research for her licensing information, it is possible that Blanche herself kept the only proof of her licensure/credentials. In her business diary is a list of her Customer Service Code of Conduct. Blanche also signed many death certificates for the Black community. Her business was active through the 1960s. Many residents have fond memories of getting their feet massaged by Blanche. One recalled, “her hands were so soft like butter, and she always had a kind word for me.” Blanche was a respected community member by both Black and White citizens; she spent her life taking care of others, was a Black community leader, belonged to several lodges, and was very involved in the church missionary society. She stayed active until many years past the average retirement age. She entertained crowds at many fundraisers with her spirited and energetic piano recitals. She engaged in discussions and activities that promoted and improved the welfare of Crawfordsville’s Black community. She branched out to state and local organizations such as the National Beauty Culture League of Indiana (NBCL). Founded in 1919, the national organization began instituting improvements in the cosmetology industry, such as high standards in conduct and disseminating scientific methods of hair, scalp, and skin treatment. Blanche was often the keynote speaker at meetings and conferences.
In October 1941, Crawfordsville hosted the central district meeting of the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. This nonprofit group of like-minded Black women shared information on social issues facing Indiana’s Black community, published monthly newsletters, sponsored fund-raising activities, and established a scholarship fund. Blanche was serving one of her many terms as president at the time. One of her keynote addresses was “Club Women in National Defense.” She was a member of and on the executive board of the local branch of the NAACP. She served the organization as its vice president and as secretary
On a cold, snowy day in February 1965, Blanche drove to Jasper to care for some friends. Near Linton, her car skidded on the icy road and collided with an oncoming truck, badly injuring her. She was returned to Crawfordsville’s Culver Hospital. She was 80 years old at the time. She died on 25 February 1965 and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. Most of her assets were left to support a home for the elderly in Indianapolis.