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Historic Brazil pulpit to become part of Indianapolis display

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

A pulpit that was fabricated over 100 years ago will soon find a spot with the Indiana Historical Society by way of Lawson-Slack Funeral Home.

Norm Knuth, Funeral Director of Lawson-Slack, says that the pulpit has been in the funeral home for nearly 40 years. A fire destroyed its original home, which was then the First Christian Church, in 1905. The pulpit and a few other items were all that survived the blaze. A new church was constructed at the same site, only to be razed years later when another new church was built in 1966.

"The pulpit didn't fit the new church's decor, I guess," Knuth said. "That or it may have been a bit too big. George Lawson was a member of the church, and they gave the pulpit to him for funeral services.

"It's really in great shape for something that's over 100 years old. I think they refinished it once several years ago, but other than that it's pretty much been untouched."

Knuth also said that much of the pulpit's history is unknown, at least to him.

"I've been trying to track its history down backwards, but I've been very, very busy recently. I'm gonna guess the pulpit is from the 1880s, because that's around when the church it was in was built."

Eloise Scroggins, exhibitions assistant for the Indiana Historical Society, came across the pulpit through her contacts in Brazil. She asked her father, Pastor Gary Scroggins, to "keep his eyes peeled" for items like the pulpit.

"Pastor Scroggins just called me up one day and asked if we still had it," Knuth said. "He said his daughter needed it for a display. I told him I did and now they're coming to pick it up."

"I attended Northview and I'm from the area," Eloise added, "so I'm always trying to include Brazil in our displays."

The antique pulpit will be shown in Indianapolis for the Historical Society's "Politics Beyond the Ballot Box" display. When asked what a pulpit has to do with politics, Scroggins said that they were "using the word 'politics' broadly."

"We're not just talking about politicians," she continued. "We're looking at a lot of other people that help shape politics. Newspaper editors and editorial cartoonists, for instance. And we're taking a look at how members of the clergy affect politics as well."

The program, which will run for a year, starts in January of 2004. The pulpit will stay in the Historical Society's possession for a little over a year, as Scroggins came to collect it last Tuesday.

Though Scroggins doesn't know the exact price of the antique, she assumes it's worth a goodly sum of money.

"I'm not very good at estimating things like this," she said, "but it's over 100 years old, and it's nearly pristine... I'm guessing it's worth at least several thousand dollars."

Knuth said that he "can't even try to estimate what it's worth," but he knows it's important to the funeral home.

"It's priceless to us."

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