Harry Elkin was a well-known farmer and recognized as the best qualified historian in Bowling Green, Indiana. He was born in 1882 at Bowling Green, the oldest town in Clay County.
His father, Philip W. Elkin, a Civil War Veteran, born in 1837, died in 1921. He married Alice Long; they had five children: Walter, Everett, Clinton, Benjamin, Hettie, and Earl. After Alice’s death, Philip married Fredericka Meueller, born 1862 and died in 1957. Philip and Fredericka Elkin had two sons, Ernest and Harry.
Harry married Mable Hoffa, born 1892 and died in 1926, while giving birth to their only child, a daughter, Carolyn. The Harry and Carolyn went to Pennsylvania for a while then returned with his mother, Fredericka Elkin, to Bowling Green where they raised Carolyn. Harry cared for his mother until her death.
Always interested in the early history of Bowling Green, he was an official of the Old Settlers Reunion. In 1933 Mr. Elkin was the promoter, sponsor, and author of the first large billboard sign west of Bowling Green on State Highway 46. It was twenty-one feet high and thirty-five feet long and at the time was believed to be the only one of its kind in the USA. Citizens of Clay County provided the money and labor for the memorial. The sign depicted early settler, David Thomas, talking to the Potawatomi Indian Chief with whom he traded for his homestead in the wilderness. It was painted by John J. Watts, a portrait painter of Brazil.
Harry operated some restaurants in Pittsburgh and later owned an old-fashioned ice cream store at Bowling Green. He also had a stand at the Old Settlers Picnic for many years where he sold barbecue sandwiches; according to records, he never told the recipe. He owned an antique car which he drove in many parades. He purchased the old Bowling Green Bridge over the Eel River and converted some of the poplar lumber into bookends.
Possibly, Mr. Elkin did more to collect and preserve the history of the county than any other individual. Throughout the years he wrote and published many pamphlets and articles concerning Clay County. Among them were the Histograms, which were written as souvenir programs for the Old Settlers Reunion in the early 1940s. Copies of these programs are highly prized today. In the programs, Mr. Elkin walks the reader through the early days of the country and makes it possible to visualize the country as it was in the early days of the 1800s. Many articles were published in the area newspapers including several in the Terre Haute papers.
In 1962 Harry was found dead in his home on the south side of the public square at Bowling Green, of a presumed heart attack. He was survived by his daughter, Carolyn, who was a teacher at Huntington, New York, and his retired brother, Ernest, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who was an official of a large business.
Clay County remembers and appreciates Harry Elkin and other citizens like him who appreciated and preserved the history of the county.
Source: Harry L. Elkin Obituary, Old Settlers Program Book and Clay County Indiana History 1880 - 1984
Submitted by: Jo Ann Pell – Clay County Genealogical Library at Center Point, Indiana