Civil War general William Grose built his Italianate style Victorian home in 1870. He contracted local architect Thaddeus Coffin to oversee construction. The history of these two Hoosiers can be explored at this Indiana museum, which has been housed in the general’s mansion since 1901. For over a century, the Henry County Historical Society has been preserving and displaying Indiana history in New Castle.
One of the prized exhibits in the collection is a desk built by Thaddeus Coffin. It’s made up of 56,978 inlaid wood pieces, and it took 35 years to finish. What’s most fascinating about this hand-made desk are its drawers. One drawer tells the history of the Coffin family in Morse code, which took 2,367 pieces to complete. Another drawer displays the sheet music for “Taps.” Coffin himself was a Civil War veteran, and his military service medals are inlaid in the front and center of the desk’s panel. In total, 324 different types of wood from around the world make up the desk. Another fascinating factoid about the Thaddeus Coffin desk is that he built it after losing all fingers on his left hand. This unique woodwork can be found on the main floor of the general’s house, which Coffin also constructed. It’s a small world.
General William Grose had another home built just next door. It was for his daughter and today the two structures are connected by a pavilion. Inside the second house visitors can learn the history of Henry County Indiana schools through yearbooks, pictures and other memorabilia. Indianapolis kids love the Pence Museum of Children’s Toys, including dolls, books, tea sets and plays trucks. There’s even a school room replica, where students take a trip back in time to relate to school days from long ago. The general’s daughter’s quarters also house a library and offices for the Henry County Historical Society Museum.
In total, the two homes combined have 27 rooms. Some exhibit areas are divided by subject, including the additional room added in 1961. Furnishings from the home of William and Emma Bond were donated to the museum by their daughter. Originally, there wasn’t space for the items, so Jean Bond-Hough paid for an addition to the house. The basement of the Henry County Historical Society Museum displays old barber shop equipment, medical gear and a whole room devoted to the Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet Company.
A veteran’s tribute is on the second floor of the museum. Displays of the United States wars depict the Civil War through the Gulf War. General William Grose and the two other generals Omar Bundy and Bruce Harris are featured in the collection. clothing circa 1800 and Native American artifacts are also found on the second floor. The furniture throughout the home was mostly donated over time from other Henry County homes and many Indiana businesses.
A day trip from Indianapolis to New Castle could extend to a weekend getaway because of the numerous attractions nearby. The Hayes Arboretum, Hooseir Hill and the Model T Museum are all must-see destinations in the neighboring Wayne County. The Moore-Youse Home Museum is another historic home just to the north of Muncie. Escape from the Circle City and explore all that the crossroads of America has to offer. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Henry County Historical Society Museum
606 South Fourteenth Street
New Castle, Indiana