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Greencastle Junction and Limedale

As we can see by the detail map in the 1879 Putnam County Atlas, the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad and the Louisville, New Albany & Chicago Railroad (later the Pennsylvania and Monon lines) crossed just southwest of Greencastle. Someone in a flash of brilliant deduction decided to call this area Greencastle Junction. This community was laid out in 1864 by William Stegg and surveyed by William H. Shields. In the year 1856, a lime and stone quarry began operation at the Junction by Hellens, Butcher & Stegg, and carried on extensively, shipping stone and lime for a number of years. It has been said that the peak population of Greencastle Junction reached approximately four hundred and at one time there was a general store, two hotels, three stone quarries, one lime kiln, two grocery stores, a blacksmith shop and a brick school building.

In the early 1870’s it was determined that a post office was needed at Greencastle Junction. To avoid confusion with the Greencastle post office, a different name was needed. It was decided to call the post office Limedale, in honor of the local lime deposits and bustling lime and stone industries. The Limedale post office began operation December 16, 1873, under the direction of duly appointed post master Alpheus Morris. It appears though that the community adhered for many years to the Greencastle Junction name, referring at first only to the post office as Limedale. In time, the community dropped the Greencastle Junction name and only referred to itself as Limedale. The Limedale post office only had three postmasters. William Berigan. Jr. was appointed June 12, 1877 and William J. Steeg served as postmaster from February 13, 1878 up to the time the Limedale post office was discontinued on October 30, 1909. It appears that Steeg operated the post office out of his hotel, which was usually known as the “Junction House.”

An article in The Daily Banner on June 16, 1942 highlighted two local characters and the Liars Club they apparently helped found.

It is indeed a rare thing for a conversation to dwell long on Limedale and its older days without the names of the locally-famous and beloved VanFossen brothers being mentioned. Levi, one of these two, was brought from Frederick. Md., by Wm. Steeg to sharpen the drills used in the stone quarry owned by Mr. Steeg, from which the stone was secured for the lime kilns. He was an expert blacksmith. Before long, his brother, Lute (whose full name was Martin Luther VanFossen), came also, and the two opened a blacksmith shop which became the headquarters of some of the best story-tellers ever known in Putnam county. In fact, the VanFossens started the unique but widely known Liars’ club, at whose sessions Baron Munchausen could have sat in and learned many things. A piece of log chain was the prize awarded to the teller of the best lie and The Banner unblushingly admits it once had the piece of chain in his possession, as a reward for a remarkable piece of fiction, related by the then-editor in a session of the club.

One example of those stories is this, John Branham and Levi VanFossen being the participants: Branham: "Good morning. Levi, what’s the news this morning?’’ VanFossen: ‘“Well, I just heard that the Wabash river is on fire.’’ Branham: "I guessed as much. I just now saw a flock'of suckers flying over town with their feathers scorched."

Also noted in that article Mrs. Katherine Steeg, then 81 years old, told a Banner reporter that she was born at Limedale, married William Steeg, a nephew of the original William Steeg of Limedale, in the year 1878, and spent most of her life there. Mrs. Steeg indicated that she and her husband took over the Junction House and operated it for 35 years. During all of that time, the VanFossen brothers, who were unmarried, were boarders there, occupying room No, 13, in which they had lived a number of years before that, a total of 47 years, in No. 13, and no bad luck ever came upon them.

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