The Putnam County Museum currently has on display various paintings of noted Putnam County artist Elisha Cowgill. One of these paintings is of the historic Gillespie/Lynch home, located at 501 West Washington Street, Greencastle. In his painting, Cowgill casts a woman on the front porch, a man on the steps leading up to the home and four young boys sitting together on what looks like a mule. Cowgill liked to capture the historical significance of the items in his paintings in great detail, including representations of the people in their historical context. We will talk about the people in this painting, but first we will discover some interesting facts about the home itself and the people who lived there.
Constructed in 1830, the Gillespie/Lynch house is one of the most historic and iconic homes in the county. James Gillespie (1788-1825), a native of Virginia married Sarah Catherine Peck (1788-1868), who was born in Pennsylvania, on March 1, 1806 in Fleming County, Kentucky. They moved to Clinton County, Ohio about 1810, where James died in 1825.
They had about eight or nine children, of whom three became prominent in the early history of Putnam County.
Thomas Gillespie (1810-1890) married Elizabeth Shore Farrow (1821-1896). They lived in Greencastle and had about 15 children.
Leah Gillespie (1823-1891) married Dr. Michael J. Lynch (1831-1881) on 29 July 1851 in Putnam County.
James H. Gillespie (1823-1896) James and Leah were twins, both born September 23, 1823. It appears James never married.
After James Gillespie died in 1825, Catherine moved to Greencastle, where she acquired 70 acres from John W. Clark on November 18, 1828 for $387.50, which includes part of the east half of northeast quarter of section 20 township 14 north range 4 west (Greencastle Township), recorded in deed book A, page 368. Clark had acquired this by land patent from the United States Government, which was granted July 10, 1823. This property was at that time on the western edge of the new town of Greencastle. Catherine Gillespie was the daughter of Daniel and Mary Susanna Swartz Eckert Peck. Three of her brothers, William, John and Jacob Peck, had acquired lands in Putnam County in the years 1825 and 1827. It appears Catherine Gillespie moved her family to Putnam County to be near her brothers. In 1830, she constructed the historic Gillespie/Lynch home at the west end of Washington Street, where it intersects Gillespie Street, named in honor of that pioneer family.
As noted in various historic records, and the obituaries of several of her children and grandchildren, Catherine built the home by burning the brick on her own premises and bringing the hardware by wagon from the Ohio River. Catherine was a leading citizen and helped Greencastle grow and prosper in its early years.
When Catherine died in 1868, she left the seventy acres she had acquired from John W. Clark, including the family home, to her twin son James H. Gillespie and daughter Leah Lynch as noted in Catherine’s will which was probated February 18, 1868. James, who apparently never married, was a dry goods merchant on the southwest corner of the public square. He and Leah split the 70 acres over the next several years so that he received the bulk of the acreage. The home, including the three acres it sat on, passed to Leah and her husband Dr. Michael J. Lynch. Dr. and Mrs. Lynch were prominent citizens and lived a fascinating life. Dr. Michael J. Lynch was at one time a teacher of Latin in Indiana Asbury (now DePauw University) and during the administration of President James Buchanan was Consul to Ireland, after which he returned to Greencastle and practiced medicine for some time. His skill and reputation in medicine caused him to be sent to Pittsburg Landing , as an expert on smallpox.
Dr. Lynch and Leah Gillespie Lynch had at least 5 children, including:
James Eckels Lynch (1854-1908) who married Emma Benedict (1851-1909) in 1891.
Edmond Burke Lynch (1862 -1912) who married Fannie (Lillian F.) Moore (1872- 1910) on December 23, 1891.
When Leah Gillespie Lynch died in 1891, the home passed to her eldest son James E. Lynch and his wife Emma, who apparently never had any children. As quoted from his obituary in the Greencastle Herald on January 23, 1909:
“James Eckels Lynch, eldest son of Dr. Michael J. Lynch and Leah Gillespie Lynch was born on the 15th day of October 1854 and departed this life on the 11th day of December 1908; aged 54 years 1 month and 26 days. Mr. Lynch had been in poor health for more than one year and was afflicted with heart disease. Pneumonia and kidney complications caused, perhaps, while doing service with the corps of engineers in surveying the new lines for the Big Four Railway Company in reconstruction of its line through this and adjoining counties.
Mr. Lynch was a good neighbor, kindhearted, noble and generous, and would always find time to do his friends a favor. He was a great favorite among children and young people. His grandmother, Mrs. Catherine Peck Gillespie and his mother were among the early settlers of this place, coming here from the state of Ohio in 1828, and settled upon the land upon which his home now stands.
In the year 1834 when the Presbyterians of this place organized and built a house of worship the grandmother and mother assisted in the work. The building is still standing and is now occupied by Mrs. Haspel on West Columbia street. In 1835 when Miss Myra Jewett organized the first Sabbath School in this county, the mother of James was one of its charter members and taught a class for some time in the school. The father, Dr. Michael J. Lynch, was at one time a teacher of Latin in Old Asbury (now DePauw University) and during the administration of President James Buchanan was Consul to Ireland, after which he returned to Greencastle and practiced medicine for some time.
Mr. Lynch had many friends in this community and will be greatly missed. He leaves a widow and three brothers, Edmond B. Lynch of this city; John Lynch of Cairo, Illinois and Emmett Lynch of Chicago, Illinois.
The funeral services were held at the old home now occupied by his brother, Edmond Lynch, on Sunday afternoon, December the 13th, 1908, and were largely attended by neighbors and friends.”
On February 3, 1909, not long after James Lynch’s death, his widow Emma deeded to James’ brother Edmond B. Lynch for $1,000 part of the east half of the north east quarter of section 20, township 14 north range 4 west (Greencastle Township), recorded in deed book 66, page 563, which included the historic house and three acres. The deed noted that James was indebted to Edmond and that Edmond paid for James’ funeral and burial. When Emma died on February 25, 1909, she was living at 212 W. Washington St, a few blocks east of the historic Gillespie/Lynch home.
Edmond B. Lynch and his wife Lillian F., who went by Fannie, occupied the historic home until Edmond’s death in 1912. Fannie preceded him in death in 1910.
As noted in Weik’s 1910 History of Putnam County and the his obituary in the Greencastle Star Democrat on September 13, 1912, “Edmund B. Lynch was born at Greencastle, Indiana, April 13, 1862. He attended the public schools for some years, but before he was out of his teens he began railroading. His first job was in the yards of the Louisville, New Albany & Chicago Railroad Company, where he worked at switching during the year 1879. He then went to the Indianapolis & St. Louis road as a brakeman, which position he held for a year and gave up to accept a place with the Wabash & Missouri Pacific in transportation work. In 1882 he returned to the Indianapolis & St. Louis and was appointed conductor, in which capacity he had charge of a train until 1886. Later he served as conductor on many roads, including the ''Cotton Belt." From 1888 to 1895 he was with the St. Louis & Southwestern; from 1892 to 1895 was a passenger conductor between Cairo, Illinois, and Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In June, 1905, he quit the railroad business, came to Greencastle and bought the furniture and undertaking plant of W P. Ledbetter, which has since occupied his attention, carrying a stock valued at about ten thousand dollars. He also owns a farm of thirty-five acres and belongs to the class of citizens described as well-to-do. Mr. Lynch is a thirty second-degree Mason, being connected with the Consistory and Shrine at Indianapolis, and the Greencastle lodges of the order. He is also a member of Lodge No. 45, Independent Order of Odd Fellow’s, Knights of Pythias Lodge No. 16, and the Elks Lodge, No. 1077, at Greencastle. While in Arkansas in 1890 he was commissioned as deputy United States Marshal and served for one year. On December 23, 1891, Mr. Lynch married Fanny, daughter of Lewis Moore and a native of Memphis, Tennessee. She met her future husband after her removal to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. They have had five children: Edmund B. Jr., born at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1893; Paul Fleming, born in 1894; John Earl, born in 1896: Arthur Moore, born at Greencastle in 1898; Ralph, who was born in 1901, died the next year. Mrs. Lynch, the subject's wife, died on January 15, 1910, after an illness of about one year.
The family are Baptists. The subject is a Democrat in his political belief. The subject's mother brought the first cook stove into Putnam county. Her mother, Katherine, was the best posted woman on Scripture in the county. Three generations have occupied the house and three acres of ground which
constitute the present home of Mr. Lynch. It is located at the foot of West Washington and Gillespie streets, the latter being named in honor of the original owners. The place was noted for the hospitality of the mother and grandmother and the other members of this fine old family.”
In addition, the death notice of Edmond Lynch Sr., as reported in the Greencastle Star Democrat on September 13, 1912, included the following information:
“E. B. LYNCH DIES IN DENVER, COLO.
FORMER FURNITURE DEALER OF THIS CITY AND DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR CORONER OF PUTNAM COUNTY, EXPIRES IN THE WEST WHERE HE HAD GONE IN HOPES OF HEALING HIS HEALTH,
BODY BEING BROUGHT HERE
Edmund B. Lynch, former furniture dealer and undertaker of this city and Democratic nominee for coroner, died about 6 o’clock Sunday morning in Denver, Colo., where he recently went in hopes that the climate would benefit his health. The news of his death caused little surprise among his many friends here, as his condition during the past few months had been such that death might occur at any time. Hardening of the arteries is attributed as the cause of his demise.
Mr. Lynch was taken ill more than six months ago. Many times during his illness, which was of more than six months’ duration, his life was despaired of. About three weeks ago he went to Denver hoping the higher altitude and change of climate would give him a longer lease on life. The change did no good, however, and news that his condition was worse was received here a few days before his death.
Mr. Lynch during his residence here for the past few years was an active Democrat and his work and advice during campaigns was of great value to his party. He was nominated by the Democrats as their candidate for coroner at the recent primaries.”
The will of Edmond Lynch Sr. was probated in Putnam County September 16, 1912, as noted in the Greencastle Star Democrat on September 20, 1912 (also Will Book 4, page 289)
“E. B. LYNCH GIVES ESTATE TO SONS
FOUR HEIRS OF LATE GREENCASTLE MAN GIVEN ALL PROPERTY WITH EXCEPTION OF ONE SMALL BEQUEST TO NEPHEW
Edmund B. Lynch. Jr., Fleming Lynch, Earl Lynch and Arthur M. Lynch, the four sons of the late E. B. Lynch, are the main benefactors named in the will of Mr. Lynch, which was filed for probate in the Circuit court Monday morning. The estate is valued at about twelve thousand dollars. The will was made several months ago and was witnesses by A. J. Hamrick and Robert B. Lynch, a nephew of the deceased. John H. James was made administrator of the estate and the Central Trust Company appointed guardian of the four boys.
The first paragraph of the will sets out that all just debts and funeral expenses be paid first. It next directs that all property, personal or real, including notes, chattels, accounts and real estate, shall be equally divided among the four sons with the exception of special bequest to Robert B. Lynch, a nephew and to each of the four sons.
The special bequets are as follows:
Edmund B. Lynch. Jr.—Masonic ring and Masonic lapel button.
Fleming Lynch—two diamond rings, and a Masonic Scottish Rite watch charm.
Earl Lynch—one diamond ring and broach.
Arthur M. Lynch—one diamond ring, one pair earrings, one gold chain, one pin, large diamond and a watch and chain.
To his nephew, Robert B. Lynch, Mr. Lynch gave one diamond earring.”
Also, as noted in the Putnam County deed books:
Edmund B. Lynch Sr., unmarried, warrants to Edmund B. Lynch Jr. on April 12, 1911 for love and $1, part of the east half of the north east quarter of section 20 township 14 north range 4 west, recorded in deed book 71, page 337, size of 233 feet by 200 feet.
Also, Edmund B. Lynch Sr., unmarried, warrants to Edmund B. Lynch Jr., Paul F. Lynch, John E. Lynch and Arthur M. Lynch as tenants in common on August 13, 1912 for $1, part of the east half of the north east quarter of section 20 township 14 north range 4 west, recorded in deed book 71, page 338, three acres.
It appears Edmond Lynch Sr. deeded to his four sons jointly the historic Gillespie/Lynch home and the three acres it sat on, with the home going to Ed Lynch, Jr., prior to going to Denver in his unsuccessful attempt to alleviate his health problems. When Ed Lynch Jr. died in 1941, his death notice stated the historic home was owned at that time by Frank Roberts. It has had many owners in its almost two hundred years, but the historic home still stately stands on the knoll at the west end of Washington Street.
Now back to the Elisha Cowgill painting hanging at the Putnam County Museum. Since this painting was made in the early 1900’s when the four sons of Edmond Lynch Sr. were young, the man at the foot of the steps of the home is almost certainly him, with the woman on the porch of the house being his wife Fannie (Moore) Lynch and the four boys on the mule their sons Edmund B. Lynch Jr., Paul Fleming Lynch, John Earl Lynch and Arthur Moore Lynch. I never did learn the name of the mule they were riding.