Visit Caruthers Corners!
“Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probably die in a small town
Oh, those small communities . . .”
- John Mellencamp,
Caruthers Corners is a community that places great value on its heritage. Founded in 1829 when a wagon train broke down near the Wabash River, the town is today home to about 3,000 good Midwestern folks.
Named after one of the three Town Founders, this idyllic spot is located in the northeastern edge of Indiana near the Wabash River. The area’s main agricultural crop is watermelons.
The Town’s Main Street is as picturesque as a 25¢ scenic postcard. In the center you’ll see the historic Town Hall, an impressive red-brick edifice that faces a grassy Town Square with a bandstand for warm summer nights and a skating pond for cold winter days.
The business district covers only two short blocks of South Main Street, not exactly a triumph of commerce. Looking down the street you see the blocky police department and just past that the metal-fronted Cozy Café and the DQ. Beyond there you will find the Dollar General, plus an antiques store, the Clothes Horse Boutique, Pic A Pair shoe shop, Palley’s Accounting Service, and an empty storefront that used to house a travel agency called On the Go Inc. Directly across the street you will recognize Molly’s Candle and Soap Shop, Kupnick’s Pharmacy, a T-Mobile store, and the State Farm insurance agency.
The residential areas are comprised of tree-shaded streets, freshly mown lawns, two-story brick mansions and three-story Victorian homes occupied by prominent families.
Twin hillocks overlook the grid of the Town, one topped by the impressive Hoople Mansion, the other topped by the great stone monolith that is the Perricock Museum of Science & History.
When author Booth Tarkington (Penrod, The Magnificent Ambersons) passed through Caruthers Corners in 1917, he observed: “A fine mist hangs over the watermelon fields and the sun shares a warm smile from the azure sky overhead. Maple trees line Main Street, welcoming me like colorful fandango dancers. The Town Square calls out with the voice of a songbirds. The Victorian homes on Melon Pickers Row invite me inside as if I’ve been beckoned to enter by Queen Anne herself. And two mighty stone castles look down from on high, their
pointed turrets and sharp-edged gables puncturing the sky like pinpricks. The good people wave as they note my journey along the muddy brown banks of the Wabash. Here is a home, even if I have a home elsewhere.”
A popular end-of-summer festival, you can always count on a traveling carnival with a Ferris wheel, a watermelon-eating contest in front of the Town Hall, and a big patchwork quilt competition. People parade around the grassy Town Square dressed in old-timey costumes ranging from coonskin caps and fringed leather vests to bonnets and hoop skirts. Sad Sammy Hankins still holds the record for growing the largest watermelon in the county, a 316-pounder by actual weight.
In addition to slices of watermelon, bustling food booths serve up corn dogs, sno-cones, fried tenderloins, DQ Blizzards – even fried cheese balls, a holdover from the local Swiss heritage. Also popular are “Red Injun Maize Pies” (cornbread smeared with butter and watermelon jam). Tables of baked goods offer an array of watermelon pie, watermelon upside down cake, watermelon tarts, watermelon bread, and watermelon muffins.
The town’s early days as an Indian territory are acted out in a pageant every year during the Watermelon Days festival.
Some people claim that Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley wrote this ode to watermelons while visiting Caruthers Corners:
“Old wortermelon time is a-comin’ round again,
“And they ain’t no man a-livin’ any tickleder’n me,
“Fer the way I hanker after wortermelons is a sin –
“Which is the why and wharefore, as you can plainly see.”
There’s more to Riley’s poem. Look it up.