William Fortune and Traders Point

William Fortune was an integral part of the emergence of Indianapolis from a rural village in the 188os to first class city status in 1920. Philanthropic institutions like the war chest and Commercial Club (predescessor to the Chamber of Commerce) benefitted from his leadership; he founded and led the local chapter of Indiana Red Cross for a quarter of a century. He was an early leader in the railway industry, the highway construction industry and in telecommunications (he called The Indianapolis Star in the city’s first telephone call), and he was the first board member of the Eli Lilly Company not employed by the company or related to the family. He also loved the Traders Point area. The following account, from Charles Latham, Jr.’s 1994 biography of Mr. Fortune, reveals how Fortune came to live on Moore Road.
“By the 1930s people were beginning to move away from the “Old Northside” and Fortune joined the migration. His decision to leave his old neighborhood came about through the Bowman Elders. As Fortune’s daughter, Madeline Elder remembered it, “We’re going out to look at a house that maybe we can rent for the summer.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I want to go with you.’ . . .and he was so entranced with it that he could hardly wait until the next morning to see if he could buy it.” This was a white stucco house which had been built by the Edward McKees on Moore Road near Traders Point, on a bluff above Eagle Creek. There were trees, and nine acres of land, with a grass tennis court and a croquet ground.
At first the Traders Point house was a summer place for the Elder family. Partly for the benefit of the Elder children, and partly because their mother discovered that she liked farming, the place was soon brimming with chickens and quail and pigeons and turkeys and bees, and even a horse for Anne Elder. Fortune added a decorative touch to the collection by ordering a peacock. It was installed on the first-floor porch, and on its first night of occupancy it let forth a screech such as only peacocks can let forth. Young Bill Elder, sound asleep on the porch above, found himself being shaken by his mother, who thought he was having a nightmare: “You keep quiet! Don’t do that! Eventually there were a hundred and twenty peacocks, some white, in their own house, making a symphony that the neighbors found less than musical. Fortune liked the country house so well that he joined the Elder family there, winterized the house, and continually remodeled it. By now he was essentially retired, and had developed a liesurely routine of life. He had breakfast in bed, then was driven to his office, dropping off the Elder children at school on the way, and invariably nibbling at a bunch of Concord grapes to finish off his breakfast. He would have dinner with the family, and enjoyed discussing politics with Bowman Elder, who was becoming an important member of Paul McNutt’s state administration. This three generation household continued until 1936, when the Elders built a home of their own across the road.
Fortune died in 1942 and the funeral service was read at the house in Traders Point. Fortune is buried in a mausoleum which he had built for his family, near the summit of Crown Hill and the grave of his friend, James Whitcomb Riley. “

About Ross Reller

I am pleased you have expressed interest in learning more about the historic Traders Point area in Indianapolis, Indiana. From 1980 to 1982 I was employed in the PR department at Conner Prairie Museum in Hamilton County. There I learned about William Conner, an important figure in Indiana's pioneer days. A decade later I became interested in the history of the Traders Point area and was surprised to learn that William Conner had been the first land owner in the area. In 1823 he acquired, through the Federal land office in Brookville, a patent for an 80 acre tract carved by Eagle Creek and an Indian trail that was about to be named the first toll roadway through the township (Lafayette Road). Thirty years later a village took shape within this tract. A grain mill on the creek, houses, churches, stores, restaurants, and two gas stations would take shape here in the creek valley hamlet of Traders Point. By 1962 all improvements (except a farmer's co-op) had been removed by the Indianapolis Flood Control Board to make way for Interstate 65 and a new reservoir. This blog is dedicated to preserving evidence of this historic area but I will occasionally use it to discuss related topics. To activate this follow, simply click the confirm button below. If you don't want to follow, ignore this message and we'll never bother you again. I am also a member of the Old Pleasant Hill Cemetery, a non profit association still selling burial plots for those who would like to spend all eternity in Traders Point, and I am an officer in the Pike Township Historical Society and the Traders Point Association of Neighborhoods.
This entry was posted in Area History, Historic Residents and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to William Fortune and Traders Point

  1. Nancy Jacoby says:

    Who do I contact for purchasing an additional plot near my parent’s plots?

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