Brief History of Story, Indiana

This area of the state now appropriately called Indiana was opened to European settlement on September 30, 1809, upon the consummation of a treaty between Governor William Henry Harrison and the Miami Indians. The so-called “Ten O’clock Treaty” opened three million acres to settlement, the boundary being a line running from Raccoon Creek on the Wabash River near Montezuma to Seymour, marked by a shadow cast at 10:00 a.m. each September 30. That line passed right through the heart of what would become the town of Story. Today, that line is denoted by a carved limestone monument in the center of Story’s village green.

The village of Story itself was founded in 1851, with the grant of a land patent from President Millard Fillmore to Dr. George Story. This original land patent is on display at the Story Inn. Dr. Story was a medical doctor who hailed from a clan of timber harvesters in southern Ohio. He and his progeny built many of the structures which distinguish this town today, from the then-ample supply of domestic hardwoods. His home and medical office nearby both managed to survive the forces of entropy.

Story soon became the largest settlement in the area. In its heyday (1880-1929) the village supported two general stores, a nondenominational church, a one-room schoolhouse, a grain mill, a sawmill, a slaughterhouse, a blacksmith’s forge and a post office.

Story never recovered from the Great Depression (1929-1933), as families abandoned their hilly, marginal farms in search of work elsewhere, a departure plucked from Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath". Brown County lost half of its population between 1930 and 1940. This exodus of people paved the way for the creation of the Brown County State Park and the Hoosier National Forest, as farmland escheated to the government for non-payment of taxes. For that reason, Brown County is 80% forested today (second-growth, but still impressively mature).

The economic hardship also fostered a cottage industry producing bathtub gin of rather dubious quality, an activity which apparently kept the grain mill at Story occupied well into the 1930’s. Sheriff Clarence Moore made local headlines in 1932 when he captured a still at Story; today his aged daughter discloses that several gallons disappeared from the evidence room.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers flooded the area in 1960, creating Lake Monroe, Indiana’s second largest lake, but consequently inundating the little town of Elkinsville and cutting Story’s access to Bloomington via Elkinsville Road. Elkinsville Road is Story’s main street, which now dead-ends four miles to the west at a fallen iron bridge. Thusly isolated, Story’s economic fate was sealed. Story’s General Store limped along until the Nixon Administration, dispensing Moon Pies, Nehi sodas and leaded gasoline (at the then outrageous price of nearly 40 cents per gallon). The Gold and Red Crown Standard gas pumps today stand as silent witness to that pre-OPEC era of profligate energy consumption.

This paucity of capital was, in retrospect, a blessing. No new construction followed the Great Depression, and fortuitously, no one attempted to “modernize” the venerable but aging structures at Story when the rest of the nation embarked upon a McCarthy-esque campaign to eliminate unsightly wooden floors, stamped tin metal ceilings and globe lighting and replace them with shiny asbestos floor tiles and dropped fiberboard ceilings sporting snazzy new recessed neon bulbs. For that reason, Story is perhaps the best preserved example of a 19th century small town that survives in the American Midwest.

Benjamin (no last name) and Cynthia Schultz purchased the General Store building in the early 1980’s. Benjamin employed his handyman skills, and Cynthia her culinary skills, and they jointly pursued their vision of creating a bed & breakfast known as the "Story Inn". They gave birth to their children in what is now known as the Morrison-Kelly Room upstairs. The business prospered, and over the following decade and a half, the couple acquired the nearly 23 acre tract that comprises the town.

The entire town of Story is now a country inn/bed & breakfast offering fine dining, catering, and lodging. The second floor of the Old General Store (briefly a Studebaker buggy factory in the 1920’s) has been renovated into four quaint bed & breakfast accommodations notable for their year-round occupant, the “Blue Lady.” The Blue Lady is a mirthful albeit innocuous apparition with flowing white robes, whose cheeky behavior has been observed by Story Inn employees and recorded in guest books since the 1970’s.  The Treaty House, the Alra Wheeler homestead, the Carriage House, the Old Mill, and other historic buildings around town have each been tastefully and authentically renovated or restored into guest cottages, many with kitchenettes and hot tubs. In 2011, the celebrated Indianapolis attorney and talk show host Greg Garrison purchased an adjacent five acre tract that overlooks the town, and built an appropriate rural cottage consisting of four tastefully appointed rooms. The Story Inn manages "The Garrison", as it has come to be called, bringing the total number of rooms/cottages to 18.  You may take a virtual tour of the rooms by clicking HERE.

Story’s Old General Store building, the crown jewel of this historic town with its long-retired Standard Oil Crown gas pumps out front, is now a celebrated gourmet restaurant.  The basement of this venerable building serves as a tavern and wine cellar.  The restaurant is open year-round, serving for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and featuring locally-grown or sourced produce, meats, cheeses and eggs. Seating at dinner is by reservation only.  The Story Inn offers monthly wine dinners, and serves as a lovely venue for weddings and other private events, large and small.  The Story Inn also hosts two large public events each year, the Indiana Wine Fair and the Hoosier Hops & Harvest.  These events take place in the field behind Story's century-old barn, in April and September, respectfully.   

Nature has reclaimed most of Brown County, and today the area surrounding Story is wild and natural. Story sits at the edge of Salt Creek, a labyrinthine 100 mile system of quiet, slow-moving tributaries which now form the backwaters of Lake Monroe. This moist bottom land, now under the protection of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, is a spectacular spawning ground for fish and fowl alike, a place of serenity and raw beauty found nowhere else in Indiana.   

To view the history of our Stained Glass click HERE.