(The following is a talk delivered by an early Indiana A.A. member some time in late 1954 or early 1955.)
Because of the nature of this gathering and in view of the impending 20th anniversary convention, July 1-3, 1955 at St. Louis, it has occurred to me that a brief history of Alcoholics Anonymous in Indiana might be of interest.For two years, I have been trying to write this at the request of the grapevine and have had some good help, but haven’t completed the account.The story won’t be long.
A.A. first came into Indiana through Evansville, of that I am reasonably certain, due to correspondence with one J.D.H---- who now resides in Akron, Ohio where he made his original contact as the eighth (possibly ninth) man in the organization, in October 1936, some seventeen months after the founding steps in that same city.Mrs. H----- parents were Evansville residents and on the occasion of a visit there in May 1938, the couple decided to stay.His search for alcoholics who might be helped was not especially rewarding for some time, although he did make several contacts.There may have been some informal gatherings previously, but Mr. H----- has advised that what he terms the first regular established A.A. meeting was held in his little four room house, 420 South Denby St., in April or May of 1940.
Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, that same spring, a man who had been sober on his own for almost three years read the Liberty magazine article on A.A. and sent to New York for what information was available, but experienced little reaction from what he received.This man was the late, beloved Doherty S----.Later in the same year, Irwin S. M---- of the Cleveland group visited Mr. S----and took him and a Mr. B---- to Evansville to meet Mr. H----.Hope was revived in Doherty’s breast, he once told me, so that when he returned to Indianapolis, he soon interested another sufferer in the program on or about October 28th, 1940, the date now marked as the founding of the movement in the capital city.
Here let me quote from one letter I received from Mr. H----:“Doherty and I corresponded weekly, often talked on the telephone and were of mutual help.However, the growth of A.A. in Indiana is due almost entirely to Doherty.While a few groups in the Tri-state area and elsewhere stemmed from Evansville, Doherty is really the boy who put A.A. on the Indiana map.I have always considered him the No. 3 man in A.A., a statement I can boldly make after being closely associated with Dr. Bob and Bill W----.And there are others who think the same as I.”
Due to extensive and prolonged efforts by Mr. S----, more groups than I can name resulted all over the state.These include those with an original impulse with Indiana Home, an Indianapolis non-profit hospital for male alcoholics, in which he had a deep interest and where A.A. influence is strong.Hoosier groups now number 116, not including three loners with a total reported membership in the 1955 directory of 1,582.
In November of 1943, four Indiana cities were listed by New York; Evansville, Indianapolis, Ft.Wayne and South Bend.The late C.L. B---- of Ft.Wayne told me two years ago that his wife read the 1941 Alexander article in the Saturday Evening Post and ordered the Big Book which he refused to read, until he had been practically forced to enter the Keely Institute, taking the book with him.Returning home he tried to interest others, without much success.On December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Mr. B---- and three others Ft.Wayne problem drinkers attended the Indianapolis breakfast, and soon afterward started a similar gathering in the Allen County Seat.Pearl Harbor was only incidental, of course, but out of Ft.Wayne came the beginnings of many other groups in northeastern Indiana and northwestern Ohio.
The late J. C. C---- of South Bend was chiefly instrumental in launching the movement in that city, although his original association was in Chicago during 1941.Possibly the first South Bend man to seek help of A.A. was Charles F. K----, now of Elkhart, who, believe it or not, later married Mrs. C---- who is still an active member.
The first South Bend meeting was held in the C----‘s apartment in August of 1943.Some Chicagoans later lent their support and A.A. was soon moving in north central and north western Indiana.The Elkart group had its inspiration in South Bend meetings, Goshen organized under Elkart sponsorship and I understand a Lagrange man who has been attending Goshen meetings now has a home town group functioning or is about to do so.Thus it has gone all over the state, although lack of time and knowledge does not permit me to give full credit or exact history.So much for the Hoosier background of an organization which has brought you to Turkey Run, oldest of our numerous and attractive state parks.
(This story comes from the archives of A.A. World Services)