Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Tarkingtons

Photo: Booth Tarkington

In recent weeks I've become semi-infatuated with the Tarkingtons.  Booth and Joseph to be exact.  Booth Tarkington was one of America's premier authors at the turn of the 20th century and an Indianapolis native.  He was best-known for his novels The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams, and is one of only three American authors to win the Pulitzer Prize more than once (the other two being William Faulkner and John Updike . . . a tidbit for you literary rats).

Booth's grandfather, Joseph, was a circuit rider and the founding pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church (then Methodist Episcopal) back in the year 1828--my current parish.  Surprisingly, there is a copious amount of material on Joseph Tarkington who, because he was a Methodist, kept copious "methodical" notes as to his whereabouts and his ministry. 

One of my hopes is to write a history of Calvary for the 200 year anniversary of the church (still a ways off in 2028).  But I've already begun my research into the Tarkington family, who seemed like an enterprising and resourceful bunch.

Joseph Tarkington, I've learned, was one of the first Methodists to cross the Ohio River into Indiana, not long after Bishop McKendree came into the Indiana territory around 1802.  McKendree succeeded Francis Asbury as bishop of the Methodist Church in America and, unlike Asbury, was the first "native-born" Methodist bishop.  But this Tarkington fellow, who appears to be a robust sort of young man and a deeply-committed itinerant preacher, established Calvary in what was then known as "Herrisburg".  Like most circuit-riders of the age, he stayed one year and then moved on to a different appointment, living off the land and the hospitality of the church, wherever he discovered it or established a people.

So . . . this Tarkington fellow is a part of my heritage.  I feel like I'm getting to know the son-of-a-gun.  He did good work.  And his grandson Booth obviously helped to put Indianapolis on the map.  I hope to write more about them both in the years ahead. 

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