In April 1894 Joseph Allen Minturn of Indianapolis, a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the District of Columbia, wrote to the headquarters of the General society at Plymouth, Massachusetts, to inquire into the steps that would be necessary to establish an Indiana State Society. He was informed that a new colony would be chartered upon receipt by the General Society of a petition signed by twenty Indiana residents whose lineages had been accepted by the Society. With the help of the historians of several other state societies, Mr. Minturn was able to find nine previously accepted members who resided in Indiana. He then set out to locate other interested Hoosiers who met the membership qualifications.
A considerable time lapse occurred before this goal was achieved. However, with the help of Herbert Folger, historian of the California Society, twenty more Indiana residents who either held membership in California, or who had been found to be eligible, had been discovered. By the fall of 1915 when the charter application was finally submitted, thirty-five signatures were appended to the petition, and the charter was granted on March 21, 1916, almost twenty-two years after Mr. Minturn’s original inquiry.
On April 14, 1916 an organizing meeting was held at the residence of Mrs. Minnie Coffin Murphy at 947 North Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis. A draft of the proposed Constitution and bylaws were read, studied and adopted, and officers were elected for the Society. The members also presented and passed a resolution thanking Mr. Folger for his invaluable help and Mr. Minturn for having made the organization possible.
1920 marked the three hundredth anniversary of the Pilgrim landing, and the Society contributed to the occasion by holding a festive banquet at the Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis and by contributing almost four hundred dollars toward the acquisition of Cole’s Hill at Plymouth, the site of the Pilgrim burials in the winter of 1620/1621 when half of the company died.
The Society’s first yearbook was printed and distributed in 1928. That year also saw the first observance of Compact Sunday marked by member’s attendance in a body at an Indianapolis church – a tradition which continues into the present.
The Society’s bylaws provided for a class of junior membership open to those under eighteen years of age, and this group became a reality on May 18, 1938 with fifty-eight charter members. Two years later it had grown to one hundred and five.
The Society marked its Silver Anniversary on April 14, 1941 with a visit from Secretary General Harold G. Murray who was the featured speaker at the anniversary celebration. On this occasion the Society paid special tribute to its founder, Hon. Joseph Allen Minturn. A 69 page book was published containing articles of historic significance, a list of the Mayflower passengers and their descendants in the Indiana Society as well as lists of officers, past governors and junior members.
The Society’s fiftieth anniversary was celebrated at a banquet held on April 2, 1966. The occasion was dedicated to the three charter members of the Hodges family: Edward Francis Hodges, M.D., the first governor; his son Fletcher Hodges, M.D., the second governor, elected to fill the vacancy created by the untimely death of his father less than six months after he assumed office, and the fifth governor, Mrs. Laura Fletcher Hodges, widow of Dr. Edward Hodges. Fletcher Hodges, Jr., Ph.D., Director of the Stephen Collins Foster Memorial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, spoke briefly and thanked the Society for honoring his family.
In order to mark the Bicentennial of the Independence of the United States and the sixtieth anniversary of the Indiana Society, the Society published a 436 page book entitled Mayflower Descendants, Lineages of the Indiana Society which included the Mayflower pedigree of every person who had ever been a member.
For several years a cash prize, the Joseph Allen Minturn Award, was presented to a Butler University student for the best manuscript on Plymouth history. At present the Society awards $3000 in scholarships each year to qualified students and presents books on appropriate genealogical subjects to the State Library as memorials to its deceased members. It also contributes to the Five Generations Project of the General Society.
The Society meets twice a year, spring and fall, with a Board of Assistants meeting taking place in the months that precede the regular meetings. A semi-annual newsletter is published and sent to all members. Since its founding, over sixteen hundred persons have claimed membership in the Indiana Society. At present approximately 440 members are carried on the rolls.
A number of historical documents related to the society have been made available in PDF format: