By Brianna Waggoner
150 years ago, William Culbertson walked into the grand yellow mansion on East Main Street with his wife Cornelia. Today, that mansion retains undying hospitality and honor, as well as historical value for the city of New Albany.
According to Culbertson Mansion program developer Kaitlyn Tisdale, William Culbertson came to New Albany when he was 21 years old and started his dry-goods business with his brother, John Culbertson. Together, they sold fabrics, clothing, and leather goods, working “hand-over-fist,” as Tisdale describes.
“William Culbertson did not believe in marking up his products, and by not marking his products up, he became the most competitive dealer in town, so everyone wanted his business because they were getting the better deal,” said Tisdale.
Eventually, Culbertson became one of the wealthiest men in Indiana during the 1860s. Tisdale refers to him as a “King Midas” because of his talent in investment.
“He was a very wise investor. Anything he invested in turned to gold,” said Tisdale. “By the 1860s, he was a multimillionaire.”
Unheard of at the time, Cornelia was allowed to design the mansion despite being a woman. She was even credited as the architect of the house when it was built.
“I think it wasn’t until 60 years later that they had even socially accepted a woman to designing, so the fact that William allowed her to do that is just incredible, and that’s another reason why I’m so proud to work here,” said event coordinator Bryce Romig, a 2014 FC graduate.
While English teacher Tim Romig knows the history of the mansion, it is not his main interest.
“I’ve learned like who built it, when they built it, why they built it. I mostly like to focus on the dark history like hauntings and stuff like that,” said Mr. Romig.
The home took two full years to build. Construction began in 1867 and the Culbertson family walked into the completed mansion in 1869. Furthermore, it had heat and running water, features most homes did not have at the time.
“Nobody had running water inside their house. It had central heat in the form of a coal-burning furnace. Nobody had that. Businesses had furnaces that could put out heat. Not homes,” said Tisdale.
William Culbertson had ten kids and three wives in total, so many servants were needed to run the home efficiently.
“There was always a staff of about 12 servants here working that [were] men and women, mainly immigrants. It was a workplace and a home, so you have to keep that in mind. The Culbertsons couldn’t have lived in this house without them,” said Tisdale.
Four years after Cornelia Culbertson passed away of cholera in 1880, William married his third wife, Rebecca. In moving into the mansion, she made a few changes to the interior. Tisdale notes that she didn’t make any major architectural changes to the mansion such as tearing down walls, showing respect towards Cornelia’s original ideas when she was alive.
After William Culbertson died at age 78, the mansion switched ownership to the McDonald family and then the American Legion, where it underwent many changes, including sealing the basement floor with cement and tearing down walls. The house is now owned by the state as a historical site.
“It’s been through many a-changes but I’m really glad it’s back in the state’s hands today,” said Bryce. “I always say we want to take it right back to the very first day the Culbertsons ever set foot in here, so everything that we’re doing, we’re trying to replicate back to exactly what it would have looked like when they were here.”
Because his son and step daughter both work at the Culbertson Mansion, Mr. Romig is often able to walk through the mansion with his own tour.
“My tour, I run the New Albany Odd Walk, we go there on occasion, and we also get to go inside and tell stories,” said Mr. Romig.
Along with tours being available at the Culbertson Mansion, the haunted house event is heavily advertised as well. Bryce offers advice for those interested in participating.
“I believe standard admission for an adult is 15 dollars,” said Bryce. “You may have to wait in a line, so maybe wear a jacket because it starts to get very chilly.”
Opening day for “Literally, a Haunted House,” the annual haunted house event at the Culbertson, starts Sept. 27 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The house typically has a sign outside of every mishap at the haunted house, such as how many people left the tour early or how many people wet themselves. Bryce encourages visitors to “come with a brave face on.”
Story by Wyatt Williams, Hallie Funk, Kaitlyn Winchester, Catherine Amos
Photo by Brooke Miller
When 2011 graduate Chelsey Carr joined the Peace Corps, she told them, “I will go anywhere in the world, and I will do anything.”
Carr had wanted to join since elementary school. “I found out about the Peace Corps when I was eight years old. I knew I wanted to do something that mattered.” Her passion is helping young kids and learning different cultures. When she graduated from college, she resolved to apply.
The application process was long and arduous. Her first application was denied, but Carr didn’t give up hope. She applied again and was approved to go to Myanmar; however, soon after, she received an email asking how she felt about transferring to Moldova.
When Carr talked about the moment she decided to go to Moldova, she said, “‘Where is Moldova? What is this country?’ I had never heard of it, and I paid attention in history class.”
She was forced to talk herself out of her hesitation. “I was looking at it, kind of having a mental freak out- do I say yes, do I say no, what do I do?- and I was like, ‘This is so dumb. Obviously, I want to do this’.”
“This amazing, motivated young girl has grown into an outstanding socially conscious young woman. She is an inspiration and an excellent example of going out and getting the life you want,” said English teacher Karen Mayer-Sebastian, who taught Carr in high school.
Determined, Carr waited months just to have her medical history cleared; then, she spent 10 weeks in a training program to prepare her for the years she would spend in Moldova.
In addition, she had to learn how to speak Romanian- “one of the hardest, if not the hardest, romance language to learn,”- in order to communicate with the people she would meet. Her family supported her through the entire process, down to the day she left. “My brothers and sisters were extremely supportive,” said Carr. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
In June of 2017, she arrived in a small Moldavian village, where she started her career teaching students the English language. During her visit, she made many relationships with the other members in her group. “Relationships are super important in Peace Corps. Everything is about relationships,” said Carr. “Without good relationships, it makes it hard to serve for two years.”
She created meaningful bonds with the other members of her village and the surrounding community, and they accepted her as one of their own.
Carr said, “They keep telling anyone who comes, ‘Ea este a noastră,’ which means, ‘she is ours.’ And it just shows how much I belong to the community now.”
Outside of teaching English, she also held a dance camp for kids and participated in many of the Moldovian holidays. These holidays included International Women’s Day and Paste Blajinilor, a day similar to Easter. “Every Saint day is a holiday, and you can’t do laundry on a Sunday.”
Mărțișori, the first day of March, is also one of the most important days for Moldova. It signifies rebirth. They celebrate with food and wear red and white “mărțișor” pins on their shirts.
Carr also noted that “food is a symbol of friendship.” “Masa,” meaning meal, is when friends and family get together and have a large meal. Foods include Sermale, which is pickled cabbage leaves, rice, wheat, and carrots. Another food they have is Plăcintă, like a pierogi, or a dumpling filled with cheese. Carr said that vegetables are very common because of how agricultural Moldova is. Her advice for anyone joining the Peace Corps is to “be open, be flexible, and try to expose yourself to as many cultures and opportunities as possible.”
The biggest lesson Carr has learned is to “be confident in who you are, but not arrogant.” Carr has been in the Peace Corps for two years and three months. As with any situation in which you are far away from home, there are some difficulties. Carr said the hardest part is being away from her nieces and nephews. She missed out on many of her family’s birthday parties and American holidays. “Not being able to go to their baseball games and ballet recitals, it’s difficult.”
Carr said it was hard for her to come back to the U.S. and see how things have developed: America’s struggle with shootings, the changes in the government, and gender inequality. Beyond the Peace Corps, Carr plans on promoting gender equality, especially in Moldova. She said, “My end goal is to work for the United Nations.”
Carr’s journey isn’t over yet. She signed a one-year extension with Peace Corps, so she’ll be returning to Moldova to spend more time with what has become her community. Her opinion of Moldova has changed drastically since she first received the email about being transferred. The best part about it, she said, was “Embracing the unknown, because here I was really stressed about my future.” She hadn’t known what she was going to do with the rest of her life.
“And so being able to embrace this kind of unknown, this thing, that I don’t know what my life’s going to look like in two years- and being okay with that- it was really easy to give in to that.”
By Annalise Bassett and Destiny Love
Senior Sydney Palmer – Member of Diversity Club
The Bagpiper: How does diversity club bring students together?
Sydney Palmer: Diversity brings students together because we are able to recognize our differences and how they make us ourselves.
BP: What does a typical meeting of this club look like?
SP: We have meetings in Mrs. Waiz’s class during fourth period, and it includes the council talking about current issues in the school, reading survey responses, and discussing experiences that have occurred at FCHS involving discrimination.
BP: How does Diversity Club bring students together?
SP: This club brings minorities together so they have a place to talk about their concerns but also connect on another level. The diversity advisory council was not meant to exclude anyone, and we just want everyone to know that it was created to educate everyone on the importance of diversity!
BP: What is your favorite celebration/event?
SP: We don’t really have events.
BP: Why is this club important to you?
SP: This club is important to me because I want to show that our school is accepting of everyone and defeats the stereotypes.
BP: How does this club affect your life?
SP: It affects my life because I’m able to empathize with the struggles minorities have gone through and understand what I can do to help.
BP: What do you like about the club?
SP: I like that it’s a place for everyone to talk about anything they need to discuss.
BP: Why did you originally join the club?
SP: I joined the club because I wanted to promote diversity in our school
BP: What other clubs are you a member of?
SP: I am in Diversity advisory council, student council, renaissance club, and interact club.
Junior Nicole Holland- Member of Diversity Club
The Bagpiper: How does diversity club bring students together?
Nicole Holland: The Diversity Advisory Council brings people together by bringing in all kinds of people. we all have different hobbies but share one end goal and that’s spreading awareness of other cultures in our school, whether you’re white or colored.
BP: What does a typical meeting of diversity club look like?
NH: A typical meeting is us gathered in a classroom, typically ms. waiz’s room and we throw out ideas of how we can grow and improve. we discuss problems in our school and how we improve them.
BP: What do you like about this club?
NH: This club makes me feel like my opinion is heard and cared about, and i know a lot of the other members feel that way as well. there are many students who felt like they were different from everyone else and this is a place where we can all relate and understand we aren’t alone in our experiences.
BP: What are your goals for next year?
NH: The Diversity Advisory Council has already experienced a lot of backlash in it’s opening stages, but we’re all fully prepared to go through it and we’ll continue until our message is heard. we’ll be expanding our council and it’s influence as time continues.
BP: What does this club mean to you?
NH: To me this council means a chance for me to make an impact. it’s been too long that my voice and opinion has been shut down, and this is my chance to help someone else experiencing discrimination.
BP: How has the club affected your life?
NH: The Diversity Advisory Council has positively affected my life. it makes me really happy to see such a diverse group of people working together to make a change.
BP: What is your favorite thing about the club?
NH: My favorite thing about it is hearing everyone else’s opinions. meeting new people and being able to share experiences without being afraid of judgement feels really nice as well.
BP: What is your favorite event?
NH: My favorite event is in the esports club. next year we’re planning for a LAN party where people outside the esports club can come join us for games and win prizes. hopefully we’ll get more members that way as well.