STONE HEAD — “Absolutely appalling.”
“Who would do this?”
“This is sick!”
“My heart is broken.”
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Those were reactions to the news that the 165-year-old Stone Head marker is missing, severed from its stone base.
The marker, by famed stone carver Henry Cross, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was placed at the junction of what is now State Road 135 South and Bellsville Pike to mark directions and distances to Indianapolis, Columbus and to other places, which no longer exist.
Who destroyed it, when and why are just some of the questions still unanswered since “unofficial caretaker” Mike Kelley learned of the act more than a week ago.
Kelley, who owns the House at Stone Head directly behind the marker, said he received a text message the morning of Nov. 7 from a friend asking what happened to the marker. He and his wife were out of town on vacation that weekend.
Kelley reported it to police that afternoon.
He said it looked as if someone may have taken a sledgehammer to the statue.
Kelley said this was the original Stone Head.
The head was believed to be carved in the likeness of George Summa, a township road supervisor. A 1974 story in the Brown County Democrat said Cross carved it as payment of his road taxes.
Over the years, various people had discussed ways to protect it from drivers and weather, said Kelley and Brown County Historian Diana Biddle.
A guardrail was placed in front of it when the intersection was realigned and a nearby bridge built years ago. A group had talked about building a roof over the marker, “but trying to figure out how to do that was a little more difficult than what we envisioned,” Biddle said.
Biddle said it’s been more than 40 years since anything more serious than costuming has happened to the stone head.
“People have dressed it up in hats and coats and ties and that kind of thing over the years, but nothing that actually caused it physical destruction,” she said.
“It’s just horribly, horribly upsetting that someone would do this.”
This was not the first time, though, that the marker has gone missing.
It was stolen in the fall of 1974 and turned up in Indianapolis Jan. 23, 1975, according to Brown County Democrat archives.
Police received a tip through the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department about where to find it. Officers looked through a window and saw it in an Indianapolis home, being used as a hat rack.
Two 19-year-olds — Daniel R. Bash and Gary A. Church — were charged with theft. The story said they took it in broad daylight, and it appeared they used a large chain to drag the head — still attached to the stone base — from the pedestal on which it stood.
“Officers said Bash and Church had not been aware of the importance or significance of the carving when it was taken. Nor had they seen or heard any publicity given the theft of the stone,” the story said.
“They simply thought it was interesting and were attracted by it” and “they decided it would ‘look good’ in their living room,” the story said.
They also signed their names on the marker, the story said.
In an Oct. 2, 1974 Brown County Democrat story announcing the theft, Brown County Sheriff Harry E. “Punk” Snider said the marker had been stolen three or four times before that.
After it was found in 1975, Brown County Historical Society Treasurer Alice Lorenz and her sister had a replica of it made, and the original marker was returned to its spot on the road.
The two women owned the Stone Head property in the 1970s and sold it in the 1980s.
“We thought it was important to have something like that so if anything ever happened again, we would at least have a replica,” Lorenz said.
That replica is now housed at the Brown County History Center. Lorenz said there are no plans to move it out to the site.
“I think we should give it some time. We may just find whoever took it and where it might be now. Then give that some time, and then I would say have another some kind of replica made again,” she said.
“I hope they talk to the right people who will hear about it and do the right thing and try to get it back.”
Reaction to the news, shared on social media Nov. 8, was anger and disbelief. Several readers called for punishment.
“Obviously it was stolen, it’s missing,” said Greg Pittman, public information officer for the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.
“We don’t have a lot on that one… other than the fact that it’s gone and someone took it. There really wasn’t any other evidence we could find on the scene.”
Deputy Brian Shrader responded to the report the afternoon of Nov. 7.
Pittman said Shrader reported that he believes the marker may have been stolen during the night of Nov. 5 based on conversations he had with people who drove past the marker that weekend.
“We don’t know that for sure, just possibly,” Pittman said.
Police will continue to interview those in the community who may have witnessed something and monitor social media.
“In today’s world we’re always looking at social media to see if anybody is making any comments about it,” Pittman said.
“We do pay attention to that. That’s a tool you can use. A lot of times people that do these crimes talk about it at some point.”
If anyone has information about Stone Head, they should call the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and speak with dispatch, Pittman said.
“The smallest thing can make a difference,” he said.
For Biddle, this incident brought back memories of the arson that destroyed the Grandview Apostolic Church, not far from Stone Head. Six teenagers, five of them from Columbus, were charged in the July 2010 crime.
That church was also on the National Register of Historic Places.
“There are no words for how disappointed I am that someone would destroy an historic artifact like that. I guess I kind of liken it to the kids that burnt down the Grandview church. What was the point of that?” she said.
The stone head was actually the second Brown County landmark to be damaged in less than a week’s time.
On Nov. 2, Brown County resident Don Ford posted a photo to Facebook of graffiti on the 1880 Bean Blossom Covered Bridge on Covered Bridge Road.
Biddle reported that the county highway department painted over the graffiti after learning about it, and she hopes the county can repaint the entire bridge in the spring.