20210923-nws-stevejacksoncolumn Alonzo Makepeace

Alonzo I. Makepeace

During America’s Civil War, this Union prisoner escaped from Rebel prisons not once, not twice, but three times.

He went on to become sheriff of Madison County.

But, in between, there is much more. Meet Alonzo I. Makepeace of Anderson, Indiana.

Lon, as he was affectionately called, was born into one of Madison County’s first families April 6, 1833, at Pendleton.

His grandparents were Amasa Sr. and Betsy Makepeace, who settled in what later became Chesterfield around 1822. The couple had 11 children, one of whom was Alfred, Alonzo’s father.

In 1836, Alfred and his wife, Hannah Makepeace, moved to Andersontown. Before long, Alfred — most likely accompanied by Alonzo — began to make significant changes in the town.

Alfred is recognized as the builder of the first upscale hotel Anderson had seen. Built in 1852, the United States Hotel was a three-story brick building at the southwest corner of Ninth and Main streets. In its day, it was one of the best-known and most popular hotels in central Indiana.

However, because of strong competition and bad management, and perhaps other reasons, the property declined. After Alfred’s death in 1874, the building was torn down.

On April 1, 1858, 25-year-old Alonzo and a party of other young men left Anderson for California. They chose a route that took them by way of Nicaragua in Central America.

During the days of the California Gold Rush, Nicaragua provided a route for travelers from the eastern United States to journey to California by sea, via use of the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua.

Nicaragua was in political turmoil when they arrived there April 18. Since neither life nor property were considered safe, the fortune-seeking group decided to return home.

After arrival in New York, Lon went to Canada on a prospecting tour, apparently still in search of fortune. After a brief stay, he returned to Anderson.

He worked as a carpenter for a while, then joined with his father in the milling business as Alfred built a three-story frame flouring mill along the banks of White River below where the Madison County Jail now stands. Known as the Makepeace mill, the building would eventually become the original site of the Norton Brewery.

In 1860, Alfred Makepeace purchased nearby Lot 3 in Anderson and constructed a two-room log cabin/brick house with a shed-type roof. These rooms now compose the present kitchen and dining rooms, with lofts above, of the east wing of the Gruenewald House on Main Street.

This all happened during the time immediately before the United States went to war — with itself.

Among the roughly 2,000 patriotic young men and women from Madison County who fought in the Civil War, was Alonzo Makepeace, who enlisted July 5, 1861, in Company A, 19th Indiana Volunteers.

Little did he know when he enrolled, the 19th Indiana would eventually become part of the most famous of all Union fighting units in the war, the Iron Brigade.

Columns by Madison County Historian Stephen T. Jackson are published monthly in The Herald Bulletin. Coming in October: “In July 1863, for many of these men from Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan fighting their way through the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, it would be their last fight, including Alonzo.”