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June 01, 2017

Early Fishers – The Trittipo Bombings

Reproduced with permission from I Dream of Mudsock.

Early Fishers – The Trittipo Bombings

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

Continuing our look at the previously unstudied history of the Delaware Township area, some stories are an unsolved mystery.  For unknown reasons over a twenty year period, one particular family was subjected to a series of bombing attacks.

The Trittipo family settled in Indiana sometime in the 1840’s.  They originally came from Germany and their name was possibly originally Trittenbach.  While most of the family settled in Hancock County, Samuel Trittipo moved to Fall Creek Township, where he died in 1844.

Samuel’s son, also named Samuel, joined the California Gold Rush in 1848 and was said to have found quite a bit of gold.  He returned after year and a half in California and, in 1854, opened a store in Delaware Township.  In 1886, he moved the store to Fishers and built a grand brick building for it.  It still stands today in downtown Fishers on 116th Street.  There are excellent photos of it in the two histories of Fishers written by Larry Reynolds – The Mudsock Scrapbook and I Dream of Mudsock.  Allegedly the ironwork on the front came from a railroad station on 10th Street in Indianapolis.  Samuel’s store was eventually taken over by his son Albert.

The bombings began in 1892.  On January 25th of that year, Albert went out to his barn and opened the door setting off a device which blew the door to pieces and damaged a buggy.  Fortunately, he escaped with slight injuries.  The bomb was a two-foot length of iron pipe loaded with dynamite and buckshot which had been rigged to the door handle.  The leading theory at the time said that Albert was chosen as a target because of his strong involvement in the temperance movement.  This was emphasized two nights later when he received a note telling him to leave or else.  However, the Indianapolis News reported that “Mr. Trittipo still holds the fort.”

In 1893, Albert was appointed Fishers postmaster, a job that seemed to run in the family.  His father was Postmaster in Fall Creek Township in 1852 and another relative, Walter Trittipo, would be Fishers postmaster in the 1920’s.

The next attempted bombing was in 1895, when Albert received a package from Cincinnati on June 13.  There was notice on it saying “open this end” which Albert overlooked.  This is poor postal practice, but it did save his life.  Inside the package was a complex device involving matches, blasting caps, and 10 ounces of black powder.  Albert put it carefully aside and contacted the postal inspector, who came to Fishers and disarmed it by placing it in water.  As in the 1892 bombing, authorities were unable to identify any suspects.  This time the incident hit the national news and was mentioned in papers from Pennsylvania to Kansas.  An attempt to murder a postmaster did get the public’s attention.

All was quiet for about two decades until 1914, when another explosion rocked the town.  At 2:00 in the morning of March 21, a stick of dynamite was thrown through the basement window of Ora Trittipo’s pool hall.  No one was in building so there were no injuries, but the damage was dramatic.  Every window was shattered and the floor bulged upward several inches.  There was a big cavity in the concrete floor of basement and one of the pool tables had been broken in half.  Again there were no suspects and city officials said that the place had been operating in law-abiding manner.

An interesting aspect of this incident was that while the newspapers referred to Ora Trittipo as a man, the only Ora Trittipo in the historic record was a woman.  She lived in Lawrence Township in Marion County and was married to James Trittipo.  It’s not certain what the precise relationship was to the Trittipo family in Fishers, but the pool hall was just a little west of the Trittipo store building.  It may have been the same building that is now the Nickel Plate Bar & Grill.

It’s a mystery as to why this family was the focus of these bombings.  There is nothing in the historical record to suggest a reason.  Research can be difficult – the extended Trittipo family was spread out over two counties and the names were often repeated.  At the same time that Albert Trittipo was appointed Fishers postmaster, there was an Al Trittipo charged with horse theft in Noblesville.

The only thing to do is to continue to do research.  Eventually we may get some answers and add this to the other unique stories from early Fishers.