Pendleton author, photographer explores theme of industrial decline
PENDLETON — Pendleton resident David Humphrey said he loves history, and as a photographer he wants to record and share stories of the past through images.
That — along with delivering a couple of sober messages — is what he set out to do recently with his latest book, “Abandoned Madison County: The Demise of an Industrial Region.”
The 96-page book includes more than 120 photos, including several from Pendleton, Lapel and Markleville.
Story continues below photos.
Humphrey shot all the photos himself during about a one-year time frame, between 2019-2020.
The subjects are primarily run-down buildings, cars and other inanimate structures and objects. They are arranged in chapters: Schools of Yesteryear, Rural Scenes, Town of Madison County, Anderson and Rusted Relics.
There’s a picture of Markleville High School, with its windows either broken or covered up; a defunct stone quarry railroad loading station on County Road 650 West in Pendleton; dozens of photos of businesses from around the county that are falling down; and several abandoned rail cars and automobiles, rusting, sinking into the ground or being commandeered by vegetation.
Writing in the book is sparse, with a two-page introduction to the book, a brief introduction to each chapter and photo captions.
However, the captions often venture beyond a basic description of the subject.
Under a photo of a crumbling nuclear fallout shelter in Anderson: “In 1962, there were 169 nuclear fallout shelters in Madison County, which remained active until the early 1980s. After the Cold War came to an end in 1991, many of the buildings in Madison County with fallout shelters were sold or torn down. But a few remain, including this fallout shelter located near downtown Anderson.”
Highlighting the need to document the present to preserve the past, Humphrey said the book contains some images that already would be impossible to capture, either because the subject has been removed or destroyed by fire since publication.
Despite a focus on decay and loss, Humphrey said he has some serious and ultimately uplifting points to make.
“Mainly, I wanted it to be a positive book, telling where we’ve been and where we can go,” Humphrey said.
In the introduction, he mentions some of the challenges faced locally, including a loss of manufacturing jobs, population and family farms.
But he also touts several successful restoration efforts, such as the Paramount Theatre and Carnegie Library in Anderson, as evidence of agency people have to shift momentum.
“The future of Anderson and Madison County does not depend on politicians and lawmakers,” he writes. “Instead, it falls on the shoulders of the people who can either rebuild their communities, or watch them crumble to the ground.
“There is a story behind every abandoned factory, dilapidated farmhouse, or empty school in Madison County. … In order for us to move ahead as a society, we must first take a look at where we have been.”
In person, Humphrey described a similar message he hoped to convey: “No matter how bad things are, you can always start over and rebuild.”
“Abandoned Madison County” is published by Arcadia Publishing with Fonthill Media.
Humphrey has written other books, including “The Golden Years of Rock and Roll in the Hoosier State,” “Indiana’s Lost National Road” and “All Those Years Ago: Fifty Years Later, Beatles Fans Still Remember.”