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Blog post by Randi Richardson

Much is known about the early history of Monroe County because a significant amount has been written.  The earliest and most comprehensive county history is that compiled by Charles Blanchard in Counties of Morgan, Monroe and Brown published in 1884.  Several decades later, in 1922, Forest M. “Pop” Hall also provided a good bit of local history in his book, Historic Treasures.  His material was mostly gleaned from newspaper clippings.

Pictures, on the other hand, are a whole different story.  There are no early photos of Monroe County for the simple reason there were no cameras in the early part of the nineteenth century.  When they did come along, they were few and far between, expensive, complicated to operate and quite heavy and bulky.  An exception to the dearth of early pictures is the limited work of Cornelius Pering who did some miniature watercolors and at least one oil painting on canvas depicting Bloomington.

The watercolors were part of a letter sent by Pering from Bloomington to friends in England in 1833.  A few years later, about 1846, Pering created the oil painting depicting the Monroe County Female Seminary with additional buildings in the background.  Eventually, this painting became the property of Maria Louisa (Arnold) Hinkston/Hickston Bollman who was living at the time with her husband and daughter a block or so north on the Seminary on College Avenue.

Gift of Judge R. D. Richardson, Indiana University Campus Art Collection.

Pering, a native of England who studied at Cambridge and was primarily interested in art, came to Monroe County about 1832 along with his wife, Susannah (Orchard) Pering, and a daughter.  Susannah’s uncles, John and Samuel Orchard, were already living in Bloomington and were established as inn keepers and also had a thriving stage coach business.  Undoubtedly their success influenced the Pering family’s decision to settle in the area.
When Pering realized that he could not support his family with art, he took a position in 1833 as principal of the newly incorporated Monroe County Female Seminary and institute.  Not long afterward, about 1835, the old seminary was replaced with new, brick building at the northeast corner of College Avenue and 7th Street.

A block north of the Seminary was the home to Lewis Bollman.  Only 18 at the time of his arrival in Bloomington, Bollman had been a student at Washington University in Pennsylvania where Dr. Andrew Wylie was president.  When Wylie accepted the position as first president of Indiana University, Bollman was among the fourteen people who journeyed to Indiana with Wylie in four, two-horse wagons.

The site of the Female Seminary at Seventh and College became home to a new Masonic temple in 1923.  Shown here in 2020.

After his graduation from the university, Bollman married Harriet Stone and about 1836 they settled in a home located at College Avenue and 8th Street, just a block north of the Female Seminary.  Two years later, Harriet died.  Lewis Bollman then married Maria Louisa (Arnold) Hinkston/Hickston and with her fathered a daughter, Mary, in 1846.

Pering’s wife, Susannah, died in 1845 leaving behind six children ranging in age from 14 to 3.  He took a second wife, Charlotte Carmichael, who taught French at the Seminary.  In 1846, the same year that the painting of the Seminary was completed, Pering took his new wife and family south to Louisville and opened an art school.

Sometime between 1860 and 1870, Lewis and Maria Bollman divorced.   Following the change in her marital status, Maria left Bloomington for Evansville in company with Mary, Mary’s husband, Robert Dale Richardson, and, apparently the oil painting by completed by Pering.  She never remarried and for the remainder of her life lived with her daughter and son-in-law in Evansville.

Robert, a graduate of IU who worked as a lawyer and a judge, was eventually made a member of IU’s board of trustees.  It was his close relationship with IU that no doubt prompted him to donate Pering’s painting of the Seminary to the university in 1906, a few years after Maria’s death.  In the spring of 2020, the painting was on loan to Mathers Museum.  Typically it is at the Morton C. Bradley Education Center at the Wylie House.

Cornelius Pering died in Louisville in December 1881.  His remains were brought to Bloomington for burial in Rose Hill Cemetery at the side of his first wife.


Woodburn, James Albert, History of Indiana University 1820-1902 (Bloomington IN:  Indiana University) 1940, p. 70