Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: Anyone for Tennis?

Matson Insurance has partnered with Jefferson County History Center to offer readers a look into Jefferson County’s past. Today, the Brookville Tennis Association is highlighted.

The members of the Brookville Tennis Association posed for Frederick Knapp sometime around World War I.

(Submitted by Carole Briggs.)


How might a photograph and a trophy be connected? I don’t play tennis but for years, I’ve been intrigued by one of these items—the studio portrait of eight young tennis players. Who are these young people?

Timbering, mining, and industrial development flourished after the Civil War. Families became wealthy as evidenced by some of the grand homes built during the last twenty years of the 19th century. Increased wealth lead to the development of leisure-time activities. Hired help could do the chores, freeing time for entertainment and sports.

Tennis requires a court. Played first in the royal courts of Europe, the game became very popular in the United States between 1877 and 1905 when the four “grand slams” of tennis formed: Wimbledon, and the United States, French, and Australian Opens.

And now, the photograph. It is not dated. We know it is a studio photograph taken by Frederick Knapp and that the eight young people claim to be the Brookville Tennis Association. Five are similarly attired and two are identified; one as Heath Clark, the other Cadmus Gordon. Clark completed law school in 1916 and was admitted to the bar. He was the son of the attorney for the Rochester and Pittsburg Iron and Steel Company. The other, Cadmus Gordon, Jr., was 19 in 1916.

The second object is a trophy donated to the History Center in 1989 by Mary Shively, the daughter of Senator Benjamin Shively of Indiana. Mary’s mother was a Brookville girl and the family had a house in Brookville up the hill from what is now Buff’s Ice Cream. The trophy is inscribed “Brookville Tennis Association, May 30, 1921, Louis G. Brosius.” Might Mary Shively be one of the young women in the picture? And might Louis be the young man center right?

Judge and Mrs. William Corbet lived in the house where the Taylor Law Firm now has offices. Like most families, the Corbets used part of the land in the rear for a kitchen garden (now the Presbyterian Church parking lot), but beyond that area on the slope going up to Jefferson Street, someone graded the hillside, tamped the soil, and laid out a private tennis court.

Now surrounded with fencing and used as a playground for the Presbyterian Church, the area measures 43 by 106 feet. A typical court for singles play is either 27 or 36 feet wide and 78 feet long. When the Corbets built their tennis court, who in the family played tennis? All three sons were working in other states. Daughter Mary graduated from Smith College in 1916 and McKnight says she is “at home.”

Clark, Gordon, Shively, Brosius, and Corbet were all children of lawyer—fathers who would have known each other well and families that probably spent time together. Gordon lived on Walnut Street, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Corbet tennis court.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.

Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

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