Jesse G. Dorsey Collection of World War II
& Korean War Correspondence
The Louisville Cement Company, a cement-producing firm founded by James B. Speed, erected a cement mill in Speed, Clark County, Indiana in 1869. In 1919 the company initiated plans for the general civic improvement of the village to meet the needs of the cement workers and their families. The Speed family built houses, a grocery store, a hotel, a department store, an interdenominational church, a golf course, a swimming pool, a ball field, a park, and a community house. The Speed Community House, dedicated in 1920, fronted a picturesque park with gardens and a bandstand. It housed a library, a gymnasium, game, music, and art rooms, and a shooting range. Public fairs, open-air movies, concerts, dances, and company picnics were held on its grounds. Speed was developed and maintained as a company town.
In 1941, the village of Speed became part of World War II. Young men and women from the community and the cement plant joined the armed forces and were sent all over the world. One hundred and eighty-seven men left the Louisville Cement Company to serve.
The Speed-Sellersburg community and the Louisville Cement Company collectively responded to the war effort. Jesse G. Dorsey, Director of Recreation and Welfare and Editor of the newsletter Speedometer for the Louisville Cement Company, originated a letter exchange program to send service members news from home. Mr. Dorsey faithfully sent personal letters and a copy of the Speedometer to an increasing list that eventually numbered almost 400 service personnel, corresponding about every 30 days. Community members donated monies to fund the mailings.
The Speed community also entertained men from military installations and hospitals nearby. Servicemen from Ft. Knox, Bowman Field, and Nichols General Hospital spent weekends with local families. These visitors and their families sent letters of appreciation to Mr. Dorsey for the hospitality.
Mr. Dorsey received replies from all over the world. About 1600 letters and cards, some filled with photographs, military patches, menus, foreign money, and other war memorabilia, arrived at The Speed Community House. Most thanked Dorsey and the community for “letters from home.” As the war began, the tightly-censored letters mentioned the weather, food, and scenery. The war’s devastation through the eyes of small town Hoosiers was slowly revealed as the correspondence continued.
In 1946, The Indiana Historical Bureau requested Mr. Dorsey’s collection of letters from service men and woman for deposit in the Indiana State Library. However, he only would allow access at The Community House and steadfastly maintained that the letter collection should remain in the community. The Louisville Cement Company – Speed Plant eventually was sold and The Community House closed. The company gave the Sellersburg Library any remaining contents of the library and Mr. Dorsey’s files.
The Jesse Dorsey Collection of World War II Correspondence, original copies of the correspondence from 348 service members and their families, is available in the Indiana Room of the Sellersburg Branch of the Charlestown-Clark County Public Library.
In July 2007
and July 2008, Charlestown-Clark County Public Library received LSTA grants for the purpose of digitizing
the letters and postcards in this collection. These images, which consist of
1606 letters and postcards, are accessible on the
website and can be seen at
Jesse G. Dorsey WWII Correspondence.
In 1943 Dorsey helped create a picture book to send as a Christmas
gift to the soldiers. The book can be seen at
Greetings From Home Christmas 1943, Sellersburg, Indiana.
This book is the topic of many letters in this collection.
Dorsey continued to write to soldiers when the Korean War began.
This collection contains 109 letters and post cards. The collection
can be viewed on Indiana Memory in the Clark County Collection at
Jesse G. Dorsey Korean War Correspondence.