Wheeler in the 20th Century


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Click through to see an excerpt from "A Message from Wheeler Mission"

When Prohibition became effective in 1920, some thought it would solve society’s ills. Wheeler Mission foresaw the problems that would remain unsolved. This excerpt from a January 1921 pamphlet titled “A Message from Wheeler Mission” explains their reasoning.

"Some have said 'There is no need of a Mission now since Prohibition has become effective,' but let us say in answer to this, that while there is less drunkenness, sinners are just as plentiful. There are thousands of men and women who need the blessed Gospel of Salvation as much as ever."

A word on Wheeler and Prohibition:

The mid-20s saw the Wheeler City Mission making more contact with the bootleg liquor subculture that flourished during Prohibition. [Supt.] Eberhardt had a small museum of bottles and accessories surrendered by men who had first surrendered their lives to Christ. The mission proudly displayed the swinging door that had been the back door of the Elm Saloon, and a wall plaque marked where the bar had stood. The mission wanted people to know that it understood about drink. In fact, if God could transform a saloon into a mission, He could transform a bootlegger into one of His children.”

~From Joseph Snider’s 1993 history of Wheeler Mission, A Door of Hope, page 35

Wheeler and WWII

During WWII, Wheeler Mission assisted servicemen by providing an area for writing letters and a small number of beds for military personnel to use. The Mission also wrote condolence letters to local families and corresponded with local soldiers who were at war. The photograph and letter below are from PFC Walter C. Clayton in response to a group letter he received from Wheeler in 1944.  


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Click through to read the letter from PFC Walter C. Clayton to Mabel Eberthardt



The back of the photograph reads: “PFC Walter Clayton Picture Accompanied Letter”

Wheeler Mission and Race


Letter from C.W. Wharton to Leonard C. Hunt, May 22, 1945

Wheeler mission had always helped people of different races and religions in its jail ministries and to a limited capacity in its mission programs. However, in 1948, the Indianapolis Council of Church Women called for an end to discrimination, and challenged Wheeler to open all of its services to black men as well as white men. While the Indianapolis community had never asked Wheeler to serve all citizens regardless of race, for the first part of the 20th century the mission had gone a long with the status quo. As can be seen in these letters from 1945, the mission believed that the men they were already helping would react very negatively if Wheeler challenged the system. However, as the composition of Indianapolis’s neighborhoods and transient population shifted in the coming years, Wheeler became fully integrated.


“We do not have negroes as staff members. This, I believe, is not because we are anti-negroe[sic] but simply because no need has presented itself for us to seek further employees. And again I must with a sense of realism recognize that the transient men with whom we deal are for the most part prejudiced when it comes to color. What the reaction might be among this group whom we try to serve I cannot say. My previous experience has been a very negative reaction and not at all pleasant.”

~Excerpt from a May 24, 1945 letter from Leonard C. Hunt to C.W. Wharton in response to questions about an interracial clinic. 

Wheeler in the 20th Century