The Life of Charles Edward Ballard
|Charles Edward Ballard|
He was born poor, one of six sons, but his background didn’t influence his lot in life. Far from it! Charles Edward Ballard was born on June 28, 1874. His father James was a farmer who encountered serious financial debt when a friend reneged on a loan Ballard had co-signed. James Ballard was left to settle the debt and that meant everyone in the family had to work. By fourth grade, Ed had left school to help earn money. His first job was as a pinsetter at the West Baden Springs Hotel bowling alley for owner Lee Sinclair.
|French Lick Springs Hotel|
In 1915, Ed purchased the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, one of six circus companies he owned. (Ballard owned all of the big names with the sole exception of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey.) During the winter months, the circus troupe lived in West Baden. That’s when Ed would turn the hotel atrium, then known as the Pompeian Court, into a circus “big top.” A performance ring was set up in the center and a menagerie of animals was brought in to perform and entertain hotel guests and local residents for special events.
|Lillian and Lee Sinclair|
|West Baden Springs Hotel|
|West Baden Springs Hotel Veranda|
|Jesuits at West Baden|
The man with the Midas touch was gone!
Ed Ballard’s funeral was held in the atrium of his beloved former West Baden Springs Hotel. Hundreds paid their respects, from well-known former hotel guests, to state officials, local businessmen, politicians, friends and acquaintances. The local paper reported that it was “one of the most impressive (funerals) that has ever been witnessed in the valley.” Charles Edward Ballard, the man who had put West Baden, Indiana on the national map, was buried in nearby Ames Chapel Cemetery. His simple gravestone bears only his name, birth and death dates.