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James Whitcomb Riley
Birth: Oct. 7, 1849
Greenfield
Hancock County
Indiana, USA
Death: Jul. 22, 1916
Indianapolis
Marion County
Indiana, USA

Poet. James Whitcomb Riley, the celebrated Hoosier Poet, was born in Greenfield, Indiana, the third of six children of Reuben and Elizabeth Riley. He was named in honor of the Indiana governor, James Whitcomb (also buried in Crown Hill Cemetery). Riley's father was a Civil War veteran, lawyer, a bit of a frontier politician, and one of the prominent men of the town often called upon to give speeches. Riley's mother was a homemaker, also wrote poetry and was known as a talented story-teller. Riley, called “Bud” as a child, had a difficult time in school especially with arithmetic. He showed signs of his mother’s gift for language and his father’s talent for oratory. While his father wanted “Bud” to become a lawyer he did not follow that path. Instead he quit school at the age of 16, traveled the Midwest as a sign painter for a while, then a stint with a medicine salesman. He returned to Greenfield after a few years and worked at the local newspaper, becoming its editor. During all of this time, he honed his language arts talents, and drew upon the vernacular of the time – the Indiana Hoosier dialect. Riley became a prolific author of poetry, first using the pseudonym "Benj. F. Johnson of Boone", and saw his poems published in newspapers. He used his experiences of youth and the stories he heard from others, especially Alice "Allie" Gray, the girl who came to live with his family and help around the house for her room and board. He immortalized her as the personality of his poem “Little Orphant Annie.” His poem, "The Raggedy Man," is based on the hired hand who worked at the family farm. The endearing features of Riley’s early poems was his use of dialect, his common style and words, and his sense of humor. These poems published in area newspapers quickly earned him broad popularity. Some of his later works used a more educated level of language. Originally renowned locally, he toured the country to recite his poetry and meet people, and eventually became well known nationally. He reportedly became the wealthiest writer of the time, and was called America's "Children's Poet," and is still known as "The Hoosier Poet" in Indiana. A collection of his poems was published, entitled "The Old Swimmin' Hole and 'Leven More Poems," in 1883. Other published collections followed. His most famous poems are "Little Orphant Annie," "The Raggedy Man," "When the Frost Is On the Punkin," and "The Runaway Boy." Riley gave up the national touring and returned to Indianapolis about 1884. He lived his later years as an invited (paying) houseguest in the of the Nicum and Holstein family home in the Lockerbie Square area of Indianapolis. That home is preserved today as the James Whitcomb Riley Home and is operated as a museum. Riley died of a stroke in Indianapolis. He laid in state at the Indiana state house and was interred on the “crown” at Crown Hill Cemetery, one of the highest points in Marion County. His tomb is one of the most visited sites in Indianapolis. Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis is named in his honor, and his hometown of Greenfield, Indiana, holds an annual "James Whitcomb Riley Festival." Children honor the poet during these “Riley Days” celebrations by placing flowers on his statue at the Hancock County Courthouse. (bio by: Rick France) 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Reuben Alexander Riley (1819 - 1893)
  Martha Lukens Riley (1836 - 1918)
 
 Sibling:
  James Whitcomb Riley (1849 - 1916)
  Mary Elizabeth Riley Payne (1864 - 1936)**
 
*Calculated relationship
**Half-sibling
 
Burial:
Crown Hill Cemetery
Indianapolis
Marion County
Indiana, USA
Plot: Section 61, Lot 1
GPS (lat/lon): 39.81998, -86.17738
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 873
James Whitcomb Riley
Added by: Ron Moody
 
James Whitcomb Riley
Added by: J.L. Durall
 
James Whitcomb Riley
Added by: Cory Walker
 
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 Added: Jul. 22, 2014

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- Ryan Curtis
 Added: Jul. 22, 2014
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