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Emmett Forest Branch

Location: 510 E. Washington St., Martinsville (Morgan County, Indiana) 46151

Installed 2018 Indiana Historical Bureau, Mayor Shannon E. Kohl and the City of Martinsville, and Home Bank

ID#: 55.2018.1

 Visit the Indiana History Blog to learn more about Governor Branch.

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Side One:

A reform-minded Republican lawmaker, Emmett Forest Branch (1874-1932) served Indiana as a legislator, lieutenant governor, and governor. He served in the Spanish-American War and WWI. Branch spent three terms in the Indiana House of Representatives (1903-1908), rising to Speaker of the House. In 1920, he was elected lieutenant governor under Governor Warren McCray.

Side Two:

Branch became governor April 30, 1924 after the resignation of McCray. During his brief term, he advocated for improvements to roads, schools, and other state institutions. He also promoted children’s health and dedicated the Riley Hospital for Children. He left office January 12, 1925, and returned to this house in his native Martinsville as lawyer and businessman.

Annotated Text

Side One:

A reform-minded Republican lawmaker[1], Emmett Forest Branch (1874-1932)[2] served Indiana as a legislator,[3] lieutenant governor,[4] and governor.[5] After serving in the Spanish-American War[6] and WWI,[7] Branch spent three terms in the Indiana House of Representatives (1903-1908),[8] rising to Speaker of the House.[9] In 1920, he was elected lieutenant governor under Governor Warren McCray.[10]

Side Two:

Branch became governor April 30, 1924 after the resignation of McCray.[11] During his brief term, he advocated for improvements to roads,[12] schools,[13] and other state institutions.[14] He also promoted children’s health[15] and dedicated the Riley Hospital for Children.[16] He left office January 12, 1925[17] and returned to house here in native Martinsville as lawyer and businessman.[18]


[1] During his three terms in the Indiana House of Representatives, Branch advocated for and introduced bills intended to protect taxpayers from unfair subsidies charged to them by railroad shipping companies. He made strong statements denouncing these large wealthy corporations for taking this money from average Hoosiers. He also introduced temperance bills and petitions, particularly supporting a local county option bill. See footnotes 8 and 9 for more information on his work in the Indiana House.

Reforms as lieutenant governor included ending the practice of “omnibus bills.” He also strongly opposed lobbying, informing the Senate in his opening address that he would not tolerate it while lieutenant governor. As lieutenant governor, Branch began advocating for state wards and for education, making a statement in his opening speech to the Senate that “we should first take care of our unfortunate ones, and then turn our attention to putting Indiana where she belongs in the Educational world.” See footnote 10 for more information on Branch’s term as lieutenant governor.

As he entered office, Branch acknowledged that he was not going to be there long. He chose to continue with McCray’s administration and focused on reform. Three areas of reform were important to Branch—roads, education, and better care of the state’s wards. Branch aimed to better the roads in order to improve the economy in Indiana and to expand the state highway system. As for education, he believed that it was a principal foundation stone of government, and advocated for its support and reform from the citizens. While Branch supported all state institutions, he especially advocated for children’s health. He dedicated the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Hospital for Children as governor, and had seen the passage of the law to establish the hospital as lieutenant governor. To learn more about Branch and his term as governor, see footnotes 11 through 16.

[2] 1880 United States Census, Martinsville, Morgan County, Indiana, digital image s.v. “Forest Branch,” accessed Ancestry.com; Indiana University, “Beta Theta Pi,” in Arbutus [yearbook] (1896), 67, accessed Ancestry.com; “Incoming Governor Prominent Figure,” Indianapolis Star, April 30, 1924, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; “Heart Ailment Fatal at Home in Martinsville,” Indianapolis Star, February 24, 1932, 12, accessed Newspapers.com; Emmett F. Branch, death certificate, 23 Feb. 1932, file no. 5592, digital image available in “Indiana Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” s.v. “Emmett F. Branch” (1874-1932), Ancestry.com;  Emmett Forest Branch, grave marker, Hilldale Cemetery, Martinsville, Morgan County, Indiana, accessed Findagrave.com.

Emmett Forest Branch was born in 1874 in Martinsville, Morgan County, to parents Elliott Branch and Alice Parks. The 1880 Census shows six year old Emmett living with his parents and siblings in Martinsville. He graduated from Indiana University in 1896 and was the first alumnus of the university to become governor. He died in 1932 in his home in Martinsville.

[3] Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Indiana during the Sixty-Third Session of the General Assembly, Commencing Thursday, January 8, 1903, Regular Session (Indianapolis, Wm. B. Buford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1903), accessed HathiTrust; Journal of the [Indiana] House of Representatives during the Special Session of the Sixty-Fifth General Assembly, Commencing Friday September 18, 1908 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Buford Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1908), accessed GoogleBooks.

Branch served in the Indiana House of Representatives, 1903-1908. During the 1907-1908 session, he twice served as Speaker of the House. See footnotes 8 and 9 for more information on his terms.

[4] Journal of the Indiana State Senate during the Seventy-Second Session of the General Assembly, Commencing Thursday, January 6, 1921, Regular Session (Fort Wayne, Ind: Fort Wayne Printing Company Contractors for Indiana State Printing and Binding, 1921), accessed GoogleBooks.

Branch served as lieutenant governor from January 1921 until he became governor on April 30, 1924. See note 10 for more information on Branch’s role as lieutenant governor.

[5] Year Book of the State of Indiana for the Year 1924, Compiled and Published under the Direction of Emmett F. Branch, Governor, by The Legislative Reference Bureau (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Buford, Contractor for State and Printing and Binding, 1925), accessed Indiana State Library.

Upon Governor McCray’s resignation in April 1924, Branch became governor, serving until January 1925. See note 11 for more on Branch’s term and McCray’s resignation .

[6] “Indiana Spanish American War Records,” s.v. “Emmett F. Branch,” accessed Ancestry.com; “The Camp in Order,” The Indianapolis News, 28 Apr. 1898, 7, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

Branch enlisted to serve in the Spanish-American War in 1898, serving in Company K, 158th Regiment and rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

[7] “U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files. 1861-1934,” s.v. “Emmett F. Branch,” digital image accessed Ancestry.com.

He served as Colonel of the 151st Infantry from March 26-June 29, 1917, and again July 6, 1917. He did not serve overseas, but was instead assigned to state service to command the 1st infantry, Indiana National Guard.

[8] “Morgan County Republicans,” Indianapolis Journal, June 6, 1902, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; “Representatives Who Will Occupy Seats at the Coming Session,” Indianapolis News, November 5, 1902, 7, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “No Flood of Bills Promised for This Legislature,” Indianapolis News, November 15, 1902, 11, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Representative Branch’s Real Family Tree,” Indianapolis News, January 29, 1903, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Vetoed Thirty-Eight Bills,” [Plymouth] Weekly Republican, March 19, 1903, 4, accessed Newspapers.com; “Booms Developing at the Love Fest: Announcements of Two More Republican Candidates for Governor Expected,” Indianapolis News, December 30, 1903, accessed Newspapers.com; “Forest Branch Seeks Renomination,” Indianapolis News, January 29, 1904, 15, accessed Newspapers.com; “A Political Trick,” [Columbus] Republican, January 12, 1905, 2, accessed Newspapers.com; “Against Railway Subsidies,” Indianapolis News, January 24, 1905, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; “Favors Voting Machines,” Indianapolis News, February 3, 1905, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; “Morgan Again Republican,” Indianapolis Star, November 7, 1906, 6, accessed Newspapers.com; “Candidates Looking After the Speakership,” Indianapolis News, November 8, 1906, 15; “Clearing the Decks,” February 11, 1905, 10, accessed Newspapers.com; Justin E. Walsh, ed., A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly, vol. 2, 1900-1984 (Indianapolis: Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly and the Indiana Historical Bureau, 1984), 50.

In June 1902, Morgan County voters nominated Branch for state representative. In November 1902, the Indianapolis News printed a list (with photos) of all of the senators and representatives elected to the upcoming session of the Indiana General Assembly. See Branch’s photograph here. According to the Indianapolis News, Branch announced that he would propose “some amendments to our election law that will provide for the use of voting machines, certain qualifications for voters and a general purification of the politics of this State.” As a legislator, Branch began with local issues that affected his Martinsville constituents, but soon expanded his view and work.

By 1905, he was working for reform in the form of the shippers’ railway commission bill, which he introduced into the House. He also supported related bills designed to repeal railroad subsidies introduced by colleagues. In January 1905, the Indianapolis News quoted him on the subject: “The time is past when the people should be taxed to further the rich corporations because the latter are now in a condition to care for themselves.” The bill passed in amended form in February 1905. Also in 1905, Branch introduced legislation to make automated voting machines mandatory (as opposed to paper ballots in some places and machines in others). According to the Indianapolis News on February 3, 1905, he had been working on the bill for two terms because: “He believes that it is the only way to solve the evil of vote-selling and vote-buying, and that it will abolish election frauds and election contests.”

The Indianapolis Star reported that Branch was elected state representative for a third time in November 1906. For information on his final term in the Indiana House see footnote 9.

[9] “Here Is Mr. Hanly’s Slate,” Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, November 14, 1906, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Governor Decides Speaker Question,” [Muncie[ Star Press, November 14, 1906, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Branch Elected,” [Columbus] Republic, January 10, 1907, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; “Indiana Lawmakers,” Plymouth Tribune, January 17, 1907, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Lobbyists Are Criticized,” Garret Clipper, February 14, 1907, 6, accessed Newspapers.com; “Brewers After Speaker Branch,” [Richmond] Palladium-Item, September 15, 1908, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; “Republicans In Caucus,” Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, September 8, 1908, 4, accessed Newspapers.com; “To Lay Plans for Heading off the Democrats, Fort Wayne Sentinel, September 8, 1908, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Miller’s Last Word for County Option,” Indianapolis Star, January 12, 1909, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; Journal of the [Indiana] House of Representatives during the Special Session of the Sixty-Fifth General Assembly, Commencing Friday September 18, 1908 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Buford Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1908), accessed GoogleBooks; Justin E. Walsh, ed., A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly, vol. 2, 1900-1984 (Indianapolis: Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly and the Indiana Historical Bureau, 1984), 50; Justin E. Walsh, Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly (Indianapolis: Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly and the Indiana Historical Bureau, 1987), 685.

On November 7, 1906, the Indianapolis News reported that Branch was elected for a third term in the Indiana House of Representatives. During his 1907-1908 term, Branch twice served as Speaker of the House. As early as November 1906, Governor Hanly announced his hope that the House would elect Branch speaker and encouraged other candidates to withdraw to keep the party unified and focused on needed reforms. On January 10, 1907, the (Columbus) Republic announced Branch’s election to Speaker of the House for the 65th Indiana General Assembly.

While Speaker, Branch supported temperance reform, most importantly the local county option bill, which allowed each county to independently choose whether they would be a dry county. He denounced lobbying on the House floor and encouraged legislators to resist special interest groups – he likely referred to liquor interests.  His temperance position made him disliked by the powerful brewery and liquor interests which tried to remove him as Speaker. Despite such resistance, he was again elected Speaker in 1908 and the county option bill did indeed pass during a special session in September 1908.

Justin Walsh lists Branch as Speaker for the 1907 session and the 1908 special session in his Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly. The 66th Session of the Indiana General Assembly began January 7, 1909. Representative Thomas Honan became Speaker of the House that month.

[10] “Lieutenant Governor Branch Inaugurated,” Indianapolis News, January 10, 1921, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Condemns ‘Omnibus’ Bill,” Indianapolis Star, January 11, 1921, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; “Seek to Lift School German Language Ban,” Indianapolis News, January 11, 1923, 32, accessed Newspapers.com; “Puts Ban on All Foreign Language,” Rushville Daily Republican, February 28, 1923, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Reveres Day’s Spirit,” The Indianapolis Star, March 6, 1923, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; Year Book of the State of Indiana for the Year 1921, Compiled and Published under the Direction of Warren T. McCray, Governor, by The Legislative Reference Bureau (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Buford, Contractor for State and Printing and Binding, 1922), 1163, accessed Indiana State Library. James H. Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change: A History of the Hoosier State and its People, 1920-1945 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982), 28.           

According to the 1921 Year Book of the State of Indiana, Branch was inaugurated as Lieutenant-Governor and became ex-officio President of the Senate on January 10, 1921. Branch’s main act as lieutenant governor was to end the practice of “omnibus bills” in the Indiana legislature. This is a practice used by the General Assembly to vote on several bills at once, combining several unrelated subjects together to be voted on. Two major issues arose in the General Assembly during his time as lieutenant governor—a “Memorial Day” bill that threatened to end the Indianapolis 500, and a bill that aimed to repeal the 1919 anti-German language bill. The Republican Party at this time was mainly focused on improving schools, improving highway systems, and creating a new prison. Branch supported this political agenda, and continued to do so as governor.

[11] Associated Press, “Will be Sentenced this Morning; Expected to go to Atlanta before Night,” Logansport Morning Press, April 30, 1924, 1, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “Incoming Governor Prominent Figure,” Indianapolis Star, April 30, 1924, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; “Home Town is Proud of E.F. Branch,” [Greencastle] Daily Banner, April 30, 1924, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Gov. Branch Begins Probe Into Affairs,” [Greencastle] Daily Banner, May 1, 1924, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

Governor Warren T. McCray was convicted on charges of attempting to defraud his creditors and resigned from office on April 30, 1924. Since Branch’s term was only about eight months, he did not have enough time to create his own goals and changes in the government. He embraced McCray’s reform ideas and goals in an attempt to carry on as normal. However, before he could begin, he needed to investigate McCray’s administration. He ensured that all departments under the control of McCray were investigated for further corruption, taking necessary actions to make the government uncorrupt during his term.

[12] "Indiana's Bad Road System," South Bend Tribune, September 9, 1912, p. 6, accessed microfilm at Indiana State Library (Indianapolis, Ind.); “Shows Burden of Expense Has Been Lightened,” Muncie Evening Press, May 22, 1924, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Branch Takes Up Schlensker Deal,” Indianapolis Star, August 30, 1924, 9, accessed Newspapers.com; “Crossing Safety Program Sought,” The Indianapolis News, 14 Oct. 1924, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “State Adds Near Thousand Miles to Road System,” Indianapolis Star, November 13, 1924, accessed Newspapers.com; “State Solons Oppose Plan of Governor,” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, December 12, 1924, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Seven Chosen for Advisory Work on Crossing Safety,” Indianapolis Star, December 27, 1924, 16, accessed Newspapers.com; “Full Text of Governor Branch’s Message,” The Indianapolis Star, 9 Jan 1925, 9, accessed Newspapers.com. For more information on the Good Roads Movement see: William Kaszynski, The American Highway: The History of Roads and Culture in the United States (Jefferson, North Carolina, 2000), 38, 42; Clifton Phillips, Indiana in Transition: The Emergence of an Industrial Commonwealth, 1880-1920 (Indianapolis, 1968) 264-5.

During his short term of a little more than eight months, Branch mainly continued the policies and reform goals of the previous administration. Shortly after taking office as governor, Branch addressed the Republican state convention and defended the goals of the administration (previous and current) from Democratic criticism centered on spending. According to the Muncie Evening Press on May 22, 1924, Branch “pledged the party to a continuance of a program of better roads, better schools, better care of the state’s wards and necessary improvements for state institutions.”

Branch’s focus on “good roads” was important in this time period as improved transportation would improve the economy – a main focus of the Republican Party. The Good Roads Movement emerged in the late nineteenth century, when Americans began to "put great value on individual mobility." Urban dwellers sought country getaways, first on bicycle than by automobile, while farmers and other rural Hoosiers looked to better roads to sell goods, go to school, and receive mail. However, these improvements did not happen without problems. In 1912, the South Bend Tribune reported that Indiana roads were mostly bad, hindering and isolating rural residents and farmers.

By the 1920s, the State of Indiana had focused resources on improving roads and allocated a large percentage of tax revenue to a state highway program. Speaking in 1924 of the previous administration’s allocation of tax revenue, Branch estimated that “of the $9,494,000, $2,213.00 went for the state highway system.” Starting in August 1924, Branch also worked to “aid in unscrambling” the “tangle” of the state highway commission’s accounts by facilitating meetings with suppliers who had overcharged for materials and parts and looking into charges of mismanagement of funds during the First World War.

Branch was actively involved in the extension of the state highway system, working with the state highway commission and the federal government. On November 13, 1924, the Indianapolis Star announced an “addition of almost 1,000 miles of roads to the state highway system” and called it “the most important step taken by the roads body since the original highway system was designated.” This “roads body” consisted of the State Highway Commission, the Federal Bureau of Public Roads, and Governor Branch. The Star explained that this 1,000-mile-addition brought the state system to 5,039.5 miles and now stretched through every county in the state.

Branch also introduced proposals for related programs and reforms and called a “safety conference in October 1924 to improve road safety. On December 12, 1924, legislators began discussing Branch’s proposals for the next session which notably included road safety legislation. Branch proposed the Public Service Commission be given authority to designate dangerous railroad crossings and mandate railroad companied place signals there; the requirement that all motorists stop at railroad crossings; and license suspension for intoxicated drivers. Branch appointed an advisory committee tasked with creating a safety commission. In his closing message to the Indiana General Assembly in January 1925, Branch reported the solutions that this conference came up with and suggestions on how to proceed. One important result of this conference was the “Stop, Look, Listen” law that was enacted.

[13] “Speech of Governor Branch at G.O.P. Convention,” The Indianapolis News, 22 May 1924, 15, clipping in “Branch, Emmett Forest and family,” Indiana State Library; “Watson Boom Endorsed by Republicans,” Greencastle Daily Banner (Greencastle, Ind.), 22 May 1924, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Text of Gov. Branch’s Message to Assembly,” The Indianapolis News, 8 Jan. 1925, 14, accessed Newspapers.com; Mannweller, David, “Governors of Indiana,” The Indianapolis News, 23 Mar. 1964, 33, clipping in “Branch, Emmett Forest and family,” Indiana State Library; Justin E. Walsh, Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly (Indianapolis: Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly and the Indiana Historical Bureau, 1987), 393; James H. Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change: A History of the Hoosier State and its People, 1920-1945 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982), 271-274.

Branch was a firm believer that education was a principal foundation stone of the government and that Indiana’s education system needed the upmost support of the citizens in this. He was fond of reminding them that “you cannot have better roads, better schools, better teachers unless you pay the price.”  He believed that a better education meant a better citizen, and that spending more on education would ultimately make Indiana a better state.

Most legislation at the time of Branch’s term primarily depended on the property tax to fund the public school system, according to Walsh’s Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly. In a speech to the Republican state convention, Branch said that “increased expenditures for schools…became an absolute necessity because of the larger attendance, the longer terms of school, higher salaries for teachers and better school buildings.” Republicans at the time pushed for a “county unit of education,” which would create a county board of education responsible for locating schools, purchasing supplies, appointing teachers, electing the county superintendent, and levying a uniform school tax. Through this system, supporters hoped that the school system would have a more uniform quality throughout the state and a uniform and fair tax rate in the county. True to his Republican ideals, Branch recommended that the county unit of education be implemented to the seventy-fourth general assembly in his speech on January 8, 1925, saying “I think it should be done for I believe it a step for better education and that is one essential we must not lost sight of in building up our government.”

[14] Warren T. McCray to Emmett Forest Branch, June 22, 1921, Warren T. McCray Papers, Box 1, Folder 3B, Indiana State Archives; “Prison Nearly Done,”(Greencastle) Daily Banner, 12 April 1924, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Watson Boom Endorsed by Republicans,” (Greencastle) Daily Banner, 22 May 1924, 1-2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Speech of Governor Branch at G.O.P. Convention,” The Indianapolis News, 22 May 1924, 15, clipping in “Branch, Emmett Forest and family,” Indiana State Library; “Selection Blind School Site Goes before Assembly,” Muncie Post-Democrat, 9 January 1925, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Branch in Plea for Institutions,” The Argos Reflector (Argos, Indiana), 22 Jan 1925, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; Justin E. Walsh, Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly (Indianapolis: Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly and the Indiana Historical Bureau, 1987), 393.

From the late nineteenth century through the 1920s, “most legislation regarding benevolent institutions dealt with improving existing facilities,” according to the Walsh’s Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly. This was true of Branch’s time in the governor’s office as well. Specifically, Branch continued the efforts of the previous administration in regards to a new state reformatory at Pendleton and relocating the Indiana School for the Blind.

By the early 1920s, a primary focus for Republican lawmakers was a new state penitentiary. In December 1921 (while Branch was serving as lieutenant governor), Governor McCray called a special session of the General Assembly to approve the sale of the old penitentiary at Jeffersonville and to appropriate funds for a new facility (later chosen to be placed in Pendleton). The new prison was almost completed by the time Branch became governor in April of 1924, but as he had been involved in furthering this project of McCray’s since serving as his lieutenant governor. Letters between the two leaders show that McCray often consulted Branch during the process of selling the old penitentiary site in Jeffersonville and in selecting the new site at Pendleton. Once in office as governor, Branch defended the decisions of the previous administration in regards to the penitentiary from Democratic attacks that the project was too expensive. Addressing the Republican state convention in May 1924 Branch explained that it would have cost taxpayers more money to modernize the old prison than build the new and that “construction had been carried on at a minimum cost” compared to neighboring states.

In a January 1925 joint session of legislature, Branch “pleaded for the state institutions, expressing a strong desire that the present system of control and operation of benevolent, charitable and correctional institutions be continued.” He believed so strongly in helping the unfortunate people of the state that he declared in a 1924 speech at the G.O.P. Convention that “if it is not right to help the unfortunate, our wards, or to help educate our children...then the Republican party is wrong and the money for these things should not be taxed.”

During the McCray administration, the Indiana General Assembly enacted legislation to move the Indiana School for the Blind from downtown to a new location which allow for expansion of the school’s industrial training program. However, by the time Branch took over the governorship, little progress had been made in finding an appropriate new location by the commission appointed to the task. On January 8, 1925, Governor Branch announced that the commission again failed to find a new location and asked the General Assembly to decide the matter in the upcoming session. The site considered most appropriate by the governor at the 77 block of North College (though he had reservations about cost) eventually did become the new location for the Indiana School for the Blind.

[15] “Branch Sworn In; Begins Check of Affairs of State,” Indianapolis Star, 1 May 1924, accessed Newspapers.com; “Branch Issues May Day Proclamation,” The Indianapolis Star, 1 May 1924, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “First Proclamation,” (Elwood) Call-Leader, 1 May 1924, 4, accessed Newspapers.com; “Full Text of Governor Branch’s Message,” Indianapolis Star, 9 January 1925, 8, accessed Newspapers.com; James H. Madison, Indiana through Tradition and Change (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982) 321.

Children’s health became a central issue for the state starting in 1919 when the Indiana General Assembly created and allocated funds for the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene of the State Board of Health. The Division’s work expanded during the McCray administration after the passage of federal legislation which provided direct and matching funds to states for education related to children’s health. In 1923, McCray approved funding and legislation to receive such funds.

When Branch took over the governor’s office after McCray’s resignation in April 1924, his most pressing issue was a survey of the affairs of the previous administration in order to reassure concerned citizens that no further misconduct would continue. (See footnote 11 for information on the scandal behind McCray’s resignation). However, his first official statement as governor, issued just after his swearing in on April 29, 1924, concerned children’s health, specifically Indiana’s involvement in the first nationwide “Child Health Day” on May 1. Branch stated: “Joy is the keynote of the May Day gatherings. Improvements in home and communities may well begin on this day. It is hoped that this nation-wide observance of May day as Child Health day may result in the annual rededication to the health and happiness of children.” He also actively worked toward the opening of the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children in 1924. (See following footnote for more information). In his January 1925 message to the Indiana General Assembly, Branch advocated for the establishment of a state institution to treat tuberculosis patients, noting that half of those infected were children.

[16] “Calls for the Observance of Hospital Week,” The Greencastle Herald, 5 Sept. 1924, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; Emmett F. Branch, letter to Miles C. Riley, 7 Oct. 1924, folder 16, box 1, Governor Emmett Forest Branch Collection (1924-1925), Indiana State Archives (Indianapolis, Ind.);  The Legislative Reference Bureau, Yearbook of the State of Indiana for the Year 1921 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, 1922), 1153; “Full Text of Governor Branch’s Message,” The Indianapolis Star, 9 Jan 1925, 9, accessed Newspapers.com.

As lieutenant governor, Branch had overseen the passage of the law providing for the establishment of the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Hospital for Children. As governor, he dedicated the hospital on October 7, 1924. The week leading up to the dedication was named “Riley Hospital Week” to celebrate and to urge people to help the institution as much as possible. He was very proud of the hospital, boasting to the Indiana General Assembly that “the work being done there for the unfortunate little folks is of the highest quality.”

[17] “Outstanding Events Marked Short Term of Gov. Branch,” The Indianapolis News, 12 Jan. 1925, 11, accessed Newspapers.com; “Interesting Phases of Inaugural Ceremonies,” Indianapolis News, 12 January 1925, 17, accessed Newspapers.com; Yearbook of the State of Indiana for the Year 1925 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1926), accessed HathiTrust.

After serving just over eight months as the thirty-second governor of Indiana, Branch attended the inauguration of the new Governor Ed Jackson on January 12, 1925. According to the Indianapolis News, Branch and his wife left the governor’s mansion just a few hours afterwards. The paper reported that they were returning to their home in Martinsville where the former governor would resume his law practice.

[18] Tony L. Trimble, “Emmett F. Branch,” in The Governors of Indiana, ed. Linda C. Gugin and James E. St. Clair (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006), 268; “The New Speaker,” The Waterloo Press (Waterloo, Ind.), 17 Jan. 1907, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; “Branch is Lawyer and Business Man; Former Speaker of House,” The Indianapolis News, 29 Apr. 1924, 15, accessed Newspapers.com; “Interesting Phases of Inaugural Ceremonies,” Indianapolis News, 12 January 1925, 17, accessed Newspapers.com. “E.F. Branch Dies of Heart Disease,” The Indianapolis News, 24 Feb. 1932, clipping in “Branch, Emmett Forest and family,” Indiana State Library; “Elevator Burns at Martinsville,” The Indianapolis Star, 11 Sept. 1946, 23, accessed Newspapers.com; “From Our Files—Fifteen Years Ago: September 10, 1946,” Rushville Republican (Rushville, Ind.), 9 Sept. 1961, 2, accessed Newspapers.com; 1920 United States Census, Martinsville, Morgan County, Indiana, digital image, s.v. “E.F. Branch,” accessed Ancestry.com; 1930 United States Census, Martinsville, Morgan County, Indiana, digital image, s.v. “Emmett F. Branch,” accessed Ancestry.com; For more information on the early Branch Grain & Seed Company, then named Branch & Bro., see Counties of Morgan, Monroe, and Brown, Indiana history, pages 88-89, 174-175.

 

Branch and his wife resided at 510 E. Washington Street in Martinsville, where they lived for more than twenty years. It was to this house he returned after his short term as governor, according to Tony Trimble in The Governors of Indiana. Trimble also notes that while Branch resumed practicing law, he also had several business interests. These business interests included his family business—the Branch Grain and Seed Company, of which he was President while serving as Speaker of the House and lieutenant governor. The Branch Grain and Seed Company had existed before a railroad ran through Martinsville, having been founded in 1845. The company specialized in high-grade seed. Branch also held stock in the Martinsville Trust Company. The 1930 census shows him living in the same home as 1920, and working as a lawyer. He died unexpectedly of heart disease at the age of 57 in Martinsville on February 23, 1932.