The story of a beginning ..


Today 106th and Westfield remains a tangle of trees with scattered homes.

Our family lived in a home where the Indianapolis area chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous first started in October, 1940.

History suggests that circa 1901, there was a modest bungalow located near 16th Street and Senate, near the Methodist/IU Hospital in Indianapolis. There was a business located nearby owned by Doherty Sheerin. He eventually purchased the building, had it torn down and the lumber was brought to the “country” in 1931. There, the house was reconstructed and used as a cottage or summer home.

The Sheerin family had bought acreage on 106th Street, between Keystone and Westfield Boulevard. Today, it is incorporated into the city of Carmel. The property had a name of Tanglewood, or the “Tangle” by the Sheerin family, which consisted of 8 children, 3 boys and 5 girls. One of the girls, Dorsh eventually married Charles Brown, both of whom were Marquette residents. Charles was the architect of Marquette.

In reading through the abstract of the property, the owner died of cirrhosis of the liver. We did meet some of the family and they confirmed that father was addicted to alcohol. In 1936, Doherty became ill with a damaged liver. The family sought help. After unsuccessful treatments for alcoholics at the Menninger clinic in Topeka, Kansas and at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Milwaukee, Doherty returned to the Tangle under the care of an attendant.

Later, in 1940, Doherty and the family heard about a new concept and made inquiries about Alcoholics Anonymous. Irwin M. arrived by September of 1940 to Doherty’s request who bluntly introduced himself: “I am from Cleveland and I’ve come here to help you get to work”. The beginnings of Indianapolis AA began on October 28, 1940 at the Tangle. (An earlier Indiana chapter began in Evansville).

To his fellow recovering alcoholics, Doherty S. was known as Dohr. Those in treatment were known on a first name basis, their last names identified by only the first letter to retain the person’s privacy. That is why the organization is called Alcoholics Anonymous.

Dohr was like Johnny Appleseed, planting the seeds of nurturing the expansion of AA around central Indiana. He continued to reach out to others fighting the disease and became a key person that helped grow the Alcoholics Anonymous that helps people in all walks of life find sobriety.


Contributed by: Fred Hecker

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4 thoughts on “Where AA History was Made

  1. Wonderful history of the AA chapter in Indianapolis. This beautiful property was home home to the Hecker family for many years. I always loved going there. The massive trees and delicate flora made me feel at home.

  2. Thank you, Fred, for this informative article. And thanks for connecting Dorsch and Charles Brown to Marquette.

  3. Thank you,Fred, I found the article very interesting and informative. This is an area of the city that we all, that have lived in Indianapolis for many years can recognize and the origin of the AA in the city. Interesting.

  4. Nice article detailing architecture, a family’s struggles with sobriety, and an alcoholic who recognized his power to help others, which became a purpose for him in his last years. Thanks for writing it!

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