Posts Tagged ‘Indiana counties’

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Meandering Indiana 19 – Tippecanoe County

December 25, 2009

Downtown Skyline of Lafayette, Indiana

Today it’s time for a visit to Tippecanoe County, where I first touched down in Indiana. On my first visit to the state, I was so ignorant of its geography that I booked a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago to West Lafayette. The little plane (maybe a dozen passengers) flew so low that we navigated by following the highway from Chicago to the Purdue airport, which apparently no longer has commercial airline service.

Another puzzler for me when I first got there was the way people with expensive homes (deans and the like) were extremely proud of living on ravines. What is this thing with ravines? I wondered. Well, situated in the northern, glacier-flattened half of Indiana, Tippecanoe County does not have a lot of interesting terrain. Ravines are about it.

Tippecanoe is a word that many school children would recognize because of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” Few campaign slogans are remembered 170 years later, but that tribute to William Henry Harrison has a pleasing rhythm to it. Should any student wish to learn more about Harrison and the Battle of Tippecanoe, there is always the redoubtable Ginger Smith’s Fourth Grade Class website, created by the students of Battle Ground Elementary School.

Battle Ground is also the site of Historic Prophetstown in Prophetstown State Park, with its 1920s Farmstead, now offering farm produce.  Located south of the town is the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum, a site run by the Tippecanoe County Historical Association. The association also oversees the Fort Ouiatenon Blockhouse and the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon. In Lafayette, the Association runs the Moses Fowler House and the Frank Arganbright Genealogy and Research Center, 1001 South Street. Conveniently located across the street is the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette. Over the years all of these organizations have partnered with the Indiana Humanities Council on numerous projects, as have the Tippecanoe County and West Lafayette Public Libraries.

You can find a lot of information about these venues and more on the website of the Lafayette-West Lafayette Convention & Visitors Bureau, homeofpurdue.com. Purdue? Oh, yes, Purdue. That brings me back to my first experience in Indiana, which was at Purdue. There I met my husband, Joel, and, 36 years later, I’m not sure whether to praise or blame the university. But, in this season of joy, let us be charitable. Kudos to Tippecanoe County!

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Meandering Indiana 18 – Lawrence County

November 30, 2009

It was about this time of year, many years ago, when I took my first trip to southern Indiana. The occasion was a visit to my new husband’s hometown of Bedford, Indiana, where he had graduated from the old Bedford High School (before Bedford North Lawrence). A Hoosier boyhood among the quarries was his experience, as in the movie “Breaking Away.” Known as the Land of Limestone, this area of Indiana was the source of building material for the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, and most of Indiana University. Generations of stone cutters and carvers, some from the craft traditions of Italy, worked in that industry.

As the Indiana Humanities Council gears up for its theme program, Food for Thought, let me pause here to note that the Lawrence County Tourism Commission has provided a Dining Guide to the county, as well as other useful information.

Persimmon Pulp

Persimmon Pulp

Speaking of food, Mitchell, another notable town in Lawrence County, has a few claims to fame of its own. First, it’s the home of the Mitchell Persimmon Festival, held annually in September since 1947. My mother-in-law first introduced me to persimmon pudding, a Hoosier treat described as “a baked dessert with a taste similar to pumpkin pie filling but with the texture of gingerbread.” Sure enough, we had some for Thanksgiving this year.

I didn’t get to see much of Lawrence County on my first visit, which we spent hanging out with my husband’s old pals, but since then I’ve enjoyed a number of area attractions. Spring Mill State Park, a popular facility with a delightful inn, a pioneer village, and a memorial to Astronaut Gus Grissom, is a destination near Mitchell. And I have yet to visit Oolitic, but it’s one of my favorite Indiana town names.

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Meandering Indiana 17 – Adams County

October 26, 2009

For a small county (pop. 34,000), Adams County has a lot of towns, or so it has always seemed to me.

Photo: Berne Chamber of Commerce

Photo: Berne Chamber of Commerce

BERNE – First settled in 1852 by Swiss Mennonites, Berne was named after the capital of Switzerland. A popular place to visit in Berne is the Swiss Heritage Village & Museum. On the grounds of this outdoor museum are a number of nineteenth-century buildings (schoolhouse, church, sawmill), but the one I remember is the Sweitzer Barn. Cleverly designed with an upper story accessible from the rear by going up a bank or ramp, the “bank barn” was popular among Pennsylvania Germans as well as settlers in this area of northeast Indiana. I enjoyed my tour of this impressive structure during planning for the Indiana Humanities Council’s Barn Again! program.

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Photo: Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

GENEVA – Indiana author and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter’s Limberlost Cabin is another highlight of Adams County. Now a state historic site, the home was built near the Limberlost Swamp, described as Stratton-Porter’s “playground, laboratory and inspiration.” Here she wrote novels, including Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost, and nature books. While the home may be considered rustic by architects, I thought the interior was polished and beautiful with its updated Arts and Crafts style.

DECATUR – We should not leave Adams County without a brief nod to the town of Decatur, Indiana. Although I’ve missed it in my meandering, it is the county seat and site of the courthouse. No doubt the courthouse will be along the route of the Callithumpian Parade, scheduled for Oct. 26, 2009, although someone besides me will have to explain the origin of this annual Decatur event.

Photo: Derek Jensen

Photo: Derek Jensen

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Meandering Indiana 16 – Spencer County

September 28, 2009

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Spencer County, Indiana, is Abraham Lincoln country, the locale of his boyhood home. In preparation for the Lincoln Bicentennial, I have had the opportunity to take many trips to Spencer County, but two were especially memorable.

My first visit to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial was a tour guided by site superintendent Randy Wester. From the memorial building, with its large sculptured limestone panels depicting phases in Lincoln’s life, we walked across a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., then up a hill to the Nancy Hanks Lincoln gravesite. A sense of peacefulness and remembrance seemed to hold these places apart from time. Randy pointed out that the site was a National Memorial, not a park or a monument.

The second occasion I remember vividly was a tour led by Bill Bartelt, author of There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth. Bill, a teacher who spent many summers as a park ranger, had studied not only the life of Lincoln but also the land he must have walked in southern Indiana.

Path in Spencer CountyCrossing over to Lincoln State Park, which adjoins the National Memorial, Bill led us to a wide path in the woods that was once a primitive road connecting one frontier settlement to another. As we stood among the trees, with hardly anything modern in sight, it was not difficult to imagine a teenaged boy of the 1820s, sauntering along this path on his way back from an errand.

Last night Ken Burns’ latest project, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea premiered on PBS. Lincoln Boyhood was the first national park established in Indiana when, in 1962, it was transferred from the jurisdiction of the state to the National Park Service. Not only are our national parks amazing resources that we all can share, but we can also access NPS.gov, a rich online resource for discovering history, exploring nature, and continuing to learn about our country.

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Meandering Indiana 14 – Henry County

June 8, 2009

Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame

Chaucer wrote in The Canterbury Tales that when spring arrives “than longen folk to go on pilgrimages.” So it was that while on vacation I decided to visit a shrine or two. Of course, this led me to Henry County.

I’d been in New Castle before, attending a meeting at the community foundation. But this time I was able to enter the sacred space of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. On that particular day, the long walk from the parking lot to the front door was lined with clothes and shoes, set out on tables. Under a sunny sky, The Hall was having a yard sale.

Inside I watched the brief film that tried to explain why basketball is special in the state of Indiana. It was preaching to the choir but nicely done. Wandering up and down among the glass cases, I saw photos, trophies, newspaper clippings, jerseys and letter sweaters — all the material embodiment of legends and heroes.

The most special of all, always paired in my mind, are the 1954 and 1955 state championship teams. You know the stories, too. The first is the Miracle of Milan with Bobby Plump’s last shot. The second, as wonderful, is the first school ever to win a state championship for Indianapolis — Crispus Attucks with its star, Oscar Robertson. I was once privileged to attend a 50th anniversary reunion of that team and the team it beat in the finals, Gary Roosevelt. The Indiana Humanities Council was part of the celebration at Hinkle Fieldhouse via a grant for the project, which was directed by Dr. Bill Wiggins.

Afterwards I went through the enshrinement gallery, with its exhibit of black-and-white portraits drawn by the artist Keith Butz. Each player or coach is depicted in two images, one at the time of induction into the Hall of Fame and one as he or she looked back in the day. (Girls and their coaches were included although they did not get a state tournament until 1976.)

I could have spent more time there, but I wanted to move on to my next stop in Henry County, the Hoosier Gym. Taking Route 3 south from New Castle, past I-70, to U.S. 40, then turning west brought me quickly to Knightstown. It took a bit of searching to find the Gym because it’s attached to the Knightstown Academy, which looks more like a courthouse. It was, however, once a school, and when the county built a new consolidated high school, a developer bought the Academy, now on the National Register, and turned it into condominiums.

A weekend festival was about to start, with a commemorative game to be played between “Hickory High” and “Terhune.” Again I found piles of T-shirts and souvenirs for sale outside and a volunteer docent inside to explain about how “Hoosiers” came to be filmed in this gym. I asked him whether the film crew had to do much to prepare the site for movie-making. No, he said, it only needed a coat of paint and a bit of gloss added to the floor. Otherwise, it was already perfect.

Still owned by the town, the Hoosier Gym is administered separately from the condos, so it is watched over by its community group, just as the Hall of Fame is. Therein lies the true soul of Indiana basketball, for legendary games are not only about those who are heroes but also about those are witnesses.

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Meandering Indiana 13 – Wayne County

May 22, 2009

Summer is almost here, and Americans are ready to hit the road. Likewise, a citizen setting out from Maryland in the late 1830s could get on the newly built federal highway and drive a wagon straight through to St. Louis. The National Road, as it was called, entered Indiana on the eastern edge around Richmond, passed through many small towns before arriving in Indianapolis, and wound up in Terre Haute where it exited the state.

I’ve driven stretches of this same road (U.S. 40) on days when I-70 just seemed unnecessary. The pavement’s been upgraded a bit, but it’s still a fine way to travel. The National Road also still divides northern Indiana from southern Indiana, according to some historians. Since it runs down Washington Street in Indy, one might also say it divides the northern from the southern half of the city.

Back in Wayne County, the area’s Quaker heritage with its commitment to peace and justice is revealed in traces of the Underground Railroad, such as the Levi Coffin House (Fountain City), and in Earlham College (801 National Road West, Richmond).

I meandered to Wayne County quite deliberately one sunny day–for no other reason than to go sightseeing in Metamora. This tourist-friendly town is known for its historic canal and gristmill, and I also enjoyed the shops and the Side Track Cafe.

Huddleston Farmhouse Inn Museum (photo: William Eccles)

Huddleston Farmhouse Inn Museum (photo: William Eccles)

Another day I was at the Huddleston Farmhouse Inn Museum to meet with the Historic Landmarks Foundation staff about an exhibit project sponsored by the Indiana Humanities Council. This historic site–with its house, barn, smokehouse, and springhouse–is sometimes listed as in Cambridge City and sometimes as in Mt. Auburn, but it’s not hard to find. For, as our nineteenth-century travelers discovered when looking for a place to stay, you can’t miss it. It’s at 838 National Road.

Read more of Nancy’s travels across the state, here.

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Meandering Indiana – 12

April 1, 2009

On a sunny day in spring, what is better than to get out on the road and travel to another county in Indiana? Today, though, I’ll have to be content with getting out a map and paying a virtual visit — this time to Jefferson County. (By the way, geology.com has a very handy map of Indiana’s counties with each of their county seats.)

Madison, Indiana, has almost too much history to describe. Founded on the Ohio River in 1809, it became the gateway to Indiana Territory. Thirty years later a railroad was put in place to connect Madison with the new state capital at Indianapolis. Today Madison’s downtown district, consisting of more than 130 blocks, is a superstar on the National Register of Historic Places.

Credit: Wanda Hertz

South Side of Main Street (credit: Wanda Hertz)

The visitors bureau for Madison describes a number of historic sites, many of which have been long-time partners of the Indiana Humanities Council. The Jefferson County Historical Society offers a Heritage Center and Railroad Museum, under the direction of Joe Carr. The Lanier Mansion, a state historic site, recently received a grant from the council for its Lanier Days celebration, June 13-14, 2009, with historic interpreters and re-enactors and a Historic Trades Fair on the mansion grounds.

My personal memories of Madison include a stay at the Broadway Hotel, established in 1834 and known as Indiana’s oldest.  It was easy to imagine stopping there in the mid-1800s and climbing the narrow stairs to a Victorian room lit by lanterns, no TV or phones, just summer sounds outside on Main Street and voices from the tavern below.

Before we leave Jefferson County, we might stop at Hanover College, a few miles west of Madison. Hanover, with a commanding view of the Ohio, is the home of the Rivers Institute, a center for the interdisciplinary and collaborative study of river environments. Interdisciplinary — for now that we are reassessing everything in our society, it is becoming clear that the environment, along with other aspects of science and technology, must be approached with all the insight that humankind can bring to bear. Such thoughts are inspired by Jefferson County, a place where the concurrence of nature led to the construction of history, coming together to form the beginning of the Indiana we have today.

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Meandering Indiana – 11.2

March 3, 2009

I tend to get a little lost driving around Elkhart. Like many towns on a river, it has streets that sometimes twist and end and lie along a diagonal. Just days after my virtual meander there, President Obama made Elkhart the most talked-about county in Indiana. The Elkhart Truth (or “eTruth” online) told the whole story, but I think we all know what happened: Elkhart, Indiana, became the epicenter of national politics because of its economic woes.

What else is special about Elkhart?

In the 1990s, Elkhart was a host community for the Indiana Humanities Council’s ASIA IN US exhibit, highlighting the ties between Indiana and Asia. This time last year, the council was again taking a closer look at Elkhart County because of our focus on immigration. Eye2theWorld, an educational organization in Goshen (the county seat and home of Goshen College) received a grant to examine Elkhart County’s new and surprising diversity due to the growth of its Hispanic population.  Two projects, an oral history of six Latino citizens and a conference on immigration, were sponsored under their leadership.

The council, in partnership with the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University, will be back with a regional workshop on sustainability and economic development for Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties.

I could not leave Elkhart County without a nod to our friends at the Middlebury Community Public Library. The county has many good libraries, actually, but director Terry Rheinheimer continues to amaze us with the well-thought-out programs her library provides. Libraries all over the country have been a center for resources in the current economic climate, with public computer stations, computer training, GED preparation, and database access. Middlebury does all that and also offers excellent book discussion programs, as it has for years, often donating sets of books to the Indiana Humanities Council for reuse and recirculation. Their latest, typically challenging series is called Love and Forgiveness in the Presence of the Enemy, yet another dilemma for our times.

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Meandering Indiana – 10

December 11, 2008

Recently I spent a day at a workshop in Kokomo, and that led to meandering Howard County.

Now, most of us know Kokomo as a place notorious for its stoplights. Traveling US 31 to northern Indiana, your journey is intersected and interrupted by the boulevards of Kokomo. On the way to where you’re going, it’s a nuisance, but on the way back, it’s a literal smorgasbord of franchise dining and retail, not to mention Starbucks.

Starting and stopping through Kokomo, especially right next to the giant Delphi plant on US 31, gives you plenty of time to ponder the auto industry, not exactly cause for joy these days. Being caught there during a shift change used to be another nuisance, but nowadays it would be rather encouraging.

My workshop was held at the Johanning Civic Center, a large building on the east side of the road, which also houses Kokomo’s Automotive Heritage Museum. I stopped in there and wandered up and down the rows of classic cars, arranged chronologically so that the rise of the industry is illustrated in lavish detail. The autos are truly beautiful, reflecting the fascination of many generations of designers and builders who worked on them over time. What family does not share in their history? My mother once told me about riding in a rumble seat, and I pointed out to a fellow visitor the treads that showed how to climb up and in. Tremendous amounts of metal, chrome, and glass went into the Buicks of the ’50s, my father’s favorites.

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In another part of town, the campus of Indiana University Kokomo has been a center of culture and learning for the city, with its art gallery, festivals, and lecture series. I have enjoyed visits to the university and also to the 1891 Seiberling Mansion, home of the Howard County Historical Society, which just won the Indiana Historical Society’s Outstanding Historical Organization Award. (Nice job, Kelly!) The society’s mission statement is well expressed: “The Howard County Historical Society believes in the daily relevance of history. As the custodian of Howard County’s unique heritage, the society preserves our community’s collective experiences. In sharing that history, we foster a sense of community — connecting us to our neighbors, the past to the future, and our home to the world.”

Like travelers at the intersections of Kokomo, the community now faces a crossroads between the past and the future, between its unique heritage and the widening world. I’d be first in line to support the I-69 extension to Evansville, but I’m not so sure we should bypass Kokomo.

This entry was posted by: Nancy
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Meandering Indiana – 9

November 5, 2008

Today seems like a particularly good day to write a “Meander” about Lake County, which once again made it into the national news spotlight last night.

Sometimes called “The Region,” the northwest corner of Indiana is its own place, holding special meaning for our state’s ethnic history, labor history, religious history, and women’s history.

For example, Lake County has the highest percentage of Latinos in the state, roughly 14%. This ethnic community dates back to 1919 when U.S. Steel in Gary and Inland Steel in East Chicago imported Mexican laborers to help break the Great Steel Strike of 1919 (as told by Edward J. Escobar in Forging a Community: The Latino Experience in Northwest Indiana). Women workers from the city contributed to the steel industry during WWII; their Rosie the Riveter was Mela, Queen of the 12-Inch (Bar Mill). East Chicago remains a strong Hispanic center, with its historic Our Lady of Guadalupe parish.

African American workers came to the steel region as part of the Great Migration from the South in the early twentieth century. The community centered around the Midtown District, where Gary Roosevelt, one of the state’s newly built segregated high schools, opened in the 1920s.

Like nearby Chicago, the Region also has many ethnic groups from Eastern and Southern Europe. IHC recently funded a project to trace the Serbian community of northwest Indiana, one among many. In common with other groups in the Region, the “Serbs of Steel” look with pride to their military service in World War II and other American conflicts.

Quite a lot of these stories are preserved in the Calumet Regional Archives at Indiana University Northwest. (See images from the collection). Steve McShane, the archivist, has lately been involved in adding photographs of Gary and its steelworkers to I.U.’s digital library.

My recollections of northwest Indiana include working with the Senoras of Yesteryear on their book about East Chicago, visiting Gary Westside High School one day when the students were trying out their language skills on a visiting group from Japan, and organizing a 1995 conference that brought all the different ethnicities together for exhibits and panel discussions.

And indeed, there are features that unite the Region. For many years those of us who live in central Indiana suffered under the cruel jibes of NBA fans there, all of whom were Bulls devotees in the Michael Jordan era. Perhaps I should compile a briefing sheet for political candidates on the subject of “who roots for whom where, or, my state but not my team.” It would still, I suspect, apply to northwest Indiana.

This entry was posted by: Nancy