31 March 2016

Indiana Byways Passport Program

So, here is a great thing that we at the seven Indiana scenic byways have been working on since the beginning of 2015.  This is a great way to celebrate Indiana's bicentennial and really experience the Hoosier state.  We hope to see you on the road!

Indiana Bicentennial Byways Passport to Launch March 31st

The Indiana Bicentennial Byways Passport Booklet, containing routes for each of Indiana’s seven Scenic Byways, will be available on March 31st. The project is an officially sanctioned Indiana Bicentennial Legacy project and it will commemorate Indiana’s historic transportation corridors. A press conference and official kickoff event will be held at 2:00 PM at the Indiana Historical Society on March 31st to see the program off! The participating byways are: the Indiana National Road, the Wabash River Scenic Byway, the Whitewater Canal Scenic Byway, the Historic Michigan Road, the Indiana Lincoln Highway Byway, the Ohio River Scenic Byway and Indiana’s Historic Pathways. Scenic Byways pass through nearly fifty Indiana counties and account for over 1,000 miles of Hoosier Highways. The 32 page passport booklet contains a variety of stops from each byway and participants will be able to receive a stamp for checking into these stops. 

The Passport Booklet is a tool to explore scenic and historic resources in Indiana. All seven Scenic Byways display beautiful paths and historic transportation routes that tell the story of how Indiana was built. It is a road trip 200 years in the making!

Passports will be available on March 31st for a $2 suggested donation at each designated passport stop. More information on the participating Scenic Byways and passport stop locations can be found by visiting http://www.in.gov/indot/2827.htm. Please visit Indiana Byways on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/IndianaByways/ for additional information and updates on the program. You can also share your photos and experiences traveling Indiana’s Scenic Byways.

29 March 2016

Back to Court-3 more of Indiana's greats

My summer travels during 2015 caused me to pass by several more of Indiana's courthouses and true architectural gems.  From Fulton County's courthouse in Rochester (above), to Jasper's Dubois County Courthouse (below), again, this is one thing that Indiana's early county officials did right!  Fulton County's courthouse was built in 1895-1896 and designed by Edwin Rush.  The Romanesque building prominently features lions that guard its entrances.

The Dubois County Courthouse features massive porticos on each side in the Classical style.  Its position in the center of Jasper on a slight rise emphasizes its height.  We stopped in Jasper to eat at one of their famous German restaurants on the way to Holiday World.  It was the only time it wasn't raining.  The building was built in 1909-1911 and designed by a Washington D.C. firm.

No, that's not the famous golden dome, it's the Vigo County Courthouse in downtown Terre Haute.  The building has strong French leanings and was built in 1884-1885 and designed by Samuel Hannaford of Cincinnati.  The building features prominently in downtown Terre Haute because of so much change in the historic context surrounding the building.  I snapped this shot at a stoplight while working at nearby St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

24 March 2016

The one, and for a long time only county memorial forest in Indiana

This unassuming pile of rocks is likely the base to the monument planned in the forest.
Back in 1943, the State of Indiana passed a new law permitting counties to hold wooded tracts of land under the concept that the land would address both conservation efforts and be used for recreational and "memorial" purposes.  The first such county to do so, as an example for others, was Marshall County in the northern part of the state.  It had an unlikely start, and for more than 50 years, remained the only county in Indiana to have a "Memorial Forest".  It was joined by Starke County in the last decade.

Here's an article about the forest that appeared in the Culver newspaper as written by Robert Kyle, a prominent Indiana journalist:

"A traveling troupe of beavers was responsible for the Marshall County Memorial Forest - the first established under the 1943 law permitting Indiana counties to acquire and maintain wooded tracts. First Sam Jones, an observant farmer living north of Burr Oak on Yellow River, reported he had seen signs of quaking aspen cut down in a small swamp across his line fence. Then Luke Duddleson, the county highway maintenance man, related in casual conversation around a tavern stove that "somethin'" was plugging up a culvert that led to the river "faster than I can clean it out." Russ Fisher, local authority on wildlife in general, and this writer out of curiosity visited the area several weeks later. We found a worthless 8O-acre tract, mostly blow-sand, and a sprinkling of long-neglected apple trees to one side of a swail surrounded by second-growth black oaks, through which a small stream trickled from a spring at the back of the property. Sure enough, there were evidences of beaver workings, and a small dam just back of the culvert was a second line of defense against Luke's determination to keep the culvert open.

During the hunting season Russ and I cruised the surrounding territory, flushed a number of wood ducks that had nested in small dead trees in the pond, and came to the conclusion that to preserve the beaver workings as an educational project we would have to acquire the area and reforest it. We talked the situation over with Harry Medbourn, county commissioner from our district, who came forth with the idea that the county buy it, taking advantage of the 1943 law, and make it into a recreational area. Meanwhile, Harry carried the idea to the other commissioners, Justin Myers and Ben Smith, who looked favorably upon using county funds to buy the acreage. By that time, public opinion was sounded out and sentiment, both favorable and otherwise, was fomented, and finally the opposition ran out of arguments, and funds of $1,600 were set aside, with the blessing of the Indiana Board of Tax Commissioners, and the property was acquired. Next Ted Shaw, Purdue extension forester and at that time acting state forester while Ralph Wilcox was in service, was contacted. He brought expert technical knowledge along with remarkable vision to the undertaking. His plan was for a model or "pilot" county forest from which other communities could get encouragement to reforest their waste land.

Russ enlisted the services of 18 active county conservation clubs and was appointed chairman of a planning committee consisting of Harry Lower of Plymouth, present conservation officer; Herb Sloan of Bremen, former conservation officer; Otto H. Grossman of Argos, ardent Waltonian; Mrs. F.W. Bates of Culver, president of the Marshall County Federation of Women's Clubs, and Orner Bixel of Plymouth, president of the County Council of Conservation Clubs. This committee, by donations, accumulated the $250 necessary to order the trees from the Division of Forestry and supplied the volunteer labor to clean the land and assist in planting. Boy Scouts, 4-H Clubs, neighboring farmers, conservationists and other interested groups planted 22,000 trees.  Nearly one-fifth of the area was hand planted due to the roughness of the terrain. Fire lanes, which surround and transect the area, were plowed and will be kept cultivated throughout the summer as protective measures. "The work resembled an old-fashioned barn-raising job," Ted added. "Everybody pitched in and got the job done. The old and the young were there, the women and the men. And they did a good planting job. Survival is very high to date." Future plans call for the planting of low-growing game food species such as the dwarf chinquapin oak, which had recently been found growing wild nearby. The development of the memorial shrine and natural amphitheater is the next step on the program. Plans are now being drawn. This memorial, possibly to be undertaken by county veteran organizations, will consist of planting hardwoods, with suitable markers as memorials to the 90-odd service men from the county who gave their lives in World War II. What Marshall County has done can be duplicated in every county in the state with a moderate expenditure of money and organized effort. It is admitted that the county forest is not the solution to our reforestation problems, but it is the initial step in that direction."

22 March 2016

big Nashville

The wife & kids in downtown Nashville
Big Nashville...as opposed to lil' Nashville, has had an allure to my wife ever since she devoted her heart to country music many years ago.  Think of her great joy when our nephew announced he was getting married in the heart of the city, which prompted a road trip last May.  I mean, I get it, I like country music as well, though that's been declining in the last year, but here was my wife giddy with the prospect of seeing  someone of fame in the land of country music.

Lunch on the back alley patio at Jack's BBQ
The famous Ryman Auditorium with stage backdrop from Prairie Home Companion
But it was to my surprise that we happened upon the stage crew of Prairie Home Companion setting up for a performance in Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville.  Might as well had been Rascal Flatts setting up to me.  And the BBQ was excellent, of course.

My nephew-the bearded & suspendered groom
The wedding, which seemed appropriately Nashville-themed, was great.  And I'm feeding my wife's county music addiction with tickets to the Band Perry next month in Wabash.

17 March 2016

From Dublin......Indiana

Last week found me traversing the southeast corner of our state from Osgood to Lawrenceburg, Richmond to Fountain City, and Cambridge City to Dublin.  And since it is St. Patty's day, I thought I'd share my experience from Dublin, or what there is of it.  I was asked to take a look at a Quaker church in the tiny National Road community.  And while there is a well-spring of Quaker blood in my veins, I had never been in a church of the Society of Friends.  What a smart-looking one to make my first.  It was built c. 1878 by the Dublin congregation.

A day before, I had just mentioned to a couple of congregants from the Westfield Friends Church that I'm proud of my Quaker ancestors who came from North Carolina and settled in Wayne and Henry counties to ensure that Indiana would not become a slave state.  And it was a close vote.

Quakers were very strict about marriage outside the church, and their "monthly meeting" records not only demonstrate that, but also are a wealth of information for genealogists.  My ancestors were members in nearby Spiceland.  I have a feeling that I may need to extend a family discount to the Friends in Dublin.  But what I and a friend who traveled with me wanted most out of our visit to Dublin was directions to a good pub.  Dublin, however, is a dry town, even on St. Patrick's Day.

I have for a long time operated under the false conclusion that I have Irish blood....though family records would still indicate some truth in that, my DNA tests show otherwise.  Still, I have a love for all things Irish.  My wife was thrilled to point out that her dad, adopted at birth, came back with results showing 53% Irish, which would just about have to indicate one of his parents were born to Irish immigrants.  No wonder I was drawn to her.

15 March 2016

Winter Hikes

Tippy River State Park

Sunday afternoons and evenings often find me chillin' on the recliner, watching the Simpsons and the news.  It's quiet around our house on Sunday nights since both kids are in youth group now, and my wife teaches the 5th-6th grade program.  And then one day about two years ago, a buddy asked me if I wanted to start hiking with him on Sunday nights.

Hmm....give up my warm comfy chair to hike in, sometimes, the teens, drudging through knee-deep snow trying to keep up with a guy who is a half-foot taller than me (or close).  Sure, I love being outdoors just that much to endure such craziness.  While those trips have become less frequent in the past year, we do still manage to hit the trails occasionally.  And we talk-a fair amount-which is hard to do when you're winded and trying to keep up.

Stretching far (ok, an hour or so) and near (local greenways trail), we have successfully hiked every state and county park, forest, and preserve-or so it would seem and would follow it up with a hot supper complete with coffee.  No offense to my high school friends out there, this was not your thing-I get that, but man would I have been all over it.

There is something about the woods, even in winter, that direct our thoughts to our Creator, of course it helps that the hikes come on the heels of a Sunday sermon.  Regardless, I'm reminded that we are but just a small part of this bigger thing around us, separate because He created us in His image, yet entrusted with the ability to destroy or nurture what cannot protect itself from us.  In that sense, it is as though God gave us a parallel between Himself and man.  What we choose to do with His creation is a reflection of how we view the Creator Himself.  So far, we've not done that great of a job.

10 March 2016

Hoosier bastions of pride


Now with kids in junior high and high school, our lives seem to become filled with activities that I wouldn't typically have found myself at a few years ago.  Our daughter, a cheerleader, had us going to junior high football and basketball games this year, while our son, in high school pep band, had us visiting the hardwoods at the local gym.

There are few places that celebrate community more than sitting in the stands off the grid-iron, or in the bleachers overlooking those bastions of Hoosier pride.  I will confess, I'm more of a basketball fan than football-likely because I have never caught on to all the rules of the latter.  And the fact that I'm never cold at a basketball game.  It's a joy, though, to see kids that I taught in Sunday school on the field or court, giving it their all.

08 March 2016

Channeling my inner Amish

Over the course of about the last two years, our preservation organization has been working on telling the "untold" stories of certain cultural groups and enclaves that settled in our county.  The Amish, who first settled in 1850, have become a large part of our population and continue to expand.  My great x3 grandfather, Samuel Hochstetler, was the first Amish to settle with his family in our county in that year, followed by four other families in the course of the next five years.

While on the path to discovery, our chief genealogist organized a meeting with the historian of the local Amish church and asked if I wanted to participate in the meeting.  He just happened to live at my great x3 grandfather's farm.  So, certainly.  He took us to the grave of my ancestor at the community's cemetery next to their first school.  And his grandson gave me a tour of the farmhouse and barn.

Last year, several cemeteries in that township were featured in a tour and my genealogist friend asked if I would be willing to play Sam Hochstetler and discuss the migration of Amish from Ohio to the area. I've done these cemetery tours before, but this one really caught my interest.  But, I needed to dress the part and our family gave up those simple clothes a long time ago.  A mutual contractor-friend of mine, an Amish fellow who was almost exactly my size, loaned his Sunday best so that I could look the part.  The clothes fit like they were customized for me.

And so, with many of the Amish gazing on that cold May day, I did my best to tell them about their history, which most seemed to know quite well.  Talk about a tough crowd.  The first thing I asked was how they used the bathroom with all of the hooks and flaps and straps.....evidently, that was taboo.  And then several poked at me with questions in Pennsylvania Deitsch.  It was both awkward and communal, if that's possible.

05 March 2016

Writer's Apprehension

Except for a few posts, 2015 was a bit of a dud year when it came to writing on Hoosier Happenings.  I had high hopes for 2016, being the bicentennial year of our collective Indiana home, but alas, we are well into March and nothing beyond my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year landed on HH.  Last month, someone from my elementary school found a post I had written about it a few years back and put it on our local "if you grew up in....you'll remember" FB page.  I looked at the stats today and it pushed February, 2016 into the top ranking of the most hits since I started HH in 2007.

Life is busy.  I'll blame it on that first.  By the middle of 2014, a full calendar of work began to create a backlog that continued to swell until the early part of 2015.  And even the brief time of "normal" was upended by an even greater backlog that I've only just now cleared the river for an even flow.  In 2014, I looked back and realized over a month of 8 hour work days went to non-profit efforts.  Since I needed to ratchet that back in 2016, I got by with just over two months of 8 hour days.  And 2016 saw the start of my new elected responsibilities, which was the only predictable allotment of time on my calendar.  By the middle of 2016, I realized I hadn't taken a single day off and thought to myself that I didn't leave my job with 4 weeks of vacation only to have a few days.  I think I managed to work in a week of vacation days last year.

I need to figure out a balance here.  I enjoy my work and responsibilities, and recognize God's blessed me, but I doubt that He intended me to work like a dog.  Quite sure of it actually.

Writer's block.  That's the other thing I'll blame it on.  Only I know that's not exactly true.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  Instead, I would call it writer's apprehension.  The last year has provided enough fodder for a plethora of posts, but frankly I'm a bit apprehensive about sharing my thoughts on faith and politics.  Case in point-we Republicans created and deserve Donald Trump, and what's more disturbing is that more than half of evangelicals support him.  There's a dozen posts wrapped up in that statement alone....but I'd like see more civil discourse in 2016, so I find myself passing on a number of thoughts best kept to myself.  Just as a student of politics, I am fascinated with what is happening with our Grand Old Party.....if it truly even exists anymore.  I am more concerned about the future of the church.

So, I will attempt to get back on a blogging schedule for the few of you who land on this site.  I have always enjoyed delving into our history and culture as Hoosiers, and into our politics and issues of faith as an exploration of who we are and maybe who we should ascribe to be.