Corning Corp's land grant
to make 'living history museum' possible
VEVAY, Ind. (Sept. 2002) Once in a great while,
a group of dedicated people set out to accomplish something out of the
ordinary and end up accomplishing the extraordinary.
On Aug. 13, the Switzerland County Historical Society received the deed
to 167 acres of land from Dow Corning Corp. This land was part of the
original property sold to the original Swiss settlers by the U.S. government
in the early 19th century to engage in the enterprise of wine making.
Bladen (center) with
Dow Corning officials at
This farm was the homestead of Frederick Thiebaud of Vevey,
Switzerland. Thiebaud and his family left Switzerland in 1812. They
were at sea for three months when the lack of provisions forced them
to return to Switzerland.
The Thiebauds traveled to America again in 1817, this time with the
Schenck and Van Baren families.
The three families crossed the Allegheny mountains by Conestoga wagon
from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. At Pittsburgh, they boarded a keel
boat for the trip down the Ohio River to Vevay, where a cabin had already
been built and prepared for them by other early settlers. The three
families remained in the cabin for some time. Eventually the other two
families moved to their own properties in Vevay and the original homestead
remained in the Thiebaud family.
The original cabin still remains as a part of the house that was built
in the 1840s. The house contains the original doors with doorknobs and
hardware, some of the original wide planked wood floors and most of
the original woodwork and fireplace mantles. The barn is still standing,
as well as the stone wall and stone outbuilding that was used either
for protection from the Indians or as a smokehouse.
Ray Bear who, along with his wife Ginny, owned the farm for almost 50
Stories of cave men, Injun fighting and river shenanigans
were flying at the ceremony.
There were cave men in those caves back there thousands of years
ago, and that stone building over there is where they used to fight
off the Indians, Ginny Bear said.
Representatives from the Indiana Historical Society, Nature Conservancy,
Indiana Historic Landmarks Foundation, Switzerland County Schools, Switzerland
County Community Foundation, many members of the Switzerland County
Historical Society and officials from Dow Corning watched as Jack Lackner,
Dow Corning Carrollton Site Manager, handed the deed to the property
to Martha Bladen, president of the Switzerland County Historical Society.
Dow Corning has always thought of itself as a good neighbor and
is active in outreach programs in the community, Lackner said.
For us, it was a great opportunity to partner with a group of
people who were trying to make the community even better.
A few years ago, Denver Markland, an active member of the historical
society, now deceased, convinced the group to purchase one of the five
hay press barns still in existence in the county. At one time the county
had more than 200 of these barns, but their numbers were dwindling to
Hay press barns housed a giant machine about three stories high that
worked off a pulley wheel tied to oxen. The machine would press loose
hay into bales that weighed 300 to 400 pounds to be shipped down river
to the farmers in the south. So when a family bought a piece of property
to build a new home and pole barn, they put the old hay press barn on
the property up for sale. The Switzerland County Historical Society
purchased it for $10,000.
Afterward, the society needed to find a place to put it on. The land
needed to be on the main road, close to town and have historic significance,
according to Bladen.
After brainstorming and driving up and down county roads, Steve Bladen,
Marthas husband, suggested the group look into the old Bear farm
(the historic Thiebaud homestead). Martha Bladen contacted Dow Corning,
which owned the farm, and explained her dilemma. Officials there agreed
to deed over the property, which will now become part of a living history
It is a dream come true, Bladen said. It shows the
compatibility of industry in a rural setting.
The Barn Committee of the Switzerland County Historical Society includes
Bladen, Tom and Dianne Barry, Ginny Reeds, Ellyn Kern and Jerry Brown.
They attended the deed ceremony, along with Connie Rendfeld of the Indiana
For more information on the living history museum,
call Bladen at (812) 427-3469.
Back to September 2002 Articles.