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Centennial Celebration

Madison to mark
John Paul Park's 100th year

One-day event to feature
vintage baseball game

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (July 2004) – At the north end of Mill and Vine streets in downtown Madison, Ind., sits what appears to be an ordinary city park. Inviting shade trees, a gazebo, a softball field and a playground dot the landscape of the approximately one square block area known as John Paul Park.

Indiana edition July cover

July 2004 cover of
Indiana edition.

Named for the founder of Madison and Revolutionary War soldier who served under Gen. George Rogers Clark, the park was established in 1904 by the John Paul Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Its history is as much a testimony to its founders as to its namesake. Once a pioneer cemetery, the park came to life through the dedicated work of the DAR, which along with the community will celebrate from noon to 5 p.m. on July 31 the park’s centennial with an ice cream social, music and games.
The Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 in Washington, D.C., as a women’s volunteer service organization. Its objectives, which remain the same to this day, were to promote patriotism, preserve American history and secure the country’s future through education. Any woman age 18 or older who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution is eligible for membership. “There are more people in the community who are eligible than probably realize it,” said DAR regent and centennial committee chair Jill Keller. The present-day DAR boasts 170,000 members in 3,000 chapters across the country.
The John Paul Chapter of the DAR formed in Madison in 1902 and quickly took up the torch of the organization’s motto, “God, Home, and Country.”
“In 1903, the charter members of the organization decided they needed to work on the condition of the old Third Street cemetery,” said Keller.
The cemetery had in 1826 been donated to the city by John Paul and his wife, Sarah. The couple and several family members were eventually buried there, as were a large number of Madison’s pioneers.

John Paul Park-ladies

Photo by Ruth Wright

Event organizers (from left) Brenda Eversole, Jill Keller and DAR vice regent Joan Fritsche pose in the park's gazebo.

By the late 1800s, the cemetery was no longer used for burials and had become a blight of the landscape downtown. According to DAR records kept on file at the Jefferson County Historical Society, the cemetery was “a neglected corner of the town, used as a dumping ground, cleaning place for carpets, resting places for weary willies as well as a roosting place for blackbirds.”
In 1903, the DAR petitioned city council for permission to improve the condition of the land. The city agreed and on Nov. 10, 1903, deeded the land to the DAR for use as a “memorial park.”
A public notice was given, and several graves and all the headstones were removed. According to a newspaper clipping found in the historical society’s archives, the graves of John Paul and his family were moved to Fairmount Cemetery, while a few others were moved to Springdale Cemetery. There, a special area was set up for the removed headstones. Most of the pioneers buried in the cemetery remained.
The DAR then set about the task of removing debris and reshaping the land into a welcoming park.
One substantial effort was the planting of trees representing the original 13 colonies. Letters were sent to the governors of 13 states, and it is believed that all but one happily obliged by sending a tree. Among the species donated were oak, elm, maple, tulip poplar, magnolia and beech. Also donated for the park by the Pope was a date palm, which was shipped to Madison directly from the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Because of the climate, however, the tree was not planted and was instead kept first at the home of a DAR member and later at the Hitz Greenhouse.

John Paul Park

Photo by Don Ward

John Paul Park is named in honor
of Madison's founder, John Paul.

It is thought that at least six of the trees remain in the park today. “We’ve identified trees that are likely from that original planting,” said city arborist Caryl Schwaller. She added that the only way to positively identify them would be to cut them down and count the rings. DAR and city records do not detail exactly where the trees were planted, but confirming their existence are letters found in the historical society archives written to the DAR by the governors of the contributing states.
On April 2, 1904, John Paul Park was dedicated and several of the trees planted. Others were planted as they arrived from the various states.
A large stone fountain was later built at the park, but due to persistent problems with plumbing to the fountain, the water was shut off and in the 1930s the dry fountain was filled in with dirt.
In 1907, the city deeded additional adjoining land to the DAR for the park. This included an area through which Crooked Creek then ran. The creek was straightened and the land prepared for a baseball field and tennis court.

John Paul Park Centennial Celebration
July 31, noon-5 p.m.

Events include:
• Ice Cream by Mundt’s
• Cake Walk
• Vintage Games Exhibit
• Historical Kiosk Display
• Narrative Oral History
• Music (Charlie Schnabel’s
• Dixie Land Band; Sweet Adolines)
• Antique Car Display
• Vintage Baseball Game at 1 p.m.
• Tree Planting by DAR

Throughout the years, the DAR took pride in caring for the park. Its upkeep was made possible through fund raisers and donations by the DAR until the mid-1980s. The organization then asked the city to assume responsibility and the parks department has maintained the park since.
The John Paul Park Centennial Celebration will begin at noon Saturday, July 31. In addition to a community ice cream social, festivities will include a vintage baseball game featuring the Indianapolis Blues, a cake walk sponsored by The King’s Daughters and Juniors, music, a kiosk display by the historical society and ice cream by Mundt’s Candies.
On sale will be a commemorative poster created by artist Yvonne Davis depicting a scene of the park. A poster signing party is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. on July 16 at the Madison Art Club Gallery, 301 E. Main St. The posters are from the same printer and will be the same quality as those in the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art series. A hand fan depicting the scene will also be on sale.
Proceeds from the sale of these items will go toward the park restoration fund. Future plans include a sidewalk through the park from Mill to Vine streets, vintage lighting, electrical outlets and a new water feature using the old fountain foundation. According to Keller, the committee hopes to have these improvements completed in time for Madison’s Bicentennial in 2009.

Back to July 2004 Articles.

 

 

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