founded two local history groups
70 JPG enthusiasts
celebrate his 90th birthday
Lela Jane Bradshaw
(February 2009) When Ken Knouf first began
working at the Jefferson County Proving Grounds, he was assigned to
lead a tour through the property. As the tour passed the stone remains
of a building, Knouf, recounting the information he had been given about
the site, informed the group that the stone arch was all that remained
of the Big Creek Methodist Church.
courtesy of Mike Moore
honored with a
birthday bash for his
work in preserving
the history of the
I dont think so, came a voice from the
back of the bus. I think that was the old Munier home.
Intrigued, Knouf asked, Why do you think that?
Because I was born there.
So came Knoufs introduction to Louis Munier, whose family had
indeed lived at that very location from 1853-1941. He always has
a sparkle in his eyes when talking about JPG, says Knouf.
On Jan. 17, Richard and Nancy Jones organized a 90th birthday party
for Munier at their home in Madison. More than 70 people joined the
celebration for a man who has done much to preserve the history of the
Munier recalls that his first big project came in 1987 when
he assisted with the restoration of the 1895 railway station that today
stands in front of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Munier is
particularly noted for his work helping to found the JPG Heritage Partnership
and Pearl Park.
Munier together with his late wife, Mary Ellen Jones Munier, helped
to establish Pearl Park at the foot of Michigan Road in Madison. The
impetus for the project came when Mary Ellen decided to save the Peter
Suter Wagon Shop that had belonged to her family. The Muniers had the
building which had stood on Hwy. 7 relocated to Pearl Park. Munier reports
that an old doctors office from Kent, a bee and honey house from Manville,
and a Madison shotgun style home have since become part of the Pearl
Today, the Jefferson County Preservation Council assists with maintaining
the park and buildings.
In addition to his work preserving community buildings, Munier also
dedicates his time to preserving community memories through his work
with the JPG Heritage Partnership. Munier explains the the Partnership
saying, The reason we started it was that we wanted to save history
and artifacts of the Proving Grounds from before the army took it.
From 1941-1995, the Jefferson County Proving Ground served as a U.S.
Army testing site for ammunition, earning Madison the nickname of Boomtown
because windows would shake from the explosions. Yet, before the 55,000
acre site rang with munition blasts it was home to over 2,000 residents
who had to leave their homes and communities to make way for the testing
grounds. The JPG Heritage Partnerships aim is to make sure
people understand the early history of Jefferson County Proving Ground,
says Knouf who serves as the groups Army Liaison.
Last year, the group opened a new exhibit at the Jefferson County Historical
Society showcasing the communities once located on the Proving Grounds
and the work done testing guns and ammunition.
The exhibit features photographs of homes and churches, fencing from
the Proving Ground, civilian ID badges used by workers, a lamp fashioned
from a hand grenade, and a large picture of Munier standing in front
of the remaining foundation of his family home.
Mike Moore, a volunteer at the Jefferson County Historical Society and
member of the board, speaks of Muniers willingness to share his
stories of the area, Every time someone wanted a tour of the Proving
Ground, Id call Louis. Munier is uniquely qualified to share
the history of JPG, having not only lived on site before it was a testing
ground, but also having worked there after it became an Army facility.
His recollections and knowledge bring the communities to back to life
for those visiting the land where they or their relatives once lived.
Some people just break down and cry when you take them out to
their old home place, Munier says.
For more information, visit: www.jpgheritage.org
or call Ken Knouf at (812) 273-2551.
Back to February 2009