Sage of Boomtown

Madison resident Munier
founded two local history groups

Nearly 70 JPG enthusiasts
celebrate his 90th birthday

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(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.

Louis Munier

Photo courtesy of Mike Moore

Louis Munier was
honored with a
birthday bash for his
work in preserving
the history of the
Madison area.

“I don’t 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 Knouf’s 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 Madison area.
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 Park project.
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 Partnership’s “aim is to make sure people understand the early history of Jefferson County Proving Ground,” says Knouf who serves as the group’s 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 Munier’s willingness to share his stories of the area, ”Every time someone wanted a tour of the Proving Ground, I’d 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 Articles.



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