Party Planning

Jefferson County, Ind.,
to celebrate its bicentennial

Tours, displays, publications
to spotlight local history

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

(January 2011) – Just six years after Indians ceded the land to the United States, a new Indiana county was formed and named for the president who had stepped down just two years before – Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson County counts its history from the year 1811, two years into the term of President James Madison, whose name was used for the county seat.
After 200 years, Jefferson County has much to celebrate. The bicentennial observance begins this month.

Ron and Jacquie Grimes

Photo by Laura Hodges

Ron and Jacquie Grimes pose beside
one of the new displays at the
Jefferson County Historical Society.

One of the biggest events of 2011 will be the rededication of the Jefferson County Courthouse, expected to occur in June. The courthouse is now being restored after a disastrous 2009 fire. County Commissioner Julie Berry has issued a call for volunteers to help plan a rededication event. Volunteers can call the courthouse at (812) 265-8954.
The Jefferson County Historical Society already has stepped forward with projects and plans to celebrate the bicentennial.
The 160-year-old organization will have a full schedule of special events during the year, according to Executive Director Joe Carr. These may include driving tours of churches, stone houses, rural cemeteries or other points of interest.
2011 is also the bicentennial of steamboats on the Ohio. The Indiana Historical Society is loaning a steamboat exhibit that will be displayed at the historical society’s Heritage Center, 615 W. First St., from June 2 through July 12.
The exhibit commemorates the 1811 voyage of the steamboat New Orleans from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. The new-fangled craft created quite a stir.
“When it went past Madison,” said Carr, “it sounded like the firing of a gun. Of course that was on the verge of the War of 1812, and they thought the English were coming down the river.”
It was the start of a transportation surge that made Jefferson County a prominent stop on the Ohio River.
Ron and Jacquie Grimes are leading an effort to create 12 large panels that will form a bicentennial exhibit in the main hall of the Heritage Center. Ten of the panels will focus on the 10 townships that make up the county.
The Saluda panel, for example, illuminates many facets of county history. With photographs and captions, it tells the stories of the notorious town of New London, which vanished without a trace, Saluda School, the Chelsea Jubilee, Dean’s Peach Orchard (which had 125,000 trees at its peak), Lee Bottom Flying Field and Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant. “Dead Man’s Pool” of the Ohio River, located near Plough Handle Hill, was a spot where the river tended to deposit many bodies. Thirty were recovered there in 1830 alone. Saluda’s colorful history is just one of 10 townships to be spotlighted.
Historical artifacts are also being collected to display in clear cubes.
“We have many treasured original documents,” said Ron Grimes, volunteer archivist for the historical society. The first county clerk’s book, for example, has entries handwritten by Madison founder John Paul. Visitors may see such early documents as a wolf scalp certificate. In the days when there was a bounty on killing wolves, residents could present wolf scalps to the justice of the peace in return for a certificate that gave them a break on their property taxes.
As Grimes and his wife, Jacquie, gather material for their panels, they’ll be talking with residents from the various communities and asking them to loan pictures and documents that can be scanned for the county archives. The original materials are returned.
“We feel this is a good opportunity to gather more history,” said Ron Grimes. “When they loan these to us, we give them a high-resolution digital copy so they can share it with family.”
They are particularly seeking everyday articles to display. “We hope to have things either made or used in the county, to help us tell the county’s story,” he said.
Another exhibit is making its rounds outside the confines of the museum.
During January, 16 framed collages created by historical society volunteer Mike Moore are on display in the auditorium of the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library, 420 W. Main St. These collages represent the 10 townships and the county as a whole. The collages form the basis of a history talk that Moore will give to interested clubs and groups during 2011. To schedule Moore as a speaker, contact him at (812) 273-4156.
Moore would like to take the collage display on the road to each of the 10 townships, and is looking for appropriate places to hang the pieces. “We are also planning to display them at the county fair if arrangements can be made,” said Moore. They could also be made part of the courthouse rededication.
Donors who give at least $500 to the Jefferson County Historical Society this year will receive a custom-made, color gift book featuring the collages, Moore said. It will be titled “Pictorial History of Jefferson County.”
The pictorial history is not the only history book in the works.
Robert W. “Bob” Scott, a former Jefferson County resident now living in New Jersey, is writing a history of the county that Ron Grimes says is both comprehensive and readable.
“His book will stand as an example for county histories all over,” said Carr. It is to be published in 2011, possibly in a “publish on demand” format. In the meantime, history buffs can check out Scott’s local history blog at http://jeffersoncountyindiana.blogspot.com. It has more than 40 entries.
Also for the bicentennial year, the historical society hopes to complete transcribing Charles Heberhart’s daily newspaper columns from 1938-1940. Called “They Say and Do in the Country,” these columns were compiled from Heberhart’s interviews with early settlers who were still alive at that time. Up to now, this treasure trove of information was available only to researchers at the county archives or library microfilm.
The Jefferson County Historical Society’s Heritage Center will be closed during January and February due to budget restraints. Volunteers will be working during that period to plan special events, displays and publications for Jefferson County’s bicentennial year. The Heritage Center will re-open on Monday, Feb. 28.

• Additional information about the county’s history and its bicentennial celebration is available on the Jefferson County Historical Society website: www.jchshc.org.

Back to January 2011 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta