to celebrate its bicentennial
to spotlight local history
(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
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
After 200 years, Jefferson County has much to celebrate. The bicentennial
observance begins this month.
by Laura Hodges
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 societys 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
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 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, Deans Peach Orchard (which had 125,000 trees
at its peak), Lee Bottom Flying Field and Marble Hill Nuclear Power
Plant. Dead Mans 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. Saludas 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 clerks
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, theyll
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 countys 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
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
Scotts 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 Heberharts daily newspaper columns from 1938-1940.
Called They Say and Do in the Country, these columns were
compiled from Heberharts 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
The Jefferson County Historical Societys 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 Countys bicentennial year. The
Heritage Center will re-open on Monday, Feb. 28.
Additional information about the countys
history and its bicentennial celebration is available on the Jefferson
County Historical Society website: www.jchshc.org.
Back to January 2011