History in our Midst

Historical society celebrates
Jefferson County Bicentennial

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(June 2011) – In celebrating the 200th anniversary of Jefferson County, the historical society is making certain to throw the spotlight on the entire county. Ron Grimes, archivist for the Jefferson County Historical Society, explains that through a series of exhibits, “What we’re trying to do is give people an introduction to the history of the county. We take each township and tell some of the stories and forgotten tales.”
Grimes notes that before things became so centralized, the townships were the early way of providing basic government services to the county. JCHS Executive Director Joe Carr notes that “we’ve tried to schedule more for this year because it is the bicentennial.” This year, residents can look forward to something happening each month at the historical society.

Ron Grimes

Ron Grimes

The focus of the bicentennial celebrations are the 10 townships that make up Jefferson County. A commemorative book is being developed, presenting new and historical photographs from the county. At the Historical Society in Madison, a special exhibit traces the changing shape of the county over the years, and each township is given individual attention through photos, artifacts and personal stories.
The society is located at 615 W. First St., in downtown Madison and is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. And in a first for the Jefferson County Historical Society, a traveling exhibition on the townships has been developed and will be making appearances at celebrations and festivals throughout the year.
The exhibit at the historical society includes items few residents will have ever seen. Some have been newly donated and others have been kept in the vault and never put on public display.
“For this occasion, we decided to bring out some of the original documents of the county,” explains Grimes.
Included in the exhibit is the very earliest county record book that holds the account of the founding of Jefferson County. Some other highlights include a hand-sewn autograph quilt from 1911 made in Deputy and recently donated by the Bethany Baptist Church, and a four-piece silver and pewter church service set from Brooksburg United Methodist Church. Together with his wife Jacqueline, Grimes worked on bringing out rarely seen photos and rarely told stories of Jefferson County life over the years.
Two particularly odd items on display are the wolf scalp certificates from 1816 and 1818. In the early 1800s, a person who killed a wolf could turn the scalp in to the local justice of the peace who would issue a certificate redeemable for $2 or good for $2 off a person’s taxes. At a time when a typical tax bill might run $3, that money could be a great help.

Bicentennial Exhibit

Photos provided by Ron Grimes

Two exhibits at the Jefferson
County Historical Society’s Heritage
Center highlight the importance
of Jefferson County Township.

“Two hundred years ago the wolves were thick. That’s totally foreign to how we live today around here,” says Carr.
In addition to the exhibit located at the Historical Society, a special traveling exhibit has been assembled for display at a variety of county events. Michael Moore, volunteer and member of the society’s Board of Directors, spent the winter planning out a collection of photo collages which highlight the history and character of the different townships. Currently, summer exhibitions are scheduled for July 8-15 at the Jefferson County 4-H Fair, July 30 at Madison’s Pearl Park, and Aug. 27-28 at Neavill’s Grove. In September, the collages will be shown at the Chelsea Jubilee and Canaan Fall Festival. When not on tour, the display will be available for viewing at Eleutherian College.
Moore explains that “in building the traveling exhibit, we’re tying to improve attendance and awareness at the Historical Society.”
He laughed, adding that “wherever a group of people are meeting, we’ll try to be there.” By going out to the communities, volunteers at the historical society hope that more people will in turn come to them in order to view the various exhibits and to make use of the research library.
Moore said he hopes that the Historical Society can play a role in raising awareness of the importance of preservation and community history. Unfortunately, many old buildings are being lost due to lack of upkeep, and historical artifacts are all to often discarded or unrecognized for their importance. Moore continues, saying that the Historical Society is always looking for items of interest, either to borrow for short term study and display or to preserve for families unable or unwilling to keep the objects or documents themselves. He points out that there are “a lot of attics out there that people haven’t explored.”

• For more information about upcoming events or to order books, call the Jefferson County Historical Society at (812) 265-2335 or visit: jchshc.org.

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