Celebrating a Milestone

Jefferson County to mark
Bicentennial anniversary in 2011

Heritage Center to commemorate
with special exhibit, events

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(June 2010) – In the late 1700s, Jefferson County, Ind., was a vast wilderness frontier filled with adventure for the few fearless trappers and explorers who braved the threats from Indians and other dangers. That all changed in the early 19th century, however, when American pioneers, many of them former Revolutionary War soldiers, began to settle and expand westward.

Joe Carr

Joe Carr

By 1811, Jefferson County had been approved by the state legislature as courageous men and women looking for opportunities steadily set up homesteads and created towns and communities in the area.
In 2011, the county, named for U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, will celebrate its Bicentennial anniversary. The Jefferson County Historical Society and Heritage Center has planned to commemorate the 200th birthday of the county with special exhibits and events.
“We want to celebrate the creation of the county with a different approach than what was recently done to honor the Bicentennial anniversary of Madison, Ind.,” said Joe Carr, director of the Jefferson County Historical Society. “Our commemoration will be more decentralized and focus on the history of the townships that many people do not know.”
In 2009, Madison, the county seat, celebrated with a year-long series of special events that included a 200-hour birthday party, parades, balls and other festivities.
There are 10 townships in Jefferson County: Graham, Hanover, Lancaster, Madison, Milton, Monroe, Republican, Saluda, Shelby and Smyrna. Many of those townships had their own post offices, physicians, blacksmiths and one-room schoolhouses. While the city of Madison’s history has been well-documented, much of the rest of the county’s history is not as well-known.
“This will be more of an observation than an actual celebration,” said Carr. “Although, we hope to have some special events, like a railroad excursion, a children’s art show and historic cemetery tours.”
Historian Ron Grimes, a volunteer at the Jefferson County Heritage Center’s Research Library, said there are many anniversary celebrations that will run concurrently with the county Bicentennial that planners hope to capitalize on and tie into.
“The 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War will happen in 2011,” said Grimes. “We hope to work with the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable to do something.”
Local historian Mike Moore said other anniversary celebrations ongoing in 2011 include the Bicentennial of the First Steamboat to the area, and the 50th anniversary of powerboat racing on the Ohio River. “We can also do something with the annual ongoing events throughout the county, such as the Canaan Fall Festival, the Neavill’s Grove Old Settlers Meeting and the Chelsea Jubilee,” he said.
Moore said the major focus of the commemoration, however, will be an exhibit featuring oral history and artifacts from the 10 townships that comprise the county. Already, historians are searching for descendants of pioneer families and longtime residents of the townships that would like to be part of the oral history project.
“We are also looking for people who have vintage family photos of the earlier years of the townships they would allow us to reproduce and use for the exhibits,” said Grimes. “Many people have photographic treasures that would greatly benefit us in our quest to document the history of the county, but they are not aware of what they have.”
Moore said the extent of the exhibit and oral history project largely depends on the funding that can be raised.
“Fundraisers for Madison’s Bicentennial collected close to $350,000,” said Moore. “We are hoping to raise 1 percent of that, or $3,500. We welcome any and all donations for the effort.”
The oral history part of the exhibit will be stored digitally in the hopes that funding will allow the publication of a printed book at some point. It is also hoped there will be enough money for the exhibit to be able to travel to special events throughout the county.
“We are going to do an exhibit no matter what,” said Carr.
“The quality and mobility depend entirely on financing.”

• For more information about the Jefferson County Bicentennial, to offer financial donations or to loan photos to the research library, call (812) 265-2335.

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