MADISON, Ind. (July 2004) At the north end of Mill and Vine
streets in downtown Madison, Ind., sits what appears to be an ordinary
city park. Inviting shade trees, a gazebo, a softball field and a
playground dot the landscape of the approximately one square block
area known as John Paul Park.
2004 cover of
Named for the founder of Madison and Revolutionary War soldier who
served under Gen. George Rogers Clark, the park was established in
1904 by the John Paul Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Its history is as much a testimony to its founders as to its namesake.
Once a pioneer cemetery, the park came to life through the dedicated
work of the DAR, which along with the community will celebrate from
noon to 5 p.m. on July 31 the parks centennial with an ice cream
social, music and games.
The Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 in Washington,
D.C., as a womens volunteer service organization. Its objectives,
which remain the same to this day, were to promote patriotism, preserve
American history and secure the countrys future through education.
Any woman age 18 or older who can prove lineal descent from a patriot
of the American Revolution is eligible for membership. There
are more people in the community who are eligible than probably realize
it, said DAR regent and centennial committee chair Jill Keller.
The present-day DAR boasts 170,000 members in 3,000 chapters across
The John Paul Chapter of the DAR formed in Madison in 1902 and quickly
took up the torch of the organizations motto, God, Home,
In 1903, the charter members of the organization decided they
needed to work on the condition of the old Third Street cemetery,
The cemetery had in 1826 been donated to the city by John Paul and
his wife, Sarah. The couple and several family members were eventually
buried there, as were a large number of Madisons pioneers.
by Ruth Wright
organizers (from left) Brenda Eversole, Jill Keller and DAR
vice regent Joan Fritsche pose in the park's gazebo.
By the late 1800s, the cemetery was no longer used for burials and
had become a blight of the landscape downtown. According to DAR records
kept on file at the Jefferson County Historical Society, the cemetery
was a neglected corner of the town, used as a dumping ground,
cleaning place for carpets, resting places for weary willies as well
as a roosting place for blackbirds.
In 1903, the DAR petitioned city council for permission to improve
the condition of the land. The city agreed and on Nov. 10, 1903, deeded
the land to the DAR for use as a memorial park.
A public notice was given, and several graves and all the headstones
were removed. According to a newspaper clipping found in the historical
societys archives, the graves of John Paul and his family were
moved to Fairmount Cemetery, while a few others were moved to Springdale
Cemetery. There, a special area was set up for the removed headstones.
Most of the pioneers buried in the cemetery remained.
The DAR then set about the task of removing debris and reshaping the
land into a welcoming park.
One substantial effort was the planting of trees representing the
original 13 colonies. Letters were sent to the governors of 13 states,
and it is believed that all but one happily obliged by sending a tree.
Among the species donated were oak, elm, maple, tulip poplar, magnolia
and beech. Also donated for the park by the Pope was a date palm,
which was shipped to Madison directly from the Vatican in Rome, Italy.
Because of the climate, however, the tree was not planted and was
instead kept first at the home of a DAR member and later at the Hitz
by Don Ward
Paul Park is named in honor
of Madison's founder, John Paul.
It is thought that at least six of the trees remain in the park today.
Weve identified trees that are likely from that original
planting, said city arborist Caryl Schwaller. She added that
the only way to positively identify them would be to cut them down
and count the rings. DAR and city records do not detail exactly where
the trees were planted, but confirming their existence are letters
found in the historical society archives written to the DAR by the
governors of the contributing states.
On April 2, 1904, John Paul Park was dedicated and several of the
trees planted. Others were planted as they arrived from the various
A large stone fountain was later built at the park, but due to persistent
problems with plumbing to the fountain, the water was shut off and
in the 1930s the dry fountain was filled in with dirt.
In 1907, the city deeded additional adjoining land to the DAR for
the park. This included an area through which Crooked Creek then ran.
The creek was straightened and the land prepared for a baseball field
and tennis court.
Paul Park Centennial Celebration
31, noon-5 p.m.
Ice Cream by Mundts
Vintage Games Exhibit
Historical Kiosk Display
Narrative Oral History
Music (Charlie Schnabels
Dixie Land Band; Sweet Adolines)
Antique Car Display
Vintage Baseball Game at 1 p.m.
Tree Planting by DAR
Throughout the years, the DAR took pride in caring for the park.
Its upkeep was made possible through fund raisers and donations by
the DAR until the mid-1980s. The organization then asked the city
to assume responsibility and the parks department has maintained the
The John Paul Park Centennial Celebration will begin at noon Saturday,
July 31. In addition to a community ice cream social, festivities
will include a vintage baseball game featuring the Indianapolis Blues,
a cake walk sponsored by The Kings Daughters and Juniors, music,
a kiosk display by the historical society and ice cream by Mundts
On sale will be a commemorative poster created by artist Yvonne Davis
depicting a scene of the park. A poster signing party is scheduled
for 4-7 p.m. on July 16 at the Madison Art Club Gallery, 301 E. Main
St. The posters are from the same printer and will be the same quality
as those in the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art series. A hand
fan depicting the scene will also be on sale.
Proceeds from the sale of these items will go toward the park restoration
fund. Future plans include a sidewalk through the park from Mill to
Vine streets, vintage lighting, electrical outlets and a new water
feature using the old fountain foundation. According to Keller, the
committee hopes to have these improvements completed in time for Madisons
Bicentennial in 2009.