'A River Way of Life'

Harlan Hubbard enthusiasts to gather
at Hanover College’s Rivers Institute

One day conference planned for March 24

By Don Ward

HANOVER, Ind. (December 2006) – The Rivers Institute at Hanover College is organizing a one day conference set for March 24, 2007, to celebrate the lives of Harlan and Anna Hubbard and help educate newcomers to the story of the couple who once lived along the Ohio River in Trimble County, Ky.

Harlan Hubbard

The Hubbards created a sort of utopian world for themselves during their 40-plus years of living off the land and river. To many, they represented a model for others who relished such an existence. Many people still today celebrate the Hubbards through Harlan’s writings and journals and through his paintings, many of which he gave away or sold to some of the lucky visitors whom he deemed worthy of owning them.
A third element that attracts people to the Hubbards is their simple lifestyle of living off the land. They farmed goats, fished the river, raised a garden and harvested animals and plants from the woods around their two-room, self-built home, which was constructed on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River a few miles downriver from Hanover.
Anna Hubbard died of cancer in 1986. Harlan died of prostate cancer two years later at age 88. The ashes of both are buried on the hillside below their home, which they made by hand from salvaged materials from their shantyboat and from items they scavenged from the riverbank and forest.
Hundreds of adults and schoolchildren visited the Hubbards over the years, and it is those loyalists whom the Rivers Institute hopes to attract to the conference, said Dennis Wichelns, executive director of the Rivers Institute.
“The target audience for this conference is certainly the people in the area who knew the Hubbards, but we also want to reach out to the entire community as well as high school and college students, particularly Hanover College students,” Wichelns said.
He cited the overwhelming response the institute received for a Hubbard program held in early October designed to kick off the Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio Writers Roundtable. Author and lecturer Don Wallis, a Madison native and friend of the Hubbards, was the keynote speaker that evening at the Jefferson County Historical Society. The response signaled a strong interest that still exists today – 18 years after the Hubbards’ passing.
“Even though it has been many years since the Hubbards’ passing, we still see a deep interest in them among the people who live in the area and around the country,” said Shelley Arvin, a Learning Resource Librarian with the Rivers Institute. She is leading the planning committee for the conference.
“We hope the conference will celebrate the Hubbards’ legacy but also help to educate younger people about the Hubbards, since many may not have ever heard of them,” Arvin said.

Dennis Wichelns

Dennis Wichelns

The committee of 15 people met for the first time on Nov. 11 at Hanover College, so a keynote speaker has not yet been chosen. The committee plans to organize several break-out meetings throughout the day of the conference, each one focusing on either some aspect of the Hubbards themselves or a general topic of demonstrating self-sufficiency and sustainability.
Ticket prices have not yet been set. A dinner and music program is being considered to conclude the day-long event.
Hanover College held a day-long conference on the Hubbards in 2000 that attracted 260 people. It featured keynote speaker Wendell Berry, a famed Port Royal, Ky., author and farmer who has written extensively about the Hubbards. Hanover College philosophy professor Robert Rosenthal and Paul Hassfurder, who inherited Payne Hollow from Harlan Hubbard, played central roles in planning that event and both are serving on the planning committee for the 2007 event.
Rosenthal also maintains a “Friends of the Hubbards” mailing list, to which he sends infrequent newsletters about Hubbard-related news and events. The professor has led dozens of college student trips to Payne Hollow over the years as part of his classes.
With a tentative title of “River Way of Life,” the upcoming conference is designed to fall into the mission statement of the 3-year-old Rivers Institute.
The non-profit organization was established in 2003 with a $11.5 million, five-year Lilly Endowment grant. The institute’s stated mission is “to enhance understanding of the culture, economics and science of river systems around the world.”
Wichelns said that by the time the grant expires in 2008, the organization must become self-sustaining through charitable contributions, program sponsorships, grants, contracts and continuing education revenue.
This Hubbard conference and others like it help the institute meet its mission goal of providing community education and cultural programming, he said.
“We could fund the entire conference and make it free for everyone, but that is not our goal; we want to develop corporate and business partners in staging these cultural events so we can develop a track record for providing such programming to the community,” Wichelns said.
A paid consultant and a handful of volunteers from Hanover College organized the 2000 conference.
Now with the professional staff of the Rivers Institute available, organizers are enthusiastic about pulling off another successful event, complete with corporate sponsors and a wider marketing outreach.

• For more information on the upcoming Hubbard Conference at Hanover College, contact Shelley Arvin at the Rivers Institute at (812) 866-6846 or email her at: arvin@hanover.edu. Additional stories about the conference will be posted on this website as details become available. To be added to our email list for future updates about the Hubbards, email: info@RoundAboutMadison.com.

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