Podcast – 31 Southeast Indiana Museum Tour
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Southeast Indiana Day Trips
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Visiting Southeastern Indiana’s Museums
Greetings, today I want to talk about southeastern Indiana museums. My book, Southeast Indiana Day Trips from my Road Trip Indiana Series will provide you with all of the information you need to explore Metamora, Franklin County and the other eight counties in the southeast part of the state. The book includes much more information than I can put in these podcasts. This is the first book in the series and the only one available now. I will have the rest, there will be 9 altogether, as the year progresses. With rising gas prices many Hoosiers, including my wife and myself, are choosing to vacation closer to home. Using this podcast, I will tell you about the many places here in Indiana you can visit and have some unique and fun experiences.
I will now tell you about each of the wonderful museums in southeastern Indiana.
I have visited each one of these museums and at one of the museums, I met an interesting guide. He was an older guy that gave an excellent tour. At one of the exhibits, a display of dinosaur bones, he paused and said, “These fossilized bones are four million and thirty-nine years old.”
“Wow,” I said. “How can you date them so accurately/”
He scratched his head and replied, “Well, they were four million years old when I started working here and that was 39 years ago.”
On a serious note, I believe you can learn much of a regions history by visiting its museums. Southeastern Indiana has 31 wonderful museums, each staffed by dedicated, mostly volunteer, people that have a passion for their town. My goal is to take you on a short tour of these museums.
Madison Indiana Museums
The journey begins in Madison, which was founded in 1809, and has about 1500 historic buildings. The organization Historic Madison owns about fifteen properties, four of which they open to the public. Many of the others they will conduct guided tours.
Perhaps the most interesting one is the Ben Schroeder Saddletree Factory Museum. John Benedict Schroeder opened his saddletree factory around 1870. The saddletree is the wooden foundation for a saddle and requires a high degree of skill to make. The Schroeder family made about 250 different types of saddletrees. Ben operated the factory until his death in 1909, after which his sons took over. The saddletree market collapsed during the Great Depression, so the Schroeder family switched to making wooden clothespins, which they manufactured until 1974. When the last Schroeder died, the family transferred the property to Historic Madison. Much of the machinery is still in operating order.
The Dr. William D. Hutchings Hospital office is near the downtown. Native to Lexington, Kentucky, Dr. Hutchings practiced medicine in Madison from 1882 until 1903. His office became the museum that contains his medical records, equipment and supplies and provides a fascinating glimpse into turn of the century medicine.
The Francis Costigan House on West Third Street is where the famous architech furthered his career. He began his architectural career in Baltimore; however, economic hard times in that city convinced him that he should move to the thriving town of Madison in 1837. He spent several years there, designing many of the city’s buildings, including the James Lanier Mansion. He moved to Indianapolis where he would become one of the state’s leading architects.
The Indiana State Museum operates the Lanier Mansion on 601 W. First Street. Born in Washington, North Carolina, James F.D. Lanier migrated to Madison, Indiana at age 17 with his parents.
Lanier became a financer and served as President of the Bank of Indiana, which he had helped establish. He also ventured into the blossoming railroad industry. Known as the “Financial Savior of Indiana” he helped reduce the state’s debt to foreign financiers in 1844 when bankruptcy threatened the state due to the 1836 Massive Internal Improvements Act. He lent the state half a million dollars to help it get through the financial crises and later he helped finance Indiana’s role in the Civil War.
Jefferson County Historical Museum
Next door to the Lanier Mansion, you will find the Jefferson County Historical Society Museum. This 10,000 square foot museum allows visitors to browse and explore the region’s rich history. The museum’s many exhibits include riverboat models, documents and photos. You can also browse in the restored Madison Railroad Station with its railroad memorabilia that includes and a train layout showing Madison’s famous Incline and Cut.
Switzerland County Historical Museum
From Madison we travel east along the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which follows Indiana State Road 56, to the charming town of Vevay and the Switzerland County Historical Museum. Housed in the former parsonage of the adjacent 1860 Presbyterian Church, the museum displays the prominent role the Ohio River played in Switzerland County’s history. The museum contains several riverboat models and stories about early Ohio River Valley residents. A beautiful flower garden separates the museum and church, which contains additional Switzerland County historical artifacts. The museum also operates the Agriculture Museum, which includes a hay press barn, Thiebaud House, smokehouse, granary, gardens and an interpretive center. The Nineteenth Century farm provides visitors with a time capsule view of farm life.
Rising Sun Museum – Ohio County Historical Museum
Continuing east, the Ohio River Scenic Byway leaves State Road 56 to follow Indiana State Road 156 to our next destination, Rising Sun. Here we will visit the Ohio County Historical Society Museum. The museum’s impressive collection of Nineteenth Century farm equipment interprets the agricultural heritage of the county. The myriad exhibits include a collection riverboat models and two racing hydroplanes, the Hoosier Boy and Hoosier Girl. Local inventor and businessman John William Whitlock built these boats in the 1920’s. The Hoosier Boy holds the round trip speed record of 267 minutes and forty-nine seconds for the round trip between Rising Sun and Cincinnati.
From Rising Sun the Byway rejoins Indiana State Road 56 as it continues east towards Aurora and Lawrenceburg . On the way, you will pass Riverview Cemetery. This is the site of Lochrey’s Massacre. On Aug. 24, 1781, a band of Shawnee ambushed Colonel Archibald Lochry. He and his company landed on the banks of the Ohio to eat a buffalo they had killed while traveling to meet George Rogers Clark. Forty of Lochrey’s men died in the attack and the warriors executed many others after the battle. Lochry Creek derives its name from Colonel Lochry. Lochry’s name is spelled L-o-c-h-r-y. A government clerk misspelled the name as Laughery when they transcribed the name into the records.
Hillforest Mansion – Aurora
The next stop is Aurora and Hillforest Mansion. Constructed by industrialist and financier Thomas Gaff in 1855, Hillforest Mansion sits astride a hill that affords a majestic view of the Ohio River. Thomas was native to Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, a paper maker, moved the family to Springfield, New Jersey. Gaff learned the papermaking trade from his father. An uncle, Charles Wilson, taught him the distilling business. Thomas and his brother James founded a distillery in Philadelphia. In 1843, the brothers moved their operation to Aurora. Their distillery, called the T & J.W. Gaff & Company Distillery, produced bourbon, rye, and Thistle Dew Scotch whiskey. Their business empire expanded to include the Crescent Brewing Company, a Nevada silver mine, farming operations and many others. The Gaffs also owned a fleet of steamboats that they used to transport their products. Gaff’s magnificent mansion is open to the public during scheduled hours.
The next stop on the tour is the Dearborn County Historical Society Museum. Located in the historic Vance-Tousey House in downtown Lawrenceburg, the Dearborn County Historical Society offers a variety of services for visitors interested in the county’s rich history, including genealogical research assistance, the restored Angevine Log Cabin and programs and special events.
Guilford Covered Bridge
From Lawrenceburg, the tour turns north to Franklin County using Indiana State Road 1. On the way you will find Dearborn County’s only remaining covered bridge at the Guilford Covered Bridge Park. You will cross the bridge as you enter the park where you can picnic overlooking Tanners Creek.
Whitewater Canal State Historic Site
Our journey next takes us to Metamora and the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site by way of State Road 1 and US 52. Here, the Indiana State Museum maintains an operating gristmill and canal lock. Built by Jonathan Banes in 1845, the mill has uses the Whitewater Canal’s current to turn the millstones. Visitors may purchase stone ground corn meal, watch the mill wheel turn and visit the many shops of Metamora that are located along the Canal and in the surrounding streets.
Batesville Area Historical Museum
From Metamora the route turns south on State Road 229 through charming Oldenburg, the “Village of Spires,” to Batesville. Here you can visit the Batesville Area Historical Society Museum and learn the story of Teunis Amack, first recorded settler in Batesville and how his well helped establish the town. The museum features a mural painted by students of the 2002 Batesville High School art class and the wood basketball floor from the old Batesville High School Gym. The first floor of the museum features special exhibits hosted by the museum during the year and the upper floor displays from local businesses in Batesville.
Greensburg Museum and Courthouse Tree
The next leg of the tour takes you to Greensburg on Indiana State Road 46 and the Decatur County Historical Museum. Located in the 1850 Lathrop/Shannon House, the restored house includes many artifacts, photographs and documents chronicling Greensburg’s history. The Ezra Lathrop family and descendants occupied the house until 1980, after which an anonymous donor gifted the Historical Society of Decatur County the property. From the museum, the tour passes the famous Courthouse Tree. First noticed in the 1870’s, the tree flourished in its home 110 feet above the courthouse square. Numerous other sprigs appeared until it appeared that a small forest developed on the courthouse tower’s roof. These survived several years, until finally, they died. Workers removed the tree and donated it to the Decatur County Historical Society. A short time later, another tree sprouted on the roof. Then, another began to grow. These two thrived and grew, thus trees still crown the tower of the courthouse.
Osgood Indiana Historical Museum From Greensburg, the route goes to Osgood, Indiana on US 421 to visit the Osgood Historical Museum. The museum includes hundreds of items from Osgood’s past, including Osgood’s 1886 fire engine, a 1911 Maxwell car, and the King Steam Car. Osgood resident Henry P. King designed and built this car in 1898. Still believed to be in operating condition, the car last ran during Vice President Nixon’s visit to Columbus, Indiana in the 1960’s.
Moores Hill – Carnegie Hall
The next destination is Carnegie Hall in Moores Hill, which is a few miles east of Osgood just off of Indiana State Road 350. Carnegie Hall is a distinctive structure with a unique history. The Methodist Church founded the Moores Hill Male and Female Collegiate Institute in 1854, which was one of Indiana’s, and probably the United States’, earliest colleges to admit women. After the school developed funding problems, another group purchased it, moved it to Evansville, and renamed it Evansville College in 1919. This college evolved into Evansville University. The Hall, currently under renovation, is open by special request currently.
Sunman Historical Museum
Sunman Historical Museum Next on the tour is the Sunman Historical Museum. Located in the Sunman Town Hall along State Road 101, the museum features the original 1856 plat of Sunman, the 1930’s jail and artifacts of early pioneer families. These include the Sunman family, a map showing the route taken by Indiana’s 83rd Infantry Regiment from Vicksburg to Savannah, and an extensive collection of Sunman High School memorabilia.
Milan 1954 Museum – High School State Championship
Traveling south from Sunman on State Road 101, the next destination is the Ripley ’54 Museum in Milan. The museum celebrates the smallest school to win the Indiana State Basketball Championship, the 1954 Milan Indians. Here you will find a dazzling array of uniforms, photos and documents recording the team and cheerleaders that won the state championship. The three-room museum includes the main gallery, a video room and a smaller room in the back, all stuffed with mementos from the team. In the back room, you will find a gargantuan hand drawn poster that has the playoff brackets of that include all 750 teams that played in the 1954 state tournament. Two Purdue students assembled the poster during the tournament, painstakingly gathering the scores of every game in an age before the instant information of the internet. Also included in this museum is a glass case that features the accomplishments of another Milan resident, Cecilia Dennis, who won the Miss Indiana contest and went on to win the 1954 Miss Universe pageant.
Ripley County Historical Museum
Versailles and the Ripley County Historical Society Museum is the next destination on the tour. Travel down State Road 101 to US 50 and turn west to Versailles. This museum, located just off the Court House Square, includes many artifacts from Ripley County including a wooden model of the nearby Busching Bridge. The Ripley County Historical Society’s headquarters is located in the old Ripley County Bank on the Square and includes a wealth of information about the county’s history.
Jennings County Historical Museum
The next stop is the Jennings County Museum, which is located in Indiana’s smallest county seat, Vernon, located on Indiana State Road 7, just south of North Vernon on US 50. The museum includes a blacksmith shop, the Victorian Pattern Home, Underground Railroad Tours, an interesting collection of antique washing machines and many artifacts from Jennings County.
Hayden Indiana Museum
From Vernon, we journey to Hayden on US 50 and the Hayden Historical Museum. Turn right at the sign onto County Road 700 W. This remarkable museum includes the Edgar Whitcomb Room, a 1939 Kitchen, a 1965 Living Room and a pre-1900 bedroom. The four rooms afford the visitor a wonderful snapshot in time. Next to the museum, you may tour a faithfully restored 1950’s gas station, which features the original sales counter, cash register and pop machine. The crowning display in the museum is in a building called A Place called yesterday. The museum houses the personal collection of a local Hayden resident. The collection includes dozens of antique music playing machines. A nearly complete collection of Life Magazines adorns one wall of the museum and the opposite wall displays a huge collection of record album covers from the early age of rock and roll. The museum also owns the adjacent Indiana Governor Edgar Doud Whitcomb’s birthplace home. The staff is currently restoring the home to the way it looked on December 24, 1943, when Whitcomb visited his parents after being held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II.
The Japanese had captured Whitcomb sometime in 1942 and held him in a prisoner of war camp on the Philippine island of Corrigedor. Whitcomb and another man escaped from the camp by swimming two miles through a bay to the nearby Bataan peninsula, from which American forces rescued him. The military officers forbade him from contacting his family, who had not heard from him in over a year and presumed he was dead, until they had debriefed him. They took him to Washington DC and spent a few days gathering information, then allowed him to call his parents in Hayden. When Whitcomb’s mother answered the phone, she at first did not know who he was, because she thought he was dead. After he convinced her it really was him, he told her he would be home on Christmas Eve. The Museum hopes to recapture this moment in time
Scott County Historical Museum
From Hayden we continue west on US 50 to Scottsburg and the Scott County Heritage Center, which occupies the former Scott County Asylum. This facility was part of Indiana’s Poor Farm system. Before welfare, unemployment insurance and food stamps, the county poor house cared for the mentally and physically disabled, the poor, unwed mothers and other unfortunates that could not take care of themselves. Most counties built large, stately brick structures to serve as the local poorhouse, poor farm or county infirmary, as the various local terms applied to them. The farm was self sufficient, producing both food for the residents and surplus crops that the farm sold, using the proceeds to operate the farm. Residents who were able to work outside worked in the fields, those who were not worked inside, helping to care for the other residents. The museum includes an interesting array of artifacts, photos and memorabilia from Scott County and preserves the story of the residents of this home.
Vintage Fire Museum
The last cities visited on the tour are Clarksville and Jeffersonville, located on the Ohio River. Drive south on US 31 from Scottsburg to Clarksville. The Vintage Fire Museum, in Jeffersonville, is the next stop. Founded in 2009, the Friends of the New Albany Fire Museum, Inc. acquired the fire equipment collection gathered by Fred Conway. Fred Conway wanted to be a fireman while he was a boy. He joined the Fire Department and rose to become fire chief. A common problem that arose in the days before 911-dispatch system when a fire broke out frustrated him. Since there might be two or more fire departments in a given area, people many times did not know which fire department to call. Frequently, they called one that was further from the fire than another closer one. Conway came up with the idea that if people had a sticker with the correct fire department listed on it stuck to their phone; they would know which company to call. Conway’s concept worked and he started manufacturing the stickers. He sold stickers all across the United States and became wealthy. He began collecting vintage fire equipment, most of which forms the nucleus of the museum.
Clark County Historical Museum
Next to the Vintage Fire Museum, you will want to visit the Clark County Historical Museum. Clark County in Indiana is rich in history and the Clark County Historical Museum endeavors to preserve and interpret this history. At the time of the author’s visit in August 2017, the museum was still in the early stages of development, however the museum is open and well worth a visit.
Near these museums, you can treat yourself with a visit to the Schimpff’s Confectionery in Jeffersonville, a combination candy store and museum. The store opened in 1891. It is the oldest continuously operating candy store in Indiana. You can enjoy the vintage store displays, candy tins, dispensing machines and signage. Schimpff’s makes the candy they sell, providing visitors with an opportunity to watch the workers make candy. These three museums are all on Spring Street in Jeffersonville. Special tours are available for those that are interested.
Howard Steamboat Museum
Also in Jeffersonville, you will find the Howard Steamboat Museum
The old Howard family residence, a 22-room Romanesque Revival mansion, serves as the home of the Museum. James Howard began his career of building boats in 1834 in Jeffersonville by establishing a boatyard and constructed his first boat, the Hyperion. His company would occupy three generations of his family and last 107 years. He had his home constructed next to the shipyard and used the craftsmen that worked on his boats to build his home in 1894. The work of these master craftsmen is evident throughout the home. The model boat collection comprises dozens of steamboats, but includes many other types of historic watercraft that plied the waters of the Ohio, Mississippi and other of the rivers of the American interior.
Falls of the Ohio State Park
Falls of the Ohio State ParkThe last stop on the tour is the Falls of the Ohio State Park, which is Indiana’s smallest state park, located in Clarksville. It features a huge museum that interprets the main feature of the park, the exposed fossil beds in the Ohio River. The 390-million-year-old fossil beds at Falls of the Ohio State Park are among the largest, naturally exposed, Devonian fossil beds in the world. Visitors can walk over these fossil beds and ponder the creatures that once lived and left their remains here. The park includes the Clark Home Site Cabin, the site where George Rogers Clark spent his final years. The famed Lewis and Clark Expedition began here while George Rogers Clark’s brother William lived with him in the cabin. This is not the original cabin, but is a similar cabin moved to the site from Ripley County, Indiana.
Find out more about these Indiana day trip destinations and many more by purchasing the book Southeast Indiana Day Trips. The book includes contact information for all of these museums as well as information on include, state parks, nature preserves, golf courses , wineries, breweries and much, much more. You can find it on my web site, http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com on the Road Trip Indiana category. Just scroll down to categories, click the Road Trip Indiana Series. There are links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play and other online book sellers. You may choose to purchase the book in ebook or softbound versions. An audio book version is available on Google Play. Listeners may also be interested in my book, The Ultimate Indiana Day Trip Travel Guide. The 747 page book includes a plethora of day trip destination in Indiana. A complete tourism guide the book includes local and state parks, museums, golf courses and much, much more. The book includes information on all of Indiana’s 92 counties. No traveler in Indiana should be without it.
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