4/13/2013 From a general's mansion to home of Henry County history Museum anniversary coming up next Thursday
The Henry County Historical Society will celebrate its 110 year anniversary. (David Burns / C-T photo)
By DARREL RADFORD Historically Speaking
It was a monumental day for a landmark organization.
One hundred and eleven years ago next week, the Henry County Historical Society moved into a new home.
The house built for Civil War hero Gen. William Grose at 606 S. 14th St. was officially dedicated April 25, 1902, in a spirited event that even stormy weather that day failed to dampen.
Newspaper coverage of the event in The Courier carried these headlines: "An enjoyable occasion. Dedication of the Historical Building a Great Event. Most propitious meeting since its organization in 1885."
In celebration of the anniversary, the Henry County Historical Society will offer free admission next Saturday, April 20.
Founders of the Henry County Historical Society were visionaries that sowed seeds for the entire state.
Late historian Herbert Heller wrote that the Henry County Historical Society "may well claim to be the oldest such county society in Indiana."
Heller said The Directory of the American Association of Local and State Societies lists only two other historical societies older than Henry County's, which was founded in 1887.
"The directory lists only those historical societies for Wayne and Vigo counties as formed at an earlier date than that of Henry County," Heller wrote. "However, the continuity of their meetings does not match that of the Henry County organization."
Grose, who died in 1900, would have no doubt enjoyed the gathering in his home the day it officially became Henry County history's official residence.
The event had a bit of everything - grand speeches, a short dramatic play written by Benjamin Parker and the first of what would be many donations of historical artifacts over the years.
There was even a bit of humor.
According to the newspaper account, when community leader A.W. Saint stood up to speak, he responded to immediate calls for a short address with congratulations to the society upon no longer being "a sort of literary tramp."
Indeed, no longer would materials and artifacts be scattered in various homes. No longer would semi-annual meetings have to alternate from place to place. The Grose mansion was now their permanent address.
Since then, the Henry County Historical Society has become the oldest, most continuously operating museum of its kind in Indiana.
One item donated on that festive April day more than a century ago - a portrait of Simon Powell - still hangs in the museum.
M.E. Forkner, the first mayor of New Castle, received the Powell portrait from H.L. Powell in honor of his father, a New Castle attorney and businessman who was good friends of Indiana Gov. Oliver Morton.
Forkner said Gen. Grose would have been pleased.
"It is appropriate that the picture of his friend and neighbor, Simon T. Powell, should hang upon the walls," Forkner said.
Martin Bundy, who once carried mail on horseback through an unbroken wilderness from Centerville to Noblesville, delivered some appropriate final words of dedication on that April Day.
The attorney, county treasurer and legislator who also happened to know Abraham Lincoln paid tribute to true historical society pioneers for planting seeds that continue to blossom more than a century later.
"A few persons whose number you can count on the fingers of one hand got together in this town some years ago ... and under most discouraging circumstances have kept in operation an organization devoted to the purpose of history and science," Bundy is quoted as saying by The Courier. "Some of them have been called away by death, notably Thomas B. Redding (Reddingdale Drive is named after him) and Elwood Pleas, both distinguished naturalists, as their work, when alive, abundantly shows. The society cherishes their memory and deplores the loss which science has sustained by their untimely death."
Interestingly, Martin Bundy's son would go on to earn considerable mention and exhibit space in the museum he helped dedicate. The son's name was Omar Bundy. Like Grose, he became a military hero. His refusal to retreat during a significant battle in France helped turn the tide for the United States against the Germans in World War I.
Darrel Radford is executive director of The Henry County Historical Society and a staff writer for The Courier-Times. Follow him on Twitter @DKRadford.