Old Settlers’ Society

Old Settlers’ Society

This was Henry County’s first attempt at passing on the history of the first settlers who came into this area in the 1820s. Their method was what we would now label as an “oral tradition”- using the art of storytelling to keep alive the history of an area and its people. There was much concern by many of the pioneer families that posterity would not recall their deeds of clearing the land, battling the harsh and often brutal conditions of the Indiana wilderness, and all the other joys and hardships experienced as a part of bringing progress to the land if an historical organization was not founded to ensure it.

Old Settlers’ Society meeting (1890), which were held each August at county fair time.

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Much the surviving information about this society can be found in Herbert Heller’s Historic Henry County vol. 3  1880- Early 1940s and is available at the libraries at the Henry County Historical Society(HCHS) & NCHCPL. The HCHS also has log books, photographs, & programs from these annual meetings- the precursor to the Semi-Annual Meetings held by the Historical Society every spring & fall. Men such as Martin L. Bundy (father of General Omar Bundy), Nathan H. Ballenger, Elwood Pleas (who wrote the county’s first history in 1871), Dr. Daniel H. Stafford, & Benjamin S. Parker (famous poet & namesake of Parker Elementary) served as officers of the Old Settler’s Society & were among the founders of the HCHS. The first Old Settlers’ meeting was in August 1871. They continued into the 1890s, overlapping with the 1887 founding of the HCHS. As recorded in a September 6, 1889 article in the New Castle Courier, after a joint committee met to discuss  the future of the two societies, it was decided…

“…that the present arrangements of the two societies, with cooperative executive committies, is the best for all practical purposes, for the reason that the Historical (society) is not an old settlers’ society; that young people, scholars, students, and in fact, all who are interested in history and growth of the county are qualified for membership and earnestly desired to become active members of the Historical society, while the idea that it is an old settlers’ society would repel them; on the other hand many elderly people enjoy the old settler’s meetings who would not take interest in or attend the meetings of the Historical society.”

Urging the early pioneers of the county to begin writing down these stories- or preparing sketches- of their lives, toils, and reminiscences was a central and important step in the preservation of our county history.

Front cover of 1885 Old Settlers’ Association program that contains the address prepared and given at the annual meeting by Benjamin S. Parker.

 

1887 Old Settlers’ Society picnic at fair grounds south of New Castle. General William Grose can be seen standing in the front row, third from left.

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