Discovering days of yore



Keeping with tradition, fourth-graders from local public and private schools recently visited the Jackson County History Center.

The 700-plus students and adult chaperones toured the facility at the corner of Walnut and Sugar streets in Brownstown throughout April and May. They split into groups and spent about 20 minutes in each building.

It takes about 30 center volunteers to help with the tours.

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Outside, students check out the John Ketcham Pioneer Village, including a meeting house, a pioneer cabin, a trading post, a bridge and a string fort. That allows them to learn about how it was to live, work and go to school in the pioneer days.

Another building on the campus is the two-story Frederick Keach Heller Memorial Museum. It features a military room with prehistoric weapons and tools and Vietnam-era items. There also are themed rooms featuring dolls and other toys and vintage clothing.

Behind that museum is the Robertson Livery Barn. Over the years, it has served as a livery barn, a feed store, a barn, a machine shop and a garage. Today, it houses large items and tools.

Outside the livery barn under a lean-to are a circus wagon, a threshing machine and a Works Progress Administration payroll wagon.

Next door is the newest addition to the campus, the genealogical library, which gives people a chance to research their family history and check out various types of records.

The other building on the campus is the Ball Museum. Once the site of a blacksmith shop and a shoe repair shop, it now has a small gift shop, displays of local artifacts, a setup of old living room furniture, a display of old wedding dresses and a display of old kitchen appliances and furniture.

Fourth-graders in Adam Disque’s class at Medora Elementary School visited the history center May 9. A few of his students shared their thoughts on the visit:

One thing I liked was the tomahawk pipe. I liked how there was a sharp side, and on the other side there was a pipe. Also, the cemetery, when we witched for dead bodies, it was so awesome. It made it better when it even showed us if it was a girl or a boy. Then the buggies were really, really, really awesome. When we went there, half the class said, “Wow!” Seriously, we were like, “Wow!” They were so awesome. Now, there were some things I thought were weird. They had a chamber pot, which you have to use to No. 1 and No. 2 in. Then the oldest boy in the family would have to dump it out in the morning. And do not get me started about what they wipe with. After that, the graveyard creeped me out. I thought juggling was the best one out of it all.

— Jason Muns

My favorite thing about the Jackson County History Center was the game center. My favorite game was grace. I like grace because I like how I got to throw the rope on the stick. The weirdest thing was when they had to use the restroom in a chamber pot. The weird thing about that is it’s too small for some people, and the boy had to take it out in the mornings and go empty it. That’s not a good way to start your morning. Another thing I liked was the schoolhouse. I liked it because we got to sit like pioneers did, and we worked on math facts. Another thing that was weird was witching a grave. We had poles looking for the people, and we had to walk in a straight line. When it crossed, it was a male. When it opened, it was a female.

— Aaralyn Hackney

My favorite thing on the field trip to the Jackson County History Center was the trading post. I liked it because the man that volunteered there was demonstrating and teaching us about just about everything in the room. But then he scared my group with a fake mongoose. It was just a squeaky dog toy, and I almost tripped over the stairs behind me. Then I liked the one-room schoolhouse. I liked it because it had benches instead of chairs and desks. They used a chalkboard instead of paper. And you get to go outside and play games during lunchtime. They often ate leftover bread from the night before. The thing I thought was disgusting was going to the bathroom in a chamber pot. They had to go to the bathroom out in the open. I learned that they had to go to the bathroom in a chamber pot because when it’s winter it will be too cold to go outside. It will also be dangerous because of animals. A thing I thought was creepy was the cemetery. It was creepy because we had hanger-like things, and you would see if a body was buried there. If the hanger things were inward facing you, it was a girl. If the hanger things were making an X, then it was a boy.

— Jocelyn Abigail Douglas

My favorite thing that we did was all of the games. I liked the game called grace. You have two black poles and a rope made out of horsehairs. You take the black poles and cross them in your hands. Then you take the rope and put it on the end of the poles. Lastly, you open the two poles, and your partner catches them. I also liked playing the dulcimers. They were fun to play. The thing that I thought was weird but cool was witching for graves. Witching for graves is where you take two cut hangers and hold them in your hands. If the hangers cross, it’s a male. If the hangers spread apart, it’s a female. The thing that was just plain old weird was how people had to use the bathroom in chamber pots. Chamber pots are pots, and they had to use them because the pioneers had no toilets. Also, it was too dangerous to go outside at nighttime. But what’s bad for the boys is they had to empty the pots in the morning. I also thought how a classmate went through those circus rings was cool.

— Jenna Bowers

The part I liked best is the games because we played steal the bacon. You break up into two groups, and you number them one, two, three and four, according to how many people you have. Then you call a number, and those two people with that number will try to get the thing that you set out there. Whoever gets it, the other person will try to tag them, and if you get tagged, they are out. The next thing that I want to talk about is the chamber pots. Those were used if you had to use the bathroom. You also used them at night, but you don’t want to go outside because it’s cold and dangerous. One other item I want to talk about is the dulcimer. That’s an instrument. The people that were playing the instrument would play two songs. Then we would play one song. The next thing I want to talk about is the trading post because the man said to poke this mongoose, and we all thought it was real. It squeaked, so we keep on poking it. Then he said don’t let it jump out, and he let go of the hook, and it flew out on us. We all jumped. The last thing I want to talk about is the schoolhouse because we got to write words on the chalkboards and write mathematics on the chalkboards, and last, we wrote our ABCs backwards.

— Laykin Hinderlider

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The Jackson County History Center is at the corner of Walnut and Sugar streets in Brownstown.

It is operated by volunteers and supported by donations and fundraising projects.

The office and genealogical library are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.

The Frederick Keach Heller Memorial Museum is open from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Tours can be arranged at other hours by appointment by calling 812-358-2118.

Information also may be found by searching Jackson County History Center of Indiana on Facebook.


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