Brownstown students return to annual tour of history center



A Jackson County History Center tradition was halted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, though, it was able to be revived.

Recently, fourth-graders visited the campus in Brownstown to tour the livery barn, genealogy library, two museums, string fort, schoolhouse, trading post and log cabin. Fifth-graders missed the chance to visit last year, so they were included in the tour, too.


Eighth-graders also had a chance to visit the center for their lesson on the Civil War.

The visits tie in with the fourth-graders’ Indiana history curriculum and the eighth-graders’ Civil War education.

“It’s just an important program,” history center volunteer Margo Brewer said of resuming the tours this year. “I know when the fourth grade teachers got here, because they didn’t get to do it last year, they were so excited about getting to do it, and they think it’s a good program. I think it’s a good program, too. I have missed these kids.”

One difference this year is the tours were just for Brownstown Elementary School and Brownstown Central Middle School students, not for other schools in the county. In all, nearly 100 fourth-graders, 125 fifth-graders and 85 eighth-graders participated.

Ran Burge volunteered his time to show the elementary kids around the livery barn, from the buggies to the wagon to the old wooden washing machine.

“It’s just a neat day, and they rotate around,” he said. “Normally, we have in the Ball Museum ladies in there embroidering or quilting, and they take the time to teach the kids how to do it. Then usually, there’s a group of ladies that play dulcimers.”

For the eighth-graders, Burge introduced the games of croquet and cornhole.

That was a break from the students visiting his wife, Nancy Burge, in the schoolhouse talking about Union prisoner of war camps, Jan Sipes in the schoolhouse discussing John Hunt Morgan’s raid through southern Indiana, George Weir in the Frederick Keach Heller Memorial Museum Building showing Civil War era weaponry and Larry Wayt, Jim Wendel and Eric Jarboe of Soldiers’ Joy String Band near the trading post playing music.

Weir also talked about his great-grandfather, who was among several relatives who fought in the Civil War.

“He was a farmer from up around Lebanon, and he joined a group of Indiana volunteers,” he said. “After the war, they had Grand Army of the Republic reunions. He lived a long time. He died in 1929, and he was 86, which was pretty uncommon back then.”

While researching his great-grandfather, Weir found his last name spelled different ways, including Reno, Reynaud, Renno and Reino. He also learned his ancestry skipped a generation with first names being George and John.

Weir said he enjoyed his first time volunteering with the Civil War tour, and it’s important for this generation to learn about that time period.

“I was in college in the ’60s, so it was going on then where you were trying to erase things in history that you didn’t like. ‘It was ugly, so let’s not talk about that,'” he said.

That made him think of the old adage “Those who do not know about history are bound to repeat its errors.”

“You can say whatever you want to about slavery, slavery was a major problem, and it wasn’t unique here. It has been around for thousands of years, talk about it in the Bible and you don’t really want to go back to that and you need to know that it existed,” Weir said. “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. The truth will eventually come out, but it could be a lot uglier coming out.”

Jessica Fritz, an eighth grade social studies teacher at BCMS, agreed with the importance of educating today’s kids about the Civil War.

“When we get to go down to the history center, we get to connect Jackson County, Indiana, their contributions to the Civil War, just getting the kids out and getting to meet these community members, these volunteers and seeing how important this topic is and just teaching kids the history of this area,” she said.

Eighth-grader Bella Brown said it was good to go from learning about the Civil War from a book in the classroom to visiting the history center to see, do and learn more.

“I was able to learn a little bit more in detail about the people and the events,” she said. “I think it’s important because we’ve got to learn this so in the future, we don’t ever go back to that because it was a dark time.”

Smith Hackman said he remembers going to the history center in fourth grade, so he was glad to go back as an eighth-grader.

“You can go learn about how things were back in the day and what guns they used and how they loaded them up and shot them,” he said. “It was cool to learn about it and look at all of the artifacts and learn about them and how they used them.”

Ran Burge was happy to hear the tours were beneficial to the students.

“I hope they learned something, and I hope they take it back with them and keep it,” he said. “That’s the main thing. If they learned something, anything, it has been a good day.”

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The Jackson County History Center is at 105 N. Sugar St., Brownstown.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The genealogy library is available for research.

The Frederick Keach Heller Memorial Museum Building is open from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays for tours, and people can visit the outdoor attractions.

For information, call 812-358-2118 or 812-358-1745 or find the Jackson County History Center on Facebook.


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