Pioneer society gains new members

BROWNSTOWN — Through research, Staci Tharp learned two relatives were among the first families in Jackson County.

One was Isaac Harrell, who lived in Vallonia and is buried along with family members at Harrell Cemetery in that small Jackson County community.

Another was James Walter Owen. Owen Township was named after his family.

With her and her family’s involvement with the Jackson County History Center in Brownstown, Tharp thought it would be a great idea to fill out the paperwork for the Jackson County Pioneer Society and have her niece and nephew receive the award.

The society recognizes any person showing direct descent from someone living in Jackson County in one of four time periods. They are before 1820 (First Families), 1820 to 1850 (Founders), 1851 to 1880 (Settlers) and 1881 to 1910 (Builders).

On Oct. 26 during the 12th annual Pioneer Dinner in the livery barn on the history center campus, Abigail Kelley and Luke Cross were presented certificates for the First Family Award.

Kelley was present, and Tharp accepted Cross’ award since he lives out of state and couldn’t be at the dinner.

“I did these books for them,” Tharp said, referring to the genealogy research that was gathered. “We actually went back to their fifth great-grandparents, who were both first families in Jackson County. … We had a lot of research. We found a lot of new research, and it’s just a nice collection for us to be able to pass down for everybody to know where we came from and that we were here when Jackson County started.”

There were five other award winners recognized during the dinner.

The Founder Family Award went to Warren Forgey, David Hackman, Mary Elisabeth Keller and Sandra Toppe Hackman.

Forgey’s ancestor is his great-great-grandfather, Hugh Forgey, who started a farm around Freetown. Forgey’s great-grandfather continued that on, and then his grandfather started a creamery.

“I grew up next door to him. I learned a lot from him,” Forgey said.

“My grandfather taught me when I was about age 10 how to clean a squirrel. I really didn’t want to learn how to clean a squirrel, but we cleaned a lot of squirrels together,” he said with a laugh.

Forgey thanked the history center for creating the Pioneer Society recognition, and he also thanked his dad, who sparked his interest in genealogy.

“I wouldn’t be here without him, obviously for a lot of reasons, but primarily, he introduced me to genealogy and history and did a lot of research,” Forgey said. “My part was very easy because I pulled out his records and the family tree was already outlined, so I was able to take that and grab the documents and bring it into the history center.”

David Hackman received the award on behalf of his great-great-great-great-grandfather, Johann Friedrich Heinrick Hackman, and his wife, Sandra, received it on behalf of her fifth great-grandfather, Friedrich Christian Topie.

They both thanked history center volunteer Debbie Holle, who helps people in the genealogy library.

“I want to thank the staff here for all of their research and work,” Sandra said. “I especially want to call out Debbie Holle. I have a box of things and pictures, confirmation things. … She made order out of all of that mess. Your resources here are wonderful. I’m in awe. It’s really something.”

David said he’s grateful his ancestor crossed the ocean from Germany and settled in the Sauers area of Jackson County. He is buried at the cemetery next to St. John’s Sauers Lutheran Church.

“There were five generations before me and two more after me, so we’re here to stay,” David said.

Keller received the award on behalf of her ancestor, John Frederick Kasting. She said she has a great deal of family history collected, and she was inspired to apply for the honor after hearing about it.

“I want to especially thank Debbie Holle for helping me and encouraging me,” Keller said. “I enjoyed working with it.”

Daniel Noel received two Settler Family Awards — one for Friedrich Henrich Christopher and one for August VonDielingen. Both are maternal relatives.

“It instilled a love of my family into me,” Noel said of genealogy research for the society recognition. “We spend every Sunday afternoon looking at old pictures and talking about history.”

All of the award winners were announced by history center board President Bill Day, and awards were presented by board member Gloria Cross.

Each honoree received a certificate along with a handmade bowl with “Jackson County Pioneer Society descendant” etched on it. The bowls were made by local artist and art teacher Robb Reynolds.

“If you know anybody that needs any help, send them down to us. That’s what we’re here for,” Day said of doing genealogy research and applying for the Pioneer Society.

Application forms are available at the genealogy library at the center, 105 N. Sugar St., Brownstown. Volunteers are available to help people complete their applications. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. For information, call 812-358-2118.

People will need to provide copies of sources of proof, including census records, vital records (births, deaths and marriages), land records, school records, church records, will or probate records, obituaries, military records, cemetery records, tombstone pictures, burial records, court records or naturalization records. Do not submit original documents.

The application and documents may be dropped off at the history center or mailed to 105 N. Sugar St., Brownstown, IN 47220.

The dinner is conducted each year in October.

This year’s dinner also included a meal catered by Pewter Hall Event Center & Catering, musical entertainment by Brad Treadway, a quilt giveaway and a raffle.