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May 31, 2007

The Hidden Treasures of Brown County

Howard W. Hewitt - Nashville, In. - A two-hour ride to Nashville Wednesday gave Mitch Brown ’10 and I time to reflect on this unique little town in the middle of southern Indiana. Everyone knows it as ‘Leaf Peepers Central’ in October and most realize it’s a substantial art colony known throughout the Midwest, country, and world.

Visiting Nashville is a bit like hitting a time warp on the interstate and fast forwarding to a small New England town. Nashville has many similarities in its eclectic restaurants, gift shops, tourist-related boutiques, and yes – art galleries galore.

Mitch was headed back again for his work on Nashville artists for the Present Indiana Program. It was his fourth or fifth trip and I tagged along. He conducted interviews at the Brown County Art Gallery in the early afternoon. Later, we paid a brief visit to his artist/mentor for the project – widely decorated artist Wayne Waldron.

In between, we stopped into the Hobnob which is the area’s most famous and probably oldest restaurant. The Hobnob looks like a Vermont Country store and much of the interior appears to date back decades, if not all the way to the late 1800s when the store was founded. The menu though is anything but burgers and fries, including a wine list with some interesting California reds and whites.

But observing Mitch work throughout the day was the really interesting part of going along on this trip. It was watching his new-found friends get excited along with Mitch when talking about the artists of Brown County. It was listening to the deep respect and admiration people in this small Southern Indiana town have for the Lilly Endowment, which funds the summer internship program.

It was also a rewarding trip in another way. Waldron has a small retail shop/gallery with his art on display. He works on his prized miniatures behind a small desk near the entrance. His paintings, which have earned more than 500 awards, are stunning.

His words have an even bigger impact.

“Mitch is doing a great job,” the artist told me. “He asks the right questions. He’s seeing the right people. He gets it.”

Waldron is Laura Vogler’s father. Laura is the Serials Manager at Lilly Library.

Visiting Waldron and hearing his praise was a real highlight. But in another way an even better moment happened back at the Brown County Art Gallery. Mitch had concluded an interview with author and Gallery foundation president Lyn Letsinger-Miller. I was milling about looking at the art. Letsinger-Miller asked Mitch if he had seen “the vault.”

Let’s let Mitch tell that story:†

“She asked me if I wanted to go into the vault in order to see some other works,” the Mooresville, In., native said. “I said yes and was curious even though I assumed that most of the works of famous artists were already being showcased. Once she opened the vault door I realized how wrong I was. When we walked inside we were surrounded by priceless paintings by Hoosier greats such as T.C. Steele and Will Vawter. One of the most impressive paintings we were shown was the "The Reader" by Ada Shulz which is valued at $150,000. After a few minutes looking around and seeing all of the famous names in the vault I realized we were standing in the midst of some of the most famous art in Indiana history. I fully realized the influence and the impact that Brown County has had on the art world.”

Around here, we call that quite a Wabash moment!

May 29, 2007

Jasper, Schnitzelbank, Sisters Provide Authentic Experience

Matt Vest '08 - I left Wabash early Tuesday morning for Jasper, Indiana, possibly the most German city in Indiana.  The drive was long and somewhat boring despite the beautiful scenery, but after three and a half hours and two pit stops I entered the city limits.  My first destination was the Dubois County Museum and Historical Society.  Unfortunately, the museum was closed, but the Historical Society provided me with many pamphlets of useful information and self-guided tours of some of the most German aspects of the city, and the very useful map of the city. 

I spent the early afternoon on the grounds of St. Joseph, a very impressive Catholic church and a great example of the influence of Joseph Kundek on the area.  Kundek, a German-Catholic missionary, laid the initial plans for the church, has an impressive monument built to honor his name, and also finds his final resting place in the St. Joseph cemetery.  He also established St. Meinrad, and was instrumental in bringing the Sisters of St. Benedict to Ferdinand.  After a couple hours of inspecting every inch of the church grounds, I checked into my hotel and had dinner just across the parking lot at the Schnitzelbank, an authentic German restaurant with incredible (albeit expensive) cuisine and fabulous replicated German culture.  I spent over two hours in the restaurant chatting up the staff and learning all I could from them, but unfortunately I was unable to locate anyone that actually spoke the language. 

The next morning I headed 12 miles south, to Ferdinand, Indiana, the site of the breathtaking Monastery Immaculate Conception, home of the Sisters of St. Benedict.  The sisters greeted me warmly, and I spent the morning grilling Sisters Mary Dominic, Kathryn Huber, and Paulette Seng about the history of their incredible home and the daily lives of the ladies that live there.  They were warm and friendly and answered any questions I could throw at them over an intense two hour period.  I then toured the church with Sister Christine Kempf, who let me in on some of the interesting facts about the construction and recent renovation of the fabulous architectural masterpiece. 

After a brief lunch I spent the early (and hot) part of the afternoon walking around the outside of the buildings and taking numerous pictures of the immaculate grounds. I then had the privilege of heading to the basement of the monastery and spending some time viewing the Sister’s archives, including several authentic German documents detailing the early history of the monastery. I also visited the crypt which was just recently cleaned and repainted and could potentially become a museum in the future. The rest of the afternoon I spent in the gift shop, and purchased several CD’s of original music the Sister’s have composed and recorded. 

My experience with the ladies of this incredible place was nothing less than magnificent.  I was amazed at how incredibly warm and inviting every single person I encountered was to me and did not want to leave after spending a full 10 hour day with the Sisters.  There is quite honestly so much to learn about these incredible people, and so little time.  Luckily, I will be returning to Ferdinand next week to visit St. Meinrad, a monastery with a seminary and immersing myself in the lifestyle of the Benedictine monks for three days.  With a little luck, I will be able to return to Monastery Immaculate Conception and continue to take in all that the architectural wonder has to offer.

In photos: Upper right, St. Joseph's Church in Jasper. Lower left, Immaculate Conception sanctuary in Ferdinand.

May 25, 2007

Visiting a Small, New Indiana Winery

Jacob Peerman ' 09 - Ross McKinney and I ventured into what looked like a regular old barn this week at Oak Hill Farms in northwestern Indiana. However, we were soon bombarded with milk information in the form of “Discovery Kids.” After walking through a series of rooms, gaining facts like “Milk is good for the bones” and “3-4 glasses a day,” we found ourselves sitting in a bio-secure air-conditioned bus driving by mountains of grain, fertilizer, and other materials used to keep the 30,000 cows happy and give the soil vital nutrients. This part of the trip was interesting.

However, seeing as how my project is focused on the wineries of Indiana, I was looking forward to the visit to Whyte Horse winery in Monticello, IN.

The Whyte Horse Winery has only been open since October of last year. It all began with a love of wine. Larry and Don Pampel have help from their father, wives, daughters, and son to produce, run, and sustain their family business.Like most wine business, it started with a hobby. Larry is tri-lingual in the world of business as a dentist, financial investment advisor, and vintner. I found all this information by interviewing Abbey Franks. She is a Purdue graduate of 2005 and is fluent in her wine knowledge and Whyte Horse History.This winery does not have the production history like other family owned vineyards. However, Whyte Horse has a rich history of passion, and as Abbey Franks, an employee at Whyte Horse, says “we want to carve out our little niche.”

I asked Abbey where she saw the Whyte Horse Winery in 5-10 years. She replied, “We don’t want to be another Oliver.” The Whyte Horse sells higher end wines and is trying to stay “traditional” in their production.

They do not offer a line of fruit wines or varieties that are extremely sweet which was rather surprising. Abbey says, “We get people from all over the state that travel to our winery and taste our varieties.” I was rather impressed with the passion and charisma that this 8 month old winery had to offer.

The last thing that stuck out in my mind was how the name “Whyte Horse” was chosen. To my understanding, the land where their 3-acre vineyard sits was purchased from a woman who owned a white horse. The horse was purchased along with the land and then became the name of the winery. I did get to see the inspiration and I can say with confidence that it was a good choice.

Visiting Amish Like Foreign Travel

Steve Egan ' 09- I haven’t been abroad and I don’t plan on leaving the country to study during college, but I finally got the chance to see what being the foreigner feels like when I stopped at the Goshen, Indiana Home Depot. 

It was in that parking lot, a place where I should have felt right at home, that I ran into a long, but neatly trimmed bearded man about to get into his buggy. I approached him and his family and asked if he wouldn’t mind me taking a few pictures. What followed says a lot about the Amish culture as a whole. 

The Amish were founded by Jacob Amman in 1694 after a dispute with other Anabaptist church members. Anabaptist theology today includes Mennonites, Hutterites, and Amish among others. The Anabaptists, who are Christians by the way, operate on the principal that one should not be baptized until they are a consenting adult and therefore willing to fully pledge themselves. This is especially important to the Amish as they require such a different lifestyle. The Amish believe that one must keep the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Earth separate, they believe that to remain faithful to God and without sin one may be in the world, but not of the world.  They use many Bible passages to back up these beliefs and to explain the reasoning behind their simple lifestyle.  Part of this simple lifestyle requires that Amish do not use cameras and other electronic equipment; this means no photos in the home, not even mirrors.  So needless to say Amish are a bit wary of having their picture taken. 

The Amish in Elkhart County are of German origin and speak a dialect in their home known as Pennsylvania Dutch. This is the first language and the language used in Amish to Amish conversations. Amish children do not learn English formally until they begin schooling. Amish only attend first through eighth grades, but in that time master all that they will need. Because I knew Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch I assumed that man whom I approached for photographs couldn’t speak English as he replied with only a grumble. Who knows, maybe he barely comes to town and just works out on his farm?

I had the opportunity to meet with author Thomas J. Meyers who told me that this man surely spoke English. He had replied in such a manner as to grunt because he did not want his picture taken, in fact he probably thought it would be sinful to have his picture taken, however he felt so obligated to help me that he was not willing to just give an outright, “No, you can’t take me and family’s picture.” The Amish are such a helpful people that this man felt so obligated to a complete stranger he wasn’t even willing to turn me down.

More recently I have also traveled to Steuben, Allen, and Parke Counties, Parke being the closest to Wabash. The Amish there arrived relatively recently in 1991 straight from Pennsylvania and offer a good contrast to the Amish in the Northeast end of the state. Their buggies are gray instead of black they talk differently and actually hold several beliefs the Amish near Goshen do not. 

The Parke County Amish are an excellent demonstration of the diversity among a culture that to an outsider appears completely homogenous. I’m looking forward to finding out more and becoming closer to the Amish community in Parke County and am sure to find out tons more. 

Click here to read FYI blog entry on Present Indiana Program.

May 21, 2007

A Weekend Hiking Indiana's State Parks

Zac Simpson ’09 – As I explained my pleasant position of hiking Indiana trails to a fellow hiker at McCormick’s Creek State Park he remarked, “Living the dream”. After a splendid weekend hiking Turkey Run State Park, participating in the 13th Annual Run with the Foxes at Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and sauntering through McCormick’s Creek State Park I am resolved to believing I am doing just that, living the dream.

On Friday, I ventured to our nearby Turkey Run for an afternoon of history, photos, and chat with weekend hikers.Being one of the most visited state parks in Indiana, second only to Indiana Dunes, it was no surprise to share the trails with so many fellow hiking enthusiasts. My stay lasted some four hours, in which I observed the vast array of activities offered at Turkey Run. 

Trail 6 proved to be a resonance of the history and importance of Indiana’s state park system. On the trail is Leiber Cabin, a small cabin transported early in the conservation mission in Indiana, which served as the first Indiana parks museum. The cabin now houses a history lesson on state parks and Richard Leiber, the father of Indiana state parks, influence.

Leiber spear-headed the acquisition of 10 state parks, a system that served as a role model for the national scene, and was the first to put forth the belief that people should pay a small fee to benefit the park for future generations and because with a small investment one gets more enjoyment. Other trails through the Rocky Hollow Falls Canyon Nature Preserve offered an insight into the virgin woods of an Indiana long lost.

Early Saturday morning I set out to Morgan-Monroe State Forest to further enjoy the community aspects of nature enthusiasm. I was joined by some hundred hikers or so who raced or walked 5K, 10K, 15K, or a Mini-Marathon through the calm woods. I myself, accompanied by my girlfriend, chose to walk the 5K, and was joined by some 20-30 individuals and their families. Numerous people commented on our lingering pace and trail long videotaping. My response amounted to an observation of others and nature, not a personal challenge to compete for first in a race. The money from the event gained the participant a t-shirt and the enthusiast at large much more. Money funded the Hoosier Hiker’s Council’s efforts to preserve, maintain, and expand single use trails in Indiana, most notably being the current project to expand the Knobstone trail from 58 miles to roughly 158.

The afternoon proved to be a venture into the first state park of Indiana, McCormick’s Creek, Turkey Run being the second. It is here that the Richard Leiber spent his last days. My experience at McCormick’s Creek was a contrast of tall, age-old trees and a dark cave, eased by the presence of others. I was pleased to be befriended by so many people strolling through the park with their families and/or canine companions. The most notable experience was the careful maneuvering through Wolf’s Cave. My girlfriend and I were without a flashlight and she had her fears of dark tight spaces, yet we still crawled our way through the wondrous cave accompanied by so many young children that were eager and without fear. At times you must literally crawl through spaces that are 1-2 feet wide.

At days end, the exhaustion in my legs and the memorable experiences were surmounted by the community feelings that aroused while out in Indiana’s wilderness. Perhaps a quote by Charles Schultz says it best, “Running is very beneficial. It’s good for your legs and feet. It’s also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed.”

May 18, 2007

More Than Corn in Indiana - Cheese Too!

Ross McKinney '09 - Ahh, the power of cheese.  From my first trip to a cheesery, the power of cheese became more and more evident.  As soon as I drove through Berne, IN, I noticed it to be exactly what the signs spoke of it: A Friendly Swiss Community.  And the Swissland Cheese Co. was no exception.  The two Amish buggies and numerous cars in the parking lot made the impression that this cheese was well worth the 3-hour drive from Crawfordsville. 

The owner, Kirk Johnson, was unfortunately in Virginia, but his staff spoke of him with respect and high regard.  Danny, the ranking employee, began my tour of the facilities. After donning the appropriate and required, not to mention quite stylish hair net, I began the walk through the noisy room that housed the “can washer,” a monstrous dishwasher that sanitized the hundreds of 80 lbs capacity milk cans received from the local Amish community every day. 

On the phone call to confirm the tour, I was excited to learn about the making of green Colby, the regular Thursday event.  Unfortunately, to my dismay, this was only a term to describe the cheese’s freshness, not its coloration. I clearly had a lot to learn about cheesing terminology.  These four hundred pounds of cheese will be sold this weekend at various farmers’ markets in primarily Amish communities of North-East Indiana.

Swissland also has a hold on the fast growing Organic market. Internet orders occupy nearly all of Monday business, almost exclusively for the many organic and raw-milk cheese varieties offered. The goat milk cheese is also a big hit; the Feta and their popular “Chedda Feta Bluz” were an utter gustatory delight.  

In addition to making cheese, Swissland also transports and sells tens of thousands of pounds of milk to Glasgow, Kentucky, as well as parts of Ohio, Michigan, and even Wisconsin. Andy Henry, an employee during the transition from exclusively milk to cheese and milk products, spoke of the long work hours and rigorous testing the milk is subjected to.  Seeing the 10 minute process of checking for antibiotics was one example of the plethora of requirements for raw milk, organic, or even regular processed cheese.

Arriving to work at 4 or 5 AM is a regular occurrence for loading the 5000 lb tanks and beginning the numerous tasks of the cheesery, but it is said to be “very fun and rewarding.”

The experience proved that Indiana Cheese is growing and an important aspect of the Dairy and overall area economy.  The products use all local components and employees to produce phenomenal and quite economical products that everyone can enjoy.  As Danny, the Head Cheesemaster said, “Everyone loves cheese, and we have a cheese for everyone.”

In photos: Upper left, Green Colby Curds being mixed, nearly time to be extracted and pressed for the weekend. Lower right, third batch of baby swiss aging on the shelves of the cold-room. 

May 16, 2007

Indy Resources Aid Present Indiana Projects

Nathan Schrader '10 - As I looked at my clock this morning at 8:35 and thought, “Sweet, I’ve got ten more minutes until I have to get up.” But something told me I had other things to do today… oh yeah, we’re going to the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana State Library in Indy. Right. So I fell out of bed as fast as I could, ran to the bus, and we were off.

When we arrived, we received materials related to our topics. However, because I changed my topic to another subject, the resource was not of any importance. But we came prepared. The society is somewhat technical with a “call slip” system. So I gave the historian my slips and went to work.

The materials I received in the historical society and the library were newspaper clippings. I found these useful in my research of John Irwin Miller, the man in responsible for creating the unique landscape of Columbus, Indiana. As we sifted through the bookstores, I found a book on both Madison and Columbus. It was somewhat upsetting though when I found five or six books about high school basketball in Indiana which was related to my original topic. But all in all today was a productive day.

The facilities and what they had to offer were very impressive. The historical society was full of rich wood and marble floors, as any museum should, and it was right along a river. Historic quotes were written about the walls and steps. It was a beautiful place. The materials were very surprising, such as a newspaper article from the 1950s about the architecture of Columbus and J. Irwin Miller’s thoughts behind his funding. When I found this article, it was buried in a ten pound folder full of clippings on Columbus. Two resources such as the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana State Library are something every Hoosier researcher should explore.

Editor's Note: All nine students participating in the Present Indiana Summer Internship traveled to Indianapolis to do research on their projects at the Historical Society and State Library.

In photos: Top left, Matt Vest does research at the Indiana Historical Society on his project studying German Immigration into Indiana. Lower right, Robert Campbell reads up on the Battle of Tippecanoe.

May 14, 2007

Visit to Battlefield Quite Impressive

Robert Campbell '10 - On a warm, beautiful summer’s day, I found my way to a small state park in Northern Tippecanoe County. Tucked on the side of a small creek, this patch of land played host to a pivotal battle in our nations history, and in the history of the Native Americans of the Ohio Valley. In 1811, this area was the site for a new Indian Confederacy, headed by the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, and his brother “The Prophet”, and where General William Henry Harrison would squelch their hopes.

The Battlefield Museum harbors many exhibits pertaining to this conflict and also the lives of William Henry Harrison, Tecumseh, and “The Prophet.” But most impressive; the fiberglass light display of how the battle happened. The display showed American troop positions, Indian attacks, and the movements of both sides during the battle. Later, upon entering the monument site, I noticed that the park was set up on the same place where the battle took place. I used the information learned from the display to place myself in the actual battle. My imagination came alive as I walked the park and I envisioned the battle; the sights, the sounds, and how truly terrifying it would have been to be on that misty field that morning. The natural beauty of the park was astounding. The trees were in full bloom and the air was crisp and fresh.  It reminded me of how truly beautiful this state is. I envy the Indians for this. They were the ones who truly were able to enjoy and preserve this land. Unfortunately, due to a lack of records, these Indians cannot be properly recognized, however, this park has done an excellent job recognizing them to the best extent they can. 

This experience has shaped my final project into what it has become. I now want to recreate the battle in a way that brings these images forth from my imagination. This battle crippled the dreams of Tecumseh for an Indian confederacy and drove him to join forces with the British in Canada and fight for the Queen in the Battle of Thames, one of he first battle in the War of 1812. William Henry Harrison would go on to become President of the United States, where he passed soon after taking office. 

May 11, 2007

Trip to Brown County is Trip to "Peaceful Valley:

Mitch Brown '10 - When I started to near the county line while driving on State Road 135, I began to see what brought world famous artists to the virtually unknown Brown County, Indiana in the early 1900s.  Slowly the scenery changes to the hilly wooded areas that make the drive into the county a valuable part of the experience. I spent the day in the town of Nashville, which is the center of the art community of Brown County. 

Nashville is a small town full of galleries and shops that - along with the state park- brings thousands of tourists every year.  One of my goals for the day was to find out what about the town caused the early artists to call it “Peaceful Valley”. Every person I met  made me feel very welcome and gladly answered my questions. Wayne Waldron, an artist who runs a gallery gave me great ideas for places to visit and also directions when I could not find a destination. His friendly nature and helpfulness - I would soon realize - is a staple of Nashville.

I spent much of my day visiting galleries of famous artists such as Will Vawter. The rest of the time I spent talking to different gallery owners and artists. Though I had no appointments, each person I asked to interview was gladly willing to take time out of their day to help me out with my project. The nice people at the Brown County Art Guild even talked to me while they were eating lunch.  Each person I interviewed directed me to others who I had either already met with or planned on meeting. By the end of the day I was already seeing familiar faces as I walked through the streets of Nashville, and I was starting to realize that this strong sense of community is what makes this place special.

When I asked Pam Crawford of the Brown County Art Gallery about the harmony that existed in Nashville she replied, “I think the biggest thing is the area. There’s something about this area.” 

It’s funny, after spending only a day in Brown County, I completely understood what she was talking about. There’s an undefinable quality in this area that allows you to slow down and appreciate the places and the people around you.  It doesn’t take much time to understand why the early artists of Brown County called Nashville “Peaceful Valley”.

Editor's Note: Brown is one of nine Wabash students participating in Present Indiana. He is studying Brown County's art scene.

May 07, 2007

PIP Project Begins for 2007 Summer

Howard W. Hewitt - The Present Indiana project, a summer internship funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., got underway May 7 with nine students.

You can learn more about the project and look at last year's student efforts by going to the program's page on our website.

I assist David Clapp, Director of Off-Campus Studies and International Students, in overseeing the program. It's a lot of fun to work with the students as they conduct research into Indiana history and culture. Each student has a faculty or staff mentor for the eight-week internship.

One of the great things about the program is how the young men learn about each other's projects. We also plan a few road trips to visit significant or interesting Indiana locations.

We'll have the students offer updates over the next eight weeks on this blog to share their progress. We'll have photos and introductions to the nine students on the Present Indiana page yet this week.

The past two years' projects have ranged from New Harmony to Milan from the Wabash River to the Bridgeton covered bridge. This summer students will tackle German immigration to Indiana, Indiana wineries, hiking trails and much more.

The blog entry below come from last summer. We're kicking off the 2007 PIP season today. Be sure to check back to see how our students are doing!