Saturday, January 31, 2015

Clues? What clues?

Lots of resources are available for researching our town's history.

It's just that nobody is yelling, "Here's where the stuff is stashed!"

And even after you find it, it's frankly . . . a mess.

Books are a hundred years old, written in a language that would complicate a monkey's life, and as disjointed as a Boy Scout picnic on a rainy day. (I love that one!)

I have the names, generally, of who first settled in Fairfield Township, complete with a misdirect that befuddled me for a while. I even have the dates they arrived. Mostly, I know why they came to Indiana and within reason, I know what happened to them.

It's the putting it all together into something sane that is the maddening part. It could be that it doesn't matter if it fits, since the whole of Indiana history during the period around the year 1800 is so enmeshed in events outside the territory as to blow one's mind. Hint: They did not use the term "blow one's mind" in the 19th century.

Yeah, this stuff is easy to find:

For the disposal of the unappropriated public lands in the state of Indiana, to which the Indian title is extinguished, the following districts shall be formed, and land offices established: All the public lands as aforesaid, to which the Indian title was extinguished by the treaties concluded at St. Mary's, in the month of October, eighteen hundred and eighteen, lying east of the range line, separating the first and second ranges, east of the second principal meridian, extended north to the present Indian boundary, and north of a line to be run, separating the ninth and tenth tiers of townships north of a base line, shall form a district for which a land office shall be established at Brookville. (Source below)

But past all that, which is nothing more than a pre-technology GPS, the trick is to decide how much of anything is worth reading before it becomes too compelling to ignore. You can be reading along, just enjoying the story when . . . up pops a reference to the Emperor Napoleon and you go ... 'HUH?'

And so it goes. I've found some interesting documents and a lot more are stashed somewhere in Napoleon's briefcase. The objective is to take all this stuff and turn it into something of a modern narrative that will allow everyone the chance to read, interpret, comment and do their own research. I have no idea where it goes from there. 

-- John

-- Indiana Magazine of History, June 1947 (Chelsea Lawlis, "The Great Migration and the Whitewater Valley"
-- Map, Indiana Historical Society

Welcome to Fairfield

Accompanying this initial entry is a photo of a flood. 1913. Brookville, Indiana.

Considered the worst flood in Midwestern history, rivaled only by a devastating event in 1937 and perhaps another in 1959, the 1913 disaster brought squarely into focus the fury of nature and the expansion of America.

In 1913, there were real towns, real roads, real bridges, real factories, and real reasons to establish a value on all that.

Nature kicks up its heels from time to time, reminding us that we are as relevant as we want to be. We can build a levee or a dam or dig a trench . . . but when the water comes up, things it doesn't like are affected. The system is flushing.

As intelligent life forms, we have decided that rather than move to high ground and let nature just do what it does, we'd rather try to tame it. Occasionally, it works.

History will judge that.

In the meantime, this is the initial entry in a blog that will attempt to cover the history of Fairfield, Indiana. Well, the town has been covered already . . . people tried to tame nature and so far, they've gotten away with it.

We will show Fairfield from the bottom up. We have 200 years to share with you.

-- John

(Photo is courtesy the Indiana Historical Society)