[r63] Statehood Day: A celebration of Indiana's rich history

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, September 12, 2014

Statehood Day: A celebration of Indiana's rich history

Indiana has a rich history, and each year on Statehood Day, there is never a lack of things to celebrate. Just as our state is comprised of thousands of individual communities big and small, our rich history is also made up of each of these communities’ storied pasts.

For example, did you know that the area we live in used to be considered as part of the Commonwealth of Virginia? In 1787, Congress established the Northwest Territory, which included the current state of Indiana, but it was not until 1818 that the Dubois County we know today was created.

This early development of Dubois County was made successful by its location on early Indian trails, the White and Patoka rivers and also the Buffalo Trace. The Buffalo Trace was a 10 to 20 foot wide path that had been formed by the annual movement of thousands of buffalo from the plains of Illinois to the salt licks of Kentucky. The Trace also served as a road for many early travelers and was the primary road to the Fort and Territorial Capital of Vincennes.

William Henry Harrison, Territory Governor and later U.S. President, used to travel this trail and spend evenings at federal ranger camps at Fort McDonald or Cuzco in Dubois County. A large portion of State Highway 56 east of Haysville is built over the old trace, and to this day, several small cemeteries remain there containing the graves of early settlers and travelers.

Other communities across Indiana also have their own similar, yet unique stories that when pieced together make up the Indiana we live in today. To celebrate this, each year on Dec. 11, Indiana celebrates Statehood Day. This year marks our 198th celebration, and with our bicentennial birthday just two years away, I cannot think of better way to celebrate our statehood than to encourage young Hoosiers to learn more about Indiana’s rich history. After all, we are dependent on this next generation to keep our story alive.

Again this year, the Indiana Statehouse Tour Office, the State Library and the Indiana Center for the Book have joined forces to host an essay competition open to any fourth grade students across the state - public, private or homeschooled. Learning about state government is already part of Indiana’s current fourth grade curriculum, so this elective essay fits in perfectly with their mandatory studies. The essays must range from 100 to 300 words and adhere to the theme: Hoosier Bicentennial Moments. For example, this could include any significant events, historical moments or great Hoosiers from the past or present.

Once all the essays are received, a panel of judges will select four winners, and those winners will be invited, along with their classes, to visit one of the following historic locations in downtown Indianapolis on Statehood Day: State Museum, Capital Building, State Library or the Indiana Historical Society. Once there, the winners will be able to read their essays aloud to their classes.

I am always impressed by the number of fourth graders who participate in this competition each year and also by the caliber of their writing. It is great to see young Hoosiers taking an interest in our state, and I would love to see at least one of our many bright local students recognized. If this sounds like something your fourth grader would be interested in, be sure to have their essay mailed to the State Library by Friday, Oct. 24. Or for more information, contact me at my office at 317-232-9620.