Our mission is to preserve and promote the history of Fulton County
FCHS was founded in 1963 with its first location at the old Rochester Depot. Incorporating in 1972 as non-profit, FCHS started its first festival, the Trail of Courage in 1976 which led to Rendezvous: Trail of Courage Living History Festival, Fulton County Historical Power Show and Redbud Trail purchased acreage along U.S. 31, which is its present location.
Through the years, donations of a round barn, print shop, chicken house, 1832 Polke house/stagecoach inn, windmill, the relocation of the Rochester depot and log cabin, and building projects such as a foot bridge and blacksmith shop have formed the nucleus of a Living History Village called Loyal, Indiana, which portrays the period of 1900-1925. Additions to the village are planned in the future.
Three branch groups meet several times a year: the Genealogy Section, the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association (see www.potawatomi-tda.org), and Fulton County Historical Power Association. FCHS seeks to preserve history through publications, displays, special events, drama, music, and monthly meetings.
Lois Ulerick 2009-2011; Ernie Hiatt, 1970-1971; Shirley Willard, 1971-2001; Jack K. Overmyer, 1963-1964. Overmyer was honored as our founder and first president during the Nov. 22, 2009 annual banquet.
Not in photo: Ruby Reed 2002-2008; and Fred A Oden Jr. 2012-present.
Fulton County Historical Society Inc. Formed April 30, 1963 with 28
Presidents and Terms Served
Jack Overmyer, 1963-1964
Gilbert Enyart, 1964-1965
Walter F. Carpenter, 1965-1966
James Zimmerman, 1966-1967
Hugh Barnhart, 1967-1969
Pete Terpstra, 1969-1970
Ernest Hiatt, 1970-1971
Shirley Willard, 1971-2001
Ruby Reed, 2002-2008
Lois Ulerick, 2009- 2011
Fred Oden Jr. 2012 - present
Fulton County Historical Society
50 Years ago the Fulton County Historical Society was created
By Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian
A 50th anniversary celebration for the Fulton County Historical Society will be held April 21 at 2 p.m. at the museum. Memories will be shared, photos of events from 1963-2013 will be exhibited, refreshments will be served. The public is invited to come tell their memories and make suggestions for the future. Am I the only one still alive who attended the organizational meeting 50 years ago? That is a long ways to look back and try to remember the details of a certain meeting. But I do have some memories of the first meeting called by Jack Overmyer and Barbara Allen, librarian, to organize a county historical society. I recall it was in the basement of the old Carnegie Library in Rochester. I recall seeing Jack there. But the rest I had to get from the news articles. I did not save them at the time. Almeda Engle saved the news articles and put them in a scrapbook now located in the Fulton County Museum. I remember I was elected the first secretary of the newly- formed Fulton County Historical Society. Years later Jack asked me if when they discussed having a museum, did I think to myself that I would like to work there? No, it did not enter my head. I was teaching history, English and Spanish at Kewanna High School, and although I was always interested in local history, I had no desire to run a museum. I did not even suspect that I would switch from teaching school to being FCHS president for 30 years, 1971-2001. I continued to teach until 1977, becoming a full time museum worker in 1978. Now at age 77 looking back over 50 years of museum work, I am amazed at what we all accomplished. I look back at the years and marvel at how much we did, the time and labor put into it. It astonishes me. I sure don’t have that much energy now.
The first printed notice of a meeting to start a county historical society was published in the Rochester Sentinel on January 31, 1963. The meeting was
February 13, 1963. In his Considered Comment column on Feb. 1, Jack mentioned that there had been a historical society here many years before,
but it had fallen victim to age and indifference. (I think he was referring to efforts about 1910 by Albert Bitters to start a Rochester historical society.)
The second meeting was March 19, with Hubert Hawkins of the Indiana Historical Bureau as speaker. He gave guidance and advice on starting a
new Fulton County Historical Society. He stated, “History is nothing more nor less than the record of significant human experience. While this experience is by no means an infallible guide to the future, it is the best guide we have.” Hawkins came back a month later and showed slides of the Potawatomi Indians in Fulton and Miami counties, from paintings by George Winter in 1837-38.
A nine-member executive committee was appointed to begin immediately on the work of organizing the historical society. Members were Waldo Adams, Mrs. Lamoin Hand, Mrs. Elmer Overmyer, Mrs. Ray Engle, Robert Kent, Mrs. Shirley Holmes, Ted Lewis, Jack K. Overmyer, and Mrs. Barbara Allen. (I was Shirley Holmes at that time, divorced from Doyle Holmes.)
On April 9 the Sentinel reported that a historical society will be organized and a slate of officers presented for election on April 30 at the Edison Room
in the Public Service Indiana building, 601 Madison Street. The article stated that Fulton County “never had an historical society.” (Notice the use of an historical society, assuming the h is silent. I use a because I pronounce the h.)
At that April 30 meeting a constitution was adopted, 27 people paid $2 yearly dues to become charter members, and four officers were elected.
Charter memberships were accepted during the next year.
Elected president was Jack K. Overmyer, editor and publisher of the Sentinel; vice president Waldo Adams, Rochester high school teacher;
secretary Mrs. Shirley Holmes, Kewanna High School teacher; and treasurer Theodore Lewis, distributor of paint products, Akron.
Committees were formed to begin work on the following subjects: Indian life and artifacts, old mills, documents and old pictures, Civil War, historical sites and placing of historical markers, tape recording of reminiscences by older residents, education for schools, genealogy, antiques, and publications and research.
Apparently Almeda Engle and I were on the “documents and old pictures” team because I remember we got phone calls and went together to people’s
houses to pick up items they wanted to donate. FCHS bought a metal cabinet to hold the collections, which was placed in the library basement. We
wrote the date, donor’s name and the items donated in a note book. This was the beginning of our “museum.”
Historical society grew and grew for 50 years
By Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian
A lot was accomplished in the first eight years existence of the Fulton County Historical Society. Presidents included Jack Overmyer 1963, Gilbert Enyart 1964, Walter Carpenter 1965, James Zimmerman 1966, Hugh Barnhart 1967-68, Pete Terpstra 1969, and Ernie Hiatt, 1970.
The first FCHS historical marker was the sign at Lake Manitou, erected in 1964 beside the dam. It tells of the first white settlement and the Manitou monster. Waldo Adams collected names and military dates of all Fulton County men in the Civil War, and typed it into a booklet which he placed in the library. Adams also wrote a history of Joaquin Miller, the famous poet who lived at Talma as a boy in 1840s. It was published in the first Fulton County
Historical Society Quarterly in December 1964.Gilbert Enyart’s history of the beginning of Lake Manitou mill and Fulton
County was published in the second FCHS Quarterly. The first public exhibit was at Senior Citizen’s Day, reported with photos in the Sentinel on May 25, 1965. It was held in Camblin’s Furniture Store, 806 Main Street. Another exhibit was at the county fair in August.
Walter Carpenter collected Indiana Sesquicentennial history for the third Quarterly. Enyart’s history of Jesse Shields early settler, was in the fourth
Quarterly.I remember attending the meeting held at Lucille Leonard’s historic home, 1402 Main Street. I also remember attending a meeting at Jim Zimmerman’s house because I was pregnant with my youngest son and Ruth Richardson urged me to eat more. It is funny the things we remember! Ruth was FCHS treasurer for 10 years and I admired her so much. She was so kind, intelligent, and caring. She taught me how to do genealogy research.A plaque to Elizabeth Lindsay was erected in 1967. She was the first white woman to die in Fulton County. The plaque was sponsored by the Fulton County Federation of Women’s Clubs. Jim Zimmerman had worked closely with them to get the plaque erected. By the time the plaque was completed, Hugh Barnhart was president of Fulton County Historical Society and presided at the dedication ceremony. All the presidents worked with
committees to collect history and get FCHS started on track.Pete Terpstra was FCHS president in 1969 and got the Norfolk & Western
Railroad depot donated to FCHS. He heard it was to be torn down so he asked for it to given to the historical society. He arranged for it to be moved
by Helvey House Movers. Rochester Telephone Company donated their services to lift the wires above the building as it was being moved from the
railroad on 8th Street to Lakeview Park. Bill Willard, an employee of RTC, rode on top of the depot to lift the wires as it progressed slowly down the
street on March 17, 1969.Pete also arranged to build a concrete foundation for the depot, install a furnace, and painting the interior by volunteers, etc. This was FCHS’s first museum. It was moved again by Helvey House Movers in 1992 to the FCHS grounds on U.S. 31, where it became the nucleus for a living history village called Loyal, Indiana.Since having an auction of donated items had worked to raise money for other organizations, such as the 4-H fair, Ernie Hiatt, FCHS president, and Jane Mills, secretary, organized an auction to benefit the museum in 1970. They also helped get the Rochester depot ready to be a museum. It was opened with an exhibit for the first time during the first Round Barn Festival in July 1971.
Also when Hiatt was president, the Rochester College cornerstone was moved from the college site on College Avenue to the courthouse.
I was elected president in 1971. Needing materials to put in the FCHS Quarterly, I remembered a history of Kewanna that my student, Wayne
McPherson, had written for a term paper. We published it in the 1971 Quarterly. I taught at North Miami High School 1968-73, and I had some of
my students type stories for the Quarterly.There are many more tales to tell, but I will leave them for the celebration
April 21 at 2 p.m.in the Fulton County Museum. Come join us to recall your memories and eat the FCHS 50th anniversary cake. You will also hear from
former FCHS presidents Ruby Reed, Lois Ulerick, and Fred Oden Jr.
FCHS under my watch for 30 years
By Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian
When I was elected president of Fulton County Historical Society in 1971, I was dumb as a box of rocks. I had never been president of anything
before. But I was a school teacher so I knew how to organize. I knew how to raise money because I had been sponsor of the 1966 Kewanna class as
they earned money for their senior trip. As an English and journalism teacher, I knew how to write news and feature stories. FCHS changed my
life. The historical society was a thousand dollars in debt for moving the depot and over 100 people had not paid dues for the past year. The first
thing I did was ask the Akron Jonah Club to do a fish fry to help pay off that debt. They were a wonderful group of people who did the fish fry free.
Another thing we did to raise money was to sell sponsorships in order to print the Quarterly. At first for each Quarterly, I sold $5 sponsorships. Then I
started selling $10 sponsorships for the whole year. That worked and meant I did not have to do as much asking.The next Quarterly we did was about Fulton and the third about Mt. Zion. Both of these were updated histories which had been written several years previously. I especially remember working with Fred Van Duyne as he worked on the Mt Zion history. When I took him a copy of the new Quarterly with his story in it, he said, “Now praise me a little.” Mr. Van Duyne was a school teacher too, and it made me realize the importance of praising people who write history. Of course, I had thanked him, but it was also necessary to praise people and tell what you liked about his story. About 10 years later when I was working on Fulton County Folks vol. 2, I visited Mr. Van Duyne who was writing the Van Duyne / Shelton history. As we sat on his sofa and
went through old photos, we were both crying about time gone by. His wife had recently died.
I learned so much from the elder members of FCHS. Ruth Richardson consoled me when I made a mistake. She said the only people who don’t
make mistakes are those who do nothing. Just correct it and go on.The next Quarterly was about Richland Township by Bruce Hess. It was
published in September 1972 and had the announcement: “Rejoice! The Debt is Paid!” Thanks to serving ham and beans during the Round Barn
Festival and many donations. I sent a list of 10 different FCHS members to 22 people and they phoned all FCHS members in the county to donate a
dozen cornbread muffins. George McMillan cooked the ham and beans outdoors by the depot museum, using the big iron kettle that my father
Charlie Ogle donated. He was using the kettle to water a calf and I asked him for it. Rochester Monument Works sand-blasted the kettle to make it
clean. FCHS still cooks ham and beans at the Redbud Trail and Trail of Courage, but I took my iron kettle home when I retired. By that time FCHS
had several iron kettles and a copper kettle for apple butter. I learned that you have to use a copper kettle to make apple butter.
We had the depot museum open Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the summer with volunteers. They would pick up the key from Day Food Market
located across the street. William C. Miller of Richland Center was in this 90s and enjoyed hosting the depot museum once a month. Miss Rena Wright
hosted it several times and so did other high school teachers.
The February 1973 Quarterly was about Green Oak. I updated a history originally published in the Sentinel, written by Bill Freyberg. It was published with no author and I did not find out it was Freyberg until after I published it in the Quarterly. I wrote a history of the first railroad in Fulton County and the depot museum. It also had a history of Prill school by Dewey Zolman.
In July 1973 featured Peggy Stroup’s story and photos of Fulton County Architecture 1936-1900. Also Sara Terry Shirk’s story about her
grandfather David Lyons and the house he built on the corner of 9th and Jefferson. This is one of the oldest houses in Rochester, built in 1855. We
decided to give the Quarterlies a number as well as a date, so this was no. 15.
Quarterly no 16 was a history of Akron. It had been written in 1936 by Ina Brundige, updated by Velma Bright. I won’t take time to tell about each
Quarterly. We published 72 Quarterlies, which included many of Fulton County’s one-room schools.
In 1975 FCHS rented rooms in the shop area of the old Rochester High School, then called the Civic Center. On the same day as the big fire at
Wiles (Old Arlington Hotel) we were attending the auction of school furniture at the old school. I remember walking down the street to see the fire. Mary Ann Lybarger was FCHS treasurer and brought the check book so we could buy some of the desks, chairs, and cupboards.
1976 was the bicentennial of the United States. FCHS erected five historical markers and started the Trail of Courage. The first year it was in Dean Neff’s field. The next year the Trail of Courage was at Bob Kern’s woods, where it remained for nine years. Kern donated the use of his pine woods on the Tippecanoe River for the Trail of Courage and it was because of him that we were able to save $35,000 to buy land in 1985. We owe Bob a big debt of gratitude.
In 1976 the federal government started a program to provide employment to needy people. CETA provided FCHS with two employees: Liz Williams and
Sharon Ewen. In the summer was the SPEDY program and Melinda Clinger came to work for us. She has been working for FCHS since she was 14
I worked closely with the Indiana Historical Society for several projects. In 1980 the old newspapers were microfilmed. To get ready, Henrietta
Ferguson and Ruth Lichtenwalter catalogued Rochester newspapers, Bertha Waltz and Lois Wagoner the Fulton newspapers, and Lorena
Sheridan and Lulu Spear cataloged the Kewanna newspapers. Vincent Berwanger hauled the newspapers to Indianapolis in his truck.
Indiana Historical Society also helped us with surveying architecture in Fulton County. They sent a woman who drove every street and road and
looked at every man-made structure in the county. At the museum we helped her with research and photos. The book was published in 1987.
Indiana Historical Society also helped us with getting the Trail of Death recognized as a Regional Historic Trail in 1994. John Harris of IHS came in
his car and took me to visit all six counties in Indiana that the Trail crossed: Marshall, Cass, Carroll, Tippecanoe and Warren. We asked them to write
letters of support to get the state legislature to pass a resolution declaring the Trail of Death a Regional Historic Trail. Tom Weatherwax of Logansport
and Gary Cook of Plymouth introduced the resolution and it passed. I contacted Illinois, Missouri and Kansas and got people there to support it
and introduce the resolution to their legislatures. They all did.
A tornado on Sept. 1, 1989, took the roof off Larry Paxton’s round barn. It lifted the roof and moved it about 30 feet and dropped it down, which broke
the side walls but did not destroy all of the barn. Indiana Landmarks Foundation loaned FCHS $40,000 to move and restore the round barn. It
cost $65,000 to rebuild it, all of which was donated by members, businesses, alumni, lots of people. Safway lent the scaffolding. Bob Thomas sold us his wooden shingles that he had purchased 20 years before but not used on his round barn. Fred Carr did most of the construction. We got really famous as all the traffic on the highway saw Fred working on the roof. He did not use safety harness but instead just climbed up the roof with a bundle of shingles on his shoulders. People gasped as they saw him up on top of the cupola.
Amos Hochstetler brought a crew to work on the barn one week but Fred, being a perfectionist, was not satisfied with their work so offered to finish it
by himself. So he did. We had an Appalachian Big Circle dance at the dedication and the Fulton County chorus sang and did a chicken skit.
FCHS has 4 branches: The Genealogy Section was formed in 1981, Indian Awareness Center in 1982, and Sutton – Terock blacksmith shop in 1997,
and the Fulton County Historical Power Association in 2003. Each has their own officers, checking account, meetings and newsletters. In 2005 the Indian Awareness Center became the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association. The Genealogy Section has genealogy workshops. The blacksmith shop is open the second Saturday of each month to teach iron working. The Power Association produces an annual tractor show and toy show. The PTDA has
gotten historical markers placed at each campsite every 15-20 miles and organized commemorative caravans every five years from Indiana to
Kansas. The sixth caravan will be this fall, Sept. 23-28. You are welcome to come with us, for half a day or all the way to Kansas. This group works with
Potawatomi members and all 26 counties on the Trail of Death.
FCHS grounds a mile long
The Fulton County Historical Society owns a strip of land a mile long, from the Tippecanoe River to the county road, 375 N. It lies along side US 31, the
big dual-lane highway that crosses Indiana from north to south.FCHS purchased this land, consisting of 35 acres, for $35,000 from DeKalb
in 1985. The society had saved money from the Trail of Courage and paid cash to get a bigger home for the Trail of Courage and as a site for a new
museum.The Fulton County Museum was built in 1987-1988. Ed Rentschler did the exterior and volunteers, led by Bill Willard, did the interior. The building is pole construction 64 x 144 feet. Willard divided it into rooms and had volunteers help stand the walls up. He worked for Rochester Telephone Company and when he got off work at 5 p.m., he worked at the museum till 9 p.m. nearly every evening, also a full day on Saturday and half a day on Sunday afternoon. I took peanut and jelly sandwiches for supper and swept up while he worked. Harold Reese and other senior volunteers worked afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m., installing dry wall and paneling. Senior volunteers included Raymond Craig, Charles Dekeyser, Leon Steward and
others. A crew of volunteers tacked up insulation and plastic all in one day. Because of th many volunteers donating their time and labor, the museum
was built for only $125,000. All of the money was donated by families, clubs and businesses. The museum displays were moved from the old Civic
Center Museum, former Rochester High School, in August 1988.
We packed the museum collection in boxes and labeled them for the room they should go in at the new museum. Many people came with cars and
trucks to haul things. There was a crew loading things at the Civic Center, directed by Harold Gibbons, and another crew unloading things at the new
museum, directed by Walter Van Meter. Several ladies drove their cars to be loaded and unloaded at the new museum. So many wonderful volunteers!
And people assigned to do Community Service by the local court – many of them have been really good workers and learned a lot from our senior
volunteers. Of course, we had some bad workers too.
In 2001 an addition was added at the north end of the museum with money from the estate of Ruth and Alice Tetzlaff, life members who were very
interested in genealogy. The 40 foot addition made the meeting room larger and created the Tetzlaff Reference Room. Hundreds of reference books,
magazine, and Fulton County newspapers, as well as files, family histories and American Indian histories make this room a valuable asset to students
and people of all ages.
I retired in 2001 and FCHS gave me a wonderful retirement party. The 42nd royal Highlanders played bagpipes. Peggy Van Meter applied for me to get
the prized state award, Sagamore of the Wabash. Ex-Governor Otis Bowen preseted it to me at the annual banquet that year.
We have had disagreements, arguments, fusses, but by sticking together we have accomplished a lot. We have had lots of help from volunteers and
other groups and clubs and businesses. We need to continue to ask for help from everybody because history is everybody’s business. And we want to
preserved history of all of Fulton County and its residents, past and present.I will leave the next report covering 2002 to today to Melinda.
In 2007-2008 the Richland Center Memorial Room was added to the north end of the museum, providing a 100 foot meeting room for fish fries,
weddings, graduation parties, reunions, etc. The Richland Township Association meets there, as well as Richland Center IOOF Lodge, Richland
Center Tractor Pullers, and 4-H.A Living History Faire, annual FCHS banquet, Christmas plays and other
events are held there every year now. Richland and Aubbeenaubbee
township school alumni have their annual meetings there.
The Fulton County Museum is always a busy place with many visitors