May 23, 2008
Meandering Perry County

One of my schemes for this blog is, as they say, to wander Indiana, which I plan to do through history and memory. We Hoosiers have no shortage of history, and I have a great many memories of days spent in corners, pockets, byways, forests, landmarks, and (let’s be honest) cafes and restaurants throughout Indiana.

I’ll start with Perry County. A genealogist cousin in San Diego says that our branch of the Conners first crossed into the state via Perry County on the Ohio River. More recent history says that a notorious battle went on for years between Cannelton and Tell City to wrest the county seat from each other, and you can still raise the ire of Perryites by mentioning it.

Cannelton is the home of the Indiana Cotton Mill, once the most impressive industrial structure west of the Alleghenies, rival to the textile factories of New England. Tell City, named after William Tell, was a stop on the Indiana Humanities Council’s “Always a River” exhibition barge tour. I remember it for its flood wall, now decorated with a mural. The Ohio River is all about stories of legendary floods, the most devastating in 1937.

My favorite memory of Perry County is an oral history project that was simplicity itself: a high school gym (on the wall, the still-prized banner of a long-ago sectional championship–do I even have to say “in basketball”?), a group of septua- and octogenarians seated at a table with recording equipment, and an entire school’s worth of children, mustered in ranks on the floor. The old timers talked and the kids listened, so fascinated by the stories that the kindergartners and first-graders refused to leave for their lunchtime. Eventually, though, we all had sandwiches while pondering the riddle of the small African American community that vanished from the environs, long before the young people and most of the teachers were born.

Posted In: Miscellaneous

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