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New book offers glimpse into Crawford's past

November 12, 2008
Anyone interested in Crawford County historical buildings, bridges and other structures can now satisfy their curiosity with a new book that has been released by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

The book, called "Crawford County — Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventor" will surely whet the appetites of those who often wondered about certain buildings in the county — when they were built, what style they represent and which ones have historical value or significance.

The book is packed with photographs, some of buildings long gone, and some of building and bridges still standing. There's even photos of dwellings that are still being used, but many are in bad shape and may never be preserved.

"They actually began working on the project back in 2006," Richard Eastridge, Crawford County Historian, said. "There were about five people from the Historic Landmarks of Indiana working on it. Jim Kaiser and I helped them. We went through their information and corrected any errors. And we sent them over 100 historical photographs — of buildings that no longer exist — to use in the book, and they took a lot of pictures of places still standing also."

The project, funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund with a match from the Crawford County Historical and Genealogical Society and the Crawford County Commissioners, covered 306 square miles and over 600 sites and structures in the county and entered them into an inventory that can be updated as needed.

Ultimately, all counties in the state will be surveyed the same way to locate, identify and evaluate cultural resources. Like historic sites and structures, archaeological sites are also being surveyed under a similar program. Together, the two programs will provide an overall view of what cultural resources are present in the state.

In inventorying Crawford County, surveyors looked for buildings, bridges, markers, outbuildings, and anything that might meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places. In general, they looked at most structures built before 1966. Alterations or additions obliterating the historical and architectural integrity of a building may have kept it from being included in the inventory. Buildings were not, however, excluded solely on the basis of their physical condition if their historical integrity remained intact.

The book is quite a jewel in that some of the photos will bring back memories of what some of the towns in the county looked like years ago. There's a great picture on the front of the book of downtown English in 1914. There's a 1908 picture of James Tucker's store in Taswell. There is also a picture of the Crawford County Courthouse when it was located in Fredonia from 1822 until 1843, and a picture of the old Leavenworth State Bank, which is still standing and was built from a Italian design. There's a picture of the old basket factory in English, the detailed ironwork on Bridge #42 on South Alton Road, the old Lone Brothers Garage in English, the Rothrock House which is a Greek Revival structure, the old Union Church in Whiskey Run Township, the old Alton School, the old Hawkins House, the old James and Wealthy Meriwether House, Harry Stewart's restaurant in Marengo near the old depot, an old Marengo hotel, the Bogard Log Church, the Fountain Springs Cannery, the Riceville Depot, the old Nathan Hollen log house north of Taswell, the old Thomas Ridenour house, the Jericho Christian Church, and many, many others.

The book is also packed with information about the county. It tells how, during the mid-19th century, Crawford County was indeed a controversial place because during the Civil War, supporters of both sides of the war lived in the county. Many residents remained connected to their original southern roots through friends and relatives, while others felt compelled to side with the north. Record numbers of men signed up with the Union Army at the beginning of the war, but that small chapters of the Knights of the Golden Circle, an organization of southern sympathizers, were established in various towns in the county. Crawford County residents also formed Home Guard militias to defend against Confederate raids.

There is also information in the book about how life changed in Crawford County due to the coming of the railroad and how it threatened the status quo of wealth and commerce. It also mentions how certain residents sought moral order through what became known as white capping, a form of vigilante law concerned with the moral well-being of society. White cappers reprimanded individuals who they felt acted outside the moral code of behavior, often targeting alcoholics, spousal abusers and other social deviants.

The book also documents the struggle to bring the county courthouse to English from Leavenworth in 1893 and the court battle that ensued, and goes on to discuss how, during the 20th century, the county was stung by disastrous fires, floods and tornadoes and how the demise of river commerce and the initial downturn of the railroads added to economic hardships in the county.

But it's the photographs that make the book a page-turner. Anyone reading the book will recognize many of the structures and bridges pictured. One picture shows the old Peckinpaugh House, a beautiful Queen Ann design, that still stands in Alton.

"The Peckinpaugh house is privately owned," said Eastridge, who is also a member of the Crawford County Historical and Genealogical Society. "But it will be destroyed. I think the owner will probably tear it down. I wish we (the Historical Society) could afford to buy it. But we just don't have the funds. We already have the Proctor House at Marengo, and we're going to try to save the old Riceville Depot, but it all takes money and we don't have much to operate on."

The book, which sells for $20, can be purchased at the Crawford County Public Library in English, or at the Auditor's office in the Crawford County Judicial Complex at English.

"They can also be bought from the Historical and Genealogical Society," Eastridge said. " The pictures alone are worth what the book is selling for."

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    November 18, 2008 | 08:55 PM

    i was born and raised in leavenworth, and reside in gatlinburg,tn now for 23 yrs. is there any way to make a purchase of this book by phone or online? sounds of great interest and i for one, greatly appreciate the work involved in keeping heritage alive in these ways for all future references and the change of values with historical presentations.

    hope to hear from someone real soon so i can see forgotten memories of the area i once called my home. knxvllkevin@aol.com ...

Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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