Crawford County owes a great debt of gratitude to the Crawford County Historical and Genealogical Society.
For over 10 years, members of the Society have volunteered to care for the county's older records because the county officials failed to plan for and build a new judicial complex large enough to hold the county's existing records. The older records from the county, established in 1818, were left at the old courthouse. The state mandates the records are to be available to the public.
The Historical Society's volunteers made them available four days a week, until the mold in the old building affected the health of some of the members thus causing the Society to reduce their time to one day a week. Crawford County officials turned the heating system off in the old building during the winter months, leaving the records in an unsafe environment, allowing the mold to grow each year.
The state of Indiana could have moved the records at any time to the state archives in Indianapolis.
The Historical Society's dedication and concern to preserve and maintain the county's records drove them to approach the commissioners to purchase the former Dollar Store building. The commissioners said they'd need a petition signed by county citizens. The Society presented the requested petition with many more signatures than needed at the next commissioners' meeting.
Without the Historical Society's involvement, the building would have not been acquired.
People from all over the United States visit Crawford County to research their roots at the library and the courthouse. It has been embarrassing and shameful to have them visit the deplorable condition of the old courthouse.
The Society's dream was to use part of the building for a county museum and a special section devoted to the veterans of Crawford County. The possibility of that happening looks bleak due to Crawford County's politics. The officials received free labor from the Historical Society for over 10 years while the county officials did nothing to preserve the county's historical records.
The Historical Society was told the shelves from the old courthouse would be power-washed before moving them to the former Dollar Store. This did not happen; they are being moved with mold and all. Once again, Society volunteers are working, trying to clean up the dirt. Not only will the oldest records be moved to the former Dollar store, an overflow of records from the judicial complex will be included, as well. Where will the next five years' records go when this space is too soon filled?
One office that was offered other space is going into the building, even though they had nothing to do with acquiring the building. Their recently proclaimed need of $500 monthly rent was proven far above their actual $75 fee, yet county officials voted to allow $5,000 to build a special office room. Why was adequate consideration never given to the county records?
Much of Crawford County's history has already been lost. Let's don't lose any more.
Get involved and support your historical heritage. Be sure you know who you're voting for in the next election!
Becky Hammond Stetter, Crawford County Historical and Genealogical Society member
June 20, 2012