This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Potato Fest at Medaryville Part 2

Yesterday you read about part one of the Potato Fest adventure. I was about to go into the Medaryville Historical Museum, which is next to the library. As the picture below shows, the walls are full of old pictures.
At the back of the aisle above, back by the old Coca Cola cooler, is an old sorter cabinet from the post office. The sign at the top reads, "Medaryville Post Office Sorter Cabinet Dated 1915 Donated by Greg & Pam Werner"
The other side of the building has more pictures and an old stove. The sign on it says, "Stove from Mr. D's restaurant it was located on the empty lot west of the post office and east of Wagners pizza." You can see another relict from the past next to the display case, a sink from an old barber shop. I am old enough to remember when even little towns had barber shops and they were a place in which people gathered to socialize.
Hanging on the walls are some old letter jackets from what must have been the Medaryville high school.
Do you know what this machine is?
It is a coffee mill, but there was no interpretive sign on it.

Next to and connected to the museum are two other buildings that can serve a variety of purposes. People were gathering in them waiting for a tour to start.
To see what they were waiting for, you will have to read part three, the final part of this series.

Updates for part 1: The people in the park were part of a family reunion, not part of Potato Fest. Due to dysfunctional leadership, Potato Fest consisted of the demonstration that is the subject of tomorrow's post and a dinner at the American Legion Hall, which used to be the auditorium or gymnasium of the White Post Township School.

The remnants of the William Gehring Farms remain on Country Road 250 E about half mile south of its intersection with County Road 400 N, or about a half mile south of Bailey's Corner. You can see them using google maps. Agriculture in this area could not exist until many drainage ditches were constructed, and you can see many of them along the roads in Walker and Barkley Townships. The man who was responsible for much of this was Benjamin Gifford, the man who built the railroad from McCoysburg north into Lake County. He owned tens of thousands of acres of land and when he died in 1913, his land was sold and divided into small parcels. Many of the new owners found growing onions more tedious than the expected, and in time some of the land was consolidated to become the Gehring Farms.

The Gehring farm fell victim to estate taxes and the bubble in farm prices that happened in the 1980s. When the people who had made financial plans based on a continuing rise in land prices had to face a quick collapse in land prices, many farm enterprises became victims. The Gehring farm went out of business in the 80s. The land has again been divided up into smaller parcels and it now grows corn and soybeans rather than onions and potatoes.

(If there are mistakes in this short history, please correct them in the comments. Also feel free to add additional bits of information.)

Another Update: From my e-mail:

"The old history books have two things wrong about Medaryville, and one of them is repeated in your blog post.

We don't know for sure who Medaryville is named after. The only famous person of that surname was a wild character named Samuel Medary. He wasn't ever governor of Ohio, but he was the governor of the Minnesota Territory at the time it got statehood, and afterwards he was the governor of the Kansas Territory. He also got a town named after him, Medary, South Dakota, the first platted town in the Dakota Territory. There is a Wikipedia page on him.

But Carter Hathaway (who platted the town) may have simply named it Medary Ville (such was the original spelling, two words) because his family seemed to have an infatuation with the name. His son was Richard Medary Hathaway, his nephew Medary Montez Hathaway. Both were fairly prominent characters in the area in their own right.

The other mis-stated fact about Medaryville has been repeated so many times that despite having been proven incontrovertibly wrong, no one wants to admit it "because we've repeated it so long people would be upset to hear that it's not correct." Yet it's so trivial I can't fathom why people actually get *mad* at me for telling them: if you look at the plat map that I included on Medaryville's Wikipedia page, you can clearly see that the plat was done in March, 1852. Yet Medaryville's official date of first existence is *always* reported as 1853.

For what it's worth. I appreciate your putting the spotlight on the town and its history, and as always enjoy reading your work."

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