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Column: Azalia — state capital — a stop on historical tour


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This historical marker just off Road County Road 340E north of Azalia designates the town%u2019s brief tenure as the state capital in 1824 when a wagon train carrying all the state%u2019s possessions spent the night at the farm of David Newsom. The plaque was erected by the Joseph Hart Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
This historical marker just off Road County Road 340E north of Azalia designates the town%u2019s brief tenure as the state capital in 1824 when a wagon train carrying all the state%u2019s possessions spent the night at the farm of David Newsom. The plaque was erected by the Joseph Hart Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. SUBMITTED PHOTO


IT just doesn’t get any better for someone in my line of work than to learn that a parent has read one of their columns to a child over breakfast.

That’s what Amy Franklin did one morning last week after reading my column about Azalia and its brief claim to fame as one of Indiana’s state capitals back in 1824.

Unfortunately, Amy never got to the end of the column. Thinking she would add to daughter Hannah’s knowledge through my essay on the subject, Amy was stopped about midway through the account. It was old news to Hannah.

“Actually she’s been to David Newsom’s place (the site where the wagon train carrying all of the state’s possessions spent one night in 1824 when the capital was being moved from Corydon to Indianapolis, thus qualifying Azalia as a former state capital),” Amy said. “She and a whole bus load of Parkside (Elementary School) students took the Bartholomew County bus tour as part of their fourth-grade Indiana history curriculum.”

All elementary schools in Indiana are required to provide fourth-graders with a dose of Indiana history, which for many students translates into a broader view of events that took place within the entire state.

The focus is a lot more narrow at Parkside, where veteran teacher Candy Carr has been immersing her students in local culture for better than three decades. Each year, she and other Parkside teachers pack 100 fourth-graders onto two buses for a day-long tour of historical places in the county.

“Actually, this tour came about as the result of a book written by (the late) Susie Jones, who was the county historian for several years,” Candy said. “The book was called ‘It Began With Bartholomew’ and documented the early history of the county. My job was to create the teaching materials that were to be used with the book.”

Later Candy applied for a Lilly Creativity teacher grant that led to the bus tour. The first tour was given in 1989. Candy has developed a script that she shares with other teachers in the corporation who wish to include local history in their lesson plans.

For a one-day tour, the students get a pretty solid grounding in local history.

It begins at Mill Race Park, where the teachers talk about the influence of Gen. John Tipton, an early 19th-century war hero who provided the land on which Columbus was eventually settled. Students also learn about more modern developments, like Mooney’s Tannery, which was formerly on the northeast end of where the park now stands, and Death Valley, the horrid wasteland that was cleared in the 1960s for the development of the park.

Next comes Columbus Municipal Airport, where the area’s earlier history as an Air Force base is examined.

Other stops and subjects to be covered include:

Clifford, where students can see the old Quick School and the private residence that was once a railroad depot. “We try to help the students find the remains of the old railroad tracks, but they’re slowly disappearing,” Candy said.

Nortonburg, named for the family that made up a good share of the population. It was also a stop on the railroad. Four freight and two passenger trains passed it on a daily basis.

Sharon Cemetery, burial place of Jonathan Moore, a Revolutionary War soldier who was a member of George Washington’s honor guard.

Azalia, where students can see the historical plaque erected by the Joseph Hart Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to mark its designation as a state capital. They also learn about Azalia’s role in the Underground Railroad in helping slaves escape from the South. Nearby they can study firsthand the Gene Wint Farm, where an archaeological dig in the 1970s revealed evidence of a prehistoric culture.

The Moravian Cemetery in Hope, a section of which is designated as God’s Acre.

The Hope Town Square and an explanation of the Yellow Trail Museum and the role Hope mechanic Elda Spaugh played in its name. Spaugh, an entrepreneurial sort, painted yellow directional signs on utility poles leading to his garage.

Hartsville, where students learn about the 19th-century college that bore the town’s name and its hero from the Civil War, Barton Mitchell, who found the lost orders of Confederate Gen. Robert Lee, which gave the Union time to prepare for the Battle of Antietam.

Anderson Falls, which was threatened with extinction when government officials were considering development of a reservoir in the area but was saved by a citizen protest.

It’s a pretty intensive day of learning for fourth-grade students, but Candy is still amazed at how much the children retain.

I suspect that those who have taken the tour still remember a lot more than their elders. Take Hannah Franklin, for instance.

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