Vernon Sassafras Tea Festival plans brewing

VERNON — The longest running festival in Jennings County is set to return later this month, with planners for the Sassafras Tea Festival and Civil War Living History in Vernon setting a slate of free weekend activities on April 27 and 28.

“The historical society’s headquarters, the North American House Museum, and the town of Vernon are bustling with first person interpreters such as Lew Wallace, Hagerman Tripp, General Grant, General Lee, Abe Lincoln and a whole host of Civil War re-enactors who camp on the courthouse lawn and around the square,” organizers announced. “History, music, homemade pies, sassafras tea, wood carvers, musicians, Underground Railroad tours, carriage rides, mock battles, Blue/Grey Ball and hands-on demonstrations in the old-time arts offer something for the entire family.”

Jennings County has a connection to the Civil War with the challenge by Confederate John Hunt Morgan and his band of raiders who threatened to take the town of Vernon by force on July 13, 1863. Knowledgeable Civil War re-enactors, Union and Confederate, perform skits, skirmishes and mock battles both days.

Carol Collins portrays Dr. Mary Walker, who was an American abolitionist, prohibitionist, prisoner of war and surgeon. Walker is the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor. Collins is also the dance caller for the Blue/Grey Ball on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. at the Vernon Gym. The Eric Jarboe Contra Dance Band will provide period music for the ball, which is free and open to the public.

The only admission fee for the weekend’s activities is $5 per vehicle for mock battles.

Hot meals of ham and beans, chicken and noodles, pulled pork and chili will be served all weekend, and Jennings County Historical Society volunteers bake more than 800 pies that are sold at the North American House Museum. Flavors include blackberry, rhubarb, strawberry-rhubarb, bumbleberry, red raspberry, sugar cream, cherry, apple and Kentucky pecan.

The aroma of sassafras tea steaming from a huge brass kettle and brewed over an open fire fills the air with the smell of spring. Hundreds of bundles of fresh dug sassafras roots are available for sale as well as free samplings of the tea.

Historical Society events are sponsored in part by local businesses, donations from individuals, mini-grants such as the Jennings County Community Foundation and, in part from support from the Columbus Area Arts Council, the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“We still need sponsors,” Asher said. “It is a great opportunity for businesses and individuals to help the historical society maintain all the fine traditions of Jennings County. The Sassafras Tea Festival has been held annually for over half a century and thousands of visitors pour into Jennings County. It’s an economic boost for everyone.” Donations may be sent to the Jennings County Historical Society, PO Box 335, Vernon, IN 47282. The historical society is a not-for-profit 501c(3) organization.

In conjunction with the festival, the Spring Tonic 5K Walk & Run will take place at 9 a.m. April 27. For registration and information, visit

For more information on the festival or the historical society, visit or call the historical society at 812-346-8989.