October 21, 2019
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County Scholars

Members of the Vanderburgh County Historical Society contribute to history
Terry Hughes and Stan Schmitt say the resources at Willard Library are a great source for anyone doing county research.

For those in the area who have a love of history and a thirst for knowledge of Evansville’s and Vanderburgh County’s pasts, the Vanderburgh County Historical Society (VCHS) offers a camaraderie of like-minded individuals and a chance to add to history.

Originally formed in the 1880s, VCHS served as a focal point for Vanderburgh County history, says current Society President Terry Hughes.

“All historical societies, they seem to do a thing where they are here and they die, then they come back,” he says. “Officially, VCHS was here in the 1880s, it died, and came back in the 1980s.”

The society’s resurrection came at the hands of Dr. Darrel E. Bigham, a history professor at the University of Southern Indiana and the founding director of Historic Southern Indiana. Dr. Bigham wished to see a historic organization with a scholarly purpose.

“We’re entrusted by the by-laws to present programs four times a year,” says Hughes. “We have a mission to help in education.”

Such events have included presentations on Evansville during the Civil War, the city’s bicentennial, historic tours of Oak Hill Cemetery, walking tours of Downtown Evansville, and events in conjunction with Willard Library, the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, and other organizations in the city.

“Another mission for us is to contribute to the history of Vanderburgh County; to do something to leave a tangible mark,” says Hughes. “Which we did with the 150th commemoration of the Civil War in Evansville (The group published several booklets of research and information pertaining to the city during the Civil War). I hope we do a project on the state bicentennial (in 2016) and the bicentennial for Vanderburgh County in 2018.”

He adds there is hope to present a program in conjunction with organizations and businesses in the Haynie’s Corner Arts District. The society already has helped in one event in 2016 at Angel Mounds State Historic Site; in late January, the two organizations presented a talk about Frances Martin, a pioneer for women in archaeology at the Native American site.

“We’re small and programs depend on the work of those who are on the board and in the society,” says Hughes of the 55-member historical group. “Why would someone join this organization? It’s $20 a year, what do you get? Well you get the knowledge that you’ve done something for Vanderburgh County’s history.”

“It’s the programming that draws in people,” adds Vice President Stan Schmitt, who also is the county historian. “The fact you can come and find out about things.”
VCHS is just one of many organizations in the region devoted to the past of the area, says Hughes and Schmitt.

In addition to VCHS, there are several historical groups available to county residents, he says. Residents have the option to join Southwestern Indiana Historical Society, Historic Southern Indiana, and the Civil War Roundtable. Many people chose to and are members of multiple groups.

For more information or to join the Vanderburgh County Historical Society, call 812-401-0112, visit vchshistory.org, or find the group on Facebook.

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