Museum is hidden Henry County jewel

Posted by on Sep 6, 2014 in Historically Speaking |

By DARREL RADFORD

Historically Speaking

The year was 1870. Less than 100 years after America won its independence. Just 54 years after Indiana became a state. Only 48 years after a place called New Castle and formation of a county named after a man who famously said “Give me liberty or give me death.”

That year, a stately new home was built for a Civil War general and local attorney – William Grose.

Gen. Grose was definitely not a give-orders-and let-others-do-the-fighting kind of general. He was actively involved in some very recognizable Civil War battles. Shiloh. Chickamauga. Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain. He was regarded as a hero during 100 days of continuous fighting in the last Atlanta campaign.

Today, more than 230 years after American won its independence and nearly 200 years after Indiana became a state, his home at 606 S. 14th St. deserves a general-sized salute.

Since 1902, it has served as home for the Henry County Historical Society Museum and is the oldest, most continuously operating facility of its kind in the state. The historical society itself is third-oldest in Indiana.

It is truly a hidden jewel. The home just oozes with stories of heroism, leadership, visionaries and fantastic dreams that came true.

Walk into the main museum area, and a whirlwind of industry, mystery, inspiration and nostalgia greet you. You immediately see a Jesse French piano, the kind that was made here and shipped all over the world.

Music, not from an MP3 player or boom box, but from a wind up device and an oversized metal disc, fills the air on command, with a nostalgic, rich melody.

Turn and walk toward the back of the room, and you are greeted by Gen. Grose himself and his dear wife, Rebecca. The paintings are in the same place today that they were when first hung in the mansion.

They are just two of many pictures that paint a thousand words right before your eyes. Inspiration. Courage. Wonder.

Inspiration and courage glistens off of the military medals won by Gen. Omar Bundy, a New Castle native who is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

He stood only 5 feet, five inches tall. But Gen. Omar Bundy was credited by some for turning the tide against the Germans in World War I. Bundy became known as the hero of Belleau Wood after he and his troops stopped the German advance in its last great offensive of the war. Bundy defied orders to retreat, a bold move the Indianapolis Star reported “in all probability saved Paris from capture at the hands of the Germans.”

“None of our soldiers would understand not being asked to do whatever is necessary to reestablish a situation which is humiliating to us and unacceptable to our country’s honor. We are going to counter-attack.”

Wonder as in, I wonder how Thaddeus Coffin made this beautiful desk, containing more than 56,000 pieces of wood, with essentially just one hand. Coffin was the architect of the Grose home, but the desk, which includes a piece of wood from a carriage Abraham Lincoln once rode in, is almost as equally impressive.

Wonder as in, how did they build such a beautiful courthouse with such ordinary tools. Some of the tools used in constructing the 1869 marvel are on display in the museum.

Wonder, as in if this canteen could talk, what stories would it tell? It’s from the Revolutionary War.

Inspiration, as you see photos of the Maxwell Automobile Factory, an authentic Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet, and an old-fashioned bicycle – all of which were manufactured right here in New Castle.

We invite you to do what nearly 1,000 people did in 2013 — visit the Henry County Historical Society Museum. The museum is open today from 1 to 4:30 p.m. After today, it will go into its winter mode of operation and be open by appointment only for January and February. Call 529-4028 to schedule tours or use of the genealogy library. Visitors from as far away as Texas and Calfornia came to the museum this year. We hope you will make it a new year’s resolution to come visit in 2014. Happy New Year from the Henry County Historical Society.

(Darrel Radford is a former editor and staff writer for The Courier-Times and a board member for the Henry County Historical Society.)

 

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