Local Historian Pens Book of Lesser-Known Hamilton County History
Writer / Matt Keating
David Heighway, Hamilton County historian, says readers will enjoy learning about Hamilton County in his new book, “Hidden History of Hamilton County, Indiana.”
“This is a collection of stories that I have written over the last 20 years,” Heighway says. “I do many programs for local groups, and I’ve found that the most popular material is about offbeat people and incidents. This book is also about what has been left out of the county histories before now, and some of the diverse people who haven’t been included.”
Heighway thoroughly enjoyed working on the stories while researching Hamilton County.
“I was appointed county historian by the Indiana Historical Society in 2007,” Heighway says. “I took over after Joe Burgess retired. He had been county historian since 1981.”
Heighway says readers will enjoy the variety of topics in the book.
“It covers a wide range of topics, from natural history to the performing arts, to industry and inventions, and to politics and social issues,” he says. “While I have included all of my sources, the book is not meant to be scholarly or heavy. Hopefully, it’s a good book for reading on the porch on a nice day.”
Readers can learn about places in Hamilton County they may or may not be familiar with.
“While I have written about these topics before, new readers will definitely find stories about topics that they didn’t expect,” Heighway says.
Heighway says one such story is about a groom who disappeared just before his wedding in 1867. Many people assumed he got cold feet and took off before his nuptials. Forty years later, his remains were found buried under a shed. The reasons for his disappearance remain a mystery today.
Heighway says another story focuses on “a giant wave of ravenous squirrels in 1822. They descended on central Indiana to feast on crops, to the shock and dismay of new settlers.”
Heighway learned a lot about Noblesville during his research.
“I have a story about a Noblesville African American theatrical group in 1956, and it was one that I didn’t know about until someone from the local black community told me,” he says. “It’s a great example of a story of diversity in the community.”
Heighway says a story about a man named Isaac Cachel is also intriguing.
“He was a person who wrote some humorous and satirical letters to the local paper in 1837 and ended up going viral later,” Heighway says. “He was written about internationally, even though he was essentially a fictional character.”
Heighway has enjoyed talking to readers about his book.
“I’ve been surprised by the overwhelmingly good feedback that I’ve gotten,” he says. “I honestly didn’t think this was going to have much of an impact. We’ve been selling out of books at all of the book signings that people have asked me to do. I’m really kind of shocked.”
Heighway’s book is available at the Hamilton County Historical Society, and at arcadiapublishing.com. It can also be purchased through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.