The variety of attractions at the Fulton County Historical Society (FCHS) has expanded through the years, giving guests an entertaining and vivid look at the past.
Melinda Clinger, FCHS museum director, says she has enjoyed working at the museum for more than 40 years.
“I have worked with the museum since 1981 when I was 14 years old,” Clinger says. “I worked during the summers, went to business school at International Business College, and came back full time in 1986. I was given the title of museum director in 1998, when Shirley Willard was the executive director, and then she retired in 2001.”
Clinger notes that the museum brings in a lot of guests.
“The museum is open six days a week,” she says. “It’s open year round, and we rent our two meeting rooms out for events. They are very busy as well. We currently are holding two antique shows a year. We have Redbud Trail Rendezvous in April, the Power Show in June, Trail of Courage in September, and Haunted Woods in October. Other groups use our buildings as well. We have the gun show three times a year. We have the Indiana Gourd Society show in May, the Fulton County Animal and Adoption Center craft show in April, and a yard sale later in the summer.”
Clinger adds that many guests enjoy the exhibits.
“Most of our exhibits are out on display with some in storage,” she says. “The museum building has 17 different areas of display, and then we have Round Barn and Living History Village items in each building. Most of the outside buildings are open during festivals or by appointment only, as we do not have enough people here every day to take people outside to the buildings.”
The nonprofit owns 35 acres, including one mile in length and 300’ in depth.
“At the southern end we have the Tippecanoe River, where we hold part of the festivals,” Clinger says. “The others are in the northern part by the Living History Village.”
Clinger says the Living History Village is called Loyal, Indiana, for a little village that used to be there a few miles west of the museum.
The village used to be called Germany, Indiana, according to FCHS literature. It was renamed Loyal, Indiana, in 1918, when the U.S. was at war with Germany.
The recreated Loyal, Indiana, depicts the era of 1900 to 1925. This period of history is known as the Golden Age of Agriculture. Farmers at the time made a profit and could afford labor-saving equipment like hay elevators, riding cultivators and round barns, according to the society’s literature. Round barns were experimental structures that were considered economical.
Clinger says another popular event, the Trail of Courage Living History Festival in September, recreates the adventure of Frontier, Indiana, where guests can literally recreate the footsteps of history.
The Trail of Courage Living History Festival has been taking place since 1976. Frontier, Indiana, features foods prepared over wood fires, period music and dance, historic camps and trading, traditional crafts, canoe rides on the river, and other fun things to see and do.
Clinger notes that the Trail of Courage combines the genealogy of the Potawatomi people and the settlers who lived in Fulton County and northern Indiana in the early 1800s.
Many volunteers participate in the event, and the food includes Buffalo burgers, apple dumplings, pulled pork, chicken and noodles, chili, apple sausage and ice cream, among many other items.
The festival is based on local history, before the Potawatomi people were marched west during a forced removal known as the Trail of Death, according to FCHS literature. Since 1976 the festival has honored Native Americans and shown life before the removal.
The Fulton County Historical Society is located at 37 East 375 North in Rochester. For more info, call 574-223-4436 or visit fultoncountyhistory.org.
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