Volunteers working to keep Huntington’s early history alive at Forks of Wabash

Lynn Brown (left), outgoing Historic Forks of the Wabash Volunteer Executive Director, and Jim Scheiber, current director, say that at the bank of the Forks is to be credited for the creation of Huntington.
Photo by Jessica Williams.

Originally published March 11, 2010.

One location is said to be the starting point of the Huntington we know today.

Now, local volunteers are trying to preserve that history and keep the education going strong.

Historic Forks of the Wabash's former Volunteer Executive Director Lynn Brown says the organization started out from an interest years ago to save Chief LaFontaine's house, which previously sat across the highway from its current location. It was restored and school children were taken on tours through it.
Then, the Nuck Family House was saved and moved beside the restored house.

"That made a nice piece because the Indians were living in the big, nice house and the European settlers were living in the little, tiny house. And it turns history upside down from what most people believe it to be," Brown explains.

Then the schoolhouse and canal house were moved to the same property.

"Along the way (the group) became incorporated, so it became an institution instead of just some people's passion. It just continues to grow from there," Brown adds.

She is in her 13th year as a volunteer and is currently a history teacher at Salamonie School. Brown says one of her degrees is in history and her involvement includes being a board member, the board president, the executive director. Now, she's back on the board and the new director is Jim Scheiber.

Scheiber has been volunteering for about six or seven years now, he says.

Brown explains that the Nuck House was given some new timbers in the last few months, a process done carefully to keep from harming the original house. The Trading Post also received a new roof and will be utilized for the first time in the spring tours to explain the trading and commerce role in history of the area.

She also says that the group has outgrown its current building and the addition, the construction of which began in October 2009, should be complete this summer. It will provide a large meeting room for groups as well as a new entryway for school tours.

The south-facing wall will feature several large windows to observe the flood plain and riverbank.

Scheiber adds that the Forks is booked solid with school tours and has been turning them down because there's not enough space to host activities in the winter months.
Both Scheiber and Brown agree that the location of the Forks of the Wabash was influential in Huntington's formation.

Brown says that the French traded the route more than 100 years before the United States was an established nation, which brought the English here to fight the French and Indian War that led to part of the American Revolution fighting here. That caused the settlers to come and the canal to come through.

"This spot is why there is Huntington. It's why there is a city here," she says.

Scheiber adds that the Treaty of 1841 was signed there, moving out all of the area's Native Americans in 1846.

"History is always important. If you ignore history, it always repeats itself ... " Scheiber says.

He adds that he thinks it's neat to have the original chief's house, possibly the oldest house in northern Indiana.

He also says he's amazed that the organization is run by volunteers, to which Brown adds, "I haven't found a historic park of our size that serves as many people as we do anywhere in the country that runs by volunteers. They are all either government subsidized, or some large corporation has taken them on as a pet project."

Scheiber says a project for the future is to clear out the canal bed to create another station for tours.

The Historic Forks of the Wabash is located at 3011 W. Park Drive. For more information, visit www.historicforks.org or call 356-1903.

Complete caption: Lynn Brown (left), outgoing Historic Forks of the Wabash Volunteer Executive Director, and Jim Scheiber, current director, say that at the bank of the Forks is to be credited for the creation of Huntington. The organization has been undergoing growth construction and renovation for the upcoming touring season.