Thirty years ago, the Rushville Republican was full of front-page stories, letters to the editor and editorial cartoons all because of a bad decision by the then-county commissioners who wanted to tear down four of Rush County’s historic covered bridges.
Because of their proposal, a group of local residents called a meeting in the courthouse assembly room, inviting anyone who wanted to attend to come to express their thoughts on the matter.
The date was Wednesday, May 21, 1986, and about 80 people showed up, all expressed a strong desire to form a group to save not one or two, but all six covered bridges.
Thus was the start of Rush County Heritage with Larry Stout and Eleanor Arnold as its first president and vice-presidents. Today, thirty years later, Stout and Arnold still hold those offices, and, more importantanily, five of the six bridges were saved and completely restored. The sixth one, the Ferree Covered Bridge, near Milroy, was lost to arson.
Since that time, Heritage has established a long list of their accomplishments in their preservation work. In connection with their successful efforts to save and restore the local bridges, Indiana House Bill #1686 was passed by a vote of 49-0 in 1987 to allocate $500 per year per covered bridge to each county in the state for maintenance. This bill had been presented in prior years with unsuccessful efforts until Heritage got involved with their local representatives to get it passed. The amount has greatly increased since that time, thanks to Heritage’s efforts.
However, Heritage hasn’t limited their efforts to just covered bridges; they have continued to lend their hand and expertise to other preservations projects which have included, but not limited to:
Formation of the Booker T. Washington Association to restore the former historic school and turn it into a community center; cemetery workshops and restoration projects; restoration of the Wendell Willkie historic signs; restoring the Rushville Railroad Depot building in its current location in Connersville’s railroad museum area, still carrying the Rushville name.
Formation of The Heart of Rushville which included bringing then-First Lady Judy O’Bannon into town; sponsoring feasibility studies for various historic buildings; hosting numerous covered bridge tours; display at the Indianapolis Union Station’s 100th anniversary; helping to rebuild the Moscow Covered Bridge following the tornado in 2008.
Heritage is currently involved in two projects. They are working with the City of Rushville in the restoration of the Knights of Pythias building, also known as the former Boys and Girls Club at the corner of Second and Morgan. They are also working with Indiana Landmarks in the restoration of the Beech Church near Carthage.
Because of Heritage’s efforts, they or their affiliates have been awarded numerous local, state and national awards, among which include three Servaas Memorial Awards given by Indiana Landmarks and two National Trust Preservation Honor Awards. These are the highest state and national preservation awards that can be presented.
To celebrate their past accomplishments and their look to the future, Heritage will be hosting a 30th anniversary banquet and program at the Bluebird Restaurant in Morristown on Tuesday, Dec. 13 beginning at 6 p.m. In addition to a buffet-style dinner, there will be a power-point presentation featuring pictures from the past 30 years. The public is invited to join them for this casual event. Call Pat Carrigan at 765-629-2354 by Dec. 8 for reservations and additional information.