Looking At History:
Indiana's Hoosier National Forest Region, 1600 to 1950


The hills and hollows of the Hoosier National Forest region stretch from Monroe County and Bloomington in the north to Perry County and Tell City in the south. This region--south central Indiana--is home today to small cities, towns, and rural communities and farms, as well as nearly 190,000 acres of national forest lands. Our landscape is truly a patchwork quilt of private and public land, forests, pastures, and fields, and man-made constructions both new and old.

Our nine-county region is rich in cultural heritage. People of the past--prehistoric Indians, pioneer settlers, families in the early 1900s--made their homes here. All had their own achievements and adaptations, and most left some mark on the land.

Scanning the landscape from the fire tower at Hickory Ridge or one of the scenic overlooks from the steep bluffs near Hemlock Cliffs, it is possible to imagine how peoples once lived on this landscape. But there are limitations to imagination: a truer picture of past times is based on knowledge. This knowledge comes from a variety of sources. It comes from human patterns left on the land itself, from written scraps of information left behind in county courthouses or private attics, and from the memories of our older residents. Our prehistory and history is also a patchwork quilt, one still in the making.

The U.S. Forest Service is committed to being a "Steward of the Past," documenting and protecting the prehistoric and historic sites and structures on lands that we manage. As we continue to learn more about our region's past, we also want to help the public appreciate its cultural heritage. To this end, we arranged with Indiana University in 1991 for the writing and publication of two booklets in the "Windows on the Past" series.

Looking at Prehistory: Archaeology and Early Native American Cultures of Indiana's Hoosier National Forest Region covers the period from 12,000 years ago to the earliest written accounts.

Looking at History: Indiana's Hoosier National Forest Region, 1600 to 1950 covers the most recent 350 years of our past.

The year 1991 was a good time to look back in time. We celebrated the century mark for the National Forest system. We also noted the 40th birthday of the Hoosier National Forest. Whether you are a visitor to the Forest or one of our neighbors in the region, we trust you will regard the past with the same sense of stewardship. If you read these books from afar, we hope you will come visit and enjoy our historic landscape and sites. If you live nearby or come to the Forest to sightsee, hike, picnic, camp, hunt or fish, we hope you will appreciate knowing more about our region's heritage.

The Forest Service also looks toward the future of our heritage. We hope you will join in some of the regional activities that contribute to historic knowledge and protecting sites. Also, as government funds become available to acquire new U.S. Forest lands from willing sellers, the significance of cultural resources in the region will be a factor in our decisions about which tracts of land should become part of the public domain.

Frank Voytas
Forest Supervisor
Hoosier National Forest

Drawn prior to the Civil War, this is the oldest known picture of the Jasper mill, operated by the Eckert family from the late 1800s to about 1930, and the covered bridge over the Patoka River.

Besides a water wheel, power was also furnished by a steam engine, [and] wood was used to fire the boiler.... Grain was brought to the mill in buggies, on buckboards and across the backs of horses.... In the early days much of the flour manufactured was placed in barrels and hauled by wagons to Troy where it was placed on boats going either to the east or west. For such delivery it was necessary for the mill owners to operate a cooper shop [right edge of picture] in order to make barrel staves and hoops.

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Last Updated: 21-Nov-2008