Documenting the past

Madison Bicentennial
history book covers 200 years

Research challenges made
compiling book difficult at times

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

Madison Bicentennial Logo

(March 2009) – Madison, Ind., has the oldest volunteer fire fighting company in Indiana. At one time, it was the greatest pork processor in the world and was the only city in the region with a railroad. During World War II, the city was selected as the “Typical American” town, and a government propaganda film was made about it for wide distribution.
Madison played an instrumental role in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, and a movie starlet and a World War I war hero have also lived here. The city-owned Unlimited hydroplane even won a world championship. The list can go on and on about the vast historical legacy of Madison, much of which people know little about.
“1809-2009 Madison on the Ohio: Celebrating Two Hundreds Years” is the official Madison Bicentennial Celebration history book being compiled. It is a 128-page, glossy, hardcover book filled with both color and black and white photographs, many of which have never before been published. The text is rich with well-known and little-known historical facts about the city.

Madison on the Ohio
Madison Bicentennial book cover.

The book is being published by Donning Co. Publishers in Virginia Beach, Va. It is a specialty book publisher of limited-edition commemorative volumes, pictorial histories and contemporary portraits.
“Madison has more than an average amount of history to share,” said Ron Grimes, one of the four authors of the book. Grimes is a lead historian at the Jefferson County Historical Society’s Research Library.
“The book could have been twice its size and still not large enough to contain all of the interesting information about Madison,” said Janice Barnes, another of the co-authors. Barnes is the genealogist for the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library. “Even people not from Madison are still going to enjoy reading it.”
Grimes, Barnes, Camille Fife-Salmon of the preservation specialists Westerly Group, and Bob Thomas put thousands of hours into compiling the collection of photographs and text for the book. While each worked independently on various aspects of the work, they had numerous meetings and work sessions during the year-long effort.
Thomas, also a volunteer researcher at the Research Library, put together a capsule of subjects. He compiled a list of key dates and little interesting tidbits of information in a 44-page chronology. From that, the group distilled a timeline of significant events to use in the book. Thomas’ chronology is available at the Research Library for public use, and area schools are using it as a history aid.

Janice Barnes, Camille Fife-Salmon, Ron Grimes and Bob Thomas

Photo provided

Pictured from left, Janice Barnes,
Camille Fife-Salmon, Ron Grimes and
Bob Thomas helped co-author the
official Madison Bicentennial history book.

Grimes worked on the photos and captions for them, while Fife-Salmon wrote the text and Barnes worked on researching and correcting facts.
One of the biggest challenges, according to Barnes and Fife-Salmon, were the many discrepancies in the research resources. For example, depending on which source one might read, Madison became a city in 1808 or 1809 or even 1811.
After going to the source for the actual records of the original land purchase and other records, it was decided that 1809 is the correct year for the city’s birth. “We went with traditional as well as factual,” said Barnes.
Fife-Salmon said that while the early history of Madison has been well recorded, much of the history from the 1900s to the present may be new information for most people.
“We put in things people want to know about the 1950s to 2009 that hasn’t received much attention,” said Fife-Salmon. The book is broken into the same time periods that the Madison Bicentennial Celebration Committee is using for all of its festivities and work.
Orders for “1809-2009 Madison on the Ohio: Celebrating Two Hundreds Years,” can be placed at pre-publication price by visiting: www.madisonbicentennial.com and downloading the order form. Or fill in and return a counter card available at most downtown businesses and the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 601 W. First St., or the Madison Courier, 310 Courier Square.

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