News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 14, 2014

Genealogy Society celebrates 10 years, looks to future

TERRE HAUTE — Some of the Wabash Valley’s most active amateur historians got a preview of plans for the new Vigo County Historical Society “history center” Monday evening.

At the Wabash Valley Genealogy Society’s monthly meeting and 10th anniversary celebration, Marylee Hagan, executive director of the Historical Society, told of plans for a working soda fountain, a research center and much more expected inside the former Glidden Furniture building on Wabash Avenue.

The Historical Society announced its purchase of the old furniture building in late 2012, and it is still working on plans to make the building into its new home. Hagan hopes a move can take place next year or in 2016 – the bicentennial of both Indiana and the city of Terre Haute.

“The time has come for us to move from our Victorian setting into the 21st century,” Hagan told more than 50 genealogists gathered at the Vigo County Public Library.

Dropping the word “museum,” the Historical Society will be calling its new home at 929 Wabash Ave. a “history center,” Hagan said. The three-story facility will include a working soda fountain and gift shop just inside the entrance. First-floor exhibits will include attractions popular with kids, such as a toy room, transportation exhibit and a “Gilkie” pop-up camper.

The Historical Society has one of the few “Gilkie” campers anywhere, Hagan said. The pop-up campers were manufactured by E.P. Gilkinson & Sons in the first-half of the 20th century. The manufacturing plant was at 13th and Wabash, not far from the new home of the Historical Society, Hagan noted.

The second floor of the history center will include Vigo County military history, clothing and textiles. It also will be home to the museum’s most popular attraction, “Stiffy Green,” the legendary dog figure once part of Highland Lawn Cemetery. The new history center will include lots of high-tech, hands-on features, Hagan said. “In our high-tech world, this is essential,” she said.

The third floor will include a research center, events space and auditorium, Hagan said. She also expressed hope that the Genealogy Society will provide volunteers at the center in exchange for space and equipment access.

Hagan said renovating the former Glidden Furniture building will cost in the neighborhood of $5 million, including the cost of setting up exhibits. The society will also need to hire additional staff, she said. Admission to the history center will be $5, Hagan said. The current museum admission is free but donations are accepted. Admission to the research room, soda fountain and gift shop will be free.

Hagan spoke Monday evening at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Wabash Valley Genealogy Society, a group of about 200 active family history researches.

“We started with the idea that this was going to be an active group,” said Loran Braught, the founding president. The WVGS has something going on every week, he said.

Braught received a standing ovation from the group he founded in 2004, along with Rhonda Parks. Several other founding members were at Monday’s meeting, including Linda Gregory, who has been active in cemetery research and restoration for 10 years.

Doing genealogy is like a never-ending quest, Gregory said, explaining the attraction so many people feel to the hobby. First you stumble upon one ancestor, who leads to another and then another, she said.

“It’s the thrill of the chase,” said another member of the group.

For more information on the Wabash Valley Genealogy Society, visit its webpage at For more on the historical society, visit

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or

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