Subscriber Login

Historical Society receives donations

By Elisabeth Dodd, Staff Writer

One of the rustic charms of Liberty that reminds both those passing through and people who call it home that the area is steeped in history is the Templeton cabin sitting behind the courthouse.

That cozy, one-room cabin once homed a family of 11 and has been sitting pretty on the lawn since the 1960s, after it was moved from its old spot between the sheriff and police departments. Not only are there many pictures of the cabin in these areas, but it is still an easy image for most residents to conjure. However, in no living memory or physical photo have people seen the cabin in its original spot in Fairfield. The lush farmland that the cabin once called home is now covered in water, so the cabin was moved to preserve a relic of the first family in Union County.

That changed when Melissa Browning, Union County Development Corporation director, received a call from Jen Zilenziger in New Jersey about a possible donation. While cleaning out clutter in her home, she had found an old ledger and photo and thought that she could donate it as a historical artifact to the county, otherwise she was going to throw it away.

The photo has the glow of an old-time sepia photo, the kind of filter that can't quite be recreated on Instagram. The cabin sits adjacent to another structure which Union County Historical Society member Steve Logue believes is a corncrib, due to ventilation slots on its side. The cabin looks a little different from today, and the photo confirms suspicions that it was once one log taller, with a porch. On the back of the photo-frame card stock is the inscription, “James Wiley Templeton was born in this log cabin in Fairfield, Indiana.”

The ledger is also an authentically-aged-amber, and while Logue can only hazard a guess as to what the date of the photo is, the ledger is an exhaustive account of the daily weather, crops, and income expenses for 1891 and 1892. The penmanship is impeccable and disciplined and the lines are ruler straight. The ledger is signed J. Templeton, and beyond the wealth of knowledge provided in such a detailed account, there is also value in the small flaws. From a coffee stain, to a piece a hay still pressed between the pages, one can imagine while flipping through the book Templeton writing by a kerosene lamp or fire after a long day working on the farm.

Browning had struck gold and knew it. She called Steve Logue to have him assess the donations, and to turn it over to him for preservation and education.

Logue and Browning were in awe.

“We have some ledgers, but this picture is pretty significant. I've never seen anything that is as close to what that represents and what we can learn from it," said Logue.

The picture will be restored and analyzed by experts, and then will more than likely be on display in the museum which will be environmentally controlled. A copy will be made to hang in the cabin.

This kind of donation makes Logue's job easier, which is to bridge the gap between generations in an interesting and tangible way.

“Part of our job is about education and making history stay alive. It's what we have to do, otherwise everything is gone. It's more than preservation,” said Logue. “One of our big challenges and goals as a historical society is to get more young people interested. We'll make that effort with the school system, and try to get some younger people involved.”

Logue understands the ambivalence that some people feel when it comes to history, as it was his least favorite subject in school. That is until it became apparent to him how important it was that someone preserve the past.

“You always think someone else should do stuff, but if we don't do it and try to pass it on, it becomes totally lost,” said Logue.

More than a picture and a ledger, these donations are bridges to another time.