Conner Prairie
A Living Museum of Indiana

13400 Allisonville Rd
Fishers, Indiana 46038 (North of Indianapolis)

April 30th, 2000

It is the summer of 1820, William Conner was at a turning point in his life. The 1818 Treaty of St. Mary's which he help helped negotiate, called for the removal of the Delaware Indians to open central Indiana to settlers. Conner who had six children with his Delaware wife Mekinges was faced many critical choices, but hard choices had become a way of life for him. He had arrived in 1801 to become a farmer, businessman, and entrepreneur. Through his continuous effort to promote the land of Indiana, he was elected to the state legislature, where he pushed for canals and railroads to spur Indiana's growth. By his death in 1855, Indiana had changed forever. Few Native Americans remained, wilderness trails had become roads, over half a million people called Indiana home, and everywhere were farms, villages and towns. William Conner and others like him throughout the state played vital roles in that transformation. Many Midwestern towns were planned communities, developed by people hoping to profit from land sales. Conner Prairie's fictional village of Prairietown represents such a place. Town founder Dr. George Washington Campbell purchased the land, divided it into lots, advertised, and offered incentives to buyers. He hoped to make Prairietown a bustling community. Prairietown can be compared with a modern subdivision. The two are founded by individuals or companies who buy land, lay out lots, advertise and offer incentives to purchasers. These modern day founders also want their communities to thrive. Fortune smiled on Prairietown when this historic site attracted Eli Lilly's attention. His influence and financial support become essential in the creation of this realistic frontier community. The rather nondescript entrance to the museum building does not do justice to the authentic and realistic acreage concealed within the park. This is an enterprise worthy of comparison with such living museums as Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Mystic in Connecticut, and Deseret, in Salt Lake City, Utah. The lead-in presentation explains how people have lived on the land around here for thousands of years. At Conner Prairie, continuing archaeological study shows evidence of Paleo-Indian activity dating from 10,000 to 8,000 BC along the White River. Archaic people hunted, fished and gathered wild food here between 8,00 and 1,000 BC, The people who lived on this land during the Woodland Period, 1000 BC to European contact, supplemented their diet by cultivating corn, beans and squash. The Lenape, (Delaware Indians) who arrived here from the east in 1795 continued these traditions. When white settlers moved into Indiana, they found a land almost completely covered with a dense Beech and Maple forest. This provided a habitat for beaver, black bear, elk, mountain lion and bobcat. Fox, striped skunk, deer and raccoon and other animals also lived here and still wander the remaining woodlands. Native Americans used small riverside clearings for crops, but the newcomers needed much larger areas. The arriving settlers cleared the forests to make way for farm fields changing the landscape forever. Throughout the 1800s, Indiana developed as one of the richest agricultural areas in the country, known for its corn and hog production.

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