Longtime interpreter recalls love of south’s railroads, people

Dwight Gallian has been an interpreter at Conner Prairie since 2000.

By Alicia Kelly
Just over the prairie and on the other side of the White River sits a home where one of Conner Prairie’s greatest storytellers and blacksmiths lives.

From catching bull frogs in the swamps of the Mississippi Delta as a child to working on railroads that date back to the Civil War, Dwight Gallian says he has always enjoyed working with his hands.

He took after his father and his grandfather by working as a third-generation foreman on the Illinois Central Railroad, starting in the early 1970s when he was 19. Continue reading

Program for preschool-age children teaches what harvest season’s all about

Early Child Programs Manager Mary Uminsky teaches children the importance of harvest time during November’s Prairie Tykes “Happy Harvest” program.

By Ephraim Rudolph
Ghosts and ghouls came out to play in October. Gingerbread and candy canes swirl through December. During November, the month in-between, the autumn harvest is in full swing. It’s apple, corn and gourd season.

This month, children celebrated the harvest season during Conner Prairie’s “Happy Harvest” edition of Prairie Tykes, a program for preschool-age children ages 2-6. Mary Uminsky is the museum’s early child programs manager who plans and teaches the program.

“We’re going to grind corn, string apples and churn some butter,” she said. “We have a game with a turkey and bowling with pins that look like corn. We’ll even do a little weaving activity with paper plates and thread.” There are also harvest-themed snacks, crafts, singing, dancing and storytelling, she said. Continue reading

Nationally acclaimed Underground Railroad experience begins 19th season

Tickets are on sale online now for upcoming dates of Follow the North Star at Conner Prairie, a nationally acclaimed Underground Railroad experience.

By Ephraim Rudolph
Follow the North Star, an award-winning participatory theater program about Underground Railroad activities in central Indiana, is now under way for the 19th year at Conner Prairie.

The experience is set in the year 1836 and allows participants to assume the role of fugitive slaves as they escape their handlers and encounter an assortment of Indiana residents, both allies and foes, on their northbound journey toward freedom in Canada.

Follow the North Star is an invitation to step back into history and into someone else’s shoes,” said Michelle Evans, an interpretation program developer at the museum who led the creation of the experience more than 20 years ago. “People walk into this program knowing that they’re safe and that it’ll be over in an hour and a half. In that time, they do experience in some small way the fear, uncertainty and hopefulness of how it would have felt to be on the Underground Railroad.” Continue reading

Ghost horse at Conner Prairie? Lilly’s horse may haunt grounds

Eli Lilly’s prize horse, Jeb Stuart, is buried on the grounds of Conner Prairie somewhere near the Lenape Indian Camp. 

By Ephraim Rudolph
Every day, visitors to Conner Prairie’s Lenape Indian camp unknowingly pass by the grave of Jeb Stuart.

The precise location where he lies has long been forgotten, as there has been no tombstone above his burial site for many years.

It’s said that on certain evenings, when the air is deathly still, Conner Prairie staffers in the Lenape area have heard strange noises that can only have been made by the ghost of Jeb Stuart: Ghoulish hoofbeats and disembodied winnying.

Continue reading

New tales from the grounds: Is Conner Prairie haunted?

Ghostly sightings in the woods, strange sounds in buildings and other odd occurrences have been observed by several Conner Prairie employees through the years at various places on the museum’s historic grounds.

By Ephraim Rudolph
Ghost sightings, eerie noises and other inexplicably spooky phenomena have been woven into the fabric of life at Conner Prairie for decades, particularly during the Halloween season.

Some stories have become legend among employees.

The following tales, which all occurred in the past two years, are in no way part of an ever-growing collection of evidence that Conner Prairie is haunted. Or are they? Continue reading