We would like to thank everyone who made this years Old Settlers a success.
CoveredWagonPic156th Old Settlers Festival
August 10-13, 20111
Delphi, Indiana

Thank You For A Successful Old Settlers' Celebration!

Carroll County Courthouse Square and Historical Museum

Carnival, Games, Old-Time Craft Demonstrations, Live Entertainment, Community Dinners, Old Settlers Meeting, Family Fun for All Ages!!


There will be window displays from each township in the following windows around the courthouse sqaure. Check out the following windows: Two Moon's Antique Shop, Flower Shoppe II, Culligans, Clawson Appliances and the Bill Bradshaw Buildings.

Want to demonstrate your craft at the Festival?
To reserve a space please contact: Carroll County Historical Society
@ 765-564-3152 or

Carroll County Old Settlers Association...
...the oldest continuosly running settlers association in the United States...
The First 100 Years
The Next 50 Years

    The Carroll County Old Settlers Association was organized on the 9th of June, 1855. The society was the natural outgrowth of the habit and custom of the pioneer settlers, to meet together and exchange with each other their experiences, common to all in the early settlement of this country.

The proposition was to organize a society, the purpose of which was to collect the personal recollections of those who had been residents of the county during the period of the first settlement and to preserve them in a form that might, in later years, become a part of the history of the county. “A further object was to bring together annually the people and pass a day in rehearing past events in the lives of the early settlers and in social enjoyment.”

The first meeting was August 4, 1855. Old Settlers became an annual event, continuing non-stop from 1855 through today. The meetings have drawn crowds large and small, and have always been held at the county seat of government. We believe this to be the oldest, continuing organization of its type in the United States.

Many communities abandoned their Old Settlers meetings and festivals years ago—but not Carroll County, Indiana. In August 2005, this community celebrated our 150th Annual Old Settlers Festival and Meeting. This 3-day festival was centered around the courthouse in Delphi, Indiana, and included an Old Settlers Meeting, county-wide special programs, events, entertainment, a carnival, booths, craft demonstrations, and music. The demonstrations and music are keyed to the past including: blacksmithing, weaving, knitting, tatting, candle making, quilting, spinning, children’s games, and older musical instruments. The Old Settlers Meeting focused on a different part of our county history each year using guest speakers, dramatic readings, music, and presentation of the Carroll County Heritage Awards and First Families of Carroll County Awards.

Following are two articles describing the first 100 years and second 50 years of Old Settlers.


Centennial History of Carroll County Old Settlers Association

    It was said that James Hervey Stewart, prominent Delphi attorney, started the idea of organizing the Old Settlers Association. So that in the spring of 1855 we find in the Delphi Weekly Times and Dollar Journal the announcement that, "All citizens of Carroll County who settled here prior to 1831 are requested to meet at the court house in Delphi at 10 a.m. on the 9th day of June, for the purpose of spending a social day in reviewing the scenes of the olden time; and also with a view of forming a society to perpetuate the early history of the county."

    The announcement was signed by fourteen of the old pioneers, Abner Robinson, W. B. Givin, A. W. Gillam, James Alldridge, Daniel Baum, Sr., Thomas Stirlin, William McCain, John R. Ballard, James Odell, C. M. D. Wilson, G. C. Saunderson, H. M. Graham, Joseph Kuns and Enoch Stansel.

    At this first meeting thirty-one men signed to become members of the Old Settlers Association. James Odell was named presiding officer pro tem and Abner Robinson was elected president for a year, and shortly after he was elected presi­dent for life. James Hervey Stewart was elected permanent secretary and served for many years. In 1882 John C. Odell was elected secretary and served for 40 years.

     At the first meeting a committee was appointed to collect facts which were used by James Hervey Stewart in his book Recollections of Carroll County Indiana, published in 1872. At the second meeting in August 1855, two more men signed as members. 

    The Milroy woods east of Delphi became the regular meeting place for many years, and the second Saturday in August the permanent date. By 1877 the Old Settler's meetings were being held in Lenon's woods west of Delphi along the old Pittsburg road. In 1901 they were held on the court house square and about 1920 after the shelter house was built at the Delphi City Park they were held there except for a few times.

    In 1880 the oldest of the settlers and members had died and the younger generation was more interested in the new Racing Association which had just been organized here and in baseball, than they were in perpetuating the old history. Therefore in 1880 we find in the Delphi newspaper, "Need money for Old Settlers. Business men are asked to meet at the court house to discuss the situation." The editor went on to say, "Everything in the county has gone a-glimmering — the County Fair — July 4th is a dead date — now it appears that the Old Settlers is about to pass out of the picture."

    But in the next week's paper we find an animated advertisement: "Old Settlers — Listen to the Buckwheat Notes — Young Settlers, see your Sarah and get ready to come — Grand free balloon ascension from the public square—There will be a band tournament with 2 prizes offered—Exercises at Lenon's Grove with two speakers and short speeches by old settlers." 

    Then again in 1898 we find in the local newspaper, "Active members of the Old Settlers Association have concluded to abandon the annual meetings because of financial difficulties." Business men took it up and an auxiliary to the Old Settlers Association was formed to finance the affair. Again there would be a balloon ascension. The editor thought it would have been a calamity had it been discontinued.

    By 1947 the programs had changed from the reminiscences of old times to modern affairs with tap-dancing and jazz music, sometimes even political speeches, and the crowds diminished. In 1947 George Obear was president and the Old Settlers spirit was revived with a program presented by officials of the Monon Railroad who were boosting the railroad for a comeback. 

    In 1948 when Ben Jackson was president he conceived the idea of having a Centennial Program, since that year the Delphi Citizen-Times and Bradshaw Body Works were celebrating their hundredth anniversaries. Then too, the State Historical Society had been collecting names of persons who owned Centennial farms in the county and it was found there were more than 50 in Carroll County. Mr. Jackson at the Old Settlers meeting organized these centennial businesses, including the Kerlin Elevator and Delphi Journal more than 100 years old and the Centennial farm owners into a Century Club and gave Centennial certificates to each. From that year the Centennial programs have been continued and the interest has revived.

    A large number of celebrities have appeared at the Old Settlers meetings over the years. In 1835 James Whitcomb Riley was in the audience and was called to the platform and read a lengthy poem. The Hon. David Turpie, who taught school in Carroll County and had lived for a time with his parents in Madison township spoke; Sanford Cox of Lafayette who wrote, "Scenes Along the Wabash," spoke in 1871. Then there was the Hon. Frederick Landis of Logansport; Gen. Robert H. Milroy of Rensselaer; and Prof. W. O. Lynch of Indiana University. 

    When baseball started in 1867 the people went wild over the game, so baseball games became a part of the program for Old Settlers meetings. In 1838 a game was played between the Delphians and the Valleys, with a victory for the former. "It was witnessed by hundreds of delighted admirers,"

    John Lathrope's Silver Cornet Band was featured at many of the meetings and the Old Settlers Choir is mentioned at times. At the close of some of the meetings it was said that the young people adjourned to the Milroy barn for a dance.

    One of the meetings remembered by many was that of 1866. Joel Dewey who was called the village promoter, and "for some years put pep into the Old Settlers meetings,” was famous for a certain type of soup he called Burgout. He conceived the idea in that year of taking a large kettle to the banks of the little creek, called McCain's Run just east of the Milroy home, and over a bonfire cooking a kettleful of Burgout for the crowd. In the brook was also a barrel of buttermilk cooling, and Joel also made a large quantity of a certain brew of tea.

    Each year they came, the old pioneers and their descendants, from far and near — at first afoot, on horseback, in carts and wagons, over the worst of wood, or corduroy roads; over the Delphi-Frankfort Plank road that had just been built; the Michigan road and Pittsburg road which had been planked. After 1856, some could come by train over the Toledo, Wabash and St. Louis railroad; or after 1879, by the Narrow Gauge from Rensselaer; and in the 1880s from north and south over the Indianapolis, Delphi and Chicago Airline. In 1881 gravel roads were started; in 1904 the Interurban was built through Delphi. As the roads improved appearing at the meetings were carriages and buggies and bicycles. In later years nothing but automobiles were to be seen.

    James Hervey Stewart who wrote the book Recollections of Carroll County, which contains most of the reminiscences of the Old Settlers before 1870, published in the Delphi Journal  in 1851 and 1852 a prospectus of his book and said the book would sell for $1.00 and solicited subscribers in advance. So little interest was shown in the book that it was not published until 1872.

    One interesting story in connection with this book was that when George Julien, prominent Delphi attorney, was a young man attending law school, while home for the summer vacation he wanted to earn some money. Stewart told him to take some of his books out to the county fair grounds during the fair and sell them. Julien hired a spring wagon, filled it with books, rented a booth at the fairgrounds, and believe it or not, did not sell a single book.

    In a list of books submitted by a second hand book store at Indianapolis recently, one of the books on the list was the James Hervey Stewart book and the price listed was $15.00.

 Dora T. Mayhill, 1955

Carroll County Old Settlers Association

    In 1955, Old Settlers celebrated its Centennial year with a special pageant held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Carroll County Old Settlers. This pageant included well over three hundred persons and told a story of the first 100 years of the county’s history.

    In the late 1950s annual meetings were held at the Delphi City Park with attendance ranging between one and two hundred. Each year there were attendance awards were for the oldest male and female, the person who traveled the longest distance to attend, and in most years an award for the family with the largest number of members in attendance at the meeting.

    Through most of the 1960s, the annual meetings continued to be held at the Delphi City Park and were at the mercy of the heat and weather. Meetings were attended by those interested in perpetuating the county’s history, and it was a time for sharing fellowship, renewing old acquaintances, and meeting others with long standing ties to the county.

    The 1970s and 1980s faced years of declining attendance that ranged from 70 to 180, and the meetings were held mostly in the Delphi High School Auditorium.  It was decided to move the meetings to the Courthouse where many of the activities of the Old Settlers Festival were centered in the 1990s. It is always a struggle to find what will attract the interest of the general population to get larger attendance. In the early days of Old Settlers, as many as 10,000 came to the woods where events were held.

    Topics for the programs gleaned from the records of minutes and newspaper accounts of the meetings include such as: Songs of the Civil War, Life in the Civil War, Wabash and Erie Canal Travel, Riley’s readings, Adams Mill, Mullin School, the Reed Case House, Barns, National Anthem and Flag History.  Others include the Carroll Courthouses, County Agriculture, Early Settlement, Indian Artifacts, Parks, 4-H Clubs, Banking, the 85 Cemeteries of the Ancestors, Archaeological Sites, Libraries, Medical History, Schools, Music History, and County People and Places.

    In the year 2000, the Old Settlers implemented the Carroll County Heritage Awards to annually recognize “person/persons/families/organizations or other entities that have significantly endeavored to enhance, promote, preserve, and protect the heritage of Carroll County’s past.”  Five groups were recognized in 2000 and three more have been recognized annually and honored on a permanent plaque in the lobby of the Carroll County Courthouse. In 2003, the Old Settlers began recognizing members of Carroll County First Families with the work being done by the Carroll County Historical Museum. In this program, more than 1,200 applicants traced their family trees to early settlers who had arrived in Carroll County prior to the first meeting of Old Settlers in 1855. This proved to be a wonderful program and resource for those doing family research at the County Museum. These two programs have promoted a renewed interest in the “Oldest Continuing Organization of its kind in the United States of America.”

Glen Dillman


For Additional Information:

Carroll County Historical Museum

Ground Floor Court House
P.O. Box 277
Delphi, IN 46923

Tel: 1-765-564-3152
Fax: 1-765-564-6161