Rueff speaks at Historical Society event

GREENSBURG — The Historical Society of Decatur County annual dinner recently took place in the First Presbyterian Church basement.

History buffs, Historical Society members and fans of train history enjoyed the meeting with a meal prepared by the Presbyterian Women and a presentation by local train historian Larry Rueff.

Reuff, a semi- retired veterinarian, was born on a small farm south of Franklin but moved to Decatur County with his wife in 1979.

Rueff is a Purdue University graduate and practiced full-time for 40 years.

Trains are one of his many interests and the subject of his recently published book “A History of the Railroads in Decatur County, Indiana.”

He discussed his work and shared photos from his research concerning railroad history in the county while also offering anecdotes from years as a veterinarian and historian.

Headquartered at the Historical Society of Decatur County Museum, the organization and its museum in the Shannon-Lathrop home on Franklin Street in downtown Greensburg have an interesting history all their own.

According to the organization’s website (, the DCHS’s first charter in 1915 listed 205 members and was officially named the Decatur County Historical Society in 1924.

At that time, there was no specific location for artifacts and genealogy lists, but in 1928 the Greensburg School Board granted the Society the use of the third floor of the old West End School which stood on the northwest corner of Washington and Monfort streets.

The museum collection was quite extensive and housed many relics from the area. The Society remained active until the West School was slated to be razed so the new Billings Elementary School could be built on the site.

Between 1954 and 1959 there was no historical society, but the collections and genealogical records were still intact and kept in the third floor rooms of the Knights of Pythias building, above current businesses Mayasari and Denim and Honey.

In 1959,the Society was revived by a group of 11 county residents who met at the home of attorney William Woodfill. The group’s first meeting was held in March at Greensburg City Hall. Officers elected were Paul Huber, president; Mrs. E.A. Porter, vice-president; Mrs. Betty Woodfill, secretary; and J. Elwin Gibson, treasurer. Mr. Huber also served as editor of the Society’s Bulletin until he was succeeded by Mr. Van Batterton.

In November 1981, an anonymous donor gave the Shannon-Lathrop house (across the street from the Post Office) to the Historical Society. This property afforded a permanent location for the establishment and development of a significant addition to Decatur County’s historical and cultural assets because the Society now had more room to effectively display its growing number of artifacts and genealogical records.

Additionally, the house itself is a rare example of early 19th century architecture.

After 24 years of continued growth, both in the variety of artifacts and genealogical records, courtesy of another generous and unrestricted donation, the group’s Board of Directors were able build an addition to the Shannon-Lathrop house behind the original construction.

Careful planning for this significant project began in 2005 with the hiring of Thomas Gordon Smith as the architect and the firm of Bruns and Gutzwiller as the general contractors The construction of the addition, along with remodeling of the Shannon-Lathrop house, took the better part of two years. The addition consists of various display areas and an extensive genealogy and research library with an upstairs open gallery accessible by elevator and adaptable for a number of uses.

The Historical Society is taking the lead during the 2022 Bicentennial Celebration featuring presentations like “Recreating Historical Clothing” on April 30 in the museum gallery, a history of the influential Erdmann Cigar Dynasty on May 7, and a youth history camp “Decatur County Landmarks” on May 14.

The Historical Society will host township tours May 14 and 21, and on June 11 will take part in the official bicentennial parade.

An Historic Book Club meets at the museum at 2 and 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month, and Youth History camp meets at the museum the second Saturday of the month.

The Decatur County Historical Society Museum is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 1 to 4 p.m. the first Saturday of the month.

Volunteer opportunities for the museum are available on weekdays and for special events. Call Executive Director Carrie Shumaker at 812-663-2764 with questions or for more information.

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