The Jay County Historical Society is a volunteer organization of historically minded individuals who maintain the Jay County Historical Museum, who collect and preserve artifacts related to Jay County, who research and record the history and genealogy of Jay County and who safeguard the arts and cultural heritage of Jay County for future generations.
The History of the Jay County
Historical Society, Inc.
The Jay County Historical Society grew out of a continuation in 1967 of the Jay County Indiana Sesquicentennial Committee that was formed in 1966 for the 150th celebration of Indiana’s statehood. Mrs. Hubert Hedges was the first president. All of those who joined in 1967 were charter members. The society was given the use of one room in the John and Nancy Hawkins building located at the end of East Main Street, Portland, Indiana, in 1972. This building belonged to a Trust Fund established by Morton Hawkins to be used for education and preservation of our Jay County heritage.
The Jayland Retarded Services was using the back portion of the building, but if the museum grew and proved successful, the Jay County Historical Society would be given ownership of it.
The building had been constructed in the late 1940’s to house The Commercial Review, a daily newspaper published in Portland, Indiana.
The Historical Society acquired the building in 1984. About 1,000 items which had been originally displayed in the Daughters’ of the American Revolution room at the Jay County Courthouse and several large wooden and glass showcases were brought to the museum to begin our collection. Open houses began to be held at the museum on a few Sundays during warmer months because the building was not sufficiently heated or air-conditioned throughout.
In the spring of 1999, an office worker was hired through Green Thumb, a government program for training seniors, and an office was set up on South Commerce Street, because most of the museum still did not have heat.
Heat and air conditioning were installed in 2000, and the office was moved to the museum building. The office and museum were now open Monday through Thursday each week. Sunday open houses were also continued.
A complete reorganization of the museum began in 2002. A ham and bean supper was held on one Saturday in the fall. The fall festival has evolved into a two-day Jay County Heritage Festival, usually held on the first week-end in October. This event draws thousands of visitors. Sunday open house hours were expanded to two Sundays per month for eight months of the year, with special events planned during the Christmas season.
A capital campaign in 2003 raised the money to remodel the front entrance of the museum. A large grant from the John and Marjorie Finch Foundation in 2006 allowed the insulation and siding of the entire building, and the installation of complete heating and air-conditioning throughout the building. Additional grants through the Portland Foundation have made it possible to improve the museum through office equipment and museum upgrades.
The Jay County Historical Society and Museum is governed by a fifteen member Board of Directors. A term of three years is served by each director with 1/3 of the Directors being elected each November during our Annual Dinner in November.
The Jay County Historical Society and Museum has experienced a rapid growth over the past several years. Our membership is currently at more than 700 and continues to grow. Our collection includes more than 10,000 artifacts, with files and books of recorded history in the 100,000’s.
The Jay County Historical Society, Inc. and the Jay County
Genealogy Society merge in 2009
The Jay County Society, Inc. and the Jay County Genealogy Society have merged. Both groups had like goals of preserving the history of Jay County. This merger allows both of us to streamline our collections and eliminates some duplication of efforts. All records are now housed at the museum.
Jay County Historical Board 2016
Sitting from left: Karen Resler, Claudia Jones, Judy Zearbaugh, Kay Locker, Jane Spencer, and Janice Stucky. Standing from left: Phil Rager, Larry Hiatt, Bob Vance, Carter Leonard, Larry Bubp, Rob Weaver, Blake Watson, Sylvia Morrical, and David Frasher.