If you’ve lived in Marion County for a while, you know that Franklin Township, platted in 1822, is the southeastern-most corner of the Marion county square. Even if you call that area your stomping grounds, you may not already know:
– The area’s earliest known settler was William Rector. He hosted the township’s first election in his cabin, in 1824 and was elected justice of the peace.
– Southeastern Avenue was built on an Indian trail.
– Actress Marjorie Main was born in Acton.
– The building now known as Mike’s Midway Market was once a one-room schoolhouse
– The township boasts 16 pioneer cemeteries.
– The first settlement in the township was called New Bethel but the town was renamed to Wanamaker when the post office was established, because there was already a Bethel, Indiana.
– Originally named Farmersville, the town of Acton was platted in 1852. There was a time when Acton Camp Ground was a popular attraction where cottagers lived during the summer, drawing as many as 40,000 people on any given Sunday afternoon to hear well-known clergy, politicians, and educators speak. The campground burned in 1905.
– Wanamaker State Bank was saved during the Great Depression by a “George Bailey-like” bank president also named George, last name Bowen, who persuaded panicky depositors that their money was more safe on loan to their neighbors than in any bank.
If you didn’t already know these fascinating facts, it’s time you got over to the Franklin Township Historical Society’s Meeting House, located at 6510 S. Franklin Road. The FTHS, is housed in the former Big Run Baptist Church (1871), a beautifully preserved structure that served a congregation until 1977 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Inside this one-room building, the FTHS maintains a museum where one can get up close and personal with hundreds of historic items, many of which visitors can (respectfully) touch and try — like a petting zoo of ancient implements.
The FTHS is open for tours from 1 to 4 p.m. on the first Saturday and third Sunday of each month from March through October. They offer quite a wide variety of high-quality community programs, including group tours of the Meeting House for schools, clubs, scout troops, and other groups. FTHS volunteers are always on hand to answer questions about exhibits or to help research specific topics of interest. No admission is charged.
During the months of operation, the organization offers special themed programs. Presentations feature experts, authors, and artifacts such as vintage postcards, quilts, apparel, antique toys, comic books, sports memorabilia, etc.