Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.
Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…
Upon visiting the centerpiece of our trip, the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum, we covered the Battle of Tippecanoe in a somewhat reductive fashion:
On November 7, 1811, when future short-term President [William Henry] Harrison led an army against a confederation of tribes led by Tecumseh of the Shawnee and the adviser Tenskwatawa, alias “the Prophet”. The tribes weren’t thrilled with the pervasive intruders, the incoming settlers had reason to believe they weren’t safe, and it didn’t help that our old arch-nemesis England was taking steps to ratchet up the tension shortly before things escalated into the War of 1812. Harrison led a thousand men into two hours of combat against several hundred Native Americans. The latter retreated after dozens of casualties were incurred on each side. The following day, Harrison led his men to Prophetstown, where their opponents had been living but fled. On orders from Harrison, Prophetstown was burned to the ground, and the former residents’ supplies either appropriated or destroyed.
The museum and battlefield weren’t far from where the village of Prophetstown once stood. (Fun MCC trivia: they also weren’t far from Wolf Park, which we previously visited on Easter weekend 2008.) The acreage where the village was founded in 1808 and burned to the ground in 1811 is now Prophetstown State Park, established in 2004 with multiple missions — among them, to commemorate the village and to restore the original tallgrass prairies that were the dominant terrain before humanity arrived and redecorated. Or un-decorated, as it were.
Naturally there’s a Visitors Center that provides context, but theirs is in the middle of the park, not quite an intuitive location for a newcomer’s starting point. Their parking lot was nearly full upon our arrival. Some kind of gun-related class was being conducted in a backroom.
A walking trail leads from the Visitors Center across busy State Road 225 and toward a grassy field where a “Woodland Indians settlement” recreates various structures common to tribal life back in the early 1800s. Fixtures include a Chief’s Cabin, a Medicine Lodge, and a Council House. They mostly looked like unfurnished log cabins, but a few placards help sort them.
Prophetstown State Park has the usual amenities one expects from every park ever — hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic shelters, pool, sports fields, and so on. As a direct counterpoint to the Tippecanoe Battlefield’s obelisk, three years ago a monument was added to Prophetstown called the “Circle of Stones”, honoring the fourteen tribes who once resided in the area. It didn’t come up in any of our preliminary research, wasn’t talked up at the Visitors Center, was nowhere near any of the places we chose to wander, and is marked on the park’s brochure map with a one-eighth-inch dot completely unaccompanied by any helpful explanation or definition whatsoever. It’s a sun-shaped dot labeled “Circle of Stones” like everyone who’s cool just knows what that is. The map does confirm it’s a stone’s throw from a basketball court, so there’s that.
The brochure offers a bit more info about one of the park’s most colorful and family-oriented features: the Farm at Prophetstown. A non-profit organization rents land from the park and runs a small but fully operational farm. Tour guides show visitors around a few buildings that recreate 1920s Indiana life, how the farmers lived a century after Tippecanoe.
We had to weave our way around several nuclear families enjoying their time around the farmland, seeing the olde-tyme sights and peeking inside the recreated structures. Then our jaws dropped as we rounded one corner and stumbled across something we absolutely did not expect: live farm animals! No taxidermy, no puppets, no leashes, no cruel cages. Just animals, animals, animals. If kids are allowed to rate places on Yelp, the animals probably earned a plethora of high ratings from the under-10 demographic.
…in conclusion, Prophetstown was a land of contrasts. But it isn’t our final gallery from this trip.
To be concluded! Other chapters in this MCC miniseries:
Part 1: The Astronaut Alumnus
Part 2: The Works on the Walls
Part 3: Drifting Around Downtown
Part 4: The Legacy of Tippecanoe
Part 6: The Birthday Menu