Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dunnington, Indiana

Dunnington is one of several unincorporated communities dotting northwest Indiana. The town's namesake (John Dunn) made his fortune selling baled hay to the government for the U.S. Cavalry during the Civil War. Then in the 1870s he ran a local 320 acre farm. 

Today, visitors can travel for miles along 2-lane back roads that roll through the gentle hills of Benton County. Acres of knee-high corn flutter in the late June breeze as summer bugs ping the windshield.

At a crossroads in one cornfield, St. Mary’s Catholic Church rises over the handful of buildings built in Dunnington dating from the late 19th century.  For church gatherings, neighbors still serve freshly shucked and boiled corn, home made slaws and pies. Chicken, baked to a golden crisp is heaped on large family-style platters. Oversized bowls swim with German-style string beans flavored with nuggets of sausage and onion. Traditions and family ties run deep.

Headstones in St. Mary’s cemetery reflect the community’s German heritage: Altepeper, Gros, Schilling, Schwartz. Some folks lived as long as 97 years, while others lasted a brief half hour. A little girl rests next to her grandparents. One cold day she wandered out of the house while her mother tended a newborn sibling. Within days the toddler was overtaken by pneumonia. Her headstone is dated 1920 - 1922.

Wikipedia calls Dunnington ‘now virtually extinct.’ Yet there are signs of life. 87 new wind turbines of the Benton County Wind Farm churn in the summer wind. Prayers for a good harvest are still offered during church services.

Two miles east of the Illlinois border, 38 miles west of Purdue University. It’s the 1001st “place to visit” before you die.

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