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History student digs into Indiana’s past in DNR internship

Sep 13, 2023
A woman stands in a wooded area
A woman stands in a wooded area

KOKOMO, Ind. — To an untrained eye, the rock formation in the Harrison-Crawford State Forest appears to be just an outcropping of Indiana limestone.

However, armed with a map showing 3-D representation of the area, and overlaid with plat maps from the 19th century, Brandy Hayes-Manning sees the hidden gem beneath: an abandoned lime kiln, used to heat limestone and convert it to quicklime for farming.

“When I first started, this didn’t sound exciting to me,” said Hayes-Manning, a history student at Indiana University Kokomo. “Once I started seeing them on the maps, and then adding the plat maps on top and seeing the names on top of it and seeing these people who were alive in the 1800s, and then thinking about how this was their livelihood, it really brought this part of Indiana history to life for me.”

Haynes-Manning, who lives in Winamac, worked with the mapping project as part of an internship with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) historic preservation and archeology department this summer.

She learned about the opportunity by attending Preserving Historic Places, Indiana’s Statewide Preservation Conference, in 2022. She will attend again this year as a presenter, alongside A.J. Ariens, forest archeologist, to share their work in Harrison County, on Indiana’s southeastern border.

Hayes-Manning began her internship cataloguing and uploading files for the Department of Natural Resources, but mentioned to her supervisor that while she’s a history major at IU Kokomo, she’d previously started a degree in anthropology in her home state of North Carolina. Soon, she connected with Ariens, who invited her to join her project identifying lime kilns in southern Indiana.

They used Lidar maps, created by sending pulses of light from a transmitter and recording how long it takes for those pulses to return to create virtual 3-D maps to identify kiln sites, then overlaid plat maps from 1860, 1882, and 1890 to see who they may have belonged to in the past.

Later, they worked in O’Bannon Woods State Park, Harrison-Crawford State Forest, and Morgan-Monroe State Forest, not only finding lime kilns, but digging test pits along a proposed trail site to be sure it was clear of archeological sites that would prevent development.

She was excited to see the sites she’d found on the virtual map in person.

“We found multiple kilns and quarries I had found, and that was really awesome,” she said, adding that the kilns are part of the state’s history.

Ariens and Hayes-Manning examined census records to get an idea of who might have been burning lime, and Hayes-Manning noted a lot of coopers, or barrel-makers in the area. Many historians assumed those were for whiskey makers across the border in Kentucky, but further reading in historical documents found mentions of burning and barreling lime to be transported for use in farm fields or as mortar in construction.

After completing their work, Ariens invited Hayes-Manning to present with her at the same conference she attended last year.

“It makes me feel really good that they invited me to come back,” she said.

Hayes-Manning hopes to earn a master’s degree in anthropology after competing her history degree at IU Kokomo, and would like to return to the DNR as an employee at some point.

“I didn’t know before this that the DNR had anything to do with archeology or historic preservation,” she said. “The DNR has a lot to offer that people don’t know about, in addition to the state parks and recreation areas. I would recommend anyone interested in history, or anthropology, or libraries seek out internships there. They go above and beyond to make sure you get the experience you’re looking for.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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