- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

LAGRANGE, Ind. (AP) - Bryan McCoy has always been fascinated by LaGrange County history.

From details about LaGrange County’s earliest settlers to looking at rare documents showing the names of men who signed up for military service the day the Civil War broke out, McCoy, who’s lived in the county all his life, wants to preserve moments of its past so future generations have a better understanding of the county and its history.

As a reward for McCoy’s efforts, he recently was named the new LaGrange County historian by the Indiana Historical Society and Indiana Historical Bureau. He’s only the third person in LaGrange County to hold the title, following in the footsteps of LaGrange historians Scott McKibben and Ezra Miller.

McCoy beams with pride when asked about his new title.

“Oh, I’m very proud,” he said.

McCoy was nominated for the honor by his fellow historians, members of both the Topeka Historical Society and the Shipshewana Area Historical Society. Topeka Historical Society President Harold Gingerich said McCoy is the perfect man for the job.

“I am so proud and happy for him,” Gingerich said.

McCoy said his primary role as the new county historian will be to act as a resource for people searching out local historical information. McCoy also is the president of the LaGrange County Historical Society and oversees its museum on the corner of Lafayette and High streets in downtown LaGrange.

Originally constructed as a church, the building now houses a collection of local artifacts and records that spans LaGrange County’s nearly 200-year history. McCoy is most proud of the museum’s mastodon skull, but also enjoys showing visitors its collection of turn-of-the-century dresses, as well as the tools, bottles and records from one of LaGrange’s earliest businesses, a drug store.

The museum also is home to a large collection of LaGrange County School records, photographs and other school memorabilia.

“We have quite a school room down there,” McCoy said.

Operated by a small organization of around 20 people, the museum is free and open by appointment this time of year. In the warmer months, McCoy opens the museum on Saturday afternoons.

“Probably about the end of May, we’ll start to be open on Saturday afternoons again from 2 until 4 through September,” he said.

Historical societies have not always been a part of the local landscape. McCoy said the LaGrange organization didn’t start until the 1960s. The historical societies in Topeka and Shipshewana started even later.

The LaGrange museum is the historical society’s second home, a gift from a local family. The organization outgrew its first home, and the current location allowed it to put more of its collection on display.

“We strive to keep it free,” McCoy said of the museum. “We go on donations.”

One item McCoy is extremely proud to have on a display is a special fence-building tool created and patented by LaGrange County’s Charles Van Epps, a resident of Scott.

He also is proud of the museum’s collection of Civil War artifacts, a gift from Howe Military Academy. He said many of them came right off the battle field.

“We have a vast military collection, especially the Civil War,” he added. “We have uniform collections. We’ve got a whole book set of the Civil War.”

There’s so much, the organization is still cataloging its materials.

“We’re always adding to our collection,” he said.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been interested in history, the history of this county, and trying to preserve it,” McCoy said.

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Source: The (Kendallville) News-Sun, http://bit.ly/1Q8cbkS

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Information from: The News-Sun, http://www.kpcnews.com

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