- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

ROCKVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A photograph of former U.S. House Speaker Joseph Cannon, one of Parke County’s favorite sons, already hangs on a second floor wall of the courthouse in Rockville.

Now, through work of the Parke County Bicentennial Committee, one of two painted murals from Vigo County artist Bill Wolfe will more vividly depict the 20th century politician who was the subject of Time Magazine’s first cover, appearing March 3, 1923, on the final day of Cannon’s last term in office.

Wolfe himself is a Parke County native, born in Mecca. He has already painted similar murals at the Vigo County Courthouse, showcasing famous Vigo County residents and images from the county’s founding.

“We had wanted to do something with Bill (Wolfe) since he is a Parke County native. We saw what he had done at the Vigo County Courthouse and fell in love with it and thought maybe he could do it for Parke County,” said Brad S. Buchanan, coordinator of the Parke County Bicentennial Committee.

The committee on Tuesday presented Wolfe with a check for $12,000 for the murals.



Of that, $6,000 was given by the Parke County Community Foundation.

The other half was generated from business and individual donations, said Colleen K. Engle, marketing program officer for the foundation and member of the bicentennial committee.

The first mural will highlight the life of Cannon, who moved to the Parke County town of Annapolis in 1840. Cannon worked for a year in Terre Haute as an attorney before moving to Illinois. Cannon was the second-longest continuously serving Republican House speaker, behind Dennis Hastert, also from Illinois. Cannon was House speaker from 1903 to 1911. Cannon’s 46 years in Congress was a record not broken until 1959.

Sam Swain, circuit court judge in Parke County and a member of the bicentennial committee, said Cannon is a role model for the county.

“As a citizen of the county, it will be nice to have an inspiration for not only kids who are in school, but the whole community considering his humble beginnings and what he became,” Swain said.

“Not only was he successful in the House of Representatives, but successful in life in general. He knew Mark Twain personally, actually spoke at his eulogy in Carnegie Hall,” Swain said. “He was a good person and good role model. Between 1900 and 1908, he was probably one of the most powerful people in the world. He was kinda of a caricature somewhat of himself. He smoked a cigar. Two cigar companies, at least, have cigars named after him.

Wolfe said he is painting a gold wreath around his portrait of Cannon, “along with scenes of his life. The family in a wagon coming from North Carolina to Indiana, showing Cannon logging as a boy and his Quaker home and show him as Speaker of the House with a gavel, also with (former president and Supreme Court justice) Howard Taft and (former president) Teddy Roosevelt.”

“It will be an exciting thing to work on, just like the Vigo County murals were, and I am learning a lot about the history of Parke County, my birthplace,” Wolfe said.

He plans to use the faces of local people to be featured in the background of the mural, similar to what he did in Vigo County. “The murals will be the same size, at 10 feet by 5 feet,” Wolfe said. The murals are to be completed by July, he said.

The second mural will have notable citizens, places and events of the county. “We are still working on what will be in that mural,” Buchanan said. “We are reaching out to citizens of Parke County to contribute their ideas and thoughts on who they feel is most appropriate to be represented.”

Buchanan said the committee already has a list of many names.

“We have Mordecai Brown, a famous baseball player, who came out of Parke County. We have Juliet Strauss, a wonderful author,” Buchanan said. “Obviously the covered bridges will play a part in the second mural. Cecil M. Harden, while she was not a Parke County citizen, was influential in the development of Raccoon Lake recreational area,” and has a lake named after her, Buchanan said. Harden was a U.S. representative for Indiana.

“We are finding out there are 30 to 50 individuals here that we could include, such as Don Lash, who participated in the (1936) summer Olympics in Berlin and held records for long-distance running,” Buchanan said, “and many others who have come from here and gone on to great things.”

Lash won 12 national long-distance running titles from 1934 to 1940 and set a world’s record for the two-mile run in 1936. He later served as a five-term state representative in the Indiana House of Representatives.

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Source: Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/1Y3NM4v

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Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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