Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Amsterdam, Indiana - Redden Ancestor Hometown, Part 1

This blog takes you to New Amsterdam, Indiana. Many of our early Reddens lived in or near this river town. New Amsterdam was founded around 1815. There was a time in the mid-1800s when steamboat traffic on the Ohio River was at its peak that New Amsterdam was a busy town and actually recorded as the largest town in Harrison County, complete with a bank, hotel, and churches. Now the town is nearly abandoned. There have been some regional news stories about the town being recorded in the 2010 census as having a population of one, but this is not an accurate count. According to some locals, the population is at least 20, and perhaps as high as 22! New Amsterdam may not be the bustling river town it once was, but don't write it off just yet. Local festivals are still organized and take place here, such as the annual Remembrance Days.

The photo above shows what is currently a general store/museum/unofficial visitor's center, but the sign on the top front of the store identifies the building as a former Odd Fellows hall. The store is still a popular stop for bicyclists and motorcyclist who enjoy traveling the quiet, scenic road that winds along the river. On one of our visits to New Amsterdam, we stopped by the store hoping to get a cold drink. Unfortunately, it was closed. As we stood there, however, the owner, Mr. Shaffer came by in his golf cart which sported a sign identifying him as the town's unofficial mayor. He graciously unlocked the door so we could make our purchase, and then talked with us for quite some time about the history of the town and it's residents. Nick, who lived in New Amsterdam for a time as a boy, enjoyed hearing about some of the people he remembered as neighbors years ago. Sadly, we learned Mr. Shaffer has since passed away, but the last we heard the store is still being kept open by his family. Reportedly, this is the oldest building in New Amsterdam. Many other of the town's buildings and homes were destroyed in a terrible flood in 1937. Various members of the Redden family were members of the New Amsterdam Red Man Chapter of the International Order of Odd Fellows. I'm sure the building was in much better shape when our ancestors walked here, but I like being able to see a physical connection between the generations when we visit New Amsterdam.

Our primary stop when we travel here, however, is the cemetery. Many Reddens are buried in the New Amsterdam cemetery which sits right in the middle of town atop a hill overlooking the Ohio River. It's truly a lovely and peaceful resting place. A shelter house with picnic tables sits at one end of the cemetery where you can sit and watch the river go by, giving the cemetery a park-like feel. A plaque reminds us that a school house once stood near the spot, but it burned down a few decades back.

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