Unless you were born less than 30 years ago, you probably at least know the name Mauri Williamson. If you're active in farm groups in your county, it's quite likely he has talked to your group at least once or twice over the years. The former director of Purdue Ag Alumni once traveled the state at will, spreading the word about Purdue Ag Alumni and dishing out heaping helpings of down-home humor as he went.
Retired nearly 20 years, replaced by the capable Donya Lester, Williamson continues to work for Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair. He was there again at the 2010 fair, just concluded, wearing bib overalls, a straw hat and often a red handkerchief around his neck almost every day. Now even retried from running the Pioneer Village exhibit, Williamson, now in his mid-80s, continues to be a beacon for Indiana agriculture, both past and present.
The Indiana State Fair took time to honor him for his accomplishments before the fair adjourned. A ceremony was held to dedicate the naming of the pin frame barn, built a few years ago in the Pioneer Village complex. It was named in Mauri's honor. It's certainly true that very few people have a pin-frame barn named after them.
It's also true, however, that names on older barns across the countryside was a tradition in earlier days of Indiana agriculture. Some of the older barns still in decent shape still carry a name on the barn. Usually it was the name of the family that owned the farm, at least at one time. That's what inspired state fair officials to honor Mauri by naming the barn after him.
These barns also often carry the date the barn or farm was established, often near the name on the barn. In this case, the date is 1961. That's when Mauri and company first started displaying antique items at the Indiana State Fair. For several years, the display was underneath the grandstands on the opposite side of the fairgrounds. The first facility at Pioneer Village, the main toolshed-type barn, was erected before the 1968 Indiana State fair. It was later added onto, and then other buildings of all sorts and descriptions began springing up at the complex.
Next year there will be a celebration of 50 years for Pioneer Village, even though the display in the early days was primarily a static display of antique farm tools, a source says. Williamson chose the state fair to display the collection originally put together by two professors at Purdue University. When the collection outgrew the Ag Engineering Building on campus, Williamson found a home for it at the Indiana State fair. The rest, as they say, is history.
Look for a special story in which Williamson conducts a virtual tour through the facility in the September issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer.