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Constitution Elm’s neighbor looking out for the delegates

When Norman Reilly cleaned out the attic of his newly-purchased home on High Street near the Constitution Elm in Corydon, he stumbled upon some antique books dating back as far as the 19th century and was drawn into them.
“It was under the grand old elm tree, by the rippling water of Big Indiana Creek that a convention of 43 men of character and ability, leading men of the state, worked for 20 continuous days to create a system of government that would protect the rights of the people and would keep the state clean from the stain of human slavery,” one of the old books said.
Reilly wondered why the names of those 43 men weren’t listed on the plaque at the elm under whose broad branches Indiana’s first constitution was written in June of 1816. (Indiana’s second, and present, constitution was framed in 1851.)
The tree lived until 1925, and its trunk was subsequently preserved and surrounded by a stone monument less than a block from Reilly’s home.
Five of the 43 framers were from Harrison County: Dennis Pennington, Davis Floyd, Daniel C. Lane, John Boone and Patrick Shields. The first and second governors of the state, Jonathan Jennings and William Hendricks, contributed to the composition.
Reilly devised a plan to improve the monument. His design calls for flagpoles, brickwork in front of the monument, low-voltage lighting, planters, and a more elaborate plaque. He has since conceded that space may allow only for the plaque.
“His grand plan is going to be difficult because it would go into the town right-of-way,” said Bill Brockman, curator of Corydon Capitol State Historic Site. “I think there is a possibility that at least the names of the delegates could be listed and perhaps their occupation.”
The elm isn’t the only historically significant feature in the area. Nearby is the Westfall House. Built in 1806, it is generally considered to be the oldest home in Corydon. Also, the delegates used a spring across from the elm to keep their liquid refreshment cold.
Though the elm is the most logical site, Brockman said, it could be feasible to use another site in the town to honor the framers of that first constitution. Brockman said the support of the town and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites would be a must as well as grant money for funding.
Both Brockman and Reilly agreed that public support is the best way to start building a better monument.