Ancient kiln found on river
A strange formation jutted out from the shore. It resembled an enormous teacup, but without the handle.
‘It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one from the river,’ said Harold Bussabarger of Corydon, who spotted the remaining half of an old lime kiln on the Ohio River. ‘It was awesome!’
He estimated it was eight to 12 feet across. The rest of the man-made kiln apparently had been washed away by high water.
‘I seen about eight along there that day,’ Bussabarger said.
A couple of days later, Bussabarger braved chilly, windy weather to canoe back to the kiln so he could snap a few pictures. He was afraid the time-worn structure would be destroyed the next time the river rose.
After having the film developed, Bussabarger took the pictures to the Harrison-Crawford/Wyandotte Complex.
‘Until recent years, I didn’t know such an industry existed,’ said Dwayne Sieg, forest resources manager there. ‘It’s a pretty crude structure.’
He said the kiln that Bussabarger found was lined with clay and ‘looked like it had been filled with raw limestone.’
A.J. Ariens, an assistant archeologist with the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, and Rick Jones, a state archeologist, came down from Indianapolis a couple of weeks later.
‘I never had any experience with lime kilns before,’ said Ariens, who’s been assistant archeologist for 1-1/2 years.
From research, though, she learned that most kilns were built above ground, unlike the one Bussabarger found.
Ariens dates the kilns’ use to ‘probably the 1800s to very early 1900s.’
Today, most people associate lime with something spread on fields to help neutralize acidity in the soil and to help break up heavy clay. In earlier times, it was used as a ‘whitewash plaster’ in building a house, Ariens said.
‘The kilns are the remains of an early industry in Indiana, one of the largest industries in the state,’ she said. ‘It was an important part of the beginning of structure in the state.’
The Indiana Geological Survey reports it has located the sites of more than 130 old kilns throughout the state.
The last known lime kiln operation, located near Milltown, closed in 1953.