The Places We Call Home: KyanaDecember 26, 2018
By LEANN BURKE
KYANA — If you ask people from the southeastern part of Dubois County about Kyana, they’ll say there’s nothing there. Driving along Kyana Road, you’d believe them.
Except for a few farms — including one that packages feathers from Farbest Foods to be sent to China — and houses along the creek that winds through the woods along Kyana Road, there really isn’t much left of the hilltop community. But lifelong Kyana resident Lola Gilmore, 84, remembers a time when there was more.
The Louisville Mining and Manufacturing Company founded Kyana in the late 1800s, naming the town after both Kentucky and Indiana — KY comes from the abbreviation for Kentucky, and ANA comes from the last letters of Indiana. Although the town was never incorporated, the roughly 10-acre area was platted in 1882 along the Southern railroad, where it grew into a booming shipping point, according to George R. Wilson’s history of Dubois County.
At one point, the town had a train depot, grain storage, a tin shop, a factory, a post office and a general store. Gilmore remembers visiting the post office and the general store as a child.
“They had everything in that store,” Gilmore recalled. “They had a glass cookie jar that you could stick your hand in and get out as many as you wanted.”
The general store/post office was the gathering point for the Kyana community. A 1980 Herald article told of people gathering in the main room of the post office — then part of the Ernest Prechtel home — to play cards. And Gilmore remembers going to watch pick-up baseball games every Sunday behind the store. Those games were the town’s big entertainment, Gilmore said.
Kyana grew up around the railroad, though it was never a shopping center like other Dubois County towns. Wilson’s history recalls the train taking Kyanians to shop in Louisville or Huntingburg. Gilmore remembers when small houses sprinkled the landscape around the railroad tracks. They’re all gone now. When the railroad boom died down, so did Kyana. Businesses started to close or move to more populated areas, and trains quit making stops in the small community.
To pick up the mail, Gilmore recalled, the postmaster hung bags of mail on hooks outside the post office. As trains roared by, they’d snag the bag with a hook. Mail was dropped off the same way — via a train engineer with a hook. It wasn’t a fool-proof system. The 1980 Herald article told of a few instances of the bag missing the hook, blowing mail across the tracks and Highway 64 when it was built.
When the post office closed in 1980, it served only three families. The handful of others in the area had already switched to rural mail routes out of other nearby towns, according to the Herald archives.
The signs announcing the entrance into Kyana keep getting closer and closer together, Gilmore said.
“If my dad were living today, he’d say, ‘What a shame,’” Gilmore said.
Her father was World War I veteran Thomas Huff.
Kyana may not be the booming town it once was, but it’s not abandoned either. Pine Ridge Elementary School is located in the community, though it has a Birdseye address, like all Kyana properties. New families are also moving into the area. In the past five years, Gilmore said, several new families have built houses on land in Kyana.
For the past 24 years, Andrew and Cheryl Verkamp have hosted Kyana Woodstock on their roughly 4-acre property in what Cheryl calls “the Kyana suburbs,” because it’s half a mile from the highway. The event shows concerts from Woodstock on giant projector screens in the Verkamp’s backyard every Labor Day weekend. It’s been Kyana’s most recent claim to fame, though the 25th Kyana Woodstock — set for Labor Day weekend 2019 — will be held at Lincoln Amphitheatre in Lincoln State Park.
“It just got big, bold and beautiful,” Cheryl said.
The Verkamps have lived in Kyana since 1987. Although they won’t be holding Kyana Woodstock in the community anymore, it’s still an area they love.
“It’s lovely,” Cheryl said. “We’re half a mile from the highway, so we can get pretty much anywhere easily. But it’s still nice and quiet.”
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