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More on a Leading History Light: Fulton County’s Shirley Willard

Fulton County Museum. Photo © Phil Whitmer

Fulton County’s Shirley Willard, recognized by Hawthorne as a Leading Light in Indiana History Today and part of the Hawthorne family, has written several books.

In 1974 she published Fulton County Folks vol. 1 and in 1981 Fulton County Folks vol. 2. In 2003, she and Susan Campbell co-authored the Potawatomi Trail of Death – 1838 Removal from Indiana to Kansas which reprints Father Petit’s Trail of Death Letters and other articles, indexed by Susan Campbell, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. This book also includes family histories by Potawatomi who had ancestors on the Trail of Death, muster rolls, and histories of General John Tipton, William Polke, and St. Philippine Duchesne.

In 2010 Shirley authored Rochester, a pictorial history containing over 220 photos, published by Arcadia Publishing. Photos were from Fulton County Museum and Rochester Sentinel.

She continues as Fulton County Historian, appointed by Indiana Historical Society and continues to write a weekly history column for the Rochester Sentinel.

In 2019 Shirley retired from volunteer editor of two newsletters: “Potawatomi Trail of Death Association” (2005-2018), and “Fulton County Folk Finder (1982-2018)”. She had edited the Indian Awareness Center Newsletter from 1982-2004 when it was replaced by the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association newsletter, which she edited until 2018. She wrote articles for the website, which is owned and paid for by the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association.

Shirley spearheaded the planning and erection of over 80 historical markers for the Potawatomi Trail of Death. The last historical marker she helped with was for Mas-saw, a Potawatomi chieftess at Lake Bruce. The marker was erected in 2020.

In 2021 Shirley is publishing her fifth book, Fulton County, Indiana – The Luckiest County in the World. It is a history of Fulton County that begins with the excavation of mastodon bones and covers nearly everything up to today.

Shirley Willard and Tom Krasean of the indiana Historical Society

Shirley was the recipient of the Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indiana Historical Society in 2017. In 2019 Shirley was named a Golden Hoosier by the state of Indiana, the Indiana Historical Society and American Association of Retired Persons, the highest honor the state of Indiana awards. She has been a staunch friend of the efforts of Hawthorne Publishing to publish interesting and important stories about the past in the state of Indiana, providing researching help for many projects and featuring our authors at the Fulton County Historical Society to tell their stories and share their books.