Nineveh to host festival celebrating first settler

Two hundred years ago, the first settler family claimed a plot of land in Nineveh Township.

Amos Durbin, originally from Kentucky, established his family in spring of 1821 in the eastern part of the township. The settlement was one of the oldest in Johnson County, having been established the first year the county was incorporated.

And the people of Nineveh have celebrated the sense of community that has grown ever since.

To recognize the bicentennial of Durbin’s arrival, the community is hosting the First Settler’s Festival on Saturday. Residents will enjoy a parade, Civil War-themed activities and a historical re-enactor answering questions about Durbin’s life. A pioneer area will feature demonstrations of woodcutting and blacksmithing. Entertainer Ginny Pugh Spillman will perform her tribute to Patsy Cline.

Games, children’s activities and food will abound. All of it will give Nineveh a chance to reconnect as a community and recognize its long history, said Mike Duncan, chair of the Nineveh Heritage Committee.

“We wanted to have a get-together for the town, to celebrate the community there,” he said. “We like to remember the school that used to be there, and all the good times that all the kids and families had over the years.”

The festival will be held around the site of the former Nineveh School, which was believed to be the first township high school in the state. The first class graduated in 1879, and students attended classes there until 1985. That same year, some of the scenes from the movie “Hoosiers” were filmed there.

Though the school has since been torn down, the ground is still important to the town, Duncan said.

“Hopefully, they can keep this going to keep those memories alive,” he said.

The headliner of the show is Spillman, who has performed around Indiana in a variety of ways. Originally from the tiny town of Amos, she grew up singing with her siblings in church.

Her musical career blossomed as an adult as she became well-known in theater circles. She won the Indiana Community Theatre League Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1994 for her role as Sis Robert Ann in “Nunsense” — her first time on stage in community theater. She was nominated for another award for her role as the Widow Paroo in “Music Man.” In 2004, she was the featured female vocalist for the annual Circle of Lights ceremony in downtown Indianapolis.

Spillman developed her tribute to Patsy Cline after playing the singer in “Always, Patsy Cline” at a dinner theater in Hillsboro. The show was so popular that she created a one-woman show, “An Evening with Miss Patsy,” which celebrates Cline’s music as if she were on stage at the Grand Ole Opry.

She will take the main stage of the festival at 12:30 p.m., but festival organizers have packed a full day of events. Singing groups and bands will perform from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The parade will start at 10 a.m., moving from Nineveh’s Masonic Lodge No. 317 to Nineveh Church. Afterwards, the Nineveh Eastern Star No. 466 will open its Strawberry Festival, serving up fresh strawberries and homemade ice cream.

The 91st Volunteers, a Civil War re-enactment group, will hold a children’s drill with wooden guns at 3 p.m. A car show will be set up across from the Masonic lodge, while people can learn more about blacksmithing and woodcutting in a pioneer area. A bounce house and log cabin building have been planned for kids.

Local historian Rich Gotshall will don his finest early 19th-century garb to portray Durbin for the crowd. Cornhole, horseshoes, shuffleboard and free throw shooting contests are scheduled throughout the day. A silent auction will be held at the former Mutual Savings Bank, with Nineveh artist Luke Buck doing print signings. The Nineveh Volunteer Fire Department has agreed to do demonstrations.

With so many different groups and organizations taking part, Duncan hopes that the festival serves as a uniting force for the community.

“The focus is just the camaraderie of the people, being able to get together and spend time together,” he said. “People don’t get together and talk like they used to, so it’s good to have everybody together again and see what’s going on in the community.”

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Nineveh First Settler’s Festival

When: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday

Where: 7000 block of South Nineveh Road, at the site of the former Nineveh School and the former Mutual Savings Bank.


9 a.m. to 9 p.m.: Entertainment

10 a.m.: Parade, starting at Williamsburg Estates and ending at Nineveh Church.

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Nineveh Eastern Star No. 466 Strawberry Festival, Masonic Lodge No. 317, 7221 S. Nineveh Road.

12:30 p.m.: Patsy Cline tribute by Ginny Pugh Spillman

3 p.m.: 91st Volunteers Civil War children’s drills

Other activities: Car show; pioneer area with blacksmithing and woodcutting; bounce house and log cabin-building for kids; cornhole, horseshoes, shuffleboard and free throw shooting contests; silent auction with Luke Buck print signing; extraction demonstration and blood pressure checks by the Nineveh Volunteer Fire Department; food from Hillbilly Hot Dogs.