County Feature: Franklin County

Posted on Jun 23 2022 in County
Oldenburg, Indiana photo
Oldenburg isn’t called the “Village of Spires” for no reason.

Recreation and the celebration of history and culture make Franklin County in southeastern Indiana come alive.

County seat Brookville sits at the southern edge of Brookville Lake. Brookville’s earthen dam was constructed in 1974 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and impounds the East Fork of the Whitewater River for flood control and storm water management. The lake extends north into Union County.

The reservoir area, which includes the Mounds State Recreation Area, provides boating, camping, golf, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, and fishing.

To the west of Brookville is Metamora, once a stop along the Whitewater Canal, that now celebrates that heritage primarily as a tourist town. The canal was built in the 1830s and ran 76 miles from Lawrenceburg on the Ohio River to Hagerstown near the West Fork of the White River, opening the Whitewater River valley for commerce and industry. New communities, like Metamora, were platted right along the canal. That provided access to markets for agricultural products and supplied hydraulic power for mills and factories that made flour, lumber, paper, and more. Eventually a railroad was built on the canal’s towpath, creating an even more efficient transportation corridor. The canal’s water flow continued to provide power for the mills.

In Metamora, visitors can experience what it was like in the 1800s. A horse-drawn canal boat, operating gristmill and Whitewater Valley Railroad are the main attractions. Along with all the historical features and attractions in Metamora, visitors will find also find gift, craft and antique shops, eateries and lodging to round out a visit. 

The Whitewater Valley Railroad includes the “Metamora Local,” which travels on a two-mile scenic excursion along the restored canal, past the canal boat dock, a working aqueduct, and a restored lock. The ride lasts approximately 30 minutes. The “Valley Flyer” train to Metamora departs from the Connersville depot and offers a two-hour layover in Metamora for shopping, eating, and sightseeing before returning to Connersville. The Whitewater Valley Railroad operates other special events throughout the year.

In the southwestern corner of Franklin County, the beautiful town of Oldenburg takes visitors not just back to another century but to another continent. The Old World charm of the town, first settled in 1817 by Catholic German immigrants from Cincinnati, is unmistakable. Oldenburg is called the “Village of Spires,” because of its churches and religious educational institutions.

The town was platted in 1837. A German priest, Father Francis Joseph Rudolf, arrived in 1844 and helped develop the town for religious purposes. Soon after his arrival, he encouraged many nuns, among them, Sister Teresa Hackelmeier, to migrate to the small town and educate the children of the German immigrants. In 1851, Sister Hackelmeier established the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg. From there, Oldenburg has continued to develop its rich Catholic and German roots that are still prevalent today.

Today, Oldenburg is a quaint town with a population of over 600. It is home to a diverse array of accredited institutions, including Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception and the Sisters of Saint Francis. Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception is a Franciscan Catholic co-educational college preparatory high school committed to academic excellence, social responsibility, leadership and personal and spiritual growth.

The academy has seen several major changes in the past couple of decades, including the end of its resident program in 1999. In the fall of 2000, the school welcomed young men for the first time in its history. 

Steeped in rich German culture, Oldenburg prides itself on its authentic German food, architecture, and its hospitality. That hospitality and German heritage will be celebrated July 15-16 with the return of the annual Freudenfest, which means “Fun Day.” It is known as “The biggest little German festival in Indiana.”

County Facts

Founded: 1811

Named for: Benjamin Franklin

Population: 22,750

County seat: Brookville

Indiana county number: 24