An old biplane is parked on a basketball court in a relief sculpture representing Henry County (pictured on right). It’s part of the permanent 92 county artworks built into the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.
The basketball court for Henry County might be obvious: the New Castle High School gymnasium is among the largest high school gyms in the nation, and New Castle is home to the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum. The county has produced 13 Hoosier high school hoops legends who are in the Hall of Fame.
The airplane, however, is one of Indiana’s little-known claims to fame: Millville in eastern Henry County is the birthplace of Wilbur Wright. Wright is the oldest of the two brothers who invented, built and flew the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane. If Henry County was the basketball court in the IMS sculpture, the plane is perched right about on top of Millville.
Wilbur Wright was born in the tiny town on April 16, 1867. He was the third child of the Rev. Milton Wright and Susan Catherine Koerner Wright. In the spring of 1869, the family moved to Dayton, Ohio, where the other famed brother, Orville, was born in 1871.
As adults in Dayton, Wilbur and Orville pursued their growing interest in powered flight and by 1901 began putting their theories to the test on the Atlantic shoreline at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. On Dec. 17, 1903, they made the first free, controlled flight of a power-driven airplane. Wilbur piloted their flyer for 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet. Over the next several years, they continued perfecting their flyer and the controls to make fixed-wing powered flight practical.
Today, the home in Millville is operated as the Wilbur Wright Birthplace Museum. It includes the original house where Wright was born and a full-size replica of the brothers’ first plane.
The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is located in New Castle. The Hall is a 14,000-square-foot museum full of memorabilia and interactive displays about basketball in the state. Thirteen New Castle graduates are in the Hall, including Indiana University basketball legends Steve Alford and Kent Benson.
Named for: Patrick Henry, a Founding Father of the U.S. and orator best known for his 1775 declaration: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
Population:48,271 (2018 estimate)
County seat: New Castle
Wilbur Wright Birthplace Museum Festival
Location: 1525 N. County Road 750 E. Hagerstown, Indiana 47364
Date: Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020
Time: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
Vendors will be on the museum grounds from 9 a.m- 6 p.m., and dinner will be served from 5-8 p.m.
Please check with the museum before planning to go for up-to-date information, especially concerning COVID-19 changes.