By Nicole Thomas
After forming in 1818, Randolph County became home to many Quaker settlers from North Carolina who supported abolitionism. Abolitionist Levi Coffin worked with these Quakers to help nearly 3,000 enslaved Americans find freedom through the Underground Railroad’s sites in Indiana and Ohio. In 1846, Quakers and free people of color founded the Union Literary Institute in Randolph County — the first racially integrated school in Indiana.
AN AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR
Robert Wise, a film director, producer, and editor, was born in Winchester, Indiana, in 1914. Wise is best known for directing the “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story.” He won the Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture for both musicals. Throughout his career, he directed 39 films across various genres, from westerns to science fiction. A well-known Winchester artist, Roy Barnes, painted a mural in Randolph County’s courthouse to commemorate Wise and other notable Randolph County natives.
THE ‘WORLD’S FASTEST HALF-MILE’
Ninety miles northeast of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the Winchester Speedway, a half-mile oval racetrack with a 37-degree banking — one of the steepest in motorsports. In 1914, owner Frank Funk built the speedway in his family farm’s cornfield. The track has hosted its signature event, the Winchester 400, every fall since 2003 to 5,000 spectators. Famous drivers who have raced at the Winchester Speedway include Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Sarah Fisher.
In 1944, Duane “Wick” Wickersham opened a small cafe inside a local factory to serve lunch to its employees. After his success at the factory, Wickersham opened his own shop where he baked his grandmother’s pie recipes and sold 300 pies a day. Wick’s Pies has grown into a commercial bakery in Winchester, where 10,000 pies and 30,000 pie shells are made in an eight-hour shift. North of the commercial bakery is Mrs. Wick’s Restaurant, a bakery and cafe selling 36 pie varieties, including the Wickersham family’s popular sugar cream pie.
NAMED FOR: Peyton Randolph, a Founding Father of the United States and president of the first Continental Congress
COUNTY SEAT: Winchester
INDIANA COUNTY NUMBER: 68
Nicole Thomas is a freelance writer from Indianapolis.