Vigo County has been home to a celebrated array of people. But let’s meet three: a songsmith, a saint, and Holocaust survivor.
Paul Dresser. Whenever Hoosiers sing about “the moonlight … along the Wabash,” they honor all Indiana homesteads. But really, that home gleaming with candlelight was that of Dresser, a Terre Haute native and songwriter who composed the song in 1897. “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” was officially adopted as the state song in 1913.
Dresser’s birthplace and boyhood home, a state shrine listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now sits in Terre Haute’s Fairbanks Park, a stone’s throw from the Wabash. Dresser, it should be noted, was born Dreiser and was an older brother to another famous Hoosier, acclaimed writer and social reformer Theodore Dreiser.
Saint Theodora Guérin. Long before Dresser wrote about “nature’s school,” a Catholic nun arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, a wilderness settlement in northwest Vigo County, in 1840 from France. Mother Théodore Guérin, aided by several other sisters, advanced education and religious vocation in the region. One school she founded became Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, which continues today as a Roman Catholic liberal arts school open to both women and men.
More than 50 years after she died in 1853, the first considerations began for her sainthood. Pope Benedict XVI canonized her in 2006. Saint Theodora Guérin is the only saint to have served in Indiana.
Eva Mozes Kor. While the Nazis killed her parents and older sisters during the Holocaust in World War II, young Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, were spared for the sadistic pseudoscientific experiments carried out on twins at the Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland.
Though they survived, they suffered physical complications throughout the rest of their lives.
In 1960, she married American Michael Kor, also a Holocaust survivor, and settled in Terre Haute. In 1984, Kor founded CANDLES (an acronym for “Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors”), and, in 1995, opened the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute to educate the public about the Holocaust and the power of forgiveness.
Despite her age, Kor made annual trips to Auschwitz to tell others about her childhood experiences. During last year’s CANDLES trip, she died unexpectedly on July 4 near Auschwitz in Kraków, Poland. She was 85 years old.
This year, CANDLES museum celebrates 25 years and will be hosting programs and initiatives, speakers, events, and activities that carry on Kor’s legacy.
Named for: Francis Vigo, an Italian-born fur trader who aided the American forces during the Revolutionary War, most famously as an informant to George Rogers Clark in recapturing the British-held fort at Vincennes.
Population: 107,386 (2018)
County seat: Terre Haute
Noted for: Vigo County is nationally known as a bellwether for U.S. presidential elections; it has voted for the winning candidate in every election since 1956, and in all but two elections since 1888 (1908 and 1952).