75 Years Ago, Daviess County Was At The Center Of National Politics

75 Years Ago, Daviess County Was At The Center Of National Politics

75 years ago to the day, a little spot in Daviess County was the center of national politics. It was the first day of what was called "The Cornfield Conference" put on by Homer, Capehart, a man who would become a three-time U.S. senator from Indiana.
75 years ago to the day, a little spot in Daviess County was the center of national politics.

It was the first day of what was called "The Cornfield Conference" put on by the man who would become a three-time U.S. senator from Indiana, Homer Capehart.

"This was a national affair. This impressed me. I mean, this is Washington, Indiana," says Jim Hamersly. Hamersly was 9-years-old when up to 20,000 people gathered in a cornfield north of Washington to talk politics and issues in 1938 America.

The idea came from Capehart, who was a businessman at the time, selling early forms of jukeboxes, record machines. He was a promoter and put on a show, including huge red, white and blue tents to draw attention to the Republican party. Candidates had just been drubbed by Roosevelt Democrats in 1936. The keynote speaker was John Hamilton, the chairman of the National GOP. Capehart didn't like what was going on.

"He saw that the individual businessman needed to have the government get out of their way and he was looking at the New Deal as getting more and more involved in everybody's business and he thought, you know, as an entrepreneur, you need to have less restrictions and more to really succeed in this country," says Jim Pearson, Capehart's grandson.

Pearson says Capehart personally paid for the conference which was $25,000. Housing and feeding everyone that showed up was no easy challenge, but it was exciting for local folks like Hamersly, who did not have a stance politically one way or the other.

"I was into the people, the national figures that were there, people I'd read about in the newspaper, and I shook hands with and that kind of thing," says Hamersly.

How did so many people get there? Some drove, but a lot found their way to the spot north of Washington by train.

"They had a direct line there to Indianapolis and Evansville, so they were coming in by railroad, but could have possibly been coming by plane," says county museum director Vince Sellers.

A monument is about the only thing left of the spot that was the biggest news of the day to those 75 years ago, out in the middle of Daviess County.

Capehart was elected to three terms in the United States Senate before losing in 1962 to Vigo County's Birch Bayh.
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