Community & Public Service
Huntington County has a rich history, from its earliest Native America residents to its multicultural heritage and its historic sites and buildings. That history has not only been preserved, but continues to be celebrated in the county, largely because of the efforts of Jean Gernand.
In 1975 while a teacher at Huntington North High School, Gernand reactivated the Junior Historical Society. From there, she offered a plan to sponsor a pioneer festival at the school. Since then, the Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival has grown to a two-day event, drawing more than 20,000 visitors a year. The next project of Gernand’s Junior Historical Society came in 1977 with the goal to restore the Miami Chief Richardville House, which earned a Young Preservationists Award in 1978. Combined with donations and grants, the society was able to purchase the house, now located at the Historic Forks of the Wabash.
Gernand was part of the group that organized Huntington Alert, a local historic preservation group that has saved numerous sites, including the restoration of the Hotel LaFontaine. Along the way, she served as part of committee that worked to revive Huntington’s annual Heritage Days festival after it had suffered from lagging attendance and participation.
Other preservation efforts have included the Samuel Purviance House, Horace Mann School, the Old German School and the Old German Cemetery. With her expertise and research, she helped develop a map listing more than 200 historic sites in Huntington County. Gernand has served on several state historical and arts committees.
She continues to work on programs that highlight the area’s history, from its Miami Indian culture, pioneer history, German heritage, and the efforts of Huntington County women, among many others. Gernand even wrote and directed a pageant of more than 200 people celebrating the county’s sesquicentennial in 1984.
She has been honored numerous times by local and state organizations. She was Huntington’s Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe in 1983, and received the Hubert Hawkins History Award from the Indiana Historical Society in 2008. Gernand was presented with one of Indiana’s highest honors with the Distinguished Hoosier Award from Gov. Mike Pence in 2014. In 2016, she received a Distinguished Service Award from her alma mater, Purdue University.