Who We Are

Conner Prairie History    

When you explore Indiana’s past at Conner Prairie, history comes alive. Dial back two hundred years, and you would find William Conner living in a log home beside the White River with his Lenape Indian spouse and five children. To make a living, he bought furs from Indians who trapped the rich forests of this state.

But William’s life and Indiana changed rapidly soon after. The Lenape left Indiana. William Conner married anew and in 1823 built a grand house on a hill overlooking a flood plain that came to be known as "Conner’s Prairie." He became a major land owner, a statesman and a wealthy businessman.

In the 1930s, Eli Lilly, then president of the pharmaceutical company, stumbled upon Conner’s house, forgotten and falling down. Lilly believed history to be an essential cornerstone of American democracy, so he bought the Conner Homestead in 1934 and immediately began using it as the centerpiece for historical reenactments to "connect people with history in ways books cannot." Always a champion of education, Lilly opened the site to the public so people could see their heritage brought to life.

That was the start of the first phase of Conner Prairie’s life. Over the decades, present-day Conner Prairie began to take shape.

The second phase began in the 1970s when Museum Director Myron Vourax worked with renowned Folklorist Henry Glassie to create a "living history museum." A place where staff dress, act and speak as if in the time period they portray. 1836 Prairietown opened at this time. What first became known as the "Conner Prairie Concept" because it was so new, later developed into our groundbreaking Opening Doors approach to guest interaction.

Today, Conner Prairie is known as an "Interactive History Park." Families of today engage, explore and discover what it was like to live and play in Indiana’s past. Every visit is a unique adventure that provides an authentic look into the history that shapes us today.