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Kyron Johnson, 4, of Jeffersonville uses a cow simulator to “milk” a cow in Lyles Station.

Juneteenth event celebrates former slaves’ role in farming

– Stanley Madison spent Thursday talking to visitors who came to Lyles Station Museum for its annual Juneteenth celebration about the importance of farming to the community’s settlers and the continuing connection of farming to people of today.

Juneteenth, sometimes called Emancipation Day, celebrates the freeing of slaves by Union soldiers on June 19, 1865, at Galveston, Texas, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation.

Lyles Station, located west of Princeton in southern Indiana, was established in the mid-1840s by freed slaves and flourished into the early 20th century as a community of about 800 residents. Flooding, though, from the nearby Wabash and Patoka rivers took a toll on the community, which saw most of its residents relocate.

The restored Lyles Consolidated School, which served students from 1922 to 1958, continues its mission of educating today with the preservation of the oral, written and physical history of the community’s black American culture, said Madison, founder in 1997 of the Lyles Station Historic Preservation Corp.

“I want them (visitors) to understand the African-American farming side of it,” Madison told the Evansville Courier & Press.

“We’ll talk about milking the cow and how those nine liters of milk are produced every day.

“We’ll talk about the yellow corn and how farmers have to grow enough yellow corn for this year to feed all the people in 2015.”

Madison said he wanted visitors to learn the creative ways Lyles Station founders worked to make a decent living, including making dolls for girls out of corn cobs because the porcelain was too expensive when families had to worry about buying seeds and equipment for the next season.

In addition to talking about how farming was used in the past, Madison connected farming uses from the past with how the products produced are used today.

“We’ll be talking about how we’ve advanced from the early days of our ancestors; feeding up to two-thirds of yellow corn to all of our animals and now we use a third of it for the gasohol,” he said. “When you drove up with the gasoline that went into your gas tank, it actually came from yellow corn.”

Madison said he feels that kids these days have little understanding of where milk actually comes from. With the milking simulation, kids were able to act as if they were milking a real cow and see the “milk” flow into the bucket underneath the cow.

The most important lesson Madison wanted visitors to take away from Lyles Station’s Juneteenth celebration is to have respect for farmers and understand the effect they’ve had and continue to have across the country.

“If they don’t get to that field and get that crop out, we’re not going to eat next year,” he said. “Patience should be there, understanding should be there, and our children should understand just where their food is actually coming from.”

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