INDIANPOLIS — Visitors of the Indiana State Fair who see
Mauri Williamson also likely will see a number of people stop and shake his hand
or share a story with him.
The well-known Hoosier founded Pioneer Village and served as
executive secretary of the Purdue Agriculture Alumni Association for 40 years.
Today, Williamson, an Economy native and U.S. Navy veteran,
lives in West Lafayette with his wife of 66 years, June.
Williamson describes his feelings for all things agriculture
as a deep love affair. His passion for preserving and presenting history through
the collection of buildings, people, antiques and equipment in Pioneer Village
is just as strong.
In addition to his involvement in Pioneer Village, he is a
board member for the newly formed Indiana Barns Foundation and hopes to see the
urgency to preserve these items continue.
Q: How did Pioneer Village begin?
A: Pioneer Village started as a project by the Purdue
Agriculture Alumni Association in 1961. At first it started as a second-floor
room at the grandstand. We thought people wouldn’t make it to see it, but 20,000
people came up to the second floor. In 1968, it was moved to the current
location on the fairgrounds.
Q: How has it grown?
A: It started with old tractors and then through items from
Purdue University and donations from others. We’ve gotten some pretty priceless
items over the years. It continues to grow each year.
Q: Why is this place special to you?
A: To see people look at this stuff by the hundreds of
thousands is a pretty special feeling. There are 200 to 300 volunteers here each
year and that makes me happy.
Q: Tell me where you’re from.
A: I grew up in Economy, Ind., in Wayne County. My parents
farmed, so I helped them out on the farm and was involved with 4-H. It is also
where I met my wife, June. We met in the 1940s at a county fair, and were
married two years later to the day. We’ve now been married for 66 years.
Q: What is your connection to agriculture?
A: I’ve always had a connection to agriculture. With parents
who farmed, it came naturally. What makes me feel warm is my big love affair
Q: What was your experience with the Purdue Agriculture
A: I spent 40 years as executive secretary of the Purdue Ag
Alumni Association. It is a service organization, and I’ve spent a lot of the
time on the road helping young people.
Q: Another group you’re involved with is Indiana Barn
Foundation. Tell me about it.
A: Preserving Indiana barns is a passion of mine. We would
like to eventually keep a directory of where the barns are so we can begin to
try to preserve that history. If a barn has a good roof, it will last for a few
years; if a barn has a bad roof, it won’t last. We are trying to save barns one
roof at a time.
Q: What does agriculture mean to you?
A: Agriculture is more than eating biscuits. A lot of people
who visit the state fair are not farmers, but these people feel close to the
land. There is a love and loyalty in agriculture and a certain affinity for the