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4 Reasons to Study History in Billy Sunday’s Hometown, Winona Lake

Geography minor at Grace College

To all the history buffs out there, you know that every country, every city, and every small town has its own history. History is not something you obtain based on your size or notoriety — if you exist, you have a story. And if you have a story, you have a history. We have a lot to learn from the past, and reasons to study history. When we study people and cultures in history, we develop a keen understanding of the past which can enlighten us about the present and the future. 

We know this because we’ve learned from our own fair share of history right here in Winona Lake, Indiana. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Winona Lake is the hometown of the world-renowned evangelist, Billy Sunday. During the early decades of the twentieth century, Billy Sunday was among the best-known personalities in America. In 1911, Sunday moved his headquarters to Winona, where he and his wife, Helen, raised four children. (You can watch this video, featuring our own Dr. Terrence White, to learn more about Sunday.)

Not to mention, surrounding the turn of the 19th century, countless visitors, including many pillars of the faith such as Billy Graham, would flock to Winona Lake in the summers during its Chautaqua and Bible conference era. 

Winona Lake, Indiana, has a rich history, making it an ideal place to study history. Don’t believe us? Here are four reasons to study history. 

Winona Lake, home of Billy Sunday, evangelist and Grace College. Reasons to Study History with us - Billy Sunday Museum and History Center.

Learn how to preserve and exhibit history. 

The Winona History Center is housed on the Grace College campus in the historic Westminister Hall. The center endeavors to foster educational and scholarly interest in Winona’s heritage through the preservation and exhibition of historical collections and by inspiring a new generation to discover the treasures of American history. Students in the history program at Grace have plenty of opportunities to get hands-on experience in the History Center. 

Austin Treen, a history major and pre-law minor, described his time working with the center. “I have learned a lot about the rich history of Winona Lake, and I have gained a deeper appreciation for local history and the importance of preserving it. I’ve also learned much about Billy Sunday and the impact he had on the community here in northern Indiana and in the rest of the country,” reflected Treen.

There is a lot that goes into effective historical preservation and presentation. That’s why students of history need to be trained and mentored in this craft, which leads us to our next point…

Winona Lake, home of Billy Sunday, evangelist and Grace College. Reasons to Study History with us - Billy Sunday Museum and History Center.

Be mentored by the local history experts. 

The Winona History Center has several seasoned history buffs that enjoy pouring their knowledge and experience into history students. 

Karen Birt has been the coordinator of the History Center and Billy Sunday Home for the past three years. Birt does research and writing for the center including a quarterly newsletter and many archival articles. Birt gives tours to area visitors and school groups, and even writes lesson plans that correlate with Indiana state educational standards. 

Dr. Terrence White is the chief docent for the History Center. He has worked for the History Center for around eight years, but his appreciation for Winona Lake’s history was sparked in 2013, Winona Lake’s 100-Year Anniversary. White began collecting material, interviewing town officials and senior citizens, and prowling local archives. In June 2013, he published a 340-page illustrated book titled “Winona at 100: Third Wave Rising.” 

Museum Studies Minor at Grace College

Foster a love for history in the community. 

Many students who intern with the History Center get to assist Birt with presentations for elementary school students. For many of these children, it might be their first time at a history museum. It is the aim of the History Center to provide a dynamic learning experience for students and help generate enthusiasm about the past. This is accomplished by facilitating “learning adventures,” complete with photo scavenger hunts, visits to the Billy Sunday Home, and outdoor journeys around the remnants of Chautauqua-era artesian springs. 

An appreciation for history can start at a young age. If you’re pursuing secondary social studies education, this is an excellent chance to start honing your skills for the classroom!

Invest your talent. 

Studying history in Winona Lake also provides you with an outlet to invest the knowledge and skills you are developing in the classroom. At Grace, your education will impact something bigger than yourself. 

In 2019, the Winona History Center received a $1,700 grant from Indiana Humanities and Indiana Landmarks to create an interactive virtual tour of the Billy Sunday home. The project, which was opened to the public in February of 2020, invited Grace College history students to invest their talents in out-of-the-box ways. 

Austin Treen helped market the project on Grace’s campus, and Issac VanLoh, a secondary social studies education major, helped edit copy and troubleshot technical issues that arose with the new program. “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to help with the Winona History Center,” said VanLoh. “My experience at the Center has helped prepare me for my future career as a teacher,” he added.

Thanks to the assistance of Treen, VanLoh, and many others, those unable to access the building will be able to walk through the building as if they were really there!

If you want to learn how to preserve and exhibit history, be mentored by the experts, foster a love for history in the community, and invest your talent in projects bigger than yourself — studying history at Grace College is the path for you. 

Learn more about our history and political science program and the Winona History Center. 

If you’re specifically interested in working at a museum, check out our Museum Studies minor.

Tagged With: Connected Community, History & Political Science, School of Arts and Humanities