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Wesley Park. You might have heard the name if you’ve combed your way through the early chapters of DeKalb County history. He’s mentioned in the stories of early settlers and the early years of the DeKalb County Fair. There’s even an apartment complex behind DeKalb Memorial Hospital that’s named after him.
But who was he?
Wesley Park was born November 11, 1811, in Licking County, Ohio. We don’t know much about his early life, but in 1836, the year before DeKalb County was organized, he came to Indiana and founded Auburn.
Park was highly involved in his community—he served in a number of roles for Auburn and for DeKalb County over the years. He was the county’s first treasurer, as well as the sheriff. He was a supervisor for one of the county’s road districts, the county’s school commissioner, and served on the building committees for the county’s first jail and courthouse. According to historian John Martin Smith, Wesley Park also leased out six-and-a-half acres of land for the county to use as its fairgrounds.
But Park didn’t stay in Auburn forever. According to author Margaret Hobson, he enrolled in the Union army in 1861, and was mustered out on November 22 of that year—he was 50 years old. He resigned in December with the rank of Captain and then became a sutler, a civilian merchant whose job was to sell provisions to the army.
After the war, Park moved to Andrew County, Missouri, where he died three years later of typhoid fever. Though he’s buried in Missouri, a memorial for him can be found in the Old Auburn Cemetery.
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