City of DeWitt embraces its history

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By Brittany Flowers
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter

DEWITT — The area that is now known as DeWitt became a frontier settlement in 1833 when it was investigated by Capt. David Scott and his family, according to the City of DeWitt’s website.

The population may have started small, but according to the United States Census Bureau the population has grown to 4,632 as of 2013, and the people of DeWitt have constant reminders of the history that lies within the city.

Posting in DeWitt of a historic site

Posting in DeWitt of a historic site

If you take a walk through the City of DeWitt, you’ll find 29 signs scattered throughout the city that read “City of DeWitt Historic Site.”

City Administrator Daniel Coss said the historical program has been around for many years.

“We feel it is really important to highlight the historical homes in DeWitt. These homes and the history behind them are what created DeWitt and are part of the city’s identity,” Coss said.

Historic home in DeWitt

Historic home in DeWitt

The program highlights some of the first homes that were built in the city with markings posted outside the homes that contain historical data including the family that lived there and when the home was built.

DeWitt resident Linda Travis has lived in the city for close to 40 years and remembers the signs being there since she moved DeWitt.

“[It brings] a sense of stability, because it’s been here a long time,” Travis said.

The historical program not only brings stability to the residents of DeWitt, but also an opportunity for the city’s youth to be engaged in the history that lies right in their backyard.

Luke Donohue of Boy Scout Troop 77 did his Eagle Scout project on the historical program.

Historic DeWitt map in Riverside Park

Historic DeWitt map in Riverside Park

“He put downtown, at the park downtown — Riverside Park, there’s a little display down there now and it’s got a map where all the homes are at and a little flyer that basically describes each of the homes and what not,” DeWitt Township Manager and Boy Scout Leader Rodney Taylor said, adding that Donohue replaced about a half a dozen signs that had gotten broken or damaged over the years.

The historic homes have been turned into businesses such as chiropractic offices and law offices, but some are simply occupied by everyday families of DeWitt.

Law office and historic site in DeWitt.

Law office and historic site in DeWitt.

“Many of the homeowners take great pride in preserving these historic homes and this is a way for us to recognize those efforts,” Coss said.

Peter N. Stearns of the American Historical Association said, “History also helps provide identity, and this is unquestionably one of the reasons all modern nations encourage its teaching in some form. Historical data includes evidence about how families, groups, institutions and whole countries were formed and about how they have evolved.”

Stearns said many institutions, businesses, communities, and social units use history for similar identity purposes. “Merely defining the group in the present pales against the possibility of forming an identity based on a rich past.”

Timeline of historic events on the City of DeWitt's website.

Timeline of historic events on the City of DeWitt’s website.

The City of DeWitt’s website has historical information dating back all the way to 1833 with events occurring each decade and almost each year since the city’s settlement.

“History’s always important,” Travis said, and DeWitt residents in addition to city officials seem to recognize that.

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