The Great Depression and the Putnam County Farmer
Cavanaugh, John Leo
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In February 1981, Putnam County Indiana applied to the Indiana University Communities project which is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities for a resident oral historian to come to Greencastle, the county seat, in order to educate volunteers in the discipline of oral historical research. The idea was to compile a local history on how the Putnam county rural resident was affected by the Great Depression using oral historical research techniques. The•final history would then go into the stacks of the Putnam County Library. The Indiana University Communities project accepted the county’s proposal and sent oral historian Cathy Hanby-Sikora to Greencastle as a three month resident oral historian. After having instructed the volunteers in the methods of oral history, the folklorist and novice oral historians began interviewing Putnam County residents. At the end of Hanby-Sikora's three month residency the oral historians had gathered a great deal of important information from enthusiastic farmers and town residents on ten cassette tapes. In August 1981, I was asked by the Putnam County Historical Society and the Greencastle-Putnam County Library to help in the completion of the research project. My task was to complete the interviewing process, organize all data, and write the actual local history. As I concluded the interviewing phase of the project, it became apparent that the body of the paper would have a three part organization. The first part, which is called "Putnam County Farmers Face the Depression," considers the Depression as it affected Putnam County farmers between 1929 and 1932. The second part, entitled “Interdependence," suggests that the common, dependence shared between Putnam County farmers accounts most greatly for their survival during the 1930s. The final part, entitled “Putnam County Farmers and the New Deal," concerns itself with how Putnam County farmers responded to FDR and the New Deal.