The Poland Chautauqua was held in the big tent on the Poland School grounds, usually the last of July or sometime in August. The first Chautauqua was held August 20 through August 27, 1916. A program was found of this first Chautauqua, being organized under the leadership of Rev. E. C. Lindsey, Presbyterian Minister. He had the cooperation of the citizens of Poland and the committee had to look for talent that was suitable for our community.
The Landermark Orchestra entertained. One session was a drama in three acts, “Damon and Pythias,” given by the Knights of Pythias Lodge of Terre Haute. The Harmony Quartette sang for the enjoyment of the crowd. Character readings and impersonations were presented.
On Saturday evening a Rural Melodrama was given entitled, “The Old New Hampshire Home.” Mrs. Rose Schoppenhorst shared the information; the cast was asked to give this play many times. One time in the Public Hall, when it was given again, many attended the second time. The characters were: Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Kattman, Mr. and Mrs. Ross Kattman, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Schoppenhorst, Dana B. Spangler, Clay Nees, Rev. Lindsey, Clarence Knoll, and Paul Koile.
The entertainers that came from other towns were taken into the homes of Poland citizens.
Indiana Governor Ralston was invited to come to the first Chautauqua by Rev. Lindsey, but the Governor wrote back saying, “I am sorry, but I have another engagement.” Rev. Lindsey replied, “You be here on Sunday evening at 8 o’clock. This is your home community, and we’ll be expecting you.” Governor Ralston came and was met at Reelsville.
After the success of the first Chautauqua, many more were held. It is not certain if the event was held in 1917 or 1918 during WWI. The ones after 1918 were given over to a Chautauqua Association from Indianapolis and New York. The programs were all planned for three days, afternoon and evening sessions. Rev. Lindsey came back in 1919 to attend.
When the Junior Chautauqua was held, a lady came three days before it started and held play fun for children in the morning at 9:00 o’clock. She had parades, games, yells, stories, stunts, and music. She had these children perform in the afternoon, and on the third day they presented music, dramatizations, stories, and yells. As time passed through the years, one man remembered some of the songs they sang, and a lady remembered some of the yells and gave them.
Magicians and chalk artists were enjoyed by all, and a bicycle parade was held one year with each boy and girl decorating their bicycles.
Adult season tickets for all sessions sold for $1.50—what fine entertainment for so little cost. The citizens were proud to sponsor a Chautauqua for fourteen years; the last one was held in 1932.
Partial quote of President Woodrow Wilson: “If we discourage the locality, the community, the self-contained town, we will kill the nation.”
Sources: History of Poland’s Chautauqua of Marie Sendmeyer, via, Wilmadean Schepper Submitted by: Jo Ann Pell, Clay County Genealogy Library