|A Visit to Aurora and Lawrenceburg, Indiana|
County - Dearborn
Area - Total 6.99 sq mi
Population (2010) - 678
Area code - 812
Located at the intersection of Indiana State Roads 46 and 1, St. Leon also has access to Interstate 74 at Exit 164. Local lore suggests that the town derives its name from St. Leon Bembo. The town's Pole Raising event has become famous state wide as the only remaining pole raising ceremony in Indiana.
St. Leon Bembo (Birth Date Unknown - c. 1188)
Leon Bembo was a Catholic Saint born in Venice, Italy. He served as a diplomat to one of the Doge's of Venice. The Doge was the title of an elected leader who served for life. St. Leon was injured in religious riots, after which he retired to a monastery.
St. Leon is the only town in Indiana that still holds a "Pole Raising," ceremony. The Pole Raising is a quadrennial event that takes place during Presidential election years. Drawn from the traditional "Liberty Pole," of the years predating the American Revolution, the Pole Raising became popular in the Presidential election of Democrat Andrew Jackson and National Republican (Whig) John Q. Adams. The Democrats used a hickory pole, in honor of their candidate's nickname, Old Hickory. The Democrats first used the donkey as a symbol during this election. The symbol originated when the opposition Whigs labeled Jackson a jackass. The Democrats adopted the symbol unofficially during that election. It became the official symbol in 1870. The Whigs adopted a yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipfera) as their pole and the log cabin as their symbol. The Pole Raising became a popular quadrennial event during the remainder of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. Parades, barbeques and other political speeches accompanied the pole-raising event. The St. Leon Pole Raising uses a former Democratic emblem with Indiana roots, the Rooster.
Typically, a Liberty Pole was a tall wooden pole with a Phrygian Cap on top. A Phrygian Cap was a cap worn by freed slaves in Rome. The symbol arose in 44 BC after the assassination of Emperor Julius Caesar. A Liberty Pole marked a meeting place of the Sons of Liberty and was a symbol of their protests. British troops frequently cut these poles down, which was a highly provocative act.
St. Leon Pole Raising
Since this is a Democratic Party event, a traditional hickory pole is used. During the morning of the event residents trek into the woods, choose a hickory tree, and cut it down using the traditional crosscut saw. They fasten a flag with the Rooster emblem to the pole, as well as an American Flag. They suspend the pole between two wagons, after carrying it back into town, and parade it through the streets. After the parade, workers raise the pole using traditional rope methods to a chorus of cheers. The pole remains in place until Election Day. For more information on the St. Leon Pole Raising, contact:
St. Leon Pole Raising
The Democratic Rooster
The Indiana Whig's derisive chant to their opponent, Joseph Chapman during the 1840 elections turned into an emblem for the Indiana Democratic Party and later the National Party.
A native of Ohio, Chapman migrated to Indiana to Rush County. In 1829 he moved to Hancock County where built the first tavern in the new town of Greenfield in 1834. He married twice, the first time to Jane Curry, with whom he had six children. Mrs. Curry passed away and he married Matilda Agnes. That union produced five children. He entered politics as a Jacksonian Democrat and won the 1832 election as town clerk. In 1837, he gained election to the Indiana House of Representatives. He won reelection four times. His 1840 election produced the Democratic Party emblem.
“Crow, Chapman, Crow!”
Birth of the Symbol
Chapman gained renown for his boasting style of speech. The term for boasting at the time was to accuse someone of "crowing," in reference to the raucous bird. When Chapman would speak, the Whigs took up the derisive chant, “Crow, Chapman, Crow.” The Democrats picked up on this and turned it around, using the crow as the emblem for his campaign. Chapman won that election, prompting the Indiana Democrats to adopt the symbol. The National Democrats soon adopted it. Though the jackass, first used on Democrats during Andrew Jackson's campaign in 1828, became the unofficial emblem in 1870, the rooster still saw use after that. As late as 1944, Franklin Roosevelt still used it. Many Democrats still use the emblem in some areas of the United States.
Excerpted from the author's book:
Exploring Indiana's Historic Sites, Markers & Museums - East Central Edition
Dearborn County has erected an historical marker honoring the event.
On this site, since 1892, during each Presidential election campaign, a tall hickory pole bearing an American Flag and Democrat "Rooster," is raised by manpower alone. Once widespread custom dating from 1828 campaign of Andrew "Old Hickory," Jackson.
7282 Church Lane
West Harrison, IN 47060