Monticello’s Muffler Man

Montpelier, Indiana is near the site of the Godfroy Reserve, a tract of 840 acres allotted to Miami Nation Chief Francois Godfroy in return for his assistance in settling the 1818 Treaty of St. Mary’s. The town celebrates its proximity through this Muffler Man that’s been plopped into a small park downtown, at the southeast corner of East Huntington and South Main streets. 

Montpelier’s Muffler Man Indian statue pays tribute to the area’s Native American heritage.

I’ve always thought that the juxtaposition of a twenty-five-foot-tall fiberglass caricature and a solemn historical marker was bizarre. But maybe that’s just me! Admittedly, I didn’t know a lot about the statue’s provenance, aside from it for sure being a legitimate International Fiberglass Indian. It was one of at least twelve that were once used to sell cars. This one originally stood at Dave Waite Pontiac at the corner of 54th Street and Keystone Avenue in Indianapolis. 

An identical Indian stood at Sea Crest Motors, a Cadillac-Pontiac-Mazda dealership in Lynn, Massachusetts. International Fiberglass made several variants, but identical statues stand today in Irving, New York, Riverhead, New York, Lake Wappapello, Missouri, and San Antonio. 

After spending fifteen years at Dave Waite Pontiac, Montpelier’s statue was moved to the Museum of Indian Heritage at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis.

At this point, I’ve got to ask a question: I’ve always thought of statues as things that were carved out of rock. Maybe they weren’t carved in one piece and were assembled later, but a statue was something that was really and truly made from a stone blank. This was made out fiberglass from a mold. Though it presumable has some sort of internal structure that holds it up, is it really a statue?

I consulted to answer my question.

Statue: “a three-dimensional work of art, as a representational or abstract form, carved in stone or wood, molded in a plastic material, cast in bronze, or the like.”

Ok. Statue it is.

Unfortunately, the statue was not part of the museum’s plans to move downtown, but in 1984 Chief Larry Godfroy -the great-great-grandson of Francois- presented the statue to the mayor of Montpelier with the understanding that if the Godfroy Reserve was ever to become a state park, the statue would be relocated a final time to its entrance, under no expense to the tribe.

The remains of Harrison Township’s District 4 schoolhouse, known as Goodboo, sit inside the former Godfroy Reserve.

It’s unlikely that the statue will be moved out of downtown Montpelier anytime soon, as the presence of two endangered plants, the frog orchid and the small purple-fringed orchid, in the Godfroy Reserve scuttles continued efforts to turn it over to the state for public perusal. 

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