History of Elwood


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Published by The Woman's Council Elwood Chamber of Commerce Under the auspices of The Elwood Centennial Committee, Inc.


William Barton opened a store in Pipe-Creek Township, Madison County, Indiana. This store, not far from the banks of Duck Creek was just east of where the City Building now stands. Although the town was, for some years, called Duck Creek, it had really been named Quincy. At first there was no post office and people used the one in New Lancaster


James Anderson, Mark Simmons and J. B. Frazier laid out the town with one north and south street which was called Anderson street and three east and west streets. These were Main street, Simmons street which is now A street, and Walnut street which is now north A street. There were already many settlers and the first school was built at what is the corner of south Anderson street at south P street.


The town was fortunate to have a railroad come through. What was then the Cincinnati and Chicago Railroad later became the the Pennsylvania Railroad system.


Florence Burress Wright, daughter of Solomon A. and Margaret Burress was the first child born in Elwood. A granddaughter, Mrs. G. T. Hosecuster lived at 409 north 12th street at the time this publication was written.


The town of Quincy now numbered about 300 people. Francis M. Hunter, who had a store was also postmaster. He was notified by the post-office department that Indiana already had a town in Owens County named Quincy, and the department suggested that the name here be changed. As a group of men were discussing the matter they noticed the small son of Jesse B. Fraiser playing about. His name was Elwood and someone suggested that they give the town his name, so, officially on June 15 1869 Quincy became Elwood.


Wm. Barton opened the first Bank.


Elwood was incorporated as a town and elected the following town officials, Huston Clendenen, G. W. Hupp, and John Ross, trustees; George Ross, treasurer; J.H. Hunter, clerk, and J. M. Parsons, marshal. A new railroad, mostly a freight line, came through Elwood, this was the Muncie, Lafayette and Bloomington system, later the Lake Erie and western, or the L. E. & W. which the citizens dubbed the Leave Early & Walk. This railway was important to Elwood because it provided transportation of grain and live stock to Buffalo and other eastern markets. In 1922 this line became the Nickel Plate.


This was the year in which B. J. Calloway erected the first brick building in Elwood to house his dry goods store opened the preceding year. that building is the nucleus of the old Montgomery Wards building at the corner of Main & Anderson streets.


The first factory in Elwood was a flax mill owned by John H. Wagner and Kidwell. It was located "way out in the country" at what is now the corner of Main st. and 22nd street. This factory burned and was never rebuilt. At this time the town was shipping quantities of lumber, heading and stave materials. There was a Methodist and a Christian Church, a brick school house, a good hotel, a livery stable, a flouring mill and a tan yard, the latter located where the gymnasium now stands Among the business firms Burris & Quick, J.M. DeHority & son, H.C.Calloway and A. Chamness and Dwiggins were merchants. The Druggists were F.M. Hunter, J.F. Mock, and Hunter and Waymire. The Harnessmakers firm was T. Samuals & Brother, and the shoemakers were James Parsons, William Hoppenrath and John Buckanan.J.M.Overshiner and Company made wagons and George Barns and Son and James Hanna were blacksmiths. Lumber dealers were Sawyer, Cochran & son and Gustave Kramer. J.T. Adire was a miller and F.M. Hunter was the postmaster.


The first newspaper in Elwood was the Elwood Review, founded by George Winters. This plant was at the corner of Main and Anderson street on the site of the old Montgomery Wards building.


Natural gas wells were discovered, wild excitement and a genuine boom followed. New industries came for the cheap fuel; gas lights flared continually; streets and sidewalks were paved and the population in a few years from 2280 to over 15.000 people. They had no meters, a flat rate prevailed. 10 cent per month for cooking, .75 cent a month for heating, .05 cents per month for each jumbo light in the house. The street lights burned day and night as it was more economical than to hire a man to turn them off and on each day. We still use gas for heating, but natural gas is piped in from Texas and mixed with artificial gas.


Elwood had grown up and in this year was incorporated as a city. On June 9th an election was held and William DeHority, at the age of 21 became our first mayor at a salary of $100.00 dollars a year. O.A. Armfield became clerk , at $250.00 per year, and Thomas DeHority was treasurer at $200.00 per year. The city marshal was Frank Hunter whose salary was $720.0 per year, the most because he had the longest hours.
The city engineer, H.S. Freeman worked only as needed and received $4.00 per day. City Attorney George Ballard received $300.00 per year. Councilmen of the first ward were, George Brier and Jacob Kraus, of the second ward; Hugh Lyst and Martian Goode, the third ward; Daniel Heck and Samuel Cochran, the fourth ward was John Frith and Beecher Willots. These men were paid 75.00 per year and the street commissioner, George Steiback $2.00 per day. Dr. James Ringo, secretary of the Board of Health received $50.00 per year.


The first electric power plant was opened in June. The American Sheet and Tin Plate opened a plant in Elwood to make the first tin ever manufactured in America. Part of the plant was shipped from Wales. William Banfield headed a group of Welsh and English tin makers who immigrated to Elwood to staff the Elwood plant. On Sept. 13, 1892 this "mill" as it was usually called, was formally opened with a big celebration known as McKinley Day. William B. Leeds and Danial G. Reid, financiers of Richmond, Indiana and interested in the Pennsylvania Railroad, had conceived the idea of putting a tin factory in Elwood. To do this it was necessary to have a tariff law passed which would favor the manufacture and exportation of tin. William McKinley was then a senator from Ohio and due largely to his efforts, the necessary bill was passed. Later he became Ohio's Governor and shortly afterwards was invited to Elwood to dedicate the new mill.There was a huge crowd on hand and even a downpour of rain didn't dampen the enthusiasm. The Tin Plate was increased eventually to 28 hot mills which made it the largest as well as the first plant of its kind in America The fire department was organized April 1, 1892. Patrick O'Brian became fire chief Oct. 1st 1892. the department was located on west Main street where the Standard stores parking lot use to be, but was moved to the City Building in 1900. Horse-drawn apparatus was used, until the Big Kramer Grand fire, after which the faithful horses were sadly replaced by motor trucks. In 1892 the department consisted of two regular men, eight volunteers, one wagon and two horses. Six paid men were added in 1895 and in 1899 they added two more paid men and dropped the volunteers.


By 1893 Elwood had 45 industries with a capitalization of $7,467,000 and employment of 3,735 men. Confidence in Elwood's future was unlimited.


This year saw the completion of the new City Building at a cost of $35,000. At that time the councilmen were Phil Hamm, L.J. Ringo, Lute Douge, and William Davis. F. M. Harbit was mayor, J.J. Davis was clerk, W.A. Hupp, treasurer, and John Finan engineer. The building commissioners were F.F. Hornack and E. Rummel, J.S. Alexander and Son were the architects.


The Indiana Union Traction Company had linked Elwood with Tipton and Alexandria, making it possible to leave Elwood almost every hour on an interurban which would connect to places all over the state.


The gas boom collapsed!! Although geologist had repeatedly affirmed that the supply of gas was practically inexhaustible, nevertheless it did give out. The blow was sudden and stunning- besides the Tin Plate many large glass factories had located here , among them were Pittsburgh Plate Glass, the McBeth Evans, the McCoy Glass company and many others with smaller payrolls. Most of the factories left and many of the people. The Tin Plate and McBeth Evans companies did remain for many years. The rich soil around Elwood has always yielded excellent grain crops. At the turn of the century it was found that this soil was adapted to the growing of tomatoes. O.B. Frazier had been canning tomatoes on his farm south of town. This was the start of an industry which has had an amazing growth, giving the farmers an added cash crop as well as employment to thousands of people.


The Elwood Police Department became a member of the Metropolitan Police of Indiana.


On July 4th 1918 the City Park was dedicated. This beautiful site of 40 wooded acres was a gift from one of Elwood's leading business, Henry C. Calloway. This park has afforded untold pleasures to thousands of people each year. It has ball diamonds, tennis courts, a shelter house, play ground for the kids, and tables & benches for the many picnics and reunions there. In 1932 the city added a swimming pool.


The Mercy Hospital had long been in the mind of Father Biegel and in the fall of 1925 the cornerstone was laid. The doctors of Elwood, the city officials, and the people all helped on this worthy and much needed project. Within 10 years the building had to be enlarged amd in 1951 another addition was built.The xray equipment was completely renovated so that our hospital, though small, was acknowledged to be one of the best in the state, and was officially rated so. The first patient was admitted on Nov. 15 1926.


The Elwood Country Club was organized by Wilfred Sellers, E.C. DeHority, James W. Harris, Luther M. Gross, Joseph H. Fihe, George H. DeHority and King Leeson, when they executed the Articles of Incorporation of the Elwood Country Club Realty Company. The Anthony Chanmess farm one & one half miles south of Elwood on State Highway 13 was purchased for the Country Club house and golf course. The wooded section between the club house and the highway was planted in a heart-shaped pattern in memory of Wilfred Sellers, who had given the ground for the club. This planting was done by the sales organization of the G.I. Sellers & Sons Company.


Fortunately for Elwood, the Continental Can Company located a plant here when factories were desperately needed. To celebrate this event Elwood had another big day when Continental Can Day was staged.


The first Tomato Festival was held, with Miss Zola Mae Cook choose to act as Queen of the ceremonies. Business and industrial firms, and many civic organizations had floats in the huge parade, and this festival, as well as several others which followed, was a gay and colorful celebration of the huge annual tomato crop which Elwood an vicinity harvests and packs each year.


During these years Elwood's two remaining large industries, the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company, known in later years as part of the Caregie Illinois Steel Company, and the McBeth Evans Glass Company closed their Elwood plants permanently. Cheap Fuel was not available and with transportation so costly it was no longer profitable to operate these industries here.


Realizing the critical situation, a group of Business men and women formed the Elwood Industrial Bureau, with the sole purpose of attracting new industries to Elwood. The officers were, president, King Leeson; vice-president, Orla A. Wann; treasurer, Rolland Neese; secretary, Sheridan Clyde. The directors were Robert H. Carpender, Roy Laughlin, Merle Hoppenrath, Fred Van Tine, George Bonham, Jessie Dietzen and C.G. Norris.


The greatest day in Elwood's history came August 17, 1940, after four months of excitement such as Elwood had never known. For on that date Wendell L. Willkie accepted his nomination for President as a candidate of the Republican Party. Three hundred thousand people descended upon Elwood by train, car, bus and airplane. From downtown Elwood to Calloway park all traffic was forbidden so that the mass of people might move freely and in safe. The thermometer entered into the spirit of the excitement and stood in the high nineties, the dry earth yielded her top soil in fine dust that mixed with perspiration to plague the throngs too happy to care. Wendell had requested that the ceremony be held on the steps of the Central Building under the motto carved over the entrance "The Hope Of Our Country." As the plans progressed the committees realized that only Calloway Park could begin to accommodate the people. So Elwood, Itself, took over two ceremonies on the school house steps. On Friday night Aug 16th artist from all over the nation, who asked for the privilege, staged three hours of clever entertainment. All through the night people moved up and down the streets enjoying the coolness of the night and too eagar and excited to want to sleep. At 1 o'clock Saturday the bell in central tower, the same old bell which had been the center of many school boy pranks, began to ring as the neighbors and friends of Wendell and all the Willkie family rejoiced with him with the honor which had come to him. Deeply stirred by this scene, Wendell was overcome and rested a few minutes in one of the class rooms before moving on to the more formal ceremony conducted in the park. When the ceremony was over, as easily, quickly, and quietly as they had come, the great throng departed. At midnight, Elwood was again the small city - hot, exhausted, but deeply, humbly moved to gratitude that once again Elwood had risen to the occasion. Four years later a grief-stricken Elwood held memorial services in the First Methodist Church and the next day in solemn quiet, drove to Rushville to pay a last tribute to Wendell L. Willkie, her son.


In 1946 The Elwood Industrial Bureau became the Elwood Chamber Of Commerce with John C. Klumpp as the first paid full time secretary. Mr Klumpp held this position untill his resignation in 1950. Nineteen industries have located in Elwood due directly to the work of these two organizations, and indirectly others have also come.


In this year the Woman,s Council of the Chamber of Commerce was formed. Except in Indianapolis, Elwood was the only Chamber of Commerce in the state to have a Woman's Council as an auxiliary. The purpose was to aid in civic undertakings. One project was to visit new families who move into the city. Twice the council had informal parties for the newcomers, these parties were quite successful in the matter of mutually getting acquainted.


While preparing a short history of Elwood for the first newcomers party, members of the Woman's Council realized that the Centennial year was at hand. They began at once to interest Elwoodians in the celebration of the Centennial, with the result that the president of the Woman's Council, Mrs. Wm. Whitmore, were maned co-chairman of the Elwood Centennial committee, Inc. The other members of the Centennial Committee were chosen from a group of delegates from lodges, churches, sororities, clubs, and from other interested citizens who had been contacted by the Woman's Council. Led by this group, the citizens of Elwood sponsored Elwood's Gala Week. Reviewing the past hundred years we realize that the people of Elwood have always risen above their difficulties. Upon this realization we base our firm conviction that the problems of the next hundred years, different though they may be from those of the past century, will be successfully met.

Rewritten by April Jordan with permission by The Elwood Camber of Commerce.


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