Hamilton County History Timeline

Concerning the 400 square miles of Earth

known as Hamilton County, Indiana

by David Heighway


Part I: Genesis

The land: The ground beneath our feet began as the seafloor of the Cambrian, Silurian, and Devonian seas between 550-320 million years ago. The sediment became beds of limestone which had trapped organic matter that later formed natural gas. Eventually the seas receded and land rose and, while there may have been dinosaurs in the area at one time, nothing remains of them. Around 20,000 years ago, the Ice Age began and glaciers scraped off the top layers of ground. The last glacier came through 12,000 years ago, leaving behind runoff which created White River and the gravel beds along the river as part of the glacial till, as well as peat bogs such as Fox Prairie which was organic matter crushed under the glacier.

The area then became a huge hardwood forest with some swampy areas like the Dismal Swamp north of Westfield and the area around Fishers (Mudsock). Some of the first known animals were Ice Age beasts such as mastodons and giant ground sloths, with remains found at Clare and Noblesville. Later animals included deer, bear, cougar, wolves, raccoons, and, most importantly, elk. Migrating elk were the probable source of a trail which went from the Whitewater Valley to the Wea and Wildcat prairies on the Wabash River. This trail crossed through the northern part of the future Hamilton County and was the route for the first humans into the area.

The first people were paleo-indians who came to the area around 10,000 years ago following game. They were followed by other groups like the Mound builders possibly 2,000 years ago and the “Oliver phase” natives around 600 years ago. The Miamis became the first identifiable tribe when they appeared in the 1690s and took control of the area. European traders may have been using the elk trail by 1715 to reach Fort Ouitenon (Lafayette). The Delaware (Lenape) Indians arrived in the 1780s after being pushed out of their homelands on the east coast by European settlers. They made a treaty with the Miami in the 1790s and settled along the river.


 Part II: Clearing the land; 1802 – 1837

1802: arrival of William Conner

1809: Tecumseh passes through area going from Anderson to Tippecanoe

1811: Tecumseh’s uprising

Possibly troops stationed at Strawtown

1812: War of 1812

1813: skirmish at Strawtown

1818: Treaty of St. Mary’s – Delaware leave

1819: First official settlers – Strawtown and Horseshoe Prairie

First African American in county, fur trader Pete Smith

1820: state capitol chosen at meeting at Conner’s house

1821: Kentuckian claims Pete Smith as slave, takes away

1822: Squirrel emigration

1823: petition legislature to become county, approved

Noblesville platted

First regular mail delivery

First major flood

First brick house – William Conner’s

1824: Noblesville becomes county seat

Massacre on Fall Creek – two perpetrators lived in Hamilton Co.

1826: Central Canal approved, part of Internal Improvement Act

1828: George Boxley settles in northwestern part of county

1830: first census – 1,757 people

first courthouse constructed

Roads surveyed as part of internal improvements

Settlers begin arriving and buying land

Scotch-Irish from Kentucky

New York & Pennsylvania

1832: Quakers from North Carolina begin settling in western part of county

Hansel Roberts from North Carolina establishes settlement

1833: County divided into present townships

1834: Westfield established

1835: John Mullen, Irish Catholic, establishes settlement – canal workers

Cicero established (both on Lafayette Trace)

1836: Strawtown formally established

Boxley established (on Lafayette Trace)

Sheilsville (Atlanta) established

German settlement 5 miles northwest of Strawtown

First newspaper in the county, called the Newspaper, published

1837: Bethlehem (Carmel) established by Quakers

Deming established by Quakers

Quakers also have settlements at Hortonville and Bakers Corners

Second courthouse constructed

Massive financial depression hits United States

Banks fail

Indiana goes bankrupt

Canal and road projects fail

Population influx slows

1840 census: 9,855 people – 460% increase

Most of government land has been bought


Part III: Civil Rights, Civil War and Reform; 1837-1886


1837: Rhodes family, escaped slaves, arrive in county

1843: Frederick Douglass assaulted by mob in Pendleton

Westfield resident Micajah White injured with him

Group pelted by rotten eggs in Noblesville

1844: Rhodes family’s former owner attempts to reclaim them

opposed by locals, court case, proven UGRR case

1846: ferry boat on White River

second major flood

1848: Split in Westfield Quaker Church over slavery

Eagletown established

1849: Arcadia established (on proposed rail line)

Nicholsonville (Clarksville) established

1850 census: 12,684 people – 28% increase

County becomes strongly Republican during this decade

1850: Cholera epidemic in Noblesville

1851: first railroad in county completed to Noblesville

New kind of immigrant – refugees from European upheavals of 1848

Many German, some Jewish – Levinson & Joseph families

Nancy Elliot, first Black child born in Noblesville

1852: first agricultural fair

1853: escaped slave comes through Westfield, writes about it in 1855

Baptist Church (Black) established in Noblesville

second lesser cholera epidemic

1856: libraries established in Westfield and Noblesville

1859: Orphan Train drops off Andrew Burke

1860 census: 17,310 people – 35% increase

1860: Martha Talbert writes about escaped slaves in her diary

Union High School organized in Westfield

1861: Civil War begins

John Evans takes handcar to Indianapolis to volunteer

Most Hamilton County men join 39th, 75th and 101st Indiana Inf.

Some Westfield Quakers volunteer

1862: AME Church established in Noblesville

1863: Blacks allowed to enlist in army

William Hoard joins 55th Massachusetts

Many Roberts Settlement men join 28th U.S.C.T.

Morgan’s Raid – many volunteers for three emergency regiments

Church built at Roberts Settlement

1864: “Battle of Tapin’s woodpile” – riot in Noblesville

Suspicions of Confederate sympathizers in eastern part of county

1865: War ends – 277 known dead from county

1866: Millwood (Sheridan) established

1868: first baseball team organized

Noblesville Civil War monument dedicated

1869: first county women’s suffrage group forms in Westfield

General Grant visits Noblesville

1870 census: 20,882 people – 21% increase

1870: Josiah Durfee builds new shop and begins constructing bridges in county

1871: Blacks serve on sheriff’s posse to capture white criminals in Adams Twp.

Hook and ladder fire company formed in Noblesville

1872: Fishers established

Local Black population holds huge rally for Grant on Courthouse Square

1873: both Black churches in Noblesville build new buildings

1874: William Roberts elected Constable in Jackson Township

1876: Sheriff’s residence and jail constructed

1877: railroad from Anderson (Midland) reaches Noblesville

Mexican vaquero visits Noblesville – first known Hispanic

1879: third and present courthouse constructed

1880 census: 24,801 people – 19% increase

1880: Eli Roberts runs for County Recorder

John Hoard elected Constable in Noblesville

Green Roper and Cyrus Roberts appointed to County Grand Jury

Frederick Douglass makes visit to Noblesville

Greeted as hero – huge celebration

Telephone company started in Noblesville

1882: Monon reaches Westfield

Westfield women smash saloon

First G.A.R. post organized in Sheridan

1883: Newspaper goes on crusade against brothels in Noblesville

Suspected brothel is attacked by mob and burned

1885: Midland Railroad completed to Westfield

The “Index’, a temperance and suffrage newspaper, started in Westfield

1886: Midland Railroad completed to western county border


Part IV: Gas Boom and Bust; 1887-1922

1887: Natural gas found in Hamilton County, part of statewide boom

“Wainwright Wonder” is possibly largest well in Indiana

Noblesville incorporates into city, elects mayor

Gas wells part of seal, resembles L.E. & W. railroad logo

1888: Benjamin Harrison elected president

Has friends in Sheridan, visits for hunting

Tie Loy, Chinese laundryman, appears in Noblesville

First known Asian in Hamilton County

1890 census: 26,213 people – 6% increase

During decade, local GAR issues protest against return of confederate battle flags,

refuses to attend “Blue-Gray” reunion, and appoints a Black man – Rev. Barney

Stone – as chaplain

1891: electric company organized in Noblesville

Mayor James Worth Smith paves Noblesville with brick

American Strawboard Company begun in Noblesville

People begin moving into “Johnstown”

1892: Marmon family creates Model Mill in Noblesville

Tin plate mill started in Atlanta

1893: (ca.) Washington Glass Co. started in Cicero – makes bottles

Noblesville Foundry & Machine Co. started (casting plant)

Interurban fraud

1894: first glass factory in Arcadia – makes plate glass

1895: Wild Opera House opened in Noblesville

1898: Bonita Glass Co. started in Cicero – makes art glass

William McKinley speaks in Noblesville

Spanish-American War – many from HC enlist, most in Co. I, 158th Ind. Inf.

Few soldiers get to Cuba

John Creek of Arcadia, 16th Inf., wounded at Battle of Santiago

Charles Dempsey, 24th Inf., at Santiago

Several serve in Philippines during rebellion

Some reach China – Boxer Rebellion, 1900

1899: Home Telephone Company started in Noblesville

1900 census: 29,914 people – 14% increase

Jackson Twp. goes from 4,255 to 6,620 people – 56% increase

Gas supplies begin to fail

1900s: George and Worth Brehm and Franklin and Hanson Booth move to New York

Become part of Golden Age of American Illustration

1900: Wilson Milk Co. started in Sheridan (Indiana Condensed Milk)

Bonita Glass closes

1901: second Westfield library started

1902: grave robbing scandal in Fishers

Teddy Roosevelt speaks in Noblesville

1903: Interurban begins running

1904: Hamilton County Corn Club established – forerunner of 4-H

Carmel Library started

1906: gunfight in Carmel

first law enforcement person killed in line of duty

1908: abortive hydroelectric dam project north of Noblesville

Cicero bottle factory burns

Trial in Noblesville for playing baseball on Sunday

1909: Harrell Hospital built in Noblesville

Fodrea-Malott Co. builds Beetle Flyer – only auto built in HC

1910 census: 27,026 – 10% decrease

Jackson Twp. goes from 6,620 to 5,155 people – 28% decrease

1910: first Noblesville Chautauqua

Westfield builds Carnegie Library building

Sheridan builds Carnegie Library building

1913: massive flood over entire state, severe in Hamilton County

Noblesville builds Carnegie Library

Carmel builds Carnegie Library

Much of Sheridan destroyed in fire

Much of Carmel destroyed in fire

William E. Longley of Noblesville appointed 1st state Fire Marshal

1914: George Van Camp & Sons takes over Westfield packing plant

1916: Atlanta builds Carnegie Library

1917: World War I

All five Armstrong brothers from Westfield serve

Coal rationing causes concern about fuel supplies

1918: War ends – 31 known dead from county

1919: Seventh Day Adventists establish Indiana Academy

Burdick Tire and Rubber Co. starts factory in Noblesville

1920 census: 24,222 – 10% decrease

1920: Cicero starts library

Franklin Delano Roosevelt visits Noblesville as VP candidate

1921: Noblesville library starts bookmobile service

1922: successful hydroelectric plant built at Riverwood

Midland Railroad stops passenger services


Part V: The Klan, Depression, War, and Recovery, 1923-1954

1920s Prohibition – strong support in county

White River possible route of bootleggers

1923: Hamilton County centennial celebration

Parades, party, etc.

Ku Klux Klan appears

Rally in Noblesville, burn cross on Square

1925: Trial of D. C. Stephenson

Allisonville Road changes entrance into Noblesville from 8th to 10th

1927: Forest Park created

1930 census: 23,444 people – 3% decrease

1930s Depression sees rise of scientific agriculture in HC

Lilly Farms, Lynwood Farms, Beck’s Seeds

WPA does projects

Improve Forest Park, outhouses, farms, art for library

Highway 37 upgraded with new bridge at Strawtown

Lucky Teter begins stunt show

1932: Bonus Marchers camp at Forest Park

Nickel Plate railroad ceases passenger trains in county

1936: Barney Stone travels statewide to discuss his history

1937: Severe flood

Rural electric brought to county

1938: Interurban ends

1940 census: 24,614 people – 5% increase

1940: William Dudley Pelley moves to Noblesville

1941: America enters World War II

1942: Pelley is convicted of sedition and sent to prison

1943: Geist Reservoir completed

1944: Biddle Screw Co. is established in Sheridan

1945: War ends – 87 known dead from county

1948: Harry Truman gives speech in Noblesville during whistle-stop trip

Tucker automobile dealership opens in Noblesville

[Preston Tucker lived in Noblesville in the 1930s]

1950 census 28,491 – 16% increase

1950: new coal-fired power plant built at Riverwood

Korean War begins

1953: Korean War ends – 10 known dead from county


Part VI: Paving the Cornfields, 1955-2005

1955: Clay Township annexes all of Delaware Township west of White River

1956: Morse Reservoir completed

1957: Highway 37 bypass (present 37) finished

Eller covered bridge burns

1959: Wild Opera House torn down by Noblesville Parking Commission

modern Eller bridge over White River completed

1960 census: 40,132 people – 41% increase

1960s see road changes and upgrade for suburbs

Highway 465 is built

roads are renamed to match Indianapolis street numbers

1962: finishing Highway 69

1963: creation of Hamilton County Historical Society

Upswing in interest in history to parallel growth of suburbs

1964: start of Vietnam War

school consolidation

Conner Prairie started

1965: Belfry Theater established

Palm Sunday tornadoes kill 4 people

1969: Sheridan Historical Society founded

1970 census: 54,532 – 36% increase

Clay Township becomes most populous in county

1970s: Reservoirs are opened for housing

Westfield gets its first tavern

1971: Arcadia Heritage center founded

1973: Vietnam War ends – 17 known dead from county

1975: Carmel Clay Historical Society founded

1979: Old jail acquired by HCHS for museum

1980 census: 82,027 – 50% increase

First two women mayors in county – Patricia Logan & Jane Reiman

1987: Noblesville Preservation Alliance formed

1988: Craig house moved

1990 census: 108,936 people – 33% increase

1990s: Westfield Washington Historical Society founded

1993: Courthouse renovated

1997: Home Place Museum and Library founded

1999: Westfield native David Kendall defends Bill Clinton at his impeachment trial

2000 census: 182,740 people – 68% increase

2010 census: 274,569 people – 50.3% increase