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 so residents used one in New Lancaster.
James Anderson, Mark Simmons and J. B. Frazier laid out the town with one north and south street and three east and west streets. 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 Pennsylvania Railroad System.
The town of Quincy now numbered about 300 people. Francis M. Hunter, who owned a store, also was postmaster. He was notified by the post-office department that Indiana already had a town in Owens County named Quincy, and the department suggested 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. It was suggested 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 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.
The first factory in Elwood was a flax mill owned by John H. Wagner and Kidwell. 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, hotel, livery stable, flouring mill and a tin yard.
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 Ward 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, grew from 2,280 to over 15,000 people. Street lights burned day and night as it was more economical than to hire a man to turn them off and on each day.
Elwood had grown 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 the first mayor at a salary of $250 a 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 Elwoodplant. 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. 1, 1892.
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 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 McBethEvans, the McCoy Glass company and many others with smaller payrolls. Most of the factories left as did many of the residents. 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 4, 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. Callaway. 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 and benches for the many picnics and reunions there. In 1932 the city added a swimming pool.
Mercy Hospital had long been in the mind of Father Biegel and in the fall of 1925 the cornerstone was laid. Doctors, city officials, and residents 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 x-ray equipment was completely renovated so the 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 November 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.
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 choosen 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 grand and colorful celebration of the huge annual tomato crop.
Realizing a critical situation, a group of businessmen and women formed the ElwoodIndustrial Bureau, with the sole purpose of attracting new industries to Elwood. 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 Callaway park, all traffic was forbidden so the mass of people might move freely and safely. The thermometer entered into the spirit of the excitement and stood in the high nineties, the dry earthyielded her top soil in fine dust that mixed with perspiration to plague the throngs too happy to care. Willkie had requested 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 only Callaway Park could begin to accommodate the people. So Elwood, itself, took over two ceremonies on the school house steps. On Friday night, August 16, 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. 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 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, Willkie was overcome and rested a few minutes in one of the classrooms 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 until his resignation in 1950.
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.
While preparing a short history of Elwood for the first newcomers party, members of the Woman’s Council realized the Centennial year was at hand. They began at once to interest Elwoodians in the celebration of the Centennial. 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 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.
All Elwood Mayor’s
William DeHority, Democrat 1891 Francis M. Harbit, Reform1898
William C. Smith, Democrat 1902 John W. Call, Republican 1904
John Call, Republican 1906 O.A. Armfield, Republican 1908
Austin Brumbaugh, Democrat 1910 Francis M. Harbit, Reform 1914
John G. Lewis, Socialist 1918 W.A. Faust,Democrat 1922
W.A. Faust, Democrat 1926 Charles Foster, Democrat1929
George Bonham, Republican 1930 Orla A. Wann, Democrat 1935
George Bonham, Republican 1939 Elmer Tunis,Democrat 1943
Elmer Tunis, Democrat 1948 Elmo Gustin, Republican 1952
Robert Fortson, Democrat 1956 Robert Fortson, Democrat 1960
Luther Stockdale, Democrat 1961 Luther Stockdale, Democrat 1964
Eugene Smith, Republican 1968 Eugene Smith, Republican1972
Lynn Chase, Democrat 1976 Webb Morris, Democrat 1980
Phil Orbaugh, Republican 1984 Blair Englehart, Democrat 1988
Denny Robinson, Democrat 1992 Jerry D. Werline, Democrat 1995
Jerry D. Werline, Democrat 1996 Philip K. Metzger, Republican 2000
W. Merrill Taylor, Democrat 2004 W. Merrill Taylor, Democrat 2008.
Elwood Mayor Denny Robinson appeared on the Hoosier Millionaire television show on May 28, 1994, to compete for the grand prize of $1 million. The game involved picking numbered squares from a large board which contained numbered dollar amounts. Mayor Robinson was at $9,000 in the first round and $4,000 in the second and another$2,000 in the third. He then qualified for the millionaire round and won another $8,000 in the bonus. He finally won the grand prize of $1 million in his first pick of that round.
Carolyn MountCastle was appointed as the Mayor’s Secretary, January 1, 1992 by Denny Robinson. She was the longest appointed Secretary to the Mayor for the City of Elwood which was 20 years. She retired at the end of Mayor W. Merrill Taylor’s 2nd term on December 31, 2011. She worked for both Democrat and Republican Mayor’s for 5 terms.
1899-1902 James J. Davis 1902-1904 Charles M. Parsons
1904-1909 V.M. Maines 1910-1913 John Nearon
1914-1917 Eph Rummel 1918-1921 Garrie Jacobs
1922-1925 Birdie Adams 1926-1934 Florence Austill
1935-March 1937 Cal Long April 1937-1938 Elmer C. Heck
1939-1942 Calvin D. Sizelove 1943-1963 Gladys Land
1964-Aug.1975 Mary Jane Owen Sept.1975-March 1976 Billy Brogdon
April 1976-May1976 Virginia Noble June 1976-May 1977 Judith Garcia
June 1977-Dec 1979 Francis J. Mackey Jan.1980-Jan 1981 A. Fred Adair
Feb.1981-Dec.1983 Barbara Thomas 1984-1991 Bes Strong
1984-1991 Bess Strong Jan 1992-Dec.2011 Sandra Brewer