Anderson History

Contact the Indiana Room for questions related to Anderson's history.

Prior to the organization of Madison County, William Conner entered the land upon which Anderson is located. Conner later sold the ground to John and Sarah Berry. Mr. and Mrs. Berry donated 32 acres of their land to Madison County on the condition that the County Seat would be moved from Pendleton to Anderson.

John Berry laid out the first plat of Anderson on November 7, 1827. In 1828 the seat of justice was moved from Pendleton to Anderson.

Introduction of internal improvements caused a growth in the population in 1837. The Central Canal, a branch of the Wabash and Erie Canal was to come through Anderson. Work continued on the canal during 1838 and the beginning of 1839.

In December, 1838, Anderson was incorporated as a town. The town contained 350 inhabitants. Almost immediately came the discouraging news that the work on the canal had been suspended by the state.

The town again became a sleepy village until 1849 when it was incorporated a second time as a town. Many new commercial ventures located around the Courthouse Square.

This incorporation was short-lived and Anderson once again went back to village status in 1852. However, with the completion of the Indianapolis Bellefontaine Railroad, as well as their station in 1852, Anderson burst to life. With the new life, incorporation was again on the minds of the citizens.

The third incorporation of Anderson as a town occurred on June 9, 1853. The population continued to increase. Finally, on August 28, 1865, Anderson was incorporated as a city. The population was nearly 1300 people. 

Between 1853 and the late 1800's, twenty industries of various sizes located here. On March 31, 1887 natural gas was discovered in Anderson. With this discovery several factories (i.e. glass, etc.) rushed to locate here. The population increase made Anderson bulge at the seams. Other industries that could use natural gas began to locate here over night.

Anderson grew to such proportions that a Cincinnati Newspaper editor labeled the city "The Pittsburgh on White River." Other appellations were "Queen City of the Gas Belt" and "Puncture Proof City" (because of the vulcanizing done here and the rubber tires manufactured).

In 1897 the Interurban Railroad was born in Anderson. Charles Henry, a large stock holder, coined the term "Interurban" in 1893. (It continued to operate until 1941.)

The year 1912 spelled disaster for Anderson--the natural gas ran out. Several factories moved out. The whole city slowed down. The Commercial Club (formed on November 18, 1905) was the forerunner of the present Chamber of Commerce. This club persuaded the Remy Brothers to stay in Anderson and others to locate here. For decades Delco Remy and Guide Lamp (later Fisher Guide) were the top two employers in the city.

Among the major industries are Anderson Tool and Engineering, Barber Manufacturing, Delco Remy America, Delphi Energy and Engine, Prarie Farms Dairy, Guide Corporation, Hoosier Park, Jefferson Smurfit/CCA, Magnequench International, and Warner Press.

The Church of God of Anderson, Indiana located their world headquarters here in 1905. Anderson Bible School was opened in 1917 and this was separated from Gospel Trumpet (now known as Warner Press) in 1925. At the same time it became known as Anderson Bible School and Seminary. In 1925 the name was changed to Anderson College and to Anderson University in 1988.

Over the years 17 different types of automobiles were manufactured here with the Lambert family among the leaders in the development of the automobile. Many other inventions were perfected in Anderson including: the gas regulator-Miron G. Reynolds, the stamp vending machine-Frank P. Dunn, clothes presser-H. Donald Forse, Irish Mail-Hugh Hill, flower car for funeral homes-Francis M. McClain, automatic gearshift-Von D. Polhemus, Sisson choke-Glenn Sisson, and the vulcanizing process that retreads tires-Charles E. Miller.

A number of important celebrities have come from Anderson. These include film stars Max Terhune, Karen Sharpe, and James Edwards; authors Sanford Tousey and Fred Mustard Stewart; singers Ruby Wright and Sandi Patty; and sports figures like baseball great Carl Erskine and world kickboxing champion Ross Scott. Among the city's noted politicians are Winfield Durbin-Governor of Indiana, James Davis-Secretary of Labor, Charles L. Henry-Congressman and coiner of the term Interurban, Mack Mattingly-Senator from Georgia, Robert L. Rock-Lieutenant Governor, and Albert Vestal-Majority Whip of the House of Representatives. Others include: General Dale Crittenberger who was in charge of the District of Panama; Oswald Ryan, Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board; and entrepreneurs James Kilgore, Art Brady, Ike Duffy, Ward Stilson, and Earle Sefton.

In 1990 Anderson was the ninth largest city in Indiana with a population of 59,518. The altitude of the city is 884 feet. The latitude is 40o6'27". The longitude is 85o40'43". The city of Anderson is located in parts of four townships: Anderson, Union, Richland, and Lafayette.

The city of Anderson is named for Chief William Anderson, whose mother was a Delaware (Lenape) Indian and whose father was of Swedish descent. Chief Anderson's Indian name was Kikthawenund meaning "making a noise" or "causing to crack" and is spelled in a variety of ways.

The settlers coming into Anderson referred to the village as "Anderson Town." The Moravian Missionaries called it "The Heathen Town Four Miles Away." Later it was known as "Andersontown." In 1844 the name was shortened by the Indiana legislature to "Anderson."

Chronology of Anderson and Madison County history

  • 1800--Andersontown is an Indian village, home of Chief William Anderson (Kik-tha-we-nund)
  • 1801--Moravian Mission established near Anderson in May
  • 1818--Treaty of St. Mary's, by which the Delaware Indians ceded the land now included in Madison County to the U. S.
  • 1821--Last of the Indians depart from Madison County, September
  • 1823--John Berry surveyed and laid out the original plat of the town
  • 1824--Murder of 10 Indians in what is now Adams township by white settlers. The settlers were later tried in local courts and executed
  • 1830--Town of Pendleton laid out, January 13
  • 1833--First school built in Anderson (located on Central Ave. between 10 th and 11 th Streets)
  • 1834--First newspaper in the county, the FEDERAL UNION
  • 1836--Town of Alexandria laid out, June 3
  • 1838--Anderson first incorporated as a town
  • 1843--Famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass speaks in the Pendleton area during a tour of the Western states. He is attacked and injured by the crowd.
  • 1851--Bellefontaine Railroad built from Indianapolis to Anderson. Excursion train arrives July 4
  • 1853--Anderson incorporated a second time as a town. Quincy (later Elwood) laid out, March 1. First telegraph line reaches Anderson, June 20
  • 1856--Town of Frankton laid out, March 3
  • 1861--First company of volunteers leaves Anderson for the Civil War, 8 th Indiana Infantry, Co. E
  • 1865--Anderson incorporated as a city, August 28 Robert N. Williams becomes first mayor
  • 1869--Anderson's first volunteer fire department organized
  • 1875--First gas street lights, July 3
  • 1880--Madison County's courthouse burns, destroying 60 years worth of valuable records
  • 1887--First gas well in county (near Alexandria), March 27, 1887. Gas Boom Era begins.
  • 1888--First mule drawn streetcar
  • 1893--Town of Lapel incorporated
  • 1897--The first interurban ran from Anderson to Alexandria, Dec. 23 Union Traction Company organized at Anderson
  • 1902--The Irish Mail, child's riding toy, manufactured by the Hill-Standard Company, begins to be sold
  • 1905--Winfield Durbin of Anderson elected governor of Indiana Buckeye Manufacturing Company becomes the first of 17 companies to build cars in Anderson. Crystal Theatre shows first movie, May 15. Anderson Public Library dedicates new Carnegie Building, April 20
  • 1906--Gospel Trumpet begins operations here
  • 1911--First School of Nursing established at St. John's Hickey Memorial Hospital Dec. 12
  • 1912--William Bixler, Anderson artist, painted "The Old Swimmin' Hole" from the Riley home for elementary schools throughout the nation
  • 1913--White River floods Park Place and the downtown area, March 25 "Made in Anderson" trade show spotlights local manufacturing
  • 1917--Anderson Bible Training School opens; in 1925, name changed to Anderson College
  • 1922--First appearance of the Ku Klux Klan on the streets of Anderson, Aug. 26
  • 1923--Shadyside Park dedicated, July 4
  • 1924--Worst accident in county history occurs when two Indiana Union Traction passenger cars collide near Alfont. 21 people are killed, four of whom are never identified, Feb. 2
  • 1927--WHBU Radio Station first broadcast, December
  • 1928--Guide Lamp of Cleveland was purchased by General Motors in the summer. At first, its operation was placed under the direction of Delco-Remy. Guide Lamp becomes a separate division in 1929.
  • 1929--Welch airport opens; Amelia Earhart attends opening Paramount Theatre opens, August
  • 1937--The first sit-down strike in the nation was held here in 1937 by UAW Local 663, at Guide Lamp
  • 1941--Last interurban runs, Nov. 13
  • 1942--Last Civil War soldier in Anderson, Levi Keltner, dies Dec. 9
  • 1964--Mounds Mall, Indiana's oldest enclosed mall, opens
  • 1977--Anderson designated an "All-American City"
  • 1978--The worst blizzard in local history paralyzes area, Jan. 25
  • 1979--Carl Erskine, the former Brooklyn & Los Angeles Dodger, is one of the 16 original inductees into the newly created Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame
  • 1980--Hard-hit by recession and a stagnant auto industry, Anderson's unemployment rate balloons to 20%, the highest in the nation. One-seventh of the population moves elsewhere to find work and the local economy does not completely recover for a decade
  • 1999--General Motors sells Delphi, its last Anderson subsidiary, to Guide Corporation, ending its 80-year involvement in the local economy