History of Carbon, Clay County, Indiana
From: A History of Clay County, Indiana
By: William Travis (of Middlebury)
The Lewis Publishing Company
New York - Chicago 1909


Carbon, a town and postoffice in the north part of Van Buren township, near the Parke county line, six miles from Brazil, at the crossing of the Indianapolis & St. Louis and the Central Indiana Railroads, the halfway point between Terre Haute and Greencastle. This place was founded by the Carbon Block Coal Company in the year 1870, so named from coal, which is largely carbon. The postoffice was established in 1871, and made a money order office in 1892. Carbon is the most populous and commercially important town in the county north of Brazil. A considerable area of the south part of Parke county is commercially tributary to this place. Carbon was incorporated in 1875, with a population of 500. There are seven other towns and postoffices on the map of the country bearing this name, all located in the coal fields and so named for the same reason. Carbon has a weekly newspaper, "The Chronicle," now in its eighteenth volume. It has also a state bank, incorporated August 26, 1904, which began business January 18, 1905.

The postmasters at this office have been: B. F. Witty, James H. Throop, William Hayward, Barney Gallagher, Thomas Anderson, T. E. Beeson, Ben. F. Beeson.

The individuals and firms who have done business here from the time of the founding of the town, including the present, may be enumerated as follows: A. L. Witty, B. F. Witty, W. E. D. Barnett, James H. Throop, Elisha Adamson, John J. Webster, Charles Stryker, John Syester, H. D. McCormick, Hamilton & Craig, J. D. Bence, John Craig, L. B. Pruner, Stanley Barton, A. S. Maxwell, John L. Stephens, L. C. Turner, A. P. Hand, John Killion, The Crawford Company, William Risher, John D. Walker, Simpson & Holler, William Baxter, Edward Wilton, Mrs. M. A. Wilton, Carbon Mercantile Co., James Kerr, Brown & Owens, The Brosius Co., Siner & Pell, James McIntyre & Son, Mrs. Beeson & Son, Joseph Blower, A. F. Pell & Sons, Frank Durkin, Mrs. Dawes.

The physicians who have been located in the practice here from time to time during the practically forty years of the history of the place are enumerated from recollection: George W. Bence, E. A. Matson, W. H. Vansant, B. F. Witty, Dr. Birch, Dr. Slocum, Dr. Gooden, F. C. Ferguson, B. F. Spelbring, M. A. Johnson, George M. Pell, F. C. Lewis, L. G. Brock.

The Methodists, Missionary Baptists and Catholics have houses of worship here. The first M. E. church, built in 1873, was burned on the 2d or 3d day of February, 1889, and the second built four years later, and dedicated on the 16th day of June, 1893. For both these houses Stewart Webster donated the ground. This house was wholly destroyed by the big fire of March 25, 1905. The present one was built in 1905-6 and dedicated on the 20th day of May of the latter year, services by Dr. T. J. Bassett, of Greencastle. The charter membership of the Carbon M. E. church numbered just six - Mrs. Indiana Orme, Stewart Webster, Samuel D. Buck, Oliver Carlisle, John Brooks, Daniel Clark.

The Carbon Missionary Baptist church was built and dedicated in the year 1881, contract price on construction $600. The dedicatory services were conducted by Rev. J. W. Terry. This was originally organized at Pontiac with a charter membership of twenty two, when services were sometimes held at the schoolhouse prior to the building of the church. Of the Catholic church there are at hand no data from which to write.

A number of the fraternal organizations and societies are maintained here, of which nominally all are reported to be in flourishing condition. The Masons, Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias have good buildings and halls of their own. Other lodges are the Red Men, Home Defenders, Fythian Sisters, Rebekahs, Eastern Star, Pocahontas.

Industrially, aside from the coal mines which have been operated within the immediately surrounding territory, a heading factory was conducted here for a number of years by the Sourwine Brothers, and, for a time, a flouring mill, by the Tyler-Cowman Company, which, after having been burned, was not rebuilt.

There is here a clay plant of large proportions, equipped with up to date machinery for the production of a variety of utilities, with the best of raw material immediately at hand, which, however, for reasons not well understood by the uninitiated, produces comparatively little.

The most disastrous fire in the history of Clay county was that suffered by the town of Carbon on the 25th day of March, 1905, which was caused by the falling of live sparks upon shingle roofs emitted from the smokestack of a passing locomotive on the Big Four Railroad. The estimated loss of property consumed was in round figures $85,000, a heavy and damaging affliction to befall a town of this size. Many of the business houses were swept away by the flames. Numerous damage suits were filed against the railroad company to recover the losses sustained, which were compromised at the January term of Clay Circuit Court, 1906, the railroad company agreeing to pay $60,000 in liquidation of all claims from this source. But the town has not yet recovered from this disaster and reverse, neither in property nor population. By the census report of 1900 Carbon enumerated 951, but its present population is not thought to exceed 800 at most. All the town records up to that date were lost in the fire of 1905.

This town stands, in part, on the farm owned and occupied by William White, prior to the building of the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad.

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