History of Lafayette, Indiana (Part 1)
From: Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana
General R. P. DeHart, Editor in Chief
B. F. Bowen & Company, Publishers
Indianapolis, Indiana 1909


Lafayette, the metropolis and only city within the bounds of Tippecanoe county, derived its name from General Lafayette, who assisted General Washington in securing American independence in the days of the Revolutionary war. It is situated at almost the exact geographical center of the county, the main city being on the east bank of the Wabash river. It is the seat of justice and the court house stands at forty degrees and twenty five minutes north latitude and nine degrees, forty seven minutes west from Washington, District of Columbia. It is now eighty three years old, having been platted in the month of May, 1826, Robert Johnson, a hotel keeper of Crawfordsville, Indiana, executing the survey for the founder of the place, William Digby, who had but recently purchased the land from the government, at the Crawfordsville land office, his tract being a part of the south fraction of the southeast quarter of section 20, township 23 north, range 4 west. When Johnson surveyed the town it was thickly covered with hazel brush, plum bushes, grape vines and large forest trees, all of which made it a difficult task to survey. The lines of the plat were run on May 25th, and three days thereafter Mr. Digby sold to Samuel Sargent for the sum of two hundred and forty dollars, reserving a small part for ferry purposes, twenty acres northeast adjoining the platting. Subsequently, he sold that to Sargent for sixty dollars. Wishing to enlist the co-operation and have the business influence of others, Mr. Sargent sold five eighths of all the odd numbered lots to leading men of Crawfordsville - Isaac C. Elston, John Wilson and Jonathan W. Powers - for the sum of one hundred and thirty dollars. These men left no stone unturned to advertise the new town on the banks of the Wabash, and soon speculators and home seekers became convinced that it was to become more than an ordinary "paper town" and invested here.

It should be remembered that this city was platted just before the act of organizing the county went into effect, and immediately after the county organization was perfected, because of the eligibility of the place for a county seat, and the proposed donations of land and capital by the proprietors and others, the commissioners, appointed by the legislature, selected Lafayette "as the future seat of justice of Tippecanoe county." Messrs. Elston, Wilson, Powers and the representatives of Samuel Sargent's estate donated all the even numbered lots in the platting and gave a ten thousand dollar bond as a guarantee of perfect title and complete conveyance; this was executed May 4, 1826.

For the first thirty years and more, the streets running north and south were known by the names of various states, as for example: Second street, Wabash; Third street, Ohio; Fourth street, Illinois; Fifth street, Mississippi; Sixth street, Missouri; Seventh street, East; Eighth street, Wall; Ninth street, Kentucky.


Sanford Cox, once a resident of Lafayette, and a well known and very accurate historical writer, once pictured the place as he saw it from 1826 to 1833:

"If I were called upon by a lithographer for an original sketch of the town of Lafayette and its suburbs, as it was when I first saw it. I would in the first place draw the Wabash river, on a. proper scale, give its exact curve and meanderings, with a ferry flat, skiff, canoe, two pirogues and a keel boat, moored along the eastern bank, near the foot of Main street. I next would sketch three or four rude cabins scattered along on the bank of the river from Main street to the foot of Ferry street. One of these cabins would contain Smith's store and postoffice - William Smith, the storekeeper, also being the second postmaster. Another of these cabins would be Digby's grocery; another Kelsey & Bishop's justice office; the other Richard M. Johnson's hotel."

Mr. Cox also states that Solomon Hamer conducted a "grocery" - a liquor store - and in front of the place he conducted, underneath a number of sugar maple trees, might have daily been seen a few idle men, pitching quoits, hopping, jumping, wrestling and running foot races. The hindmost man in all these sports had to pay for the liquor drank upon the occasion, or take a sound drubbing, which was frequently administered in those days for even a trivial provocation. Bruised faces and blackened eyes were frequently seen.

Bainbridge & Foster's store was at the foot of Main street; John McCormick's little one story frame store was on the corner of Main and Wabash (now Second) streets, where the old veteran and his two sons, Perry and James, sold goods; Joseph S. Hanna's two story frame store house had a front painted white, with perpendicular stripes in dark green, and faced on Main street. Ayers' grocery was kept in a log cabin; William Heaton kept a store in a frame building; Seneca and Cyrus Ball had a store in a small frame structure on Main and Ohio (Third) streets; Hill & Holloway had another small stock. On the corner opposite Ball's store was the noted story and a half log tavern of Robert Johnson, who had surveyed the original plat of Lafayette. He was a very genial, happy and highly popular landlord with an amiable, good calculating wife for a landlady. Their family consisted chiefly of daughters. Daniel Bugher's residence and office was a hewed log house on the corner of Columbia and Wabash (Second) streets. John McCormick had a small, but neat residence at the foot of Columbia street. Sample's tan yard was situated over a branch, in the country. and was surrounded by a big forest of very large trees; Samuel Hoover had a one story frame dwelling on Main street, north of the center of the public square, where later he erected his two story brick block. Then there was the old brick court house; and William S. Trimble's tan yard, south of the public square. On the southwest corner of the square Joseph H. Martin had a small frame store, where Jacob Walker and Andrew Kennedy were clerks: on the south side of Main street, a few doors east of the square, Dr. James Davis residence and office; next came John and Albert Bartholomew's small one story frame store. Matthias S. Scudder carried on the furniture business on a lot opposite where later stood the Lahr House. A hundred yards north of Scudder's, almost hidden by hazel and plum bushes, was Jesse Stansbury's log cabin; Isaac Edwards on the hill, on Columbia street (his back yard lay east of his rude dwelling, over the bog); Matthias Peterson's tan yard was at the foot of the hill.

South and to the east of the Stansbury place was a pond. which in wet seasons covered many acres, and was called Lake Stansbury.

Lafayette had its first telegraph communication in 1849, on the completion of the canal to Vincennes. This line run by way of Attica and Terre Haute to Evansville. R. E. Bryant was the first operator at Lafayette and had charge of the entire line.

For the first churches, the reader is referred to general chapters on these subjects; also see railroads and canals for early day means of transportation. The newspaper press also forms a separate chapter of this work, as does the lodge history of the city and county.

From a very early date, on account of this city being the head of navigation on the Wabash, and which fact made it the leading city of the northern part of the state, Lafayette was called "The Star City."

Speaking of the early days of Lafayette, Historian Sanford Cox, once a resident of the city, remarks:

"More than a year after the town was laid out, while some of the settlers of the Wabash were attending court at Crawfordsville, a wag jeeringly laughed and inquired 'How does "Layflat," or "Laught-at" come on? I have a mind to take a bacon rind and go up there and grease the little thing and then let the next dog that comes along eat it up.' The Wabasher did not deign to reply to this impudence, but turned off with as much independence as if to say Crawfordsville was then a mere kitchen to Lafayette."

Then Cox goes on to narrate: "Next I would draw a picture of the first story of the old brick court house, which stood where the present one stands, and it was surrounded by a cluster of large stumps, for the public square was originally covered with a large body of timber. I would draw the scaffolding as still standing and Major Ferguson and his workmen laying brick; while in the back yard I would draw Tommy Collins, a jovial old Irishman, grubbing up a large stump on the public square, where the first jail was built, near the spot where the old market house later stood. South of the square, on the corner of Columbia and Ohio streets, then generally called Ford & Walker's corner, I would place Joseph H. Martin's little frame store house, with Jacob Walker and Andrew Kennedy standing behind the counter, as clerks."


Among the doctors whose names are unknown to most of the present day people of this city were pioneer characters, Doctors Yurt, Ingersoll, Jennings, Jewett, O'Farrell, Wayburn, Chestnut, McFarland, Hall and Cowdry.

Among the early landlords of Lafayette were Tom Wood, John Lahr, Jack Burgess, of City Hotel; Rezin Jones, of Jones Hotel, at Third and South streets; James Griffin and wife "Peg," well known; Captain Knight, of the Knight House, southwest corner of Sixth and Ferry streets.

During the decade between 1850 and 1860, the sheriff of Tippecanoe county hung three prisoners at one execution.

Among early well known justices of the peace were Esquire Graham and Esquire Allen; also Esquire Brawley.

On the city council there was a man in the fifties who was known as the "Watch dog of the City Treasury" - he was Frank Duffy, whose widow still lives on South street.

Among the musical characters well known in their day, but who have long since been numbered with the deceased of the city, were McClearon, a famous fiddler at dances; Hank Herrington, a banjo player; Irish Jimmy, another famous violinist.

Leading warehouses in the fifties were the Rose and the Rogers, both situated on the canal. Rogers was at the foot of Ferry street, and Rose at the foot of South street.

George Ten Eyck collected toll on the Wabash & Erie canal at this point, at or near Main street.

Captain Fountain operated a lime and rock boat between here and Delphi.

The two mills of the fifties were on the canal, as was a paper mill and woolen factory. There were also two large soap factories on the old canal; two still houses - one operated by Hollobird, who was very successful in his special line.

These industries have long since been abandoned, except the Schnaible soap factory. These plants were all run by water from the canal.

Among the fighting characters of early day Lafayette were "Queen's Baby," English Tom and One Armed Clark, who fought with crutches.

William R. Fowler, whose memoranda shows most of the above items, had the distinction of putting off "right side up with care" the first piece of baggage ever put off at Lafayette from the first through train of cars.

In the early fifties, John T. Huff drove a horse called Liza-Jane, and when Huff got on a "toot" it is said that he frequently drove this old animal through the court house for the amusement of the county officials.

The early trains into Lafayette were run by "a wireless telegraph system" - that is to say they were operated without a telegraph line, as such conveniences had not yet been provided for the road. Five minutes allowance was made for the watches and clocks and when that time had passed the train went on, and when they met the other train one had to back up to a station to pass. A flagman was sent ahead where curves were to be passed. The cars, both passenger and freight, were always coupled with three links, as safety appliances were not invented for a score of years after that day.

The north end of the railroad was in operation two years ahead of the southern division of the Monon system, as now known. The two lines were united in 1854.

The first prisoner in this county was a female. There being no jail at that date, the woman was allowed to run at large during the day and at night was guarded by male citizens, detailed by the sheriff to sit up and (27) watch her. They were allowed fifty cents a night for their official services, and the frugal authorities permitted only one guard at a time.

The first jail was built of square oak timbers, two stories high, and stood southeast of the public square. Its cost was, according to the record made, two hundred and sixty dollars.

The entire county and state revenue in 1827 was two hundred and twenty seven dollars and ninety seven cents, but by 1856 had risen to be one hundred thousand and one hundred and eighty three dollars and twenty nine cents.

The first hotel was conducted by Richard Johnson, corner of Ferry and Second streets. It was opened for the general public, May 8, 1827. It was called the "City Hotel," and was also allowed to sell liquors. A part of the rooms were converted into court rooms when court was in session, and for this use the landlord received from the county the sum of one dollar per term. He evidently wanted to sell liquor to the "bar" when they were not practicing.


In the Lafayette newspapers appeared the following election notice in March, 1847: "Let there be a fair and full expression of public will on the liquor license question. Let every voter who wants to see Drunkards, Paupers and Convict Manufacturers succeed according to law, at the expense of wife's tears, and her children cry for bread, vote to license the liquor traffic."

In 1840 the following appeared in the columns of the Free Press, of Lafayette:

"One cent a pound will be given in goods for a few tons of single tow, delivered at the Lafayette paper mills.
"(Signed) THOMAS & YANDES."


The following is a list of shipments from Lafayette, by river and canal boats, in one week in the month of October, 1845:

Wheat, thirty three thousand eight hundred and forty two bushels; barrels of flour, one thousand nine hundred and eighty nine; bushels of corn, nine hundred and sixty three; oats, one hundred and ninety; pounds of general merchandise, six thousand five hundred and sixty two; ginseng, six hundred and seventy two pounds; dried hides, three thousand five hundred and forty eight; tobacco, six thousand five hundred and thirty six pounds; boxes soap, fourteen; pounds of furniture, three thousand seven hundred and eighty; barrels of whisky, fourteen; other merchandise, four thousand five hundred pounds; castings, four thousand three hundred pounds; sole leather, six thousand four hundred pounds; white fish, six thousand two hundred and eighty pounds; cheese. two thousand seven hundred and thirty five pounds; staves and headings, thirty thousand pounds; clocks, one hundred and fifty five; lumber, thirteen thousand feet; timber, two thousand feet; cord wood, two hundred and twenty four cords.

The following advertising card was standing in the columns of the Journal Free Press during the years 1845-46:

"-1845 FULLY INSURED 1845.-
"On the Erie Canal (N. Y.) in connection with New York and Troy line of barges on the Hudson river and Sears & Griffith's & Thomas Richmond & Company's steam and sail vessels on the Lakes; also Ludlow. Babcock & Brownlee on the Wabash & Erie Canal at Lafayette.

"Are fully prepared with necessary means to carry property to any of the eastern markets, or goods to any of the eastern ports, including New York, Boston, Albany and Troy. We carry as cheaply as any other line - goods at all times shall be received and shipped and contracts made with our agents will be carried out."


The first Presbyterian church was a small brick building still standing, at the southwest corner of South and Fourth streets, and in this modest church building, on more than one occasion, Henry Ward Beecher (the great American pulpit orator, later of Plymouth Congregational church) drove overland from Indianapolis, where he was then pastor, and preached to the handful of faithful Presbyterians in Lafayette.

The old iron fence that at one time surrounded the second Tippecanoe court house, was finally taken down and is now doing good service as a fence to enclose the northwest corner of Greenbush cemetery.

The first persons to be locked in the county jail that used to stand west of the second court house were two or three boys who had been about the newly constructed jail and one noon, as the workmen were about to go for their dinner, they locked them in the jail for fun, but the boys took the matter very seriously, as is related by Doctor Pifer, now so aged and well known among the citizens of Lafayette. Notwithstanding his more than seventy years he is pleased to review those childhood days - life's happiest hours.


The local newspapers quote prices in 1841 at Lafayette as follows: Beef, three cents; pork, two cents; lard, five cents; butter, eight cents; cheese, ten cents; eggs, five cents; potatoes, twenty two cents; hams, six cents; shoulders, five cents; flour, three dollars per barrel; wheat, fifty six cents; oats, twelve cents; corn, twelve cents; flax, fifty six cents; maple sugar, eight cents; New Orleans sugar, ten cents; coffee, twenty cents.


The city of Lafayette, in 1853, was incorporated under the general laws then in force for the incorporation of cities, approved June 18, 1852.

In 1867 the general assembly of the state of Indiana passed a new general law for the incorporation of cities, approved March 14, 1867, from which time, up to 1905, by the provision of section ninety six of said law, the city continued to operate as a municipal corporation under said act of March 14, 1867, and acts amendatory thereof and supplementary thereto.

In 1905 the general assembly passed an entirely new law for the incorporation and government of cities and towns, entitled "An act concerning municipal corporations," approved March 6, 1905, in effect April 15, 1905. By virtue of section forty one of this act the city of Lafayette has continued to be the same legal corporation as before the passage of the act, all former rights and liabilities remaining in full force.


The following will show who have served as mayor, city clerk, treasurer and marshal or superintendent of police, since the incorporation of the city of Lafayette:

Mayors - James O'Brian, 1853 and 1854; Chris. Miller, 1855; John S. Williams, 1856, 1857, 1858; John Connolly, 1859, 1860; Thomas B. Ward, 1861-'62-'63-'64; George Ulrich, 1865, 1866; John Petit, 1867, 1868; F. E. D. McGinley, 1869, 1870; Louis Kimmel, 1871-72; F. E. D. McGinley, 1873-'74; Elias B. Glick, 1876; Louis Kimmel, 1877-'78-'79-'80; F. E. D. McGinley, 1881-'82-'83-'84; James L. Caldwell, 1885-'86; William V. Stuart, 1887-'88; F. E. D. McGinley, 1889-'90-'91-'92-'93; Noah Justice. 1894-'95-'96-'97-'98-'99-1900-'01; Richard B. Sample, 1902-03; George R. Durgan, 1904, present mayor.

City Clerks - Daniel T. Holladay, 1853-'54; James Higinbotham, 1855; Thomas B. Ward, 1856; Michael P. Beegan, 1857; James Howe, 1858-'59-'60; John A. Brewster, 1861-'62; Fowler McLaren, 1863-'64; Daniel Hawk, 1865-'66; Joseph Schneider, 1867-'68; John S. Petit, 1869-'70; Jacob Kurtz, 1871-'72; Timothy J. McCarthy, 1873-'74; Jacob Kurtz, 1875-'76-'77; William Fraser, 1878-'79-'80; George H. West, 1881-'82-'83-'84; John W. Fletemeyer, 1885-'86-'87-'88; Stephen J. Hanneghan, 1889-'90-'91-'92-'93; Thomas W. Burt, 1894-'95-'96-'97; James K. Risk, 1898299-1900-'01; Charles F. Williams, Jr., 1902-'03; Edgar H. Andress, Jr., 1904-05, present city clerk.

City Treasurers - Luther Tolman, 1853-'54-'55; George Ulrich. 1856'57-'58; William Taylor, 1859-'60; George N. Ridgely, 1861-'62-'63-'64-'65- '66-'67-'68; William Bayle, 1869-'70; James Tullis, 1871-'72; James A. Ries, 1873-'74; William H. Ewry, 1875-'76-'77-'78; Collins Blackmer, 1879-'80; William Schilling, 1881-'82-'83-'84; Ferdinand Welch, 1885-'86; John B. McCutcheon, 1887-'88; George T. Beardsley, 1889-'90-'91-'92-'93; James H. Mitchell, 1894-'95-'96-'97; Frank DuTeil, 1898-'99-1900-'01; Arthur W. Abbott, 1902-'03-'04; Barney Spitznagel, 1905-'09.

Marshals - Thomas J. Chissom, 1853-'54; John W. Godman, 1855; Silas C. Hotchkiss, Silas Baird, 1856; Silas Baird, 1857; Ira A. Evans, 1858-'59-'60; Patrick Tobin, John W. Short, 1861; Patrick Tobin, 1862-'63-'64; Charles H. Ruby, James Campbell, 1865; James Campbell, 1866; James M. Rodgers, 1867-'68; August Williams, 1869-'70; George W. Clark, 1871-'72; Mortimer Sullivan, 1873-'74-'75-'76; Michael Tigue, 1877-'78; Felix Connolly, 1879-'80; Dennis Sullivan, 1881-'82-'83-'84; Peter M. Connolly, 1885-'86; Edward Cunningham, 1887-'88; John A. Maule, 1889-'90-'91-'92. (New office created) Superintendent of police, George W. Brown, 1893-'94-'95-'96; George A. Harrison, 1897-'98-'99-1900-'01-'02-'03-'04; Charles H. Powell, 1905; Louis W. Schaffer, present officer.


George R. Durgan, mayor; E. H. Andress, Jr., clerk; M. S. Andress, deputy clerk; James W. Schooler, city controller; Barney Spitznagel, city treasurer; Albert Krabbe, deputy city treasurer; Arthur D. Cunningham, city attorney; John B. Truman, city engineer; Thomas Hennessy, assistant city engineer; Thomas W. Field, city judge; Michael G. Tigue, inspector scales, weights and measures; Dr. W. D. Epperson, meat and milk inspector; Charles H. Krabbe, street commissioner; A. A. Torrenga, timekeeper; Charles Morrow, superintendent of parks; J. Fred Ley, superintendent of crematory; John E. Camardy, superintendent of water works; Frank X. Metzger, assistant superintendent of water works; Joseph B. Beaucond, chief of fire department; C. M. Johnson, electrician; Louis W. Schaffer, superintendent of police.


The newspaper files show that the Lafayette fire company met at the old court house in the month of November, 1836, for the purpose of adopting a constitution.

In 1908 the department purchased what is known as a life net, for the purpose of saving the lives of those who might be imprisoned at some distance from the ground, in a burning building. Nothing new and really useful escapes this efficient fire department. It received the premium recently from the National Board of Underwriters of New York City for reaching the one hundred per cent. mark in confining the fire to the buildings in which it had originated. It was the only department in Indiana that made such a record.

The present system of inspecting business houses each month, instead of each year, as heretofore, has greatly helped the department. First the owners of buildings are more careful about leaving inflammable materials about their premises, and secondly, the fire department members and firemen generally having occasion to visit the buildings for the inspection purposes, become familiar with every entrance and possible exit, so in case of a fire in such building, be it day or night, they are thoroughly posted as to the means of entrance to the building.

It was in 1840 that a test was made of the two fire engines brought to Lafayette, from the east, to demonstrate what they would do for the protection of the city against the fire fiend.

At the present, 1909, the city is provided with four fire stations, it has three hundred and thirty one fire plugs, a fully equipped apparatus and is manned by twenty firemen, paid by the city. A central engine house will be erected on North Fourth street the coming year on lots recently purchased of Doctor Pifer.


In 1876 a good system of water works was provided Lafayette by issuing twenty year eight per cent. bonds. Up to 1886 about three hundred and twenty five thousand dollars had been expended on that water works system. At that date, twenty three years ago, there was located twenty six miles of main pipe, a thousand feet of service pipe and eight hundred and fifty water consumers. The capacity of the pumps on the canal at the north end of Third street was three million five hundred thousand gallons in twenty four hours.

An old history says of these works that "the reservoir is on the summit of Oakland Hill, about two miles southeast of the pumping station and is two hundred and twenty seven feet above the low water mark in the Wabash river. The average pressure in the pipes is sixty three pounds a square inch." The record shows that in 1887 the trustees of the water works were George M. Beach and William F. Frey; superintendent, John Barnet.

Prior to the date of 1876, when these works were installed, there had been no regular system, but the city had always depended on cisterns here and there throughout the place for water as a safeguard against fire.

The first supply of water, under the 1876 original water plant, was derived from the Wabash river, direct by means of pumps, the capacity of which has already been given. From this plant has grown up, by constant improvements and enlargements as the city has grown, the elaborate system of today. The city controller's 1908 annual report for that year, ending in December, gives in substance the following figures concerning the present water supply, the equipment and other items naturally connected therewith.

In 1891 the old plan of taking the water from the river was abandoned and a system of tubular wells was installed, thus giving one of the purest, most health giving waters found in use in any of the cities of this country.

These wells now number forty six and are six inches in diameter; the average depth is about thirty five feet, the lower end of which tubes are standing in gravel and white sand and when too much gravel gets clogged into the perforated ends of these tubes, they are blown out by steam pressure, thus making a uniform flow of clear water.

There are two pumping stations with this water plant - the old Canal street pumping station and the one at Columbian Park. At the old station are in operation two huge Worthington tandem compound condensing high duty engines, installed in 1897 and 1904 respectively.

At Columbian Park station may be found two one million gallon Worthington triple expansion engines. The total amount of water pumped by these two stations during 1908 was one billion one hundred and eighty nine million gallons. The capacity of the main station is six million gallons daily. The last report shows that the receipts for 1908 for water rents was fifty one thousand three hundred and thirty two dollars. The expenditure was fifty four thousand and ninety four dollars. The average daily consumption of water by the people of Lafayette is about three and one half million gallons. This water, in part, passes in and out of the great reservoir at Columbian Park every twenty four hours the year round. There are now in use fifty two miles of water mains in the city; three hundred and thirty one hydrants for fire purposes; drinking fountains, sixteen; pumping capacity daily, six million gallons.

The water works have always been the property of the city. The value of "free water" in 1908 was nineteen thousand dollars, as against the fifty one thousand three hundred and thirty two dollars received for water rents. As compared with cities where the water is furnished by private corporations, Lafayette was ahead last year thirty four thousand two hundred and sixteen dollars. This counts the free water as being paid for, as must be the case in water furnished by private companies. The total cost of this plant, including the high rate of interest on bonds, is one million three hundred and sixty eight thousand dollars.

Lafayette has plenty of water; water for her numerous public institutions; water for the many drinking fountains for man and beast; water for the swimming pool at the beautiful park; water for private and public use everywhere. The great Columbian Park reservoir holds four million two hundred thousand gallons, which is used as a surplus. The general daily water consumed is pumped direct from these tubular wells, which afford the most perfect water for all purposes known to the world today. While many other larger cities are drinking and cooking with water that has been taken from the slums and filth spots and then by a questionable process "filtered," as is the case in St. Louis and Omaha, from the dirty, poison waters of the Missouri, the populace here are using the pure water that comes from a clean gravel bed uncontaminated by any surface matter.

The present superintendent of these water works - which are the pride of the city - is J. E. Camardy.


The first attempt at illuminating by electricity in Lafayette was early in the eighties, when the discovery was first developed into practical methods. The city ordinance relating to this subject reads as follows and was adopted March 3, 1884:

"Be it ordained by the common council of the city of Lafayette, that per mission and authority be and the same is hereby granted unto the Brush Electric Lighting Company, of Lafayette, Indiana, and its assigns. to erect. construct, complete and operate electrical apparatus, to-wit: Poles. wires, lamps. insulators, etc., for conveying and furnishing electricity for purposes of light. heat, power, and other chemical and mechanical purposes in the city of Lafayette, and the said grantees, or either of them, or their employees are hereby authorized and empowered to use the streets, thoroughfares. public grounds and sidewalks belonging to or under the control of said city, as it is now laid out, or may be hereafter, for the purpose above stated; and the right of way is hereby given said grantees, for a term of twenty years, through such streets, thoroughfares, public grounds and sidewalks, for erecting the necessary poles and laying the necessary wires and other necessary appliances, in, through, under, and over the same."

The Citizens' Natural Gas Company, organized about 1888, soon piped natural gas in from the central Indiana gas fields. Subsequently. this corporation merged with the Lafayette Gas Company, which took over the stock of the City Natural Gas Company and the Lafayette Artificial Gas Company, as well as the Electric Light Company, all of which were really under one management. Samuel Murdock was a prime mover in this enterprise and promoted it with much vigor and business ability. Still later, this company was merged with the Indiana Light Company that now operates in Peru, Wabash. Ft. Wayne. Frankfort and Lebanon, in this state. and at points in Ohio, including St. Mary's. Fort Recovery. Greenville. etc. Mr. Murdock is secretary and general manager of this vast system of lighting cities.


In 1896 ten merchants united and erected a small electric light plant. on Ferry street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, where the present press rooms of the Journal office are located. They started the plant to produce their own lights, with a capital of three thousand dollars. In the spring of 1897 they enlarged their business and obtained a franchise from the city and increased the capital to thirty thousand dollars. In 1902 they were granted franchise to enable them to add a hot water plant and increased the capital to one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. In 1908 they got a ten year contract for lighting the city and increased the capital to two hundred thousand dollars. Their plant is now situated at the foot of Cincinnati street, where they produce electricity and hot water and power for distribution throughout the city. The name of the concern is now the Merchants' Electric Light Association. Of the ten original members but two now remain in the business. Parker A. Byers is president and Henry Rosenthol, secretary and treasurer.


The first city ordinance in Lafayette relating to the construction of a street railroad was adopted March 5, 1883, and referred to the rights and privileges of a horse car system of passenger transportation. Section one of such ordinance sets forth the giving of a franchise for twenty five years to the Lafayette Street Railway Company, naming Freeland B. Caldwell, Charles It Caldwell, James O. Lake, William B. Chambers and Frank D. Caldwell, and their associates as the organizers of such corporation. The franchise called for only a single track and that the power to be employed was to be "horses or mules only, unless otherwise permission shall be given by the council."

Section sixteen of such ordinance specified that this street railway was to be in operation and fully completed May 1, 1884. In four years from the date of this ordinance, electricity had been so far developed into a motive power for propelling cars that another ordinance became necessary in Lafayette, and one was accordingly adopted April to, 1888, and by the following year the system had all been changed from horse cars to electric, this city being one of the early ones to introduce such rapid transit passenger cars. The company was then granted the right to make numerous extensions and to put in double tracks where required, and ever since then there have been many ordinances on the part of the city council regulating the speed, style of cars, kind of poles for carrying the wires, etc.

The system now extends as far to the north as Battle Ground, taking in different parts of Lafayette and West Lafayette.


Of recent years the city of Lafayette has been a pronounced healthful place on account of the sanitary precautions taken to make the incorporation free from all disease breeding substances. In 1908, based on a population of twenty three thousand people, the department of health reported only twelve and eight tenths deaths for every thousand persons. This has come about in modern years, by reason of the fact that the water works furnishes a very superior and pure quality of drinking water, coming from driven wells far below the surface; and also from the fact that much care is now taken to keep the streets and alleys clean. One great feature in this city, over others in the state, is that the rubbish and decaying materials are all disposed of in a crematory. The following report for the last year would have sounded strange indeed forty or fifty years ago, when cholera was rife in this section:

Number of loads of garbage collected and destroyed 1,913
Number of loads of garbage collected and and turned over to feeders 600
Number of Number barrels of offal from poultry houses 1,900
Number of Number barrels of vegetables and from groceries 1,200
Number of tons offal from butchers 60
Number of loads of hops from brewery turned over to gardeners 200
Number of fowls destroyed 2,080
Number of sheep destroyed 8
Number of calves destroyed 3
Number of dogs destroyed 318
Number of cats destroyed 456

Lafayette History

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Return to [ Indiana History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ] [ Indiana Biographies ]

Indiana Counties at this web site - Cass - Clay - Dearborn - Elkhart - Fayette - Gibson - Hancock - Hendrick - Henry - Miami - Monroe - Montgomery - Porter - Posey - Putnam - Rush - St. Joseph - Tippecanoe - Wabash

Also see the local histories for [ CT ] [ IA ] [ IL ] [ IN ] [ KS ] [ ME ] [ MO ] [ MI ] [ NE ] [ NJ ] [ NY ] [ PA ] [ OH ] [ PA ] [ WI ]

All pages copyright 2003-2013. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy