Elkhart, located in Elkhart County, Indiana, was the hunting grounds of the Ottawa, Chippewa and Pottawatomie Indian tribes during the 1800s. Joseph River in 1827.Dr. Joseph Riversresembled an elk's heart, Beardsley named the land Elkhart.The town of Elkhart was platted in 1832. In 1889, Elkhart became the second city in the world to implement the electric streetcar system.Elkhart is home to C.G. Currently Elkhart is home to numerous recreational vehicle (RV) manufacturers.Ruthmere is a museum that preserves the 1908 mansion of the prosperous Beardsley family. TheNational New York Central Railroad Museum, founded in 1987, preserves and displays railroad items of both local and national importance. The Midwest Museum of American Art is located in arenovated neo-classical style bank building.The Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary is an outgrowth of Goshen College, established in 1894. Elkhart General Hospital was founded in the first years of the 20th century.
Elkhart, Indiana - History
A small red brick building, located in what was to be a fatal location, was more than just another Uniroyal warehouse. In the recent demolition plans, it was labeled building 45 and unfortunately was among the first to come down. Building 45 was in the way of the new plan. Built in 1894, this unique fortress-styled building once had a witches' hat turret roof on the rounded tower end and was a great attraction to folks in the city of Mishawaka. What was this building that created so much attention in 1894? This busy location was the main office for freight as well as passenger service for the new railroad that had come to downtown Mishawaka.
What was this railroad? Its official name was the "Elkhart and Western Railroad Company, also called "The Pleasant Valley Line" named for a development location some five miles west of Elkhart. The "E & W" was the brainchild of a highly successful Elkhart Businessman, Dr. Herbert Bucklen. Construction on the E&W began in 1890 and was completed in 1893. It was built by Dr. Herbert Bucklin, who made his fortune selling salve. Thus the line became known as the "Arnica Salve Line". It was built between Elkhart and Mishawaka to provide competition for the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern which had a monopoly on service in Elkhart. In 1898 it was purchased by the LS&MS which became part of the New York Central in 1912. In 1996 the Michigan Southern purchased the remaining 8.9 miles of the line from Conrail and operated it as the E&W Division of MSO. It was later separated from the MSO under Pioneer management.
The Doctor made a sizable fortune in pre-turn of the century days marketing the world-famous "Arnica Salve." This type of patent medicine was later followed by such trade names as "Greenleaf, Cloverlene, & Cloverleaf" and may have been a forerunner of "Alka Seltzer." Its effectiveness is still with us today in trade names such as a "Raleigh" and other patent medicine salves. "Arnica" gave Dr. Bucklen the money to indulge in real estate, as well as one of the new and very popular investments, "Railroads." "The Lakeshore Michigan Southern" had built through Elkhart in the 1850s and had been encouraged to make the city a division point with roundhouse and shops. A boom in the economy of the city was the direct result. Dr. Bucklen holding land for development purposes, enjoyed the trains moving about the area. Dr. Bucklen acquired several pieces of real estate in Elkhart and Chicago. Among the real estate was a hotel in downtown Elkhart that was the Clifton House hotel. It was built in 1863 and later Dr. Bucklen restored the building, as well as adding more floors, and building a gazebo cupola on the roof.
This became the Bucklen Hotel in 1889. Many old railroad tales tell of employees at the roundhouse or in the freight yards who were caught doing things not exactly assigned by the boss, or foremen. They didn't understand how anyone would know what they were or weren't doing.
Then it came to light that the good doctor enjoyed a rocking chair, a fine telescope, and watching his boys at work from the gazebo cupola on the roof of the hotel - an early eye in the sky as it were.
The hotel was demolished in 1973 but at the EMRRC clubhouse, the Bucklen Hotel still stands in downtown Elkhart.
Freight rates of the period were all the traffic would bear. Dr. Bucklen attempted to negotiate a lower scale, not only for his company shipping but for Elkhart as a shipping point. "The Lakeshore," holding a monopoly on railroad traffic in Elkhart, ignored his requests.
The Lakeshore Railroad was another of the holdings of wealthy industrialist William Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt, known for his aggressive business tactics, had become infamous in the railroad world when he forced the all-powerful,
"Pennsylvania Railroad" to buy out a competitive railroad that he was building across the state of Pennsylvania. "The South Penn" as it was called, would allow the Vanderbilt-owned "New York Central System" to surround the "Pennsylvania." and force it into competing with the New York Central System. The "South Penn Railroad" was
surveyed, the land graded in part, and had its tunnels cut when it was purchased for a monumental sum by the Pennsylvania Railroad. After it was sold, it was abandoned by the Pennsylvania Railroad who purchased to protect its monopoly on railroad traffic in the area. Its grade and tunnels later became the Pennsylvania Turnpike of today.
The same approach it was reasoned, might work again on a smaller scale. And so on May 4, 1888, a corporation chapter was acquired for "The Elkhart and Western Railroad Company" with the plan of connecting Elkhart to the "G rand Trunk Western" at Mishawaka, thus opening a new gateway for Elkhart passengers and shippers and avoiding the monopoly of the Vanderbilt owned Lakeshore Railroad.
Harold Kircofe, in his inclusive story, "The Bucklen Line" from the "Railway and Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin #90" indicates that actual construction started in the fall of 1890 with the building of a "Y Switch" connection to the Cincinnati, Wabash, and Michigan near Cassopolis Street on the north side of Elkhart. The western end was to terminate in downtown Mishawaka, with a spur connecting to the Grand Trunk Railroad. It took three years to build to Mishawaka.
"Th e Elkhart Review" reported on Jan. 27, 1893, that the "E &W" was advertising for 30,000 white oak ties for bridge timbers in Mishawaka, as well as in Elkhart. The Perley Lumber Co. of South Bend won the bid for the timber. The Mishawaka Grading started at the Grand Trunk Station on North Main with a tangent line to the Mishawaka "Y" across the river from Merrifield Park. Work started on this section on Mar. 31, 1893, and the grading contractors advertised for 50 men and 50 horses and expected to have the road finished to the "Y" in 90 days. It actually took m ore time, more men and more horses, as well as a new special grader pulled by a 12-horse team to get the job done. Dr. Bucklen came to Mishawaka to observe, seemed satisfied, and promised Mishawaka citizens a special Worlds Fair passenger excursion train before the fair in Chicago closed in 1893. As we will see, Bucklen made good on his promise. The road contractor for the project was paying out $1,000 per payday to the employees and came under some criticism from Elkhart citizens who were complaining that no Elkhart men were working on the west end. General manager. E. C. Bickel was quick to squelch the irritation with the comment published in "The Mishawaka Enterprise". "No one from Elkhart came over here looking for a job." That took care of that, and the project continued. The right-hand branch of the "Y" was moving along nicely and work was started on the left-hand branch to downtown Mishawaka. The Mishawaka Board of Trustees quickly voted bridge and crossing approval so that trackage could be continued toward Chicago or other western connections. The first station was set up in the old Waterworks building (now demolished) and permission was granted to build a new brick station on Front and Bridge St. (now demolished). The E&W found new business even before operating (the first customer in the city was the paper mill, located along the river). Spurs later were built to The Perkins Wind Mill company, Mishawaka Woolen Manufacturing, as well as other companies along the river. Mainline work continued westward until condemnation proceedings at Kamm Brewery halted the work temporarily.
Dr. Bucklen made good on his World's Fair promise on Sept. 26, 1893. He borrowed coaches from "The Grand Trunk", took Elkhart & Mishawaka citizens to the Chicago Worlds Fair for a round trip price of $2.65. Most of the travelers chose to return home on the same day, however, some 20 remained overnight to partake of other delights in the city. The return trip on the following morning proved a problem as no passenger coaches were available. The Grand Trunk loaned a boxcar with chairs in it and some wag on the trip chalked on the side, "Mishawaka World's Fair Special." The E&W opened up the world to business in both Elkhart and Mishawaka. It became the freight gateway for Mishawaka Woolen, Perkins, and other assorted business that wanted a break in the monopolistic freight rates of the Lakeshore Railroad. The Grand Trunk connection also allowed Bucklen to establish passenger service from Elkhart with an evening coach to the Mishawaka Grand Trunk junction with passengers able to be picked up by the evening Grand Trunk Chicago train. The morning schedule ran a reversal of the schedule, and soon several passenger trains operated to Chicago each day. This entire project was a winner from the beginning with Elkhart having new access to the outside world and Mishawaka having better freight rates and service for its industries. Throughout the year of 1898, rumor had it the Bucklen was planning to lay tracks on toward Chicago or to some other westerly connection with his newfound money-making railroad. Everyone expected the E&W to merge with the Grand Trunk. instead Bucklen sent out his engineering crews toward South Bend and a possible hookup with the Vandalia Railroad. A north, south, east, and west line. Needless to say, this got the attention of the Lakeshore. They wanted no part of this possible connection or even crossing of their lines. The Lakeshore which in 1912 was to officially become the New York Central bought the Elkhart and Western. Dr. Herbert Bucklen had accomplished what he had set out to do in the beginning.
With the coming of electric interurbans in the early 1900s, passenger service on the Elkhart and Western was halted. The volume of freight on the E&W was astounding and revenues made the short line one of the most profitable in the world. Until the very end, it was difficult to find a skipped dividend. The E&W was Uniroyal's and Ball Band's freight door to the world. It also hauled thousands of tons of coal to the Twin Branch Steam Power Plant as well as other coal operations in town. A Chicago Tribune editorial writer who said, "The E&W line has greatly aided the industrial development of Mishawaka and South Bend" had it right. The E&W was one of the few railroad promotions in the 1890s that was actually built and became an astonishing financial success. To be absorbed by New York Central was inevitable and was a tribute to its value to northern Indiana. As the world and society changed, so did the Elkhart and Western. For half a century, freight service polished the rails (no streaks of rust here). World War II came along and bumped up the volume of freight to unimagined heights from the two connecting roads. Changes came in unexpected ways. Uniroyal began to falter and car loadings were down. Then governmental encouragement convinced the Power Company to switch from coal to oil. Nearly as soon as that was done, the first fiasco, an oil shortage came along and governmental voices said, "Go back to coal." The Power Company reaction was notable. The power plant was closed, sold off, and removed along with its jobs. There's got to be a lesson there somewhere. The E&W soldiered on, but just barely. Before long, the unbelievable happens. As more and more railroad traffic is lost to trucking, the New York Central is forced into a merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was a failing venture before the ink was dry on the documents. The E&W facing its own crisis began scaling back its operation and started to abandon track. First, the downtown Mishawaka branch, then the Grand Trunk connection, followed by the "Y", then the power plant spur and yard, and then back to the county line. Maintaining the road in the last years probably was more deferred maintenance as railroad bean counters like to call ignoring the problem. Now the Downtown bridge is gone, as is the rail and the little red station has been demolished, to be remembered in its last days as Building 45, a Uniroyal warehouse. The terminal west end is gone or dormant.
The Elkhart end of the E&W still survives today, and in the 90s if you went to Gropp's Restaurant for fish on South Jackson Street in Elkhart, and looked behind the building you would see a sharp little Alco switch engine painted in maroon, gold, and black, and lettered as the Michigan Southern, Elkhart and Western Division.
Beardsley Avenue Historic District
Photo: Floyd C. Best House, ca. 1941, 116 E. Beardsley Avenue, Beardsley Avenue Historic District, Elkhart, IN. The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Photographed by User:Nyttend (own work), 2012, [cc0-by-1.0 (creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed August, 2015.
The Beardsley Avenue Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [&Dagger]
The Beardsley Avenue Historic District lies north of downtown Elkhart and includes a historic vehicular bridge, an island park, and a wonderfully intact early twentieth century residential neighborhood stretched along the north side of the St. Joseph River. To the west of the district, the houses are generally more modest and soon give way to industrial development, as is true to the north, along with Christiana Creek flowing eastward only two blocks north of the district. Immediately east of the district&mdashand forming a natural boundary&mdashis Pulaski Park, a small park established on the St. Joseph River in more recent years. At the time most of the present houses were new, two railroads and a number of industrial buildings marked the east end of the district.
A steel pedestrian bridge (outside the district) constructed in 1984 connects Pulaski Park to Island Park, which was developed in the late nineteenth century. None of the earliest park structures on the island, which had included a gazebo and a circular pavilion, survive most were torn down in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. However, an early "picnic hall" was dismantled and moved from its original location in the center to the south of the island, where it was redesigned by WPA workers, who also redesigned an existing artesian well into a stone drinking fountain, which survives. The center of the island contains a historic bandstand that once stood at the C. G. Conn musical instrument factory it was relocated to the park in 1980. Island Park sits at the confluence of the St. Joseph River, at this point flowing westerly, and the Elkhart River, flowing northwesterly from Goshen. When the park was first established, it was reached by a wooden bridge from the east end of Sycamore Street over the Elkhart River. This bridge was later replaced by one of the spans from an early iron bridge that took North Main Street over the St. Joseph River. Greatly altered, that span survived until just recently. It is being replaced.
The present concrete bridge that carries North Main Street over the St. Joseph River was completed in 1927 and is 375 feet in length. The bridge, of filled-spandrel triple arch design, boasts two large decorative piers at each end with light standards and bronze wreaths affixed facing the traffic, along with commemorative plaques. Two smaller piers topped with planters line each side of the span. Originally the bridge had open-column concrete railings that have since been replaced with functional metal ones.
Most of the extant houses in the district were built in the period between 1900 and 1920. The Beardsley mills, remodeled and enlarged over the years, had stood at the west end of the district along the river until about the turn of the century. The paper mill was destroyed by fire the flour mill went out of business and was finally dismantled in 1904. The mill race, largely filled in over a century's time, is still visible just east of Edwardsburg Avenue. Not far to the east of the race is the Havilah Beardsley Memorial, located on a small triangular plot formed where Riverside Drive terminates at Beardsley Avenue, just west of Main Street. The little garden sets off a fountain dominated by a large bronze statue of Elkhart's founder. The site was once called Beardsley Park, but that name now denotes the riverbank south of East Beardsley Avenue, running for about two-and-a-half blocks eastward from the Main Street bridge. A large boulder with a bronze plaque stands at the top of the bank just east of the bridge, where a drive allows vehicular access to the river's edge. Some riprap is visible along the steep banks.
Immediately west of the Main Street bridge are four impressive dwellings, closely spaced along the top of the bluff above the river, the first on West Beardsley, the three others following the curve of the river along Riverside Drive. All were built around 1910. The red brick dwelling at 125 West Beardsley mixes elements of Prairie style with Neoclassical and Mediterranean. Its horizontal profile is decorated with a stone recessed entrance flanked with Doric columns the attic story above features a hooded stone-trimmed eyebrow dormer, and dentils decorate the wide eaves. Next to it at 760 Riverside Drive, the stucco house with a tile roof mixes the Prairie style with several Mediterranean elements and a Palladian entrance. In contrast, the frame house at 756 Riverside Drive is a nice example of the Free Classic style, with its hooded entrance and sidelights and oriel window above. 750 Riverside is another Prairie style house with a Mediterranean feel. Beyond that is an open green space where some of Beardsley's mills once stood a hundred years ago, occupied today only at the west end by a Neocolonial dwelling built in the 1950s.
On the southwest corner of Beardsley Avenue and Edwardsburg Avenue is St. Paul's Methodist Church, built 1910-1911 in primarily the Gothic Revival style of tan brick, trimmed with limestone and featuring beautiful stained glass windows. The attached former parsonage, now a classroom building, is of brick and stucco with a half-timbering effect. There is a featureless modern addition (1961) on the west, which is set back sufficiently that it does not detract from the historic parts of the church.
Some modest dwellings and small commercial enterprises on the north side of the 300 block of West Beardsley were replaced in the early twentieth century by the larger houses that now stand there. Quite impressive is the dark brick house at 334 West Beardsley, with its tile roof and wide overhang supported by oversized brackets. An exaggerated brick and limestone arch defines the entrance. There are other Mediterranean-influenced dwellings and also a number of Queen Anne houses, most with Free Classic elements, on this side of the street, such as the one at 801 Christiana, which has an American Foursquare shape. The house at 130 West Beardsley applies elements of the Free Classic to a Foursquare shape, and the Foursquare at 114 West Beardsley has applied to it such Free Classic elements as quoining topped with terra cotta capitals and dentils beneath the porch eaves, which is supported with pairs of Doric columns.
The houses on the south side of West Beardsley are, for the most part, the oldest in the district and are slightly more modest than those on the north side of the street. Most are either American Foursquares or simplified derivatives of the Queen Anne style (a form sometimes referred to as "Princess Anne.") As a whole, these seem to have suffered a greater loss of integrity than in other parts of the district.
The Havilah Beardsley house, a brick Italianate house at 102 West Beardsley, was built in 1848 and is obviously decades older than anything else in the district. Beardsley Avenue's crown jewel is Ruthmere, a splendid Beaux Arts mansion at 302 East Beardsley. Both, of these buildings are already listed individually in the National Register.
Across Main Street to the east of the Havilah Beardsley house once stood a Second Empire mansion that was a well known showplace in the late nineteenth century this house was demolished and gave way to another that fits into the district very well, although it was built about 1941. The massive house at 116 East Beardsley is set well back from the street, as was its predecessor, on a lot that takes up the entire 100 block on the north side.
There was once a small row of presumably modest nineteenth century dwellings on the south side of East Beardsley, perched at the top of the bank above what is now Beardsley Park, but they disappeared before 1920. Opposite them on the north were more substantial dwellings built around the turn of the century, but these were demolished in the late 1950s to make way for the construction of the First Presbyterian Church.
The row of houses on the other side of Ruthmere in the 300 and 400 blocks, however, is intact, consisting of mostly middle class dwellings featuring Craftsman or Mediterranean influences. The houses grow more modest and are closer together in the 400 block, almost mirroring the west end of the district on the south, except that these houses were built mainly in the 1920s and a few in the 1930s. The earlier ones are mostly American Foursquare, and there are several examples exhibiting Dutch Colonial influence.
The houses on the south side of East Beardsley overlook the St. Joseph River below the bluff on which they perch. They have virtually no front yards at all, and the land drops down quickly to the river behind them. Probably the most impressive of these is the sprawling house at 401 East Beardsley that combines Queen Anne with elements of the Shingle style.
The Beardsley Avenue Historic District includes several homes by Elkhart's premier architect E. Hill Turnock.
The district contains the mid-nineteenth century home of Dr. Havilah Beardsley, the founder of Elkhart, and indeed, the entire district was once Beardsley's land his flour and paper mills once occupied the western part, where the mill race is still visible. Nearby, his nephew Albert R. Beardsley erected a memorial to Havilah Beardsley in 1913, a landscaped fountain surmounted by a heroic statue. Albert Beardsley, a prominent Elkhart businessman, himself lived in the district at Ruthmere, built 1908-1910, three blocks to the east of his uncle's home. Other extant houses in the district have Beardsley connections Havilah's son James Rufus Beardsley built the house at 316 West Beardsley about 1903 (probably as a rental&mdashhe himself lived in the Beardsley "mansion"). Some decades later, grandson Charles S. Beardsley, who became president of Miles Laboratories, lived at 120 West Beardsley. Both parks in the district were donated to the city by the Beardsley family, Island Park in 1887 and Beardsley Park in 1922. The two main Beardsley-related houses in the district are listed individually in the National Register. Dr. Havilah Beardsley's Italianate house at 102 West Beardsley is an anomaly, built in 1848, decades before the other dwellings in the district. No doubt the best known house is Ruthmere (302 East Beardsley), built by Havilah's nephew, Albert, who had come to Elkhart as a boy of 17 and worked his way up from store clerk to an organizer and managing officer of Miles Laboratories, Inc.
The city of Elkhart originated with an un-platted settlement called Pulaski that appeared just prior to 1830 on the north side of the St. Joseph River at its confluence with the Elkhart River, essentially the site of the present district. South of the St. Joseph, Dr. Havilah Beardsley purchased land from Potawatomi chief Pierre Moran and in 1832 platted a town he called Elkhart, after the names of the river and the county, which had been established in 1830. Early dwellings and commercial development hovered around the river junction, and Beardsley established mills on the north bank of the St. Joseph River at the mouth of Christiana Creek, as well as along a race he dug just a few blocks west of present-day Main Street. He built his log house nearby to the east and replaced it in 1848 with a fine two-story brick house, the first one in Elkhart, which survives today as the city's oldest extant dwelling. Elkhart's location along the rivers, sources of both transportation and power, boded well for its future. Pulaski was soon forgotten. The village of Elkhart grew gradually southward, with the railroad (the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana, later the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway) arriving in 1851. The tracks, several blocks south of the original plat, drew commercial and residential development in that direction, and the population increased sufficiently for Elkhart to incorporate as a town in 1858. Beardsley played a major role in bringing the railroad to Elkhart, assuring its continued growth.
Havilah Beardsley died in 1856, but his sons continued to run the family enterprises, as did his son-in-law, Benjamin L. Davenport, whose showplace Second Empire house stood just east of the Beardsley home. In the nineteenth century there must have been a sort of Beardsley family compound north of the St. Joseph River, flanked on either side by the family industries along the river at the foot of Edwardsburg Avenue and at the mouth of Christiana Creek, as well as the businesses of others who had crowded alongside. But by the early twentieth century, those mills were gone and the family by degrees subdivided the land and sold lots to some of Elkhart's best known industrialists, who created a fashionable residential district along the north bank of the river. The streetcar line running west from Main Street on Beardsley Avenue was especially convenient for several of these residents, many of whose factories stood along Beardsley Avenue less than a mile to the west. George B. Pratt moved into the former Davenport home on the northeast corner of Main and Beardsley. He was an officer in the firm his father founded, the Elkhart Buggy, later the Elkhart Carriage and Harness Company, located at the northwest corner of West Beardsley and Michigan. When the automobile came on the scene, the company expanded to include them as well, becoming the Pratt-Elkhart Company. Among other nearby industries was the Chicago Telephone Supply Company in the 1100 block of West Beardsley, which later expanded to manufacture radio and television parts. As a sales manager for the company, Floyd C. Best lived at 438 East Beardsley. In the 1920s he moved into the Pratt's former house and later replaced it with the present dwelling at 116 East Beardsley. He ultimately became the president of the company.
The Crow Motor Car Company was another local automobile manufacturer. Its headquarters stood conveniently scarcely a half mile north of the river on Main Street perhaps Martin E. Crow, the president, occasionally walked to his office from his fine home that he had built at 425 East Beardsley. Across the street at 422, one of his superintendents, Robert Schell, lived for a time. The impressive Mediterranean-influenced house with elements of the Neoclassical perched on the bluff above the river at 125 West Beardsley was built about 1910 for A. C. Collins, an executive of the Davis Acetylene Company, located not far west of the district on Prospect.
The Beardsley family is inextricably linked with the development of Dr. Miles Medical Company, begun in 1880 by Dr. Franklin Miles, which, with the help of Albert R. Beardsley, became Doctor Miles Industries and eventually Miles Laboratories, Inc. In 1892 a massive building was constructed on West Franklin Street. A.R. Beardsley, no doubt aided by income produced through his successful management of the company, built Ruthmere in the 300 block of East Beardsley in 1910. His nephew A. Hubble Beardsley was also involved in the management of Miles, and lived just west of his uncle.
Downtown developer Herbert Bucklen, who in the late nineteenth century had built the Bucklen Hotel and the Bucklen Opera House, moved into the house at 114 West Beardsley, which had been built about 1906 by Livy Chamberlain, an insurance executive. He later passed it onto his son for a token sum. Several successful downtown merchants made their homes on Beardsley Avenue, among them William F. Stanton, who moved into the big house at 401 East Beardsley, and Edward D. Ziesel, who owned Ziesel Brothers Dry Goods store in the same block of South Main Street where Stanton's clothing store was located.
In 1887, well before the extended Beardsley family began subdividing their land on the north side of the river, the surviving sons of Havilah Beardsley donated the island at the confluence of the Elkhart and St. Joseph rivers to the city for a public park. In some of the earliest written records of the area, French traders had noted the island was alleged to be shaped like the heart of an elk, and this supposedly was the origin of the name of the river that ended there, the Elkhart, and thus, eventually, the name of the county and the town. Where only a few decades before had stood wharves and docks before the coming of the railroad had rendered them obsolete, a wooden pedestrian bridge was erected to Island Park, which soon became a popular pleasure spot with shady groves and a picnic hall, a large circular pavilion, a gazebo, and an artesian well. By the 1930s the frame buildings had fallen into disrepair, and workers under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) embarked on several projects to rehabilitate the park. They demolished the old frame gazebo and pavilion, and dismantled the picnic hall, moving it from the center of the island to the south, building an addition to it that reconfigured it into a T-shape. The WPA also constructed a stone drinking fountain around the artesian well. The bandstand in the center of island was probably built about 1905, but not in the park. It originally stood at the C. G. Conn band instrument factory on East Beardsley, almost a mile east of the district. It was dismantled and moved to the present site in 1980.
In 1922 Beardsley Park was donated to the city by Andrew Hubble Beardsley and Albert R. Beardsley, grandson and nephew, respectively, of town founder Havilah Beardsley. As there had been some modest dwellings which were demolished, probably rental properties, standing on the south side of East Beardsley opposite the Beardsley's houses, the gift of the land had the advantage of guaranteeing the donors an unencumbered view of the river. The park, subject to flooding below the bluff, apparently never had any buildings, but functioned from the beginning as a pleasant green space and picnic area, and a means of public access to the water for canoes and rowboats.
The St. Joseph River was traversed by way of ferry boats at first, but early on a wooden bridge had been constructed downstream from the present Main Street bridge. The first iron bridge crossing the river at North Main Street was built in 1871 twenty years later it was deemed unsafe and replaced by another. One span of the old iron bridge was re-erected at the end of Sycamore Street to carry park visitors to the island, replacing a wooden pedestrian bridge that had been placed there when the island became a city park. (This bridge remained in use until 2003, when it was replaced.) In 1927, prominent bridge engineer William S. Moore of South Bend designed the present triple-span concrete arched bridge, dedicated the following year to commemorate the soldiers who fought in World War I. The Main Street Memorial Bridge is one of several beautiful spans designed by Moore in northern Indiana in the 1920s and 1930s, among them the Angela Avenue and Twyckenham bridges in South Bend and the County Line Bridge between St. Joseph and Elkhart counties, all of which cross the St. Joseph River.
The district contains several examples of the work of Enoch Hill Turnock (1857-1926), Elkhart's premier architect whose work often shows influences of the Prairie style with some Classical twists. The great brick-and-stone pile of Ruthmere is his best known work.
After his Beaux Arts mansion was completed in 1910, Albert R. Beardsley commissioned Turnock to design a memorial for his uncle, the founder of Elkhart, which was erected in 1913. Restored in 1998, the landscaped fountain at the junction of Riverside Drive and West Beardsley Avenue features a bronze statue of Havilah Beardsley by Italian sculptor Pietro Bazzanti. Never lacking for work, in 1910 Turnock designed St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church on the southwest corner of Beardsley Avenue and Edwardsburg Avenue. The Gothic Revival edifice, with additional elements of the Romanesque style and boasting fabulous stained glass windows, was dedicated the following year. It is the only one of three churches known to have been designed by Turnock that is still standing.
When the Northwest Territory was organized in 1787,the area now known as Elkhart was mainly inhabited by the Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi Indian tribes. In 1829, the Village of Pulaski was established, consisting of a post office, mill, and a few houses on the north side of the St. Joseph River. Dr. Havilah Beardsley moved westward from Ohio and on August 9, 1821 purchased one square mile of land from Pierre Moran (a half French, half Native American Potawatomi Chief) in order to establish a rival town named Elkhart. The town of Elkhart was first plotted with 48 lots on April 30, 1832.  In 1839, the Pulaski Post Office was officially changed to Elkhart. 
Elkhart County was founded exclusively by immigrants from New England. These were old stock "Yankee" immigrants, that is to say they were descended from the English Puritans who settled New England in the 1600s. The completion of the Erie Canal caused a surge in New England immigration to what was then the Northwest Territory. The end of the Black Hawk War led to an additional surge of immigration, once again coming almost exclusively from the six New England states as a result of overpopulation combined with land shortages in that region. Some of these later settlers were from upstate New York and had parents who had moved to that region from New England shortly after the Revolutionary War. New Englanders and New England transplants from upstate New York were the vast majority of Elkhart County's inhabitants during the first several decades of its history. These settlers were primarily members of the Congregational Church though due to the Second Great Awakening many of them had converted to Methodism and some had become Baptists before coming to what is now Elkhart County. The Congregational Church subsequently has gone through many divisions and some factions, including those in Elkhart County are now known as the Church of Christ and the United Church of Christ. As a result of this heritage the vast majority of inhabitants in Elkhart County, much like antebellum New England were overwhelmingly in favor of the abolitionist movement during the decades leading up to the Civil War. Correspondingly, many inhabitants of Elkhart County fought in the Union Army during the Civil War. In the late 1880s and early 1890s Irish and German migrants began moving into Elkhart County, most of these later immigrants did not move directly from Ireland and Germany, but rather from other areas in the Midwest where they had already been living, particularly the state of Ohio.   
By the late 19th century and early 20th century, musical instrument factories, Miles Medical Company, and numerous mills set up shop and became the base of the economy. In 1934, the first recreational vehicle factory opened in Elkhart. Similar companies followed suit for the remainder of the decade, and the economy continued to grow until the rationing of materials in World War II. After the war, growth picked back up and, by 1949, Elkhart was officially dubbed the "RV Capital of the World." 
In 1851, the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana Railroad Company built the first rail line through the city, and by 1852 the first passenger train passed through town. This, in turn, caused major population growth.  Today, Norfolk Southern has the biggest railroad presence in town, although Elkhart has two other railroads: Shortline-Elkhart and Western (operated by Pioneer Railcorp) and Regional-Grand Elk (operated by Watco). Amtrak has two trains that stop in Elkhart, Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited, both of which stop at the Elkhart station. Canadian Pacific runs 6-8 trains through town on Norfolk Southern's trackage.
In 1867, Elkhart Hydraulic Company built the first hydroelectric dam across the St. Joseph River and by 1870, it powered the city.  Today, the dam still produces electric power and is operated by Indiana Michigan Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power.
In 1889, the second electric streetcar system in the world began operation on the city's streets.  It has since been decommissioned.
Although apparently a name of German or Germanic origin, the etymology of the city's name is disputed. One source argues that the city's Island Park looks like an elk's heart.  Another source claims that the origin of the city's name was the Shawnee Indian Chief Elkhart (Mihsheweteha : Elk-heart), cousin of the famous Chief Tecumseh, and the father of Mishawaka (Mihshewehkwewa : Elk-woman), the namesake of neighboring Mishawaka.   Other sources state that the name stems from the Miami-Illinois village name Mihšiiwiateehi (Elk Hart). 
According to the 2010 census, Elkhart has a total area of 24.417 square miles (63.24 km 2 ), of which 23.45 square miles (60.74 km 2 ) (or 96.04%) is land and 0.967 square miles (2.50 km 2 ) (or 3.96%) is water. 
The city sits on the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers. The Elkhart River drains into the St. Joseph at Island Park just north of downtown. There are also numerous small lakes around the city.
Elkhart has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), with cold, snowy winters and warm, humid summers. 
|Climate data for Elkhart, Indiana|
|Average high °F (°C)||29 |
|Average low °F (°C)||13 |
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||2.4 |
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||18.5 |
|Source: Weatherbase |
2010 census Edit
As of the census  of 2010, there were 50,949 people, 19,261 households, and 11,942 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,172.7 inhabitants per square mile (838.9/km 2 ). There were 22,699 housing units at an average density of 968.0 per square mile (373.7/km 2 ). The racial makeup of the city was 66.1% White, 15.4% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 12.9% from other races, and 4.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 22.5% of the population.
There were 19,261 households, of which 36.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.7% were married couples living together, 18.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.0% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.25.
The median age in the city was 32.7 years. 29.1% of residents were under the age of 18 9.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24 27.5% were from 25 to 44 22.5% were from 45 to 64 and 11.5% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.2% male and 51.8% female.
2000 census Edit
As of the 2000 census, there were 51,874 people, 20,072 households, and 12,506 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,428.0 people per square mile (937.7/km 2 ). There were 21,688 housing units at an average density of 1,015.1 per square mile (392.0/km 2 ). The racial makeup of the city was 71.5% White (predominantly German American), 14.7% African American, 0.4% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 9.2% from other races, and 2.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.8% of the population.
Of the 20,072 households, 62.3% were occupied by families, 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present and 37.7% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.16.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 28.4% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 31.7% from 25 to 44, 18.0% from 45 to 64, and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,863, and the median income for a family was $40,514. Males had a median income of $30,674 versus $22,760 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,890. About 11.1% of families and 13.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.6% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over. 
Rod Roberson (a Democrat) is the incumbent mayor of Elkhart.  He made history as the first African American to be elected mayor.  The government consists of a mayor and a city council. The mayor is elected in a citywide vote. The city council consists of nine members—six are elected from individual districts, while three are elected at-large.
Due to its proximity to the South Bend metropolitan area, the commercial sectors of the city are small. The city's main shopping mall is the Concord Mall, located on the city's south side. A second shopping mall, Pierre Moran Mall, was torn down in 2006 for a new development called Woodland Crossing. Many residents prefer to shop and dine in neighboring Mishawaka due to that city's larger selection of stores and restaurants. [ citation needed ]
Elkhart is best known for two industries: recreational vehicles and musical instruments. It has been referenced as the "RV Capital of the World" and the "Band Instrument Capital of the World" for decades.  Other notable industries in Elkhart include pharmaceuticals, electronic components, manufactured housing and mobile homes. Numerous manufacturers of musical instruments and accessories, of which most of the surviving companies have been absorbed into the Conn-Selmer conglomerate, have a long history in the city. Elkhart is also home to the Robert Young Rail Yards, which are the second-largest freight classification yards in the world. 
In 1884, Dr. Franklin Miles launched the Miles Medical Co. in Elkhart, which in later decades produced products such as Alka-Seltzer and Flintstones Vitamins. In 1979, the Miles Medical Co. was purchased by the German company Bayer, and was consolidated into the larger Pittsburgh-based Bayer, Inc. by 1995. [ citation needed ] In 1999, Bayer Consumer Care moved out of Elkhart. By 2006, Bayer had pulled all manufacturing out of Elkhart.   Most of the facilities were torn down while just a few buildings remained, mostly unused.
Elkhart is home to many Recreational vehicle (RV) manufacturers, boat manufacturers, and van conversion companies, including Bennington Marine, Forest River Inc Hy-Line, Keystone, Skyline, Sun Valley, Travel Supreme, Thor Motor Coach, and many other manufacturers, including Gulf Stream, and Jayco, can be found nearby in Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee and Wakarusa.
NIBCO INC. (Northern Indiana Brass Company), has called Elkhart home for over 100 years and is now a fifth generation family business. NIBCO Inc. manufactures and markets flow control products.
Elkhart Brass Manufacturing has been a cornerstone of Elkhart's industrial base. From its location in the heart of Elkhart's industrial area at West Beardsley Avenue, Elkhart Brass Manufacturing has become a leader in the creation of innovative fire-fighting equipment. 
The unemployment rate reached 18.8% in April 2009  and due to Elkhart's economic troubles, the city and some of its unemployed residents were featured on the February 8, 2009 edition of ABC News.  The unemployment rate rebounded over the next decade and has remained below the national average since 2013.  
Major roads Edit
Elkhart is located on the Indiana Toll Road (Interstates 80/90) at exits 92 and 96 and on the eastern portion of the St. Joseph Valley Parkway (U.S. Route 20) which by-passes the southern side of the city. State Road 19 runs through the city while U.S. Route 33 and State Road 120 terminate in the city. U.S. 33 used to run through the city and that route was part of the original Lincoln Highway.
Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, serves the Elkhart Train Station. Two routes, the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited stop at the station, along the former New York Central Railroad line. The Capitol Limited connects Chicago to Washington, DC and the Lake Shore Limited connects Chicago to New York City and Boston. Both lines connect to their eastern destinations via Cleveland with one train offered for each direction on each route daily. 
Elkhart Municipal Airport (EKM) is located on the city's northwest side. No commercial flights are offered but two charter flight services operate out of the airport. South Bend International Airport (SBN) is the closest airport with commercial airline service.
The Mishawaka Pilots Club Airport (3C1) is just outside the southwest edge of the city of Elkhart. Mishawaka Pilots Club Airport is a privately owned, public-use facility.
Interurban Trolley Edit
Elkhart is a central hub for the Interurban Trolley regional public bus service, which stops at various destinations throughout the city and connects it to neighboring Goshen, Osceola, Dunlap and Mishawaka. It was originally known as the BUS system. The system's name is derived from its use of vintage-trolley-style buses that run between several different cities and towns, evoking the interurban train networks that were common in United States during the first half of the 20th century. The Interurban Trolley operates each day, except Sundays or major holidays.
Connections to other transit systems Edit
Bittersweet/Mishawaka Route links up with TRANSPO's Route 9 in Mishawaka, which in turn connects riders to downtown South Bend and the South Shore Station, TRANSPO's transit hub. North Pointe Route stops at Elkhart's Greyhound station. Elkhart-Goshen and Concord routes both stop near the Elkhart Train Station.
Public schools Edit
Three school districts serve sections of Elkhart: 
- The Baugo Community Schools serve the southwest side of the city and the west central part of the county. That system is made up of one elementary school (Jimtown Elementary), an intermediate, a junior high, and a high school each named Jimtown.
- The Concord Community Schools serve the southeast side of the city of Elkhart and northwest Goshen. This system consists of four elementary schools (East Side, Ox Bow, South Side, and West Side), an intermediate school, a junior high school, and a high school, all named Concord.
- The Elkhart Community Schools, the largest district, serve most of the city and the populated northwest side of the county. The system includes fourteen elementary schools (Beardsley, Bristol, Cleveland, Eastwood, Hawthorne, Mary Beck, Mary Daly, Mary Feeser, Monger, Oslo, Pinewood, Riverview, Roosevelt, and Woodland), three middle schools (North Side, Pierre Moran, and West Side), two high schools (Central and Memorial), one alternative schools (L.I.F.E / Tipton Street Center), and the Elkhart Area Career Center.
Private schools Edit
In addition to the public schools, four private religious schools serve the city. Elkhart Christian Academy (grades K-12), Trinity Lutheran School (K-8), St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School (grades K-8), and St. Thomas the Apostle School (grades K-8) are located in Elkhart. Additionally, Two private secular school exists: The Montessori School of Elkhart on Montessori Drive runs from pre-K through Grade 6. Cornerstone Christian Montessori School (K-6)
Higher education Edit
- has been at its south-side location since 1958. of neighboring Mishawaka has a small location on the city's south side. has been at its southwest location since 1995. It is the first H.B.C. in Elkhart. has a small operation on Middlebury Street on the city's east side. , which is the third largest of the Indiana University campuses, operates an Elkhart Center located in the city's downtown area. The center moved to its downtown location in August 2007. is a statewide system of community colleges, as well as the second largest institution of higher education in the state of Indiana, and has a campus directly off County Road 17, which is a fast-growing commercial and industrial corridor.
Public library Edit
The city is served by the Elkhart Public Library, which operates four branches. 
In 1884, the Bucklen Opera House opened its doors for the first time, with a seating capacity of 1200. It was common for one performance to take place every week. Elkhart's location on the railroad made it a good stopping point for shows traveling from New York to Chicago. In 1896, the first movie was shown in the theater, which was also used as Elkhart High School's auditorium until 1924.  The Bucklen was demolished in 1986.
The Lerner Theatre, formerly the ELCO Performing Arts Center, is a small theater located downtown. After being built in 1924 and undergoing two name changes, it became the ELCO in 1934. Ownership switched hands several times, but the end of the Lerner appeared to be in sight when owner William Miller died in 1987. In 1990, the city bought the theater to prevent further deterioration due to vacancy. Also that year, a commission was formed by some locals to oversee restoration. Funding issues led the city to get involved further in the form of getting a federal grant. The grant helped with major upgrades and the hiring of full-time staff. 
The ELCO was renamed The Lerner when it reopened after an $18 million renovation and expansion in June 2011. It is now used for a wide range of concerts, special events, and local productions.
There are many different museums located in the city.
- is a small natural history museum and activity center that includes 10 acres of woods. It features exhibits and programs for all ages that are designed to connect as many people as possible to nature, natural history and the future of the planet.
- The Midwest Museum of American Art has over 6,000 works in its collection, and also offers 8-10 temporary showings per year.  tells the history of the New York Central, Penn Central, Amtrak and Conrail railroads. Conrail established the Rail Yards in Elkhart that are now owned by Norfolk Southern.
- The RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum was once located in the city, but now has been moved to a new facility along the toll road. Elkhart County is known as the RV Capital of the World.
- The Ruthmere Museum was the mansion once occupied by Albert R. and Elizabeth Baldwin Beardsley, the descendants of the city's founder. This museum features a world-class fine arts collection and a historical recreation of the home as it was in the 1910s and 20s.
- The Havilah Beardsley House is also part of the Ruthmere Museum Campus. Built in 1848, this home once belonged to the founder of Elkhart, Havilah Beardsley. Today, it has been restored to the style of the 1870s, at which time Havilah's son, James Rufus Beardsley, gutted and remodeled the entire home into its current Italianate style.
- The "Time Was" Museum is a small, historical museum that depicts what life was like in the early twentieth century.
- The Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum is a small private museum preserving and displaying the 80+ year history of superheroes in comic books, film, television and other media.
The city has 35 different facilities including parks, pavilions, a waterpark, two skateparks, golf courses, greenways, and the downtown riverwalk, which now features an ice-skating/roller-blading path (depending on the time of year). 
The NIBCO Water and Ice Park in downtown Elkhart was dedicated in 2007. It is a year-round park with an ice skating path in the winter and a splash pad in the summer.  A spray park was built at McNaughton Park in 2007. 
Rainbow Park is notable because it is both a park and a residential front yard. It is a popular recreation destination for the owners of that house, and their houseguests. 
Wellfield Botanic Gardens on North Main Street is a 36-acre "living museum" offering over 20 individually themed gardens and public events throughout the year.
The Elkhart Jazz Festival is a three-day event that takes place in late June on the banks of the Elkhart River. It is known as one of the premier Jazz festivals in the nation. In 2007, the festival celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Each June, the Elkhart Parks and Recreation Department presents Rhapsody Arts & Music Festival (formally called Rhapsody in Green). It is a weekend event put on at the city's Island Park. It is a typical summer festival with live music and food.
Also, the Elkhart Air Show was an annual event that took place at the Elkhart Municipal Airport at the end of July. It featured a wide variety of airplanes old and new. The event was canceled in 2007 due to financial issues. It is unclear whether the show is on hiatus or gone for good. 
On February 9, 2009 President Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of thousands at Concord High School in an attempt to bolster support for his nearly trillion dollar economic stimulus package.  
Sports team Edit
The Elkhart Miracle are a new, independent, minor league baseball team that was scheduled to begin play in the Northern League in 2015. The stadium was to be located on the city's southwest side on State Road 19.  As of December, 2017, the stadium had not yet been built, and the team was not formed, due to construction delays. 
The Elkhart Express was a semi-professional men's basketball team in the International Basketball League. Their home games were played at North Side Gymnasium, located inside Elkhart's North Side Middle School. The franchise began operation in 2006 and won the International Title in 2006 and 2007. The Elkhart Express officially released news that they were folding under bankruptcy on January 5, 2009. In January 2010, head coach and founder Daimon Beathea announced that the Express would return for the 2010 season, but those plans never came to fruition.
The Elkhart Truth is the main newspaper that serves the city of Elkhart and the county.
Elkhart lies in the South Bend-Elkhart television market, the 89th largest in the United States as of 2008.  One television station, WSJV-TV (Heroes & Icons Network) is located in the city, along with a number of radio stations including WTRC, WAOR, WCMR, WFRN-FM, and WVPE (NPR). Elkhart is also served by CBS affiliate WSBT-TV, based in Mishawaka, and six stations in South Bend: WNDU-TV (NBC), WNIT-TV (PBS), WHME-TV (LeSEA), WBND-LD (ABC), WCWW-LD (CW) and WMYS-LD (My Network TV).
The Elkhart County Genealogical Society (ECGS) spearheaded a new microfilm research center at Rush Memorial. Using money generated from book sales over the past 13 years, and with financial input from the Elkhart County Historical Society (ECHS) and Elkhart County Government , a new, state of the art, microfilm scanner was purchased and put into use.
The microfilm scanner is located in the Corson Library of the Elkhart County Museum (Rush Memorial Center). The reader has the ability to copy information from the microfilm to an attached computer. From the computer, you can then save your information on a CD or flash drive, or even e-mail the information to your home computer. You may also bring your own laptop and take advantage of the wireless service when researching in the genealogical and historical society libraries.
ECGS has over 300 microfilms of CRIMP ( C ounty R ecords of I ndiana M icrofilm P roject) records. These consist of old records (marriages, probate, wills, etc.) from the Elkhart County Courthouse. These microfilms are unique as there are only three complete copies. These copies are located in the ECGS library, Indiana State Library, and the Mormon Library in Utah. It is anticipated that more early microfilm records from the Elkhart County Courthouse will be available in the future.
ECGS also has marriage records from 1830 to 1942 on film. These early records contained limited information: names of bride and groom, date of marriage, and officiant. From 1882-1906, a Register of Returns was kept with additional information including parents' names and witnesses. These are on a separate "Companion" film. In 1907, a more complete marriage application was required to get a license. These applications include addresses, occupations, divorces, etc.
ECGS have the General Index books on film for Book # 6, 1918 , #7 1927 , and #8 February 1951 .
ECHS has over 400 microfilms of early newspapers from Elkhart County. They also have all the census for Elkhart County (1830 - 1930).
The staff of ECGS will be willing to look up information from these films for those who live out of town and are unable to visit the center. Please see More information under our "Research Request" tab.
If you are in the area, please stop in and visit the microfilm center, library and museum. It would be a great way to start or continue your family research.
The History Behind Elkhart County’s Title as RV Capital of the World
It might seem strange to think of Elkhart County as a vehicular paradise, since a common sight on most streets throughout the northern Indiana county are dark, covered buggies driven by Amish folk and pulled by horses.
But in fact, Elkhart County is known as the “Trailer Capital of the World,” thanks to its manufacture of one of every two RVs, or recreational vehicles, on the road today.
The story of how the mostly rural area gained such a following is simple. In 1931, a local named Milo Miller built a travel trailer to accommodate his family on his business trips. When Miller quickly sold that trailer and then a second, he began building travel trailers full time.
Wilbur Schult saw Miller’s trailers at the 1933 Chicago Exposition. Schult purchased Miller’s company in 1936 and built it into the largest trailer manufacturer in the world. Today, Schult Homes continues to build manufactured and mobile houses in Elkhart County.
As the sale of travel trailers increased, similar businesses sprang up in sheds and warehouses as local entrepreneurs caught on. One tavern owner used the garage behind his tavern to grow the company Skyline Corporation, which still exists today.
For a list of all RV manufacturers in Elkhart County and tour information, visit amishcountry.org/rv-travel/manufacturers.
Over the next several decades, hundreds of suppliers of parts for RVs – appliances, axels, plumbing, cushions and other parts of a mobile housing unit – became firmly established in Elkhart.
To celebrate the county’s RV history and show gratitude for customers, manufacturers host several RV rallies at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.
“In 2017, we will host 13 RV rallies with an estimated 2,800 RVs and more than 5,000 people from all over the United States and Canada,” says Kristy Ambrosen, marketing coordinator at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds. “We’re close to Amish country and other attractions in Elkhart County, which account for these being some of the largest RV rallies in the country.”
The park’s campsites are open year round and are fully equipped with complimentary wireless internet, restrooms, showers, electricity, water, picnic tables and more. However, most groups arrive between the months of April and October.
The park becomes a true international meeting of travelers, especially in October when one caravan of RVers uses the fairgrounds as a stopping-off point on its annual trek between Quebec and Mexico.
In addition to local shops and restaurants, visitors may stop at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum. Jeff White, vice president and director of operations, touts the 90,000-square-foot building as one of special interest, especially for those dedicated travelers who believe RV could also stand for “Relaxing Vacation.”
“As a locale dedicated to preserving the history of the RV and manufactured housing industries, we have added something for everyone,” White says. The RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum contains classic early vehicles, such as a 1913 Earl Trailer and Model T Ford, believed to be the oldest non-tent travel trailer in existence.
Hollywood film buffs can view the 1931 Chevrolet House Car built as a gift for Mae West by Paramount Studios.
Ambrosen doesn’t see an end in sight for RV popularity in Elkhart County. “Ever since we began welcoming RVers to rallies in Elkhart in the 1970s, they have become a major part of our focus in this area,” she says. “We hope to continue to provide the wonderful RVers who visit us with pleasant experiences.”
New Music Emerges From Elkhart's Instrument Past
An employee cleans sections of a trumpet at Conn-Selmers' Vincent Bach division in Elkhart, Ind. The company produces a well-known brand of trumpets and trombones.
If there's one place where "strike up the band" has meant more than making music, it's in Elkhart, Ind. Although the boom times are long past, instrument manufacturing has been a part of the city's economy for more than a century.
Elkhart was once home to 60 instrument manufacturers. But the musical instrument industry has changed drastically — affected by imports, consolidations and reduced school budgets for music.
Today, only three major companies remain in Elkhart: Conn-Selmer, E.K. Blessing and Gemeinhardt Flutes. These companies are struggling to survive in a city with one of the country's highest unemployment rates.
A Band Instrument Capital
The band room where students practice at Concord High School in Elkhart is not far from the school's gym where President Obama held a town hall meeting last year to pitch his economic stimulus package.
Many of the shiny trumpets, trombones, clarinets and other instruments the students play were made in town. That musical tradition once made Elkhart the "Band Instrument Capital of the World."
Read The Series
"Elkhart may no longer be the world leader, but it's still the band instrument capital of the U.S.," says John Stoner, chief executive officer of Conn-Selmer.
Conn-Selmer's Vincent Bach division in Elkhart produces one of the best-known brands of trumpets and trombones. Nearly 1,000 people work at Conn-Selmer — and more than half of them do so in Elkhart. Stoner says Conn-Selmer has survived the turmoil of this latest recession by cutting salaries, shutting down plants for a day and laying some people off.
"Because of the skill sets required to manufacture an instrument — as far as the labor and handiwork — we needed to keep as many people employed as we possibly could because trying to retrain people when the economy does come out of it is a very expensive proposition," Stoner says.
Conn-Selmer makes more than 50,000 instruments a year. At the Elkhart plants, workers turn flat sheets of brass into a trumpet bell, pull the holes up in the metal for flutes and build a variety of other instruments.
Student and intermediate instruments, including a flute designed by flutist James Galway, make up the bulk of sales and account for most jobs. Conn-Selmer also makes more expensive and higher-quality professional instruments. Before the instruments are shipped to dealers, testers play them to make sure they're in tiptop shape.
The Impact Of Imports
Elkhart instrument makers face some of the same challenges with imports that other types of American manufacturers encounter. An influx of instruments manufactured in countries like China, where the labor force is paid $1 per hour or less, has forced Elkhart companies to change their ways by sending production overseas to countries with less expensive labor costs or by closing down altogether. Tight state budgets have also had an effect on school music programs.
Daniel Books places a rim around a trumpet bell at the E. K. Blessing division of Powell Flutes factory in Elkhart. The company plans to use federal stimulus funds to move to a new building and hire more employees. Cheryl Corley/NPR hide caption
Daniel Books places a rim around a trumpet bell at the E. K. Blessing division of Powell Flutes factory in Elkhart. The company plans to use federal stimulus funds to move to a new building and hire more employees.
At Concord High School, music director Gay Burton says even in a music-minded community like Elkhart, there's always the chance that music programs might have to be scaled back because of budget cuts.
"When the cuts are so deep, you just can imagine it's going to affect everything in the school," she says.
Another Elkhart instrument maker, E.K. Blessing, has been an Indiana mainstay since 1906. A small cadre of 20 employees, mostly part-timers, works at the plant.
Massachusetts-based Powell Flutes bought E.K. Blessing last year, lured in part by Elkhart's pool of workers already skilled in the art of making musical instruments. Last week, the company caused quite a stir in a town that's seen record unemployment figures. It announced plans to add 22 new full-time jobs by 2012 with an expectation of many more to come.
A Commitment To Making Instruments In The U.S.
Blessing's general manager, Steve Rorie, says what's garnered the most attention is Blessing's decision to forgo importing musical instruments — a practice that most U.S. instrument manufacturers, including its Elkhart competitors, engage in. Blessing says it will no longer produce its instruments in other countries.
"We've committed to Elkhart again and we've committed to American manufacturing and that certainly seems to strike an emotional chord with so many, many people," Rorie says.
County and state tax credits and $2.6 million in federal stimulus money will help E.K. Blessing move into a new facility. The company is adding professional high-end instruments to its line to appeal to an export market that its parent company has already established.
Rorie says there's already been an increase in orders. There's also a hiring sign on the company door, and he expects that as the recession recedes more band directors will look to buy better-quality instruments.
"Will that be enough to truly say Elkhart is back as clearly the leader in instrument manufacturing? That's a difficult one to predict," Rorie says.
Indiana State Records
Indiana does not have a unified crime reporting system. Therefore, crime data of Elkhart County can be difficult to find through official channels. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program report for 2017, Goshen City, Elkhart County seat, recorded 18 robberies and 7 aggravated assaults. A total of 1,118 property crimes were recorded during the year. These property crimes include 193 burglaries, 852 larceny thefts, and 73 motor vehicle thefts. Also, there were two incidents of arson. The figures for rape and violent crime were classified and not included in this report.
The crime trend from 2013 to 2017 shows that murder rate remains unchanged over the period in Goshen City. Incidences of robbery at the county seat increased by 80%, while aggravated assault and burglary rates reduced by 36% and 2.5% respectively. Property crimes rates were marginally higher in 2017 compared to 2013. However, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft rates increased by 2.7% and 4.3% respectively while arson crime rate dropped by 60%.
The Record Division of Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department processes requests for criminal history reports. To obtain these records, complete and submit a Request for Adult Criminal History Form.pdf) to the Record Division. This service costs $3 payable with cash, check, money order, and credit/debit card. If paying by check or money order, make it payable to Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office. Send the completed form and payment to:
Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department
26861 C.R. 26
Elkhart, IN 46517
The Office is open from Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. For a faster response, submit the completed Request for Adult Criminal History Form.pdf) in person at the address provided above.
Incident and accident reports are also available from the Record Department of Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. An incident report costs $3 while the fee for an accident report is $5. To order an incident or accident report, print and complete a Request for Public Records(1).pdf). Submit the request following the same steps as described above for ordering criminal history reports.
The Indiana Department of Correction maintains the Sex and Violent Offender Registry for all counties in the state. To find sex offenders living in Elkhart County, visit the Sex Offender Registry. The registry can be searched by offender name, city name, street address, and zip code.
The Elkhart County Jail is the only detention facility in the county. Its address is:
Elkhart County Correctional Complex
Correctional Services Department
26861 County Road 26
Elkhart, IN 46517
Visitors can deposit money into inmate accounts at the kiosk located in the jail lobby. Cash and debit/credit cards are accepted for payment. The service attracts a $3.75 fee per transaction.
Inmates' accounts can also be funded online through Jail ATM. To use this platform, depositors must first sign up for online accounts using their email. Checks, credit, and debit cards are accepted for payment.
The Corrections Division of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office provides an Inmate Look-Up Tool for easy access to the facility’s inmate roster and records. To search for an inmate at the correction center, enter the last name of the individual into the search tool. This tool provides biographic details and criminal charges of inmates.
In Elkhart County, the Circuit Court is the highest trial court. It hears cases from multiple locations. Listed below are the addresses and contact details of its various divisions:
Elkhart County Circuit Court
101 N Main Street
Goshen, IN 46526
Phone: (574) 535-6430
Fax: (574) 535-6411
Elkhart County Circuit Court
Elkhart Courts Building
315 S 2nd Street
Elkhart, IN 46516
Phone: (574) 523-2233
Phone: (574) 523-2284 (Juvenile)
Elkhart County also has Superior and City Courts. Below are the addresses and contact information of these courts:
Elkhart County Superior Court 1 and 2
Elkhart Courts Building
315 S 2nd Street
Elkhart, IN 46516
Phone: (574) 523-2233
Elkhart County Superior Court 3
101 N Main Street
Goshen, IN 46526
Phone: (574) 535-6437
Elkhart County Superior Court 4
101 N Main Street
Goshen, IN 46526
Phone: (574) 535-6494
Phone: (574) 535-6407 (Traffic Tickets)
Elkhart County Superior Court 5
Elkhart Courts Building
315 S 2nd Street
Elkhart, IN 46516
Phone: (574) 523-2305
Elkhart County Superior Court 6
Elkhart Courts Building
315 S 2nd Street
Elkhart, IN 46516
Phone: (574) 523-2339
Elkhart City Court
229 S 2nd Street
Elkhart, IN 46516
Phone: (574) 522-5272
Fax: (574) 296-9811
Goshen City Court
111 E Jefferson Street
Goshen, IN 46528
Phone: (574) 533-9365
Fax: (574) 533-3235
Nappanee City Court
300 W Lincoln Street
P.O. Box 29
Nappanee, IN 46550
Phone: (574) 773-2112 ext. 2113
Fax: (574) 773-5878
The Elkhart County Clerk’s Office keeps records of the proceedings and judgments of the Circuit and Superior Courts. The Office provides copies of court records on request and charges $1 per page for these records. Cash, money orders, and debit/credit cards are accepted for payment. Fees can be conveniently paid online at www.paygov.us or in person at any of the court addresses provided above.
To obtain the records of the City Courts in the county, contact those courts directly by visiting or calling their courthouses.
Elkhart County divorce records are available from the County Clerk’s Office. To request copies of divorce records, visit any of the Circuit Court addresses provided above.
The Elkhart County Clerk’s Office also provides certified copies of marriage licenses and charges $2 for each copy. To obtain certified copies of a marriage license, contact the Clerk’s Office using the Circuit Court’s contact information provided above.
The Vital Records Section of the Elkhart County Department of Health keeps birth and death records from 1882 through the present. Birth and death certificates can be obtained from this office by filling appropriate forms and paying the required fees.
To order a birth certificate, download, print, and complete an Application for an Elkhart County Birth Certificate. To request a birth certificate of a relation, proof of relationship like the applicant’s birth certificate, must be included in the request as well as a copy of an identification document of the applicant. The fee for each certified copy of a birth certificate is $13 payable by cash, cashier’s check, money order, Visa card, MasterCard, or Discover card. The completed application and payment should be submitted to Vital Records Office at the following address:
608 Oakland Avenue
Elkhart, IN 46516-2116
Phone: (574) 523-2107
Fax: (574) 523-2162
The office is open on Monday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. and from Tuesday to Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
The Vital Record Section of Elkhart County Department of Health also provides copies of death certificates. Initiate a death certificate request by submitting a Death Certificate Form. Submit the completed form, other required documents, and fee to the Vital Records Office address provided above. Each certified copy of a death certificate costs $13 while the fee for a non-certified copy is $6. Cash, cashier’s check, money order, Visa card, MasterCard, and Discover card are accepted for payment.
Elkhart County Record Availability
In line with the directives of the Indiana Access to Public Records Act, Elkhart County provides public access to non-confidential records of its government and agencies. Most of these records are available at the county level. The County Sheriff’s Office provides criminal history reports and other police reports on request. The Sheriff’s Office also oversees the county jail and provides inmates and jail records. Court and vital records for Elkhart County are easy to request and obtain. Generally, Elkhart County has a high transparency rating. For records that are difficult to find, try using a good record retrieval tool like the search functions provided by State Records .
News in Elkhart County
Fast-food drive-thru strategy drives record profit for 200-year-old relic
When it was built in the 1830’s the historic Bonneyville Mill near Bristol, Indiana was state-of-the-art. But no one thought it would have its most profitable year for grain sales nearly 200 years later – especially during a global pandemic.
RESOLUTION REGARDING COVID-19 IMMUNIZATION PASSPORTS
More information about the newest resolution regarding COVID-19 Immunization Passports
Tularemia diagnosed in Elkhart County wild cottontail rabbits
The Department of Natural Resources recently learned from lab results that rabbit carcasses found on private land in Elkhart County near Middlebury tested positive for tularemia.
Nueva Orden de Salud Pública sobre las Directrices de mitigación para el COVID-19
Apegándose a las modificaciones del Gobernador Holcomb de las Directrices de mitigación estatales para el COVID-19, la Oficial de salud del Condado de Elkhart trabajó con el Departamento de Salud del Estado, los hospitales locales, y los especialistas en enfermedades infecciosas para evaluar qué medidas de mitigación son necesarias para poner al Condado de Elkhart en el nivel de alerta azul.
Elkhart, Indiana - History
Some Early Settlements, Elkhart County, Indiana
From: Pioneer History of Elkhart County, Indiana
With Sketches and Stories
By: Henry S. K. Bartholomew
Press of the Goshen Printery
Goshen, Indiana 1930
ACCORDING to tradition there was one white settler in Elkhart county as early as 1820. This was Dominique Rosseau, a French trader who located about four miles above the mouth of the Elkhart river. However, he should be styled a squatter rather than a settler, as he remained here only a few years, then moved farther west.
There were two settlements in the county as early as 1828. One near the mouth of the Elkhart river and the other on Elkhart prairie. To Andrew Noffsinger doubtless belongs the honor of being the first permanent settler within the present bounds of the county. In a paper read before the Old Settlers Association in 1870. Thomas Thomas tells of his coming to this county in the fall of 1828, crossing the Elkhart river at the ford at Benton, the same place where nearly all of the first settlers crossed. He found two families living in a tent on Elkhart prairie. These were Elias Riggs and his son-in-law, William Simpson. The prairie was dotted with wigwams, occupied by Pottawattamie Indians. Passing on down to the mouth of the Elkhart river, crossing the St. Joseph river, then continuing down that stream about three-quarters of a mile, he found Andrew Noffsinger, already mentioned, and who, he said, had been living there several years. On Pleasant Plain were Jesse Rush, Joseph Coe, Levi Perry, Aaron Skinner, William Skinner, George Wilkinson, and John Nickerson. These had all come in the spring of 1828. Within the next two years came John Bannon, Jacob Puterbaugh, George Huntsman, Howell Huntsman, Jesse Morgan, John Powers, Isaac Compton, Peter Diddy, James Tuley, Andrew Richardson, David Penwell, Eli Penwell, Clark Penwell, and Abraham Livengood. The most of these settled on the north side of the river.
Mr. Thomas did not remain long at the settlement, but went on to Cary Mission, where he spent the winter of 1828-29. In the spring of 1829 he and George Crawford and Chester Sage came to the county and built a cabin on the north side of the St. Joseph river a quarter of a mile below the mouth of the Elkhart river. This cabin became the home of Chester Sage and was the place of meeting for the commissioners appointed by the legislature to select a site for a county seat in 1830. It was also the place where the first meeting of the circuit court was held. So it was really the first seat of justice for the county, although it remained so but a short time.
During this period the prairie settlement also grew quite rapidly. In 1829 Col. John Jackson, Major John W. Violett, Azel Sparklin, Balser Hess, Sr., James Frier, Christopher Myers, Mark B. Thompson and several others settled there. In an article in the Goshen Democrat in 1865 Col. Jackson said that before corn planting in 1829 the prairie was surrounded with squatters. A number of them, including Col. Jackson, returned to their homes after the corn was planted and brought their families. As has been told in another chapter, these two little settlements were destined to figure conspicuously in the early history of the county, particularly in the controversy over the selection of a site for a county seat. One was also to become a great business and manufacturing center while the other became one of the best farm communities in northern Indiana and so remains to this day.
Besides the controversy over the county seat, there was another concerning the first white child born in Elkhart county. John H. Violett, who was born on the prairie, and Isaiah Rush, who was born on Pleasant Plain, both claimed that distinction, and each one went to his grave believing that he was the one. That one or the other was the first native born white child who grew to manhood is quite certain, but it is probable that neither one was the first child born here. Elias Simpson, son of William Simpson and grandson of Elias Riggs, was born on the prairie in 1828, in all probability when the family was still living in a tent, but he never grew up. He died at the age of seven years and was buried in the Jackson cemetery. His birth is known to have antedated that of Mr. Violett and it was probably before that of Mr. Rush.
The earliest settler in Harrison township was Daniel B. Stutsman, who came in 1831. He built a log cabin in the woods and began clearing away the timber preparatory to farming. Following him came David Y. Miller, Conrad Brumbaugh, James Stewart, William Stewart, James McDowell and Samuel Buchanan. These with their families were all of the residents of the township in 1835. About 1840 a postoffice was established at Cabin Hill. The only fixture in use for the office was a box or cabinet about three feet square, which was presented some years ago to the Elkhart County Historical Society by E. A. Yeoman, son of Solomon P. Yeoman, who was postmaster there in 1847.
The first settler in Jefferson township was Thomas Kerrick, a hunter and trapper. Soon after him came James Wilson and James DeFrees. The year of their coming is not known but it was in the early 30's. Joseph Gardner, Sr., came in 1835, and Richard C. Lake Sr., in 1837. Both of these men were residents of the township more than sixty years, Mr. Gardner dying in 1896 and Mr. Lake in 1898. William Newell, Joseph Newell, Elijah Adams and John Neff, Sr., located in the township before 1840. The first election in the township was held in 1837, when there were thirteen votes cast. The voters were James DeFrees, William Martin, Joseph Gardner, Sr., Benjamin Cornell, Richard C. Lake, Sr., John Neff, Sr., Ozias Stotts, John T. Wilson, Henry Cormany, Thomas Kerrick, Charles L. Murray, Daniel Stutsman and Thomas Settle. These names were given to the author in 1897 by Richard C. Lake, Sr., the last survivor of the thirteen, who remembered them after sixty years had elapsed. A Mr. Bissell built the first saw mill in the township. It was located on Pine Creek where the Col. Davis saw mill was located.
The first settler in Union township was Daniel Bainter who located there in 1834. The first election in the township was held in his cabin and a sugar bowl was used for a ballot box. This bowl was sold at the sale which was held after his death in 1880. Into whose hands it went nobody knows. It is a matter of regret that it could not have been secured as a relic for the Historical Society's collection.
The first settlers in Olive township were Cornelius Terwilliger, Jacob Sailor, Frederick Morris, Samuel Martin, Levi Martin and David Allen. These men organized the township in 1836. Jacob Sailor was the first to locate in the township, coming in 1834. Th first election was held in April, 1837. The election was held at the home of Isaac Morris, when twelve votes were cast. Those who voted were Daniel Mikel, Jacob Sailor, Sr., Jacob Sailor, Jr., Samuel Martin, Samuel Moore, Moses Sailor, William Sailor, Cornelius Terwilliger, Isaac Morris, Frederick Morris, Aaron Meddars and James C. Dodge.
York township's first settler was William Hunter, who came in 1833. He located in the southern part of the township near the Little Elkhart river. The next year J. N. Brown, Wm. Cummins, William Hall, Friend Curtis, David Eby, Hiram Chase, Edward Bonney, John Van Frank, and Edward Joyce settled along the Vistula road. Luke and Mark Sanger, Samuel Eby and Nathan Whipple located in the township in 1837, and the same year the first election was held at the residence of Friend Curtis.
About a third of a century ago Dr. A. C. Jackson, a son of Col. John Jackson, in an article in the Goshen Democrat, told about the early residents of Benton as he remembered them. It is told so well as to be worthy of reproduction here.
"The original plat of Benton was laid out by Captain Henry Beane in 1832. Captain Beane was a very finely educated man, wrote a splendid hand and was a favorite school teacher. He was a mason by trade and made the first brick in Elkhart county.
"The first store in Benton was kept by Huston Taylor, son of George Taylor. The goods were furnished by Comparet of Fort Wayne. For a number of years this store did an immense business. The Taylor family consisted of the parents, three sons and a daughter. George Taylor, Sr., was an early justice of the peace and afterward county recorder. Dr. Francis W. Taylor was the first postmaster in Benton, was an eminent physician and was well known. He lived to practice his profession only eight or ten years. George Taylor, Jr., studied law and practiced a few years in Frankfort, Indiana. From there he went to New York and was associated with Joseph L.. Jernegan, the famous criminal lawyer, who once lived in Goshen and practiced here.
"Young George Taylor married a southern lady and lived in Brooklyn, where he was elected to congress. In the civil war his sympathies were with the south. He was sent by the Confederate government as an agent to Europe. Since then we have heard nothing definite from him. We were boon companions in boyhood days and many a happy hour we have spent together. We loved him then and now hold him dear to our heart whether dead or living.
"Jesse D. Vail, James Banta, Peter W. Roller, William H. Rector, Albert Banta, David Darr, Charles Vail, Samuel T. Clymer, Matthew Boyd and M. B. Thompson were some of the early merchants of Benton. They all kept busy places, were prosperous and happy. W. H. Hawks and Co., would be astonished at the piles of goods that were taken from their stores.
"Sylvester Webster, William H. Rector, Newton Mortimer and Joseph Fry were some of the cabinet makers. John Unger, Simon Farver, J. Burch and several others were the tailors. These shops made more suits to order than are made in Goshen now. The blacksmiths were, Isaac Dean, Joshua Hart, William Seaman, William Orr. Swegler Young, our worthy justice of the peace, whose shoulders were not then bent forward, neither was his head silvered over as now, but with a physical form rarely equalled, sleeves up and apron on, he and his employes shod more horses, ironed more wagons and sharpened more plows than any two shops in Goshen.
"There were other industries to mention. In short an ashery run by Taylor Vail, a tan yard by Gross and Loucher, a tinshop by Barnes and Blaine, a saw mill by Peter Darr, an extensive flouring mill by John and David Darr, a wagon shop by William Orr.
"Joel Behymer, Samuel T. Clymer, Mr. Stewart and Matthew Boyd were the principal hotel keepers. The Boyd house was opened in 1830 and kept by the same proprietor for forty years or more. Hotel keeping was very profitable. In early times the roads were lined with movers and travelers on horseback. Hotels were over run. In high water times Boyd kept the ferry also. It is probable that he took in more money every day than is taken in at Hotel Hascall and The Arlington.
"Besides Dr. Taylor, Dr. S. B. Kyler was an early and long resident of Benton, a very talented and worthy man. Dr. Paul Henkel, brother of our P. M. Henkel, a very excellent young man also came to Benton very early, but through a misfortune in dissecting, lost his valuable young life.
"Benton has not been afflicted with a lawyer since the days of the wandering Seavy.
"As we write, only a few remain of all those we have mentioned: Jesse D. Vail, aged 85 years David Darr, aged 80 and Squire Young, 75. All the rest have, one by one, gone to join the silent majority.*
"We have written of the business only. Much could also be said about the social life of early Benton. It was far ahead of any of the surrounding places. To see a large gathering, a Fourth of July celebration, etc., the people went to Benton. The Bentonites were lively and happy, ready for any amusement that came up - a fox chase, a horse race or a deer hunt."*