Crawfordsville is a city in Union Township, Montgomery County, Indiana, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 15,915. The city is the county seat of Montgomery County. It is home to Wabash College, which was ranked by Forbes as #12 in the United States for undergraduate studies in 2008.
Early 19th century
In 1813, Williamson Dunn, Henry Ristine, and Major Ambrose Whitlock noted that the site of present-day Crawfordsville was ideal for settlement, surrounded by deciduous forest and potentially arable land, with water provided by a nearby creek, later named Sugar Creek. They returned a decade later to find at least one cabin built. In 1821, William and Jennie Offield had built a cabin on a little creek, later to be known as Offield Creek, four miles southwest of the future site of Crawfordsville.
Major Whitlock laid out the town in March 1823. Crawfordsville was named in honor of Colonel William H. Crawford, a native Virginian who was the cabinet officer who had issued Whitlock's commission as Receiver of Public Lands.
According to a diary of Sanford C. Cox, one of the first schoolmasters in the area, in 1824: "Crawfordsville is the only town between Terre Haute and Fort Wayne... Maj. Ristine keeps tavern in a two-story log house and Jonathan Powers has a little grocery. There are two stores, Smith's near the land office, and Issac C. Elston's, near the tavern... David Vance [is the] sheriff.
It was successfully incorporated as a town in 1834, following a failed attempt three years earlier.
In November 1832, Wabash College was founded in Crawfordsville as "The Wabash Teachers Seminary and Manual Labor College". Today, it is one of only three remaining all-male liberal arts colleges in the country, and has a student body of around 900.
Crawfordsville grew in size and amenities, adding such necessities as a bank and fire department. It gained status as a city in 1865, when Indiana granted its charters.
Late 19th century
In 1862, Joseph F. Tuttle, after whom Tuttle Grade School was named in 1906 and Tuttle Junior High School (now Tuttle Middle School) was named in 1960, became President of Wabash College and served for 30 years. "He was an eloquent preacher, a sound administrator and an astute handler of public relations." Joseph Tuttle, together with his administrators, worked to improve relations in Crawfordsville between "Town and Gown".
In 1880, prominent local citizen Lew Wallace produced Crawfordsville's most famous literary work, , a historical novel dealing with the beginnings of the Christianity in the Mediterranean world.
Perhaps more crucial for Indiana's basketball-oriented culture, both the first official basketball game in the state (Crawfordsville versus Lafayette, March 16, 1894) and the first official intercollegiate basketball game (Wabash versus Purdue, also in 1894) occurred at the city's YMCA.
The beginning of the 20th century marked important steps for Crawfordsville, as Culver Union Hospital and the Carnegie Library were built in 1902. Culver operated as a not-for-profit, municipally-owned facility for 80 years, was then sold to for-profit American Medical International, and in 1984 was relocated from its original location near downtown to a new campus north of the city. The hospital's ownership was transferred to Sisters of St. Francis Health Services, Inc. in 2000 and renamed St. Clare Medical Center; in 2011, it hospital was again renamed Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health - Crawfordsville. The Carnegie Library is being converted into a local museum and the public library has since moved across the street. In 1911, Crawfordsville High School (motto: Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve) was founded, and promptly won the state's first high school basketball title. Crawfordsville's major employer for much of the century, commercial printer RR Donnelley, began operations in Crawfordsville in 1922.
Recent history has held few nationally noteworthy events for the city, but much internal change. Nucor Steel, Alcoa CSI, Raybestos Products Company, Pace Dairy Foods, and Random House have all created factories in or near Crawfordsville which provided employment to much of the population. Manpower has taken over as the primary employer in the city and has allowed most of the local companies to reduce employees. In 2008, Raybestos laid off the majority of its workforce with less than 100 employees left. Wabash College won the Division III NCAA basketball title in 1982. The college plays an annual football game against Depauw University for the Monon Bell, one of the oldest rivalries in all college sports. In 1998, the state began a proposed project to widen U.S. Route 231, in an attempt to ease intrastate travel flow.
On May 8, 2007, approximately a quarter-block of historic buildings in the 100 block of South Washington Street was burned in a major fire. A woman in one of the buildings reported the fire.
One person, Leslie Eric Largent, died in the fire. The fire was covered by the press statewide. Two buildings, built circa 1882, were completely destroyed: one that housed the Silver Dollar Bar (formerly Tommy Kummings' Silver Dollar Tavern); the other contained the New York Shoe Repair and Bargain Center at the corner of Pike and Washington streets. Above the shoe store were several apartments where residents were sleeping.
On May 22, the fire was ruled to have been an act of arson.
An alleged monster was seen here in the late 19th century that became known as the Crawfordsville monster. It was described to be made of a cloud with red glowing eyes. It is now believed to have been a flock of birds huddled together in confusion due to the town's newly installed electric street lights. The story was featured in The History Channel's television series Monster Quest, in an episode featuring unidentified flying creatures.