Marion is a city in Grant County, Indiana, United States. The population was 29,948 as of the 2010 census. The city is the county seat of Grant County. It is named for Francis Marion, a Brigadier General from South Carolina in the American Revolutionary War.
The city is the home of Indiana Wesleyan University, the largest evangelical Christian university in the Midwest and largest private university in Indiana. Since 2003, former Olympic skater Wayne Seybold has been Marion's mayor. Marion is also noted for being the birthplace of legendary actor James Dean and famed cartoonist Jim Davis, though both were raised in nearby Fairmount. It was also the location of the wedding of actress Julia Roberts and singer Lyle Lovett in 1993. The city is also the site of an infamous lynching of two African Americans.
The Battle of the Mississinewa was fought in December 1812, just north of the current city of Marion, as an expeditionary force sent by William Henry Harrison against the Miami villages. Today, the battle is reenacted every fall by residents of Grant County and many reenactors and enthusiasts from throughout the United States and Canada during the annual "Mississinewa 1812" festival, the largest War of 1812 reenactment in the United States.
When Martin Boots and David Branson each donated of land in 1831 for the site of Marion, they chose a location on the left bank of the swift, scenic river which the Miami Indians had named "Mississinewa," meaning "laughing waters." So rapid had been the tide of settlement that it followed by only 19 years the Battle of Mississinewa, downstream, where U.S. troops and Indians had fought a bloody, pre-dawn encounter in 1812.
With the formation of Grant County in 1831, Marion was established as the county seat and its future was assured. The river provided water supply, power, and drainage and it bequeathed a natural beauty as it flowed at the base of hills that marched away on either side. Along with at least 36 other communities in the U.S., Marion was named for the Revolutionary War General Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox" of South Carolina.
Gas boom and growth
Marion grew slowly for more than 50 years as an agricultural trading center supported by a sprinkling of small farm- and forest-related industries. Indians were a common sight as they wandered in from Indiana's last reservation, with its Indian school, Baptist church and cemetery, away.
In the 1880s, fields of natural gas were discovered across much of east-central Indiana, and Grant County began to grow at a dizzying pace. Gas City and Matthews were carved out of raw farmland and launched as speculative boom towns, each absorbing existing tiny villages. They attracted several thousand residents before the gas failed and most industries left. As late as the 1940s, Matthews resembled a Western ghost town, before it attracted eleven glass factories and seduced the professional baseball team away from Indianapolis. Grant County's only covered bridge remains there as a link to the past.
However, the gas boom left its legacy. A few industries remained, particularly glass manufacturers.
National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers
On July 23, 1888, with increasing membership amongst the six National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS) National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Congress established the seventh of ten National Homes in Grant County, Indiana to be known as the Marion Branch . Congress allotted an appropriation of $200,000, while Grant County residents provided a natural gas supply for the heating and lighting of this new facility. Marion was selected as a site for the new branch due to the availability of natural gas and the political activities of Colonel George W. Steele, Sr, the 11th Congressional Representative from 1880 to 1890.
The Marion Branch Historic District is located at he intersection of 38th Street and Lincoln Boulevard, approximately 2½ miles southeast of the city center of Marion. The boundaries are 38th Street on the north, the railroad right of way on the east, the Mississinewa River on the southeast, Chambers Park on the south and southeast, and Lincoln Boulevard to the west. The site is roughly square in form with diagonal boundary lines on the southeast and the southwest eliminating those corners of the square. Originally, farming operations on the Home grounds included the area that is now Chambers Park.
In 1981, a Determination of Eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places for Federal Properties was made under Criteria A and C. As a result, since 1981, various projects have been reviewed by the Indiana State Preservation Office for compliance under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended.
In 1992, the historic district was surveyed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as a component of the Grant County inventory of historic sites and structures.
This facility is now a part of VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, a dual campus facility associated with the former VA Medical Center Fort Wayne. Unfortunately, the original treatment hospital built in 1889, the greenhouse and cadet quarters are scheduled for demolition. There has been a lack of public interest in restoring these building to their original splendor and as they are currently a hazard for Veterans, the Department has no choice but to destroy these buildings.
A lynching occurred in Marion on August 7, 1930. A large mob estimated at 2,000 gathered at the county jail where three young black men were held on charges of killing a white man and raping his girlfriend. Before they could be tried, the three, Thomas Shipp, Abram Smith, and James Cameron, were dragged from the jail and severely beaten. Shipp and Smith were hanged, but Cameron was released when an unidentified man claimed that he had nothing to do with the crimes. In 1931 he was convicted as an accessory to murder and served four years before being paroled. James Cameron went on to serve as the Indiana State Director of Civil Liberties from 1942 to 1950 and founded three local chapters of the NAACP. He served as the first president of the Madison County, Indiana chapter. In 1988 he founded America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee to preserve the history of African Americans who had faced the terror and violence of lynching. In 1993, James Cameron received an official apology and a full pardon from the state of Indiana. Cameron later said, "Since the state of Indiana forgave me, I forgive the state of Indiana." In 2005, the U.S. Senate also officially apologized to Cameron and others. The event in Marion was notable as the last confirmed lynching of blacks in the Northern United States.
Mid 20th Century Industrial development
Marion's prosperity plateaued between the end of the gas boom, just prior to World War I, when the gas boom ended, and 1955, when General Motors located a stamping and tool plant there. A new era launched overnight, raising the sights of local residents who migrated to the city in unprecedented numbers with thoughts of a vastly expanded community potential. Except for bedroom communities near metropolitan centers, Marion's growth during the 1950s exceeded all but one Indiana city with populations of 10,000-100,000.