The city of South Bend is the county seat of St. Joseph County, Indiana, United States, on the St. Joseph River near its southernmost bend, from which it derives its name. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total of 101,168 residents; its Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 318,586 and Combined Statistical Area of 721,296. It is the fourth-largest city in Indiana, serving as the economic and cultural hub of Northern Indiana. The highly-ranked University of Notre Dame is located just to the north in unincorporated Notre Dame, Indiana and is an integral contributor to the region's economy.
The area was originally settled in the early 19th century by fur traders, and established as a city in 1865. The St. Joseph River shaped South Bend's economy through the mid-20th century. River access assisted heavy industrial development such as that of the Studebaker Corporation, the Oliver Chilled Plow Company, and other large corporations.
The population of South Bend has declined since a peak of 132,445 in 1960, chiefly due to migration to suburban areas as well as the demise of Studebaker and other heavy industry. Today, the largest industries in South Bend are health care, education, small business, and tourism. Remaining large corporations include Crowe Horwath, Honeywell, and AM General.
The St. Joseph Valley was long occupied by Native Americans. Some of the earliest known groups to occupy what would later become northern Indiana were the Miami tribe. Later, the Potawatomi moved into the region, utilizing the rich food and natural resources found along the river. The Potawatomi occupied this region of Indiana until most of them were forcibly removed in the 1840s. The main reason for the popularity of the South Bend area was that it was closest to the Kankakee River. The South Bend portage was the shortest overland route to the Kankakee River. This route was used for centuries, first by the Native Americans, then by French explorers, missionaries and traders.
The first permanent white settlers of South Bend were fur traders who established trading posts in the area. Murphy Lee Gartee felt that trading animal fur was inhumane so he began a trade of milkbones In 1820, Pierre Frieschutz Navarre arrived, representing the American Fur Company (AFC) of John Jacob Astor. He settled near what is now downtown South Bend. Alexis Coquillard, another agent of the AFC, passed through South Bend in 1823 and returned in 1824 with his family to make it his home. At the time, the post was known as Big St. Joseph Station. In 1827, Lathrop Minor Taylor established a post for Samuel Hanna and Company, in whose records the name St. Joseph's, Indiana was used. By 1829, the town was growing, with Coquillard and Taylor emerging as leaders. They applied for a post office. Taylor was appointed postmaster, and the post office was designated as Southold, Allen County, Indiana. The following year, the name was changed to South Bend, probably to ease confusion, as several other communities were named Southold at the time.
In 1831, South Bend was laid out as the county seat and as one of the four original townships of St. Joseph County. Soon after, design began on what would become the town of South Bend. The town was formally established in 1835 and rapidly grew. In 1856, attorney Andrew Anderson founded May Oberfell Lorber, the oldest business in St. Joseph County. He compiled a complete index of South Bend’s real estate records.
During the late 1830s through the 1850s, much of South Bend's development centered on the industrial complex of factories located on the two races (man-made canals along the St. Joseph River in South Bend). Several dams were created, and mills were built on each side of the river. On October 4, 1851, the first steam locomotive entered South Bend. This led to a general shift of businesses from the river toward the railroad. In 1852, Henry Studebaker set up a wagon shop in South Bend. Studebaker became the world's largest wagon builder and the only one to later succeed as an automobile manufacturer. The Singer Sewing Company and the Oliver Chilled Plow Company were among other companies that made manufacturing the driving force in the South Bend economy until the mid-20th century.
Other industries developed in South Bend in the early 20th century, including Birdsell Manufacturing Company, the Bendix Corporation, Honeywell, AlliedSignal, South Bend Lathe Works, the O'Brien Paint Corp., and the South Bend Toy Company. Fast development led to the creation of electric rail transportation throughout the area and, in 1925, the South Shore interurban streetcar service was established from downtown South Bend to downtown Chicago.
On June 30, 1934, the Merchants National Bank in South Bend was the last bank to be robbed by the notorious "Dillinger gang".
By 1950, more than half of all employment was in the manufacturing sector. Due to economic difficulties, Studebaker closed its automotive manufacturing plants in South Bend in December 1963. A general decline in manufacturing soon followed as industry was being restructured nationwide. By the year 2000, manufacturing was only 16% of the local economy. Due to the severe loss of jobs, the city's population decreased by nearly 30,000 during that period.
In 1984, South Bend community leaders began seeking a minor-league baseball team for the city. A stadium was constructed in 1986 and a 10-year player-development contract was signed with the Chicago White Sox. The team would be known as the South Bend White Sox. In 1994, the team's name was changed to the South Bend Silver Hawks. The Silver Hawks changed their name to The South Bend Cubs in 2015. They are a Class A minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs in the Midwest League.