The history of Anderson Township, Part 2

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By Stephen Jackson | For The Times-Post

Second of a two-part series

Before it was called Park Place, the name that first appears on an 1895 map and thought to describe its park-like appearance, it was known as Johnstown, a name honoring the Pennsylvania town destroyed by flood waters in 1889.

Immediately after the tragedy, either naming or renaming a town ‘Johnstown’ was a common practice across America to remember the 2,209 victims of that tragedy.

Fifty years earlier, the area was called Scabby Hallow, a name given to the area where the canal diggers lived in shanties during the late 1830s.

With a name like Scabby Hallow, renaming it Johnstown was probably a welcomed change.

In the 19th Century, railroads and a canal were responsible for the development of several communities in Anderson Township.

As the population grew, people looked for better ways to move about; and with that came growth.

Growing speculation in the late 1830s over the construction of the Indiana Central Canal through Madison County was responsible for the formation of two communities.

In 1838, while the construction of the canal was in progress, John Renshaw platted a town site across White River, where West Maplewood Cemetery is now located.

A log cabin was erected and the “town” was given the name Victoria.

A collapse of finances caused work on the canal to be abandoned, and the hopes of Mr. Renshaw perished.

He subsequently disposed of the land.

Rockport was another canal town that was located in Anderson Township.

John W. Alley filed the Plat of his town “Rockport” on 7/29/1839.

A notation says: “said lots lay on the north side of road leading from Newcastle to Lafayette, Indiana.”

Situated two and a half miles west of Anderson, it boasted having several houses.

Rockport was located on the Strawtown road (Eighth Street), and a little southeast of the old Moss Island mills.

It never came up to the anticipations of its founder and the land afterwards passed into the hands of J.W. Sansberry, Sr., who opened a stone quarry on the site.

Railroads had a huge impact upon Anderson Township.

The former location of Omaha south of Anderson was the site of a railroad spur which connected the Big Four to a gravel pit on Ridge Road.

The area around the railroad switch was called Gravel Pit.

References to it can be found on county maps dating from 1879 to 1901.

Anderson Crossing dates from the arrival of the Cincinnati & Chicago Railway in 1855.

The railroad crossed the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine Railroad tracks near the intersection of Ohio, Columbus and Cincinnati avenues.

Upon the second railroad’s arrival, the area became an instant business hub.

Houses sprang up and real estate in the vicinity commanded high prices.

In 1864, the highest point of business activity was reached when Bellefontaine Railroad Co. built both a passenger and freight depot.

All trains on both roads stopped here and the place assumed quite a business appearance.

Grain depots were built, a hotel and eating houses were also erected.

The hotel burned in 1866, and the Noland warehouse burned soon after.

Bellefontaine Railway Co. transferred its business to new buildings three-fourths of a mile west and immediately south of the city.

A steam saw mill at Anderson Crossing was consumed by fire in 1874.

With that the crossing ceased to be important and passed into history.

Construction on the Anderson, Lebanon & St. Louis Railroad was started in Anderson in 1875.

Progress was slow but construction eventually reached Lapel.

In between, there was a freight station called Huron.

The station was located on the north side of the track in a triangular-shaped piece of ground that today is bordered by the railroad, more recently called the Central Indiana Railroad, 25th Street, and Layton Road.

No explanation for the name Huron has been found.

Panhandle Junction was the area where Cross Street crosses two different sets of railroad tracks immediately east of Indiana Avenue.

The first railroad was the Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis nicknamed the Pan Handle.

Construction from Richmond to Anderson was completed in July 1855.

Two years later the line was extended to Logansport.

It was during this later phase that the tracks were laid through the area.

However, it was not until 1876 when the tracks of the second railroad, the Cincinnati, Wabash, & Michigan Railroad, were completed to Anderson crossing the Pan Handle tracks just north of Anderson.

This crossing was given the name Pan Handle Junction.

Pan Handle Junction can be found on county maps ranging from 1879 to 1901.

The name Bradbury appears only once, and that was on an 1891 map.

It was between the New York Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad lines east of Scatterfield Road.

The Valley was the name given to the area in downtown Anderson where a stream once flowed carrying water from a pond south of 14th and Jackson streets to White River.

Over time it had eroded a good sized gulley centered where 11th and Main streets intersect.

The depression that is evident there today was estimated to be 10 to 12 feet deeper in a two-block area from 10th Street to 12th Street.

Following the removal of the Catholic Cemetery from the rear of St. Mary’s Church in the 1860s, squatters moved there and scratched out an existence in a place called Happy Hallow.

No records exist as to how long they were there but a report of a life lost there in a fire was recorded in 1877.

Very little is known about a location called Scatterfield Village.

Sketchy information indicates it was a small cluster of houses, businesses, and a one-room school house in the area near the intersection of today’s 53rd Street and Scatterfield Road.

No time frame is known.

There are three unique areas in Anderson Township.

They are unique because all three are officially classified as separate towns, yet are located within the city limits of Anderson.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census:

River Forest on West Eighth Street is 0.02 sq. miles consisting of nine households with a population of 22 residents.

It first appeared in the 1960 Census with a population of 23.

Woodlawn Heights on Van Buskirk Road is 0.12 sq. miles consisting of 34 households with a population 79 residents.

It first appeared in the 1930 Census with a population of 19.

Country Club Heights on north Madison Avenue is 0.28 sq. miles consisting of 35 households with a population 79 residents.

It first appeared in the 1960 Census with a population of 83.

Madison County Historian Stephen Jackson is leading a series of “First Sunday” presentations covering the History of Madison County townships. The talks are set for 2 p.m. on the first Sunday each month in the Bowman Room at Museum of Madison County History, 11 W. 11th St., Anderson. The talks began Sept. 4 and run through Nov. 5, 2023. The information he prepares for those presentations form the basis of this series of columns in The Times-Post.

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