Welcome To KEY TO THE CITY's Page For
Grant County Indiana
Chamber of Commerce.
A history page for Marion - a joint project of Martion High School and Marion Public Library
When Martin Boots and David Branson each donated thirty acres 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," their word for "laughing waters." So rapid had been the tide of settlement that it followed by only 19 years the Battle of Mississinewa, 7 miles 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.
For more than 50 years, Marion-one of at least 36 U.S. communities named for Revolutionary War General , Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox," grew slowly 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 Indian's last reservation, with its Indian school, Baptist Church and cemetery, 8 miles away.
Meanwhile, the entire county grew at a similarly dizzy 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 at the 1940's, Matthews resembled a western ghost mining town, but that was after it had attracted eleven glass factories and had 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. A National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, established in 1890, and integrated in 1995 with the former Fort Wayne Veterans Affairs Medical Center, is now known as the Veterans Affairs, Northern Indiana Health Care System (Marion Campus). Situated on a picturesque 151 acres with a National Cemetery, the modern healthcare facility employs 800 employees and has 217 hospital beds as well as a 123 nursing home care unit at the Marion Campus. Taylor University, lured to Upland in 1893, was listed among the 10 most highly regarded liberal arts colleges in the Midwest/Far West area of the United states in 1987 survey by the U.S. News and World Report.
Marion remained on a plateau from just prior to World War I, when the gas boom ended, until General Motors located a stamping and tool plant here in 1955. Overnight it launched a new era, raising the sights of local residents who began to think in unprecedented numbers and vastly expanded community potential. Except for bedroom communities near metropolitan centers, Marion's growth during the 1950's exceeded all but one Indiana city in the 10,000-100,000 population group.
Although Marion's present industry is automotive centered, Thomson Consumer Electronics produces television picture tubes and other factories turn out paper products, foundry products, machinery, wire, and cable. The paper plate industry was born in Marion and in it's infancy, five of the nation's nine plants were located here. Agriculture is a multi-million dollar business centering around corn, hogs, and soybeans, and supplemented by such specialty crops as tomatoes.
The city is the home of Indiana Wesleyan University. The extensive Marion High School campus includes an impressive 1,468 seat community auditorium. The Marion Philharmonic Orchestra and the Marion Civic Theatre provide musical and dramatic entertainment. The six-time state basketball champions, Marion Giants, play in the 7,500 seat Bill Green Athletic Arena. The city operates a 2.75 mile Riverwalk from downtown to Matter Park, there is a $ 1,000,000 YMCA memorial to war veterans and a publicly-owned mansion, the Hostess House, which is used for social functions. Marion General Hospital has been nationally-accredited for approximately a half-century.
A central city renaissance which began about 1980 includes a county office and security complex, a new city building, an enclosed specialty mall, the Holiday Inn, and just a few blocks away, a $ 11.5 million vocational training center for traditional students and adults seeking additional training.
Actor James Byron Dean was born in Marion; composer Cole Porter studied music here; Caleb B. Smith, Lincoln's secretary of the interior, served as a prosecuting attorney; Kenesaw Mountain Landis, first commissioner of organized baseball and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Willis Van Devanter practiced law here. Captain George W. Steele, Jr., who crossed the Atlantic by air four years before Lindbergh did, was a Marion native.
The parents of the Wright Brothers, the airplane inventors, lived near Fairmount. This small community was the home of 3 men who served simultaneously as college presidents and at one time had 14 times the national per capita average of Who's Who listees. Famous natives of Fairmount also include: Jim Davis, creator of the comic strip, "Garfield;" CBS news correspondent, Phil Jones; Robert Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center; and Mary Jane Ward, author of The Snake Pit.
The above history was written for the Marion-Grant County Chamber of Commerce by Richard Simons, local historian. June, 28, 1996
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James Dean - born in Marion at 2 a.m. on February 8, 1931. His home, known as "Seven Gables," no longer stands, but a plaque and monument have been placed there. The home was located at the corner of Fourth and McClure Streets in Marion.
Marion is the birthplace of "Garfield" comic creator Jim Davis, harpist Mildred Dilling, author of children's books Elisabeth Hamilton Friermood, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Willis VanDevanter.
Quilt designer and author Marie Webster operated her quilt pattern company, Practical Patchwork, out of her home at 926 S. Washington. In 2004, Mrs. Webster's home will open as the Quilters Hall of Fame.
Wings over Marion - record of Aviation Development
705 Wharton Dr.
Marion, IN 46952
Phone: (765) 662-1021
Marion National Cemetery
Records of burials at this cemetery in Marion.
Wilson-Vaughan Historic Hostess House
723 W. Fourth Street
Marion, Indiana 46953
Open year round, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Closed major holidays
History and tour available with advance notice for groups,
Please call ahead to confirm hours of operation and costs.
Quilters Hall of Fame
The outside of the home has been restored with much indoor work remaining. The Hall of Fame is scheduled to open in 2004
7 miles north on SR 15
America's most exciting Living History Weekend on the Mississinewa Battlefield
Mississinewa Riverwalk Way
A riverwalk that enhances the river corridor by improving access to the river, providing opportunities for boating and fishing activities, providing a trail system for recreation and physical fitness and access between private and public facilities along the riverfront. The walkway extends from the Highland Avenue Bridge through Matter Park.
Open year-round; enjoy biking, hiking, or jogging along Grant County's 7.5 mile portion of the Cardinal Greenway rail-trail project. No motorized vehicles allowed on trail.
Email or call 765-651-2687
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Marion is the County seat for Grant County.