Mooreland’s rich history

Posted by on Aug 17, 2013 in Historically Speaking |

Mooreland’s rich history
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: Mooreland’s history as fertile as its farmland
A lieutenant governor, astronaut author have deep roots here
Midway carnival workers set up the Loop-O-Plane at last year's Mooreland Free Fair. The fair will run Aug. 5-10 this year. (C-T file photo)
Midway carnival workers set up the Loop-O-Plane at last year’s Mooreland Free Fair. The fair will run Aug. 5-10 this year. (C-T file photo)

By DARREL RADFORD
dradford@thecouriertimes.com

A future Indiana lieutenant governor once lived here. Cars were once made here. It was, at one time, home to one of the last piano string factories still operating. It has been home for the grandparents of an astronaut and a national best-selling author.

And today, this small town continues to host one of Henry County’s marquee events – the Mooreland Free Fair. With the 74th fair approaching, we thought it appropriate to look back at how this small town – population 376 – came to be.

Just off U.S. 36 in the northeastern part of Henry County, Mooreland was supposed to be somewhere else. And if another Indiana town hadn’t already taken the name, it might have been called “Leonard.”

The town was originally planned at a place about a mile north of where the Mooreland Cemetery is today – at a place called Five Points, where five roads – including Buck Creek Pike – intersect with each other.

But the Big Four Railroad changed all of that. When it was learned that the railroad’s route was taking it through the area, the town was laid out there instead.

Construction of the railroad began in 1882 and the town was first called “Leonard” in honor of the man who built most of the grade for it. But when application was made for mail service, officials learned the name Leonard had already been taken.

So, the town was named after Miles Marshall Moore, who laid out and recorded the town. Moore was a son of Philip Moore, one of the early settlers of Blue River Township. When he died in 1873, he left his farm and estate to his son.

Thanks perhaps to the railroad’s presence, Mooreland became a bustling place. In the early days, it had:

n A saw and planing mill

n An agricultural implement store

n A grain elevator and feed mill

n A livery stable that furnished horses and vehicles for driving

n The Perry Davis Carriage Co., where buggies, carriages, farm wagons and harnesses were made

n The Charles M. Daniels store, which carried groceries, china, carpets, shoes and dress goods. His advertisement proclaimed he had “the big store that made Mooreland famous.”

n An 18-room hotel known as The Rozell House, filled most every night by traveling salesmen who got off the train in Mooreland. At that time, two passenger trains per day rolled through town. The hotel was located on what is today a bank parking lot.

n The Stanley Automobile Manufacturing Co., which produced 25 automobiles before the firm moved to Ohio. The facility later became home to the Mooreland Piano String Factory, which, before it closed about 25 years ago, was one of the last facilities in the country solely dedicated to making piano strings.

Before Gaylord “Doc” Brinson conceived the idea of the Mooreland Free Fair, townspeople had fun on Labor Day. A man named Oscar White would set off an explosion of gunpowder at 3 a.m. to awaken people and get them ready for a day of food and fun. A carry-in dinner was shared with tables lined up in the main street. Potato and sack races as well as a parade were highlights. Kids could ride the Chamness Brothers’ merry-go-round for 5 cents.

Names of early town leaders like Main, Mooreland’s first postmaster, and Manifold, a family that has produced subsequent postmasters, plumbers and electricians, are still prevalent today.

Not many towns with a population as small as Mooreland’s can boast to having been home to a lieutenant governor. But Crawford Parker gave Mooreland that honor, serving in the Statehouse from 1957 to 1961 under Gov. Harold W. Handley. Parker ran for governor in 1960 and lost a tight race to Matthew Welsh. The margin was only 23,000 votes out of 2.1 million cast.

Likewise, not many towns can say they have family connections to someone who has walked on the moon. David Scott was an astronaut in the first manned flight of the lunar module in 1969 and later the seventh person to walk on the moon. He was a grandson of a Dr. Davis who resided in Mooreland.

The small town was put on a national stage in 2001 when Haven Kimmel (known as Betsy Jarvis) wrote the national best-selling book “A Girl Named Zippy.”

Goodreads’ website describes the book this way: “In this witty and lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period – people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards.”

In the centennial edition of The Courier-Times, Mooreland was described as “located in the midst of one of the richest agricultural areas in the county.” It’s no wonder the town has produced such memorable products, citizens and events.

It will indeed, be appropriate then, as the 74th Mooreland Free Fair unfolds, that the schedule run through Aug. 9. That’s the day the town was platted 131 years ago.

Darrel Radford is a staff reporter for The Courier-Times and a board member for The Henry County Historical Society. For more local history, visit the society website at www.henry countyhs.org.

 

  1. My grandpa Gaylord Doc Brinson started the Mooreland Free Fair back many years ago during the years around the Depression. He was a vocational agriculture teacher and coach in the area. I am so proud of all he accomplished in his 96 years. My dad is Robert his oldest son. He also became an algriculture teacher.

    • Thanks so much for sharing! The Mooreland Free Fair is iconic in Henry County. 🙂

  2. I was raised in Mooreland and people named Moore started the town they were related to my adopted mother main Street there was a river bed

    • Thanks for sharing this information! So interesting!

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