Founding of Roachdale
This article provides only a brief history of Roachdale and its founding. Detailed information can be obtained in a recently published book on Roachdale by local author Malcolm Romine, or by visiting the Roachdale-Franklin Township Library. Other facts and interesting information on Roachdale has been covered in previous articles.
Prior to 1880, residents of north central Putnam County received their mail at Ashby’s Mills, which became a post office in 1857 or at Carpentersville, which had a post office beginning in 1854 when the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago began running through there.
As noted in the 1864 map of Putnam County, Forest Home, with an Ashby’s Mill post office and station, lay just north of the Putnam/Hendricks County line on that rail line. Just south of there in Putnam County was a collection of houses which called itself Stumptown. Robert Lockridge owned the land in the northern part of Section 1 of Franklin Township, and what would later become Roachdale was owned by Brooks Baker, Elijah Grantham, Henry Cline and Warren Cash. Brooks Baker died in 1865 and his widow married William R. Lewis. By 1879, the land previously owned by Brooks Baker was then owned by Cassandra Lewis and Mary Jane Baker, daughter of Brooks Baker.
Then in 1880, everything changed with the construction of the Indianapolis, Decatur and Springfield Railway, which came through town February 9, 1880 and intersected the existing Louisville, New Albany and Chicago railroad. It was determined to name the community where these two railroads crossed Roachdale for Judge Addison Locke Roach of Indianapolis, who was a director of the Indianapolis, Decatur & Springfield railroad.
The town wasted no time in requesting a post office with the name Roachdale, and the Postmaster General obliged by appointing William B. Lewis as postmaster on February 3, 1880. But the Postmaster General had named the post office Langsdale, not Roachdale as instructed. As noted in the Greencastle Star on February 28, 1880 and April 10, 1880, George Langsdale, who was postmaster at Greencastle at that time, had intervened and instructed the Postmaster General to name the post office Langsdale instead. In an interview with George Langsdale, he stated the people of Roachdale should be honored the post office there was named after him and the town would greatly benefit from his elevated and influential position. The town was outraged and immediately instructed the Postmaster General to correct this terrible oversight, which he did by renaming the post office Roachdale on February 24, 1880.
William B. Lewis’ term as postmaster was short lived as Francis M. Ghormley was appointed postmaster of Roachdale on July 6, 1880. Mr. Ghormley operated the first store in town and kept drugs, groceries and the post office at his store at the southeast corner of Main and Washington Streets.
Roachdale incorporated March 25, 1882. The first local government elected included John B. Hargrave, Samuel B. Sweeney and Justice Ghormley, trustees, Samuel J. Hennon, Clerk, John H. Grantham, treasurer and John Pennell, town marshal.
The first baby girl born in Roachdale was Mabel C., daughter of Jason W. and Adarene (Akers) Miller on February 8, 1882. Leo Faller was the first boy born in the new town.
The first general store was operated by John Grantham. John Cline owned the first drug store. Lewis Stewart and Justice M. Ghormley owned the first hardware, it was a two-story building with a public hall upstairs. Samuel B. Sweeney and William Faller both had blacksmith shops. In 1885 William Allen opened up the first buggy shop and remained in that business for thirty-five years. Dr. Sellers became the first doctor in 1880, he was followed by Dr. Milligan. Jesse Grantham owned the first furniture store, located where the library now stands. In 1887, Henry Gough became a partner, but this ended in 1888 when the store burnt. In 1892, Mr. M. E. Chastain purchased the Grantham interest in an undertaking establishment and operated it along with the furniture and jewelry business. After his death, Mrs. Bernice Chastain was the town’s only undertaker for a while. Irwin’s drug store was a landmark in Roachdale since 1891 when Mr. G. W. Irwin started the business. Later his son Glen Irwin operated the business for many years.
In August of 1881 the Banner mentioned the burning of the Alfrey and Coleman Store and Plow Beam Factory at a loss of $800 and no insurance. The first buildings were frame structures and like in other places, fires caused considerable damage. On June 22, 1895 the Roachdale Handle Factory was incorporated with a $10,000 capital by Abram J. Brakes, Raser Bittles, Clara E. Brakes and Susia M. Bittles. It manufactured “D” and long handles, other handles and spokes. By 1901, it employed about forty persons, and Rasor Bittles felt the Handle Company had been so successful that he bought out the Brakes and moved the company to Greencastle, in 1903, where he continued the operations for several years. The associated Roachdale Novelty Wood Work Company probably employed more persons than the Handle Factory. Products were shipped by the car load and even to foreign countries.