During the Hamilton County Bicentennial, each of our nine townships will get special treatment for one full month. In this post, we're headed to Noblesville Township, which will be put on the Bicentennial pedestal in July 2023. (Visit our FAQs to see when your township will be the star.)
If you’re a Noblesville Township resident or have a special place in your heart for the area, we encourage you to connect to its history and get to know your Bicentennial Commission representative.
So without further ado …
Population: According to the 2010 census, an estimated 50,564 people have a home address within Noblesville Township.
Cities and Communities: The vast majority of the township is home to the City of Noblesville, our county seat. Lesser-known Riverwood also sits within Noblesville Township. There you can find the abandoned Holliday Hydroelectric Powerhouse and Dam, which began operation in 1922 on the White River.
Home of the Millers: The Miller Man is the official mascot of Noblesville High School and the city’s two middle schools. But why? In 1925, C. B. Jenkins, a manager of the Noblesville Milling Company, offered to buy new uniforms for the Noblesville High School boys basketball team if the school agreed to use the nickname “Millers.”
Some of the highlights from history for Noblesville Township include:
Noblesville Township was organized in 1827
While the name William Conner is common around these parts, one of the most important settlement stories involves Pete Smith, a Black man and the first non-Indian to live in the Noblesville area. It’s believed that without Smith’s contributions, the first white settlers would not have been able to survive.
The Logan Street bridge we drive over today wasn’t the original. In 1868, a covered bridge built in the Howe truss style allowed Noblesville visitors to travel over the river’s west fork.
The site at 53 S. 9th St., Noblesville, was once the home of vaudeville performances, high school graduations and movie screenings. The Wild Opera House was built in 1895 by Leonard Wild. In 1959, the city paid $5,000 to purchase the Opera House, which was demolished to make way for city parking.
Dottie Young, Noblesville Township Bicentennial Commission
A long-time Hamilton County resident and preservation advocate, Dottie Young recalls how her grandmother acted on the Wild Opera House stage in 1900 playing the part of Portia in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.”
The Bicentennial Commission has members from each of the nine townships to help celebrate and commemorate the history of the county. Dottie is the representative for Noblesville Township.
“As part of the Bicentennial, we get to celebrate our county’s history. We get this wonderful opportunity to educate and inform newer people here about what we were and what direction we’re going, to not destroy the past but to enhance it,” Dottie says.
Her roots in this area runs deep. Dottie’s earliest ancestors were the Passwater family, who came to Wayne Township in the 1820s from Delaware. Dottie, whose last name was Zeiss before marrying, grew up in Wayne Township but went to Noblesville High School. Her graduating class had a record-setting 178 students. She has lived in downtown Noblesville for many years.
Dottie and her sister, Diane Nevitt, became involved in the Hamilton County Historical Society during Hamilton County’s Sesquicentennial in 1973. They became more active in preservation when the Sheriff’s Residence and jail was threatened with demolition around 1980. The 1875-1876 building was saved and is now the home of the Hamilton County Museum of History.
“You can just live in a place, or you can become part of it,” she says. “I want to share a sense of home and history and belonging and pride.”
Organizations in Noblesville are already hatching Bicentennial plans. Some that Dottie is considering include:
In conjunction with the Noblesville Preservation Alliance, staging a reading of a play that appeared on stage at the Wild Opera House
Planning a ball and encouraging guests to come dressed in any decade they want
Hosting a storytelling event where people share personal stories of Noblesville history
Working with the Polk Street Review to feature a Bicentennial angle to its anthology
Commissioning window decorations in downtown Noblesville
If this list excites you, contact Dottie at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved in some way. If you live outside of Noblesville Township but you’re inspired to think about projects for your own township, visit the Plan an Event page. We’d love to help!
Preorders are available for the upcoming photographic history book, Celebrating Hamilton County, Indiana: 200 Years of Change. The large format, hard-cover book will feature stories from Jackson and all of the townships in our fair county. Find details and order your copies here.