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 Washington Township, home of Westfield, Ind., ranked the No. 6 best place to live in the United States by Money Magazine.
If you’re a Washington 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.
Area: Township covers 55.98 square miles.
Population: An estimated 32,884 people called Washington Township home back when 2010 Census data was being collected. But according to an oft-repeated stat, Westfield's population increased by 45% between 2010-2020.
Boundaries: To traverse the perimeter of Washington Township as the crow flies, start in the northwest corner at North Hamilton Boone Road and 216th Street. Head east to Hinkle Road and then go south as Hinkle changes to Moontown Road, which changes to Gray Road. Stop at 146th Street and travel west back to Boone County Line Road. From there, head north to complete your trip at 216th Street.
Some history highlights from Washington Township include:
Quakers Asa Bales, Ambrose Osborne and Simon Moon founded Washington Township in 1834. They settled here after leaving North Carolina, where they were staunch protestors of slavery in the South. The Society of Friends, also known as Friends Church, is still very active in Westfield.
The township served as an important home station to the Underground Railroad. Shortly after Black emancipation, residents rallied to promote racial equality and harmonious living, helping to hamper local influence of the Ku Klux Klan.
Armstrong Park is named after a prominent Black family. Edward and Sarah Armstrong’s five sons each served in the U.S. Army during World War I, garnering Sarah acclaim as being the only mother in Indiana with five sons wearing the American military uniform at the same time.
Van Camp Company, once the area's largest local employer, provided pork and beans for thousands of the troops entrenched in WWI, and the community's strong agriculture tradition sustained the town through the Great Depression.
The Historic 1830s Nicholas and Fannie Barker Log Cabin has been moved and is being rebuilt by the Westfield Historical Society in Downtown Westfield on Penn St. The cabin will be open summer 2023, in time for the Bicentennial.
Danielle Carey Tolan, Washington Township Bicentennial Commission
“The cabin is particularly meaningful to me as it is a piece of history that many can't visualize and will be able to with the reconstruction,” says Danielle Carey Tolan, the Westfield Washington Township Trustee and a long-time Westfield resident whose family is related to the Barkers.
Danielle is her township’s representative on the Bicentennial Commission. In this role, she is leading Washington Township to celebrate and commemorate Hamilton County’s 200th anniversary.
Her roots go back five generations in this area. The Careys established their first farm here in 1832, and Carey Road is named after them. The family works 2,100 acres today.
Danielle’s connection to the community is intrinsic, but connections can be created. She encourages newcomers to booming Westfield to find their niche and get involved.
“It’s important to find that thing you truly want to invest in, whether that’s history, parks, volunteerism or sports. Many people move here because it still has that small-town feel. They want to get involved in the town, which provides that next layer of commitment. It’s truly special to find your thing and invest in it,” Danielle says.
To prepare for 2023, partnerships among Westfield Washington Township, Westfield Washington Schools, Westfield Washington Public Library, the City of Westfield, the Westfield Chamber of Commerce and Westfield Washington Historical Society are in the planning stages.
“We’ll start on Thursday, June 1, with an extended weekend-long celebration showcasing the Westfield Washington Township history,” she says, including programming and events related to the Underground Railroad.
Family-friendly events will include arts, music and theater. Among the activities are field games, which date back to when families would gather in local parks for potato sack races and scavenger hunts. For the Bicentennial, participants can earn points and turn them in for prizes.
On the arts and theater front, Danielle says they are partnering with Main Street Productions and local schools to stage a historical play or musical, and public murals to connect the past to the present.
“We have amazing partnerships and we really work well together. Everyone has come on board to collaborate ideas about how we can participate to make it more robust and integrated, rather than individualized.”
Danielle noted that the City of Westfield will be coming off its annual birthday month, May, so Bicentennial festivities in June will serve as a grand finale of history. We can’t wait!
If this list excites you, contact Danielle at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved in some way. If you live outside of Washington 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 Washington and all of the townships in our fair county. Find details and order your copies here.