Has the Bicentennial piqued your interest in history? Great! We've collected resources here to help you research your township, family or topic of interest. Enjoy digging into Hamilton County's past.
Lesser-Known Program Ideas
Consider playing off some of our county’s more unusual historical happenings
Get your creativity and curiosity brewing with these theme ideas:
The Ice Age in Hamilton County (Fox Prairie peat bog)
Circuses in Hamilton County (White River Township)
Pre-Civil War Buildings in Hamilton County
Deer Creek Music Center and the 1995 Grateful Dead Riot (Wayne Township)
Inventors of Hamilton County (Washington Township)
Hamilton County Firefighting History (Clay Township)
Lagoon Lodge – Hamilton County speakeasy (River Bend Campground)
The Indiana Room
Visit online or in person inside the Noblesville Library
The Indiana Room, located on the second floor of the Noblesville Library, houses a special collection dedicated to preserving and providing local and state history, genealogy and more. Access databases (including many of those included on this Research page) and books to help you develop your program grant application. Plus, library staff are on hand to help.
While the Indiana Room is housed inside the Noblesville branch, you can access many Indiana Room resources on the library website. Visit the Indiana Room online for more information and helpful links.
Primary County Histories Available Online
Get access to the old standards and lots of details
These are ideal if you have a specific need and know what you're looking for.
1880: History of Hamilton County, Indiana, by T.B. Helm. Peruse illustrations and biographical sketches of some of the county’s prominent men and pioneers, to which are appended maps of its several townships.
1901: A History of the Formation, Settlement and Development of Hamilton County, Indiana, by Augustus Finch Shirts. From the year 1818 to the close of the Civil War, this local lawyer and writer’s authoritative history includes lots of lists. (If you've heard of the so-called Great Squirrel Stampede of 1822, this is where it can be traced.)
1915: History of Hamilton County, Indiana: Her People, Industries and Institutions, by John F. Haines. A great source of biographical sketches of representative citizens and genealogical records of old families.
Reminiscences of the Long Ago, by Zina Warren. This “historical sketch” covers “the early settlement of Bethlehem, now Carmel and vicinity … with … an account of the Indians and of the doings and makeshifts of the early pioneers who have passed away with a partial list of their names … and … a list of the dead of Bethlehem-Carmel … an account of merchandising and other branches of business, accidents, suicides, shootings, fires, etc. up to 1911.”
Books from Arcadia Publishing
Drill down and get community specific with recently produced works by local authors
Arcadia Publishing prides itself on reconnecting people to their community, neighbors and past by offering a curbside view of hometown history and often forgotten aspects of American life. Several local authors have penned works about Hamilton County cities and towns through the publisher. (Most links below lead to complete texts.)
Hidden History of Hamilton County, Indiana, by David Heighway (2021). Hamilton County's past harbors sundry strange tales, many of them lost to time--until now. (Heighway is also a contributor to the upcoming Hamilton Co. Bicentennial book.)
Wicked Fishers, by Robert Bowling (2021). Fishers is one of the safest places to live in the United States, but it was once a lawless town where anything could happen. (Bowling is also a contributor to the upcoming Hamilton Co. Bicentennial book.)
A History of Westfield, Indiana: The Promise of the Land, by Tom Rumer (2015). Founded in 1834 by a small group of Quakers protesting human slavery in the South, Westfield and Washington Township served as an important home station on the Underground Railroad.
Noblesville, by Nancy A. Massey and Carol Ann Schweikert (2013). Since 1823, Noblesville has served as the county seat for Hamilton County, Indiana. This book documents the history, community life, and growth of Noblesville using stories and photographs. (Massey is also involved in the upcoming Hamilton Co. Bicentennial book.)
Carmel, by Terri Horvath (2007). Carmel started as a small trading post and farming community in 1836 but has long been regarded as a gateway to Indiana's capital city. The nickname "North Gate of Indianapolis" was adopted by Carmel's centennial committee, reflecting the town's appreciation of the big-city association.
County and State Maps Online
Explore who owned what and how land has changed hands
Property ownership is important. You can research a larger-acreage property, a commercial property or the site of an event you’re holding. TIP: Start with finding names of people associated with a property, and then you can further your research. (Researching an individual residence often requires a trip to the Hamilton County Courthouse.)
Also, Newspapers.com is available without a fee at all Hamilton East Public Library branches, is a great resource with a robust, user-friendly search function.
The Library of Congress holds historic maps that show the area of Indiana and Hamilton County going back to 1753. The first map that shows the county was created in 1825. (One curiosity: There is strong evidence that William Clark came through in 1791, but it has never been proven. Maps of the area are deemed inaccurate until the until 1830s.)
Original purchasers map – Created by the Hamilton County Surveyor’s Office from land records.
1866 map – First detailed map of the county. It shows property ownership and the layout of the towns.
1876 state atlas – Detailed maps of some of the towns.
Maps of the county at the State Library can be found online in a few different ways:
Indiana State Library maps - You may access lists of maps, atlases, and plat books by clicking on the link to the desired county
Or browse by county here.
Sanborn maps - Created for use by fire insurance companies and give an extremely detailed plan of the buildings in a community. These are for Hamilton County towns for several years:
Noblesville 1883, 1887, 1892, 1898, 1905, 1914, 1922, 1933, 1947 – click here.
Arcadia 1896, 1902, 1909, 1915, 1933 – click here
Atlanta 1902, 1909 – click here
Sheridan 1896, 1902, 1909 – click here
Library of Congress Maps — Here’s a link to get started with a search of maps available from the Library of Congress.
Online Directories of Names
Dig into a rich ‘who’s who’ of Hamilton County residents
Enter a name and see what you can find in these directories of Hamilton County residents. In the 20th century directories, you can go street by street to see who lived where. (If you need more, come to the Indiana Room for non-digitized directories.)
Interesting & Offbeat Sources
More ways to think outside of the box
SURVEY SAYS! - The first survey of the area was made in 1820. These are their notes. Technically speaking, using this source requires knowledge of surveyor’s terminology to make heads or tails of. But visually, the geometric images could prompt a design- or art-related program idea! For some layman's context on the survey, check out David Heighway's piece (page 22, Hamilton County Business Magazine). The article provides some background on the original survey talks about how Cicero Creek got its name.
GO “UNDERGROUND” - Hamilton County was a part of the Underground Railroad. Information can be found in the Wilbur Seibert Underground Railroad collection.
CHASING PATENTS - The first known patent issued to a Hamilton County resident was in 1853. There were around 243 issued between then and 1950. Most can be found at the Google Patents website by using the phrase “in the county of Hamilton” and “Indiana” like here.
GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY - The state created a soil map of Hamilton County in 1912. It’s much like a topographical map except that it shows soil types rather than physical features. The soil map gives you an idea of size of city, location of buildings, etc. Plus, get a report to go with the soil map.
HILLS & VALLEYS - Topographical maps of Hamilton County going back to the 1950s can be found at this U.S. Geological Survey web page.
KEEP TABS ON THE DECEASED - The cemetery map was created to keep track of burial sites around the county and to make sure that they were not disturbed.
HIGH WATER - White River has had several dramatic floods in the time since the county was founded. Read all about historic floods in this article by Hamilton County Historian David Heighway. And get information on historical crests for the White River at Noblesville.
SANFORD COX RECALLS:
Sandford Cox described a family trip along the Lafayette Trace (the early trail running from the Ohio River to the Wabash River) through Hamilton County in 1824.
Dig into Recollections of the early settlement of the Wabash Valley by Sandford C. Cox (1860).
FICTIONAL WESTFIELD - James Baldwin wrote a fictionalized version of his growing up in Westfield prior to the Civil War. Browse the pages of In the Days of my Youth: An Intimate Personal Record of Life And Manners in the Middle Ages of the Middle West, by James Baldwin (1923).
Photograph Collections of Hamilton County Scenes
A relevant picture is worth a thousand words