Shelby County Community Profile savi

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Land Area in Square Miles: 411.1
Total Population: 44,940
Year Established: 1821
Population Rank: 33

County adjacent to Indianapolis-Marion County on the southeast and part of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Statistical Area. The first settlers of the area that is now Shelby County came by Whetzel's Trace after 1818. By the time of the county's organization in 1821 settlements had been made throughout the area. Most of the original settlers were Methodists; there was a class meeting in Shelby County by 1821. Shelbyville was established as the county seat in 1822.

Shelby County had excellent farmland, but the area was poorly served by the states road system. In an attempt to open the markets at Indianapolis and Madison to Shelby County farmers, Shelbyville businessmen in 1849 financed the construction of the Shelbyville Lateral Branch, a 16-mile railway line that connected Shelbyville to the MADISON AND INDIANAPOLIS RAILROAD at Edinburgh. This and other small Shelby County lines were abandoned soon after the completion of the Cincinnati, Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad through Shelbyville in 1853. This line opened the major midwestem markets to Shelby County crops and pork, and Shelbyville became an agricultural center in its own right. By the 1870s furniture manufactories began to appear in Shelbyville. The city soon became a manufacturing center; by 1909 it boasted a dozen furniture factories and was known as the "Furniture City of the Middle West." At that time it was a growing city of 12,000 connected to the state capital by a railroad and an interurban line.

Shelby County was the home of one of the first Catholic churches in central Indiana. Residents formed a Catholic church in 1836, and in 1839 they built St. Vincent DePaul near Shelbyville. During this time the few Catholic settlers in Indianapolis were under the dependency of the pastor of St. Vincent. Once a month the pastor would travel to Indianapolis, an arrangement that lasted until 1846 when a Catholic church was established in the capital.

In 1902 the Seventh-day Adventists established a school at Boggstown in Shelby County. Originally called the Boggstown Manual Training Academy, the institution moved to a grove near Fairland and the name was changed to Beechwood Manual Training Academy in 1903. The school operated at this site until the 1940s when it moved to Cicero in Hamilton County and became the Indiana Academy of Seventh-day Adventists.

The demise of the railroad and the INTERURBANS after 1930 hurt Shelbyville's industry, and the city has grown very little since 1909 (12,000 in 1909, 15,000 in 1990). Today Shelby County is a rural area with a relatively stable population of 40,307 (1990). Farms cover much of the land in the county, but the main employers are small manufacturers in the Shelbyville and Morristown areas.

*History Data Source: The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis (Indiana University Press, 1994) Edited by David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows.