This week, our resident genealogist, Wanda S. is providing you with some interesting facts about the town of Austin, Indiana and it’s history.
The land where the town of Austin now sits was purchased in 1839 by Isaiah Jones at the government land office in Jeffersonville for $1.25 an acre. The land would be sold several times before in 1853, George A. Rankin, John Elsey and Caleb H. Skeel platted the town of Austin. This followed the completion of the railroad through Scott County. Most likely, Austin was named after Austin, Texas because several veterans of the Mexican War that fought in Texas settled in this area.
Austin, as in early towns of this time, had a harness maker, wagon makers, blacksmiths, shoe and boot makers, carpenters, brick-mason, cabinet-makers, sawmills, and furniture makers. The town was strung along the railroad tracks. Dr. Lyman Maynard, from New York, was the town’s first doctor.
The First Newspaper
Austin had its first newspaper as early as 1859, the “Scott County Argus”. It was started by Henry Cope and William Kuhns, who had come from Pennsylvania to New Frankfort then to Austin. Sometime before 1880 that newspaper would cease to exist and the “Chronicle” would be established and published by B.F. Foster.
The First School
The date of the first school is not known but most likely shortly after the town was platen in 1853. Then in 1868, William and Matilda Hughbanks, Thomas and Eliza Hughbanks and George and Indiana Meranda sold Lots Nos 46, 47 and 48 in the town off Austin to the Trustee of Jennings Township for $75 for the purpose of a new school. This was a four room, two-story frame school house which would be used until 1888 when a new brick, three room school would be built on Main and High Streets. Then in 1910 another new school was built and beginning with school year 1911-1912 a high school was begun for the first time.
Canning Comes to Austin
The Austin Canning Company began operation in 1900. That first year it contracted for 250 acres of tomatoes and packed 2400 cases of tomatoes with a workforce of 75 employees. That year they also canned 2000 cases of peaches. In 1907 Scott County had 2,265 acres planted in tomatoes, the largest number of acres in Indiana with a total yield of 371,425 bushels.
To be nearer the canning companies, American Can Company build its Austin plant in 1934. The Austin Canning Company and American Can Company would be the largest employers in Scott County for decades to come. The American Can Company closed in Dec 1988.
The Coffee Pot Restaurant
A well-known landmark to travelers that was located just south of Austin on U.S. 31 was the Coffee Pot Restaurant. The building was built in the shape of a coffee pot in 1929. It was operated as a restaurant for 10 years, then used as a residence until 1957. It has since been demolished.
A new town hall was built in 1972. A new library was built in 1991 on land donated by the Morgan family.
The population of Austin in 1870 was 321 and in 2010 the population was 4,295.
This is post is brought to you by our library genealogist, Wanda S. She is happy to assist you in your genealogical search or with information regarding the history of Scott County. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us an email at email@example.com and we will be certain she gets it.