Since moving back to Indianapolis, after living out west for a number of years, I have enjoyed rediscovering parts of the city I knew when I was growing up. The other day, I found myself in New Augusta and was overcome by a feeling of having stepped back in time. Could you give a little history of the area? ~ Pam M., Indianapolis
The area of Pike Township that would later be named New Augusta was purchased from the federal government in 1834 by Thomas Reveal Jr. Reveal lived in Highland County, Ohio, at the time of the land purchase. He and a number of other family members migrated to Marion, Boone, and Hamilton Counties in the 1830s and 1840s. The document certifying Reveal’s purchase, issued by President Andrew Jackson, appears below.
By the 1850s, the northwest portion of Reveal’s land was acquired by Christian Hornaday, and the south and east portions of Reveal’s land were acquired by Joseph Klingensmith. The map below shows their parcels, as well as those of surrounding landowners in Pike Township (note that Hornaday is misspelled as Horniday [sic]).
In 1852, the Indianapolis & Lafayette Railroad built a route about a mile-and-a-half west of the existing town of Augusta. The tracks, which were laid parallel to the Michigan Road (aka US 421), passed diagonally through the parcels of land owned by Hornaday and Klingensmith. As no town existed yet at the spot where the railroad depot was constructed, it was called Augusta Station for the town to which it was the nearest, Augusta.
The first Augusta depot burned to the ground about 1890. Within a few years, a new station was built, which survives today. When passenger trains ceased to travel the route, the building was acquired by the Purdy family, whose home was immediately north of it. Mary, Emma, and Olive Purdy, the grandaughters of New Augusta settlers Ephraim and Adeline Purdy, maintained the depot to the ends of their lives. The residence and Augusta Station were inherited by a Purdy relative and are still in the family today.
Christian Hornaday passed away around the same time the railroad was constructed. As the administrator of Christian’s estate, William Hornaday decided to capitalize on the opportunities provided by the new railroad. He enlisted the assistance of Marion County Surveyor Percy Hosbrook to plat the land west of the railroad tracks. In recognition of the surveyor who helped him lay it out, Hornaday named the development Hosbrook.
For the next couple of decades, the settlement was alternately called Augusta Station and Hosbrook. It was never officially incorporated as a municipality, but with a train depot and a post office, as well as a number of commercial enterprises, it functioned as a town. Eventually, the United States Postal Service required that a new name be chosen, because both Hosbrook, Indiana, and Augusta, Indiana, already existed. Effective October 1, 1876, the name “New Augusta” was adopted.
None of the earliest commercial structures survive from the 1850’s and 1860’s, but numerous buildings from the 1870’s, 1880s, and 1890s still exist today. The Oddfellows Building, built about 1890 on the northwest corner of 72nd and Dobson Streets, has provided space for a variety of businesses over the years.
The narrow streets in New Augusta date to the 1850s, when the village was created. The names of the streets reflect the names of some of the families who owned property in the area in the late 1800’s and are not found anywhere else in Indianapolis. They are Purdy, Dobson, Pollard, and Coffman.
Other surnames with early New Augusta ties (besides those surnames already mentioned earlier) included Avery, Coble, Cotton, DeLong, Englehardt, Fearin, Featherstone, Griffey, Guion, Gullefer, Guthrie, Hessong, Hightshue, Hollingsworth, Kissell, McCurdy, Neidlinger, Poe, Rodibaugh, Staton, Stirwalt, Sweeney, Turley, and Wachstetter.
The great-granddaughter of New Augusta physician, George A. Coble, M.D. (1861-1937), has graciously contributed three photos from her personal collection, which appear below.
Some of the styles of home construction in New Augusta include Italianate, Late Victorian, Gabled Ell, Bungalow, and Craftsman.
The building at 73rd and Coffman Road has gone through several incarnations related to public education in its 134+ years of existence. Originally a four-room schoolhouse, it was later enlarged and housed both grade school and high school classes. The structure then became the gymnasium for a new school built immediately to the east of it in 1909. That high school building no longer exists.
New Augusta High School served Pike Township from 1889 to 1938. The public secondary school for the area is now called Pike High School. A 2012 HI Mailbag article about Pike High School can be read by clicking here.
The Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church was originally organized in 1836 as the Hopewell Evangelical Church. The congregation met in parishoners’ homes until the present church was built in the late 1870s.
Over the years of its existence, the Indianapolis & Lafayette Railroad was owned by various different entities, including the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railroad; Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis (aka The Big Four) Railroad; New York Central Railroad; Penn Central Railroad; and Conrail. In 1861, the railroad hosted Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural train, and in 1865, his funeral train.
On January 1, 1970, New Augusta became part of the City of Indianapolis when the city’s boundaries expanded to include all of Marion County under UniGov.
In 1989, New Augusta was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1999, the property owners in New Augusta voted to become an Indianapolis Conservation District. A conservation district is a special category, different from a traditional historic district. It focuses on conserving an area’s historic community, rather than protecting its historic architecture per se. Roughly bounded by West 71st Street on the south, West 74th Street on the north, New Augusta Road on the east, and Coffman Road on the west, the district is overseen by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC).
Today, New Augusta retains the ambience of a 19th-century railroad village. Barns, sheds, root cellars, and carriage houses can still be found in homeowners’ yards. It’s one of only two intact nineteenth-century railroad towns in Marion County. The other is Acton, in Franklin Township on the far southeast side of Marion County.
New Augusta’s architecture and streetscapes provide a glimpse of what it was like to live in the rural villages that sprang up al over the country in the 1800’s, as a result of the building of railroads. The district retains many of its small town characteristics, and its residents and businesses maintain a strong sense of the community’s past.
If you have memories of living in or near New Augusta or visiting someone there, please leave a comment below.
If you have a question about Indianapolis history, please send it to historicindianapolis(at)yahoo(dot)com, with “HI Mailbag” in the subject line. We will do our best to answer it. Sponsors and Subscribers are given preference for extensive research on specific properties or specific families featured in HI Mailbag articles. ~ Sharon
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