Location: Downtown, Southeast
Named For: Nicholas McCarty, one of the first white settlers of Indianapolis
McCarty was born September 26, 1795 in Moorefield, Hardy County, Virginia (now West Virginia) but moved to Pittsburgh after his father’s death. He had very few opportunities for a formal education, so as a young man, he moved to Newark, Ohio and worked for one of Ohio’s most successful merchants. There, he learned the mercantile business and became extremely successful and adept at running a business.
At 28, he moved to Indianapolis in the fall of 1823 and established one of the city’s first general stores on the southwest corner of Washington and Pennsylvania streets, which would later be known as “McCarty’s Corner.” Since he was familiar with several Miami Indian dialects, he also had a vibrant trading relationship with local Native Americans. He also began producing, hemp, ginseng and silk and built the city’s first steam flour mill with fellow settlers James Ray and James Blake.
Spurred by the success of his store, he opened branches in Covington, Cumberland, Greenfield, LaPorte and Waverly. He also acquired acres of land and became one of the wealthiest landowners in the entire city owned much of the southwest side of the new city. In 1835, McCarty and another early settler, Calvin Fletcher and Nicholas McCarty purchased a 264-acre farm that would become the Fountain Square neighborhood.
He also became a leading civic mover. He served as the commissioner of the Canal Fund for the state from 1832 to 1836. He resigned the job once the Indiana Mammoth Internal Improvements Act was pass because he thought the act might economically damage the state – a prediction that came true and bankrupted the state. In 1847, he ran for Congress as a Whig but lost. He later won election to the Indiana State Senate seat in 1849, but resigned his seat in 1852 to be the Whig Party’s candidate for governor. He lost that election to sitting Governor Joseph A. Wright by about 10,000 votes, but later served as an Indianapolis city councilor from 1853 to 1854.
He was married in Boone County, Kentucky in 1828 to Margaret Hawkins, the daughter of one of the earliest of the Baptist preachers of the area. He died in May 17, 1854 at age 58 and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery. He was survived by Margaret, and children, Nicholas, Frances, Susanna and young Margaret.
All photos courtesy Sergio Bennett