Located a couple of hours drive from the major urban areas of the mid-west, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville, Martin County offers the inherent natural beauty of areas far more well known.
The East Fork of the White River winds for miles into Shoals and down to Hindostan Falls. The scenic overlooks and natural rock formations on West River Road and many other places throughout the unglaciated areas of the county remind us of the hills and valleys of Appalachia. The Jug Rock formation would be more at home in the canyons of Southern Utah, yet here it is right here in Shoals on Highway 50.
Lakes, rivers and beauty unsurpassed are closer than one could imagine.
The American history is as old as the Northwest Territory whose path was forged by buffalo, horses, stagecoaches, fur traders and eventually the settlers who came as our nation grew west to Vincennes, the furthermost outpost of the day. Landmarks still exist to commemorate that passage.
We welcome you to Martin County, Indiana. Please let us know if we can help you find your way and the things you need to make your stay a pleasant one.
- Crane Naval Base started development during World War II, in 1940. Crane was one of many government production facilities across the Hoosier state, and started as a naval weapons depot. It was named in honor of Commodore William Montgomery Crane, the first head of the Navy’s Bureau of Ordinance.
- The geological composition of the soil in Martin County is ideal for gypsum material. Both National Gypsum and US Gypsum operate plants near Shoals.
- Musseling was once a huge industry in Martin County. Shells of the mussels were used for pearl buttons beginning in 1915 by Fabius Gwin, and became an astonishing industry as time passed. Gwin was known as the “king of the button industry” in the state, and his factories paid extremely well and employed over 300 people during the peak seasons as diggers. The shells from the White River are superior to Tennessee River shells, which is the major shell producing river in the United States. Gwin kept his company afloat until his death in 1947. However, when zippers and elastics were introduced to the market, buttons dramatically lost their popularity and the industry in Martin County took a severe blow.
- Clay pottery in Shoals/Loogootee: About the same time period as the famous Rookwood Pottery was made in Ohio. Upton Stuckey realized the clay from the hills of his farm could be molded and finished by firing. Ovens were built, and the venture later became the first pottery in Martin County, and perhaps one of the very first in the state of Indiana. Containers by Stuckey had a blue and blue-green glaze design that resembles a bird. Devol and Catterson operated two pottery kilns at Shoals and made 92,000 gallons of common stoneware annually, from 1870-1892. The land in and around Shoals and Loogootee was ideal for pottery, and probably still is. John H. Folks made stoneware, flower pots, etc. from a bed of light gray potters’ clay located on the Joseph Cannon farm beginning in 1878. The stratum of potter’s clay used by Mr. Folks is nearly five feet thick and underlies a vein of coal. The area is extant with a variety of yellow-loess potter’s clays and shale and is ideal for this industry.
- Sherfick Music Company, specializing in operating juke boxes, was located in Shoals and was one of the largest companies of its kind in the Midwest.
- An abundant supply of natural gas and sand led to the growth of a booming glass industry in Martin County. The Loogootee Glass Company, Graham Brothers, New Caladonia Glass Works, and Phoenix Window Glass Company resided in Loogootee, starting around 1902. Everything from fancy, delicate perfume bottles to medicine bottles, glass chains to fruit jars, were produced. It’s been quoted that “just about every man in town worked there at one time or another, even if it was just for a short time.” All of the factories closed, however, by 1915 because the supply of natural gas was extinguished.
FACTS AND “TRUE STORIES”
- In 1861, a troop train carrying soldiers passed through Loogootee, heading towards Washington, D.C. for guard duty. After the engine cleared the Beaver Creek Bridge, a rail gave way, causing a horrific wreck that killed 40 soldiers and wounded 105. At the time, Martin County had a large group of Knights of the Golden Circle, who were southern sympathizers, and were suspected of loosening the rail.
- The first veteran that died in the Civil War from Martin County was Private Amos Boyd of the 14th Indiana Volunteers. He was killed in West Virginia at Cheat Summit Fort.
- Because of its caves and cliffs, the region around and including Shoals was a popular hideout for bootleggers during the Prohibition.
- Pre-historic Indians lived in the area as far back as 11,000 BC. They hunted now extinct animals such as bison, mammoth, and mastodon.
- According to the Society of Indiana Pioneers, an individual was a pioneer of the county if they resided here on or before December 31, 1825.
- Originally a part of Daviess County, Martin was organized as a separate county February 1, 1820.
- The first state highway was built in 1820. It ran from New Albany to Vincennes, and went through Martin County (Hwy 150).
- Archer Gang: Martin County had some notorious citizens in the 1880s named Archer that were supposedly robbers and murderers. They were finally lodged in the Martin County jail in March of 1886 after years of terrorizing the region. The people of the community took the law into their own hands, and on the night of March 9, 1886, they broke into the jail, locked up the sheriff, took the prisoners onto the court house lawn, and with ropes in hand, lynched the Archer Gang. At 1:00 a.m., the court house bells rang to alert the townspeople to witness the Archers’ hanging on the court house lawn, where they remained hanging until noon of the next day.
- Martin County has had the most county seats of any county in Indiana, at least seven. The first county seat was at Hindostan, because it was the largest town in the county. It was also on the New Albany-Vincennes stagecoach route, which was the first stagecoach route in Indiana. After Hindostan was hit by the Yellow Fever, the county seat moved to Mount Pleasant from 1828-1844. A new community developed near Mount Pleasant in 1853, where the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad came through. The people of Mount Pleasant moved to this new community, called Loogootee, which remains the largest (and only) city in the county. Surprisingly, Loogootee has never been the county seat. Trinity Springs became the new county seat, known for its natural health spas. The last and final move was to Shoals on the White River, approximately 8 miles from Hindostan, in 1871, where approximately 1200 people reside today.
- Information provided by Bill Whorrall’s A Photographic History of Martin County, Robert L. Reid and Thomas E. Rodgers’ A Good Neighbor: The First Fifty Years At Crane, Harry Q. Holt’s History of Martin County Indiana, and Bob Greene.