Historic Metamora, Indiana 1838 Canal Town

Metamora is located in the western half of Franklin County. This county was the seventh organized (1811) in Indiana with Brookville as the county seat.

A Metamora platter, David Mount, was one of the first settlers in the area that became Metamora Township. He arrived from Pennington, New Jersey in 1811, the year Franklin County was organized. He erected a pioneer gristmill on the Whitewater River near where he would later locate his town of Metamora. Mounts mill was the first of the many nineteenth century mills of Metamora, of which only one has survived. Mount's old river mill was deprived of water power with the construction of the canal.

The town of Metamora was founded with the plat of March 20, 1838, filed by David Mount and William Holland. Their plat consisted of 42 lots with the east-west streets of Main and Clayborn, and the north-south Columbia Street and numerous alleys. Mount and Holland intentionally positioned their town directly on the proposed route of the Whitewater Canal and the Brookville Road. The canal runs down the center of Main Street.

The town was platted in 1838 after the route of the canal was surveyed. The Whitewater Canal was constructed through Metamora between 1839 and 1843. Metamora is situated between Brookville and Laurel on the canal route. The canal was completed to Brookville in 1839 with the first boat arriving on June 8, 1839 from Lawrenceburg. The first boat reached Laurel, through Metamora in November 1843.

The canal had a profound effect on Franklin County and the Whitewater Valley. Metamora was one of the three canal towns founded along the proposed route. The other two towns were Cedar Grove and Laurel.

William Holland's First Addition of 1839 added eleven lots to the west end of the original plat, north of the canal, straddling Clayborn Street. John McWhorther's First Addition added four lots in 1847. McWhorther's Second Addition of 1848 added five more lots fronting Wynn Street. Metamora grew to the south with David Mount's Addition of 1848. This addition created Mount Street and enlarged the town by thirteen lots between Banes and Basin Street. McWhorther's Third Addition of 1852 expanded the town by eight lots north of Wynn Street and one large lot on the extreme western end of Metamora on Clayborn Street. The final historic addition was McWhorter's Forth Addition of 1853 extending the town northward with eighteen lots. All of the historic additions to the original town plot of 1838 occurred during the canal era

Metamora never grew beyond McWhorter's Forth Addition of 1853, and the town never incorporated. However, the town survived the demise of the canal as a means of transportation. Resourceful businessmen saw opportunities for development of the canal as a source of hydraulic power for a variety of mills. The town not only survived the canal period, but supported a growing population and numerous enterprises. State gazetteers from 1849 to the 1920's provide some insight into the commercial activities and population fluctuations. In 1849 Metamora had 200 inhabitants with no change by 1860. In 1860 five merchants, a hotelier, seven building tradesmen, four millers (flour, wool, and lumber), two meat packers, and three attorneys. Other professions and occupations included physicians, teachers, ministers, a druggist, blacksmiths, wagon, gun and barrel makers, a butcher, tailor, and leather dealers. The town retained its population of 200 and diversity of activities in 1864. The population increased to 450 by 1880, but by 1916 dropped to 330 and fewer businesses and professions were recorded. That year Metamora had five merchants, a miller, two physicians, a bank, a railroad agent, an undertaker, a hotelier, a butcher and a livery. By 1928, the population was 300 and three garages were noted in the gazetteer's directory reflecting the growing importance of automobile traffic.

 

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