Brief History of City of Brazil
From the 1908 Brazil City Directory
In the year of 1843, Owen THORPE moved a house from the practically abandoned town-site of the original Harmony and placed it alongside the National Road, at a point three miles westward. In the early part of the year following (1844), he founded a town-site here. A post office was also established the same year, and THORPE was appointed postmaster. The proprietor took the precaution to find a name for both the town and the post office, which would not conflict with any other at that time in the geographical and postal terminology of the country. He chose the name of the empire of “The New World,” for the reason that just at that time there was much being said in the press of the country about Brazil, South America, because of its being involved in war with an insurrectionary party, allied with one or more neighboring powers.
The original plat, as founded by Judge THORPE, comprised that part of the present city bounded on the north by Church Street, on the east by Walnut Street, on the south by Jackson Street, and on the west by Meridian Street.
THORPE is credited with having opened the first store in the place. The first industrial enterprise was that of John HENDRIX, Sr., who located here in 1845 and opened shops for general blacksmithing and the manufacture of wagons and farm implements, transporting overland, by wagon all the iron used, from Madison, on the Ohio River.
In the same year (1845), the promoters of the town joined in the building of a small hewn-log house for church, school and general assembly purposes, which stood on or near what is now N. Franklin Street, either upon, or immediately adjacent to the grounds of the present M.E. Church, used as a house of worship until the building of the frame church in the same immediate locality, in 1858, and as a school house and public hall until the erection of the frame school room on North Meridian street in 1861.
In its infancy Brazil was made a relay station on the stage-line and mail-route between Indianapolis and Terre Haute.
With the nucleus of a center of population and trade-post office, store, blacksmith shop, church and school, coupled with the coming of the Terre Haute & Richmond railroad and the discovery and development of block coal, Brazil began to expand, numerically, industrially and commercially. In 1857 several additions having been made to the original plat, the first census was taken, showing a population of 393. The census of 1866, taken with the view to incorporation, was 843, a gain of 115 per cent for the intervening nine years. At the preliminary election, held on the first Monday of October of the same year, 141 votes were cast, 132 in favor of incorporation and 9 opposed. The organization was accomplished and officers elected before the close of the year. The territory comprised within the corporate limits was an area of one hundred and eighty-nine acres, lying between Morton Street and the Vandalia Railroad, north and south, and between Lambert and Desart Street, east and west.
Figuratively speaking Brazil had now passed the chrysalis state. Two years later its corporate limits were extended. Almost simultaneously with municipality came the blast furnace of the Indianapolis Furnace and Mining Company, planted in 1867, going into operation before the close of the year; the CRAWFORD–McCRIMMON foundry and Machine shops, in 1869; the Meridian Street (central) school building, in 1869-70, with the opening of numerous mines in the contiguous territory and the output of largely increased quantities of coal, the surplus over home consumption, became of superior quality, finding ready market abroad. Meanwhile, more substantial improvements were being made in both the business and residence areas of the town. Stores, shops, industries, school and churches were multiplying.
Having assumed urban proportions and aspirations, Brazil was incorporated as a city in the early summer time of 1873, with John G. ACKELMIRE, Mayor; Joseph L. HUSSEY, Clerk; John STEWART, Treasurer; Frank M. McBRIDE, Marshal; David C. COOPER, Assessor. The population at this time, as shown by an independent census, was 3,000 in round numbers, and increase of 256 percent. During its seven years history as an incorporated town,
At their September term of Court, 1871, the board of County commissioners made an order relocating the county seat from Bowling Green to Brazil. The contract for the building of a courthouse was let to Noah T. KEASEY, but afterwards transferred to John G. ACKELMIRE and John ANDREW, who completed the new temple of Justice ready for occupancy by the first of the year 1877, when, on the 25th day of January the County archives were removed by wagons.
A system of water works was organized in 1875. The new jail and Sheriff’s residence was built in 1857. In the same year came also the Peavine branch of the C. & E. I Railroad, with Otter Creek junction and Brazil as terminals, affording facilities for the transportation of the products of the block coalfield to Chicago and the lakes.
A marked impetus was imparted to the growth and prosperity of the city in 1882, by the location of the plant of the Central Iron and Steel Company, in aid of which enterprising citizens contributed a subsidy of $15,000. A number of the substantial business blocks of the city were erected the same year, adding $100,000 or more to the material wealth of the young and growing city.
The commercial and traffic facilities and relations of Brazil were further expanded and stimulated by the construction and completion of the Indiana block Coal railroad, in 1885-86, opening communication more direct with Chicago and the North West, this event having been celebrated by a memorable excursions the first through passenger train over the road, on the 24th day of May, 1886. A contemporaneous event of first importance in conserving the wants and economics of the city, private and public, was the inauguration of an electric system of light and power, in the latter part of the year 1885.
The census of 1890 showed a population of 6,000 in round figures, with a corresponding expansion and development in areas and improvements.
Interurban electric railroad service, by the Brazil Rapid Transit Co. was inaugurated in the fall of 1893, from the east side corporate limits of the city to Harmony, and extended to Cottage Hill in 1894. Traffic between Brazil and Terre Haute was established in the fall of 1900, the first run over the completed line having been made on the first Sunday and second day of September.
The pioneer newspaper of Brazil was the “Weekly News,” James M. OLIVER, publisher; Josiah HAMBLETON, editor, of which the first issue was made June 12, 1856. The Ladies Literary society was instituted in 1878, and the City Library association organized in 1879.
The first bank was established November 1, 1868, by A. D. COTTON and C. S. ANDREWS, which was re-organized and chartered as the First Nation Bank of Brazil, October 7, 1886. The Riddell National Bank was instituted 1900, the Citizens National Bank, May 15, 1907.
The first coal shaft at Brazil was put down in 1854, by John ANDREW, William CAMPBELL, James KENNEDY and David THOMAS, located immediately along side the Vandalia railroad, north side, east side of Meridian street, excavated by hand and operated by horse power.
The enterprise, Intelligence, fraternism, ethics and progressiveness of Brazil’s population are attested by numerous monuments of recent erection and dedication—the magnificent M. E. Church, 1900; the Hotel Davis, 1902; City Library building, 1905; the Christian Church, 1905; New City High School, 1906; Citizens Bank Building, 1907; Masonic Building, 1907; the Modern Up-to-date Opera, 1907; besides society halls, ward and private school buildings, suburban churches, and private residences of latest design and architecture.
The infant clay industry launched by William R. TORBERT, June 5, 1859, there has been such a development in proportions, industrial and commercial, as to place Brazil second on the list of manufacturing centers in the United States in the production of clay utilities, in quantity, quality and variety of output. Fifteen years ago there were four factories of limited capacity, operating but seven small kilns, in the Brazil clay fields; there are now eleven large plants with a total of one hundred and sixty-four kilns of corresponding capacity, which are operated the year round with a daily output of more than fifty car loads of twenty-five tons each, employing as many as twelve hundred men, with a daily pay roll of $2,500. The demand for, and the distribution of these products throughout the States has earned for Brazil abroad the title of “The Clay Metropolis,” as did her coal products previously, that of “The Black Diamond City.”
For something more than a quarter of a century the iron industry contributed largely and substantially to the growth of the city in population and area, but coal and clay are the twin factors in civilization and wealth, supplemented by ample facilities for commercial intercourse and distribution, which has established Brazil upon an enduring basis of prosperity and wealth, winning for her enviable fame in the commercial marts of the country at large, and making expedient the publication of this revised, up-to-date directory as a chart and guide to her two-thousand homes, hostelries, shops, factories, institutions and resorts, and her more than eleven thousand people.