Center Point

“A Short Story and History of Center Point, Indiana”

Excerpt from Histo-Gram of Bowling Green, Indiana 1941

Written by Harry L. ELKIN

“The town really began in 1856, but in 1854 a post office was established at this point. It was a point very near the center of Clay County, so near that Center Point was the name suggested. And when we speak of the town of Center Point, it would be quite unfair not to mention along with it some of the outstanding characters among our respected pioneers, and too, those who lived in other near-by sections in that township. And so, we begin our story:

The village of Center Point was established in the northeast corner of Sugar Ridge Township by Martin H. KENNEDY, who purchased a large tract of unimproved land in and around this particular section, in 1848. Originally, he had immigrated with his parents to Indiana, settling in Parke County, about 1832. KENNEDY conceived the idea of starting a town here since it was on the main Bowling Green, and Brazil mail route; also, a suggestion was advanced by the old hack driver. Mr. KENNEDY thought over the idea and finally set to work and laid out 16 lots, which included two streets. Having some money, and plenty of timber, he erected two houses and a small storeroom. Benton H. SHREWBURY, a traveler, stopped here, rented the little storeroom and added a small stock of goods, and soon was realizing a nice trade from the surrounding settlers. Mr. KENNEDY had a sawmill nearby. A few months later, Mr. SHREWBURY asked C. M. THOMPSON, postmaster at Bowling Green, about making application for a post office at that point. THOMPSON recommended that one be established there and suggested the town name. Soon a house or two was purchased from Mr. KENNEDY and a few lots were sold. He then erected some more houses and they too were sold. Esau PRESNELL then moved into the village. Kennedy erected a second store building and the two, as partners, opened a general store, PRESNELL being in charge.

Joseph RIDINGER came to the village, purchased a lot from Mr. KENNEDY, and erected the first hotel building. Two years passed, it was now 1856. Mr. KENNEDY was so well pleased with himself as a town builder, that he immediately put the town plat on record. The little village began to show possibilities of becoming a town; more houses were built and sold on easy terms; people began to move in and more lots were added and sold. Mr. KENNEDY then built a large three-story flourmill and had it in operation by the summer of ’59. The following year a woolen mill was brought to the town, and another sawmill was erected. That same year, the first practicing physician came to the new village, Dr. William J. KENNEDY, a brother of M. H. KENNEDY. A year or so later, Dr. John C. GILFILLAN established himself here. In 1864 a pottery shop was established here, but only survived a short time. In 1866 the first two-story school house, a frame, was erected in the town. Three years later, 1869, Center Point had grown to a population of 300, when the people voted to incorporate. In 1857, the Clay County Agricultural Society held their fair in Center Point on the site where the present flour mill was built the following year.

In 1858 the building of the mill made it necessary to move the fairgrounds across on the south side of Main Street where the fair was held thereafter until 1862, when it was re-established at Bowling Green thereafter…Years passed, and the town grew, and a number of business places became established in the town. 1879 saw a cheese factory established, but this did not stay long. Then the gay nineties and good times came. Development of coalfields in and around the town, and elsewhere in the township, necessitated the building of a branch railroad from Knightsville, off the main line of the Vandalia R. R. It gave this town a boost. Many coalmines went into operation and there were all kinds of activity here. The population hit the peak of 700. A brick factory was established, and later a planning mail. The town maintained three lodges, Masons, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Knights of Pythias, and it showed every sign of becoming a large town, but as the years passed into a new era, mines worked out and became fewer and fewer until the old town soon came to a standstill, as all coal mining towns eventually experience. Through its population has returned to its present number of 350 (in 1941) the town enjoys a steady source of income by strip mines and the agricultural industries. The First National Bank, established in 1908, is one of the strongest in the state for a town of its size. (Horace CRAFTON, Jr., businessman in Center Point, put the first $100 in the new bank.) The town and township, from its earliest days, was the home of many prominent clay countians, and the interest and influence of those living in outlying districts also had much to do with the development and progress of the town. Among them were such men as Maj. Charles W. MOSS, Andrew MILLER, Nathan A. GIBBONS, James FERGUSON, Martin S. WILKINSON, Jacob B. MOSS, Rev. William M. GIVENS, and many others.

Though the town is not large today, its population is, in general, much like that of other rural communities in the county, inasmuch as they enjoy many of the comforts of life. Their churches, secret organizations, and their societies, all have had their influence upon the growth and expansion of the town, the harmonizing effect upon its people, directing and controlling the forces which underlie and build up the great fabric of society.”

Clay County Indiana