Podcast – A Road Trip to Metamora Indiana

In the Book:
Southeast Indiana Day Trips
A Road Trip to Metamora Indiana


Whitewater Canal>

The Whitewater Canal

This episode of the Indiana Places and History podcast relates the history of Metamora, Indiana, the history of the Whitewater Canal as well as the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act Of 1836. Listeners will also learn about the Whitewater State Historic Site and find information about the train ride on the Whitewater Valley Railroad.

Whitewater Canal History

Whitewater Canal History

The Whitewater Canal connected Hagerstown, Indiana with Cincinatti Ohio and during its brief existence provided an economical route for farmers to ship their products to the city.

Mammoth Internal Improvement Act Of 1836

Mammoth Internal Improvement Act Of 1836

Touted as a major economic boon, the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act Of 1836 provided the mechanism for funding a number of vital transportation venues for the developing state of Indiana. Unfortunately, the Panic of 1837 squashed the economy and the Act quickly proved to be a financial disaster for Indiana.

Whitewater Canal State Historic Site
Whitewater Canal State Historic Site

The Whitewater Canal State Historic Site features a working gristmill as well as the Duck Creek Aqueduct, one of the few covered bridge style aqueducts remaining in the United States

Metamora Train Ride
Metamora Train Ride

The Whitewater Valley Railroad provides riders with a beautiful train ride from Connersville to Metamora, allowing visitors to visit the state historic site as well as browse the many quaint shops and restaurants in Metamora.

Indiana Places and History Podcast

Greetings, this week we will explore Metamora, Indiana in Franklin County. My book, Southeast Indiana Day Trips from my Road Trip Indiana Series will provide you with all of the information you need to explore Metamora, Franklin County and the other eight counties in the southeast part of the state. The book includes much more information than I can put in these podcasts. This is the first book in the series and the only one available now. I will have the rest, there will be 9 altogether, as the year progresses. With rising gas prices many Hoosiers, including my wife and myself, are choosing to vacation closer to home. Using this podcast, I will tell you about the many places here in Indiana you can visit and have some unique and fun experiences.
I will now talk a little bit about the history of Metamora, Indiana.
General Anthony Wayne defeated a consortium of Amerindian tribes at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in northern Ohio. The Greenville Treaty signed in 1795 established new boundaries between the Amerindian tribes and the encroaching whites. The treaty opened up a large area for settlement in the future states of southern Ohio and southeastern Indiana. Settlers purchased a twelve mile wide strip of land parellel to the Greenville Treaty line in 1809 from the local Amerindian tribes. This strip became known as the Twelve mile purchase and included the area that the present town of Metamora, Indiana resides in.
Platted on March 20, 1838, by David Mount and William Holland, the town derives its name from a play written by American actor and playwright John Augustus Stone who lived from 1801 until 1834. His play, Metamora; or, The Last of the Wampanoags, was first performed on December 15, 1829, in New York City. The play became successful and soon became popular throughout the United States. Surveyors had already determined the course of the Whitewater Canal and the enterprising men planned their town near the site of the canal. A local woman, Mrs. John Watson, chose the name. The original plat contained forty two lots, with the canal running directly down Main Street, an intentional location chosen by Mount and Holland. Two other local towns, Cedar Grove and Laurel, owe their existence to the Whitewater Canal as well.
David Mount February 3, 1778 – May 18, 1850)
The son of William Mount and Rebekah Cox, David was native to Pennington, New Jersey. He married Rhoda Hunt, with whom he would have two children. He is interred in Metamora Cemetery. Mount migrated to Franklin County in 1811, settling along the Whitewater River. Mount would serve as an associate judge, gain election to the state legilslature and serve on the commission that drafted Indiana’s Constitution. He built a gristmill along the Whitewater River, near the site of the town he would found. The completed canal would deprive his mill of its water source. The mill fell into disuse and no longer exists.

Visitors to Metamora can see the few covered bridge style aqueducts remaining in the United States.
The Duck Creek Aqueduct is the oldest covered bridge style aqueduct remaining in the United States. Constructed by the Whitewater Canal Company, the structure replaced the original open trough aqueduct that washed out in a flood in 1847. The builder of the bridge used a covered bridge that was under construction and adapted it to the current design. The aqueduct carries the waters of the Whitewater Canal over Duck Creek before it empties into the Whitewater River. It measures approximately ninty feet long, twenty-five feet wide, and twenty-five feet deep. The aqueduct deteriourated through disuse and abandonment. The state of Indiana restored it to the present condition in 1949, a project begun in 1946. The National Register of Historic Places listed it in 2014.

Next I will relate some of the history of the Whitewater Canal the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act that funded it.

Constructed as part of the Indiana Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836 signed by Governor Noah Noble on January 27, 1836, the Whitewater Canal was to form an integral part of southeastern and eastern Indiana’s transportation system. The ambitious act, in concert with the Panic of 1837, bankrupted the state and brought a major political party to its knees.

The Indiana General Assembly passed what many hoped would be a financial boon for the developing state of Indiana. Instead, the Act led to financial ruin.
The State of the State in 1836
When Indiana became a state in 1816, the state was a vast network of forest, prairie, rivers and streams. White settlement clung to the southern counties along the Ohio River, with a sliver of settlement along the Wabash River in the west. Amerindian tribes still claimed the northern two-thirds of the state. By the 1830’s, the situation had not changed much. Indianapolis, the new state capital, was a muddy pioneer settlement along the White River. The southern counties had access to the Ohio River, the only good means of transportation. Since only the Wabash River was navigable, other parts of the state had no access to reliable transportation systems. The only roads were trails cut through the wilderness. The state had begun construction on the Michigan Road, slated to be a main artery between Lake Michigan and Madison on the Ohio River, but construction would not finish until the 1840’s. The Buffalo Trace provided a rough highway from Vincennes to Clarksville. By 1830, Indiana had a population of about 600,000 people. Tax revenues for the state totaled around $50,000.

Indiana had two main sources of tax revenue in 1830, property taxes and poll taxes, each providing about half the state’s revenue. Indiana and other states admitted to the Union after 1803 were prohibited from taxing land purchased from the federal government for a period of five years. Thus, by the mid 1830’s, vast areas of land that it could not previously tax were entering the tax base. In addition, land sales remained high in the state during the period, so more lands would continually enter the revenue stream. Indiana expected to double its tax revenue in just a few years. Moreover, anything the assembly could do to increase land values would increase tax revenue. This was especially true if the state switched to a different tax system. The state used a per acre tax system, placing a greater tax burden on agricultural land. The state switched to an ad valorem system in 1835, which permitted the state to tax both land and personal property at a rate based on its assessed value. This system reduced the burden on farmers and increased it on merchants, homeowners and manufacturers.

The rising star of transportation in the early 1830’s were canals. New York had great success with the Erie Canal and there were other examples. Railroads had not yet become mainstream. Thus, most states had canal construction projects. The problem with canals is that they are geographic specific in the benefits they bestowed and widespread in the taxing requirements to produce the revenue to finance them. The assembly struggled for years over this problem. How to tax everyone in the state for a canal that would only benefit one geographic region was the unanswerable question. The answer seemed to be, build them all at once and jump-start an economic boom everywhere in the state. This is what the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836 sought to do.

Signed into law by Governor Noah Noble, the act was meant to be his crowning achievement. The law authorized the Indiana Central Canal, the Whitewater Canal, the Wabash and Erie Canal, the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad, paving the Buffalo Trace and Michigan Road. The bill provided for a Board of Internal Improvement, which was authorized to borrow up to ten million dollars, based on the good faith and credit of the State. Jubilant celebrations took place all over the state with the passage of the bill. Governor Noble was cautious because the Assembly had passed the spending portion of his program, but had not followed his tax increase recommendations.

The aims of the law, while noble, were much too ambitious. Construction of canals is an expensive business. Construction of the Whitewater Canal was impaired by a flood that washed out much of the completed work. Many of the sites slated for canal construction were in reality not suitable sites. Then the Panic of 1837 set in.

This complex event created an economic depression that lasted from about 1837 until 1842. The multiple causes were questionable lending practices in the Western United States, restrictive lending policies enacted by Great Britain and falling agricultural prices. The period before 1837 had been a period of intense economic growth. During this time the prices of cotton and other commodities rose. Land prices also increased. The Bank of England noticed a decline in cash on hand in 1836. They raised interest rates in an attempt to attract more cash. When the Bank of England raised its interest, it forced banks in the United States and other nations to raise their rates. This, along with other events, caused land and cotton prices to fall. The chain of events this set off triggered a depression that caused profits, prices, and wages to fall and increased the unemployment rates. It was not until 1843 that the economies of the major countries rebounded.

The conditions induced by the Panic created an economic depression. Land values fell, as did tax revenues. Instead of having more revenue to work with, the State found itself with less. By 1841, tax revenues were $72,000 while interest payments on the debt reached $500,000. The State was bankrupt. The State had not completed any of the slated projects. It was left to Madison’s James F.D. Lanier to use his financial wizardry to convince creditors to take over the projects for a fifty percent reduction in the debt. Creditors were only able to complete two of these projects. Lanier also aided the state with two loans totaling one million dollars. The State managed to repay it by 1870.
Thus, what many consider the biggest legislative debacle of all time ended.

The Whitewater Canal’s construction lasted from 1836 to 1847. During this time, there were many starts, pauses as the State of Indiana ran out of money, and the various private companies charged with completing also ran into financial difficulties. After completion, it connected Hagerstown, Indiana with Cincinnati, Ohio seventy-six miles to the south. The canal provided a quick, convenient way for farmers to transport their goods to market in the cities. Before the canal a farmer would need several days travel over deeply rutted roads to take his goods to Cincinnati. The canal proved a difficult construction project. It dropped 491 feet over the distance and needed fifty-six locks and seven dams. Several aqueducts to carry the canal over waterways also needed construction. Portions of the canal operated until 1862.

A Franklin County historical marker near the Metamora Mill provides a short history of the gristmill that operates in the town. The inscription reads, “In 1845, Jonathan Banes built a three-story frame cotton mill, known as Metamora Cotton Factory, on this site. Banes, a former contractor on the canal, converted the cotton factory to a flouring mill in 1856, and sold the mill to John Curry in 1857.
Over the next several years the mill was operated by various owners and was known first as Hoosier Mills and later as Crescent Mills. The original mill was destroyed by a fire in 1899 and was rebuilt in 1900. Following a second fire in 1932, it was converted to the present two-story brick building.

Jonathan Banes (February 12, 1817 – April 13, 1906)
The son of Jonathan and Anna (Gillingham) Banes, Jonathan was native to Buck’s County, Pennslyvannia. He apprenticed to a carpenter in Montgomery County, Pensslyvannia after leaving home at age sixteen. After completing his apprenticeship, he worked in Philadelphia for a time, then migrated to Brookville in 1837 when he heard the news of the construction of the Whitewater Canal. He gained employment doing construction on the canal project, becoming the superviser of many of the structures on the canal. These projects included the Brookville dam, several of the locks and bridges on the canal. Banes Married Maria Mount, the daugher of Judge David Mount on September 5, 1841. The couple would have two sons, William and Mary. The state suspended work on the canal in the fall of 1839. Banes did not recieve payment until spring, 1840. He took the funds, purchased some horses and drove them to Pennsylvania to sell. After completing the sale, he returned to Brookville. He moved to Metamora open the Metamora Cotton Factory in 1845. He built his home in Metamora the same year he built the mill. The house, the Banes Home, houses a gift shop and the “Banes Suite for Two,” which visitors may rent during a stay in Metamora. Banes would convert the cotton mill to a gristmill in 1856. After selling the mill Banes became a farmer and land investor. He is interred with his wife in Metamora Cemetery, Metamora.
Metamora Cotton Factory
Equipped with 1000 spindles to spin raw cotton into thread, the three story mill opened in 1845. Bane had to import the cotton from the south because it is not grown in Indiana. The canal made it less expensive to import cotton cloth and ready made clothing, thus the mill became unprofitable. Bane removed the cotton making making machinery and installed equipment to grind grains into flour and meal. Several cotton mills operated in the state of Indiana during this period, using the power of water to spin raw cotton or wool into thread. Known variously as the Hoosier Mills and Crescent Mill, a fire destroyed the building in 1899. The mill was rebuilt, but fire destroyed that building in 1932. The current two story building was built the same year.

In 1946, the State of Indiana purchased a 14-mile section of the Whitewater Canal, including the mill, as a state historic site. The Indiana State Museum currently operates the mill, grinding corn into meal which visitors may purchase as they watch the waterwheel use the canal’s enegy to turn the immense grist wheels. Today the mill grinds both white and yellow corn into corn meal and grits, and wheat into whole wheat flour and cereal. The millstones are powered by the 12-foot breast water wheel in the canal behind the mill.
Up until a couple of years ago visitors to the mill could purchase tickets to ride the canal boat, the Ben Franklin. A flood destroyed the boat and it has not been replaced. The State Museum is working with the legislature to obtain funds to build a new boat. I hope they are successful, as the canal boat provides visitors with a valuable experience in the canal’s history. For visiting information, contact,
Whitewater Canal State Historic Site
19083 Clayborne St.
Metamora, In 47030, Usa

The demise of the Whitewater Canal planted the seeds for the Whitewater Valley Railroad in the mid 1850’s when floods washed out large portions of the canals. Franklin County residents petitioned the State of Indiana, asking that the state sell the canal towpath route to use as a railroad. In 1863 the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad purchased the rights to the towpath and built a line from Brookville to Hagerstown, Indiana. Portions of the canal remained open and became useful as power sources for gristmills like the one at Metamora. The Whitewater Canal remained open in Metamora until 1953. Western Avenue now covers it.

The first Whitewater Valley Railroad was a subsidiary of the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad. This subsidiary began construction of the rail line from Brookville, reaching Connersville in 1867. The line punched through to Hagerstown the next year. The Big Four, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, Railroad purchased the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad in 1890. This line became the New York Central in later years. These lines operated both freight and passenger trains. The line discontinued passenger service in 1933. Freight service ground to a halt in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
The Second Whitewater Valley Railroad
Formed as a non-profit organization in 1972, the Whitewater Valley Railroad operates as a operating railroad museum. The all volunteer staff runs both historic diesel and steam engines on the eighteen mile line between Connersville and Metamora. Visitors to metamora can visit the historic site and browse in the many quaint shops and restaurants in metamora. For more information about train schedules, the history and other information, contact:
Whitewater Valley Railroad
455 Market St,
Connersville, IN 47331
(765) 825-2054

Find out more about these Indiana day trip destinations and many more by purchasing the book Southeast Indiana Day Trips. You can find it on my web site, http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com on the Road Trip Indiana category. Just scroll down to categories, click the Road Trip Indiana Series. There are links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play and other online book sellers. You may choose to purchase the book in ebook or softbound versions. An audio book version is available on Google Play. Listeners may also be interested in my book, The Ultimate Indiana Day Trip Travel Guide. The 747 page book includes a plethora of day trip destination in Indiana. A complete tourism guide the book includes local and state parks, museums, golf courses and much, much more. The book includes information on all of Indiana’s 92 counties. No traveler in Indiana should be without it.
You can also order these books direct from me, the author, on the web page. If you wish me to sign the book, just send me an email to mossyfeetbooks@gmail.com requesting a signed book and instructions on how you want me to address it. Note, if you send me an email, I will add you to my contact list. Readers on the list will receive an email from me announcing when I publish a new book. If you do not want me to add you to the list, tell me and I will not add you. Listeners to this podcast that want email notification of my new releases can just send me an email requesting addition to the list. You can choose to have your name removed at any time. If you browse the web site you will find dozens of sample chapters, one for each of my books. I hope you enjoyed this podcast and thank you for listening.

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