Located in east central Indiana, Blackford County, named for Judge Isaac Newton Blackford who served as a judge for the Indiana Supreme Court and the United States Court of Claims, is generally flat and bisected by the Big and Little Lick Creeks and the Salamonie River. Miami Indians were early inhabitants, when Chief Francois Godfroy was granted land in the area in 1818 as a result of the Treaty of St. Mary’s. In 1831, Benjamin Reasoner and his family became the area’s first white settlers. Blackford County was officially organized in 1839, and after Chief Godfroy’s death in 1840, his land was sold and was no longer associated with Native American interests. In 1984, Chief Larry P. Godfroy gave a 25-foot tall sculpture to the City of Montpelier to commemorate the Miami tribe’s ancestral lands in the area. The sculpture remains in place today, and it appeared in the introductory montage of the popular television series “Parks and Recreation.”
In 1887, oil and natural gas were discovered in the county which helped in attracting numerous businesses to the area followed by a dramatic increase in population. Today, the economy is primarily driven by agriculture and manufacturing. The community is a friendly Midwestern hometown anchored by the cities of Hartford City (pop. 6,000) and Montpelier (pop. 1,800) while the remainder is predominantly rural.
Hartford City, Blackford County’s county seat, incorporated in 1867, and grew and improved following the oil and gas boom of the late 19th century. The original 1842 courthouse was replaced by the current Richardsonian Romanesque county courthouse in 1894 accompanied by an entirely reconstructed courthouse square reflecting architectural styles of the late-19th and early 20th-centuries. Eleven glass factories would eventually operate in the city along with the Hartford City Paper Company and the Congress Cycle Company. By the early 20th century, with a peak population of over 8,000, Hartford City had several hotels, three newspapers, and a public library. Hartford City sites and structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places include the Hartford City Courthouse Square Historic District, the Blackford County courthouse, and the First Presbyterian Church.
Montpelier, platted by Vermont native Abel Baldwin in 1837, had its first store and post office by 1840. In 1850, Its first schoolhouse was built. Incorporation as a town came in 1870 when the population was just 231 and the economy was agriculturally-based. By 1895, following the area’s oil and gas boom, the population had grown to nearly 6,000, resulting in a large number of buildings being constructed in downtown Montpelier. The Montpelier Carnegie Library, built in 1908, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Source: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, Blackford County Interim Report: Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory (Priority Press: Indianapolis, IN, 2005), 12, 42, 43, 68, 69.