Milestone birthday: Hamilton County launches new website ahead of 2023 bicentennial celebration

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This photo shows the Hamilton County Courthouse in the late 1800s. (Photo courtesy of Hamilton East Public Library)

By Chris Bavender

A new website for the Hamilton County 2023 bicentennial launched Sept. 7 and is dedicated to making the public aware of the celebration. It includes a blog that will be used to highlight history and bicentennial events as the county celebrates its 200th birthday.

“You’ll be able to find out about the book we are publishing, see how to submit an application to host an officially sanctioned bicentennial event or program, access our events calendar, sign up to volunteer, find more information about our guiding principles and more,” said Jessica Petty, Hamilton County bicentennial coordinator. “It’s a one-stop shopping experience to get informed about what the bicentennial is, who is involved and how organizations or individuals can get involved.”

Petty said the bicentennial celebration will be a community-driven event that represents all areas and all people in the county. To achieve that goal, a community survey is posted on the website’s home page where people can list what type of history is important to them and what may be important to future generations.

“We want to foster enthusiasm about the bicentennial in every single township of the county. Our goal is to showcase the history of all our citizens, whether their family has been here for generations or less than 10 years,” Petty said. “We’ve got some great leaders involved, and we hope to gain more as the bicentennial planning progresses.”

The bicentennial celebration will be an economic boost for the county, according to Brenda Myers, president of Hamilton County Tourism, Inc.

“The county’s 200th birthday will be primarily focused on residents, but as many of our residents were not raised here, they have friends and relatives who visit,” Myers said. “And we hope they will encourage those people to come and enjoy the many activities that will take place through the year.”

Celebrating Hamilton County’s history is important, Myers said.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate the past but also to think about the future,” she said. “We can have so many wonderful conversations about where we’ve come and where we want to go as a community.”

County historian David Heighway agrees.

“It’s important to examine all of the aspects of a shared heritage, including controversial or sensitive issues, so that a community has a sense of itself and its values,” Heighway said.

Highlights of Hamilton County’s history in the last 200 years, according to Heighway, include the Great Squirrel Stampede in the 1820s; the Natural Gas Boom of 1887; the rise and fall of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; and the suburban boom that started in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Despite some dark moments, the history of the area has been largely about good people trying to create a better community,” Heighway said.

Plenty of opportunities to volunteer with the bicentennial programming are available.

“This could be helping people who have applied to host bicentennial events and programs connect to partners in the county for event space or services to help make their program great. It could be helping us write our blog,” Petty said. “It could also be encouraging your family members to submit family photos taken in the county to possibly be included in the book.”

The website has a “Volunteer” page with a survey for people interested in committees or being involved in some capacity, as well as an “Our Book” page with information on how to submit stories and photos. Story and photo contributions will be accepted for the next few months.

The first bicentennial events are related to the book. Petty said her primary goal is that people submit stories and photos for the book, and those that don’t make it into the book could end up on the blog. Three scan-a-thons to help achieve that goal are planned throughout the community in partnership with the Hamilton East Public Library, the Sheridan Public Library and the Carmel Public Library.

“Scan-a-thons are events where members of the public can bring in old photos, but even recent photos are history-in-the-making related to Hamilton County,” Petty said. “We make high-quality copies of these photos so you can have a digital copy of your photos, and then they are put in a digital database to possibly be used in the book.”

Scan-a-thons are planned for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Hamilton East Public Library; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Carmel Monon Community Center East Building Art Studio; and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Sheridan Public Library.

For more, visit

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A photo of the Noblesville Fire Dept. in the early 1900s.

Historical timeline

  • 1822: The Great Squirrel Stampede, in which hundreds of squirrels emigrated from west to east. The squirrels destroyed cornfields and swam across the White River as part of their emigration.
  • County was founded: 1823
  • The Natural Gas Boom: 1887
  • Rise and fall of the KKK: 1920s
  • Suburban boom: 1950s and 1960s
  • Hamilton County celebrates 200th birthday: 2023

Bicentennial events

While there will be some bicentennial events in 2022, the majority will take place in 2023 with each township highlighted during a different month of the year.

The 2023 bicentennial schedule is as follows:

  • January – Kickoff Event
  • February – TBD
  • March – White River Township
  • April – Jackson Township
  • May – Adams Township
  • June – Washington Township
  • July – Noblesville Township
  • August – Wayne Township
  • September – Fall Creek Township
  • October – Delaware Township
  • November – Clay Township
  • December – Closing gala