Ancient peoples traveled the Anderson/Madison County area, staying long enough to build many mysterious mounds along the White River. Nine of these amazing earthworks remain, located in Mounds State Park. Little is known about these mound builders, but their interesting works can be found along rivers from Ohio to the southern tip of Illinois.
Continuous occupancy of the site began with the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians, the native people of this area before the first white settlers arrived. Principal Chief of the Delaware Indians, Kik-Tha-We-Nund, was known as Chief Anderson. His village was laid out as a town and he lived in a double log cabin near what we know as Eighth Street and Central Avenue. An Indian burial ground was located near the present St. Mary’s Catholic Church and another at the north end of the present City Hall.
The town was platted in 1823 by John Berry, who donated a considerable portion of it to the county for consideration of Andersontown replacing Pendleton as county seat. In 1837, the construction of the Central Canal, a branch of the Wabash & Erie Canal, greatly boosted commerce and started a modest “boom”. By 1839 the “Town of Andersontown” was incorporated with a population of 350. Within seven years, the town name changed to “Anderson”. The boomlet broke when the canal was abandoned.
Real growth began in 1887 with natural gas wells. Anderson began an aggressive campaign to attract industry and offered “free energy forever”. As a result, improvements were made in the City infrastructure, including water works and a fire department. Unfortunately, the gas deposits which seemed so abundant were in shallow wells and soon ran dry.
In 1901, the Remy Brothers invented an ignition system for the new automobile. It was a significant advance and, in time, attracted the attention of Dayton Electronic Laboratories, or Delco. General Motors bought out the Remy Brothers, combined it with some of their other electrical lines and established Delco Remy Division headquarters in Anderson.
As automobiles became the dominant form of transportation, auto component manufacturing became Anderson’s leading industry. All General Motors ignitions were manufactured here, as well as most of the lights by the Guide Lamp Division. Anderson soon became one of the leading electromechanical technology centers in the world.
The City’s cultural life was growing as well. The Church of God was established here in the early 1800’s. Feeling the need to serve its youth in higher education, it established Anderson College in 1917. The public library was installed in the Carnegie Building in l905. Later, the Paramount Theatre was built in 1929, an outstanding example of the “atmospheric” theaters of the time. Also, Anderson had its own Opera House. A group of professional musicians, dedicated amateurs and students established the Anderson Symphony Orchestra at Anderson College in 1965.
In the 1960’s, Anderson was shaped by yet another transportation advance, the construction of Interstate 69, which opened Anderson to interstate traffic and linked it easily and conveniently to Indianapolis. By 1993, Anderson had been incorporated into the Indianapolis Consolidated Statistical Area.
Today, Anderson is increasingly diverse, becoming a regional retail center and a main stop-over point on the Interstate system. The Church of God is international in scope and Anderson College is now Anderson University, offering advanced degrees in business, music and theology. Purdue University Statewide Technology Center is located in Anderson adjacent to the Anderson University campus. The public library has outgrown the Carnegie Building and is housed in a beautifully modern facility in the center of downtown. Harrison College and Ivy Tech State College have established sites on the south side of Anderson. The Anderson Symphony Orchestra has become an independent, community-based, professional orchestra, renowned for its excellence.
The Madison County Dramatic Players in residence at the Mainstage Theatre offer quality entertainment at a professional level each year. The Fine Arts Center maintains a program of art exhibits and instruction throughout the year. There is a performing arts center for the Young Ballet Theatre, and choral music for all is offered by the Anderson Area Children’s Choir and the Anderson Symphonic Choir.
Now, with the completion of the relocated and upgraded State Road l09, connecting Interstate 69 to Interstate 70, all eastern markets come within a day’s drive of Anderson. Another “boom” has arrived..