Historic Roanoke

History of Roanoke Wiki

The town of Roanoke was founded in 1850 in conjunction with the Wabash and Erie Canal.  It was a one day pull from Fort Wayne and offered barges a pull-off room for a night’s lay-over.  Roanoke, located in Huntington County, is 12 miles southwest of Fort Wayne and 9 miles northeast of the city of Huntington on U.S. 24.  It is a quiet, residential community enjoying easy access on good roads, not only to Fort Wayne and Huntington, but Columbia City as well.

Roanoke is a proud community that still retains the old-fashion caring which has been so amply displayed in the past and continues into the future.

A photo of a mural in downtown Roanoke showing Historic Downtown Roanoke.

In 1873, John H. Barr circulated a petition to the county commissioners as for the incorporation of the town of Roanoke and the right to form a municipal government. The commissioners ordered an election January 8, 1874. The result was 75 for and 9 against.


A photo of Kisoquah and her son Tony Loon in front of a teepee.

Kilsoquah was the last full blooded Miami Indian Princess.  She lived in the Roanoke, Indiana area and is honored by the town. To learn more about Kilsoquah’s life and how the town has honored her , click Kilsoquah.


A photo of Main Street in Roanoke, Indiana.

The first legally established road was surveyed in 1838. It went through the township in a northeasterly direction from Huntington to Fort Wayne and was know as Fort Wayne Road.


A photo of the front of Roanoke Area Heritage Center (the museum).

On July 4, 1994, the Roanoke Area Heritage Center officially opened in the old bank building on the corner of Main and Second Street. The museum was formed by a group of local residents to promote Roanoke heritage. It is now located at 102 W. First Street.


A photo of the Roanoke, Indiana park.

In 1958 the Roanoke Jaycees acquired four acres of land off Seminary Street, at the end of First Street for the construction of a park and pool. The pool was never built, but Roanoke Community Park remains today. Town Council passed an ordinance effective November 2, 1964 establishing a Department of Parks and Recreation with a four-member board, under the jurisdiction of the Town Board and supported by a tax levy. In April 1965, the land was officially deeded over to the town of Roanoke by Mr. and Mrs. Gilford Patton with the stipulation that if it ever ceases to be a public park, the ownership of the land would revert back to the Patton heirs.


A photo of Roanoke Elementary School.

In 1845, a building for a schoolhouse was erected two miles north of Roanoke by the Wesley Chapel. Another school was built on the hill on Main Street, near Sixth. The old frame building was moved to the corner of High and First Streets to make room for Roanoke’s first masonry school building. This building was used until the fall of 1925. The brick building burned in a mysterious fire on May 14, 1926. A new school was opened on September 8, 1925 built on farmland donated by Marvin Richards. The brick and concrete structure on Vine Street, 183 feet long by 147 feet wide could accomodate up to 300 students. The auditorium was 68 feet by 70 feet with a 34-foot ceiling and with movable seating that could seat 1,000 people. The current school is located at 423 W. Vine Street.


A photo of Roanoke, Indiana Post Office.

The Roanoke Post Office was established June 4, 1846 after residents petitioned for mail service. The first postmaster was Leonard Bilby. However, on October 13 of that year, Theodore V. Horton, took over and ran it for four years. The Rural Free Delivery Service was first established July 1, 1902. Two routes were established that were each two miles long. The first carriers were Frank A. Milner (RR 1) and Jesse V. McTaggert (RR 2).


A photo of the old town court in Roanoke, Indiana-now the town hall.

In 1975, the state changed from a justice of the peace system to a town court system, and grocery store owner, James W. Simmons, Jr. became the town’s first Town Judge. The first female Town Judge was Margaret C. Moore who took over following Simmons’ death. The Town Judge, and previously the Justice of the Peace, handled town affairs out of their homes until 1991, when room was made for the Court to locate the office in the Town Utility Building on Third Street. In 2013, the Huntington Prosecutor did away with the town court system.  The Town’s Clerk/Treasurer and the Town Marshal and his deputies moved their offices into this building  with the vacating of the Town Judge.


A photo of the old town hall in Roanoke, Indiana

In 1885, Roanoke Town Hall was located on the second floor of a building. In August 1896, Town Council moved their quarters to the fire station on Third Street. Eventually Town Hall was moved to Main Street, between First and Second Streets. Roanoke is governed by a local town board which meet in the Town Hall.  It also has a Town Marshall  and deputies who have an office in the Town Hall. In 2013, the Town’s Park Board gain an office is this building with the Town Clerk/Treasurer, Town Council, Town Marshall and deputies all moving to the Third Street location. In 2013, the Roanoke Public Library also left this building to move to its new location at 314 N. Main Street, Suite 120.


A photo of the Roanoke, Indiana fire station.

Roanoke formed its first fire department in April 1895. a combination water and chemical hand engine was purchased for $850. The purchase included a set of hooks, ladders, and 500 feet of hose. It was expected that Council would have several large cisterns constructed for a water supply. It was believed that with 500 feet of fire hose drawing water from the cisterns and creeks, the firefighters could reach any building in town.

A company of 15 men were organized for the first fire department with W.H. Strock as Chief. Arrangements made by Council in July 1896 to build a fire house on the vacant lot next to P.B. Settlemyre’s grocery story on Third Street. The first motorized fire truck, a Model T Ford, was purchased in 1922.

Memorial Fountain

A photo of the WWII Memorial Fountain in Roanoke, Indiana

In 1928, Irene Richards, president of the Library Club, dedicated a water fountain located at the corner of Second and Main Streets.  The speech, Ms. Richards gave at that dedication is as follows:

Ten years and more ago, three young women and more that a hundred young men, at the call of the President of these United States, left their home in this community to serve their country, to give their lives if necessary in that service.  These young women and young men in the spring time of their lives went out gladly to the great adventure, eager to serve and to sacrifice that the world might be made safe for democracy.

Of this goodly company, all returned save two, Grace Buell, Base Hospital Unit #58 who died Oct. 8th, 1918 in a hospital at Portmouth, England and Robert Mayne, Co. E 1st Gas Regiment, killed in the Argonne battle line near St. Juvin, France Nov. 1st 1918.

In respect to these two, the opening sentences of Roosevelt’s great editorial following the death of his son Quentin, well may be applied:  “Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die, and none are fit to die who shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life.  Both life and death are a part of the same Great Adventure.”

News of their death in the very flower of their young womanhood and young manhood shocked the community, for both had grown up here, walked these streets, graduated from our High School and from its doors had gone out to useful occupations.  Their pure, clean, happy lives honored their families, the school and the community.

It is not surprising, therefore, that this community felt some permanant mark of appreciation of the supreme sacrifice of these two young lives should be offered that we might be constantly reminded of their devotion to our country.

Various proposals as to the form of a memorial were discussed informally.  At a meeting of the Roanoke Library Club Sept. 22nd 1925, a motion was made and carried by authority of which the club formally sposored the erection of a memorial.  After further discussion at later meetings, a drinking fountain was selected as the most fitting expression of the desire of the community.  A committee was appointed to solicit contributions on which through the intervening years many members of the Club have served until in the present year the work of the securing funds was completed under the leadership of Mrs. Ernest Welch.  The amount collected was sufficient not only to purchase the memorial but also to insure perpetual care.

Here and now, the Library Club wishes to publicly thank the contributors, solicited and unsolicited, through whose generosity this memorial was made possible, especially the Nurses Club, the American Legion and that Civil War Veteran and his wife who from the Soldiers Home at Lafayette unsolicited sent their more than modest contribution to the fund.

A committee with Mrs. Ernest Welch as Chairwoman selected the design and determined the location.  The work of this committee is here in evidence and I am sure you will agree it is above criticism.  In the preparation and erection of the fountain, assistance has been given for all of which the Club extends thanks.

Nothing now remains but to tender this fountain to the Twon of Roanoke as a memorial to Grace Buell and Robert Mayne which on behalf of the Library Club of Roanoke I now formally do with the hope that as people refresh themselves from its cooling waters they will happily remember these two and the splendid service they gave and the sacrifice they made that we might live better and happier lives.

Coil Factory

Roanoke Public Library photo






Civil war veteran, Gus Wasmuth, built the central portion of the building in 1900.  It initially housed a farm implement store and showroom for Overland automobiles.  The building was the northern anchor of the Wasmuth Enterprises, which extend all the way to the corner of Main and Second Streets.  The complex also included a bank, hardware store, grain elevator and lumberyard.

From 1936 to 1967, the building was enlarged and utilized as a factory for manufacturing components that require the winding of coils. Thus, it was nicknamed “The Coil Factory”.  Some of the products included transformers, ignition coils, magnetic coils, etc. The parts were either machine or hand-wound depending on the nature and extent of the job.  Parts were designed by the company to meet the customer’s specifications.

During World War II, the government considered the factory such a critical asset for war production that they fenced in the entire facility, closing off East Third Street in the process.  It is rumored that the building was actually on Hitler’s hit list.  As you can see, additions were then made to the building and East Third Street was never re-opened.  The Coil Factory was the largest employer in town averaging 200 employees and at its peak employed over 400 people.  A majority of the employees were women and high school students.

Following the closure of the Coil Factory in 1967, two other manufacturers, Hunckler Products and Nelson Manufacturing, utilized the building up until 2001 when it was purchased by American Specialty also known as Arete Development Company which is owned by Pete, Alice and Tim Eshelman.  Inside, in the Roanoke Public Library, you can see an aerial photo of what the building looked like in 1949 and a newspaper picture of it in 1963. Besides now housing the Roanoke Public Library, there is Crestwoods Frame Shop and Gallery, Reusser Design, Clear Elevation, Lawyer Luke Thompson, 3RiverDev-Donation Spring (technology engineer), a fitness area, conference center, kitchenette, billards area and possibly others upstairs that I don’t know about.

Celia Bandelier/2017