Man for whom the Post Office was named before Cephas Fort (Fortville)
Founder of Fortville
Brig. General James R. Alfonte
Grandson of William Alfonte, founder of the town of Alfont
Fortville / McCordsville / Alfont
Originally, the town laid a mile north and west of its present location at a point called Phoebe Fort’s Corner. It contained a post office and a little store. The post office was called Walpole, in honor of Thomas D. Walpole, a prominent attorney and politician in Greenfield. In the 1840s, John K. Rash, Milas Walker, J.H. Hoppes, Lawson Fuqua and Alfred Shortridge tore down the trees on the site of the present town. On February 12, 1849, Cephas Fort, who then owned the ground, made the original survey of the town, or 33 lots. Many additions were quickly made. Here are just a few:
- Micajah C. Shull, January 20, 1857 – 5 lots
- Samuel V.B. Noel and Thomas R. Noel, December 16, 1856
- L.H. Vanvelzer, December 17, 1856 – 12 lots
- James S. Merrill – 12 lots
- Asbury, August 19, 1872 – 9 lots
- Samuel Record and Oliver W. Voorhis, February 17, 1873
- Larkin W. Crouch, May 1, 1875 – 9 lots
- Samuel Arnett, March 6, 1884 – 10 lots
- Anna Chodrick, July 24, 1891 - 33 lots
- William Lindamood, May 3, 1892 – 7 lots
When the “Bee Line” railroad was completed about 1852, the store and the Walpole post office were moved to the town. The railroad station was named Fortville, in honor of Cephas Fort, while the post office kept the name Walpole. After the town’s members petitioned, the town’s named was changed by the county commissioners in December of 1865 to Fortville.
The first business house was built in 1849 where Thomas R. Noel had a general store. Mr. McCarty joined shortly after with his own business in the same store. Fortville saw vast improvements between the 1880s and 1910. Streets were laid with brick and concrete. The town could boast of dry goods stores, grocers, doctors, veterinarians, dentists, blacksmiths, painters, undertakers, lumber yards, hardware, druggists, garages, carpenters, jewelers, livery barns, tailors, plasterers, harness makers, furniture dealers, variety stores, and barber shops. Flax was the bumper crop in the area, and the first flax mill was operated on Main Street and Broadway until the 1920s. The sawmills, blacksmiths, and stables flourished on, where else but, Mill Street. The first flour mill was built by Thomas and Vance Noel in 1855. It was considered the largest in the US at a 100-barrel capacity, but it burned in 1865, was rebuilt, and burned again in 1915.
At first, the town streets were lit by coal-oil lamps around 1870-1880. They were lit with natural gas when it was discovered in the county in 1887. Electric service came to Fortville between 1901 and 1908. By April of 1913, electric street lights were installed on Main Street.
The first hand engine, or fire engine, was purchased in the 1880s and was operated by volunteers. In April of 1913, the Fortville water tower was constructed with a 50,000 gallon capacity.
Fortville had its first telephone switchboard in 1899 where the operator’s pay was only $2 and she served 30 subscribers. The Fortville Tribune newspaper began printing in 1894. Before the Tribune, there was the Fortville Journal in 1879, the second Fortville Journal in 1883, and the Fortville Sun in 1886.
Reference: Sandie Buckland’s paper entitled History of McCordsville, Indiana.
William McCord was one of the first settlers to arrive in the McCordsville area. The United States of America transferred 160 acres to him on October 5, 1833. The McCordsville “Village” area was laid out by W. Negley in September of 1865, with the original plat containing 35 lots.
In the early history of McCordsville, the area was booming with businesses. Nelson Bradley was a banker who went on to banking fame in Greenfield. Israel Fred owned a grocery and hardware store. Michael Quigley was a druggist with two pharmacists, Thomas P. Hervey and John D. Cory. Thomas McCord had a restaurant. Moses N. Creig owned a livery and feed stable. Aaron Vail was a stock trader. J. W. Negley was the copper, or barrel maker. The village had two blacksmiths, James M. Wright and Nelson Gaskins. The butcher shop was called Craig, Stokes and Morrison. J.K. Kinberlin and George W. McCord were carpenters. An African-American named Eli Chevis was the wagon maker. William Brooks owned the sawmill. The three grain dealers in the area were T.J. Hanna, H.N. Thompson, and McCord & Hanna.
In 1891, R.C.M. Smith bought the stock of Israel Fred hardware and grocery. Sadly, the building burned in 1906, and Smith sold the vacant lots to Cohen & Company. The company built a grain elevator on the lot.
In 1896, Charles Fred and John McCord erected a grocery where Tim’s Pastries is now. (At one point in time, McCordsville had four grocery stores!)
A post office has been maintained in McCordsville ever since it was established.
Around 1895, S. Morrison and Thomas Springer established a telephone factory. The telephones were manufactured until 1905. In 1905, the designer of the Leader automobile, Luther Frost, Frank Martindale, and others converted the telephone factory into an automobile assembly plant and sold more than 125 Leader automobiles from 1905-1906. The plant was moved to Knightstown in 1907, but it only lasted until 1913, which some believe was due to Frost’s failing health. The original factory was where the Hancock Rural Telephone exchange is now.
A church class was formed at the Robb schoolhouse in 1849. About five years later in 1854, the class built the first church in McCordsville at the cost of $1,300. It was built on the north side of the railroad tracks at the corner of Olio Road and Highway 67. The church was dedicated by Reverend N.H. Gillum, and it was named Gillum Chapel in his honor. On June 25, 1902, a storm ripped through McCordsville and destroyed the church. The second church was built near the telephone factory. Now the church, named McCordville United Methodist, is located on Main Street, or Highway 67.
The Universalist Church was built in McCordsville in 1888. Services were conducted until 1902. The church closed its doors, and the building was converted into a residence.
The Christ Presbyterian Church was built between the fall of 1997 and spring of 1998. The dedication was on Palm Sunday of 1998. The current pastors are Dr. Frank Bean and Dave Comstock.
The Independent Order of Oddfellows (I.O.O.F) cemetery was laid out in March of 1871 with 105 lots including streets and alleys.
McCordsville had the first two-story commissioned township school building. It stood where the park is now, across from the I.O.O.F. cemetery. The archway of the school, which was caught on fire in 1926 after a home football game with Fortville, is now located in the park. The park is run by the Vernon Township Trustee.
There have been two lodges in McCordsville. The McCordsville Masonic lodge was organized in 1852 and received its charter in 1853. The first meeting was held in an upstairs room in the home of Elias McCord. The lodge was moved to Oaklandon. The McCordsville Lodge #338 Independent Order of Odd Fellows was instituted in the upper room of the Thompson warehouse on November, 17, 1869. (The Masonic Lodge was where the GT Service is now.)
The most historic disaster in McCordsville was the train wreck between 1903 and 1905 on the Big Four tracks. Train cars were strewed everywhere to the side of the tracks in the ditch. Not one car remained standing.
Although the town of Alfont was just over the Madison County line (2 miles east of Fortville) and west by one mile of Ingalls, its history is tied with that of Fortville’s. The village of Alfont began in the 1830s when William Alfonte established a grist mill on Lick Creek in 1836. William Alfonte and his wife Elizabeth (Freeborn) Alfonte migrated from Philadelphia to Indiana. The grist mill burned in 1847 and was replaced shortly after with a saw mill near the same site. William Alfonte died in 1852. Three of his grandchildren became prominent military men: Brig. Gen. James R. Alfonte, Col. William R. Alfonte, and Col. Dallas Alfonte. Brig. Gen. James R. Alfonte received a Purple Heart and Legion of Merit. General James graduated from Pendleton High School, went to Purdue, and went on to a military career. He fought in both World War I and II. He was with the Quartermaster General’s Department from 1942 until his retirement.
The town of Alfont (no one knows what happened to the final “e” in the name) had a post office at one time that was run by William Molden who also established a general store and warehouse. Alfont’s growth slowed when Fortville grew and attracted much of the trade and the community’s settlers. The town maintained prosperity until the 1890s when natural gas was discovered in Ingalls. The town of Ingalls was created in 1893.
Alfont was made a tragic place on February 2, 1924 at 4 p.m. when two interurban trains crashed. The Indianapolis east-bound had telescoped the west-bound’s front car, slicing into it. This threw people inside the cars and crushed others between the seats. Then a fire broke out within minutes, thus burning alive many of those trapped passengers. One passenger, Ruby A. (Hiday) Jones, from Fortville who taught at Madison Heights High School and authored a weekly column for the Middletown News and the Alexandria Times Tribune recounted the tragedy in an article back in 1969. She remembers nearly boarding the front car, but it was too full and she and her mother went to the trailer coach. When the cars struck, her seat was reversed and she fell flat on the floor. An older gentleman was sent sprawling in the aisle. No one in the back cars knew what had happened and felt no panic. Then the screams began. Once on the platform and they saw that a car was crushed, a friend told them to run and to not look back. Ruby did look back and saw a woman wedged into one of the front car windows, half-in half-out. The windows were so high that the people on the ground could not help those trapped in the cars. Then the fire broke out. Twenty-one people died and many others were injured. Four “unknown persons” that were killed in the train wreck were buried in the East Maplewood Cemetery.
Currently, only the older generation of those who grew up in the area truly remember Alfont as a town, though Alfont is still on modern maps. If you would like to visit Alfont, the town is located just north of the railroad tracks at the corner of Hwy 67 and S. County Road 750 W. which is across the street from the United Pentecostal Church Camp.
- History of Hancock County, Indiana, Its People, Industries and Institutions. George J. Richman. B. L., Federal Publishing Co., Indianapolis: IN, 1916.
- Fortville 1949 Centennial Souvenir Program
- "Alfont Older Than Fortville, Says Historian; Gen. James Alfonte Recalls Boyhood Days Here." Fortville Tribune 15 Sept. 1949 : 1.
- "Interurban Crash Survivors." Fortville Tribune 6 Feb. 1969 : 1.
- "Interurban Tragedy Recalled." Fortville Tribune 27 March 1969 : 13.