M.P. A8.6 - 3rd Subdivision - F
Francesville Depot, October 8, 1949. Passenger extra with Notre Dame Football Team. (Notre Dame won 35-12...damn.) Harry Zillmer photo.
The earliest families that settled in the area built cabins on the knoll east of the Metamonong River, later known as Monon Ditch. These farmers and families drained the surrounding land and it became very fertile. Francesville was plotted, in 1852, by the New Albany and Salem Railroad, which was building between New Albany and Michigan City. The town was named for the daughter of New Albany and Salem Railroad President James Brooks. Over the years the town's name has been spelled with both the "e" ad "i" and pictures of the depot exist with both spellings.
In the 1870's the citizens attempted to incorporate, however, their attempt was voted down. In 1888 the town was incorporated and the small dot on a survey map started to become a thriving community. The Monon Railroad was essential to Francesville becoming a major shipping and receiving center of the area. After incorporation the town elected officials and laws and ordinances were written.
The first school was established soon after the area was settled. The one room schoolhouse was replaced by a Male and Female Academy, located at the corner of Montgomery and Brook Streets. The first commencement was held in 1893 and the school offered classes from 1-10th grade. In 1900 the school added the 11th grade and the first four year high school graduated in 1912. In 1967 the final class of Francesville High School graduated. Today, the West Central Junior-Senior High School serves the community.
The early 1900's brought some interesting events which affected both the community and the railroad. The town organized the Fire Department after purchasing a chemical fire engine. Also early in the 1900's a major legal battle pitted the Monon Railroad against several business owners over land considered prime property in downtown. The businesses had been leasing this land and appealed to the courts for the rights to purchase the land that they had been doing business on. In 1905 the case came to a conclusion when the businessmen were given the title to the land. In 1916 the Jacob Meyer Elevator, pictured above burned to the ground.
Looking south along Bill Street, circa early 1900s.
Francesville, Indiana, early 1900's. Left: Birds eye view of Francesville. More than likely taken from the top of the elevator. Right: Local farmers bringing their harvest to the elevator. The elevator pictured burnt down in 1916.
The 1920's and increased highway building spelled the death-knell to passenger traffic on the railroad. As the state build better highways, the reliance on railroads started to drop. Eventually passenger service was terminated all together. In December of 1944, a major fire destroyed almost an entire block of downtown.
This building was formerly the Francesville Opera House.
Today, Francesville is still on the railroad. It continues to survive and thrive. Since 1967 it has hosted the Fall Festival the third weekend in September. The first festival was held in 1967 after dedication of the new municipal building and Fire Department.
Francesville, date unknown. Jacob Meyer Elevator. This structure burnt down in 1916.
Francesville, date unknown. Francesville Depot.
Francesville Depot, Early 1920's. -MRHTS Photo Archives-
Left: Looking south along the mainline. Right: Working the Michigan City branch. Alco C-420 working near the Francesville Elevator.
North of town along the mainline. Right: Seaboard Line local working the line in Francesville.
Working the Michigan City branch, November 24, 1972. L&N local freight, with locomotive 1107 switching south of the elevator.
Francesville depot, circa 1969. This view is looking down the tracks from the north. The grain elevator in the distance is still served by the CSX along the former Monon Michigan City branch. John Fuller photo.
Francesville in 2003.
North of Francesville. This picture was taken at the crossing at 300 South. The Co-Op is pistured to the right of the photo.
Downtown Francesville 2003. How things have changed. Looking north from the Montgomery Street crossing. According to the pictures above, there was once an elevator between the tracks.
Old depot location. Picture is looking north from W. James Street where the former depot once stood. I was told by some local residents that is was once just north of the pole shown in the picture.
Covered hopper car sits at the Gutwein Company elevator, south of W. James Street. Picture is looking north towards W. James Street.
Mainline of former Michigan City branch, southbound towards Monon, Indiana. Picture taken at Gutwein Company elevator.
There is still life left on the former Michigan City line. One spring Saturday, BMIA Operative Jim Wolfe captured the CSX local working the former Michigan City branch in Francesville. A rare site.
On a snowy February day, the local is coming into Francesville. Pictured is the elevator and the local is northbound to Medaryville. Courtesy of Dave Randolph, CSX Engineer.
South of Francesville, Ward Stone Company, Material Services Corporation. This hopper car is NOT original Monon, according to Historical Technical Society records. It is, however, there on display, so it is included here. Kevin Ruble photo.
Between Francesville and Monon. Pictured is Train 56 northbound on the Michigan City branch. The freight pictured, circa 1970, could be passing the area where the Monon Connection Museum now resides.
Northbound local on the Michigan Branch between Monon and Francesville, February 1970.