The history of any geographic area is, by and large, shaped and molded by its physical environment. The natural features of Howard County have determined to a large extent its history. The natural resources of the area, though, only determine what is possible. It is left to the people to have the wit to make use and profit by those resources. The study of history is the study of how people have used their environment and their brains.
Humans have occupied Howard County, Indiana more or less continuously since about 8,000 B.C. Further archeological investigations will, no doubt, push that figure back to at least 12,000 B.C. The inhabitants of Howard County between 8,000 B.C. and 1,000 B.C. are referred to as being of the Archaic tradition. During this time, the culture of these early American Indians is noted for a vast amount of change. These Archaic Indians were hunters and gatherers who increasingly depended upon gathering edible plants and roots for their sustenance. Evidence of these early residents of Howard County is found throughout the county. The high ground near every stream in the county has produced arrowheads, flint scrapers, bone, and a variety of other artifacts attributed to these people.
The tools of these people were made of flint or chert. It is a curious fact that there are some types of chert which are found only in certain localities. Many artifacts from Howard County, which date from this period, are made from Attica chert. This chert can only be found in one locality, near the town of Attica, Indiana—some 65 miles from Kokomo. While these early residents only had their legs to propel them, they did seem to travel about a great deal.
Our evidence for the later Indian groups is quite sketchy at this time, although we have found enough artifacts to at least know that they were here. The Woodland tradition (1,000 B.C. –
A.D. 900) is characterized by their appearance and a more settled way of life. The Mississippian tradition (A.D. 900 – A.D. 1600) is characterized by an increased complexity of the culture, as evidenced in pottery styles and a diverseness of the artifacts produced. Howard County was not a primary center for these last two groups. The scattered evidence indicates that these two groups preferred to settle on the larger rivers and streams. The Wabash River, just a few miles to the north, has the remains of many major settlements on its banks. Evidence points to Howard County as being a hunting ground. Small bands would traverse the area while hunting, but they did not live here permanently.
Historic Indians/French Fur Trade
Historically, the Miami tribe of Indians occupied this region of Indiana. While we tend to think of the Miami as living here from “time immemorial” this was NOT true. The Miami and most other Indians traveled about and occupied a great many different regions. Prior to 1669, the Miami lived west of the Mississippi for a time, and then moved back to the east side of the Mississippi. Father Marquette in 1669 reported that the Miami were living in what is now southern Wisconsin. Gradually, they moved south and east and were found on the portage between the St. Joseph and Kankakee Rivers in 1679. It was not until the early 1700s that the Miami became entrenched in this area. Generally their territory was headquartered in the Fort Wayne region and extended east into Ohio and west to Lafayette, and south.
The French were the first Europeans to come to this area, and undoubtedly passed through Howard County on the Wildcat Creek while trading for furs. The French (and later English) were primarily interested in trade with the Indians. When the Americans finally came to Indiana, they were interested in land.
During this time period, the Miami subsisted on hunting and some agriculture (corn, squash, etc). Gradually they became more and more involved with the fur traders, and depended upon them for goods which they could not otherwise acquire.
They developed many important families of French fur traders on the frontier. One such family was the Drouet de Richarville family. The Richarvilles were descendants of Claude Drouer de Richarville who arrived in Canada in the 1680s. A grandson of Claude, Joseph Drouet de Richarville was a prominent trader at Miamitown between 1750 and 1770. Joseph married Tecumwah, a sister of Chief Little Turtle and they had a son, Jean-Babtiste, in 1761. Jean-Babtiste eventually rose to the position of chief and was one of the signers of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. Little Turtle died in 1812, and in 1813 Jean was elected head chief of the Miami.
Like his father, Jean was a trader, and was able to accumulate a considerable amount of wealth through trading and treaties with the whites. At his death, he reported having over $200,000 in cash and several thousand acres of land. Richarville had several children. One daughter, Catherine, married Francis LaFountaine, and another, LaBlonde, married James Godfroy. Francis LaFountaine became chief of the Miami Indians after Richarville’s death, and James Godfroy was the son of Francis Godfroy, the last chief of the Miami.
Jean-Babtiste de Richarville, today, is best remembered for the various treaties he made with the whites. Under the Ordinances of 1785 and 1787, certain procedures were defined for distributing land to American settlers. First, the federal government purchased the land by treaty with the Indians. The land was surveyed, then the land was sold, and finally settlers were allowed to come. The federal government had sole authority to make treaties with the Indians and to provide for an orderly territorial government.
These ordinances also defined the manner in which the lands were to be surveyed. The lands were to be divided into “Congressional Townships.” A Congressional Township was defined as 36 one square mile sections, numbered contiguously. A square mile section contained 640 acres. Normally a homesteader would file on a half or quarter section (320 and 160 acres respectively).
The first settlements in Indiana were along the Ohio River. Gradually people began to move north up the Wabash and finally inland. That is, the places easiest to reach were settled first. Howard County, given its location, is rather inaccessible by water, and it is little wonder that it was the last county in the state to be organized. The Indians in southern Indiana were displaced first, and as more people settled here, the tribes in the more remote sections of the state were confined on smaller and smaller reservations, until they were forced to leave the state.
There were two treaties of importance in the history of Howard County. In 1838 Chief Richarville and other leaders signed a treaty which sold 177,000 acres of the Great Miami Reserve for a sum of $335,680. This land was then given to the state of Indiana to sell, to help finance the Wabash and Erie Canal. The eastern seven miles of this land lies in western Howard County. The area is known locally as the “Seven-mile strip.” Originally attached to Carroll County to the west, the seven-mile strip was the first part of Howard County, which could, legally, be opened to white settlement. David Landrum has the distinction of being the first permanent white settler in Howard County. His cabin was on the south side of Wildcat Creek in Monroe township. Other settlers soon followed. Among them were: John Harrison, David Foster, Isaac Price, Joshua Barnett, Barnabus Busby, and Isaac Hauck.
The other treaty of importance was concluded on November 28, 1840 at the “Forks of the Wabash.” This was the final treaty between the Federal government and the Miami Indians. Under the terms of the treaty the Miami ceded all their lands east of the Mississippi River. A curious fact is associated with the way in which these treaties were made. For signing a treaty, a chief was rewarded with cash and/or land. Thus, in 1838, Pierre Langlois, was rewarded with a half section of land in western Howard County. In 1840 Chief Richarville received $25,000 and seven sections of land (4.480 acres). The sections of land are referred to as float sections, and Richarville was allowed to pick the location of the land he was awarded. In the same treaty Francis LaFountaine was given one float section. The treaty of 1840 also provided for the removal of the Miami tribe to Kansas territory. Of course, the chiefs who actually signed the treaty were allowed to remain in the state. The tribe was given five years to vacate the state, although they did not actually leave until 1847.
Anticipating the removal of the Miami, the Indiana legislature passed an act to create Richardville and Tipton Counties on January 15, 1844. The name was changed to Howard County from Richardville County in 1847 in honor of T.A. Howard. Anticipating is the proper word here, as it was not until 1847 that the settlers could claim legal title to the lands east of the seven-mile strip. There are two exceptions. The act appointed five commissioners to travel to John Harrison’s cabin in Richardville County for the purpose of organizing the county. The commissioners were further directed to locate the seat of justice as near the center of the county as possible. A quick glance at the map reveals that the center of the county is some seven or eight miles east of the seven-mile strip, and therefore amidst the lands which were not yet open to settlement (the two exceptions).
By the second Monday of May 1844, the five commissioners had assembled in the home of John Harrison. Several locations in the seven-mile strip were considered for the county seat. Among others were: New London, Cromwell’s Mill, Harrison’s Home, and Caroline.
David Foster was a trader who first came to Indiana in 1827 from Virginia. He opened a trading post in Burlington in 1835. In 1840, he removed to the eastern edge of the seven-mile strip and opened another trading post. Foster’s trading post was within the float section given to Francis LaFountaine by the treaty of 1840. LaFountaine located the section in 1842 and promptly sold the land to Allen Hamilton of Fort Wayne for $2,000. Foster purchased the LaFountaine Reserve from Hamilton for $4,000. The purchase was made on January 17, 1844, two days after the legislature passed the act which created Richardville County. By a curious change, the LaFountaine Reserve is almost in the exact center of the county, and of course, Foster owned clear title to this land.
The town of Vermont was platted in the hope that it would become the county seat. Vermont was seven miles east of Foster’s land, also on the Wildcat, and located in one of the float sections give to Chief Richardville by the treaty in 1840. This, of course, was the only other site in the county east of the seven-mile strip, which could legally have been settled.
The commissioners met, as directed, and considered the merits of each location. In pressing his case, Foster was successful in talking the commissioners into traveling out to the LaFountaine Reserve and viewing its advantages as a seat of justice. Early accounts suggest that Foster’s arguments were sometimes fluid in nature, whiskey being one of the articles Foster purveyed to the Indians. In any case, Foster agreed to donate forty acres of land on the north side of the Wildcat for the county seat, and also agreed to build a log courthouse. The courthouse was to have been completed by October 1844.
Foster did donate the 40 acres, but somehow he later talked the elected county commissioners into building the structure themselves. The courthouse, which was to have been donated and built by October 1844, was finally completed in December of 1845 at a cost of $290.99.5. Foster was paid $142.71.5 of that figure for his work on the project. Clearly, David Foster, in spite of his reported speech impediment, was a man with a very facile tongue indeed.
The advantages to Foster of locating the county seat on his land were many. Between 1844 and 1849, Foster received $3,485 for land which he sold to early settlers, and Foster still held title to 530 acres of the original 640 acres that he purchased for $4,000. It seems to have been a reasonably secure investment.
Kokomo is Named
The new county seat was named Cocomo, although the spelling was eventually changed to Kokomo. There are two different accounts on the origin of the name Kokomo. One account insists that Kokomo was a Miami Indian chief greatly respected by his tribesmen. Other assert that a remark attributed to Foster was the true state of things. Foster reported said: “Kokomo is the orneriest town I ever knew, so I named it after the orneriest old Indian I ever knew.” This second account is much more picturesque than the first, although, how ornery can a town be if it has no citizens, as it did not have when it was named? Of course, there never has been any proof that Kokomo was ever a chief of the Miami, a minor sub-chief perhaps, but certainly not a chief of major importance. In fact, information on the Indian named Kokomo is very scanty indeed. There does seem to be enough evidence, though, to at least state with some confidence that there was an Indian named Kokomo. It should be pointed out the “Kokomo” referred to in early records lived at the Thorntown Reservation in Boone County.
Since Kokomo is a word of obvious Indian origin, one always wonders what it means in the Miami language. The person who wonders what Kokomo means is lucky indeed; he has three choices. Early historians translate the name as “she-bear” or “black walnut.” The only scholarly research on the matter was by Jacob Piatt Dunn. His sources conclude that the name meant “the Diver,” (literally, “he who goes under”). If one is concerned with historical accuracy, “the diver” is the obvious choice. If accuracy is not important, choose the name which is convenient.
First Settlers in Howard County
The first settlers of Howard County were farmers. Agriculture in those early days was not the sophisticated business that it is today. Howard County was originally forestland, and the enterprising farmer was required to clear the land for his crops. The logs were used to construct a cabin, barn and such other structures that were required. Initially, the farmer grew crops only for his own consumption and marketed little, if any, of his crops. Corn was the principle crop in those early years. It was very uncommon for the farmer to fertilize his crops, and little was known about controlling insect pests. Most crops were cultivated and harvested by hand. Wheat was sown, cultivated and harvested by hand, then hauled to a nearby grist mill to be ground into flour (such as Cromwell’s mill, built by Joshua Barnett). Wild game supplemented the diet of the hardy pioneers.
The pioneers were largely self-sufficient. They grew flax for use in making linen, and raised sheep for their wool (wool and linen cloth were often combined to make linsey-woolsey). Lye was produced for soap. Sugar maple trees were tapped. Beehives were raided for their honey. Furniture was produced by means of an ax and with whatever wood was available.
In Howard County, this way of life was common until the end of the Civil War. The crucial factor at this point in our history was transportation. Even if our pioneers were able to produce a surplus of crops, they would have had no way to get those crops to market. It is little wonder that the early meetings of the Howard county commissioners were devoted almost entirely to the topic of constructed county roads. The appearance of the first railroad in 1853 also helped to speed the development of the county’s economy.
Center of Anti-Slavery Movement
Howard County was once a major center of anti-slavery sentiment. This sentiment was very strong in the western part of the county around the towns of New London and Poplar Grove. The settlers there were mostly members of the Friends Church and felt obligated to assist runaway slaves in their quest for freedom. This usually took the form of feeding the former slaves and hiding them from anyone hunting them. The so-called “Underground Railway” flourished in pre-Civil War times and resulted in a sizeable community of blacks in northwest Howard County. The towns of Bassett and Rush in Ervin Township were originally black communities.
Like many other communities in Indiana, Howard County sent a number of individuals to fight during the Civil War. Regiments from Howard County participated in most of the major campaigns of the war. They were most conspicuous in the western campaigns where soldiers from Howard County participated in the battle at Shiloh and the siege of Vicksburg. Later on, many of these regiments joined Sherman on his march through Georgia.
Historians love to write about this battle or that battle in war, while piling up statistics of those killed, wounded, and missing. I think it would be instructive to hear the eyewitness account of a private soldier at the battle of Shiloh, on April 20, 1862:
“I am at camp advance, Pittsburgh Landing, State of Tennessee. We are still on the battle ground that we won at great sacrifice of life and a hard struggle…I expect the bullets fell as fast around us as the water fell around you there, for the bullets and grape shot and bum (bomb) shell cannon ball and canister hot fell like hail around us from early in the morning till 4 o’clock in the evening. The battle raged furious all day till 2 o’clock in the afternoon when our regiment was called in to the seine of action. We sent a gauling and constant fire at them until our regiment had the honor of braking their center lines and causing them to fly for refuge when we were ordered to case firing and we followed them some distance but all being very tired and worn down by hard marching we camped on the victorious battle ground which we gained. The lines of battle on either side was six to seven miles long and the wood that we fought in was heavy timbered. The battleground was as much as eight or nine miles each way. Our left wing of the reg. was bravely commanded by the gallant Major Abbit and under his command we fought bravely and done our duty and gained a good reputation. It is getting late and is raining all the time nearly since the battle. Good by Serena, I will try to do my duty and to heaven if we meet no more on earth let us meet in a better world than this. Good by till I rite again. Samuel Breenen. (P.S.) Rite soon I am still your absent brother.”
Kokomo Incorporated/Howard County Gains Territory
In 1855, Kokomo was incorporated as a town. In 1859, Howard County gained some extra territory. Honey Creek Township, in the southwest corner of the county was once a part of Clinton County. The residents decided that the county seat of Kokomo was closer for their needs and were successful in separating themselves from Clinton County and attaching themselves to Howard County.
After the war, Howard County continued to grow steadily. In the nation’s centennial year (1876), Kokomo reported a population of 6,000 people. There were three railroads servicing the population here. Tile and brick factories were in full operation and Howard County was a thriving agricultural community.
Gas Boom of 1886
In 1886 the Schrader gas well was drilled near Kokomo and became one of the largest natural gas “gushers” ever found. Virtually overnight, Kokomo was transformed from an agricultural town to an important industrial city. The significance of natural gas lies in its ability to attract industry, commerce, and people. In 1886, Kokomo did not have a population much above the 6,000 people reported in 1876. By 1893, the population had reached 15,000. Since Kokomo was not the only city to have discovered natural gas in its vicinity, there was much competition between cities in attracting business. A promotional pamphlet published in 1894 offers such inducement to prospective industries as free gas and free land to anyone who would locate his manufacturing concern to Kokomo.
Industries begun in Kokomo during the gas boom were: Kokomo Water Works, 1887; Kokomo Straw Board Company, 1887; The Diamond Plate Glass Company, 1887; Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company, 1888; Rockford Bit Company, 1888; The Kokomo Rubber Company, 1895; and the Kokomo Telephone and Electric Company, 1896.
The names that are associated with the gas boom are still familiar in Kokomo today. Elwood Haynes, George Kingston, Monroe Seiberling, D.C. Spraker, D.C. Jenkins, J.E. Fredrick, the Apperson Brothers, and many others. The businesses started by these men have had a significant impact upon the Kokomo economy.
Elwood Haynes came first to Greentown in eastern Howard County, to supervise the building of a gas pumping station. Haynes was a graduate of the Worcester Free Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, and it was this background, which fired his fertile imagination, that led to his many inventions. In Kokomo, today, Elwood Haynes is best remembered for having invented the first automobile in 1894. This claim has had to have some qualifications added to it in recent years. In 1893, the Duryea brothers in Massachusetts built a gasoline powered automobile. Of course, the first successful gasoline powered automobiles were built in Europe in the mid-1880’s by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. While everyone wishes to be “first,” as Professor Ralph Gray has pointed out: “…no one person or small group of persons was responsible for the automobile; it was the product of combined genius of countless mechanics and engineers on both sides of the Atlantic” (Gray 1979: 82).
In the late 1890’s Haynes entered into partnership with the Apperson Brothers (Elmer and Edgar) in establishing an automobile factory. It was in the machine shop of the Apperson Brothers that Haynes’ first automobile was built. Eventually, Haynes and the Apperson Brothers dissolved the partnership and separate automobile companies were established.
Glass Factories in Howard County
While the automobile industry was important, it was not the major industry of the gas boom. It seems that the industry most attracted to the gas fields of Indiana was the glass-making industry. The Ball Brothers in Muncie were a good example of an early glass making concern of the gas boom. In Howard County, several glass factories were established. In February, 1894, the Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Company was established in Greentown, Indiana. This company specialized in pressed glass of a variety of colors. In Kokomo, Monroe Seiberling from Akron, Ohio, came and established the Diamond Plate Glass Company in 1887. In 1888 the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company was established. In the early 1900s the D. C. Jenkins Glass Company was established in Kokomo. Of these companies, the Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Co. was destroyed by fire in 1903. Diamond Plate Glass Co. was sold to Pittsburgh Plate and Glass in 1898, and subsequently closed; the D.C. Jenkins Glass Co. closed in the 1930s; and the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Co. continues to be the major supplier of cathedral glass in the Midwest.
It is impossible to list every business, which was important during the gas boom era. There are a few which should be noted at this time. D. C. Spraker of the Kokomo Rubber Tire Co. invented the “first” pneumatic rubber tire in 1894. In 1902, George Kingston developed an improved carburetor, which was produced in Kokomo. Kingston Products still has a plant in Kokomo. The first aluminum casting was made by William “Billy” Johnson at the Ford & Donnelly Foundry in 1895.
By 1900, the gas boom had become the “gas bust.” The rich gas fields of north central Indiana had, for the most part, gone dry. The principal cause of this was waste. When gas was struck, the drillers would light the gas at the wellhead, rather than cap the well. Sometimes the gas was allowed to burn for weeks before being put to use. By this and other wasteful means, billions of cubic feet of natural gas were put to no useful purpose. Kokomo was fortunate in that many of its industries chose to convert to coal or other fuels rather than close down and move elsewhere.
Much of Kokomo’s industry today is a direct result of the gas boom era. One of the most lasting and pleasing aspects of the gas boom is the effects it had upon the city’s architecture. The residential neighborhoods immediately east and west of downtown Kokomo are representative of the large number of elegant homes built during this era. The architectural styles of these homes, though mixed, represent the popular styles of the 1890’s and 1900’s. Various examples of the Queen Anne, Classical Revival, Tudor, Gothic Revival and Second Empire styles can be seen as well as some good examples of the earlier Italianate style.
The gas boom also affected the architecture of downtown Kokomo. The Richardsonian Romanesque style City Building, built in 1894 is a prime example of the gas boom effect. And although it has been “rejuvenated” the early features are still present. Prior to the construction of the City Building, Kokomo did not own a building for the offices of city government. The great influx of people and the increased demands on city services, forced the city to build its own quarters to meet the needs of its citizens. As one looks upon the Kokomo City Building today, one can derive a sense of the whole gas boom era. The sheer mass and volume of the structure seems to represent the self-image of a city that overnight became a major industrial center and was just beginning to flex its economic muscles.
Industrialization of Howard County
In the early 1900s, the industrialization of Howard County was typical of the rest of the nation. A trend developed, which is still continuing today. Our farmer of 1840 was largely self-sufficient and did not depend upon the outside world to any great extent. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a great many innovations were made. At this time farming began to change from a subsistence enterprise into a commercial undertaking.
The other effect of this industrialization of the cities and commercialization of the farms was the mass-migration from the farm to the cities. Howard County, like the rest of the nation, experienced a shift from a rural to an urban population center. The industrialization of the cities lured people off the farms and into the cities, while the increased use of farm machinery required fewer and fewer laborers on the farms.
Elwood Haynes continued inventing new products. In 1906 he invented stellite, a hard alloy, still in demand. It was produced locally by the High Technology Division of Cabot Corporation and is currently produced by Haynes International. Elwood Haynes also held many of the key patents for stainless steel, which are held by Haynes International today.
During World War I, the Superior Machine Tool Co. manufactured the first American Howitzer Shells, and the Liberty Pressed Metal Co. made the first aerial bomb, with fins. These were Kokomo’s major contribution to the war effort. As in previous wars Howard County sent many of its sons to fight in the various branches of the service.
The 1920s saw the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. Indiana was a major center of Klan activity in the United States, and Kokomo was a major center of Klan activity in Indiana. While the range and depth of the Klan’s activities were shrouded in secrecy, many aspects of the activity were visible to the public. A national convention of Klansmen was held in Howard County, just west of town in 1923. In all, some 100 Klansmen congregated in Kokomo on July 4th of that year.
With the closing of the Haynes and Apperson automobile factories in 1925, Howard County felt economic hard times earlier than the rest of the country. On the whole, Howard County did not fare much worse than the rest of the country, and many of its industries were able to stay in operation. The D.C. Jenkins Glass Co. was a casualty of the 1930s. In the 1930s, though, two important industries located plants in Kokomo. They were the Chrysler Corporation and the Delco Radio Division of General Motors. These two companies have been the major employers of Kokomo’s citizens in recent years. The recent economic troubles of Chrysler Corporation have demonstrated the vast impact which these two companies have had on the local economy.
As the world moved towards another great war, Kokomo made a significant contribution in the form of the “Kokomo Kid.” The “Kokomo Kid” was not a person, but an all-metal life raft manufactured by the Globe American Stove Co. The company also manufactured an all-metal lifeboat. These two products were responsible for saving many lives at sea.
Throughout its history, the geographical area we call Howard County, Indiana, has been of major importance. Prior to European settlement, various Indian groups inhabited Howard County. While we cannot boast of the huge civilizations that were found along the Ohio or Wabash Rivers, Howard County has been occupied since about 8,000 B.C. With the coming of the Europeans, the Indians first adapted, then made way before the advance of land-hungry settlers. The history of the American settlement in Howard County begins in 1838. The early agricultural period was marked by steady growth, improved living conditions and a steady drive to improve transportation. With dramatic suddenness, the Gas Boom came to Howard County in 1886 and forever altered the character and development of the county. The twentieth century has seen the continuation of many of the gas boom industries, the invention of new industries, and the introduction of new, important industries which have kept Kokomo and Howard County a vital growing community.
About the Mansion and the Seiberling Family
Chain of Titles/Ownership
1891-1901 Monroe Seiberling April 20, 1889—October 5, 1901
Leased to: Dr. Alfred from Chicago, IL
Rev. Allen, Presbyterian Minister
Dr. Cripe from Alexandria, IN
1901-1902 Richard N. Sparks October 5, 1901—November 21, 1902
1902-1903 Thomas Kelly November 21, 1903—November 14, 1903
1903-1905 Orange V. Darby November 14, 1903—April 3, 1905
dry goods operator
1905 Rev. William D. Parr April 3, 1905—December 4, 1905
Methodist Episcopal Minister
1905-1914 Franklin D. Miller December 4, 1905—November 4, 1914
patent medicine manufacturer and realtor
1914-1946 George Kingston November 4, 1914—August 1946
developer of the Kingston Carburetor
1946-present Indiana University Foundation
1946-1965 the mansion was used as classrooms for Indiana University at Kokomo
1965-1972 the mansion sat vacant
1971 Property was leased to Howard County for 99 years with the understanding that the Howard County Historical Society operate the county museum at this site.
1973 Seiberling Carriage House was leased to the historical society
1997 Indiana University sold the Seiberling Mansion and Elliott House properties to Howard County for $2 with the restriction that the facilities must be used to benefit of the Howard County Historical Society or they immediate revert back to Indiana University
1998 Renovation of the Elliott House and Designers’ Showhome
2000 Renovation of the Elliott Carriage House and opening of the Stan Mohr Local History Library
2002 Installation of climate control system in the Seiberling Mansion
2003 Renovation of the Seiberling Mansion and Designers’ Showhome
Seiberling and Building the Mansion
Mr. Monroe Seiberling of Kokomo had rubber, plate glass, tin plate, strawboard, flour, twine, cordage, and mining factories and operations throughout the Midwest. He was an uncle of Frank A. Seiberling of Akron, Ohio, the founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
Seiberling factories were established in Kokomo (1887), in Jonesboro (1890), in Elwood (1891), and in Peoria, IL (1895).
The mansion was built on 1.5 acres of land purchased for $2,500 from David C. Spraker. The land was known as Haskett’s Grove Park.
The architect was Arthur LaBelle of Marion, Indiana and the contractor was Ike V. Smith of Kokomo. The $50,000 mansion was built between November 1, 1889 and March 1, 1891. After the foundation was completed, a wooden frame structure totally encased the construction of the mansion which was literally unveiled to the public in 1891. According to an inflation calculator if you built the Seiberling Mansion in 2007 it would cost $1,140,112.60.
Two Seiberling weddings were held in the mansion. Kate Seiberling was married to Frank L. Kryder from Akron, Ohio, on October 17, 1892. They moved to Akron, Ohio. Emma Seiberling married Charles J. Butler from Jonesboro on April 26, 1893. They moved to Marion, Indiana. (Her gown was donated to the historical society and a replica of the gown is on display in the museum.)
Many of the windows throughout the house have ornamental colored glass set in lead. Some are of the Art Nouveau style of the period. Other windows have curved glass panes.
Light fixtures are of brass. These fixtures were installed to burn gas and later converted for electricity. The present fixtures are not original but of the same period.
The house was originally heated with gas.
The architecture is Neo-Jacobean (sometimes called Queen Anne style) characterized by asymmetrical projections, irregular roof contours, repeating open arches and columns, and a vast use of ornate and decorative wood. It is also Romanesque revival characterized by the rough massive stone block and bricks, the large porch arches, central tower and cupola, side turret tower and classical façade with arcade. It has a slate roof, sheet metal mocked carved trim, and curved, plate glass windows.
The doorknobs, plates, and hinges and the window lifts are of a Moorish design, and are made of brass.
The Seiberling Family moved to Peoria, Illinois, in 1895. They only occupied the mansion for three years.