A Bit of History About Clermont
Indiana became a state in 1816. Only a few years later in 1821, a land office was established in Brookville and began selling land in Marion County and surrounding counties. The land was initially sold in 80-acre parcels at an astounding price of $1.25 per acre. In 1823 a land office was opened in Crawfordsville, and a couple of years later a land office was opened in Indianapolis in 1825, which made making a land purchase in Marion County a much easier trip to register land claims. When Indianapolis was established as the permanent seat of government for Indiana in 1825, the Crawfordsville Road was the main route of travel between the land offices. In fact, Crawfordsville Road was an early trail that carried many pioneers and their Conestoga wagons to the west. It contributed to tradesmen and merchants settling in the community now called Clermont in the 1830s and 1840s.
In 1850, local property owners petitioned for the opening of a north-south highway thru the town, which is now Tansel Road. This was another indication that Clermont was becoming established. Also in 1850, the Census shows Clermont was mainly made up of farmers. However, there was also a merchant, an innkeeper, a physician, a miller, a blacksmith, a wagon-maker, four carpenters, and two coopers. The Inn at Clermont, located just west of Tansel on the north side of Crawfordsville Road until 1960, was a well-known landmark for residents and travelers alike. By 1860, the town had grown to such an extent that it then supported four merchants, one inn-keeper, four physicians, three millers, four blacksmiths, two wagon-makers, two carpenters, six coopers, two shoe and boot makers, two saddle and harness-makers, and one millwright. Road improvements including adding a gravel surface to Crawfordsville Road were undertaken, and toll gates were added at the county boundaries to provide funds for road maintenance.
Also during the 1860s, railroads began to develop across the country. This created a new line of work in Clermont with the addition of several new professions, which included one steam engineer, five railroad hands, two teamsters, and two hucksters by 1870. In the early 1870s, the Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Western Railroad ran just south of Clermont. A lodge was built in the early 1870s near the corner of Tansel and Crawfordsville Road. The first floor saw numerous uses as a general store, druggist, physician, and post office, while the second floor was a lodge for an organization called the Red Men.
In early 1903, the land was purchased for an interurban line running from Indianapolis to Crawfordsville. It was called the Ben Hur Line*, and thus the name of the road in Clermont adjacent to the Clermont station was named Ben Hur. Interurban service lasted until 1930. A typical day for local farmers would be to ride their horse and buggy to the livery stable at Church and Ben Hur streets, and then take the interurban to Indianapolis to sell eggs, milk, and produce.
On July 11, 1903, the Marion County Board of County Commissioners approved a petition for incorporation of the town of Clermont. An election of officers followed. The first elected trustees were J.M. Robey, Muratt Brown, and V. K. Johnson. L.R. Appleget was elected town clerk, J.T. Jones was town treasurer, and B.L. Appleget was town marshall.
Shortly after that in August 1903, Wayne Township purchased property on Tansel Road for the Clermont school. The first building was a white, two-room wood structure. A new building of brick construction and five classrooms was dedicated in 1923. It was used until the current Robey school opened in 1957 in the southeast corner of town.
Clermont has grown steadily over the years. By 1923, the population increased to 400 from around 150 in its early years. Many of its early buildings found new uses as the years progressed. For example, the Clermont Grade School became part of a Baptist church facility. The hospital became a grocery store and then a tavern. A drugstore became the town hall. The first bank in town at the southwest corner of Tansel and Crawfordsville Road became a drugstore and then a rental room facility.
Modernization came in the way of electric lighting in 1916, a paved Crawfordsville Road in 1924 with a traffic signal at Tansel Road in 1925, public water service in 1945, and hook-up of the town sewers to the Indianapolis system in 1966.
While gas stations used to populate the town, including Texaco, Shell, Standard, Hoosier Pete, Pure Oil, Phillips 66, and Mrs. Barringers (a privately owned two-pump business), the ease of travel to nearby towns and changing economics have reduced their numbers.
One of the missing features in Clermont is a movie theater. However, in the 1940s and 1950s, this was handled by the owner of the grocery on Crawfordsville Road (now Raceway Pub) showing movies on the back wall of his building. On the other hand, Clermont had a fire department housed under the water tower, which then moved to the building next to the current post office, and then closed when Wayne Township took over fire protection.
And Clermont has always had a community service spirit, starting in 1871 when the Foster Lodge was built and became the home of the Red Men and an organization for women called Pocahontas Lodge was instituted. In 1945, the Clermont Lions Club was founded and carried on the community service tradition. One of their popular events is the Clermont Rodeo, held at the Lions Club Park on Tansel Road. The year 2018 will mark the 68th year of that event.
Miller Pipeline, formerly an Ohio corporation, established a plant in Clermont in 1962 and is now a subsidiary of Vectren. It is the town's largest commercial operation. Its civic responsibility has been demonstrated through a land donation in 2003 for a pocket park named "Miller Park" along Tansel Road, and the construction of a shelter house in that park.
Since Clermont's incorporation in 1903, eleven real estate plats have been added to Clermont's boundaries, most small, some large. The two latest additions, Tansel Woods in 1960 and Lincolnwood in 1968 (both on the north end of Clermont) were also the largest additions ever to Clermont.
Clermont continues to be an attractive area to live in for its almost 1,500 inhabitants in 2018. With its convenient commercial area along Crawfordsville Road, easy access to Indianapolis and Brownsburg, and small-town charm, Clermont continues to be the place to be for many who have lived here for many years.
[This history was written by Walt Miller (edited/updated in 2018 by Mike Beam) with many thanks to contributors Beuford Hall, a 30-year resident of Clermont, and Evelyn (Lola) Coryelle, a lifelong resident of Clermont.]
*The name "Ben Hur" line was adopted as a reference to Crawfordsville being the home of Lew Wallace, author of the popular book "Ben Hur."