By Caitlin Vanoverberghe
Hancock County marks its 187th birthday Sunday, but area students have been celebrating all week. This year, teens from the youth board of the Hancock County Community Foundation visited schools in all four county school corporations to host activities as a birthday celebration. Board members passed out stickers, word searches, trivia packets and other materials with facts about the county’s history. Here are a few fun facts:
Settled vs. founded
While Hancock County was officially founded March 1, 1828, people settled in the area as early as 1811. Those early residents chose to name their new home after John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress and first signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was a trend in those days to name new communities after one of the founding fathers. Nine other counties in the United States are named after Hancock.
Location, location, location
Hancock County was built along the National Road, now known as U.S. 40. The National Road was the country’s first federally funded interstate. It reached Indiana in 1834. When those who founded Hancock County applied to have the first post office built in the center of their new town, they originally asked for that new town to be called Brandywine. They were denied because there was already a Brandywine, Indiana. They later reapplied under the name Greenfield, which some believe was chosen because of the natural features and open fields of the area.
The people make the place
Hancock County has been home to some famous faces. James Whitcomb Riley is often called the county’s most prominent citizen. Riley was born in Greenfield in 1849 and grew to be a well-known poet. George Knox was born as a slave in 1841 but moved to Hancock County after the Civil War. He formed a church and school here for people of color while earning a living as a barber.