Jack Carney, Aim Hometown Innovations Contributor
What would Moses Fowler think about the small community he founded a little over 150 years ago in 1871 if he could see it now?
The town of Fowler, Indiana – named after its founder Moses – celebrated 150 years, a sesquicentennial, with a large event in the town’s square in September of 2021.
For starters, Moses, who died in 1889 at age 74, would most certainly be awestruck at the sight of the dozens of automobiles that converged on the Fowler town square in a “Cruise In” as part of the celebration in September.
He might also be taken aback by the sounds coming from the band, named Main Street, that performed during the party. What would Moses make of an electric guitar?
Much has changed over the past 150 years, but not everything would be unfamiliar to Fowler inhabitants from the 1800s.
For example, the Fowler town hall is located in the same location as the original structure. Fowler’s first town hall was constructed in the late 1870s, shortly after a vote by residents passed to officially incorporate the town. The current town hall was built in 1955 on the same plot, and the building still serves as the meeting place for the town’s board and houses the Fowler Police Department.
Moses would also recognize the Benton County Courthouse, constructed in 1874, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 2008.
Two other historic Fowler structures have been deemed worthy of preservation by the NRHP – the Fraser & Isham Law Office, built in 1896, and Fowler Theatre, constructed in 1940. In fact, Fowler Theatre was one of the main attractions during the 150-year celebration as it offered tours and concessions while Charlie Chaplain shorts played on screen during the sesquicentennial event.
The population of Fowler is another thing that hasn’t changed too drastically over the past 15 decades. As of 1900, Fowler had a population of 1,500 people. A little more than a century later at the 2010 census, there were 2,317 people, 935 households and 593 families living in town.
According to Sara Finley, Fowler’s current clerk-treasurer, one of the major accomplishments for the community over the past 150 years has been the introduction of wind farms. In 2008, Benton County Wind Farm, consisting of 87 wind turbines, became Indiana’s first commercial-scale wind farm. One year later, Fowler Ridge Wind Farm became the second utility-scale wind power plant in the state.
Instead of wind, in the 1800s Fowler farmers raised corn, wheat, oats and flax. The farming production, of course, started with Moses, who originally came to the area with John Purdue to go into the mercantile business, and his brother-in-law, Adams Earl.
The two accumulated land in Benton County totaling over 30,000 acres and used it for their large cattle herds. Soon after, other farmers and trappers emerged in the area, and by 1871 a town had formed. By 1875, Fowler had 10 lawyers, a minister, three doctors, a dentist, a baker, two barber shops, three saloons, two blacksmith shops and many other establishments.
150 years later, the town still stands, full of businesses and families. A celebration of the place started by Moses Fowler was certainly in order.
“Everyone really enjoyed it,” Finley said. “It was great to be able to have this for the community, especially when people are trying to get back to doing more things together since Covid.”
It’s safe to say Moses Fowler would be proud of how far his little town has come. Here’s to the next 150 years!