Muncie History

Photo courtesy of the Ball State University Digital Media Repository

All photos courtesy of the Ball State University Digital Media Repository

Photo courtesy of the Ball State University Digital Media ArchivesIn the early 1800s, the Delaware Indian tribe was settled around the White River and modern-day Muncie. A group of the Delaware spoke a “Munsee” dialect and the town was referred to as “Munsee Town.” After the treaty of St. Mary’s, this area was ceded to the granddaughter of Miami Chief Little Turtle then sold to and platted by Goldsmith Gilbert.

Muncie was officially incorporated in 1865 as a largely agricultural settlement comprised of pioneers and other early settlers. With the discovery of natural gas in the late 1870s, industrial business moved into the area including the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company in 1887.

Photo courtesy of the Ball State University Digital Media ArchivesThe Ball family has generously invested in Muncie since that time, helping to establish and/or support Ball State University, YMCA, Camp Crosley, Ball Memorial Hospital, the Masonic Temple, the American Legion, and Minnetrista Cultural Center. Their legacy lives on through the Ball Brothers Foundation, which continues to fund local initiatives.

In the 1920s and 1930s, sociologists Robert S. and Helen Merrell Lynd documented the daily lives of Muncie residents in-depth in their landmark studies Middletown (1929) and Middletown in Transition (1937). These classic studies positioned Muncie as the barometer of social trends in the United States. In the years since, scholars in a variety of fields have returned to Muncie to follow up on the Lynds’ work, making this small city among the most studied communities in the nation.1

For more information about Muncie history, explore these sites:

City of Muncie – History of Muncie

City of Muncie – Interactive Timeline

Muncie Public Library – Local History and Genealogy Links

Delaware County Historical Society

Ball State University – Historic Muncie: Preserving Middletown’s Neighborhoods

Ball State University – Muncie and Delaware County Historic Photographs

Ball State University – Center for Middletown Studies

Minnetrista Cultural Center – Ball Family History blog

1Thanks to Ball State Libraries, “Historic Muncie: Preserving Middletown’s Neighborhoods,” and the Center for Middletown Studies for this content.