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Beneath The Surface: Gas City

GAS CITY, INDIANA - I was told to go to Grant County to check out a little history on James Dean. As I began looking into the county, there was another story that ended up intriguing me. In the year 1892 the small town of Harrisburg, Indiana was renamed Gas City.

If you're ever driving up I-69, I-65 or US 31, you'll see an exit for Gas City. Being a person that always questions how people and places got their names, it should come to no surprise that I wanted to know how this particular Indiana city got her's.

During the late 20th century, there was a massive influx of people and businesses moving into east central Indiana. They came for one reason: THE GAS.


In Eaton, Indiana coal miners had noticed something strange as they were digging for coal beneath the surface of the Earth. At first they were scared of what they had found and didn't look into it any further.


Natural gas had been discovered in nearby Ohio, causing many of the Eaton coal miners to go back underground to further investigate what exactly they had stumbled upon. What the miners found was the LARGEST NATURAL GAS FIELD in the history of the world at the time. Grant County's Harrisburg was located near the middle of this field.


In 1892 the residents in the tiny town of Harrisburg, Indiana renamed the place Gas City and the boomtown began to boom.

Gas City - Within in three months eight factories had moved in. Thousands of people came to work in the factories and start up businesses. A bank, opera house, hotels, rows of business offices and numerous homes were quickly built. The demand was so great that many people lived in tents and shanties until their homes were built.

Gas City wasn't the only place in the area to experience this growth and prosperity. Many of the cities that also sat atop this gas field began growing as well. Indiana's "unlimited" natural gas enticed the Ball brothers into moving here, Hence the name BALL STATE UNIVERSITY.

IndyStar - In Muncie, an enterprising civic leader, James Boyce, sent a telegram to Frank C. Ball, president of a small fruit jar factory in Buffalo, N.Y., asking him to come to Boyce’s town. In the upper floor of the Boyce Block, still standing on Main Street in Muncie, Boyce and other business leaders offered Ball a free factory site, a $5,000 cash bonus, and unlimited gas if he would re-locate to their city.

Nobody thought the supply of gas would ever end, and the people simply wasted it. There were giant flambeau's that were lit around the clock to show off how much gas was available. Multiple towns in Indiana were lit throughout the entire night, with fire shining so bright that the livestock had trouble differentiating between night and day.


Long story short, the gas ran out. The supply began slowing down at the turn of the century, and it's believed that the state of Indiana wasted over 90% of their natural gas. Not only did gas just burn all day and night, many of the companies that moved into the state didn't even have to pay for it.

American Oil & Gas - By 1913 Indiana was importing natural gas from West Virginia to meet demand. By 1920, Indiana had become a consumer rather than producer of natural gas. The gas boom was over. Importantly, the consumption and waste so characteristic of Indiana’s gas boom provided a lesson to other states of the necessity to manage the use of resources.


I keep digging deeper beneath the surface of myself. What if I find a resource so great that everyone will want to be around me? What if I waste it all away? What if I've already found it?

What if I'm already wasting it?


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