The History of Knightstown, Indiana

History Page Photo

Located about 33 miles east of Indianapolis, Knightstown is situated between the Big Blue River and Montgomery Creek on U.S. Hwy. 40. Known as a historic, rural community, Knightstown offers a low cost of living, the convenience of interstate travel, proximity to Indianapolis and conveniences necessary to navigate day-to-day life. The Town is currently involved in many projects and plans intended to energize the community and assure that Knightstown continues to prosper and is ready for future growth.

Knightstown was settled in 1819, but not incorporated as a municipality until 1827. The town was founded and platted  by Waitsell M. Cary and was named in honor of Jonathan Knight, a civil engineer in charge of surveying and overseeing construction of the National Road (U.S. Hwy. 40) across the state.  Knightstown became a business destination when the railroad came to Henry County in 1853.  Historical pictures show a downtown area that was thriving with people and opportunities for commerce.  A local hotel, theater, eateries and many shopping areas can be seen among the horse-drawn buggies going down the street.

While Knightstown is not the county seat of Henry County, many “firsts” have been recorded by the town. The county's first sawmill was established here by Samuel Cary, and the county's first newspaper, the Federal Union, began publication in 1832. The First National Bank of Knightstown, chartered in 1865, and the Masonic lodge, founded in 1844, were also Henry County firsts.

During the 1850s, the community's’ prosperity was further bolstered by the construction of the Terre Haute and Richmond Line (later called the Columbus, Chicago and Indiana Central Railroad) through Knightstown. The coming of the railroad, as well as the town's location in a rich agricultural area, assured its continued growth during the last half of the 19th century.

Knightstown was a prosperous community during its early settlement days, as illustrated by the wonderful architecture throughout the town. The collection of Knightstown's residential, commercial and public buildings from this period show a town that was clearly Henry County's preeminent community. Remarkably, the people who have called Knightstown home throughout the years have cared for the history of the town and the history of their homes, leaving a beautiful setting for people who desire a life outside the hustle and bustle of larger cities and towns. The downtown area of Knightstown became a designated historic district in 1985; the Glen Cove Cemetery was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018; and many homes throughout the community have been designated historical sites.

In recent years, town leaders have accomplished many goals in order to continue to thrive as a community that supports the people and businesses who call Knightstown home. Some of these recent, notable accomplishments include:

  • The town of Knightstown, the city of New Castle and Henry County were collectively named a “Stellar Community Finalist” by the state in 2020 as the result of their work planning for the future of the county.
  • Knightstown has almost completed a sewer utility project that will create a state-of-the-art facility to ensure wastewater services are provided in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • The town is in the planning stages of a large water utility project to ensure the town continues to provide clean, abundant water to the community.
  • The town contracted with the Indiana Municipal Power Association Service Corp (IMPA) to provide electric utility services for the town. As a result, qualified IMPA electricians are maintaining the electric infrastructure for the town and its utility customers.
  • The town has taken advantage of Community Crossing funds from the state, which have given Knightstown the opportunity to do larger street repair projects for less money. Under the grant program, the town is only required to match 25 cents for every dollar spent on designated road repair projects, with the state's Community Crossing grants paying the other 75 cents.
  • The Knightstown Town Hall and utility offices have been relocated to the old First National Bank Building at 120 East Main Street in order to establish a strong community presence and utilize buildings on Main Street.
  • The Knightstown Police Department recently underwent a community planning process to help determine the type of policing necessary for the town, and, as a result, has undertaken many positive changes.
  • The Glen Cove Cemetery was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018 and has created a steering committee to continue to develop and care for the cemetery.
  • The town has welcomed many new businesses to the community, going from having just a few local dining-out options to having several restaurants along Main Street and on the town's public square that are regularly complimented for their menus and service to the community.
  • The Knightstown Park and Recreation Board has overseen the purchase and installation of updated playground equipment and approved other repairs and improvements at Knightstown's Sunset Park. Volunteers also worked to develop a canoe and kayak launch site on the south side of town that is outfitted with a wooden deck and seating, and a park advisory committee has been established to assist the park board with fundraising and other needs.
  • The town-owned Hoosier Gym has received federal funds that have allowed, among other things, for replacement of the historic building's massive roof. This project, completed in 2020, will ensure that the integrity of the treasured gym will allow future generations to enjoy the building. The project was overseen by the Hoosier Gym Community Center of Knightstown, a local nonprofit that oversees day-to-day operation of the gym and has been very instrumental in making the Hoosier Gym the number one tourist destination in Knightstown, yearly drawing tens of thousands of people to the town.
  • The Knightstown Town Council established the Knightstown Redevelopment Commission (RDC) in 2019. Among other things, the RDC will allow Knightstown to take advantage of tax incremental financing (TIF) projects that will help fund future economic development activities, with the ultimate goal of creating more jobs in the community and attracting more residents.
  • A few years ago, the town of Knightstown took ownership of the Masonic Lodge building on the northwest corner of Main and Jefferson streets as part of a settlement agreement that ended litigation between the town and the building's former owner. In 2019, the town deeded this property to the RDC, which has overseen some repairs to the building, including its recent reroofing. The RDC hopes to market the property to potential developers and find a buyer who will restore the building and develop it into a resource that will strengthen the community and add to the beautification of the town's Main Street.
  • In 2020, the town and the RDC worked with developers to bring a new market-rate housing development to the community, as well as a commercial planned unit development (PUD). Both projects are exciting opportunities to attract new residents, add jobs to the community and grow the local economic base.
  • Knightstown leaders have worked during the last eight years to create a strong financial infrastructure so that community and utility services can be provided in an economical manner. As a result, unlike many communities, Knightstown has been able to sustain operations during the 2020 pandemic.