Founded by North Carolina Quakers who settled along the Whitewater River in 1806, Richmond capitalized on the location as a trading and transportation center and became the county seat of Wayne County in 1873. The first permanent settlers on the present site of Richmond were John Smith and Jeremiah Cox , two North Carolina Quakers who arrived in 1806. They came here by way of Quaker settlements in Western Ohio.
John Smith, who opened the first general store, entered land on the eastern bluff of the Whitewater River, south of present Main Street. He erected a pole log cabin near South Third and “B” Streets.
Jeremiah Cox, who built the first grist mill, bought two quarter sections of land north of the present Main Street. Four acres had been cleared and planted in corn. David Hoover and several other land seekers traced a section line from a point eight miles north of Dayton, Ohio to the banks of the Whitewater River early in 1806. The Hoovers took up land north of town.
However, these settlers were not the first ones who had acquired land in the present Wayne County. Richard Rue and George Holman, along with Joseph Cox and Thomas McCoy and their families, had settled in Elkhorn and Abington areas of the county in 1805.
When Smith and Cox acquired land on the site of Richmond, the only part of Indiana Territory open for settlement was east of the old Greenville Treaty boundary. This line ran from Fort Recovery, Ohio, in a southwesterly direction to a point on the Ohio River, opposite the mouth of the Kentucky River. It was established in 1795 by General (Mad) Anthony Wayne in a treaty with the Indians at Greenville. It crosses U.S. 40 about two miles west of Richmond. All land west of this boundary belonged to the Indians when Smith and Cox settled on the eastern bluff of the East Fork on the Whitewater River in 1806.
The Indians claimed the Whitewater Valley as their hunting and fishing ground “from time immemorial,” in the words of Chief Turtle. In 1809, Governor Harrison signed a treaty with the Indians which opened for settlement a 12-mile strip, paralleling the Greenville boundary line. This was called the Twelve Mile Purchase. The line crosses U.S. 40 in western Cambridge City.
John Smith, owner of the land south of Main Street, came to the conclusion in 1816 that there should be a system and plan to govern the location of the houses and streets in the settlement. For that reason, he proposed to his neighbor, Jeremiah Cox, whose farm adjoined his to the north, that they lay out the town site. Jeremiah Cox refused to enter into the building project so John Smith hired David Hoover to survey lots on Front (now Fourth Street) and Pearl (now Fifth Street) from present South “E” to Main Street.
Although Cox shied away from promoting the town, he nevertheless sold small parcels of land and lots to settlers. Among the sales was one to his brother-in-law, Robert Morrisson, who acquired the northwest corner of Main and Ft. Wayne Ave. Convinced, finally, that a town would inevitably be organized on the eastern bluff of the Whitewater River, Cox joined Smith in 1818 in the town project.
In the meantime, Smith had named his settlement Smithville. Cox, using part of his name, Jeremiah, had called his collection of houses Jericho. Both towns settled East of the river Not liking either the settlers accepted Richmond on the suggestion of David Hoover.
It was voted that Richmond incorporate after all twenty-four qualified voters met in a house on the northeast corner of Main and Ft. Wayne Avenue on September 1, 1818.
In the summer of 1807 a road to Eaton, Ohio was built giving them direct connection with “Wayne Trace,” a military road built by General (Mad) Anthony Wayne leading to Greenville. A road from Madison and another from Centerville were the only 2 roads entering Indianapolis in 1826. The “Quaker Trace” was built in 1817 giving settlers in the north of town a trade outlet to Fort Wayne.
Richmond took on a leadership role in East Central Indiana with its “mix” between farm activity and factory production. Steel plows had begun being made by iron works, Gaar, Scott and Co. became the nation’s largest producer of boilers and steam engines. Starr piano company became the respected maker of musical instruments and Gennett Recording attracted many of the top musicians to its sound studios.
Richmond has nearly 34 acres of greenhouses under glass. They all feature production of roses, mums, orchids and other flowers. Refrigerated trucks take shipments of the cut flowers to airports on their way to any place in the world every day. With more than 12,000,000 roses grown yearly, more than $100,000 annually is budgeted for research and development of these beautiful flowers.
The very first floral industry in Richmond began in 1881 by E.G. Hill and his father, Joseph. They began a general floral catalogue business on the south side of East Main Street. In honor of the rose industry, the Richmond Rose Festival was once a very popular summer attraction.
Richmond is often referred to as the Eastern Gateway to Indiana. It has a varied industrial background and one of the headquarters of the largest organization of the Society of Friends in the world today.
The Wayne County Historical Museum, Julia Meek Gaar Museum, recognizes the importance of America’s heritage and is one of the many museums established to preserve it. This museum is regarded as one of the outstanding local museums of the country.