Gas Boom

More than a century and a half ago the first settlers came to Alexandria, building a town on the promise of the Indiana central Canal. The canal was to be built from Fort Wayne to Southern Indiana. Within four years however, the railroads that stretched west had made the canal proposition obsolete, and Alexandria was left to make its way on its own merits.
The discovery of natural gas in 1887 changed Alexandria’s face – and fortunes – forever. Local businessmen were quick to jump on the bandwagon of the natural gas boom, and firms such as The Alexandria Company were formed. They offered free fuel, lights and location to manufacturers willing to locate in Alexandria, and boasted “gas enough to manufacture goods of the world.” The response was immediate.
From a population of 491 in 1887, the population grew to 7,221 in 1900.Factories were built to manufacture bricks, plate glass and steel, including the Harper and Cruzen Glass Factory, Lippincott Glass Chimney, DePauw Plate Glass Co., DePauw Window Glass Co., Indiana Brick and Kelly Axe. Businesses were opened to serve the needs of the people who worked in the factories. In 1896, there were nine groceries, five drugstores, four hardware stores, three clothing stores, 12 firemen, seven churches and 15 saloons.
While the gas boom prosperity came quickly, for those who worked in the factories it was short-lived. As the gas slowly burned itself out in the early 1900s. Some companies left. Others stayed to build a more economically sound city from the ruins of the gas boom era. By the late 1920s, five factories thrived in the city: Banner Rock, the Alexandria Canning Plan, Aladdin Industries, and the Alexandria Metal Products Co.