County Profile: Howard County

Posted on Jan 27 2020 in County
Photo of Elwood Haynes Museum in Kokomo.
The Elwood Haynes Museum in Kokomo

By Richard G. Biever

Though its seat is known as “City of Firsts,” Howard County was one of Indiana’s last counties. Howard and southern neighbor Tipton joined the state the same day, Jan. 15, 1844, as the 90th and 91st of the state’s 92 counties. Howard County’s wide rectangular shape filled in some of the last remaining unorganized territory in the state.

Originally, the county was named Richardville — to honor Jean Baptiste Richardville, a chief of the Miami people, who had died in 1841.

The name was changed to Howard County in 1846 to honor of Gen. Tilghman Ashurst Howard, an Indiana politician who was appointed chargé d’affaires to the Republic of Texas two months before his untimely death in 1844.

In the heart of the county is Kokomo, the seat, which was named after one of Richardville’s sons. As noted, Kokomo has long prided itself for its “firsts” in industrial and technological innovations. The Kokomo Tribune cites 14 “firsts” associated with Kokomo. This includes everything from America’s first commercially-produced automobiles in 1898 to the first pneumatic rubber tire to America’s first howitzer military shell to the first all-transistor radio.

The discovery of natural gas in the area in the 1880s brought a large number of industrialists. One of them was Elwood Haynes, an inventor, scientist, industrialist, educator, and later philanthropist. He developed an early internal combustion engine automobile and, on July 4, 1894, took the first road trip by car, notes a historical marker.

Haynes and his associates built a number of other autos over the next few years and became the first commercially successful auto manufacturer. His success lured others in the fledgling auto industry to the area.

A number of firsts came from Delco Radio Division of General Motors. Delco developed the first push button car radio, the first signal-seeking car radio and the first all-transistor car radio.

Haynes and his life’s work, which also included the invention of Stainless Steel flatware in 1912, is remembered and preserved at his 1916 mansion, where he lived until his death in 1925. The mansion is now preserved as a public museum.

A substantial portion of Kokomo’s employment still depends on the automobile industry.

Richard G. Biever is senior editor of Indiana Connection.

County Facts

Founded: 1844

Named for: Gen. Tilghman Ashurst Howard, a U.S. Congressman from
Indiana who died in 1844

Population: 82,363 (2017)

County seat: Kokomo

Upcoming Event

Kokomo Chocolate Celebration

Feb. 7, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Kokomo First Church of the Nazarene
2734 S. Washington St.
Kokomo, IN 46902

Love chocolate? Enjoy a large variety of delicious chocolate creations from local bakeries, caterers, restaurants and businesses that will make your sweet tooth happy! Arrive early for best selection. Admission is free. Tickets are 3 for $10 with each ticket redeemable for a chocolate item of your choice while supplies last. Chocolate gift items are also available for purchase to get ready for Valentine’s Day. Chocolate Celebration is presented by J. Edwards Gourmet, a Kokomo maker of fine chocolates and gourmet cakes.