County Profile: Montgomery County

Posted on Jan 25 2023 in County
Lew Wallace Study and Museum
General Lew Wallace Study & Museum

Montgomery County’s seat of Crawfordsville features two historic sites that are now public museums. One fits into its self-proclaimed nickname as the “Athens of Indiana” because of the number of authors who were born or have worked there, and the other revolves around a novel form of incarceration.

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum, 200 Wallace Ave. in Crawfordsville, was orginally designed and built by Lew Wallace as his personal study in 1895. Wallace was a lawyer by trade, but he was a true renaissance man: a Union general in the Civil War, governor of the New Mexico Territory, politician, diplomat, inventor, artist, musician and author. Today, he is most remembered for writing “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.” 

Published in 1880, the bestselling novel has been called “the most influential Christian book of the 19th century,” and has never been out of print. It outsold every book except the Bible until “Gone with the Wind” came out in 1936.

Wallace started “Ben-Hur” in the late 1870s while traveling and in Crawfordsville, where he often wrote outdoors during the summer, sitting under a favorite beech tree near his home. His study and accompanying carriage house make up the museum and exhibit many of the artifacts that Wallace used during his lifetime, as well as several objects pertaining to his literary legacy. Located on 3.5 acres of wooded grounds, the museum is a National Historic Landmark. 

For information about hours, tours, and admission charges, visit or contact the museum directly at 765-362-5769. Email for more information.

The Rotary Jail Museum is located in downtown Crawfordsville. The county’s third jail, completed in 1881, incorporated a rotary or carousel concept, which was designed by architect William H. Brown and built by the Haugh, Ketcham & Co. iron foundry in Indianapolis.

It was the first of 18 rotary jails built in the United States, the last to house prisoners, one of only three still existing, and the only one that still works. Montgomery County’s jail had its rotary mechanism disabled around the late 1930s and the jail closed in 1973. Two years later, the rotary mechanism was restored, and the facility reopened as the Old Jail Museum. Also in 1975, the jail was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Additional renovations and restorations occurred in the following years.

For information about hours, tours, and admission charges, visit or contact the museum directly at 765-362-5222. Email, or find the museum on Facebook.

County Facts

Founded: 1822

Named for: Richard Montgomery, an American Revolutionary War general killed on Dec. 31, 1775, while
attempting to capture Quebec City in the Battle of Quebec. 

Population: 37,936

County seat: Crawfordsville

Indiana county number: 54