By Nicole Thomas
Delaware County kicked off the Indiana gas boom in 1876 when natural gas was first discovered in the state near the town of Eaton. Delaware County is also the home of Ball State University, which was renamed from the Indiana Normal College when the Ball brothers, a family of industrialists and philanthropists, bought the foreclosed school in 1917.
The Ball brothers — Lucius, William, Edmund, Frank and George Ball — moved their glass company from Buffalo, New York, to Muncie, Indiana, in 1887 because of Delaware County’s abundant natural gas. The brothers opened their factory in 1888 and became known for manufacturing home canning jars called “Ball jars.” As their corporation grew, the brothers donated to institutions throughout the county, such as the local branches of the YMCA. They also founded Ball Memorial Hospital and Minnetrista, a 44-acre campus dedicated to preserving the history of Muncie and east central Indiana.
One of Ball State University’s most notable alumni is Jim Davis, who created the “Garfield” comic strip. Paws Inc., Davis’ comic studio and production company, was originally located in Muncie, before moving to New York City in 1989. There are 17 four-foot-tall statues of the lasagna-loving cat for visitors to photograph and pose with around Delaware County, including two at the Cornerstone Center for the Arts and one at the Muncie Children’s Museum.
HAPPY LITTLE ACCIDENTS
Painter Bob Ross filmed his TV show “The Joy of Painting” in Muncie for 11 years. The PBS station WIPB aired Ross’ half-hour program, during which he taught viewers how to use a wet-on-wet oil painting technique to create landscapes inspired by his time in Alaska as an Air Force medic. At the “Bob Ross Experience,” an immersive exhibit in Minnetrista’s museum, visitors can see the restored studio where Ross painted scenic mountains and happy little trees during nearly 400 episodes.
– Nicole Thomas is a freelance writer from Indianapolis.
NAMED FOR: The Lenape, a Native American tribe also called the Delaware
COUNTY SEAT: Muncie
INDIANA COUNTY NUMBER: 18
NICOLE THOMAS is a freelance writer from Indianapolis.