Whiteland was formally incorporated as a town on May 3, 1886; however, the town was beginning to blossom as early as 1853. Three businesses formed the center of that early Whiteland; today, many times that number are located in the town. When the first plat was laid out in 1863, it consisted of 40 lots. Today, Whiteland has approximately 1,600 lots. In the 1900 Census, Whiteland was home to 334 people; as of 2010, the population is 4,169 fine residents.
From the Centennial Edition of the Franklin Evening Star (1923):
A country store and a couple of shops were the progenitors of Whiteland. Jackson Thorpe built a small frame store room a short distance west of the Madison and Indianapolis [now Louisville and Indiana] railroad tracks in Old Whiteland in 1858, on land purchased from J. D. Brewer, one of the proprietors of the town. Henry Freeman began blacksmithing about 1858 and the same year George W. Walker purchased a lot and opened a wagon and wheelwright’s shop. Other settlers came in from time to time until a little village was formed.
In March, 1863, a town plat of about 40 lots was laid out by J. B. White, Jacob Varner, Thomas Walker, George W. Walker and Amazon Booth. Much of the village was never platted, but additions to the original survey were made from time to time.
A post office was established late in the fifties, or early in 1860 or 1861, with Jacob White as the first postmaster. The original name of the office was Wheatland, which was afterwards changed to Whiteland on account of another and older office in one of the eastern counties.
Military Band Famous. Whiteland was the home of one of the famous military bands of the state. The band was organized in October, 1884, with 16 members. S. E. Brewer was the organizer. It made rapid progress and in July, 1885, made its first great triumph by winning first prize against three competing bands at Lebanon. September 13, 1885, it won third prize against six bands at Madison and in competition with four bands at Edinburg in October won the second place.
1986 Whiteland Centennial paper
In 1986, the Town of Whiteland celebrated its 100th year of being an incorporated town. As part of the festivities, a 12-page commemorative newspaper was printed. A copy of this paper is available here.
Whiteland and New Whiteland
A frequently asked question is why are Whiteland and New Whiteland separate towns? Historically, Whiteland was established along the railroad in the 1850s. The town grew and was incorporated in 1886. A small cluster of houses and businesses informally known as West Whiteland also developed at the intersection of Whiteland Road and the Madison state road (now US 31), about a half mile west of Whiteland proper. By the time of the electric interurban railroad being built parallel to the highway in 1900, Whiteland had begun to slowly grow westward as well.
The interurban ended in 1941, and US 31 was expanded to four lanes in the late 1940s and early 1950s. With convenient access to Indianapolis, post-war suburbs were springing up all along the highway. In the early 1950s, subdivisions were platted on the northwest corner of Whiteland Road and US 31, then still located in unincorporated Johnson County as Whiteland’s town limits had not yet reached that far west. By 1954, another new subdivision was platted on the west side of US 31. However, at the encouragement of the FHA and VA, the developers decided to incorporate the new development as a town to provide for the long-term maintenance of the planned parks, water lines, sewers, and streets. Thus, the new town became New Whiteland in July 1954.
In the 60 years since, the two towns have grown to share a border, while also further expanding in all directions. The towns share many common bonds, including attendance at the Whiteland Community High School, but also differ in their provision of services and future growth opportunities.
In 1835, the first known schoolhouse in the area was located about 3/4 mile southeast of Whiteland. Beginning in the 1840s, the Mt. Vernon Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church also were used as schools.
Formal education in the town itself began when the first school house was built in 1869, near the corner of Main and Center Streets. In 1912, an addition was made to the building, and in 1934 a new gymnasium was built. This building served as the town’s school until the 1950s. On the site now stands the district’s administration building.
In 1957, a new high school was built to the west of the the old school, nearer to US 31. The Class of 1958 was the first class to graduate from the new Whiteland High School.
In 1965, Clark High School and Whiteland High School united to form Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation, and Whiteland High School became Whiteland Community High School. The old Clark High School then became Clark Elementary School. Additional schools were built to accommodate the burgeoning student population of the 1950s-70s: Break-O-Day Elementary School (1960), Clark-Pleasant Middle School (1970), and Whiteland Elementary School (1976). More recently, Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School was added to the district in 2004, and Pleasant Crossing Elementary School is the newest addition, completed in the winter of 2007.
Town clerks and marshals since 1886
The following are the men and women who have served as Whiteland’s clerks (clerk-treasurers) and town marshals since incorporation in 1886.
|Jane Davis, 1988-95|
|Michelle R. Richards (Gabehart), 1996-2015|
|Debra Hendrickson, 2016-|
|Otto Lewis, 1964-97|
|Gene Pettijohn, 1997-98|
|Louis Phillips, 1998-2003|
|Chris Mattison*, January 2003-November ’03|
|Joe Pitcher, November 2003-February ’05|
|Jason Davis*, February 2005-June ’05|
|Gary Neeman, June 2005-March ’12|
|Dave Lowe*, March 2012-May ’12|
|Rick Shipp, May 2012-|
|* interim marshals|