My Great-Grandfather, James Thomas Boone, lived and raised his children (including my Grandmother) in the town of Muncie. He and his first wife, Margaret Mock, were married in Salem township, west of town, and moved into Muncie in about 1889. James had been taught the trade of blacksmith, and worked at that trade for the first few years he lived in or near Muncie. In the 1893 Muncie directory, he was said to be working at Mock Brothers as a machine hand.
In their 1929 book Middletown: A Study in Contemporary American Culture, Robert and Helen Lynd published a best-selling sociological study of Muncie. They point out that Muncie was an agricultural area county seat and market town for the first 60-odd years of its existence. In about 1885, the town had a population of about 6,000. It was a town mainly devoted to supplying the needs of local farmers. But in 1886, gas was discovered nearby, and an economic boom resulted. By 1890, the population had doubled to about 12,000, largely due to the introduction of a number of manufacturing plants. These were actively sought by the local business association, and were lured by very cheap gas and favorable incentives.
A boom in real estate went along with this, of course. Prices of land doubled in a short time. In the city directory of 1894, James Boone was no longer listed as a blacksmith or factory worker. He was working for the Muncie Land Company. He continued working for that company until about 1898, after which he is no longer listed in the city directory.
After a few years, the gas boom ended, because the wells were quickly depleted, partly due to the great waste of gas by the local consumers and businesses. The Lynds state that people were not charged for usage, but by the connection, so there was no incentive to conserve the gas. When the gas was gone, some of the businesses left town, while others which were less dependent on cheap fuel were started. But the business boom was over, and with it the boom in real estate.
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This file was last updated on 7/15/2004.