Greenwood is the northernmost city in Johnson County. The city is bound on the
north by County Line Road, the southern boundary between Johnson and Marion
Counties. On the east, Greenwood is bordered by I-65 and by State Road
135 on the west. Over the past five decades, the city of Greenwood has grown
from a small rural town with a population of under 3,000 to a thriving
community of over 25,000 residents in a largely urban setting. As of
1990, Greenwood encompassed approximately ten square miles with over
seventy-seven miles of streets, held a predominately white population (with a
median age of 32.6 years), and showed a median home price of $74,400.
Greenwood is home to a number of multi-million dollar industrial plants, an
ever-growing number of up-scale housing developments, and one of the state’s
largest shopping complexes. At the same time, Greenwood has many restored
Victorian homes, businesses, and specialty shops in its "Old Towne"
section. Although Greenwood is undeniably one of a growing number of
“bedroom communities” for Indianapolis, the citizens of Greenwood are
determined to maintain the city's integrity as a distinct community with a
proud history of its own and a vital future.
movement and disruptions of Native American peoples prior to the 1700s makes
it difficult to ascribe settlement of the area now encompassed by Greenwood
to a specific tribe.  However, most histories of Greenwood
(or Johnson County) write of a Delaware village located in White River Township
on the western side of the White River by the early 1800s. In 1813
this village is said to have been "all but wiped out" by a combined
force of the Kentucky and Indiana Militias. In 1818 the New Purchase
treaties (negotiated in St. Mary's, Ohio with the Miami and Delaware) opened
central Indiana to Euro-American settlement. That same year Captain
Jacob Whetzel lay out The Whetzel Trace, "the earliest east-west route
through central Indiana." Completed in 1819, the trail was cut
wide enough for a team of oxen, and ran across Johnson County just two miles
south of what is now Greenwood's Main Street.  At the time Whetzel was marking
his trail, the area now known as Johnson
County was covered by "a dense forest with heavy underbrush, swamps and
abundance of wild game in its forests, fish in its waters and many fresh water
springs."  The first Euro-American to settle
in Johnson County was Richard Berry, who built a cabin a mile below
Edinburg in 1819. The first Euro-Americans to settle within the area
encompassed by present-day Greenwood, however, were the brothers John B. and
Isaac Smock of Mercer County, Kentucky, who arrived in 1823. The Smocks
were of Dutch ancestry and descended from seventeenth-century immigrants to
New Amsterdam. Over the next several years they were joined by a number
of related families, all of whom were members of the New Providence Presbyterian
Church of Mercer County, Kentucky. In addition to settling in
Johnson County, however, relatives of the Smocks also founded the Dutch Settlement
in Switzerland County, Indiana, while still others were prominent members
of the Shaker Community at Pleasant Hill in Mercer County, Kentucky. 
known as Smocktown or Smock's Settlement, the little community officially
adopted the name of Greenfield in 1825. In that same year, the first
settlers organized what is now Greenwood Presbyterian Church, and Johnson
County was also formed and named in honor of Judge John Johnson of the Indiana
State Supreme Court. In 1829 Pleasant Township was formed out of White
River Township, and in 1833 the town changed its name to Greenwood to avoid
confusion with Hancock County's Greenfield. 
The town's first post office opened in 1828 in an inn owned by George T. Noble,
brother of Indiana's fifth governor, Noah Noble, while the first postmaster was
James Smock, younger brother of John B. and Isaac Smock. In addition to
George T. Noble's inn, John Wilson's saw mill (where he began manufacturing
coffins as early as 1828) was also among the earliest businesses to be
established in Greenwood. The community's first school met from
1826 to 1832 in the Presbyterian Church's first building. In 1832 the
Presbyterian Church moved into its second building (a simple frame structure
measuring 40 x 50 feet) where the school continued to meet. 
second church, the Mt. Auburn Methodist Church, was organized in 1835 and began
meeting in the home of William Harrell. Later that year the Honey Creek
United Brethren Church was organized in White River Township, southwest
of the town. The following year, Mt. Auburn moved into its first
building, later known as the "Old Mud School House," and provided
space to Greenwood's second school. Mt. Auburn built its present
structure at Stone's Crossing in 1904, with an addition to the south side of
the building completed in 1930. 
1839 the Greenwood Baptist Church began to meet in a grove on the Josiah Bass
farm. Greenwood Baptist (aka, First Baptist Church of Greenwood) did not
erect its first building, however, until 1844, while Honey Creek United
Brethren Church did not move into its first permanent structure until
1845. Greenwood's first Christian congregation, the Rocklane Christian
Church, was organized in 1846 and moved into its first building in 1849.
Rocklane rebuilt its church at the same location in 1874. Although it also was
organized in 1849, the Greenwood (United) Methodist Church was appointed head
of the local circuit in 1850 after erecting its first building at the corner of
Pearl and Meridian Streets. In 1853 Greenwood Presbyterian Church
relocated to a larger frame building at the corner of Main and Brewer Streets
in downtown Greenwood. The Olive Branch United Brethren Church erected
its first building on Olive Branch Road just south of Smith's Valley in 1859,
and in 1902 this church relocated to Smith Valley Road and changed its name to
the Smith's Valley United Brethren Church. In 1860 the Greenwood Baptist
Church moved to its present location on Main Street. 
at a cost of $2,400, the Greenwood Christian Church dedicated a new brick
structure at the corner of Pearl and Smart Streets on November 12, 1868.
This congregation traced its origins to a society that was first organized on a
farm just north of Greenwood in 1838. The original group was forced to
disband in the 1840s, however, because so many of the members left the neighborhood.
Greenwood Christian Church did not formally reorganize until 1860, when it
began meeting in an abandoned school building at the corner of Broadway and
Meridian Streets. In 1902 the congregation rebuilt its church at the same
site, and in 1963 Greenwood Christian Church purchased the Donnell estate on
south Madison Avenue for $47,500. Built at a cost of $181,055, the new
building was dedicated on October 20, 1963. 
1884 the community's third Christian congregation, Mt. Pleasant Christian
Church, was organized and began meeting in a small structure in White River
Township. Greenwood Methodist Church moved into a new brick building at
the corner of Brewer and Broadway Streets in 1887. Built at a cost of
$7,000, this building served the congregation (with additions completed in 1922
and 1953) until the 1960s, when the congregation moved into its present
building at 525 N. Madison Avenue. In 1898 Greenwood Presbyterian erected
a new brick building at the same location on the corner of Brewer and Main
Streets. An education building was later added. Greenwood Baptist
followed suit in 1899, tore down its frame building, and erected a large brick
structure in its place. A noteworthy innovation was the inclusion of a
formal baptistery—a first for Greenwood's churches. Later additions to
this building include an educational unit and a full basement.
the twentieth century Greenwood's faith community has expanded to include a
number of denominations not found there in the nineteenth century. In
1922 the Pilgrim Holiness Church was organized and in 1944 the Advent Lutheran
Church began holding services in Greenwood's Community House. Formally
organized in 1957, Advent Lutheran moved into its current building at 1363 U.S.
Highway 31 in May 1960. With about forty families in the area, the
Catholic Diocese of Indianapolis organized a new parish in 1949, encompassing
the three northern townships of Johnson County. The community's first
Catholic Church, Our Lady of [the] Greenwood, was dedicated on February 19,
1950. By 1955, with 160 families now residing in the parish, a resident
pastor was assigned to the church for the first time, and Our Lady of [the]
Greenwood Catholic Elementary School opened. After holding services in
Greenwood City Park as the Mission Work Gospel Services for two years, Calvary
Apostolic Church was organized and began meeting in a remodeled building at 206
South Washington Street. In 1956 the congregation moved into another
building at 101 East Pearl Street. Today they meet at 99 West Broadway.
1952 Greenwood Baptist Church opened a mission on Smith Valley Road that was
formally organized as the Smith Valley Baptist Church in 1955, and the next
year Concordia Lutheran Church began holding services in the Greenwood American
Legion Post building. Previously located at 102 South Madison Avenue in
1957, Concordia Lutheran Church moved into its current building at 305 Howard
Road in 1964. Greenwood's first Southern Baptist congregation, Calvary
Southern Baptist, began by holding its services in the Kindergarten Room at the
Community House in 1962. In 1963, however, Calvary Southern Baptist
Church moved into Greenwood Christian Church's former building on Smart
Street. Today Calvary Southern Baptist is located at 200 Sunset
Boulevard. Since the 1960s, as Greenwood's population continued to
grow, the community has also become home to a thriving Community Church as well
as Church of God, Nazarene, Assemblies of God, and Pentecostal
congregations. Likewise, Greenwood has witnessed the founding of a number
of new Baptist, Catholic, and Methodist churches over the past thirty
already noted, Greenwood's earliest schools were conducted in the town's
churches. Indeed, the original Greenwood School (the Greenwood
Presbyterian Academy) was operated by the Greenwood Presbyterian Church from
1826 to 1853. In 1864, however, the community pooled its resources to
build a "substantial brick school." Unfortunately, this
building burned in 1865 and school had to be held in an abandoned home on East
Main Street. In 1868 a new two-story four-room brick school house was
dedicated. Additions to this building continued until 1899, when the
structure was declared unsafe. In 1901 the building was torn down and
replaced by a $17,000, twelve-room structure that housed all twelve
grades. Isom [Central] Elementary School was built in 1906, and the
Greenwood School became the town's Junior-Senior High School. In 1928
Greenwood High School opened, but in 1942 it, too, was destroyed by fire.
The Greenwood School Board began building a new Junior-Senior High School in
1950, yet construction continued through 1960. Greenwood's growing
population was also reflected by the construction of elementary schools in 1960
(Northeast) and 1962 (Southeast). In 1970 the town dedicated the new $4.5
million Greenwood High School, while the former Junior-Senior High School
became Greenwood Middle School. In 1996 Greenwood opened its fourth
elementary school, Westwood. Today, the Greenwood community is served by
three school systems, the Greenwood Community School Corporation, Center Grove
Schools, and Central Nine Vocational-Technical Schools. 
Government and Politics
Greenwood's first settlers began arriving in the 1820s, the town did not
incorporate until 1864. Greenwood's population, however, continued to
grow at a very slow rate through the mid-twentieth century (the town's first
housing development was not begun until 1946), while agriculture continued to
dominate the local economy well into the 1950s. Until 1960, the year
Greenwood became a fifth-class city, the town was governed by a three-member
town board. In 1956, however, a vote mandated the formation of a
mayor-council form of city government by January 1, 1960. The first
mayor of Greenwood was Democrat Walter Burkhart who served one term.
Beginning in 1964 the Republicans took hold of the mayor’s office for the next
twenty years, a lock broken in 1984 by the election of Democrat Jeanette
Surina, the first woman to hold that office. Events in Indianapolis during the
early 1970s (such as the creation of UNIGOV in 1970 and the 1973 court-ordered
bussing desegregation of Indianapolis schools) prompted a "flight"
out of Marion County, which contributed to the rapid expansion of Greenwood's
population. From 7,200 residents in 1960, Greenwood's population reached
26,265 by 1990. Since the 1970s, Greenwood's expanding commercial
interests and growing population have greatly altered the city's political
culture. Increasingly Greenwood's politics have been dominated by
concerns over the need to improve the school and sanitation systems, tax rates,
crime, and the town's civic life in general. There also has been mounting
concern, on the part of Greenwood's neighbors, over the city's zoning policies
and its expansionist attitude. The 1996 election highlighted many of these
issues and proved to be the most expensive (not to mention rancorous) mayoral
campaign in the city's history. 
Greenwood's first businesses was an inn operated by George T. Noble.
By 1828 the inn, which stood at a crossroads on the Madison State Road in
the town's center, was thriving. Other early business operations included
a saw mill and a coffin manufacter. James W. Parker is generally recognized
as the town's first merchant. In 1846 he opened a general store at the
corner of what is now Madison Avenue and Main Street. The Madison and
Indianapolis Railroad was completed in 1847, and the "first train west
of the Allegheny Mountains ran through Greenwood on 1-October-1847."
Later that year, Richard Steen erected a carding mill. In 1850 A.G.
Searle established an iron foundry. The single most important business
venture in Greenwood in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however,
was the J.T. Polk (Canning) Company.  Founded in 1872 by James
T. and Laura Polk in the kitchen of their Greenwood home, the company eventually
grew to become the largest cannery west of Baltimore and the town's
biggest employer. Marketed under the brand name "Polk's Best,"
the company canned tomatoes, corn, peas, and other vegetables, all grown in
the surrounding countryside. In its peak years of production, the company
had over 3,000 acres of local farmland under contract. In the 1890s
Polk expanded his operations by starting a successful dairy business, becoming
the first person to deliver milk regularly to customers in Indianapolis.
During World War I the company contracted with the federal government to can
beef and other foodstuffs for military provisions. In 1930 the Stokely
Company (later Stokely-Van Camp) purchased the J.T. Polk (Canning) Company
and operated it until 1959. 
the 1960s, however, Greenwood's commercial life has been dominated by the
Greenwood Shopping Center (now Greenwood Park Mall) and a half-dozen factories,
several of which are Japanese-owned and most of which are linked to the
automotive industry. Built on an 87-acre site by Atkinson & Company
at a cost of $25 million, the Greenwood Shopping Center opened in
1966. In 1977 Melvin Simon & Associates purchased the mall for
an undisclosed amount of money, and in 1980—after much renovation and expansion—it
was reopened as the Greenwood Park Mall. By 1990 an average of 10 million
shoppers a year (about 28,000 a day) were patronizing the Greenwood Park
Mall. More recently Greenwood has become home to two Japanese-owned
businesses, Alpine Electronics Manufacturing of America, Inc., and Nachi
Technology, Inc., each of which built multi-million-dollar industrial
plants. Most of Greenwood's working population, however, is employed in
Community and Social Life
city of Greenwood also is heir to a interesting cultural and social
history. For instance, the city's newspapers date back to 1888 when
Sumner Rose began publishing The Graphic. Although The
Graphic's owners moved the paper to Ingalls, Indiana in 1893, the city's
second paper (The Era) began publication that same year. In 1972
the Southside Challenger began publication, and since 1986 the
town has also been home to the Greenwood Gazette. The city's first
attempt to organize a public library was mounted in 1894 by James T. Polk, but
it was discontinued in 1896. In 1911 members of Greenwood's Civic League
failed to agree on the location for the construction of a Carnegie Foundation Library
and, as a result, the group was forced to rent temporary quarters and begin
collecting donated books. Five years later, in 1916, the Greenwood Public
Library opened with a total collection of thirty-five books. Today the
library's collection stands at more than 66,000 volumes.
the 1890s the Greenwood Mineral Water Association was formed after James T.
Polk accidentally discovered a mineral water deposit while drilling for natural
gas. Although Polk washed his hands of the enterprise, a group of
investors soon was bottling and shipping Greenwood Mineral Water throughout the
Midwest. By the turn of the century, the company was operating the
Greenwood Sanitarium and attracting guests to the spa with promises to cure
everything from "nasal catarrh" and Bright's disease to the
ubiquitous "female troubles" and "nervous prostration"
through a variety of "Turkish, Vapor and Electric baths."
The Greenwood Sanitarium was destroyed by fire in 1914 and was never rebuilt.
1920 the James T. and Laura Polk Memorial Community House opened. Greenwood's
"Community House" included an auditorium with a seating capacity of
500, a fully equipped gymnasium, and a pool. The Community House served
as the meeting site for many of the city's clubs as well as a movie theatre and
the home of the Greenwood Community Players (amateur theatrical troupe).
In a move to maintain a valuable link to the city's past and to acknowledge the
unique role the Community House had played in that past, Greenwood's town
council elected to restore the Community House in the 1980s after years of neglect.
In 1986, Greenwood City Hall moved into its new quarters in the Community House
following a $900,000 restoration program. 
Greenwood struggles to maintain its historic identity as an independent
municipality despite its function as a bedroom community of Indianapolis.
While the city's growth (both in terms of population and commercial enterprise)
is clearly linked to its close proximity to the Hoosier capital, Greenwood's
leaders maintain that the city has much to offer potential investors and
resident—that which is individual to Greenwood and distinct from
Indianapolis. But it remains to be seen if Greenwood will be successful
in its attempt to preserve its identity or whether it will ultimately be
absorbed by Indianapolis' urban sprawl.
J. Zeigler, "Greenwood," in The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis,
David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, eds. (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1994): 644.
J. Glenn, "Native Americans" in The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis,
1042-1043; Will F. Averitt, History of Greenwood, Indiana: 1823-1965
(Greenwood, IN: 1965): 1-3.
Ibid., 7-10; Averitt, History of Greenwood,
3-5; Jeffery A. Duvall, "Ethnicity in a Rural Midwestern Community:
Switzerland County, Indiana in the Twentieth Century" (M.A. thesis,
Indiana University, 1995): 23-24.
History of Greenwood, 5-6; "Greenwood Area Centennial," 11,19,
Area Centennial," 11-17.
History of Greenwood, 57-70.
"Greenwood Area Centennial." 11-17.
History of Greenwood, 57-70; "Greenwood Area
Ministerial Association, "Welcome to the Church of Your Choice in Your
Community" (Greenwood, IN: privately printed, n.d.); Bill
Romanovich, "Churches expanding all over Greenwood," Indianapolis
News, 26-July-1962; Averitt, History of Greenwood, 57-70;
"Greenwood Area Centennial," 11-17.
History of Greenwood, 57-70; Herb Perry, "Church's building plans
queried, day care, annexation issues," Indianapolis Star,
14-February-1996; Sarah Pierson, "New freezer to enable Lighthouse
Ministries to feed more," Indianapolis Star/News, 28-December-1996;
Greenwood Ministerial Association, "Welcome;" "Greenwood Area
Centennial," 11-17; Lynn Hopper, "Church a '1-stop shop' for 3
different faiths," Indianapolis Star, 30-November-1995.
City of Pride and Progress," 13, 19-23; "Greenwood Area
Centennial," 18-22; "Greenwood School Work Moving Along," Indianapolis
News, 22-January-1969; John Masson, "New School, New Adventures,"
Indianapolis Star, 23-August-1996.
"Greenwood," 644; Averitt, History of Greenwood, 4-5, 50; Phil
Blankenhorn, "Mayor has no regrets as term nears end," Indianapolis
Star, 22-December-1996; "Council elect Boner Greenwood mayor," Indianapolis
Star, 6-June-1972; Jerry Graff, "Greenwood Mayor will run for post
again," Indianapolis News, 26-January-1996 and "Sewage at
center of mayoral debate," Indianapolis Star, 30-September-1995;
Harold Martin, "Mayor has job for city's best minds," Indianapolis
News, 28--November-1963; John Masson, "Mayoral challenger has big
bucks," Indianapolis Star, 3-November-1995; "Opposition to
private sanitation plant growing at Greenwood," Indianapolis Star,
27-June-1973; James Peters, "Sanitation plant near Greenwood called political."
Indianapolis Star, 1-July-1973; Jennifer Schmits, "Greenwood's
pride: New facilities stand as legacy to a former mayor" and
"McGovern in charge: Greenwood's mayor brings vast experience to her
office," Indianapolis Monthly (July 1993): 138-142; Bruce C.
Smith, "Greenwood property tax hike sought for upgrade of schools," Indianapolis
Star 17-November-1987; George Stuteville, "Greenwood needs to reclaim
identity," Indianapolis Star, 1-May-1985.
History of Greenwood, 5-8; "Greenwood Area Centennial," 25,
"Greenwood," 644; Averitt, History of Greenwood, 13-14;
"Old Settler's Days: Smock's & Polk's build the city;"
"Greenwood Area Centennial," 37.
City of Pride and Progress," 9-10, 14, 18-19; "Greenwood to get $25
million center," Indianapolis News, 4-November-1963; Bill Koenig,
"Japanese firms say expanding here not easy," Indianapolis Star,
25-September-1996; "Louis Armstrong, Miss Indiana to help open Greenwood
center," Indianapolis Star, 8-May-1966; "12 Million shopping
center expansion set," Indianapolis News, 8-September-1967;
"Simon buys Greenwood Center," Indianapolis News, 5-January-1977.
Averitt, History of Greenwood, 31-33; "Greenwood Area
Centennial," 23; "Greenwood: City of Pride and Progress,"
Area Centennial," 41; Averitt, History of Greenwood, 46-47.
48; Schmits, "Greenwood's Pride," 142; Bruce C. Smith,
"Historic Center gets a new lease," Indianapolis Star,