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The rail line intersects Scott County, running north and south, can trace its beginning to the Ohio & Indianapolis Railroad that was incorporated by an act of the Indiana Legislature on February 3, 1836. The company was empowered to construct a railroad from Jeffersonville to Indianapolis on a right of way sixty feet wide and to enter upon and use any land that might be wanted for the site of the railroad and for a ny purpose necessary in the construction of the railroad. Little was accomplished on this venture until a legislative act was approved on February 3, 1846, some ten years later. That reincorporated the Ohio & Indianapolis. Commissioners were appointed by the act to “cause the book to be opened for the purpose of receiving subscriptions to the capital stock of said company…” Ambrose D. Hawkins of Scott County was one of the thirteen commissioners appointed to collect the subscriptions.
Surveying for the road began in 1847. James Keigwin one of the three surveyors in the engineering corps recounted his days on this endeavor. “…the hardships were many, but the work was enjoyed on account of the wildlife attached to it. Between Jeffersonville and Seymour was practically a continuous forest, the woods being alive with all manner of game from quail to deer and great sport was enjoyed. The surveying party was a large one and had a small caravan of horses and wagons to move the men and their outfits, the animals and vehicles being taken through the virgin forests where the axmen of the party had cut a roadway.” The route was surveyed, right of way for the new line were secured from the landowners, contracts for the railroad were awarded and actual construction was begun in the fall of 1848. The laborers were principally Irish, who had immigrated to this country in large numbers because of the great potato famine in Ireland. After the railroad was finished, many of these workers settled down in the counties traversed by the road and their numerous descendants are today numbered among our best citizens. On January 15, 1849, a legislative act was approved by the Governor “for the benefit of the Ohio & Indianapolis Railroad Company and changing the name and style of the company.” The new name for this line would be the Jeffersonville Railroad. In 1852 this rail line was completed between Jeffersonville and Columbus, a distance of sixty-seven miles, where it anticipated negotiating trackage rights to Indianapolis over the Madison and Indianapolis. When the railroads could not agree, the Jeffersonville began building a parallel line, which proceeded ten miles to Edinburgh before an agreement was reached. The original M&I line in this parallel section was abandoned in 1864, and two years later the Jeffersonville and the M&I, merged to form the Jeffersonville, Madison, and Indianapolis Railroad. The Pittsburg, Cincinnati & St. Louis leased the JM&I in 1871 and merged with it to form the Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis in 1890. This 120-mile line stretching through Clark, Scott, Jackson, Bartholomew, Johnson, and Marion evolved into an important route connecting Louisville, Kentucky with Indianapolis. The M&I Railroad was part of the Internal Improvements of 1836 with the goal of connecting the outer regions of the state with the capital. When the railroad did reach Indianapolis, the Indiana State Sentinel reported on October 2, 1847 that “Yesterday was a proud day for Indianapolis…. At one o’clock p.m., the multitudes met at the depot, and precisely at three o’clock the booming of Captain Chapman’s cannon announced the approach of the cars, containing a large concourse of visitors and travelers. After the arrival of the cars, Governor Whitcomb addressed the thronging of thousands in an appropriate address. From yesterday we date a new era in Indianapolis and Central Indiana.” The route would become a part of the line from Chicago to Florida. The line would continue in service under the Pennsylvania Railroad, Conrail, and in 1994 a new short line, the Louisville and Indiana Railroad.
It was on this line that the Scott County town of Centerville, platted in 1850, was located. A train station existed there around 1852. Centerville’s founding fathers were the Owen Broshears, William Estil and John McTarnesey who situated the little town to stretch out on the east side of the tracks with the station on the west side and at the north edge. Although situated alongside a rail line, Centerville did not see great growth.
When the need arose to relocate the county seat from Lexington to a more centralized location, the founding fathers of Scottsburg, Henry K. Wardell and William Estil, saw the importance of having the location along a railroad track; thus, Scottsburg was created in 1871. The new county seat, named in honor of the General superintendent of the J.M. & I Railroad, Colonel Horace Scott, was situated directly to the south of Centerville, also on the rail line. Scottsburg grew rapidly, unlike Centerville and soon encompassed the little town. Centerville ceased to exist as a separate entity. Owen and Estil Streets in the City of Scottsburg can be found in the area where old Centerville once stood.
The final chapter to this story will be posted on Thursday, May 27, 2021