Commentary by Robert Bowling
The year 2022 is here, and Fishers will celebrate its 150th anniversary later this year. A lot has changed since the city was founded by Salathiel Fisher in June 1872. Ever wondered what Fishers looked like back then? Here is a look at Fishers from 1889 as told by Capt. Issac Dayton.
Dayton was a well-respected citizen and served four years in the Union Army during the Civil War, which was longer than most soldiers served. People referred to him by his rank until he died. He frequently wrote for the Hamilton County Ledger under the pen name “Fuzee.”
Dayton gave us the coordinates of Fishers as 39°, 58’, 80” north latitude. Although the longitudinal coordinates were missing, the GIS department for the Town of Fishers was able to plot it somewhere near the railroad tracks. When Fishers was founded, the railroad was called the Indianapolis, Peru, & Chicago. It underwent another name change before becoming the Lake Erie & Western railroad in 1887.
The town’s social organizations consisted of the Masonic Lodge and a chapter of the
Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The IOOF, founded in 1851, was a fraternal organization that was the first organization to include women. There was one veterans’ organization, the Grand Army of the Republic, that consisted of Union veterans of the Civil War. It dissolved in
1956 when the last remaining veteran died.
Fishers had a school and a church and City Hall was listed as a place of amusement. “Sam’s
Place” was a local restaurant where residents and travelers could enjoy a hot meal. There were
two saloons in town for the “unregenerate” while the more “refined” citizens got their liquor from the local drugstore, with a prescription, of course.
Fishers was considered a commercial hub and drew people from across the river. It all started in
1886 when Sam Trittipo moved his general merchandise store from New Britton. Residents
could buy anything from paper and food to a corn crusher. The town had a blacksmith, a jewelry store and a pawn shop.
Two of the biggest epidemics that struck the town were measles and typhoid pneumonia. But for the most part, the health of residents was fairly good. This was supposedly attributable to Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, which most residents used. The syrup, fcreated in 1849, was a cure-all for fussy babies. But the secret ingredients were morphine and alcohol, so it’s not surprising that many adults used it as well. After thousands of deaths of children caused by accidental overdoses, the FDA forced the company to remove morphine from the formula. The syrups continued to be used until the 1930s.
Fishers was referred to by a few different names. According to Capt. Dayton, it depended on
what group a person fell into. Those that traveled on the railroad referred to it as Fishers; those
who sent long letters call it Fishers Switch; the rural people called it Fishers Station; and rival towns whose citizens wanted to be labeled as smart called it Mudsock.
Robert Bowling is a retired Fishers Police officer and current historian for the Fishers Historical Society. He is the author of “Wicked Fishers;” is a historical researcher for Officer Down Memorial Page; is a contributing writer for Officer magazine; and is a high school criminal justice teacher.