History of Bloomington, Ellettsville & Monroe County, Indiana

Monroe County, Bloomington, and Ellestville are a compelling and unique part of the Midwest, offering solid business and professional opportunities, excellent education, and a fantastic quality of life. Our community enjoys a proud history of industry and education.

Known as the "Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana,” Monroe County was established in 1818 and named after the fifth U.S. President, James Monroe. Before European settlement, the area was home to Native American tribes, primarily the Delaware, Miami, and Potawatomi, who navigated the White River's East and West Forks that inhabited lush forests and fertile lands.

Bloomington, the county seat, was founded in 1818 by settlers from Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Those settlers were so impressed with "a haven of blooms" that they named the town accordingly. The town of Ellettsville, just northwest, was established in 1837.

Because the Indiana State Constitution of 1816 outlawed slavery, and many of Bloomington’s citizens were active participants in the Underground Railroad, the city remains deeply rooted in African American history.

Since 1820, Bloomington has been home to Indiana University, now one of the leading public research universities in the United States. IU has dramatically influenced our community's growth and cultural identity, attracting leaders, teachers, entrepreneurs, literary and musical luminaries, professional athletes, and Nobel prize-winning scientists and economists who have shaped the city into a thriving academic and artistic hub.

Hoosiers are known for being industrious, and our community is no exception. Our community is one of makers and innovators. We have consistently adapted to changing times to foster new opportunities. In the early years, most people in the area made a living by farming, limestone extraction, and timbering for the furniture industry. The construction of the Monon Railroad in the late 1840s connected the county to major markets, sparking local industrial growth. By 1920, Bloomington made 60% of the furniture in the U.S. Today, that former factory building is an energetic startup incubator called The Mill.

In 1940, RCA purchased a Showers Brothers building on South Rogers Street to create RCA Plant One. RCA produced radios, tank transmitters, and receivers for the Army Signal Corps and other defense products in World War II, and then later it transitioned to producing televisions.

The rise of industry also brought General Electric, Westinghouse, and Otis Elevator.

Since the 1980s, our economy has been moving toward high-tech. The rise of Life Sciences began with Cook Medical, leading to Nova Holdings, (which recently acquired Catalent), Simtra (Formerly Baxter), Singota Solutions, as well as Boston Scientific. That sector continues to grow. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chips and Science Acts create significant job opportunities in the Microchip and Semiconductor industry. 

At BEDC, the heart of our work is creating economic vitality and quality jobs to ensure Monroe County is Our community of choice for employers, innovators, individuals, and families. Our history has taught us that communities prosper when they foster a vision for the future, lean into their strengths, and coordinate their investments and efforts around that vision.

Bring your business and become a part of our history. Contact us today.