New Point, or Newpoint is a small town with a population of around 325 people located on the eastern edge of Decatur County in Southeastern Indiana. The founding of the town is attributed to Joel Colson, who platted the land, and George Osborn.
Newpoint was founded in 1840. Legend says the town was first called “Crackaway,” because the town was only one “whip crack away” from Greensburg. The origins of the name Newpoint, seem to have three roots. The Greensburg Standard newspaper of 1907 gives credit for the name to a Dr. Pennington (for whom New Pennington is named), who wanted to change the name from Crackaway because he was “utterly disgusted” with the name. A 1913 version of the story gives credit for the name change to a lead mine on ‘the point’ where Decatur, Franklin, and Ripley Counties intersect. Finally, many credit the name change to the I & C Railroad running through the young ‘burgh’ in 1854: a “new point” on the railroad.
No matter the origin, the railroad allowed the young town of Newpoint to become somewhat of a business mecca in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries with many businesses: a grain elevator, saw mill, jewelry and department store, and butcher shop. The train depot, two stone quarries, a hotel, a state bank, several churches, a post office, and modern schools defined a growing community.
Originally, there were two churches in New Point - Methodist and Christian. While the Methodist congregation is no longer in New Point, the Baptist Church is located on the far east end of town.
The first school, known as the “East End School,” was located where the Masonic Lodge is today. This structure was built as a joint effort between the Masons and the school system at a cost of $1000. Construction began in 1861 and completed in 1862. The second school of four rooms was built in 1907, located where the Salt Creek Township Park is today. In 1923, the first of two remodels/additions occurred giving the building the look that many of the New Point community remember as “their school.” A second addition in 1952, which included a cafeteria and classrooms, added to the west side of the building. With the consolidation of Decatur County schools, New Point’s elementary students moved to North Decatur Elementary in 1978, and the 1907 building was razed. The spirit of the school remains today in the children who still play at the park located on the site.
Spurred by the railroad, Newpoint experienced a major population growth. Many economists and government leaders of the time envisioned Newpoint growing to the size of Greensburg or Batesville. The Greensburg Standard reported the population of Newpoint to be “about 600,” while a 1913 article estimated the population closer to 500 people. With the railroad running through town and the bonus of abundant natural gas wells throughout the area providing bountiful and, in many instances, free energy, it can be seen why many in the business area saw a moderate expansion of the town in future years.
Several factors, however, led to a declining population to New Point’s lowest levels in the low 290’s between 1970 to 2000. For one, although the construction of Indiana State Road 46 initially took travelers through the heart of downtown, I-74 now provided a second route to the northern edge of town. As a result, several businesses (including Bob’s Truck Stop and Seal’s Service), diverted business traffic north of town. With completion of Interstate 74 a half of a mile north of town in 1967, the negative impact on the business sector of New Point was complete.
Since the year 2000, New Point has seen a resurgence in both population and business activities. The U.S. Census estimated New Point’s population to be 342 in 2015. While Ross Point Truck Stop developed along with the Interstate, new businesses have sprung up in the town in the last twenty years. The community boasts a small post office, a community center, a park, and a volunteer fire department. There is a small restaurant (Midtown Diner), a convenience store, and a motel. There is usually one police officer employed by the town. New Point also has quite a few local businesses: a trucking company- Billman Trucking Inc., several small factories such as Wood-Mizer Products Incorporated, (though much of the production of this facility is shifting to Batesville), Raver Ready-Mix Concrete, a concrete statue business (Snyder’s Concrete Statues), Leising Mulch and other small businesses. The town is surrounded by family-owned and operated farms and agricultural enterprises. Also, a local golf course (North Branch) and a productive stone quarry (New Point Stone Co.) lie approximately 1-2 miles north and northwest of the town.
The Culture of the Town from the perspective of the children circa 1950’s through the 1980’s
While New Point has always been a wonderful place in which to grow up, the post-World War II baby boom proved to be a prime environment for the youngsters of New Point. Many families of the town gathered each evening for the traditional meal between 5 and 7 p.m. when the father returned home from work. Questions would abound as to how everyone’s day had gone and what homework needed to be finished and with whose help. Many families of the time still relied on supplements of store-bought groceries with home-grown garden vegetables (both fresh and canned) as well as wild game (such as rabbit, squirrel, quail, turtle and even raccoon). Chores were the norm and considered not just work, but fun.
Many of the mothers of the town provided clothing for their children, although sewing and shopping in Greensburg and Batesville were special treats. The Paul Parrot Store was a favorite destination for school shoes, and the metal clicker toy that the owner would give to the children was a welcome treat. A drive all the way to Columbus was a “big trip” for special items. Laundry was usually completed on an open wringer-washer machine, and damp clothes dried on clotheslines strung between trees and old railroad posts.
Numerous individuals interviewed for this piece commented on the generosity of the people of New Point. Parents made sure their children were respectful, honest, and had compassion for others. A citizen would never go to another’s home without asking or being invited. In both good times and bad, people would celebrate and jump right in and help their neighbors in challenging moments. The incentive was open-hearted neighborly love. Many bike rides around town, ghost-in-the-graveyard nights, hop-scotch, sleep-overs, and campouts were enjoyed by all… it was safe and the town kept an eye out for its children. Without a doubt, the center for activities that brought the kids of New Point together was the school and its playground.
Baseball games, both formal and informal, were constant during the months of May through August. Several county championships were won by New Point teams in the Decatur County League. Basketball and volleyball were played throughout the winter in the spacious New Point gym. The 1945-46 basketball squad had an especially successful year, and the 1953 girls’ volleyball team was the Decatur County Champion. The last county champions crowned before the elementary consolidations was the 1978 New Point Little Giants basketball squad who wore the same blue and gold uniforms as those worn by the young men of the 1960’s New Point High School Giants. These are just a few examples of the excellence in sports demonstrated by New Point athletes.
The grounds of the school were essential for the youth of the community. In addition to the sports and education facility, the playground was the scene of many a fine day. Slides, teeter-totters, merry-go-rounds, monkey bars and uneven bars provided wonderful physical outlets for the youngsters. Perhaps the greatest attraction was the large external fire escape on the east side of the school. A climb to the top and a slide down offered quite an adventure… at least until the bottom of the fire escape began to give out. There were many games of tag and hide-go-seek, as well as the opportunity for picnics- all taken advantage of during the warm months of the year. The large hickory nut tree at the bottom of the big hill provided natural snacks for the community, and the hill itself provided a wonderful venue for sled-riding during the winter.
The community has an annual festival called Crackaway Daze held on the third full weekend of September. There is also an annual Volunteer Fireman’s Picnic held at the New Point fire station to raise money for funding the fire department. This event includes food, games, a dunk tank, and raffle. Halloween is still celebrated, and treats are exchanged in fun and cheer. Christmas is always a special time in New Point, and the tradition of the New Point Christian Church’s live nativity continues today. This reverent observance was the first live Nativity in the state, and it draws viewers from across the Midwest.
New Point has seen many changes since the old days of Crack Away. From the first platting by George Colson and George Osborn to the present day, New Point has a story to tell and a bright future to chronical.
Ernie Ruble is an alumnus of North Decatur high school and Ball State University. Mr. Ruble, a member of the Historical Society, grew up in New Point, and is a social studies teacher at North Decatur High School.