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  • Manufacturing History of Connersville

    Founded and platted in 1813 by wilderness explorer John Conner, Connersville in it's early days served as a fort and safe haven for European travelers heading west into the wild unknown. John Conner, founder and namesake of Connersville served as the first sheriff and surveyor for the young Hoosier community. Mr. Conner left Connersville sometime before 1820 to travel with his brother, William, to what is now Noblesville, Indiana, along the White River. Others followed Mr. Conner, such as John Wesley McCormick, namesake of McCormick Creek State Park in Owen County, Indiana, and Hervey Bates, who was appointed first sheriff of Marion County and later known as the proprietor of the Bates House, an Indianapolis Hotel which later became the location of the grand Claypool Hotel, with another Connersvillian leading the way. 

    Connersville saw slow growth until the Whitewater Canal Company was set to enter the picture making travel from Cincinnati to Hagerstown much easier for travelers. By 1845 the Whitewater Canal entered Connersville, which had established itself as a modest furniture producing and farm town, particularly the hog market, with boats shipping hundreds of head of hog to Cincinnati daily to be slaughtered. The canal also paved way for what would be come Connersville two largest industries, transportation and Roots-style blowers. 

    In 1859, two brothers, Francis and Philander Roots were attempting to make improvements to their woolen mill on 6th and Grand Avenue in Connersville. Using the Whiterwater Canal, Philander Roots created a water-pump lobe wood impeller but the water caused the motor to jam. While tinkering with their invention on dry land, the impellors produced significant amounts of air through the impellors, thus creating the positive-displacement rotary blower in 1860. Roots blower remained family owned until 1931 when it merged with Connersville Blower Company, later part of Dresser Industries. Today, Roots Blower is a division of Howden, owned by KPS Capital Partners. Their 160 plus year commitment to Connersville remains strong with new manufacturing capabilities being added to the plant in 2021. 

    In 1856, immigrant John B. McFarlan moved his family 15 miles south of Cambridge City to relocate to Connersville. The McFarlan's had made the journey from England in 1831 settling near Cheviot in the greater Cincinnati area. The McFarlan's would move again in 1849 to Cambridge City before remaining in Connersville for the rest of his natural life. McFarlan had became involved with carriage manufacturing while in Cambridge City and the move to Connersville proved to be harder to crack the established business than he thought. Connersville was home to manufactures William and Andrew Applegate, Henry & Swinkley and tougher competition in Ware & Veach and Drew & McCracken, all in the industry in Connersville and all within a few blocks of each other. McFarlan would not only outlast all the competition, he would eventually purchase all of his competitors in area area. When he outgrew his Sixth and Grand Avenue facility, John B. McFarlan set out to build America's first planned industrial park in what was referred to as John's Corn Patch. McFarlan understood having his suppliers close by allowed for more efficient manufacturing of his buggies and carriages.  The establishment of the industrial park between 12th and 21st Streets on the Westside of the Whitewater Canal brought many industries into Connersville. McFarlan's decision opened the door for businesses like Ansted-Higgins Spring Company, Connersville Blower Company, George R Cater Company, Ansted Spring and Axle Company, Indiana Lamp Company, Central Manufacturing, Lexington Motor Company, Ansted Engine Company, Stand Manufacturing, Roots Blower, Cord, AVCO, Rex and many many other Connersville area businesses. 

    In the time since the early 20th Century, Connersville has been a well established manufacturing community. During World War II Connersville produced 500,000 jeep bodies for Willys and Ford at Central Manufacturing. Bomber wings, ordnance, and trailers were some of the parts Connersvillians made for the war effort. The automotive industry thrived during the 1920s and 1930s with companies such as Lexington, Empire, Auburn, Cord, Packard, and McFarlan all producing cars in Connersville. The Central Manufacturing company, a prominent coachbuilder, produced automotive bodies for as many as 150 different car manufacturers and Stant Manufacturing entered the automotive market producing aftermarket radiator and motometers caps as well as metal plating for Studebaker. 

    By the 1930s former buggy manufacturer Rex had gotten out of the car business and into the appliance business. Former employee Powel Crosley Jr. selected Connersville's Rex Manufacturing to produce his radios and refrigerators in Connersville. Rex would eventually be purchased by Philco and later Ford's electronics division and eventually become Visteon before its closure in 2008.

    Rex Manufacturing also brought Connersville a young accountant with an entrepreneurial spirit Sam Regenstrief. Sammy would be hired to save Rex Manufacturing by the Board of Director's during an economic downturn and for compensation, he would be paid in company stock. When Rex was sold to Philco, Sam took his money and invested it in American Kitchens. The move proved lucrative for Sam. He would turn American Kitchens into Design & Manufacturing, the world's leader in automatic dishwashers. D&M would operate in Connersville until 1993 when White's Consolidated officially moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where they continue to operate today. 

    Connersville's largest manufacturing industries today still include Roots-style rotary blowers produced at Howden in the McFarlan Industrial Park, as well as Stant Manufacturing, Tier I automotive OEM supplier for Chrysler (Stellantis) as well as others with their filler pipe, radiator and cap divisions. Their world  headquarters is located on Columbia Avenue in Connersville.  Hydro, a world leader in aluminum extrusion, is located in the Industrial Park North on State Road 1 in Connersville. Having origins dating back to 1959 as Benson Aluminum, Hydro produces products for the tractor trailer industry. 

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