|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
The Lafayette Car Works manufactured railroad cars during the late Nineteenth Century in Lafayette, Indiana and was a major employer in Tippecanoe County for about fifteen years.
French occupation of the area began in 1717 when they constructed Fort Ouiatenon on the north side of the Wabash River about three miles south of present day Lafayette. The fort developed into a hub of fur traders, Amerindians and merchants. The fort was the first fortified settlement in Indiana. The Wea tribe had a village on the other side of the river. During the French and Indian War, British forces captured the fort in 1761 from the French and used it as a base of operations of Amerindian attacks against the Americans during the Revolutionary War. An American force captured it in 1778. President George Washington had the fort destroyed in 1791. A trader named William Digby platted the town of Lafayette in May 1825. He named the new town Lafayette after the famous French American Revolutionary War hero. It became the county seat for Tippecanoe County. The Wabash and Erie Canal connected the town to the Great Lakes from the 1840's until operations ceased in 1874. The development of the railroad made canals obsolete. By the 1850's railroads reached Lafayette. Purdue University was established on May 6, 1869. The Purdue Agricultural Works Building was abandoned by the University and purchased by the Lafayette Car Works for its new factory in 1880.
Lafayette Car Works
The Lafayette Car Works began operations on January 4, 1880. Entrepreneur Benjamin Master headed a group of investors that capitalized the project with a one hundred fifty thousand dollar investment. By autumn, the fledgling company had built 606 cars for the Ohio Central Railroad. The company grew, soon producing thirteen cars a day with a labor force of 600 workers. The cars sold for about $500 each. A fire in 1889 caused heavy damage to the building and two months later, a bad storm caused more damage. The company's fortunes had been in decline, anyway and creditors liquidated the company in March 1892.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning