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1851 Gaslight comes to Madison

In 1849 Madison was still considered a major city in Indiana. There was still much wealth in the city, as competitive railroads had not yet taken a big bite out of her financial standing and there was no reason to believe she wouldn’t continue to progress as in the past. With this view in mind, it was only natural and fitting that the City Fathers would turn their attention to the new and much improved method of lighting city streets, businesses and homes—gas light.

In 1849 a committee was formed to investigate the feasibility of bringing a gas company to town and to explore the interest of subscribers in the idea. During 1850 groundwork was laid, subscriptions were taken and by March 3, 1851, all stock had been sold for the Madison Gaslight Company.

Mr. John Lockwood was chosen to head-up the project and contracts for the necessary buildings were let. During that spring and summer a site at the upper corner of Ohio (now Vaughn Drive) and Walnut Streets was acquired and a board of directors was put in place. By August the newly named Madison Gaslight & Coke Company was installing fixtures in local buildings.

In November lamp posts, manufactured by the Madison Foundry, were installed on Main Cross Street (now Main Street) in addition to others throughout the town and on the 20th of December gas was let into the pipes for the first time and a test was made at the Indian-Kentucky House, a hotel on East Main Street. All went well.

The next evening citizens gathered in the cold night air to see the streets of Madison illuminated for the first time with gas lanterns. On the night of December 22nd a number of citizens, at the invitation of Mr. John Lockhart, celebrated the lighting of the city with a splendid supper, toasts and speeches. Present were the mayor, the board of directors and the elite of the town. And all about them spread the soft glow of gas light lanterns.

MJCPL: History of Jefferson County, Ind. By E. O. Muncie
MJCPL: Historical Files
MJCPL: Newspapers on microfilm