History of Batesville
Batesville earned its “best little city in America” nickname from the beginning. Native Americans roamed the rich loam, old growth forests and creeks that provided the right climate to grow valuable hardwoods like oak, black walnut, wild cherry, ash and poplar. No wonder the Shawnee cherished this slice of the earth for its beauty.
Both the French and British explored Ripley County, but American settlers didn’t arrive until 1835 when Teunis Amack purchased 120 acres and built his log cabin. Seventeen years later, he sold his homestead to the Callahan Trust Company, which broke up the acreage into 45 lots for a town on the main line of the Lawrenceburg-Upper Mississippi River Railroad. This new community was supposedly named after Joshua Bates, an engineer, surveyor and member of the Callahan Trust Company who bought the first lot (there are those who contend the town honors Harvey Bates, the railroad’s director).
The forest attracted German immigrants, many of whom found Batesville while traveling the rail system to nearby Oldenburg. And by 1853, that transportation line stretched westward to Indianapolis, further connecting the rural town to the hum of Midwestern life. Before the turn of the century, Batesville stood as a thriving commercial center — thanks to the sawmills. It was the first city west of Cincinnati to install electric streetlights.
History of Oldenburg
Two speculators purchased 200 acres from William George in 1837, and platted out their new town. They named the town in honor of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg, where both speculators had been born.
In those original plats, two over-large lots were set aside for construction of a church with enough land to support a pastor. The vast majority of early settlers were German Catholics, whose concern about church and pastor were no small matter. A testament to their undaunted determination and optimism, construction of a church had begun before Oldenburg’s first birthday.
Perhaps the man who played the largest role in intertwining the history of Oldenburg with its church was Father Franz Joseph Rudolf, who served the parish from 1844 until his death in 1866. Holy Family Church was built in 1861 under his watchful eye, and Holy Family School was completed in 1868.
At Father Rudolf’s request, management of the parish was turned over to the Franciscans of St. John the Baptist following his death. The Old Stone Church had been converted to a rectory following dedication of the larger brick structure. The Franciscans took up residence there in 1867.
The convent of the Sisters of St. Francis and the Immaculate Conception Academy were built in 1851 and 1857, respectively. Countless additions have been made over the years to both the convent and the academy, which changed from a private all-girls high school to a coeducational one in August 2000.
Oldenburg, with its quaint shops and homes, is still very German today. All the street signs bear their German names, and fire hydrants are painted as German immigrants.