Gas City, formerly known as Harrisburg, began as a “Boom Town” when an abundance of natural gas was found in the vicinity in 1887. The original settlement was platted on May 25, 1867. Noah Harris, the founder, was born on June 22, 1823 and died on August 7, 1913. Mr. Harris was a fur trader in his early years, later becoming interested in real estate and the nursery business.
Following the discovery of natural gas, several citizens formed the Gas City Land Company on March 21, 1892. Several days later, the name of Harrisburg was changed to Gas City. On April 4, 1892, the Gas City Post Office was established. The population at that time was 150. The name “Gas City” would imply that it got it’s name from the seemingly inexhaustible supply of natural gas. The pressure at the well heads was 300 to 350 psi. Because of belief that the supply was unlimited, the gas was used lavishly and not conserved.
The founders envisioned the population of the city to reach 25,000, so they leased all of the gas rights on thousands of acres, bought about 1,200 acres of land and laid out the central portion of it as Gas City.
The land company pledged to use the proceeds from the sale of lots to provide free gas, put in a sewer system and lay out streets. There was a wild scramble to purchase lots from $200 to over $1000 each. The city seemed destined to become a great metropolis.
Within three months, eight factories had moved in. Thousands of people moved in to work in the factories and start businesses. A bank, an opera house, hotels, rows of business offices, and numerous homes were quickly built. The demand was so great that many families lived in tents and shanties until their houses could be built.
With this boom came many attractions, especially along the Mississinewa river. A race track near the river drew huge crowds. “The Helen Boyd” a steam launch gave rides on the river and a buggy trail meandered along the river.
The population of Gas City was 3,622 in 1900, and almost 25 time that of 1890. Trains from the east arrived in the city daily.
Those were great days and had the gas not been squandered away, no doubt, Gas City would have become a large city.
One by one, the factories began to disappear. Some went out of business and others relocated. The city was built on gas and when that disappeared, the land was returned to raising crops. The Gas City Land Company was formally dissolved in 1904. Only two glass factories remained and they stayed in operation until the early 1980’s.
Gas City has survived. Though its name may bring odd expressions from outsiders who know nothing about its history and the gas boom days. To this day, it is a wonderful place to live.
The city has become that fastest growing city in Grant County. Its industrial part is nearly full and the city recently purchased a farm of about 65 acres to enhance capabilities of expanding its commercial and industrial base.
To this day, Gas City is a great place to live and raise a family.