Indiana is home to hundreds, if not thousands of tiny, forgotten communities. Take Delaware County’s Gates Corner, for instance: it sits at the crux of County Roads 600-South and 700-East in Perry Township. Today, it consists of an abandoned store and an occupied house. That’s it! I drove through the hamlet four or five times before I became aware that it was somewhere instead of nowhere.
No one’s quite sure when Gates Corner was established, exactly. It was never platted, but the crossroads appears to be named after Albert L. Gates, an upstate New Yorker born in 1817 who moved to Delaware County at 21 in order to become a carpenter. Gates was successful, eventually buying 250 acres in Perry Township1.
Eventually, the community that sprung up around Gates’ holdings featured a store on the south side of the intersection, later replaced with a blacksmith’s shop. Around 18602, a store was erected where we see it today at the northwest corner. From 1898 to 1901, there was a post office in the front room of Gates Corner’s store, though it vanished with the advent of rural mail delivery3. A home built during the post office’s first year of operation sits at the southwest corner of the intersection4.
The store at Gates Corner was always the community’s center of activity since not much else existed there! Millard Burch and Lon McGlothin opened the place after it moved5, but it was run at various times by Mort Thornburg, Charlie Hiatt, Willie Thornburg, Art Gilmore, Willie Thornburg again, and then the Helm family6. Duffy and Elsie Helm owned the store from 1914 through 1946. There, they sold goods varying from crackers in a barrel to hand plows, which Duffy transported to the frontier from suppliers in Muncie.
According to period accounts in the newspaper, the establishment was quite busy, dealing in 600 dozen eggs, 2,000 pounds of poultry, and hundreds of pounds of butter some days. Much of the excess was sold to wholesalers, some was sold directly to competing grocers, and the rest was peddled house to house via Duffy Helm’s huckster wagon. The Helms owned the store for thirty-two years until 19467.
A succession of owners operated the grocery after the Helms sold it, including Leander Kingery and Hile W. Henry. Henry, a Jewel Tea Company salesman for many years, owned a gas station in Muncie before he bought the Gates Corner store in 19618. Later, Charles Goodpaster ran it before he sold the business to Otho Clawson9.
Clawson was a Cowan blacksmith before he moved to Arizona to run a gas station. After he returned to Indiana, he bought the establishment in the 1970s to operate it as the “Country Corner Cupboard10,” or Clawson’s General Food Store11. In Otho Clawson’s day, the store -popular with farmers for breakfast, lunch, and the occasional dinner of sandwiches or frozen pizza- featured a sign at the corner advertising RC Cola, an overhanging front porch with an electrically-lit five-pointed star for decoration, and a single gas pump that Clawson turned off every night at 8:30 so he could go to sleep12.
Farmers, farmhands, and students all stopped at Gates Corner. Around four o’clock, buses from Center School, a mile west, stopped by to let the students buy candy for two cents. The influx of kids meant that, oftentimes, the bus driver had to get out and help the Clawsons run the store13!
Aside from school-children and farmers, the store at Gates Corner was a popular late-night rendezvous point after basketball games played against the Center Spartans. Though it stood for sixty-two years, all that remains of that building are pieces of its concrete foundation, along with a 2,500 square-foot block building built in 1950 to house the school’s vocational agriculture classes14.
One of Center School’s backboards still exists as well, although it now serves home duty in a nearby driveway after someone acquired it after the schoolhouse closed. During the 1943-44 school year, Center’s squad played against Desoto, Harrison, Cowan, Selma, Albany, and Royerton at home, before the Spartans faced Daleville, Mooreland, Harrison, Gaston, and Eaton in the county tournament. Anyone who played on those teams scored against this old backboard!
Outside all the traffic Otho Clawson’s Gates Corner store got during tourney time, he ran a small welding shop and smithery out of the store’s adjacent garage while he lived behind the store with his family. Center School closed in 1967, a decade before Clawson died in Arizona after moving back west the previous year. It appears as though the store went with him. Today, the community of Gates Corner still consists of two buildings, about the size it was during its heyday, but locals no longer flock to it. Though nearby residents no longer have a place to send a letter, fill their cars up, or get a sandwich, it’s still a place that was memorialized on INDOT maps as recently as 1970. I suspect that memories of the community will continue to span much further into the future. That’s why I’ve featured it here!
Even if Gates Corner is tiny, it was once a rural point of congregation for pioneers and high-school basketball fans. That means something to me! If you go to Gates Corner, you’ll increase its population by a third. Welcome to town!
1 Greene, D. (1971, March 29). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
2 Delaware County Office of Information & GIS Services. (2023). Parcel ID: 1610400009000.
3 Spurgeon, B. (1984, December 6). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 6.
4 Delaware County Office of Information & GIS Services. (2023). Parcel ID: 1615200004000.
5 Stearns, D. (1975, December 28). At Gates Corner. The Muncie Star. p. 27.
6 Greene, D. (1971, April 7). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
7 Greene, D. (1950, March 25). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 6.
8 Greene, D. (1966, March 8). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
9 (See footnote 6).
10 (See footnote 5).
11 Flook, C. (2019). Lost Towns of Delaware County, Indiana. The History Press [Charleston]. book. p. 120.
12 (See footnote 5).
13 (See footnote 5).
14 Open House Planned at Center Farm Building (1950, November 1). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 13.
2 thoughts on “Welcome to Gates Corner, Indiana. Population: ~3 (including you!)”
I love stories about obscure little places like this.
Me too! They’re all over, even in Delaware County. I’ve learned that the key to some longevity here is to post about these places in adjacent counties that aren’t served with lots of focus, so I expect I’ll be hitting up more of them in rural areas soon.
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