You would be forgiven for driving through Stockport, in northern Delaware County, without realizing it’s an actual “somewhere,” but there are hundreds if not thousands of tiny, forgotten communities across Indiana just like it. Today, Stockport’s nothing more than a couple of houses, but local boosters had big plans for the place around the turn of the twentieth century.
Stockport sits about nine miles north of Muncie and three miles south of Wheeling. The right-of-way for a road that connected the two communities was granted by county commissioners in 18671. By 1874, the intersection of Wheeling Pike and the Shideler Free Pike2 was home to Washington Township’s District 9 schoolhouse, a sawmill, and two houses3. The school, a frame structure, was commonly known by locals as Hard-Scrabble4, a phrase that refers to a piece of poorly-tillable soil or something involving hard work that doesn’t pay off. That saying encapsulates Stockport’s story in a nutshell!
The schoolhouse was replaced by a brick structure about a mile southwest of the crossroads in 18855 and the sawmill went belly-up, but a post office was established at the corner in 18926. A year later, the Chicago, Indiana & Eastern Railway was incorporated with hopes of connecting Chicago and Columbus, Ohio. The full railroad never materialized, but seventeen miles between Muncie and Matthews were completed in December 1900 during the middle of the Indiana gas boom7.
The railroad was Stockport’s raison d’être and the community got its utilitarian name from its status as one of only two stations in Washington Township. The town was, quite literally, a stock port- a place where farmers drove their livestock to be exported. Local boosters platted a 133-lot Hooke and McKinley Addition to the town in 19018. That year, stakeholders announced that a new ten-furnace window glass plant and a prospective bottleworks next to the railroad would be erected9. Although the community only consisted of several houses then, as many as ten were in various states of construction to provide accommodations for people Stockport’s promoters intended to work at the new factories10.
Articles of Incorporation for the Stockport Glass Company were filed on April 22, 1901, with capital stock placed at $20,00011. That’s about three-quarters of a million dollars today! The same group of investors -many of the farmers visible in the plat map above- were also behind factories planned three miles north at the town of Wheeling, whose citizens platted a new town seven-tenths of a mile west in an attempt to connect to the CI&E.
The railroad ran four trains daily from Muncie and Converse in 1905 which made regular stops at Stockport12. The Pennsylvania Railroad acquired the line two years later. Unfortunately, the gas ran out shortly afterward, and it became clear that the rail line through Stockport was not the profit center the PRR hoped for13. The post office in Stockport was shuttered in 191214, and passenger service through the town was discontinued thirteen years later.
Although former boomtowns like Matthews, Fowlerton, Eaton, and Yorktown still exist with buildings, businesses, and streets, the only cities that gained lasting regional prominence from the gas boom were the area’s county seats. Stockport barely grew beyond its speculative phase, and it’s unclear whether or not the Stockport Glass Company actually got around to building a plant in the community. Luckily for any remaining residents, Wheeling Pike became Indiana State Road 21 in the 1920s, which became US-35 after World War II15. The resulting traffic enabled Stockport’s store and gas station to operate until the 1950s16.
Although Stockport never grew enough to provide its boosters with riches and prominence, the town was home to one man of notable pedigree, Bill McKinley. McKinley ran the Stockport store during its halcyon days and was said to be a cousin of President William McKinley. “The Delaware County McKinley not only is like his illustrious relative in name, wrote a reporter for the Muncie Daily Times, “but is so much like him in appearance, that it is said if he were ‘dressed up’ and shaved he could have the freedom of New York City without a question17.”
Perhaps Bill McKinley would have been better off taking his chances in New York since there’s little concrete evidence that Stockport existed today. I mean that literally, since a concrete pad is the only reminder of McKinley’s store, next to a decrepit house built during Stockport’s brief boom. A modern home was built on the west side of the highway in 1936, but the abandoned house, the concrete slab, and the old railroad right-of-way are all that’s left of Stockport today. Despite that, the rest of Stockport’s layout, as platted in 1901, can still be found in the Delaware County Assessor’s Beacon system online.
Stockport is far less prominent today than in 1874 when it was nothing more than a rural crossroads with a schoolhouse and sawmill, or in the 1930s when it was a corner grocery on a state highway. These days, the community is just a crossroads- and not a particularly bucolic one! It’s hard to feel a sense of loss for a town that barely existed at its apex, but Nixons, Milhollins, McKinleys, Hintons, Johnsons, and other area families bet big on Stockport more than a century ago. Regardless of how their parlay turned out, the town is still worth remembering today.
1 Kemper, G. W. H. (1908). Education in Delaware County. In A Twentieth Century History of Delaware County, Indiana, Volume 1. book, Lewis Publishing Company.
2 Griffing, B. N. (1887). Mt. Pleasant Township. An atlas of Delaware County, Indiana . map, Philadelphia, PA; Griffing, Gordon, & Company.
3 Kingman, A.L. (1874). Map of Delaware County, Indiana : from recent & original surveys, made expressly for this map, drawn, compiled and published by A.L. Kingman and assistants. map, Chicago, IL; A.L. Kingman.
4 Helm, T. B. (1881). Mount Pleasant Township. In History of Delaware County, Indiana: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. book, Kingman Brothers.
5 Delaware County, Indiana. (1885 July 22). Deed Book 55. p. 381.
6 Forte, J. (n.d.). Indiana Delaware County. Jim Forte Postal History. Retrieved January 14, 2023, from Jim Forte Postal History.
7 Sulzer, E.G. (1998). Ghost Railroads of Indiana. Indiana University Press [Bloomington]. Book.
8 The Hooke and McKinley Addition To The Town of Stockport Indiana (1901). Delaware County [Muncie]. Map.
9 Two New Factories (1901, April 1). The Muncie Daily Times. p. 1.
10 Transforming a Cross Roads Into A Fast Growing Town (1901, April 1). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 8.
11 Selling Agency Planned By Co-Operative Makers (1901, April 22). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 5.
12 Greene, D. (1973, May 23). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood (1973, May 23). The Muncie Star. p. 4.
13 Spurgeon, B. (1973, March 18). For CI&E’s Last Segment, the End Is Now in Sight. The Muncie Star. p. 39.
14 (See footnote 6).
15 Greene, D. (1975, September 12). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
16 Flook, C. (2019). Lost Towns of Delaware County, Indiana. The History Press [Charleston]. book. p. 120.
17 “Bill” McKinley, Stockport (1900, October 26). The Muncie Daily Times. p. 1.