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Small City . . . Big Possibilities

Crawfordsville’s website calls it a “small city” with “big possibilities,” and we’re inclined to agree. With a population of just over 16,000, Crawfordsville is the seat of Montgomery Country (pop. 38,000). Rural in setting and in pace of life, we are blessed to be within a 40-minute drive of Lafayette/West Lafayette, home to a Big Ten university; 70 miles east of Champaign, IL, where the University of Illinois is located; about an hour north of Terre Haute, where Indiana State, Rose-Hulman, and St. Matt of the Woods are located; and within an hour of Indianapolis, whose big-city amenities befit its metro population of 2 million.


The beating heart of our outdoor life is Sugar Creek, a regionally renowned playground for canoers and kayakers. In town, a four-mile rail trail crosses the creek on an awesome wood-decked trestle. And just a few miles downstream, you’ll find spectacular hikes at Shades and Turkey Run state parks, which together draw more than 1 million annual visitors from around the Midwest. By the way, the creek is also a mecca for fossil hunters: There’s even a Crawfordsville crinoid near Sue the T-Rex at Chicago’s world-famous Field Museum of Natural History, just a day trip away.

Our main city green space is Milligan Park, which contains a pool with a splash pad, a skate park, and a mile-plus, 22-hole disc golf course. It’s also home to our modern Parks & Recreation headquarters, which has a full-service fitness center, a gymnastics facility, and a full indoor basketball court - don’t forget, this is Indiana! Adjacent to the park is our municipal golf course, one of three 18-hole circuits in the county: we also have a country club, and a private course called Rocky Ridge. Finally, Crawfordsville hosts several nationally televised motocross events at Ironman Raceway, founded just southwest of town in 1995.


When you’re ready to switch from burning calories to consuming them, Crawfordsville boasts an unusually large array of dining options for its size: American, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican cuisine are on offer. Backstep Brewing Company produces award-winning craft beers; while Healthies mixes specialty smoothies, energy teas, and iced coffees; and The Joshua Cup has been a downtown mainstay for coffee-lovers for years (but yes, we have a Starbucks too).

Arts & Culture

There’s a reason why we’re called “The Athens of Indiana.” It all starts with Wabash College, founded in 1832, just nine years after the city itself. Wabash is currently home to 870 all-male students from 31 states and 19 countries, all governed by one simple rule: “The student is expected to conduct himself at all times, both on and off the campus, as a gentleman and a responsible citizen.” With a lively schedule of lectures, concerts, and plays – not to mention America’s most storied Division III football rivalry – the college will forever be an invaluable community resource.


The General Lew Wallace Study is perhaps our best-loved museum, on the site where the Union general (and one-time Wabash student) wrote “Ben-Hur,” America’s bestselling book for more than 50 years. Crawfordsville also had Indiana’s first Carnegie Library (1902), which is now the interdisciplinary and family-oriented Carnegie Museum. Between them is the grand Lane Place mansion, built in 1845 by U.S. Senator Henry S. Lane, and now home to our historical society and June’s annual Strawberry Festival. Our fourth museum is the country’s last operating Rotary Jail, built in 1882. If you don’t know what that is, trust us: it’s worth Googling.

More recently, the Sugar Creek Players are celebrating 50 years at the downtown Vanity Theater, and the cooperative Athens Art Gallery enriches the community not just by displaying beautiful works by regional artists, but through educational programs and workshops as well. In 2010, we got a new satellite site of the statewide Ivy Tech Community College system, offering a wide variety of courses in support of the full-service campus in Lafayette.


The land in Montgomery County is covered by corn and soy fields, but our workforce has a long, proud tradition of industrial excellence that still employs thousands. Since 1989, one of the county’s largest employers (and one of its main philanthropic benefactors) has been Nucor, where 750 workers still produce our first-in-the-industry variety of flat-rolled steel for automotive, appliance, construction, pipe and tube, and other industrial and consumer applications.

Other factories include Lakeside Book Company (formerly R.R. Donnelley & Sons) – once the largest printer of books in the country – as well as Penguin Random House, Acuity Brands Lighting, Banjo Corp, Closure Systems InternationalCrawford Industries, Valero Industries, Crown Cork and Seal, Pace Dairy, and Raybestos Powertrain Manufacturing. In 2021, Tempur Sealy broke ground on a facility that will employ 300 in pouring foam for its mattresses and related products.

Befitting its on-the-rise status, in 2015 the state named Crawfordsville a Stellar Community, kicking off an investment round of more than $7 million to “create a community in which people want to live and work.” Headlining those projects:


In all, Crawfordsville’s employment participation rate is about 60 percent, and the median household income is $44,000. Those with at least a bachelor’s degree comprise 18.5 percent of the population, and 7.5 percent speak a non-English language at home (our Hispanic population is 8.5 percent).

Nonprofits and Philanthropy

With a poverty rate around 17 percent, Crawfordsville has responded to the needs of its fellow citizens. Much of this is done under the auspices of the Montgomery County Community Foundation, which recently celebrated 30 years of distributing gifts to people and organizations through various donor-founded funds, grants, and scholarships.

In this space, we’ll highlight a few of those organizations that have especial connections to St. John’s. It’s far from being exhaustive, we assure you!

  • Our Youth Service Bureau recently upsized from the small St. John’s property it occupied rent-free since its birth – a span of 50 years! Among the YSB’s many successful programs is Nourish, on which they’ve partnered with churches and organizations including St. John’s. The program provides about 230 backpacks full of food each weekend, feeding food-insecure kids and their families on the days they’re out of school.

  • Established in 2013, the all-volunteer Mary Ludwig Free Clinic provides the uninsured (about 11 percent) with dignified medical care and dentistry. Its umbrella organization, Montgomery County Free Clinic Inc., also operates Meals on Wheels for our homebound neighbors. The clinic’s Chief Medical Officer is from St. John’s, and several of our parishioners have donated their services over the years - including an ongoing, scheduled commitment to Meals on Wheels deliveries.

  • Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County has been championing animal rights since its founding in 1965. Over that time, thousands of companion animals, domestic animals, and even exotic animals, have found their way to the shelter for care and rehoming. It is also a nationally recognized No Kill Shelter, with over 90% of animals rehomed. In a recent capital campaign letter (the shelter is currently planning a $1.6 million renovation), the campaign chair, a longtime St. John’s member, highlighted a 2,000-mile road trip one staffer recently undertook to retrieve a foster dog who’d unexpectedly made her way to Texas!

Photo courtesies: Montgomery County Visitors & Convention Bureau, Backstep Brewing Co., Wabash College, General Lew Wallace Study & Museum, eBay

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