Welcome! Brazil, Indiana is located in the heart of the Midwest, an hour drive from Indianapolis and a three hour drive from St. Louis, Chicago, Louisville, and Cincinnati. Brazil has a rich history in the brick and clay industry. Evidence of this can be seen as far away as Oregon and Texas and as close as our own city streets. Today Brazil is home to Great Dane Trailers and several small homegrown manufacturers. The city is also home to a large and attractive golf course designed by Pete Dye.
The Old National Road, presently, known as US Highway 40, travels through the heart of Brazil. The country’s “New National Road”, Interstate 70, spans the country from the middle of Utah to Washington, DC and is located just five miles south of our great city.
At the legislative of 1825, nine years after the admission of the state to union. Clay County was organized from sections of Owen and Vigo counties and was named for Kentucky statesman, Henry Clay.
The county’s earliest settlement preceded its formation by almost a decade. David Thomas came to the area in 1818 and was followed soon after by Samuel Rizley. The majority of Clay County’s settlement activity centered along the Eel River which flows through the central part of the county. It was near this river that the community of Bowling Green was established. Named the county seat following Clay County’s organization, Bowling Green was the only community in the county founded before 1830.
Brazil is located on U.S. Highway 40 between Terre Haute and Indianapolis. It is the county seat of Clay County. The origin of the town has been said to be as such (Information from various sources, including a 1926 edition of the Brazil Daily Times):
William Stewart was a native of Massachusetts and was born in 1817. He settled in Clay County in 1838. He built the first house I the town of Brazil and filled several township offices. He had fair educational advantages, having taught several terms of school in Ohio and Indiana, and taught the first term of school ever taught in the town of Brazil. Better known as “Yankee Bill” he was a pioneer carpenter and millwright. One day early in 1843 he was seated on a log on a spot now occupied by Brazil Bank and Trust Co. discussing with Owen Thorpe the location of a town site at this point on the National Road which and recently been completed through Indiana. Mr. Thorpe owned considerable land where Brazil now stands and donated the ground in 1843, and platted the town, consisting of 28 lots. It is told that he asked “Yankee” Bill for a suggestion for a name. Yankee Bill, who was a careful reader of the occasional newspapers which came in to the wilderness and had been reading about the revolution in Brazil, South America, suggested the name “Brazil” as a short and easily remembered name for the new town. The original town consisted of 189 acres.
Brazil was a stopping point for the covered wagon trains of the thousands of personas trekking west. The first industry here was established by John Hendrix, Sr., who set up a blacksmith, wagon, and plow shop.
The main attraction to Brazil was the coal fields. In 1852, a young Pennsylvania man, Byron Lawrence, stopped off in Brazil en route to the West and while exploring the creek beds, discovered deposits of block coal and pottery clays. He attempted to interest the local people in sinking a mine, but at the time, the pioneers were more interested in selling the lumber from the lands they were clearing. Although he is credited with projected the first mine here, he died before he could realize the profits of his genius. At one time there were 13 coal mines and 11 clay factories in Brazil.
About 1860, Brazil was on the move. A foundry and machine shop, a woolen mill, and a tannery were in operation. The retail district was four blocks long. As the town began to grow, the citizens saw the need for incorporating. The 1866 proposal was approved 122 to 9 for incorporating.
The first school, Meridian St. School, was established in 1870. By 1873 the population was 3000. Originally there was no public sanitation, no garbage disposal, or city dump. Water drained from streets into open ditches at the sides. In 1876 there were three newspapers, seven dry goods stores, two tailors, two millinery shops, seventeen groceries, three livery stables, five drug stores, two hardware stores, four churches, and two schools. In 1873 a city charter was established and in 1875, water works and fire protection was added. By 1896 the population was over 1600 households and an electric railroad (interurban) was started. Brazil had two phone companies and five clay companies. Brazil was paving its main streets and the downtown businesses were being rebuilt in sturdy brick.
By 1906 there were four banks, an Opera House, six newspapers, nineteen attorneys, eight dentists, nineteen physicians, five railroad depots, nine hotels, 43 saloons, nine restaurants, eight confectioners, two milk depots, 11 meat markets, 10 clay works, and 13 coal companies. Population was 11,600. New schools had been added, a high school and four more elementary schools. In 1908 a piano factory and a boiler works were added. By 1916 a new high school was built. Mines and clay companies still prospered. The city added tennis courts and baseball diamonds. Three parks were maintained by the city –Forest, Oak, and Hendricks. There were three hospitals – Smith, Rawley, and Sourwine. Three movie houses – The Sourwine Opera House being one that featured Vaudeville and the flickers. A new post office was built in 1912 and the Court House in 1913.
By 1920 the National Road was paved to Terre Haute and all the big families had cars. About 1930 the depression was being felt. Families were moving in from Kentucky seeking work, but the mines were slacking off. Many of our unemployed had gone to the oil companies in Hammond and to Ford Car Company in Detroit. A new County Hospital and a city swimming pool were being built and Drag line or strip coal mining was being introduced. The electric railroad had ceased operations and busses mainly furnished transportation to nearby towns.
With the even of the Second World War, Twigg Industries had come in (manufacturing components for a number of builders of jet planes), and a hand-rolled cigar factory. The YMCA was started in Brazil during this time. Retail businesses consisted mainly of chain operations, thus depriving the town of the advantages of home owned stores. The Strip and drag line mining operations gave the area many fishing spots and private beaches for recreation.
Brazil was highly honored in 1956 when the Republic of Brazil, South America sent it’s ambassador and other officials here to help to dedicate the Chafaris Dos Contos fountain (Fountain of Tales). It is a duplicate of a famous watering trough monument in the historic city of Auro Preto, Minas Gereas, Brazil.
Presently, we have seven elementary schools, two high schools, one junior high school, one middle school, two private schools and a large number of home educators.
This information was compiled in 2005 from a variety of sources available at the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, 535 East National Avenue, P.O. Box 23, Brazil, IN 47834.
You can click here to view census data regarding Brazil, Indiana.