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Named for John Hancock, the guy with the biggest signature on the Declaration of Independence, Hancock County was created in 1828. Shortly after, Greenfield was chosen as its county seat. Back then, the population of the entire county totaled 400. You could probably walk ten miles and really not bump into anyone.
Early settlers built along the two creeks which flow south through Center Township, which includes Greenfield. The first businesses were small grist mills for grinding corn and wheat for settlers.
Around 1835, U.S. 40, then the National Road, was built through Greenfield. It was heavily traveled by wagon trains going west. In 1853, the first steam railroad was completed by the Indiana Central Railroad at the south edge of Greenfield. The railroad became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad System and later the Penn-Central.
During the 19th century, Greenfield's population continued to grow. Incorporated as a city in 1876, Greenfield’s population was 2,023. The greatest single period of growth began in 1887 when natural gas was discovered in the area. Greenfield was a boom town for 20 years, with the founding of manufacturing plants and other industries.
In 1849, James Whitcomb Riley, writer and poet, was born in Greenfield. Known as the Hoosier Poet, he started his career in 1875 writing newspaper verse in Indiana dialect for the Indianapolis Journal. His verse tended to be humorous or sentimental, and of the approximately one thousand poems that Riley published, over half are in dialect. During the early 1900s Riley was a bestselling author (The Old Swimmin' Hole and 'Leven More Poems and Little Orphan Annie, among others). He earned a steady income from royalties and also traveled and gave public readings of his poetry.
A statue of Riley stands in front of the Hancock County Courthouse, purchased with money donated by school children from all over the United States. Each year, during the Riley Festival in October, the city's school children parade to the statue to place flowers around it.
Sister / Friendship CitiesGreenfield is currently sister city to Kakuda, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Each year, a small group of high school students from Greenfield and Kakuda are chosen to travel to each sister city, respectively, and stay with a host family for ten days.
- James Whitcomb Riley, born October 7, 1849. His boyhood home is now the Riley Birthplace and Museum.
- Jaycie Phelps, member of the US Women's 1996 Olympic Gymnastic Team
- Mark Dismore, Indy Racing League and Indianapolis 500 driver.
- Kyle Gibson, 22nd Overall Pick in 2009 Major League Baseball Draft to Minnesota Twins
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