History of Town
The entire area was once the province of the Potawatomi Indians, a peace-loving nation of hunters and fishermen. In 1834, a clearing in the woodland was used for ceremonial purposes and went by the name of McGwinn Village. A year later, a white man by the name of Jeremiah Wiggins swooped down on the village and charmed the Indians with his gift of gab and fascinating trinkets.
McGwinn Village thus gave way to Wiggins Point and under that name became a well know stop for wagon trains bound for Joliet. At one time, 16 roads (trails would more apt) radiated outward from Wiggins Point. Sometime after Wiggins' death in 1838 the settlers who had followed him here decided that Centerville would be a more appropriate name. Later still when the Merrill brothers (Dudley and William Merrill) made their imprint on community life, Centerville became Merrillville.
Other settlements had been mushrooming on the former hunting grounds of the Potawatomi's and were given names such as Deep River and Turkey Creek (from the waterways they bordered), Ainsworth, Lottaville, and Rexville. At one time Lottaville was a U.S. Post Office address. In 1848, all of these settlements, including Merrillville, were collected under the name of Ross Township.
In 1971 the designation of Merrillville was applied to everything including the former Ross Township. So, the name applies to two different entities: the whole amalgamation of settlements and to a specific part of that union, namely to one settlement that originated as McGwinn Village. Thus, when the reader encounters Turkey Creek, for example, he should properly regard it as a section of present day Merrillville or alternatively as a sister settlement of the former use of Merrillville.
Also in 1971, Merrillville officially became a town under Indiana state statue. The incorporation was voted on by the most of the residents of Ross Township that lived within a certain boundary line that our founding fathers configured. This is why some parts, although not much, of Ross Township are still located in neighboring cities like Hobart and Crown Point. You see, those cities already existed and those parts of Ross Township could not be incorporated into Merrillville when it became an official town.
Today, Merrillville enjoys great diversity in housing, residents, and culture. It is rich with business districts that support the 35,000 residents and 12,000 individual households. It is estimated that during any given weekday, the population of Merrillville grows to over 100,000 due to shoppers and workers throughout the town. Merrillville has become the crossroads of the county as it has the popular I-65 that runs through most of the town as well as the U.S. Route 30. The main north/south arteries are Broadway Street (Route 53) and Taft Street.
Merrillville is supported by many support services that are highlighted throughout this website. Most of this information was supplied by the Ross Township Historical Society located at 13 West 73rd Avenue that just happens to be an old Merrillville school that was later converted into the first Merrillville Town Hall before moving to its current location at 7820 Broadway. The current Town Hall was a former Tepe's Department Store and Catalog Showroom. The Town Council was able to triple the space that it was crunched in at the old location and then donated the old building to the Historical Society. The Town's Public Works department is still located behind and next to the old town hall.