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Early Casey History
When construction of the National Trail or the first road west had been completed through Clark County in 1834, settlements began to spring up along the muddy dirt road. Cumberland settlement was the first population in the Casey area located 1.2 miles east of Casey's present location. The construction of a road (debated to be over an old Indian Trail or by State survey) running north and south over now Route 49/Central Avenue in Casey later drew the population of Cumberland west to the crossroads.
Around 1853, the post office and the community of Casey were named after Hon. Mr. (Zadoc) Casey, the United States Senator from Illinois at the time.
Oil made Casey a "boomtown" around the turn of the century and the instant prosperity affected every part of local life - from the banks to the flame on the cover of the high school yearbook (representing the flames in the oilfields that dotted the horizon). The first oil well in the U.S. was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1857 and the earliest activity in Clark County followed not long after that date. But early techniques and inexperience resulted in negligible extraction. In 1904, with a combination of proper tools and equipment in the hands of the right men, drillers from Pennsylvania began drilling on property near Oilfield. By 1907 two thousand wells had been drilled in a 9,000 acre area between Casey and Westfield. Twenty-four million barrels were produced in the area that year.
Because of the oil business, the Casey railroad depot did more freight business at one time than the Terre Haute station. The boom brought big money and financiers to the area. John D. Rockefeller bought a local oil field in 1910 for more than a million dollars which was deposited in one of the Casey banks. The boom had a great financial effect on Casey and the surrounding counties which spawned 3 to 4 banks and 5 to 10 saloons. "A place to deposit money and a place to spend money." Existing Fairview Park was built around that time with a large racetrack which was another place where large sums of money exchanged hands. With new drilling technologies exhausted wells have continued to be revisited over the years.
Some of the infrastructure from this era like the buildings along Central Avenue and Main Street as well as the roadbed for the National Historic Road still exist in Casey. Take a drive and see if you can spot the remnants of the area's rich past.
Information excerpted from "Casey: The Early Years from the 1830's to 2003," compiled by Joyce Van Dyke Skinner, Edited and Indexed by Loistel Summerville, 2003.
For more information, or to support the exploration of Casey's unique history, contact the Casey Historical Society.