Hoagland, Indiana is a little off the beaten track but when it was born in the 19th Century it was right on the beaten track. Hoagland grew up along the Wayne Trace, a historic thoroughfare for Native Americans and early settlers. General Anthony Wayne led his army along the Wayne Trace during his battles with the Miami Indians in the 1700's. But it was the railroad that got Hoagland started, brought the settlers to what would be Allen County, Indiana.
“Cleared their land started their farms,” says local resident John Neimeyer. “And over time enough of them came to justify the town and businesses. And here we are to this day.”
For most of its life Hoagland, named for a Fort Wayne railroad official, served local farmers. Stores sold groceries, clothing, household goods, farm implements and supplies. Producers brought their crops to town and shipped them to market by rail. It was a quiet town whose citizens lived quiet lives attending church and school, marrying, raising families. But in the mid 20th Century things began to change. People got jobs in Fort Wayne and Decatur, began shopping there, and Hoagland's business district all but disappeared.
“It's tougher to keep the small mom and pop stuff,” says Niemeyer. “We've got a good industrial base in the community and some very successful smaller businesses but the storefronts it's tough to stay active in a small community.”
Hoagland is a village and can't levy taxes so just about everything from local government to firefighting is done by volunteers. And that part of the old Hoagland, the historic Hoagland, is still vibrant. People returning from work in Decatur or Fort Wayne come home to a town with a beautiful community park, social organizations and clubs, and the sense that no matter what may be going on in the in the world beyond Hoagland's borders you are safe and you are comfortable...and very far from alone. Eric Olson, out in 21 Country.