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Elkhart County, Indiana
Elkhart County courthouse in Goshen, Indiana
Map of Indiana highlighting Elkhart County
Location in the state of Indiana
Map of the U.S. highlighting Indiana
Indiana's location in the U.S.
Founded 1830
Seat Goshen
Largest city Elkhart
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

467.85 sq mi (1,212 km²)
463.81 sq mi (1,201 km²)
4.03 sq mi (10 km²), 0.86%
 - (2010)
 - Density

426/sq mi (164.45/km²)
Congressional districts 2nd, 3rd

Indiana county number 20

Elkhart County is a county in the U.S. state of Indiana. Much of the county is in the Elkhart-Goshen Metropolitan Statistical Area, which in turn is part of the South Bend-Elkhart-Mishawaka Combined Statistical Area. As of 2010, the county's population was 197,559.

Elkhart County is also in the Northern Indiana region known as Michiana, 20 miles (32 km) east of South Bend, 110 miles (180 km) east of Chicago, and 150 miles (240 km) north of Indianapolis. The area is playfully referred to by locals as the recreation vehicle (RV) capital of the world and is known for its sizable Amish population.[1] For the latter reason, the county teams up with neighboring LaGrange County to promote tourism by referring to the area as Northern Indiana Amish Country.[2] The county seat is Goshen.


At the beginning of the 19th century, the area now known as Elkhart was mainly inhabited by the Potawatomi tribe. Pioneers began settling in the area known as the Elkhart Prairie in 1829 and on April 1, 1830 Elkhart County was officially established with its original county seat in Dunlap. After some reorganizing of the county borders, the seat was moved to Goshen near the geographical center of the county.[3]


There are several theories concerning the origin of the county's name. The first says that the county was named after an Elkhart tribe. However there is no historical proof that such a tribe existed. Another theory, one provided on the city's website, says that Elkhart's Island Park looks like an elk's heart.[4] However, it is unknown how Beardsley could have known what the island looked like from above. Hot air balloons existed at the time but the first air flight did not take place until the late 19th century. A third theory, and the most likely, claims that the county was named after the Shawnee Indian chief Elkhart, cousin of the famous Chief Tecumseh, and father of princess Mishawaka for whom neighboring Mishawaka is named.[5][6]


The St. Joseph River widens as it flows west through Elkhart.

According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 467.85 square miles (1,211.7 km2), of which 463.81 square miles (1,201.3 km2) (or 99.14%) is land and 4.03 square miles (10.4 km2) (or 0.86%) is water.[7] The county sits in mostly rural farm land with some rolling hills in its northeast corner. Those hills were formed by glaciers and are part of the St. Lawrence Seaway Continental Divide.[8]

The St. Joseph River, which flows across the Michigan border north of Bristol, is the main waterway in Elkhart County. The Elkhart River enters the county east of Millersburg and winds its way through Goshen and Dunlap to Island Park in Elkhart where it meets the St. Joseph. The Little Elkhart River flows into the county southeast of Middlebury and creates some scenic views in Bonneyville Mills County Park before emptying into the St. Joseph near Bristol. Numerous creeks wind their way through the countryside and several lakes, including Simonton Lake, dot the landscape.


Elkhart County's 16 townships are: Baugo, Benton, Cleveland, Clinton, Concord, Elkhart, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Locke, Middlebury, Olive, Osolo, Union, Washington, and York.


Elkhart, Goshen, and Nappanee are incorporated cities and Bristol, Middlebury, Millersburg, and Wakarusa are incorporated towns in Elkhart County.

Fifteen unincorporated communities also exist in the county. They are Benton, Bonneyville Mills, Dunlap, Foraker, Garden Village, Jimtown, Locke, Midway, New Paris, Nibbyville, Simonton Lake, Southwest, Vistula, and Waterford Mills.

Adjacent counties[]

Elkhart County borders St. Joseph County, Michigan to the northeast, Lagrange County to the east, Noble County to the southeast, Kosciusko County to the south, Marshall County to the southwest, St. Joseph County to the west, and Cass County, Michigan to the northwest.


Elkhart County is known as "The RV Capital of the World" because of its substantial recreational vehicle-based economy. Farming also plays a big role in the local economy along with other smaller industries. Tourism rounds out Elkhart County's economy. Destinations such as Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury and Amish Acres in Nappanee along with annual events such as the Elkhart Jazz Festival, the Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival, and the Elkhart County 4-H Fair draw in thousands of tourists every year. The Fair is the second largest county fair in the United States.[9]

Climate and weather[]

Climate chart for Goshen, Indiana
temperatures in °Cprecipitation totals in mm
source: The Weather Channel[10]

In recent years, average temperatures in Goshen have ranged from a low of 17 °F (−8 °C) in January to a high of 85 °F (29 °C) in July, although a record low of −24 °F (−31.1 °C) was recorded in January 1984 and a record high of 102 °F (39 °C) was recorded in June 1988. Average monthly precipitation ranged from 1.77 inches (45 mm) in February to 4.05 inches (103 mm) in June.[10]


The county is led by a board of three elected commissioners that serve as the executive branch of county government. The board also serves as the legislative branch in that it is responsible for ordinances.[11] The county council is made of seven elected members - four from each council district and three at large. The council is in charge of all monetary issues including appropriations and taxes.[12] There are Township Bottomssors for Baugo, Cleveland, Concord, Elkhart, Middlebury, and Osolo townships and a County Bottomssor to handle the remaining townships.[13]

The current county commissioners are:

  • District 1: Frank Lucchese, Member
  • District 2: Mike Yoder, Vice-President
  • District 3: Terry Rodino, President

The current county council members are:

  • District 1: David E. Foutz
  • District 2: Randall Yohn
  • District 3: Clarence J. Yoder
  • District 4: Donald E. Abel
  • At-Large: Dennis E. Sharkey
  • At-Large: John K. Letherman
  • At-Large: James L. Hartman

Accurate as of July 2008.

Elkhart County is part of Indiana's 2nd congressional district and Indiana's 3rd congressional district; Indiana Senate districts 9, 11 and 12;[14] and Indiana House of Representatives districts 5, 18, 21, 23, 48 and 49.[15]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1840 935
1850 12,690 1,257.2%
1860 20,986 65.4%
1870 26,026 24.0%
1880 33,454 28.5%
1890 39,201 17.2%
1900 45,052 14.9%
1910 49,008 8.8%
1920 56,384 15.1%
1930 68,875 22.2%
1940 72,634 5.5%
1950 84,512 16.4%
1960 106,790 26.4%
1970 126,529 18.5%
1980 137,330 8.5%
1990 156,198 13.7%
2000 182,791 17.0%
2010 197,559 8.1%

As of the census[16] of 2000, there were 182,791 people, 66,154 households, and 47,630 families residing in the county. The population density was 394 people per square mile (152/km²). There were 69,791 housing units at an average density of 150 per square mile (58/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 86.40% White, 5.23% Black or African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.92% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 5.36% from other races, and 1.78% from two or more races. 8.92% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 27.9% were of German, 14.7% American, 6.3% English and 6.2% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 66,154 households out of which 36.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.80% were married couples living together, 10.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.00% were non-families. 22.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.18.

In the county the population was spread out with 28.90% under the age of 18, 9.50% from 18 to 24, 29.80% from 25 to 44, 20.90% from 45 to 64, and 10.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 98.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $44,478, and the median income for a family was $50,438. Males had a median income of $35,907 versus $24,051 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,250. About 5.80% of families and 7.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.20% of those under age 18 and 6.50% of those age 65 or over.


The Indiana Avenue Bridge over the Elkhart River on Goshen's north side.


The Indiana Toll Road (Interstates 80/90) runs through the northern fringes of the county. Elkhart has two interchanges (exits 92 & 96) while Bristol and Middlebury have one apiece (exits 101 and 107 respectively.) U.S. Route 20 skirts the southern edges of Elkhart as the St. Joseph Valley Parkway until the freeway ends at the County Road 17 interchange. U.S. 20 continues eastward as a regular surface highway. County Road 17 is known as the "Michiana Parkway" and provides a connection between Goshen, U.S. 20, S.R. 120, the Elkhart East interchange (Exit 96) on the Toll Road, and US 12 in Michigan via M-217.

U.S. Highways 6, 33, and 131 also run through the county along with Indiana State Highways 4, 13, 15, 19, 119, and 219. U.S. 33 was once part of the original Lincoln Highway.

Other forms[]

A bus system known as the Interurban Trolley serves several municipalities throughout Elkhart County, connecting Elkhart and Goshen, as well asOsceola, Dunlap and Mishawaka, using buses that look like trolley cars. These buses are manufactured at government expense in RV facilities of Elkhart County. The county's only Amtrak and Greyhound bus stations are in Elkhart.

Elkhart and Goshen both have municipal airports and Amtrak makes four daily stops in Elkhart.


The county has seven public school districts, seven private schools, and one college. Several other colleges have satellite campuses in the city of Elkhart.

Public schools[]

The Elkhart Community Schools, the largest district, serve the populated northwest side of the county. The system includes one primary school (Roosevelt), thirteen elementary schools (Beardsley, Bristol, Cleveland, Eastwood, Hawthorne, Mary Beck, Mary Daly, Mary Feeser, Monger, Osolo, Pinewood, Riverview, and Woodland), three middle schools (North Side, Pierre Moran, and West Side), two high schools (Central and Memorial), one alternative school (Tipton Street Center), and the Elkhart Area Career Center.

The Middlebury Community Schools serve the northeast side of the county. The system includes four elementary schools (Jefferson, Middlebury, Orchard View, and York), one intermediate school (Heritage), one middle school, and one high school both named Northridge.

The Fairfield Community Schools serve the southeast corner of the county. The system includes three elementary schools (Benton, Millersburg, and New Paris) and one junior-senior high school named Fairfield.

The Wa-Nee Community Schools serve the southwest portion of the county. This system consists of three elementary schools (Nappanee, Wakarusa, and Woodview), one middle school, and one high school both named NorthWood.

The Baugo Community Schools serve the west central part of the county. That system is made up of two elementary schools (North and South), an intermediate, a junior high, and a high school each named Jimtown.

The Concord Community Schools serve the southeast side of the city of Elkhart and northwest Goshen. This system consists of four elementary schools (East Side, Ox Bow, South Side, and West Side), a junior high school, and a high school, both named Concord.

Finally, the Goshen Community Schools serve the central part of Elkhart County. This district is made up of seven elementary schools (Chamberlain, Chandler, Model, Parkside, Prairieview, Waterford, and West goshen), one middle and one high school both named Goshen.

Private schools[]

In addition to the public schools, there are eight private schools in the county. Kessington Christian School (grades PK-12) is in Bristol; Elkhart Christian Academy (grades K-12), Trinity Lutheran School (grades K-8), St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School (grades PK-6), and St. Thomas the Apostle School (grades K-8) are in Elkhart; while Bethany Christian (grades 6-12), Bashor Alternative School (grades 4-10), and Clinton Christian School (grades K-12) are in Goshen.

Higher education[]

Elkhart County has six institutions for higher learning, three of which are solely located in the county: Goshen College, a small Mennonite liberal arts college of 1000 students in Goshen; the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, which has been operating on Elkhart's south side since 1958: and Indiana Fundamental Bible College in New Paris.

The city of Elkhart also has four satellite campuses within its city limits. Bethel College of Mishawaka has a small satellite campus on the south side, Indiana Institute of Technology has a small operation on Middlebury Street, Indiana University South Bend has its "Elkhart Center" downtown, and Ivy Tech Community College has a campus as well.


County parks and lands[]

A view of the mill at Bonneyville Mill County Park.

Bonneyville Mill Park consists of 223 acres (0.902 km2) of rolling hills, marshes, and woodlands on the Little Elkhart River east of Bristol. The park offers hiking trails, fishing spots, shelters, and guided tours of Bonneyville Mill. The mill is still used to produce flour.

Ox Bow Park sits on 113 acres (0.457 km2) overlooking the Elkhart River midway between Elkhart and Goshen. The park offers hiking trails, shelters, disc golf, and an archery range.

River Preserve Park is 1,050 acres (4.25 km2) located between Benton and the Goshen Dam also on the Elkhart River. The park also offers several trails and shelters, and also provides some insight into the history of Indiana's waterways.

Treasure Island Park offers fishing and canoe access to the St. Joseph River west of Elkhart while the Turkey Creek (two miles south of Goshen) and Wolf Lake (two miles north of Goshen) sites have no public access but are described as "future parks."

The cities and towns of Elkhart County also have numerous parks and greenways.[17]


  • Bonneyville Mill, in the park of the same name east of Bristol, shows the inner workings of a grain mill.
  • Bristol is home to the Elkhart County Historical Museum.
  • The Jimtown Historic Museum depicts life in the 19th century.
  • The Midwest Museum of American Art is in Elkhart and has over 2500 works in its collection.[18]
  • The National New York Central Railroad Museum also in Elkhart tells the history of the New York Central, Penn Central, Amtrak and Conrail railroads.
  • The RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum is appropriately on the northeast side of Elkhart.
  • Ruthmere is a grand 1910 Beaux Arts mansion with significant fine arts and decorative arts collections, an arts reference library, vintage automobiles, gardens, and greenhouse. Collections include works of art by Rodin, Camille Claudel, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Samuel Morse, Jane Stuart, and other important European and American artists of the 19th and early 20th century.
  • "Time Was", a small historical museum that interprets life in late 19th and early 20th century Elkhart and includes collections of print material, photographs, objects and general memorabilia.

Sports team[]

Elkhart's North Side Gymnasium is home to the Elkhart Express International Basketball League team. However, after (2) successful/winning seasons, the Express did not play in 2009.

Annual events[]

A typical scene at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

  • Bristol holds an annual Homecoming Festival during the first week of July and nearby Bonneyville Mill Park hosts a harvest celebration every September.
  • Elkhart hosts the Elkhart Jazz Festival and the Rhapsody in Green Summer celebration. Both take place in June.
  • Goshen plays host to FreedomFest every 4th of July weekend. FreedomFest is held at the Goshen Municipal Airport and includes and air show.
  • Middlebury holds a Summer Festival every August.
  • Nappanee and Amish Acres host the Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival at the end of July.
  • Wakarusa hosts an annual Maple Syrup Festival every April.
  • The ELCO Theater in Elkhart, the Goshen Theater, and the Amish Acres Round Barn Theater in Nappanee host smaller productions throughout the year.

All of these events draw in many people every year, but the biggest event, by far, in the county is the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. This nine day event is the second largest county fair in the United States.[19]


The Elkhart Truth and The Goshen News are the two daily newspapers that serve the county while Bristol, Middlebury, and Nappanee all have weekly newspapers.

Elkhart County lies in the South Bend-Elkhart television market, the 89th largest in the United States as of 2008.[20] Two television stations, WSJV-TV (Fox) and WNIT-TV (PBS), are located in Elkhart along with several radio stations including WTRC, WLEG, WFRN and WVPE (NPR). Radio Stations WKAM and Goshen College's WGCS are located in Goshen.

Notable media mentions[]

  • On Palm Sunday, 1965, a flurry of severe weather moved through the county. After three tornadoes (one was a twin tornado) 66 people had died in Elkhart County alone. 137 would die on this day statewide.[21]
  • In 1999, officer Thomas Goodwin became Goshen's first, and to date, only police officer killed in the line of duty, at a shooting in the northwest part of town.
  • The Accra-Pac Factory in Elkhart has had two explosions from 1970-1997.
  • On December 6, 2001, Goshen was featured on national and international news networks due to a shooting at the Nu-Wood factory. While initial reports said that 35 people had been shot, the toll was much less: the gunman killed one co-worker, wounded 6 others, and then took his own life.
  • Much of "Devil's Playground", an Amish coming-of-age documentary by director Lucy Walker, was filmed in Elkhart County. The central character of the film, Faron Yoder, is kin to Elkhart County Vice President and District 2 Commissioner Mike Yoder, as well as District 3 Councilman Clarence J. Yoder.
  • On February 9, 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama held a town hall meeting at Concord High School in Elkhart to discuss the economic downturn and promote his economic stimulus package. He chose Elkhart because it has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.[22]
  • MSNBC has an online blog project entitled the "Elkhart Project" which consists of their reporters blogging about life in small-town America during the recession.

See also[]


  • Forstall, Richard L. (editor) (1996). Population of states and counties of the United States: 1790 to 1990 : from the twenty-one decennial censuses. United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Population Division. ISBN 0-934213-48-8. 
  1. ^ "RV Capital: Elkhart Indiana". 
  2. ^ Welcome to Northern Indiana Amish Country
  3. ^ "Elkhart County Indiana History and Pioneer Genealogy". 
  4. ^ "City of Elkhart: Origins of Elkhart". 
  5. ^ "St. Joseph County, MI - County History: Costly Victory". 
  6. ^ "History of Elkhart". 
  7. ^ "Census 2000 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Counties". United States Census. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  8. ^ "Continental Divides in North Dakota and North America". 
  9. ^ "Purdue Alumni Club of Elkhart County". 
  10. ^ a b "Monthly Averages for Goshen, Indiana". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  11. ^ "Welcome to the Official Site For Elkhart County, Indiana". 
  12. ^ "Welcome to the Official Site For Elkhart County, Indiana". 
  13. ^ "Welcome to the Official Site For Elkhart County, Indiana". 
  14. ^ "Indiana Senate Districts". State of Indiana. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  15. ^ "Indiana House Districts". State of Indiana. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  16. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "City of Elkhart". 
  19. ^ Purdue Alumni Club of Elkhart County
  20. ^ "New Nielsen market rankings released - Lost Remote TV Blog". 
  21. ^ "Weather Events: 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak Part II: Sunday Evening". 
  22. ^

Coordinates: 41°36′N 85°52′W / 41.60, -85.86

External links[]

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Elkhart County, Indiana. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.