History of Plainfield, Indiana

The area now known as Guilford Township once was an unbroken wilderness along White Lick Creek and was occupied by the Delaware Indians. Settlers began to arrive in numbers after the 1818 Treaty of St. Mary's secured the area for settlement.

The town of Plainfield came about in this way: a tract of land which included the area now known as Plainfield was obtained by Jeremiah Hadley of Preble County, Ohio, in 1822. Ten years later he sold it to his son, Elias Hadley. Levi Jessup and Elias Hadley laid out the town in 1839. Plainfield became incorporated as a town in 1839, but the incorporation charter was given up because of unsuccessful attempts at town government. Township trustees at the time felt township rule was preferable. On June 25, 1904, Plainfield was incorporated a second time as a town, and this time the incorporation stuck.

Over the years, Plainfield has become associated with the Quakers. Although they were not the first denomination of Christianity to settle in the Plainfield area, the Quakers quickly became well-established, and in 1858 when the Western Yearly Meeting of Friends was organized, their house of worship was set up on Plainfield's Main Street. Although the original building burned down, it was replaced and the Western Yearly Meeting still takes place there. The Plainfield "Quaker" is the mascot of the high school.

Plainfield has long been associated with the national road, U.S. 40, which goes through town as "Main Street." One incident which brought Plainfield national attention occurred in 1842 when President Martin Van Buren was spilled purposefully from his stagecoach into the thick mud of the highway. The practical joke came as a result of Van Buren's vetoing a bill from Congress to improve the highway, a move which angered Western settlers. When Van Buren came through Plainfield on a swing to shore up his popularity for the 1844 election, a group of perpetrators set up the incident. The elm tree whose roots caused the president's carriage to topple became known as the Van Buren Elm.

By 1850, the population of Hendricks County was 14,083. The people in the county developed a strong farming empire from the rich soil available in the region. Corn, wheat, oats, and soybeans were taken to Indianapolis and Cincinnati to sell at markets. Local Friends opened the town's first library at the Plainfield Meeting House and the Plainfield Quarterly Meeting established the first high school, Central Academy, which initially held classes at the town hall before constructing a building on North Vine Street in 1897. By 1885 there were 300 students in Indiana elementary schools, but the first graduating high school class in 1900 consisted of only 3 three students. In 1914, two-thirds of the population of the county lived in the country and farmers owned more than 90 percent of the taxable property. As more people moved to the county, Plainfield, along with Danville and Brownsburg, began to grow as commercial centers.

The decades culminating in the 1950s saw much change in Plainfield. In 1951 the general offices of Public Service Indiana (PSI) located there. That same year the first services were held at the new Maple Grove Baptist Church's cinderblock building. In 1953 St. Susanna Catholic Church laid the cornerstone for their building. Their membership was 55 families that year. Also in 1953 St. Mark's Episcopal Mission started in a meeting at the public library. In 1954 the township school system reorganized under a five-member school board of Guilford Township School Corporation, the Van Buren Grade School was established and the Plainfield Christian Church celebrated its 125th anniversary. The following year the church held their first service at a new building and counted 1,045 persons as members. By the end of the decade, the community had constructed a new high school and three more new churches had begun.

Brentwood Elementary School was completed in June 1963 and opened to students the next fall.  In the beginning, Brentwood held only ten classrooms.

Throughout the 20th century, Plainfield continued to grow steadily. Since the beginning of settlement in the area, Plainfield and Guilford Township have had the largest concentration of population in Hendricks County. According to 2013 records, the town's population exceeded 30,097 and its limits stretch from the Marion County line on the east into Liberty Township on the west, and from CR 100S in Washington Township on the north to south of I-70 on the south.