Franklin Township is located in the southeastern portion of Marion County. Laid out by the county commissioners in 1822, Franklin Township became a separate political unit with its division from Perry Township on May 12, 1824. It comprises approximately 42 square miles in area.

Three wooden frame houses in Acton, each with a different style of porch, 1908
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

The earliest settler is believed to have been William Rector, whose land lay along Buck Creek where Michigan Road (later S.R. 29, U.S. 421, and now I-74 and Southeastern Avenue) enters the township. The first election was held at his cabin where he was chosen justice of the peace on June 19, 1824. The first settlement was New Bethel, platted along the Michigan Road in 1834.

There was a store, pottery, a blacksmith, and a wagon maker. Smither Tavern, just west of the village, was an early stage stop, about 12 miles from Indianapolis.

In 1889, needing a name for the newly established post office (there was already a Bethel, Indiana), the town chose Wanamaker, honoring Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker, then U.S. postmaster general. Acton was platted in 1852 adjacent to the nearly completed Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railroad. Though originally called Farmersville, the town was purportedly renamed after local resident General Acton after the post office was opened in 1854.

Acton developed as a busy trading center with general stores, blacksmith shops, a lumber yard, feed mill, canning factory, a bank, three lodge halls, churches, and homes. The Acton Camp Ground, a 40-acre tract at the corner of Southport and Acton Roads, was established as a Methodist campground in 1859. Visitors came from a wide area for the late summer programs, and many well-known clergymen, educators, and politicians spoke there. Families rented or owned cottages on the grounds, some staying all summer. The grounds burned in 1905, destroying the large pavilion and 115 cottages. In 1902, the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Traction Company began service through the township, along Michigan Road through Wanamaker, then following the train tracks through Acton. The Interurban line, which extended to Greensburg, was discontinued in the mid-1930s.

I & C Traction Line - Acton Indiana, ca. 1910
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Though Franklin Township encompasses only 10 percent of Marion County, 40 percent of the underdeveloped farm ground is located here. Beech Grove annexed some land that was originally Franklin Township, including the Beech Grove Railroad Shop (Amtrak) and commercial property along Emerson Avenue. The Five Points area includes the H. A. Waterman Company, a century-old business, a few stores, and the nearby Marion County Fairgrounds.

Most of the development in Franklin Township has been in housing subdivisions west of Franklin Road. In fact, the township’s population has surged nearly 200 percent in recent decades. Very little property has been devoted to business or commercial development due to the township’s history of family farms coupled with intense civic efforts to maintain a rural atmosphere. However, the increase in residential developments has forced the school district to rely heavily on residential property taxes for revenue, which has dropped by almost 20 percent when the state mandated property tax caps that took effect between 2008 and 2011.

The main areas of retail and restaurant development in the township are restricted along Emerson Avenue on the west boundary of the township tat Emerson Avenue and I-465, Emerson Avenue and Southport Road, and Emerson Avenue and County Line Road.

The Franklin Township Community School Corporation operates one early learning center, seven elementary schools, two middle schools, and Franklin Central High School. Lutheran High School is located on Arlington Avenue.

Revised April 2021

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