New Palestine, originally known as Sugar Creek, is a town in southern Hancock County. Johnathon Evans platted the town with 15 blocks and 36 lots on October 1, 1838. A post office was established in 1861 under the name of Sugar Creek. The railroad and express service began in 1869 in Palestine. A petition for incorporation under the name New Palestine was dated May 22, 1871, and voted upon during the June 1871 board of county commissioners’ session.

Several 2-story stores and businesses, mostly brick, line a wide, unpaved street.
Main Street, New Palestine, 1916 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Years after incorporation the town had difficulty with its name. Kosciusko County, in the northern part of Indiana, had a town with a post office called Palestine, which also caused confusion since the railroad and express service in New Palestine continued to use the name Palestine. Furthermore, the post office continued to use the name Sugar Creek. Through the efforts of Indiana, U.S. congressman William D. Bynum, the name of the town, railroad, and post office officially became New Palestine on January 16, 1889.

At the time it was incorporated, New Palestine had a population of 279, with 70 qualified voters. Blacksmiths and mechanics were among the town’s first businesses. Many of New Palestine’s early residents were of German origin. Early churches in the area included what became the New Palestine Methodist Episcopal Church (1830), the German Methodist Episcopal Church (1851), the New Palestine Disciples of Christ (1870), and the German Evangelical Zion’s Church (1887). New Palestine’s first bank opened in 1892. In addition to the railroad, the town had gravel roads with three toll booths until 1893.

Exterior view of a church with a large bell tower off the side.
Methodist Episcopal Church, New Palestine, ca. 1915 Credit: The Indiana Album: Riley Case Collection View Source

From 1880 to 1990, the population of New Palestine remained stable. However, the town’s population has more than doubled since 1990 because of available land for new residential construction and the perception of quality schools. Most residents commute to Marion County for work, but the 2020 census data estimates for the economy of New Palestine suggest the town employs approximately 1,700 people in small businesses including professional services, personal services, auto repair, consulting, and construction.

Area students enroll in the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock system which includes three elementary schools, one junior high school, one intermediate school, and one high school. The district includes Brandywine and Sugar Creek townships, both covering ground well outside New Palestine town limits. To accommodate growth, Southern Hancock reopened a shuttered school and shifted students in grades five and six from elementary schools to its intermediate school.

In 2020, an additional 500 homes were planned in 10 new and expanding housing additions within the school district. An expansion to the high school will further address the needs of the growing student body.

Revised July 2021

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