Beyond the Urban Desolation: Exploring Indiana’s Rural Remnants

While the prevailing notion when examining abandonment fixates on decaying urban landscapes, there is an understated allure to venturing off the beaten path and immersing oneself in the pastoral void of the Midwestern countryside.

While the prevailing notion when examining abandonment fixates on decaying urban landscapes, there is an understated allure to venturing off the beaten path and immersing oneself in the pastoral void of the Midwestern countryside.

More commonplace, however, is the compulsion to document the familiar – to capture the oft-chronicled narratives etched into the crumbling facades of cities like Gary, Indiana. This erstwhile hub of industry, nestled within the Rust Belt region, has witnessed the gradual erosion of its economic bedrock over the past half-century. Diminishing opportunities and a pervasive sense of despondency have catalyzed a troubling confluence of poverty and crime.

Yet beyond the blight that has come to define Gary and the derelict asylums scattered across its larger metropolitan areas, Indiana’s true essence lies in its vast expanses of farmland and dense woodlands. Partitioned into counties and townships, each subdivision retains its distinct character, and my journey led me to the rural hinterlands of Wayne and Randolph Counties – regions far removed from the state’s urban centers, where population growth stagnated in the early 20th century.

Embarking northwestward from Richmond along U.S. Route 35, with no predetermined destination, I traced the remnants of the defunct Cincinnati, Richmond, and Muncie Railroad, later subsumed by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and now repurposed as the Cardinal Greenway bike path. My meandering route brought me to the unincorporated town of Williamsburg, renowned for its Lions Club community park and the former Green Township School, which commanded a commanding presence.

The tri-level school, likely constructed in the 1920s, embodied the symmetrical design paradigm prevalent in rural architecture of that era. This standardized blueprint typically accommodated six to eight classrooms and administrative offices on the upper two floors, with workshops and storage relegated to the basement. A modest auditorium occupied the rear central portion. The façade featured two small concrete reliefs and patterned elements adorning the outer edges. At the same time, the entrance remained relatively unadorned, save for the etched “Green Township Public School” inscription above the doorway.

The interiors exuded a spartan aesthetic characteristic of rural educational institutions. Unembellished plaster walls were punctuated by decorative brick blocks extending approximately five feet from the floor. The classrooms boasted hardwood floors, and what appeared to be pine moldings and trims, all stained a deep, rich hue. The administrative office housed a fireplace, a rare amenity.

Legend has it that unveiling the new gymnasium propelled the newly christened Yellow Jackets to an undefeated season, with fans flocking to the bleachers in droves. Just beyond the gymnasium doors lay an intriguing artifact: a concrete horn.

Williamsburg’s tryst with radio technology commenced in 1927 when Clifford Duke crafted this gargantuan loudspeaker from concrete, meticulously sanded to an alabaster-like smoothness. Modeled after the “Baldwin Grand” horn, the speaker stood an imposing 9 feet tall and had a 30-inch diameter bell. Its resonant tones could be heard up to 3 miles away as it broadcasts news, game scores, and other items of local interest.

Though the school has long since closed its doors, the building now serves as the Williamsburg Community Center, remaining a source of pride for Green Township. Several classrooms are dedicated to preserving the region’s local history, and the basketball court – refurbished in 2002 by the Cincinnati Floor Company – hosts various events and gatherings.

From Williamsburg, I ventured northward towards Modoc, situated in Randolph County along the former Indiana, Bloomington & Western Railway (IB&W). Although the railroad was later absorbed into Penn Central, it had been abandoned since the 1970s, and any businesses reliant on its operations had long since vanished.

Legend says that Modoc derived its name from a cigar box bearing the moniker or the Modoc Indian tribe of northern California. Whichever tale rings true, the town now boasts a population of less than two hundred residents, and its downtown is a veritable ghost town. The photographs below capture the former bank, later repurposed as a storefront and residence.

Little remains of Modoc’s storied past. Any etched name has likely been obscured by a false panel, with the sole remnant being the night depository drop box adjacent to the front door.

As the evening sun dipped toward the horizon, I set out eastward, tracing the lingering vestiges of the former IB&W railway, eventually arriving in Carlos, an unincorporated town nestled amid vast, empty plains. It is in these quiet enclaves that a strong sense of community endures, where little changes for decades on end, preserving a way of life. One such discovery was what may have been the IB&W freight house, now repurposed for storage. A rusting sign outside emblazoned with a chevron logo – initially mistaken for the Chevron petroleum company – bore the word “Feeds.”

It is nearly impossible to visit Carlos without being captivated by the towering presence of the Farmers Grain Company silo, undoubtedly the largest structure in the county, its summit adorned with a castle-like motif.

Outward appearances and the dearth of information from local libraries suggest that the Farmers Grain Company has likely been abandoned for 30 years or more. The silo was most likely dependent on the now-disused IB&W railway, which fell into disrepair during that same time period and beyond.

As daylight rapidly faded in the chill of March, I pressed eastward to Lynn, following the IB&W, and then southward along the former Penn Central line back to Richmond. It was a fascinating odyssey, revealing a side of Indiana seldom explored—a realm where rural closures and abandonments can be just as compelling, if not more understated, than their urban counterparts.


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My sixth great grandfather William Johnson founded Williamsburg. Last summer my mother and I were fortunate enough to drive through it (we live in Florida). We also found William Johnson’s grave, which is next to a beautiful Quaker Church a few miles outside of town.

I live across the street from the old bank in Modoc.My house was the first building built in Modoc,it was a hotel when first built. 2 houses to the north is the old P.O.,that was turned into apartments.There used to be a book about the history of Modoc,written by Lloyd Whitehead,a poet with a handful of published books of poetry and former resident of Modoc (Idelivered the newspaper to him in my teens,when he was in his nineties).The school(which is on its way to being closed soon) used to have a copy of it.Its very hard to find now.

I know it has been a few years but I can not find this on a map and I was interested in checking it out. I am from the Dayton area and will traveling in that direction. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on how to find this place?

My wife is from Richmond, we lived there a number of years back. Lots of history & neat old architecture.

When we lived there, I always said, if Richmond were only about 30 miles closer to Dayton or Indy it would be filled with wealthy people commuting to those large cities. Instead it is a rustbelt city slowly fading away.

Krisgg March 27, 2012 We lived just north of Cairo, in the Anna/Jonesboro area a few years ago. We accidentally found Cairo while out dnriivg in the area one day. Our reaction was very similar to yours. I thought we had driven onto a movie set of a deserted town. There were a couple of banks, which seemed odd, only 1 or 2 restaurants in the entire town, one was just a walk-up to the window type, locally owned. There were no typical fast-food establishments, and just one small gas station. It was eerie and we were just stunned as we drove around the town. It was unlike anything we’ve seen before or since.

Nice post!

I used to drive that route daily when I lived in Muncie and worked in Richmond. There is some interesting abandonment along the railline from Richmond to Muncie. BTW that route is US 35 (not 33) but thats only a small quibble. Another interesting juant would be to travel down the Whitewater River valley from Richmond to Abington and on to Liberty. Not along a rail line but historic nonetheless.

Thanks for the correction, it is being made right now. I should have known better – I was looking over the map as I was writing the entry!

I've been through the Whitewater River valley a few times – I still have yet to fully explore much of the back roads in the area, but it is quite scenic with a lot of railroad and canal remnants.

Interesting piece!! Please do more stories and photographs of rural small towns. When I travel, I like to take the backroads, just so I can go through small rural towns like these. They are so fascinating. One suggestion I might make is to head down to Eastern Kentucky and explore some of those small Appalachia towns back in the hills. It's a whole different world down there, but fascinating at the same time. Keep up the good work!

Thanks! I enjoy rural exploration more than anything, and I find that many of these areas have been pretty much "off limits" to explorers. Too far between abandonments, too few amenities, and a general lack of knowledge about the area due to a lack of information. It's hard to travel down to a lot of these areas, and much of it is guesswork or random chance – or pure luck. I remember making a long trip to eastern Kentucky one day and finding only a few small tipples and a school, but when I went to western West Virginia, I came across about 8 schools and countless homes. Odd how that works out!

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