“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Greencastle in Putnam County, Indiana — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

The Founding of the Lilly Family in Greencastle, Indiana

The Founding of the Lilly Family in Greencastle, Indiana Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Courtesy:: Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012
1. The Founding of the Lilly Family in Greencastle, Indiana Marker
Inscription.  It is fitting that we pause to remember that a long time ago some most unusual people came out of the East into the wilderness of Indiana to settle in the backwoods town of Greencastle. Here, these pioneers would give freely of their intellectual, spiritual, and cultural talents. Today we are the recipients of their labors and their sacrifices. They are the founders of the rich cultural heritage we cherish today.

Among these people were Gustavus Lilly (1814 - 1870) and his wife Ester Kirby Lilly (1820 - 1885). Natives of Baltimore, Maryland, they arrived in Greencastle in 1852, bringing with them their son Eli Lilly, born in Baltimore on July 8, 1838. The family had left the East and moved first to Kentucky, where they spent 13 years in the Bluegrass region. There, four more children were born to Gustavus and Ester. Gustavus was a carpenter and contractor by trade, and made a good living for his family. But a growing concern for the problem of slavery undoubtedly helped him decide to move his family north. They were devout Methodists and had heard of the small, fledgling Methodist college called Indiana Asbury University (now DePauw
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University), which had been founded in Greencastle. Their son Eli in 1853 enrolled at Indiana Asbury Preparatory School.

Within a few years of his arrival in Greencastle, Gustavus built a large home for his growing family in the center of the 700 block on the south side of East Washington Street. By 1859 there were eight children: Eli, Corilla, Anne, James, Amanda, Henrietta, Gustavus, and Alice Kirby. This historic house burned in the winter of 1948.

By the summer of 1854, Eli Lilly had decided to become a pharmacist, and he began his apprenticeship with a druggist at The Good Samaritan Drug Store in Lafayette, Indiana. After completion of his apprenticeship in late 1859, he returned to Greencastle to open his own drug store on Courthouse Square, at the corner of Washington Street and Indiana Street. But the Civil War intervened, and Eli Lilly’s life would change forever.

After the Civil War, Eli returned to Greencastle in 1865. Later he, his wife Emily, and young son Josiah Kirby moved to Port Gibson, Mississippi, where Eli had purchased a cotton plantation. But the crops failed, and his partner cheated him of his investment. Tragically, his wife became ill of malaria and died. Eli then brought his five-year-old son Josiah back to Greencastle, where the boy lived with his grandparents while Eli
"Heritage Wall" image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Courtesy:: Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012
2. "Heritage Wall"
found employment in Indianapolis.

On November 23, 1869, Eli married Marcia C. Sloane. To them was born a daughter on January 25, 1871, and she later died in Indianapolis in 1883. During these turbulent years, Eli lost his father Gustavus in 1870. He was unsuccessful in several business ventures, but on May 10, 1876, he opened the doors of a small shop on Pearl Street in Indianapolis. A sign read simply: “ELI LILLY”. It was here that the future great Lilly pharmaceutical company was born. On June 10, 1876, the 15-year-old Josiah Kirby, who like his father had also attended Indiana Asbury Preparatory School, left Greencastle to join his father. He was the fourth employee of the company. When Colonel Eli Lilly died on June 8, 1898, this Greencastle boy would take over the direction of the Lilly company and successfully lead it into the 20th Century. Today, Eli Lilly and Company is a world-renowned pharmaceutical and research company.

Gustavus and Esther Kirby Lilly lived out their lives in Greencastle and are buried here in beautiful Forest Hill Cemetery. It was here in Greencastle that the saga of the great Lilly family began. Eli Lilly’s formative years were spent here. He walked its streets, attended school, and made lasting friendships. From here, he went off to the Civil War to return with high distinction as a colonel. He was married
Full View - - "Heritage Wall" image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Courtesy:: Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012
3. Full View - - "Heritage Wall"
in Greencastle, and his son Josiah was born here. The saga of the Lilly family has continued to unfold with each generation.
Erected by Heritage Preservation Society.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Churches & ReligionEducationIndustry & CommerceScience & MedicineSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1950.
Location. 39° 38.634′ N, 86° 51.813′ W. Marker is in Greencastle, Indiana, in Putnam County. Marker is at the intersection of South Vine Street and East Washington Street (U.S. 231), on the right when traveling south on South Vine Street. Located on "Heritage Wall" in the bottom row - - fifth from the right. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Greencastle IN 46135, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. John Dillinger Was Here (here, next to this marker); The Founding of Greencastle, Indiana (here, next to this marker); Women in Greencastle History (here, next to this marker); Donald J. Cook (1915 - 2005) (here, next to this marker); Abraham Lincoln's Biography (here, next to this marker); Putnamville United Methodist Church (here, next to this marker); Eli Lilly & The Civil War (1861–1865 )
Other View - - "Heritage Wall" image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Courtesy:: Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012
4. Other View - - "Heritage Wall"
(here, next to this marker); Julian Family Home (here, next to this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Greencastle.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . .  Eli Lilly - Wikipedia. (Submitted on June 23, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.)
Credits. This page was last revised on November 19, 2019. It was originally submitted on June 15, 2012, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. This page has been viewed 1,250 times since then and 280 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on June 15, 2012, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Sep. 25, 2023