Depending on how one viewed the size of Macksville, it was called either a hamlet or a village. Those were the designations of unincorporated areas. Bering unincorporated meant that the village or hamlet had little control over the laws it operated under, the taxes or fees the citizens, and how its lands used or organized. For Macksville it meant that Vigo county or Terre Haute exerted some type of control over its taxes, law enforcement and land use. For example, the area that is now McIlroy Avenue and runs from the National Avenue to Riggy and east to the levee was a gravel pit for the Terre Haute and if an individual or city of Terre Haute wanted to dig up other areas in Macksville not already platted it could do so.
That is just one of the reasons that some of Macksville’s leading citizens began to seek incorporation as a town in the 1880s. Some were worried that Macksville was just another town to most, one without a geographic or economic identity (there was another Macksville in Randolph County, Indiana). These were same folks pushing for not only incorporation, but a name change to West Terre Haute. This, they believed, would firmly “locate” Macksville in peoples mind and associate it with the robust Terre Haute economy. They hoped it would help encourage businesses to locate in Macksville. Still others wanted more control of the life in the village.
So, they set out to make it happen. Incorporation had to be led by individual citizens, not by a government entity. It usually began with getting enough signatures on a petition. In some cases a vote was scheduled. Then a committee was formed to put together a town charter spelling out government structure, law enforcement and fire protection services. When all that was done they applied to the county commissioners. If approved a “town was born.”
Most sources state that Macksville was incorporated as West Terre Haute in either 1888 or 1892. I do not believe that is entirely true, at least not “officially.” Here is why.
The first petition for incorporation was presented to the Vigo County Commissioners in early 1888 and was approved. The village was to have a one year trial period to test being a town. The Terre Haute Saturday Evening Mail trumpeted that “Maxville [the name was often spelled that way] is immediately to be incorporated and re-christened “West Terre Haute.” The county surveyor is now preparing a map of the little city.”
There were still those in Macksville not happy with this change of name or status. They worried it might mean an increase in their taxes. As so often happens, some just were not comfortable with change or did not want another layer of government over their lives. Discontent boiled over as many viewed the new town charter as unworkable.
Eventually, a vote on whether to discontinue the incorporation’s charter and revert to village status was set for June, 1889. Interestingly, though debate over the issue was heated, the vote showed that many just did not seem to care one way or another. Only 83 people bothered to vote. The anti-incorporation forces “won” by a single vote, 42 to 41. As one editor noted “The life of West Terre Haute was [as] short as it was uneventful.”
Another meeting was called to “wind up” the affairs of “West Terre Haute.” From the results of the meeting it appears that only the “antis” appeared. It was resolved that all bills owed by the town be paid, and any surplus be “divided pro rata among those entitled to it.” It did not say who those people were. The vote was unanimous.
So things were a muddle. In January, 1890 a meeting was again called to settle once and for all the village/town’s status. But the required 2/3 of citizens were not present. Still another. Same result. Seeming things were in limbo.
That setback did not mean the incorporation boosters went quietly away in the sleepy village. In 1892 they again petitioned the commissioners to incorporate Macksville as West Terre Haute. But this time the board refused the petition due to inaccuracies in the descriptions of what land should be part of the new town. Charter proponents appealed the decision to the Vigo Superior court. In September the judge held that the descriptions should be accepted with the consent of qualified voters. An election was set for October. Evidently, it was voted down.
Another attempt was made in August, 1894. The somewhat frustrated county auditor noted this was at least the third time the incorporation had come up. Would the citizens west of the river finally make up their mind once and for all? Finally, success. “West Terre Haute, if you please. Don’t
call it Macksvllle. The citizens of the little western suburb got together on
Tuesday and voted that they were tired of being a piece of Vigo county, merely,
and wanted to be a town. And a town she Is,” noted a newspaper. The editor wondered why there had been “much trouble about West Terre
Haute putting on long pants.” He decided to cross the bridge and find out.
He talked to several people in the “new” town of West Terre Haute, heard many different views. But the one that struck him as most true was given by a older citizen of Macksville. “An old voter told me that there are four saloons
over there, and as they are within two miles of Terre Haute, they each have to
pay $250.00 city saloon license. That is good for T. H. but rough on West T. H.
The anti-saloon people over there liked it because it kept down the number of
bar-rooms; the saloon keepers did not relish paying $250 to a city a mile
away when they did not have city benefits, and then they would only have to
pay $100.00 license to a town, and receive more benefits. That is the whole thing
in a nut shell.”
Ah, much then became clear.
So, Macksville officially became West Terre Haute in 1894. But one more thing. It would take five more years before the US postal department officially recognized the name and West Terre Haute replaced Macksville as the officialostal address.