Elkhart, located in Elkhart County, Indiana, was the hunting grounds of the Ottawa, Chippewa and Pottawatomie Indian tribes during the 1800s. The first Americans to settle here were Jesse Rush and Andrew Naffsinger, who established their homes on the northwest bank of the St. Joseph River in 1827.
Dr. Havilah Beardsley purchased a one-square-mile plot from Pierre Morain, a Pottawaomie Chief, for $1,500 in 1831. Since the island at the confluence of the Elkhart and St. Joseph Rivers
resembled an elk's heart, Beardsley named the land Elkhart.
The town of Elkhart was platted in 1832. With the arrival of the railroad in 1851, the population increased greatly. The town received its first dam in 1867, which was constructed across the St. Joseph River by the Elkhart Hydraulic Company. Electricity generation from the dam began in 1870. The electricity and water supply assured quick growth of the town. With the growth, the demand for power increased leading to the construction of a new dam in 1912. In 1889, Elkhart became the second city in the world to implement the electric streetcar system.
Elkhart is home to C.G. Conn, a leading manufacturer of brass band musical instruments, which was established here in 1873. The Sousaphone was invented in Elkhart. Another noted company of Elkhart origin was the Miles Medical Company. It was founded by Dr. Franklin Miles in 1884. This company later produced famous products such as Alka-Seltzer and One-A-Day vitamins. The company was purchased by Germany-based Bayer AG, in 1979. Currently Elkhart is home to numerous recreational vehicle (RV) manufacturers.
Ruthmere is a museum that preserves the 1908 mansion of the prosperous Beardsley family. The
National New York Central Railroad Museum, founded in 1987, preserves and displays railroad items of both local and national importance. The Midwest Museum of American Art is located in a
renovated neo-classical style bank building.
The Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary is an outgrowth of Goshen College, established in 1894. Ivy Tech State College also has a campus in Elkhart. Elkhart General Hospital was founded in the first years of the 20th century.