History of Patriot, IN

Elwood Meade


Elwood Mead is doubtlessly the most widely and nationally known man to come from the community as the following excerpt from the Indianapolis Star will show:

In the little town of Patriot, in Switzerland county, Indiana, 72 years ago, there was born to Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Mead a son, named Elwood Mead, who is now known throughout the United States and in foreign countries as one of the outstanding civil engineers of the day. Some men begin to think of easing up their activities at 70. Mead looks and acts like a man who is just starting.

No wonder he looks and acts that way. The biggest task of his career faces him. He is to build the Hoover Dam in the Colorado river, the largest dam ever conceived in the United States. The job falls to Mead because he is U.S. commissioner of reclamation. When the dam is completed there will be displayed on the structure a brass plate reading: "Elwood Mead, engineer in charge."

This man, who spent his boyhood and youth in southern Indiana and got his education at Purdue University, can look on monuments to his engineering skill in many places. In 1907, when Australia had a serious water problem, the Australian commission asked him to solve the problem and he devoted eight years to that work.

The United States reclamation service was in need of help and one day Mead got a note from Calvin Coolidge asking him to take hold of the service and straighten out the tangles. Mead has since been at  the head of the reclamation service. Mead entered Purdue University in 1878, and four years later was graduated.

For years Elwood Mead occupied a chair in the faculty of Leland and Stanford University and he was the authority called upon and sent to determine the cause of the great dam break disaster in California a few years ago.

The Floods

Patriot suffered many devastating floods.

1883 - One of the first recorded floods to invade Patriot occurred in 1883 when the river reached a depth of 66.3 feet on the Cincinnati Gauge.  It was reported that 5 or 6 homes were swept off their foundations.

1884 - In the spring of 1884 Patriot was again hit with an even more devastating flood with a depth of 71.1 feet.  Many of the victims of the flood the previous year had not fully recovered when this flood hit.

1907 - In January of 1907 the Ohio River rose to its highest level since 1884 to a depth of 65.5 feet.  Damage was again substantial as the homes of more than 100 families were flooded.

1913 - In 1913 Patriot saw two significant floods.  In January the river went over 62 feet and on April 4th the river reached 70.7 feet.  From March 25th to March 26th, the river rose from 29.3 to 50.3.  The paper reported the businesses in the main part of town to be under at least 6 feet of water.  Half of the businesses and 95 percent of the homes are filled with water.

1937 - As bad as the 1913 flood was, it was only a sampling of what was to come.  In 1937, with heavy rain up the entire Ohio Valley, the Ohio River reached a record level of 81 feet in Patriot.  Twenty-one business houses are completely submerged and 94 dwellings are inundated.”  The library was lifted off its foundation and carried more than a block down Main Street and deposited on its side.


1997 - When the Ohio River returned to the streets of Patriot in 1997 with a crest of 65 feet, she found little to claim.  By 1997 Patriot was only a fraction of what it had been.  Most of the business district and many of the homes were long gone.

The Schools

This is the original school.  It operated 1889-1969.


This was built as the new high school 1924-1936.


This was the new high school 1937-1978  It was destroyed by fire in 1978


The Business Community

downtownbusinessIn the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s patriot had a thriving business community. The village had 550 inhabitants with 8 dry goods and grocery stores, 1 drug store, 2 saloons, 1 flour mill, 1 distillery, 1 school, 2 churches, 2 tin shops, 2 shoe shops, 1 saddle and harness shop, 3 blacksmiths, 2 wagon shops, 3 carpenters, 2 cooper shops, 2 stone masons, 2 milliners, 2 lawyers, 2 physicians, 3 notaries, 1 justice of the peace, 1 butcher, 1 barber, 2 job printers, and 6 secret societies.

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