The Town of Avilla was settled by Noah I. Hill sometime between 1836 and
1844. Hill kept both a store and tavern to accommodate travelers using the
north-south route of Lima Road (Old State Road 3). In its early days, the town
was referred to as “Hill Town”. The name “Avilla” was suggested by Judge
Edwin Randall, a prominent settler in the area. It was derived from the French
term for small villages, or “villas”.
Much of Avilla’s development was a result of the construction of the Grand
Rapids and Indiana Railway, and the Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Chicago
Railway. These railroads were critical links connecting Avilla to major regional
commerce centers such as Kendallville, Elkhart, and Fort Wayne.
Lima Road also played an important role in the development of the Town. The
road began in Fort Wayne and terminated in Lima (now Howe). It originated
from a well-established Indian path known as the Mongoquinon, or Big Squaw,
Trail. In 1847, the road was converted from a dirt road into a plank road and in
the early 1900s from a plank to paved road.
Two of the Town’s oldest landmarks are the St. James Hotel and Restaurant,
established in 1878, and the Provena Sacred Heart Home, which first opened
in 1896 and moved to its current location in 1976.
The Town also has deep religious roots. St Mary’s Catholic Church was
dedicated in 1878 and is one of the oldest parishes in Noble County. The
oldest Lutheran parish in the County, Immanuel Lutheran Church (est. 1969), is
also in Avilla.
Avilla has since blossomed into a community of over 2,400 residents. It is filled
with numerous organizations such as the American Legion, Lions Club, Boy
Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Knights of Columbus, Masons, PTO, and
other private associations. Its day-to-day activities and special events are due
to the hard work of the Town Council, Town employees, Chamber of
Commerce, multiple town boards, and other volunteer-based committees and
The Town shows its considerable “Avilla Pride” by hosting the Avilla Freedom
Festival, Easter Bunny Event, Halloween Party, Santa Clause Celebration, and
Town Garage Sale.
Sources: A Pictorial History of Avilla, Marylan Krock, 1983, Avilla Chamber of
Commerce website, and The News-Sun, Reflections of the Century, 1900-1999