Avilla History


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. 1844), is also in Avilla.  Another church in the Avilla town limits is Avilla Calvary United Methodist Church, which was founded in 1969.

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 organizations.

The Town shows its considerable “Avilla Pride” by hosting the annual town-wide spring clean-up, garage sale. the Avilla Freedom Festival, annual halloween costume contest, and annual Christmas events, including tree lighting with Santa.

Sources: A Pictorial History of Avilla, Marylan Krock, 1983, Avilla Chamber of
Commerce website, and The News-Sun, Reflections of the Century, 1900-1999

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