Tale of Gas City
Understanding Nature through Speculative Narrative

Instructor: Stephen Sears
Individual Project
Year: 2014 Spring
Location: Grant County, Indiana


The bogs around lower Grant County were notorious for swallowing things up, and occasionally revealing things underneath.

It was in 1904 when the tenants of a farm near Lake Galatia were cleaning the land - the land was too marshy to grow any crops. Their shovel touched on something solid, it was a set of gigantic bones of a wooly mammoth. Amazed by the enormous quantity of the bones, they immediately sold it for 1,000 dollars to the Natural History Museum in New York City. The owner of the farmland sued his tenants for the ownership of the skeletons. The jury sided with the farmer, claiming the skeletons were part of the land.

The uncovering of the mammoth attracted many curious people. The bones represented an unknown past of their familiar land. Hasn’t this place always been like that? Marshy, flat landscape, bogs everywhere. It’s difficult to picture those gigantic creatures roaming in the landscape toward the end of the Ice Age. They used to be the owner of the land, and now they are part of the property.

The landscape of the mammoths was covered by ice sheets, miles thick in places. As the temperature increase, the glacier started to melt and deposited loads of sediment. This is the legacy the Great Ice Age has left for this place - rich soil and level topography, making this place an ideal farmland.

As the ice melted away, it also exposed the sediment left by a much older inland sea. The expanse of the sea was beyond imagination. The extremely abundant and diverse marine life eventually became the seemingly unlimited supply of petroleum.

In the same year of discovering the mammoth, the largest surviving factory in Grant County, Gas City Land Company, officially dissolved. Exhausted of natural gas, the land was returned into farm field. Only the debris from the abandoned factory became silent reminders of the old boom days.

Every guest house was full. With the anticipation of wealthy new life, people from all around the world flushed into Gas City. The founders of this initially unknown town have the ambition of turning it into a metropolis. Before they knew where the oil was, they bought all the land they could and laid out the town. The place seemed flourishing – everything was new. Construction was everywhere, and people camped outside waiting for their houses to be finished. Three new factories moved in within three months.

Those were great days.

For people who have lived in Grant County for many generations, the gas boom seems like a distant dream. Streets used to be full of voices with different accents; now those voices have vanished, like they never existed.

“A city with a future.” Promised on today’s website. But what kind of future are they dreaming about?­


Gas as Enterprise
Farmers were working in the field and living of the land. Tales of small towns became great metropolis because of gas spread to Grant county. Hardworking is always a virtue for people in the Midwest, so they started digging. Cities were placed on the map by the revolution of the gas industry.

Let Indianapolis and Chicago come here if they want to enjoy her products, they said.

Towns were laid out by visionary people, and soon Matthews grow from paper into reality. Land speculators seemed to rushed in to Matthews over night, and the population grow fabulously. A gigantic main street was assigned to be the center of the metropolis. At times the dream seemed to be true, the street was occupied by land speculators, workers, and farmers. There were not enough lodges to house everyone, so people lived in tents around the half-built town. Lots far away from the city were sold for expensive price. Factories popped up one by one.

The empty main street in Matthews is the only legacy of the gas boom, other parts of the city remained on paper.

Farm as Enterprise
Indians were the sole inhabitants of the land until the first white man set foot in Grant County in 1810.

Families came from the east coast, looking for new beginning in the unimproved land. All they have were small log cabins standing in the midst of a clearing, smoke curled up on the clay chimney. People raise hays to feed animals, raise corn and wheat to feed themselves, and grow flax to make clothes.

The landscape was covered by trees and grass. The new people see trees, they see timber. Forest became farm field. Hardly anyone knows what this place used to be.

Anything old was destroyed, farmers are so used to up to date equipments that they forgot the time when their parents must use what they have in the wilderness to built their home.

River as Enterprise
The earliest settlers chose the land along the river for the living water. People construct mill dam across the Mississinewa. Canoeing became a popular entertainment. Adventurous citizens built their own canoe and go over the mill dam.

Initially pearls were just luck found by children playing around the river bank, then pearl fishing became a carefree occupation during the summertime. When a button factory opened in Wabash County, more interest was aroused in pearl fishing. Fishermen put all their spare time hunting for pearls. They camped along the Mississinewa River, and occasionally they would have remarkable rewards.

Future Tale of Gas City

This is the year 3064. Worried that the human will eventually exhaust the fresh water resource, a group of scientists and archaeologists decided to explore the Great Lakes in the US region of the North America continent.

Though the detail has been long lost in history, archaeologists knew that the entire continent was abandoned because of a virus outbreak occurred in 2015. The virus wiped out a countless population, but left the heritage intact.

Flying over the very center of the US region, people were fascinated by the flat topography the ancient people have created.

While scientists were detecting the potential of fresh water in the Great Lakes, archaeologists decided to go along the river.

Standing at the threshold of history, the excited archaeologists chose this place to be their first excavation site.

They were amazed by how close to earth these ancient people have lived.

The landscape used to be highly maintained. Traces of a mysterious structure were found covering the entire continent. Archaeologists are still baffling about the strange pattern the structure formed. 

A reconstruction of ancient living cabin

These structures were found scattered around the entire site. Archaeologists believe they were used to transport clergies to higher places so they could be closer to God.

An exhibition was soon opened after the excavation. Many people came to reminisce about their ancestors’ pure and simple life.

Reconstruction of the archaeology site has began.

The site became a famous tourist attraction.