Just an hour from Indianapolis or Cincinnati via Interstate 74, Batesville easily could be just an attractive home for commuters. Not so, says Mayor Bill Abplanalp of this community on the northern edge of Ripley County. "We're not a bedroom community, People get involved here. People care about each other. And people rally around causes more than any place I've ever been."
His supporting evidence: an annual cancer walkathon that regularly brings in $50,000; the Batesville Music and Arts Festival that runs for three days each year; and a recent pancake-and-sausage breakfast that raised money for an infant in need of an operation.
"The big drawing card for us is country ambience," Abplanalp says about the town of 5,000 residents. "Instead of bridges and factories for back yards, we have country living at its best."
Pam Sander, president of the Batesville Chamber of Commerce, says, "Our motto, 'You can't beat Batesville,' is one of pride and positive accomplishment due to the vision and goals of the city's many involved citizens. This is a community where everyone works together to keep the excellent quality-of-life environment as the first and foremost priority on the city's agenda."
Founded in 1852 and named for Joshua Bates, the engineer and surveyor who laid out the town's 45 lots, Batesville is now Ripley Country's most populated city. The county seat, however, is Versailles.
Many of the first settlers in Batesville were furniture craftsmen, drawn by the abundant hardwood forests. In its early years, the town sported more than a dozen sawmills.
The lumber supply also drew Hillenbrand Industries, built around a casket company that was founded in Batesville in 1861. Today, Hillenbrand remains the area's largest employer and a significant community benefactor. It employs about 3,400 throughout southeastern Indiana, and its products and services have expanded to include a funeral-services group, health-care products and financial services.