Colonel Eli Lilly: Inspiring a Legacy

Born in Maryland in 1838, Colonel Eli Lilly lived in Kentucky, Mississippi, Illinois and Greencastle, Indianabefore settling down to make his fortune in Indianapolis, later becoming one of the most influential residents the great city has ever seen. Creator of Eli Lilly and Company, which went on to become one of the great powerhouses among pharmaceutical companies, Colonel Eli Lilly was not only a businessman and entrepreneur, but a professional pharmacist and chemist as well.

Before he found his hugely successful niche in pharmaceuticals, Colonel Eli Lilly was a soldier of note for the Union Army in the Civil War. At the relatively young age of 24, he created the “Lilly Battery,” and fought alongside this group of soldiers as their captain for over a year. The Lilly Battery was involved in some important Civil War confrontations, such as the Chickamauga battle.

Colonel Eli Lilly found his destiny, however, back in Indianapolis. After his wife died of malaria, he was galvanized to found Eli Lilly and Company, which grew, from a quiet beginning, to a giant pharmacological giant by the time of his death in 1898, of cancer. His grandson, another Eli Lilly, became one of the most celebrated of businessmen and philanthopists in Indianapolis.

Colonel Eli Lilly’s body rests close to the remains of another of the long list of famous Indianapolis residents, President Benjamin Harrison, in Crown Hill Cemetery.

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, a beautiful and unique structure within Indy’s famous Monument Circle, houses the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. This facility is given over to the inspiring Indianapolis history of Hoosier participation in the American Civil War.