The Society decided to purchase a tract of land three miles square to be surveyed into a city plot. The group, which was to purchase the land, was told to keep in mind a healthful climate, fertile soil, good water, ample timber, and a location near a navigable river and a railroad, if possible. Purchase of such a site was made in July 1857. The tract, containing 4,152 acres, was laid out in 392 town blocks with 7,328 building lots and 294 garden lots.
Before the settlers arrived, a name for the new town was selected. Initially called Helvetia, it was soon renamed Tell City, a name easier to pronounce and remember for English-speaking people. It was named for the legendary Swiss hero and liberator, William Tell.
Indicative of the foresightedness of Tell City's founders are the wide streets. They are named for great persons of the arts, letters and science: Washington, Gutenberg, Pestalozzi, Humboldt, Fulton, Schiller, Tell, Mozart, Watt and others.
With 100 years of recorded history, the citizens of Tell City decided to honor the early settlers and the founding of Tell City with a grand celebration. That centennial celebration was held August 10-17, 1958.
After the success of the Centennial, the Tell City Historical Society decided to sponsor a festival in 1959 as an experiment to determine if the community would support an annual celebration. The festival, appropriately named Schweitzer Fest (Swiss Fest), was a great success. Today, the festival remains one of Indiana's longest running community festivals.
On March 17, 1960,a Northwest Airlines Lockheed Electra lost a wing due to propeller whirl mode and crashed in southern Indiana near Tell City. All 63 on board including the crew perished. The victims were impacted in a 30-foot deep crater, which became their final resting place. A monument with the names of the victims and the date of the tragedy marks the grave.
Tell City is also home to the Tell City High School Marksmen. The school is in Class AA for football, basketball, and baseball. This past year the Lady Marksmen Cross Country team won the Bedford Semi-State.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.6 square miles (11.9 km²), of which, 4.6 square miles (11.8 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (1.08%) is water.
There were 3,404 households out of which 26.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.3% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.5% were non-families. 33.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.85.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 20.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,045, and the median income for a family was $41,300. Males had a median income of $31,908 versus $21,232 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,443. About 8.0% of families and 11.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.7% of those under age 18 and 8.8% of those age 65 or over.