Elkhart was inhabited by a few Indians in 1846 who hunted the abundant wild game of the area. In October, 1846 Isaac Walker Cory arrived with his family and settled in an area that came to be known as Cory Grove. Isaac wrote his father and brothers back in Elkhart, Indiana urging them to join him.

Elkhart was laid out in 1853 by J.W. Cory and named for Elkhart, Indiana. When the original town declined, the post office was moved one mile north to Ottawa and later to its present location. Elkhart was incorporated July 27, 1904.