Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27, 1814

200 years ago today in Washington County, Indiana Territory, John DePauw breathed a sigh of relief as he completed the first sale of lots in his plat of Salem.  DePauw issued a deed to Zachariah Nixon for lots 41, 47, 48 and 50 in the Original Plat.  Nixon paid DePauw as the agent for the county the total sum of $80.50 for the 4 lots.  DePauw was getting anxious about the prospects for Salem as 53 days had passed since he had filed his plat without a single lot being sold.  With no public funds presently available to clear the platted streets, it was difficult for potential buyers to visualize how individual lots related to the overall plan for the county seat.  Zachariah Nixon also had concerns about Salem's prospects as he owned 320 acres immediately north and northeast of the Benjamin Brewer quarter section bought by DePauw for the county. Nixon must have figured that if lots in Salem started to sell then his adjoining land would be much more valuable. Therefore, by purchasing the first lots in Salem he was acting in his own self interest.
The lots bought by Nixon were located around the platted intersection of North Main Street and Hackberry Street with lot 47 being less than 150 feet from his south property line.  These lots today are occupied by Ginger Morris, Swifty Oil Company and CVS Pharmacy.

Zachariah and Martha Toms Nixon had emigrated from Sutton Creek, Perquimins County, North Carolina
in 1812 and immediately began buying land patents west of Royse's Lick and south of George Brock along Blue River and Brock Creek. The Nixons bought 8 land patents between 1812 and 1817. 3 of these tracts were originally registered by them while the other 5 were acquired by assignment from other settlers who had not made final payment for their tracts. By the time the location of Salem had been selected as the seat of government for Washington County, the Nixons owned land on 3 sides of the yet to be town.  Today, the Salem Schools, Cornerstone Hall, GKN Sinter Metals,  the Salem Wastewater Treatment Plant, Wendy Heights Subdivision and Western Hills Golf Course are all located on land originally settled and developed by Zachariah and Martha Toms Nixon.

The Nixons were one of many Quaker families who came to the Indiana Territory from northeastern North Carolina along the north shore of the Albemarle Sound. Perquimans and Pasquotank Counties had been occupied by Quakers since the late 1600s.  George Fox who was the founder of the Society of Friends visited this area while on a missionary trip from England and helped establish the Quakers in this area and their 5 testaments of faith: Truth, Equality, Peace, Integrity and Simplicity.  The presence of slavery in North Carolina became a moral quandry for the Quakers and many of them came to Indiana and Ohio when the area was opened for settlement because the Ordinance of 1787 adopted by the Continental Congress forbade slavery in the Northwest Territory.  With all 3 judges of the first Washington Circuit Court being of Quaker pursuasion, with William Lindley's house being the temporary seat of government and with the name Salem being derived from the Hebrew word for "peace", the new county and county seat were being nurtured by the Society of Friends.

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