JULY 27, 1814
The residents of upper Lost River Township were speculating who would be appointed by the judges of the Washington Circuit Court to be the overseer of the construction of the road leading from Beck’s Mill to the Cincinnati Trace near Freeman’s Corner. Before the formation of Washington County, the Lee, Roberts, Finley, Carter, Maxwell, Denny and Lewis families, among others, had difficulty in getting their wagon loads of corn to Beck’s Mill for grinding. These families had made land claims in the most northwestern part of the territory opened for settlement by the Treaty of Grouseland. They were encouraged that a seat of government would soon be closer to them than Corydon as they now realized the hardships of being on the upper branch of Lost River at the very edge of the frontier of the Indiana Territory.
In April of 1814, Lee and his neighbors petitioned the Washington Circuit Court for the establishment of a public road running “from Major Beck’s mill to Major Jesse Roberts and then on the Sulphur Spring”. The court appointed Samuel Lewis, John Maxwell and Clement Lee or any two of them to view the way and recommend the course of the road. Justice of the Peace Samuel Lewis and Clement Lee were the appointees who performed this public task. They filed their report in mid-July 1814. The route ordered to be marked was described as follows:
“A road running with or nearly with the old trace from Beck’s Mill to Lost River, thence in a straight line or nearly so to the Cincinnati Trace about a half mile from the Sulphur Spring.”
The course of this pioneer road probably can be traced, in part, on a Washington County Highway map today. Zink Road runs on a northwest vector and then connects with Douglas Church Road. A prolongation of the general direction of this road connects with West Washington School Road north of what was then a large wetland in the northern part of the Barrens. This part of the West Washington School Road in Vernon Township runs in a northwesterly direction leading to Lost River. That part of the road that ran in a “nearly so” straight line undoubtedly paralleled the upper branch of Lost River to the Cincinnati Road.
The location of the Cincinnati Road through Washington County is presently unknown. No reference to it has been found in the original survey records that laid out the congressional township and section grid in 1806 through 1808. It may have run through Driftwood Township in what was to become Jackson County in 1815 but then one must speculate how it crossed the Driftwood Fork of White River or the Muscatatuck River. It must have changed course early as its description by a traveler in the 1820s has it running from Vienna to Salem to Paoli. The Cincinnati Trace was originally blazed by Captain Ephraim Kibbey in 1799 at the direction of General Arthur St. Clair who was the governor of the Northwest Territory. Now that a peace of sorts had been established in 1795 with the Treaty of Greenville, St. Clair wanted a way to get troops from Fort Washington in Cincinnati to Fort Knox in Vincennes. The Secretary of the Northwest Territory at this time was William Henry Harrison. He had his eyes on becoming the Governor of a new territory to be formed out of the Northwest Territory centered around Vincennes. Harrison’s father in law was John Cleve Symmes who owned a land grant around Cincinnati of over 200,000 acres. One can wonder if Harrison helped promote the development of the road so that his future desired residence on the Wabash could have access to his father in law’s resources.
The early course of the Cincinnati Trace did take it through present day Orleans, Indiana. This is known because the description of the road established for Washington County, Indiana Territory in 1814 to run from Beck’s Mill to Major Jesse Roberts says that the Cincinnati Trace was about one-half mile from the “sulphur spring”. The sulfur spring in question was not one of the springs in French Lick or West Baden. This sulfur spring was shown on mid 19th century maps to be on the Hoffstetler farm immediately north of Orleans. The location of this former spring would now be on land owned perhaps by the Orleans Schools.
ROAD FROM MAJOR ROBERTS TO BECK'S MILL