Sunday, September 28, 2014

SEPTEMBER 28, 1814

200 years ago today in Washington County, Indiana Territory, a 22 year old man named Harry Mingo was living as a slave on the farm of Henry Wyman in the Dutch Creek neighborhood. Although slavery was prohibited in the Northwest Territory by Article VI of the Northwest Ordinance adopted by the Continental Congress in 1787, there had been constant lobbying for laws allowing slavery in the Indiana Territory since it was formed in 1800.  Article VI read as follows:

          “There shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary Servitude in the, said territory otherwise than in the punishment of crime, whereof the Party shall have been duly convicted: Provided always that any Person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such a fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.”

On August 26, 1805, the territorial assembly adopted a law by which the circumvention of Article VI was made possible.  It was made legal to bring into the territory "negroes or mulattoes of and above the age of fifteen years, and owing service and labors as slaves." This law was soon given further support when the second session of the territorial legislature adopted an act on December 3, 1806, providing for the punishment of slaves for leaving their homes or for "riots, routs, unlawful assemblies, trespasses and seditious speeches." Punishment for the harboring of runaways slaves was also provided.  In 1808, another act was passed by which punishment was provided for anyone who entertained or helped in any way a slave without the written permission from the master.

With this legal framework in place, Henry Wyman appeared before the Clerk of the Clark Circuit Court in Jeffersonville on March 8, 1808 with Harry to register his compliance with the 1805 law.  At this time, the Dutch Creek area was part of Clark County, Indiana Territory as Harrison County was not formed until December 1, 1808 and Washington County was not formed until January 17, 1814. 
The Clark County Clerk at this time was Samuel Gwathmey who had previously served in the Territorial Assembly and later became the Registrar of the United States Land Office.  Wyman asserted to Gwathmey that Harry was a “Negro Boy about 16 years old held by him as a slave in Kentucky”.  Wyman further affirmed that Harry was to serve him as a slave until March 9, 1868 under the 1805 Indiana Territorial law.  This meant that the law appeared to recognize that Harry Mingo as a minor child could make an agreement that he would be under a contract of indenture until he was 76 years of age.

When Harry Mingo reached the age of 21, he sought out legal advice about the legality of his servitude.  Among other ensuing events to his contract of indenture, was an act of the Indiana Territorial legislature which repealed the law of 1805.  On July 15, 1815, Mingo appeared before the Judges of the Washington Circuit Court and file for a Writ of Habeas Corpus against Henry Wyman.  Wyman was ordered to appear in court on the next day and with the assistance of a lawyer moved to dismiss the writ.  The court for reasons unstated discharged the writ and assessed court costs to Mingo.  Mingo returned a few days later and asked that the court appoint legal counsel to further assist him as he was an indigent.  Judges Coleman and Kitchell granted the request and appointed William Hendricks and Alexander Meek to be his attorneys.  William Hendricks was soon to become the first Representative of the State of Indiana in the U. S. Congress. Hendricks and Meek then filed for another writ.  Wyman who was represented by Adam Dunn and John M. Thompson immediately filed a bill of exceptions.  Henry Wyman’s attorneys argued among other things that Mingo was not entitled to have court appointed lawyers as he was a “stout athletic man of about the age of 21 or 22 years of age”.  The judges denied the bill of exceptions and allowed the writ proceedings to continue.  Therefore, the court decided to allow the action which was contesting the validity of Harry Mingo’s servitude to continue.

Mingo’s attorneys then filed a new civil proceeding against Wyman seeking damages for trespass, assault and battery and false imprisonment.  Wyman was immediately served and appeared before the Washington Circuit Court on July 22, 1815.  Wyman must have been dissatisfied with his previous lawyers as he appeared in court this time with Henry Hurst and Davis Floyd as his attorneys. Wyman’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the new complaint because of the contract entered into by the parties on March 8, 1808 under the territorial law of 1805. Mingo’s attorneys made a demurrer which meant that they were taking the position that the law of 1805 and/or the contract of 1808 were not valid.  Mingo’s attorneys then moved for a change of venue to Harrison County which was granted by Judges Coleman and Kitchell.  As Corydon was the territorial capital, the court in Harrison County was more convenient for the attorneys and would place in the case in a community where many citizens had challenged William Henry Harrison’s attempts to legalize slavery in Indiana in previous years.  I presently do not know who the case preceded in Harrison County.

However, the issues between Mingo and Wyman were not completely resolved as Mingo filed a new suit in Washington County during the April 1816 term of court alleging trespass and assault and battery as had the suit in 1815.  This time Wyman made no defense and the court issued a writ of inquiry which was a procedure to impanel a jury to assess damages when a judgment was taken by default.  Court records contain no further entries in regard to this matter.  When Indiana became a state in late 1816, Article XI, Section 7 of the Indiana Constitution made slavery and involuntary servitude illegal.  The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in 1820 that a slave purchased before the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, was freed by the provisions of the new state constitution.  [Lasselle v. State]. The judge making this decision was Isaac Newton Blackford who had served as the first Clerk and Recorder of Washington County, Indiana Territory.  In 1821, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that a personal services contract for servitude similar to the one of Harry Mingo was contrary to the new state constitution.  [In Re Clark]. The judge making this decision was Jesse Lynch Holman who had served as a judge for the judicial circuit including Washington County, Indiana Territory from late 1814 until 1816. 

In the 1820 census, the household of Henry Wyman listed no black residents and Harry Mingo was not listed as the head of any household in Washington County.  One can hope that Harry Mingo achieved the freedom he so courageously pursued through the early court system of the Indiana Territory.  As for Henry Wyman, the former Hessian soldier who became a large landowner along Dutch Creek and held Harry Mingo in a state of involuntary servitude, he later became indirectly connected to the Underground Railroad in Washington County, Indiana.  That story will be the subject of a future post.

                                                 GRAVE OF HENRY WYMAN


                                              WILLIAM HENDRICKS
                                              ATTORNEY FOR HARRY MINGO

                                          ISAAC NEWTON BLACKFORD
                                         FIRST JUSTICE OF INDIANA SUPREME COURT

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SEPTEMBER 17, 1814

200 years ago today in Washington County, Indiana Territory, Basil Prather was appointed to become the Clerk/Recorder of Washington County by Governor Thomas Posey. The first Clerk/Recorder, Isaac Blackford, had recently been appointed to be the judge of the 1st territorial district by Governor Posey.  As Blackford had also been the principal clerk of the Territorial House of Representatives, he eagerly accepted this appointment leaving a vacancy in the Washington County position.

County records are unclear as to which Basil Prather served in this capacity.  Basil William Prather was born in Maryland in 1742 and died in Clark County, Indiana in 1822.  His son, Basil Robertson Prather, was born in Maryland in 1771 and died in Clark County, Indiana in 1823. Family tradition says the Prather family came from Wiltshire, England to Virginia in the 1600s.  The next few generations of this Prather line lived in Maryland.  Basil William Prather and his wife, Chlorinda Robertson Prather, followed the migration south to North Carolina where he served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Basil William Prather was a devout Methodist and donated land for a church near Harmony, North Carolina. Prather and several of his sons and their families came to Clark County, Indiana in 1801.  With the proceeds of the sale of his substantial holdings in North Carolina, he acquired several hundred acres in Clark County, Indiana and built a substantial home. Basil William Prather continued his support of the Methodist faith and was a founder of the New Chapel Methodist Church which is reputed to be the second Methodist congregation established in the Indiana Territory.

The Prathers had an interest in extending their land holdings in the Indiana Territory.  One of Basil William Prather’s sons, Samuel Prather, registered a claim for the northwest quarter of Section 20, T2N, R4E, which was located on the Royse’s Fork of Blue River where Brock Creek emptied into it.  Samuel Prather sold his claim to William Lindley who then received the US land patent on June 26, 1813.  This was the location of the William Lindley home and mill where the public business of Washington County was conducted until a court house was built.  Another son, Aaron, registered a claim for the northwest quarter of Section 4, T1N, R6E.  This tract was on the South Poplar Branch of the Mutton Fork of  Blue River near to the New Trace Gap in the Knobs.  Aaron Prather sold his claim to William Phelps who received the land title from the US government on December 31, 1819.

The Prather family had political connections through Samuel Gwathmey who was a nephew of George Rogers Clark.  He had served Clark County as member of the Territorial Assembly and was serving as the Registrar of the Federal Land Office in Jeffersonville.   Gwathmey was probably the political connection that obtained the appointment of either Basil William Prather or Basil Robertson Prather as the Clerk/Recorder of Washington County.  One of these Basil Prathers was also the first Postmaster of Salem with a post office being established in 1816.  Whichever Basil Prather was the Clerk/Recorder, he had sufficient political influence to write a letter to Governor Thomas Posey asking that John Coleman be appointed to the Washington Circuit Court as there was a vacancy created when Samuel Lindley declined his reappointment to this three member provisional body. 

The term of Basil Prather as the Clerk/Recorder was one of some controversy.  The 1884 Goodspeed History of Lawrence, Orange and Washington Counties relates the following:

          “At this term of the court, the troubles of the Clark, Basil Prather, began to  thicken.  He had already been indicted for malfeasance in office, and had been acquitted. Now he was indicted for misfeasance, and was on trial, again acquitted. Every day he was becoming more and  more the slave of a pernicious appetite for whiskey, brandy and rum. At a subsequent term  of  the court, he was indicted for nonfeasance in office, but was acquitted on a trial jury. As he had about reached the end of the feasances, he deemed it best to  resign  his  office  of  Circuit
Court Clerk.

The resignation of the Clerk occasioned some inconvenience. No one seemed  to  possess  legal authority to make a pro tem, appointment. Legislative intervention was sought.  Accordingly, the General Assembly passed a  joint  resolution  authorizing  the  Associate  Judges  of  the Washington County Circuit Court to appoint a pro tempore Clerk to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Basil Prather.  This resolution was  approved  by  Governor  Jennings,
December 14, 1820.”

          I’m speculating that as Basil William Prather was a devout Methodist it was probably his son, Basil Robertson Prather, who was the second Clerk/Recorder of Washington  County, Indiana  of questionable feasance.  For similar reasons, I’m speculating that Basil William Prather was Salem’s first postmaster.  

                                           PRATHER HOUSE IN CLARK COUNTY, IN



Sunday, September 14, 2014

SEPTEMBER 14, 1814

200 years ago today Matthew Coffin was granted title to the northwest quarter of Section 12, T2N, R4E.  The location of this land today is north of Canton where Coombs Road enters SR 56.  This land patent was the sixth of eight that Matthew Coffin would purchase from the U S government between January 11, 1811 and December 9, 1822. 

His first 2 land patents were registered when he was still a resident of Guilford County, NC.  They were located in the southwest quarters of Sections 3 and 4 in T2N, R4E with the title being granted on January 11, 1811. These tracts were located today at the southwest corner of Bowsman Road and Trueblood road and southwest of where Jim Day Road crosses Brock Creek.  The first of these 1811 tracts was by the trail that led from Royse’s Lick to the summer camp of Old Ox located at the base of the Knobs near the Muscatatuck River at the northwest edge of Elk Creek Bottoms. His third land patent was on the Middle Fork of Blue River in the southeast quarter of Section 4, T1N, R4E.  This land is found today in Pierce Township just northeast of the bridge below the Blue River Christian Church. His fourth and fifth land titles were purchased from Moses Hoggatt who had originally registered them.  These two tracts were located in Section 4, T2N, R4E, immediately east of his land on Brock creek and in Section 9, T2N, R4E, within sight of Royse’s Lick.  His seventh title acquisition was at a more remote location from early settlement in the southeast quarter of Section 14, T3N, R2E.  This tract contained the source of Clifty Creek which gushed forth from a spring and appeared to Coffin to be a good location for a mill if access could be gained to the valley.  This today is Cave River Valley.

Matthew Coffin was a Quaker who was born on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts in 1754.  His parents, William and Priscilla Paddock Coffin, moved from Nantucket to the Quaker settlements in North Carolina in the early 1770s as some of the islanders were concerned about their status should war between the colonies and Great Britain occur.  Matthew and Hannah Mendenhall Coffin were part of the large Quaker contingent that came to the Indiana Territory from North Carolina as their practice of purchasing the freedom of slaves was challenged by laws enacted by the State of North Carolina after its independence.  The number of Friends that settled near Royse’s Lick increased dramatically after Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of Thames in 1813.  At that time, the only recognized Quaker meeting in the area was at Lick Creek near the Vincennes Road.  Travel to and from meetings at Lick Creek consumed most of the day.  As Matthew Coffin was the owner of many choice locations in the level uplands northeast of the new Washington County seat of government, he was approached about donating a site for a new Friends meeting house if the Lick Creek Meeting would indulge the formation of a new meeting.  This occurred in 1814 and the Coffins donated the land.  The Blue River Friends Meetinghouse was built in 1815 and still stands today.

Matthew Coffin was the uncle of Levi Coffin, Jr. who came to the Indiana Territory from North Carolina in the mid-1820s. Levi Coffin, Jr. settled in Wayne County, Indiana and became the most famous abolitionist in Indiana.  His activity in the Underground Railroad was well known and his home was a major station of this clandestine network.  He was popularly called the “President” of the Underground Railroad and after slavery was abolished wrote a book where his experiences in facilitating the freedom of fugitive slaves were described in great detail. Washington County, Indiana has a tradition of the involvement of the Blue River Friends in the Underground Railroad.  Some historians have opined that this tradition of the Underground Railroad in Washington County has been greatly overstated.  No one disputes the role of Levi Coffin, Jr. in the Underground Railroad.  The fact that he had several close relatives in Washington County certainly makes it probable that the Underground Railroad was indeed active in our community.  

                                  RIVER CAVE AT CAVE RIVER VALLEY
                               LAND PATENT OF MATTHEW COFFIN 1815

                                        BLUE RIVER FRIENDS MEETINGHOUSE TODAY
                                        LAND DONATED BY MATTHEW COFFIN 1814

                                                               LEVI COFFIN, JR.
                                                    NEPHEW OF MATTHEW COFFIN

Monday, September 8, 2014


200 years ago today in Washington County, Indiana Territory, the natural abundance of the Indiana frontier was providing sustenance to our progenitors until they could establish their farms for the growing of crops and livestock.    Salt was available from the salt works at Royse’s Lick.  Meat was on the hoof in the form of the white tail deer and wild pigs.  Fish were teeming in the rivers and easily caught with weirs.  Sugar was made from maple sap and bee trees provided honey.  Berries were harvested in the summer. Game fowl such as quail and grouse were hard to shoot but turkeys provided an easier target and more meat.  However, on an occasional basis, the most prolific bird of the provender provided by nature was Ectopistes Migratorius--the Passenger Pigeon.

Passenger pigeons travelled, fed and roosted in flocks that numbered in the millions.  Some swarms took three days to fly by. The passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird in North American and may have numbered from 3 to 5 billion at the advent of European settlement of the continent.  They foraged for fruit and seeds borne by trees and grasses. They especially thrived off of the mast grown by beech, oak and chestnut trees.  As the quantity of mast varied each year, they migrated throughout the new nation to find the locations of that year’s best supply of mast. When a passenger pigeon horde was present, it could block out the midday sun.  In 1813 when the settlement of our locality was underway, the noted naturalist and artist John James Audubon was living in Henderson, Kentucky.  Audubon observed a migration of passenger pigeons on the way to Louisville and described it as follows:

           “In the autumn of 1813, I left my house at Henderson, on the banks of the Ohio, on my way to Louisville. In passing over the Barrens a few miles beyond Hardensburgh, I observed the pigeons flying from north-east to south-west, in greater numbers than I thought I had ever seen them before, and feeling an inclination to count the flocks that might pass within the reach of my eye in one hour, I dismounted, seated myself on an eminence, and began to mark with my pencil, making a dot for every flock that passed. In a short time finding the task which I had undertaken impracticable, as the birds poured in in countless multitudes, I rose, and counting the dots then put down, found that 163 had been made in twenty-one minutes. I travelled on, and still met more the farther I proceeded. The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse; the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose.”

When a swarm of passenger pigeons descended upon a forest to feed, nest and roost, their presence was devastating.  The weight of their mass roosting broke off limbs and felled some trees.  Their foraging on the forest floor for beech nuts, acorns and chestnuts was worse than the rooting of wild pigs.  The detritus of their excrement covered tree trunks and the forest floor.  Once the roosting had run its course and the passenger pigeons moved on, the forest appeared as if a tornado had blown through.  The natural scientist, Aldo Leopold, described the passenger pigeon as a “biological storm”.

The location in early Washington County most impacted by the passenger pigeon was centered in Township 2 North, Range 6 East and was called “Pigeon Roost”.  The location of Pigeon Roost is within this congressional township and is mostly in Scott County today.  This area was in Clark County, Indiana on September 3, 1812 when the Pigeon Roost Massacre occurred.  The settlement victimized by this Indian act of war was scattered to the northeast of the isolated knob that was the frequent location of the descending biological storm of pigeons.  Pigeon Roost became part of Washington County on January 17, 1814.  It remained part of Washington County until 1820 when Scott County was established.  A creek that runs northeast from this part of the Knobs to Stucker Fork is called Pigeon Roost Creek.

Pigeon Roost was a natural landmark and the trail out of the Scottsburg Till Plain through the Knobstone Escarpment into the Norman Upland went by it.  This was the Indian trail that went from the mid Wabash Valley to the Ohio River.  The early settlers of Washington County called this location the Old Trace Gap.  Two of the first roads established by the Washington Circuit Court went through this gap to get to Charlestown, Utica, Clarksville and Jeffersonville in Clark County. This was also the neighborhood of John Dunlap who hosted the Sharon Baptist Church in its first years.
Given modern standards of health, it is a matter of passing speculation as to how many of the families in the Pigeon Roost area unknowingly suffered from histoplasmosis,

When the passenger pigeons came to Pigeon Roost, settlers gathered in large numbers to net, shoot and club the birds out of their nests.  The adult pigeon provided good meat.  The squabs were a delicacy and were a source of animal fat that was used year round.  The pigeons and squabs that weren’t consumed immediately were salted and packed in barrels for consumption.  The surplus of the pigeon harvest was taken to Louisville and sold by the basket when fresh and by the barrel when salted.  Pigeon harvesting became a part of the sport and food economy of the United States of the 19th century.  With the advent of the railroad, pigeon harvesting proceeded to extirpate this bird region by region.  The last large nesting of the passenger pigeon is reported to have occurred at Pigeon Roost in 1853.  The last small flock observed there was after the conclusion of the Civil War.  The last passenger pigeon shot in the wild was taken in 1912 near Greensburg, Indiana.  The last passenger pigeon extant was housed at the Cincinnati Zoo.  Her name was Martha and she died on September 1, 1814.

The bird for which Pigeon Roost was named numbered in the billions at the time Washington County, Indiana Territory was established in 1814.  By the time Salem and Washington County, Indiana were celebrating their centennial in 1914, one of the most numerous birds on Earth was extinct.


                           PIGEON ROOST VIEW FROM NORTH @ GOOGLE EARTH

                              LAST PASSENGER PIGEON MARTHA @ SMITHSONIAN
                                                           (TAXIDERMY EXHIBIT)

                                                   PASSENGER PIGEON FLYOVER

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


201 years ago today, Edward Tiffin as the Commissioner of the General Land Office issued deeds to seven settlers in Washington Township, Harrison County, Indiana Territory who had each paid $320 at the Jeffersonville Land Office for their 160 acre land claims.  Edward Tiffin was a native of Carlisle, Cumberland, England who came to Virginia in 1783.  He was one of the original settlers of Chillicothe, Ohio and became a prominent pubic figure in Ohio.  He was the first Speaker of the House of the Northwest Territory.  He was the first governor of the State of Ohio.  He then served as a Senator representing Ohio in the US Congress.  He then became the first Commissioner of the General Land Office when it was created as a separate federal agency in 1812.  He issued these deeds in the name of President James Madison on September 3, 1813.

When Washington County was created from parts of Harrison and Clark County, Indiana Territory on January 17, 1814, these families became residents of this new County. These settlers were part of the cohort of North Carolinians and Virginians who came to the Indiana Territory by way of Kentucky when the land that had been purchased from the Indians in 1805 at the Treaty of Grouseland had been surveyed and opened for settlement.

James and Delilah Wright Allen took out their land patent in the southeast quarter of Section 31, T2N, R4E.  Their homestead was located where Hoggatt Branch emptied into the Royse’s Fork of Blue River a short distance west of the trail that led from Royse’s Lick to the Vincennes Road.  Mrs. Allen was a first cousin of Philbert Wright who had received his land patent the previous year for the tract immediately to the north.  The Allens then claimed the quarter section on their west line and received title to it in 1818. They were of English heritage and had come from Rowan County, North Carolina.  They moved on to Putnam County, Indiana after it was organized in 1820.

Robert Denney and the families of his sons had come to Indiana from Mercer County, Kentucky.  The parents of Denney/Denny were natives of Ireland.  They first settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania and then moved to Virginia.  Robert and Rachel Thomas Denney made several years of crops in different counties in Kentucky when Mrs. Denney died in 1808. Although he was in his fifties, Robert served as a corporal in Lt. Decker’s Fourth Regiment of the Indiana Militia during the Tippecanoe Campaign of 1811. He was paid $15.63 for his 2 months and 4 days of service.  The Denny land claim was located in the southwest quarter of Section 35, T3N, R4E.  This tract is found today in Washington Township on Broadway Road and North Trueblood Lane on the level upland between upper Brock Creek and the north reach of the Canton Branch of Royse’s Fork of Blue River.

Edmund Findley’s land patent was located in the southeast quarter of Section 10, T2N, R2E, at the confluence of the 2 north branches of Lost River.  This is southeast of what used to be the community of Claysville in Vernon Township.  Findley/Finley may have been the son of David Finley from Mercer County, Kentucky and may have been related to the Findleys that settled at the northwest edge of Harrison/Washington County near present day Orleans.

Richard and Nancy Ann Wright Gilstrap took up land on a bend of Blue River below the confluence of Royse’s Fork and the Middle Fork in the southeast quarter of Section 1, T1N, R3E.  This is now the northeast corner of Howard Township.  This location included one of the better river bottoms near to Beck’s Mill. The Gilstraps had come to the Indiana Territory from Rowan County, North Carolina by way of Wayne County, Kentucky.  The name Gilstrap is believed to be of English origin with a Norse influenced name for hamlet which is “Thorpe” i.e. Gilsthorpe. They are mentioned in my post of August 25, 2014.

James and Ann Glazebrook Harbison settled on a gently rolling upland north of Royse’s Fork of Blue River and east of the branch by Highland’s camp in the southeast quarter of Section 18, T2N, R4E.  This was on the trail from the Lick Creek Quaker settlement to Royse’s Lick.  They too were natives of Virginia that had come to the Indiana Territory from Mercer County, Kentucky.  In less than a year, the Harbisons unexpectedly found themselves next to the developing county seat of Salem.  James Harbison was awarded the contract to construct the bridge across Blue River at the south of Main Street in 1817.  The bridge lasted fourteen years until it was torn down and rebuilt in 1831.  The bridge outlasted Harbison who died in 1822.  The Harbisons have been previously mentioned in my blogs of April 15, April 18 and July 11.

Martin and Elizabeth Coons Pottorff/Putorff/Bottorff/Batdorf claimed their land in the southwest quarter of Section 33, T3N, R4E.   This is now in Washington Township on the north side of Lewellen Road where Jim Day Road enters from the south.  Martin Pottorff had originally registered a land claim in 1809 for the adjoining southeast quarter of Section 33.  Apparently, he liked the 160 acre tract to the west better as he assigned his 1809 claim to to his brother in law, Jacob Shreader, Jr.,  who took title in December of 1811.  Pottorff then bought out the claim of Bright Prewett/Pruitt which for which he completed payment and received his patent of September 3, 1813. Pottorff later bought his brother in law's adjoing tract in 1827. These tracts were a mile and a half west of the Robert Denney homestead. Martin and Elizabeth Coons Pottorff were both of German descent.  Pottorff was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania and like so many other Teutonic travelers moved south to Virginia and then northwest through Kentucky to the Indiana Territory.  The Pottorffs had seven children who married into the following families of Washington County settlers: Medlock, Barnett, Winkler, Fleenor, Brown, Chambers and Mize.  Some of the next generation of this family changed the spelling of the name to Bottorff.

William and Martha Morgan Wright made their first settlement in the Indiana Territory in the southwest quarter of Section 32, T2N, R4E. This is now on the west side of SR 135 South southwest of the Rudder Road intersection in Washington Township.  Wright registered four different land claims in Washington County and took title to two of them. He assigned one to Zachariah Nixon and assigned another to Mark Maudlin. He had served in the Revolutionary War in Rowan County, North Carolina and had lived for a few years in Wayne County, Kentucky before coming to the Indiana Territory with his brothers Benjamin, Amos, Peter and Philbert.  William Wright also made two land entries in Jackson County, Indiana and two additional entries in Lawrence County, Indiana. Their children married into the following families: Holmes, Cooler, Brinton, Kooter, Allen and Goss. One of these children, West Lee Wright, established the town of Medora, Indiana in 1853. [Medora is taken from me, do, ra—the third, first and second notes of the octatonic musical scale.]  William Wright died on September 17, 1838 in Jackson County, Indiana where he had moved after the death of Martha.  He has the posthumous distinction of having two different gravestones.  One is in the Wright Cemetery in Carr Township, Jackson County, Indiana.  The other is in the Philbert Wright Cemetery in Washington Township, Washington County, Indiana.  Ground penetrating radar may be needed to settle the mystery of where he is actually interred.

                            US LAND COMMISSIONER EDWARD TIFFIN



Tuesday, September 2, 2014


200 years ago yesterday in Washington County Indiana Territory, John DePauw as the agent for the Town of Salem, Indiana sold lots 29 and 45 to Jacob Nay for $200.
Although DePauw had sold many lots on credit with 25% down payment being required with the balance due in one year, only the lots purchased by Zachariah Nixon and Joseph Nixon had been paid for in full.  Therefore, Jacob Nay was only the third person to fully pay for his purchased lots in the 5 months that Salem lots had been for sale.  Lot 29 was on what was to be South Main Street which was 80’ wide.  As the street had not yet been cleared this was hard for Nay to visualize. This lot is today located at 307 South Main.  Lot 45 was at the other end of the plat and was the northernmost lot of DePauw’s plat on the west side of North Main Street.  This lot is today bears the address of 406 North Main Street.  As the Nixons had only paid a total sum of $107.50 for the 6 lots they had purchased, Nay’s payment of $200 for 2 lots that were not located at any planned intersection was questioned by some.

Jacob Nay and his wife, Esther, had been in the Indiana Territory for a few years prior to their arrival in the Salem area.  Nay had lived in part of Clark County, Indiana during the year of 1809 when he signed a petition expressing disapproval of the actions of Governor William Henry Harrison in sanctioning the introduction of negro slavery in the Indiana Territory.  This petition was one of several that residents of the eastern portion of the Indiana Territory had signed and forwarded to Vincennes, Corydon and Washington DC in opposition to efforts by residents of Knox County, Indiana to have Article VI of the Northwest Ordinance repealed or weakened in its prohibition of slavery. 

Jacob Nay apparently did not have the means to make his purchase of these 2 lots productive.  He sold the lot on South Main Street to John Boling and Francis Blaids of Shelby County, Kentucky on January 6, 1815 for $50.  Almost two years later, he sold the lot on North Main Street to Toms Albertson on December 13, 1816 for $55.  Despite this financial loss, the Nays were able to purchase a small farm of 37 acres from Richard and Mary Hoggatt Lamb on Highland Creek for the sum of $75 on October 3, 1817.  This farm is located today at 2035 North Highland Road is described as a separate tax parcel 197 years after having been parceled out for sale by the Lambs. The Lambs had just received their title to their 160 acre land claim a few months earlier and used the funds from the sale of the 37 acre parcel to apply to the improvement of their remaining acreage.  Richard Lamb was the son of Simeon Lamb who was the only doctor in the Washington County area for several years.  Doctor Lamb treated many a pioneer while running the store at Royse’s Lick and serving as one of the first Judges of the Washington Circuit Court.

The Nays soon acquired an adjoining 17 acres lying to the north.  Thirteen years later, the Nays sold their small holding on Highland Creek to Elias Albertson on October 4, 1830 for $300.  Jacob Nay found himself to be better suited to farming than land speculation.

                                   JACOB NAY LOTS IN SALEM 1814

                                           JACOB NAY FARM HIGHLAND CREEK 1817

Monday, September 1, 2014


200 years ago today, the Indiana Territorial Legislature enacted a bill that expanded the boundaries of Washington County, Indiana Territory by over 9,000 acres. The law passed by the assembly sitting in Corydon described the additional area as follows:
          “§ 1. BE it enacted by the Legislative Council and House of Representatives, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That all that tract of country, contained in the boundary following, be attached to and constitute part of, the said county of Washington, to wit : beginning at Freeman's corner on the meridian line, thence north to the present Indian boundary line, thence with said Indian boundary to the line established by the treaty of Grouseland, thence with said line to the place of beginning, and the same so attached shall be deemed and taken as a part of the said county, in the same manner, and under the same regulations as are prescribed for the said county of Washington.”

The triangular area added was located along the northwest border of Washington County as it was originally described in December of 1813.  The beginning point of the new territory was Freeman’s Corner which is located just northwest of Orleans.  The north corner on the Indian boundary line referred to was on the Ten O’clock Line which was the northeastern boundary of territory acquired by the U. S. government from various native tribes [Delaware, Eel River, Miami, Potawatomi, Wea, and Kickapoo]  under the Treat of Ft. Wayne which was signed in the fall of 1809.  This 1809 treaty line ran southeast from where Big Raccoon Creek entered the Wabash River [west of Rockville, In.] to a point on the Grouseland Treaty line of 1805 which is now between Brownstown and Seymour, In. A state historical marker on US 50 about a mile southeast of Seymour commemorates this location.  The third side of the triangle then ran southwest along the first county line back to Freeman’s Corner roughly following the flow of the Driftwood Fork of White River.

The reason for this addition area to the jurisdiction of Washington County was not obvious.  Although this unorganized area had been opened for settlement for about 2 years, very few settlers had actually registered land claims.  This area had recently still been considered hostile territory as various settlers and a trapper had been murdered by Indians in 1812 and 1813.  It was also far removed from the Jeffersonville Land Office so that the various trips for claim registration and annual payments could not have been convenient.  Finally, the area was the very heart of the Indiana Uplands with hills and hollows that were not very suitable for crops and future grazing.  The area did have many rivers and streams with potential sites for grist and sawmills.

As the War of 1812 was winding down, land speculators were hoping that the development of public roads, public safety and access to courts would make land in the area more valuable. Samuel Gwathmey who was the Registrar of the Government Land Office in Jeffersonville used his position to obtain inside information about sites that were susceptible to development throughout the Indiana Territory.  He was also a nephew of George Rogers Clark and made good advantage of this fact as he held many public offices.  He had purchased the section at the northwest corner of Washington County where a sulphur spring was located near the Cincinnati Road. Washington County Sheriff William Hoggatt was having trouble paying off his land claim where his mill was located near the Amos Wright Blue River Church and was looking at land in the bend of White River downstream from the Clifty Creek confluence.  Samuel Lindley who was the patriarch of the Lick Creek Friends and one of the Judges of the Washington Circuit Court had made a claim to land near Leatherwood Creek. Marston G. Clark, Joseph Kitchell, Moses Lee and William Hoggatt had plans to lay out a town on the south bank of  White River  which they intended to call Bono.  They thought it would be an ideal location for a mill and a flatboat dock.  Thomas and Cuthbert Bullitt who were the sons of the speculator that laid out Louisville were also active land speculators in the Indiana Territory and had an interest in developing the natural resources of this new addition to Washington County. 

As these persons of influence had a great degree of political clout in the Indiana Territory, they were able to lobby the Indiana Territorial Assembly to transfer this part of the rugged Norman Upland into the jurisdiction of Washington County. With a modicum of civil government, the pace of settlement did increase in this area in the ensuing years.  In 1815, part of this land became part of Orange County.  In 1816, the eastern part of this region became part of Jackson County.  In 1818, the northern part of this upland countryside became parts of Lawrence and Monroe Counties.

                             INDIAN TREATY MAP INDIANA TERRITORY

                                    WASHINGTON COUNTY BOUNDARY SEPTEMBER 1814

                                INDIAN TREATY CORNER MARKER NEAR SEYMOUR

                          WASHINGTON COUNTY BOUNDARIES DECEMBER 1813