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

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