Sunday, October 26, 2014


200 years ago in Washington County, Indiana Territory elections were a much simpler civic matter than today.  In fact, the general election of 1814 occurred during the month of August.  Surviving records are rather sketchy as to what offices were determined by this election ordered by the territorial legislature.
The governor was appointed by the President. Some local officials were appointed on a provisional basis by Governor Thomas Posey.  Others were appointed by the three judge panel of the Washington Circuit Court.

There was one territory wide contested race in this election and probably one contest in each district for the Legislative Council.  The freeholders of the Indiana territory voted for the nonvoting delegate that represented the territory in the United States House of Representatives.  Freeholders were considered to be white males over the age of 21 who had paid a poll tax and had lived in the territory for one year.  The votes cast by these freeholders were apparently public as records from Warrick County exist which detail how each person had voted for the congressional delegate.

The candidates for Delegate to Congress in the 1814 election were Jonathan Jennings from Clark County (Charlestown) and Elisha/Elijah Sparks from Dearborn County (Lawrenceburg).  Jennings had served in this capacity since 1809 and was reelected by a wide margin in 1814.  Sparks was a judge in Dearborn County and died soon after the election. Jennings was one of the main opponents to the attempts of William Henry Harrison and Thomas Posey to legalize slavery in the Indiana Territory.  Jennings became the first governor of Indiana when it achieved statehood in 1816.  Jennings County was established in 1817 and was named in his honor. Jennings then served nine terms representing Indiana in the House of Representatives until his death in 1834.

There was one polling location for each township in the 1814 election.  Previously there was only one polling location in each county with vote by voice.  The Washington Circuit Court ordered the following poll locations and election officials:

Township                       Judge                             Place
Madison Twp.                Thomas Fulton              Samuel Chambers residence
Lost River Twp.            Edward Mills                 Jesse Roberts residence
Washington Twp.          Samuel Huston              Salem
Blue River Twp.            John Wright                   Melchoir Fogelmann residence
Driftwood Twp.             Thomas Ewing               Vallonia

The Samuel and Eleanor Lindley Chambers residence was located along the Vincennes Road where they had a store near Half Moon Spring  which is now located in Orange County. The Jesse Roberts residence was located near the north branch of Lost River along the road that led from Beck’s Mill to the Sulphur Spring south of the Cincinnati Road near Orleans. The Melchoir and Elizabeth Meisenheimer Fogelmann residence was located between the Middle Fork of Blue River and Dutch Creek on the road to the Falls of the Ohio that had been rerouted from Royse’s Lick to Salem.  The polling locations in Salem and Vallonia were not noted in the Circuit Court records.

Each election judge maintained the voting ledger and ruled on eligibility.  They then tallied the vote, delivered the ballots and ledger by horseback to Salem and filed them with the Clerk of Court who certified the results and reported the same to the Court.  It is unclear how this was done as the court was not in session until November 1814 and there was no Clerk present in office until September 17, 1814.  The election materials may have been taken directly to the capitol in Corydon given the provisional circumstances of territorial Washington County government. The number of votes cast and the outcome in Washington County is unknown as the present existence of these records is in doubt.  The character and reputation of the election judges appointed by the county Circuit Court was the basis for the integrity of the 1814 election in the Indiana Territory.
                                                  BALLOT BOX

                                                    PIONEER ELECTION JUDGE

                                                            JONATHAN JENNINGS
                                                 INDIANA TERRITORY DELEGATE
                                                 TO US CONGRESS REELECTED 1814

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