Friday, October 24, 2014

OCTOBER 25, 1813

201 years ago today in that part of Harrison County, Indiana Territory that would become Washington County, Indiana in January 1814, six families obtained title to their registered land claims from the United States General Land Office.  These family names were Armstrong, Blankenbaker, Gordon, McGrew, McKnight and Wright.

Robert Armstrong received title to the southwest quarter of Section 1, T1S, R3E.  This 160 acres was located north of the Vincennes Road along the Mutton Fork of Blue River.  Today it is found west of Palmyra Road and north of Strickland Road in the eastern part of Posey Township.  Benjamin King had registered the claim to this land earlier and sold his interest to Armstrong who lived in Franklin County, Kentucky at the time.  Armstrong made a second claim to the quarter section to the east and received title to that land on December 26, 1815 thereby owing the entire south half of this section. Robert Armstrong had a wife, Jane, and ten children when he became a landowner in Washington County.  On May 6, 1814 he wrote an elaborate will and took the unusual step of having it filed with the Washington County Recorder while he was still living.  The will reveals that he must have had issues with some of his children as one received one of his farms while another received less than a dollar.  The will also made a specific bequest of his flock of sheep.  The Armstrong Cemetery is on this land today and an Armstrong still owns part of this pioneer homestead.


Lewis Blankenbaker’s deed described his ownership of the northeast quarter of Section 6, T2N, R4E.  This was located immediately northwest of the George Brock settlement along the trail that led from the White River ford to Royse’s Lick. This real estate is located now on the east slope of Highland Creek at the intersection of Spark’s Ferry Road and Water Tower Road. Samuel Blankenbaker who was probably the brother of  Lewis was a neighboring land owner as he had acquired two quarter sections to the south where Kamp Spring was located on Highland Creek.  Lewis and Susannah Utz Blankenbaker were residents of Shelby County, Kentucky and never lived on the Washington County land they had acquired.

Nicholas Blankenbaker who was the father of Lewis and Samuel Blankebaker purchased the southeast quarter of Section 19, T2N, R5E.  This site is located north of State Road 160 about a mile and a half east of the Harristown railroad crossing and includes a reverse drainage tributary of the Middle Fork of Blue River. The Blankenbakers must have been a prosperous Kentucky family as they purchased land in the Indiana Territory for speculation.  Nicholas and Francis Wilhoite Blankenbaker like their son Lewis were residents of Shelby County, Kentucky and never lived in Indiana.  Another son, Solomon Blankenbaker, inherited this farm and it passed on in the family after his death in 1843. Nicholas Blankenbaker was born in Culpepper County Virginia and was a descendant of  Hans Matthias Blankenbaker who came to colonies from Baden-Wurttemburg in Germany.

William Gordon  of  Henry County, Kentucky completed the purchase of his land claim for the northwest quarter of Section 9, T2N, R4E which is located east of Brock Creek on the west side of Jim Day Road. Gordon was born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania and married Angenitie Banta who was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania of Dutch descent.  She was the aunt of Jacob Banta who was also an early settler of Washington County. William Gordon operated a still near Brock Creek as did his neighbors George Brock and John Fleenor. [One is tempted to speculate that he made cheap gin.]  William Gordon was one of the victims of the cholera epidemic when he died in July of 1833.

James and Mary Colglazier McGrew moved to the Indiana Territory from Henry County, Kentucky in 1811.  They came from the Drennon’s Creek neighborhood along the Kentucky River downstream from present day Carollton, Kentucky. McGrew first registered a land claim for the northwest quarter of Section 4, T1S, R2E.  This claim was assigned to his father in law, Jacob Colglazier, who received his deed on April 27, 1813. McGrew then claimed and purchased the adjoining southeast quarter of Section 4, T1S, R2E, on October 25, 1813.  This land is located along the Honey Creek sinking creek system where Jacob Doan was one of the other settlers. [See my post of July 34, 2014]  James McGrew was the executor of the estate of his father, Alexander McGrew, and had to make many trips back to Kentucky before its administration was concluded 1824. The McGrews sold their land below the Vincennes Road shortly thereafter and relocated in Clay County, Illinois where he died in 1838 at the age of 55.

William and Nancy Agnes Robertson McKnight were among the many settlers who came from Mercer County, Kentucky by following the route of the Old Trace which passed through the knobs near Pigeon Roost into the Norman Upland. They were among the first to settle in what is now Franklin Township.  Their first land claim was perfected on March 18, 1813 when they obtained title to the northwest quarter of Section 8, T2N, R5E.  They then bought out a claim of Enoch Parr made for the southwest quarter of Section 8, T2N, R5E which was the land they acquired on October 25, 1813.  The McKnight land is located today on the east side of Elliot Road north of the New Philapelphia Road. William McKnight is reputed to have been born in County Down in Ireland in 1765.  He married his wife in Washington County, Pennsylvania.  They lived for a time in Brooks County, Virginia before their settlement in Mercer County, Kentucky.  This sequence of settlement was typical for many of the pioneers of Washington County, Indiana Territory. During the Indian uprising led by Tecumseh and The Prophet, Governor William Henry Harrison ordered in 1811 the construction of neighborhood forts for the protection of the settlers.  One of these forts was built on the McKnight land.  McKnight’s fort was still standing in the early 20th century according to the Stevens Centennial History.  One of William McKnight’s great grandchildren, William McKnight Bloss, became the president of Oregon Agricultural College which is now Oregon State University.

Elijah Wright received his deed on this date for the northwest quarter of Section 6, T1N, R4E.  This land is located on Blue River below the confluence of Royse’s Fork and the Middle Fork of  Blue River near the Cauble Bridge. Elijah Wright was part of a large extended family that came to the Indiana Territory from Rowan and Randolph Counties in North Carolina.  He was the son of William and Elizabeth Morgan Wright who settled on the ridge east of Royse’s Fork and south of Hoggatt Branch.  Four of his uncles also were pioneers in Washington, Harrison and Marion Counties, Indiana.  Elijah Wright served in the Indiana Militia in 1812 and was one of the first Justices of the Peace appointed for Washington County, Indiana.  He married Margaret Holmes Brewer who was the widow of Samuel Brewer after he made his first land claim.  They moved to Driftwood Township, Jackson County, Indiana Indiana where they owned over 400 acres.


The pattern of settlement of these deeds of October 25, 1813 were representative of  where the early residents of our county lived.  Two of these families settled near to the Vincennes Road.  Four of these families settled along parts of the upper Blue River Basin.  

                                   HONEY CREEK SINKING CREEK SYSTEM
                                   JAMES MCGREW


                                        BLOSS HALL @ OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
                                        NAMED AFTER JAMES MCKNIGHT BLOSS

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