Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NOVEMBER 19, 1814

200 years ago today, John DePauw filed a plat for the first addition to the original plat of the Town of Salem.  This plat consisted of 44 lots and laid to the west of the original plat on both sides of Brock Creek.  20 of the lots were on the east side of Brock Creek.  Mill Street was added as a street by this plat.   19 of these lots east of Brock Creek were located north of Mulberry Street. Lot number 143 was separate from the other lots in this new plat and placed at the southwest corner of South Water Street and West Cherry Street.    The remaining 24 lots were west of Brock Creek and ran from West Small Street to West Mulberry Street.  All of these lots on the west side of Brock Creek were east of present day Posey Street which was created in 1815. Part of this area on both sides of Brock Creek was left unplatted until December of 1883 and would become known as “The Salem Commons”.

This plat indicated that Walnut Street was the connecting street between the east and west banks of Brock Creek.  Presumably this was where the ford across Brock Creek was located that Benjamin Brewer used to get to each side of his homestead before he sold his 160 acres to John DePauw for the development of the Washington County seat of government.  The public road established by the Washington Circuit Court that ran from the Knox County line to Salem connected to the northwest part of this first addition and then crossed at Walnut Street.

DePauw probably assigned Mill Street its name because it connected to the wagon road that coursed along the west side of Blue River to William Lindley’s mill southwest of Salem.  Lindley’s Mill was not very accessible by this route but at least Blue River didn’t have to be crossed when using this route.  DePauw planned for a bridge across Royse’s Fork at the foot of South Main Street when more lots were sold in the Salem Plat. Much of the lumber that was used in the construction of the new Court House and the first houses and buildings in Salem was sawed at this mill.

Although only 6 lots in the original plat of Salem had been sold in the 6 months since the plat was filed and advertised, many persons had made their 25% down payment and were waiting for the streets to be cleared of trees and undergrowth before making their final payment to receive their title.  John DePauw must have been optimistic about the new Washington County seat’s prospects to have platted more lots for sale.  He didn’t plat the area on the slope of the ridge west of Brock Creek as many families and individuals were squatting around the Benjamin Brewer blockhouse which was located west of where West Walnut Street and South Posey Street intersect today.  The area around present day DePauw Park was also left unplatted as a graveyard containing members of the Brewer family and those who met their demise in the Salem area before they had the opportunity to claim land or buy a lot from John DePauw.

Many people asked DePauw why he designed the Court House Square with the main streets entering from the sides of the square rather than at the corners.  DePauw may have obtained his inspiration for this design from Bardstown which was the county seat of Nelson County Kentucky.  DePauw had grown up in nearby Lincoln County Kentucky and undoubtedly had often been to Bardstown before coming to the Indiana Territory.  The type of square in the Salem plat was known as the Lancaster plan.  Lancaster, Pennsylvania was the source of this style of town layout and several settlers or their parents had lived in the area of Lancaster County Pennsylvania before moving south into Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.  The style of square selected for Salem by DePauw did not prove to be prevalent as only Paoli (1816) and Jasper (1819) also have a Lancaster plan square in Indiana.  The most popular style of public square in Indiana is the Shelbyville plan named after the layout of Shelbyville, Tennessee. Over 80 county seats have  this design in Indiana.

One can speculate as to whether the local officials of Salem and Washington County, Indiana in the late 20th century and the Indiana Department of Transportation would have perceived the need for a highway bypass around the Salem Public Square if it had been a Shelbyville design instead of a Lancaster design.  Perhaps the State Road 60 truck route around Salem completed in 2012 should be called the John DePauw Memorial Highway.

                                   LOCATION OF DEPAUW FIRST ADDITION 
                                                           TO SALEM

                                                AERIAL VIEW OF SALEM BYPASS
                                                        UNDER CONSTRUCTION

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