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History of Hancock County, Indiana. Binford, J. H. (John H.), b. 1844. 


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THIS township derived its name from the central location which it occupied. Being partially bounded by all the townships save Brown, it was very appropriately named Center. The original Center township was named and organized in the year 1831, just three years after the organization of the county.

At the date of organization Center was composed of eighteen sections, being in extent six miles east and west and three miles north and south, and was, therefore, the smallest township in the county. * In the year 1835 Center township was increased from eighteen to twenty-four sections, by taking one tier of sections from the north of Brandywine and adding to the south of Center. This size it retained for eighteen years, or till the year 1853, at which time Harrison township and a part of Union and Worth were added to it, bringing it up to its present size of fifty-four sections, and making it by far the largest township in the county. From 1853 to the present there has been no change in the geographical outline of the township.

In extent it is eight miles north and south and seven miles east and west, and would, therefore, contain fifty-six sections were it a perfect rectangle; but the two sections. wanting in the south-east corner to make it such belong to Blue-river. It is bounded on the north by Vernon and Green townships, on the east by Jackson and Blue-river, on the south by Brandywine and Blue-river, and on the west by Sugar-creek and Buck-creek. It is located in townships fifteen and sixteen north and in ranges six and seven east. Township line sixteen passes through the court-house, and township line seventeen forms the northen boundary. All that portion south of the court-house is in township fifteen north, and the remainder of the township in sixteen north. Two tiers of sections on the western portion of the township are in range six east, and the remainder in seven east. Range line seven, which thus

* See map on p. 89 for size of Center from 1831 to 1835.

page: 143[View Page 143] divides the township, is located at the second cross roads west of Greenfield, and divides the M. T. Willett farm, and is found in the center of the first road west of the S. T. Dickerson farm.

Surface, Soil, Drainage, and Productions.—The surface is generally level, and especially in the central northern and central eastern portions and several sections north-west of Greenfield. Along the streams in places it is slightly hilly, and for a short distance back undulating.

This township once contained considerable third rate land as well as first and second; but since being cleared, ditched and cut up with good roads there is reported but little third rate land.

For the last few years much attention has been given to tile ditching, and under the recent ditch laws a number of public ditches have been put through the flat, swampy portions, whereby hundreds of acres have been reclaimed.

The chief productions are corn, wheat, oats, flax, hogs, horses, cattle, Irish potatoes, and the products of the forest and factory. In 1880 she produced 113,004 bushels of wheat, 163,625 bushels of corn, and 10,740 bushels of oats; being on an averave per acre equal with the best in wheat and corn, and excelled in oats only by Sugar-creek and Blue-river. For the same year she reported 1,669 tons of hay, 1,140 bushels of Irish potatoes, and 7,000 pounds of tobacco. Center produces more tobacco than all the rest of the county.

Streams, Names and Location.—Sugar Creek enters the township on the north line, about one and three-fourth miles east of the north-west corner, and flows south by south-west, passing out through section twenty-six, about three and a fourth miles north of the south-west corner.

Brandywine enters the township on the east line, one and one-half miles south of the north-east corner, flows south-west a half mile; then north-west one and one-half miles; thence south-west to the south-west corner of section sixteen; thence south, running east of Greenfield, and passing out of the township on the John Hinchman farm.

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Little Brandywine rises near the center of section fourteen, in the central eastern portion of the township, and flows south-west and empties into Big Brandywine a half mile west of the bridge spanning it north-west and near Hinchman's old residence.

Little Sugar Creek rises in the south-west part of the township and flows south, passing out about a mile east of the south-west corner.

Swamp Creek, which is simply a slough, enters the township on the east half of the north line of section four and flows nearly due south two and one-half miles, and is, for the time, lost in Brandywine.

First Entry and Early Settlers.—The first entries of land in Center township were in the south-east part, in sections four and nine, by Platt Montgomery, Robert Burton, Isaac Roberts, and David Vangilder. The first entry was made September 12, 1821, by Platt Montgomery, being the east half of the south-east quarter of section nine, in township fifteen north, in range seven east, and is now owned by Levi Elsberry's heirs and Abram Hackleman. The second entry was the eighty-acre tract on which Wesley Addison lives, entered by Robert Burton May 10, 1822. The third entry, by Isaac Roberts, on July 12, 1822, forms a part of the Marion Steele farm. The fourth was by David Vangilder, the west half of the north-west quarter of section nine aforesaid.

The first settlements in this township by the whites were made about the year 1819, from one to two miles south-east of where Greenfield now stands. Among the first settlers were Platt Montgomery, Corda Glandon, Samuel B. Jackson; Moses, David, and Abraham Vangilder; Jeremiah Meek and his two sons, Cornwell and Joshua; John and William Carr, Benjamin Spillman, Elisha Chapman, Jared Chapman, Joseph and Henry Chapman; Morris, Harry and Ovid Pierson; John and William Justice, Lydia Jones, James Hamilton, and John Wingfield. Samuel B. Jackson was the first tavern-keeper, holding forth in a log house said to be the same house now standing south of the page: 145[View Page 145] flax factory. He left the country under a cloud of suspicion, being accused of killing one of his guests, who was traveling through the state on the National road, supposed to have considerable money, and was never seen nor heard of after stopping with Jackson. Jeremiah Meek is said to have been the first settler in Greenfield. Cornwell Meek was a stock trader and dry goods merchant. Joshua Meek was recorder for twenty years. Joseph Chapman was a prominent public man, a fuller account of whom appears elsewhere. James Hamilton was a prosperous merchant, the father of Moses W. Hamilton. John Wingfield and Benjamin Spillman were two of the donors of the original plat of Greenfield.

First Preacher, Birth, Death, etc.—The first preacher in the township was Moses Vangilder, a Methodist exhorter. The first physician, Jared Chapman. Jared C. Meek was the first child born in Greenfield. The first death in Greenfield was a daughter of Benjamin Spillman. The first blacksmith was William Rice. The first church was the M. E. The first grocery store was kept by John Justice, and the first general store was kept by W. O. Ross.

Mills and Factories.—The first mill in the township was built in 1825, by William Pierson, on Sugar Creek, five miles north-west of Greenfield. It ground corn and wheat, and had a bolt to run by water. This mill burned down in 1846.

The next mill in the territory under consideration was built by William Curry, six miles north by north-east of Greenfield, in the year 1835, and was used to grind corn and wheat, and had a bolt worked by hand.

Isaac Willett built a mill on Sugar Creek, near Cedar Grove church, four miles north-west of Greenfield, in 1838. This was a grist-mill with a bolt to run by water. It continued in operation till after 1850.

The first steam saw-mill in the township was built in the year 1848 by Captain J. R. Bracken and John Templin, and located in the eastern part of Greenfield, a few rods south-west of the Hancock Flouring Mills. The first page: 146[View Page 146] engineer was Major A. K. Branham. In 1852, the weather-boarding and roof were burned off. The frame was saved. This mill cut a quantity of the lumber for the plank road in 1852. It was a sash saw-mill.

Benjamin Cox erected, in the southern part of Greenfield, about 1860, a steam saw-mill, which is still in operation; but recently removed to the south-west part of the city.

About 1862, a circular saw-mill was erected south-east of the old depot, which was run a few years and then moved away. About the same date was erected a steam circular saw-mill about three miles east of Greenfield, on the railroad, which did an extensive business for a number of years.

In 1869 G. W. Curtis & Bro. erected a steam saw-mill two and one-half miles from Greenfield, on the Lysander Sparks farm, which was run about three years, when it was moved three and one-half miles north of Greenfield, on the west side of the Greenfield and Pendleton pike. Here it was burned down and rebuilt in 1878, where it is still in operation.

Aaron Little, a few years since, built a circular saw-mill six miles north-west of Greenfield, which has recently been moved to Buck-creek.

The first tanyard in the township was erected by Henry Chapman, in the bottom north of the stone culvert on the National road, in the east part of town, in the early history of the county. It did an extensive business for the time. Chapman sold to Samuel Henry, who soon formed a partnership with Nathan Crawford, who, after running it successfully for a time, sold to A. T. Hart. Hart conveyed to Randall & Milton. Randall sold to Milton, in whose hands it went down. H. B. Wilson, P. M., run a tannery in Greenfield from 1865 to 1873.

In 1855 there was erected in Greenfield, in the south-west part, a steam flouring mill by Nathan Crawford, Samuel Longinaker and Freeman H. Crawford, which continued in successful operation till about 1860, when it page: 147[View Page 147] was burned down. After a lapse of a few years it was rebuilt by a Mr. Chaney. It soon passed into the hands of Hiram Woods, during whose ownership it was burned in July, 1869, and soon rebuilt. It is now owned and run by Alexander, New & Boots, and has recently been refitted and supplied with the modern improvements and adapted to the manufacture of the "new process."

In 1872 Joseph Boots, J. B. Fouch, and Samuel E. Gapen erected a steam flouring mill, now known as the "Hancock Mills," owned and run at present by Nelson Bradley and W. G. Scott under the firm name of Scott & Co. Gapen sold his interest to the other two partners, Boots and Fouch. After a time Fouch sold to Smith and Hogle, and they to Nelson Bradley in 1874. Boots conveyed his interest to W. G. Scott in 1878.

The steam planing-mill and furniture factory of Williams Brothers & Hamilton, located in the south part of the city of Greenfield, was erected in 1870, by H. J. and A. P. Williams, and run for a time, when Moses W. Hamilton bought an interest, and the new firm continues the same to this date.

In 1876, the desk factory and planing-mill of G. W. Puterbaugh was erected by A. E. Teal and George W. Puterbaugh, in the south-west part of the city, and run for three years under the firm name of Teal & Puterbaugh, when Teal conveyed to Puterbaugh, the present proprietor.

F. M. Gilchrist, in 1876, built, in the south-east part of the city, a desk factory and planing-mill, which he operated till 1879, when he conveyed to J. E. Brown, the present proprietor. During the present summer Brown was burned out; but has recently rebuilt, with an addition of a saw-mill.

In 1875 Cammack & Sons started a flax factory in a two-story brick building in the eastern part of the city, erected through the enterprise of William S. Wood, and owned and controlled by the Hancock Manufacturing Association. This factory, like nearly all others ever started in the county, met with the misfortune of being burned; page: 148[View Page 148] but was soon rebuilt, but not to its former height. It is now owned and controlled by Henry L. Moore & Son.

Gordon & Son, about 1877, built a steam saw-mill in the south-west part of Greenfield, which is still in operation.

In 1876 George Newhall erected a steam saw and planing mill south of the railroad, in the west part of town. It run two or three years, when it met with the common fate of such mills, and was never rebuilt.

Charles Cammack established a heading factory in 1880, run by steam-power furnished by Puterbaugh's engine, which did an extensive business till the summer of 1881, when it was stealthily removed between two days by parties from Anderson claiming ownership thereto. Prall & Puterbaugh, in the summer of 1881, attached a second heading machine, which is doing a lively business.

In 1868 a woolen factory was built by Morris Pierson, and located south of the railroad, opposite the old depot, and was successfully operated for a time by Craig & Minick, and then by Scofield, when it met the common fate and succumbed to the flames; and, unfortunately for the farmers and wool-growers of the county, was never rebuilt. Roads.—Center township, in her early history, had no roads, but what were used as such were mere paths. The first road in the county was the old State road; the next was the National road, which was laid out prior to the location of the town of Greenfield. But the first good road, as an improvement over the dirt and corduroy, was the National plank road, built by a company in 1852. Prior to the "late unpleasantness" there was not a single gravel road in the township; but since that time Greenfield has been made the focal point from which radiate finished gravel pikes to all the cardinal, and even sub-cardinal, points of the compass. She has at this date twenty and one-half miles of toll pike and fourteen miles of non-tollable, ten and one-half miles of which were once corporation roads, but have recently surrendered their charters. For a few years after the war a wonderful stride was taken in the improvement of roads. Under the recent free pike page: 149[View Page 149] law two gravel pikes are now being built in the township, viz.: the Fortville pike and the Frost pike.

Railroads.—Center township has two railroads crossing her territory. The P., C. and St. L. has a line seven miles within and along her borders, valued at $51,310, and pays a tax of $677.66 in the township and $180.91 in Greenfield. The I., B. and W. has a line of seven and one-half miles, not yet taxed, now completed. Each road has a station in the township. Greenfield is on the former, and the Junction on the latter.

Educational.—Close on the heels of the first settlers of the territory were the industrious, stern pedagogues characteristic of the times. Though our forefathers often suffered for the essentials of life, and had few of the luxuries, nevertheless they fain would have at least some of the rudiments of an English education. Perhaps the first school taught in the township was in a diminutive pole cabin, which stood on a knoll south of the railroad, between the two cemeteries. The second stood on the spot now occupied by the Vanwie house, owned by Thomas Carr; the third on or near the Rardin vacant lots, and north of Tindall's livery stable. The first frame school-house in the town was built contemporary with the plank road in 1852. It was finally sold to the Catholic church, and now, enlarged and repaired, and located on the old grounds, it forms their place of worship. From this time on small frames began to take the place of the rude, floorless "make shifts " heretofore occupied for school purposes. The writer once heard the late Milton B. Hopkins speak of receiving his first lessons in the English rudiments in one of those primitive floorless school-houses in this township during an exceedingly cold winter.

Among the first "masters" and "school-marms" of the town were Mrs. L. S. Church, Caroline Depu, Mr. Coy, Mr. McCoy and a Mr. Fisher. The first teacher in the north part of the township (then Harrison township) was Joseph Anderson, who held forth in an old deserted residence on William Martin's farm. His terms were rather page: 150[View Page 150] high for the times, being $1.50 per term or quarter, owing to his boarding himself, being a married man. His pay he took in money, trade and promises, and on the latter he failed to realize encouragingly.

Number and Name of Houses and Teachers.—The following table will show the names of the public schoolhouses and their present occupants as instructors:

District No. 1 Shepherd John H. White, Sr. 
District No. 2 Macedonia William Kiger. 
District No. 3 College Hill Emma Parnell. 
District No. 4 Nebraska Oliver Stoner. 
District No. 5 Ash Grove Cassius M. Curry. 
District No. 6 Independent O. H. Tibbett. 
District No. 7 Boyd's Mrs. R. H. Craig. 
District No. 8 College Corner O. P. Eastes. 
District No. 9 Judkins A. N. Rhue. 
District No. 10 Frazier William Elsberry. 
District No. 11 Danners Maud Everett. 
District No. 12 White Haven V. H. Finnell. 
District No. 13 Junction  W. H. Craig. 
District No. 14 Woodbine E. W. Felt. 
District No. 15 Slabtown Iduna M. Smith. 
District No. 16 Benevolence Newton Goble. 

The city of Greenfield has two schools, one for the colored and one for the white children. The former use a rented room. The teachers for the public school (for a cut and account of the building see page 38) for the present year are as follows, to-wit:

  • Superintendent Prof. J. W. Stout.
  • Principal high school Miss Mary Sparks.
  • Room No. 7 Miss Ida Anderson.
  • Room No. 6 Mrs. Kate Applegate.
  • Room No: 5 Miss Mattie Sparks.
  • Room No. 4 Miss Ida Geary.
  • Room No. 3 Miss Laura Pope.
  • Room No. 2 Miss Eva Williams.
  • Room No. 1 Miss Anna Harris.
  • Teacher colored school C. B. Gillim.
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Value of School Houses and Apparatus.—Center township has sixteen school-houses, five brick and eleven frame, valued at $9,600, including grounds, furniture and out-buildings. Her maps, charts, globes and other apparatus are valued at $400. Total value of school .property in the township, exclusive of the city, $10,000. In Greenfield, the school realty is valued at $20,000 and the apparatus at $200; total, $20,200.

Scholastic Population.—The scholastic population of Center, for 1853, was 498; for 1860, 752; in 1870, 754; in 1880, 753 For Greenfield, for the last three decades, the figures were respectively 351, 417, 653.

Township Trustees.—The following are the names of the trustees, with the time of their appointment, since 1859, at which time the office assumed some dignity and importance:

  • John Foster59
  • John H. White61
  • William Frost62
  • Robert Barr63
  • J. W. Walker64
  • William F. Pratt68
  • S. T. Dickerson70
  • James McClarnon74
  • William Potts78
  • Robert D. Cooper80

Remarks: John Foster, a portrait and sketch of whom appear elsewhere, had the honor of being not only the first sheriff of the county, but the first trustee also under the new regime. He was re-elected, and consequently held the office for two years, the term of office for a number of years being but one year. White, Frost and Barr each ruled right royally for one year. J. W. Walker, S. T. Dickerson and James McClarnon each looked after the poor and pedagogues for four years. Robert D. Cooper holds the purse strings at this date.

Churches.—Center township and the city of Greenfield are reasonably well supplied with churches, the former having six, viz.: four Methodist and two Baptist, and the latter one Methodist Episcopal, one Presbyterian, one Christian, one Catholic, one Missionary Baptist, and one African Methodist Episcopal-six in all. Most of the buildings page: 153[View Page 153] are good frames, a few are substantial bricks; a more specific account of which will appear further on.

Population.—An examination of the census reports of this township for a few decades shows a steady, rapid growth. Only thirty years ago, or in 1850, she had a population of 806, and nine of which were colored; ten years later she reports 2,529, and seventeen colored, an increase of over 200 per cent. In 1870 she had a population of 3,464, and thirty-one colored. The last census gave her a total, including Greenfield, of 4,284, a remarkable increase of 531 per cent in thirty years. Greenfield, in 1860, just before the civil war, had within her corporate limits 738 souls; in 1870, 1,173; in 1880, 2,012.

Polls and Vote.—For 1881, Center township has 395 polls and Greenfield 372. Last year Center reported 373 taxable polls and Greenfield 321, a handsome increase at both points, and especially in Greenfield.

Center township, for voting purposes in general elections, is divided into two precincts. At the first precinct, the court-house, all those citizens being legal voters of the city and township residing east of State street and the road extending through the township north and south cast their ballots; and at the second precinct, a small building across the street west from the court-house, those vote living west of the above points. The total vote of Center township for 1860 was 485; for 1870, 717; for 1880, 1,034, with a democratic majority of 152 for 1880, the vote standing: Democratic, 581; republican, 429; independent, 24.

Value of Real and Personal Property.—Center township being the largest in the county, reports 32,290 acres of land, valued at $784,465, and improvements on the same same valued at $120,080, being an average of about $28.00 per acre. The personal property in Center, exclusive of Greenfield, is valued at $270,250. Value of telegraph lines in Center, $1,320. Total value of taxables in Center township, $1,167,900.

Taxes.—Center township paid taxes to the amount of page: 154[View Page 154] $867.83 for 1842, and $6,945.66 for 1860; for 1881 she pays the sum of $13,666.64. The levy on each $100 is $1.12. Of this amount, levied in 1881, to be paid in 1882, the following men pay fifty dollars and upwards:

  • Addison, Wesley$ 82 30
  • Amack, T., heirs57 30
  • Banks, A. J.54 71
  • Barnett, R. E.65 35
  • Black, Jerome67 87
  • Bussell, William66 44
  • Braddock, Henry79 33
  • Boyd, P. K.137 00
  • Baldwin, Evaline72 29
  • Boyd, P. H.195 78
  • Barr, H., heirs55 44
  • Bradley, Nelson66 58
  • Bradley, William109 69
  • Catt, Jacob109 87
  • Citizens' Bank90 82
  • Duncan, M. T.77 70
  • Duncan, J. M.53 66
  • Elsberry, Jackson141 16
  • Ellis, Charlotte A.74 42
  • Forgy, Marion52 50
  • Finnell, J. S.99 17
  • Foster, J. R.58 23
  • Frazier, William135 57
  • Gooding, D. S.117 60
  • Holland, Thomas62 76
  • Hunt, Nathan114 27
  • Hamilton & Williams58 97
  • Heffernan, John61 85
  • Hagen, J. H., heirs54 26
  • Hackleman, A.55 13
  • Hart & Thayer115 92
  • James, Sylvester70 90
  • Longinaker, Letta67 31
  • Lineback, J. T.50 12
  • Martin, William79 96
  • Martin, Sampson80 98
  • Ryon, J. W.52 47
  • Roberts, Thomas147 14
  • Rardin, I. C.63 28
  • Sebastian, W. O.106 19
  • Swope, Mary E.74 60
  • Slifer, Jacob161 96
  • Steel, Marion98 02
  • Sparks, F. M.115 11
  • Smith, Abner264 72
  • Sears, William73 96
  • Simmons, J. B.62 72
  • Tague, G. G.71 29
  • Wright, E. N.107 72
  • Willett, M. T.81 30
  • Walker, W. C.84 56
  • White, John H.79 13
  • Wiggins, Charles A.52 62
  • Walsh, Ellen51 52
  • Wilson, J. T.105 08
  • Zike, William72 35

Greenfield has in her corporate limits, other than lots, 251 acres of land, valued at $10,645; the improvements on the same are estimated at $13,775; value of lots, $177,580; value of improvements, $227,655; value of personal property, $355,690; value of railroad property in the city, $12,810; value of telegraph lines in the corporate limits, $270.

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Total taxables of Greenfield are assessed at $785,355; the levy is $1.49 on each $100. Greenfield was assessed for 1860, and paid in 1861, the first year that she had a separate duplicate, $2,071.46, and in 1870 she paid $7,979.24, a comparison of which with the present taxes shows a rapid stride in this direction. The total taxes assessed against her for 1881, payable in 1882, are $13,039.04. Of this amount the following persons, partnerships, and corporations pay fifty dollars and upwards, viz.:

  • Adams, M. M.$ 51 91
  • Alexander, New & Boots152 65
  • Bradley, Nelson 85 00
  • Baldwin & Pratt79 86
  • Banks, A. J.121 65
  • Boyd, Simmons & Boyd56 62
  • Boyd, P. H.443 05
  • Burdett, W. C. 234 16
  • Crawford, F. H.107 58
  • Chandler, Morgan60 38
  • Citizens Bank474 74
  • Duncan, George W.86 80
  • Edwards, Catharine66 02
  • Furry, Sanford60 09
  • Gant, Thomas A.97 38
  • Grose, E. B.57 34
  • Gooding, D. S.74 35
  • Gooding, Matilda57 88
  • Glidden, F. E.73 16
  • Greenfield Banking Co226 25
  • Hughes, J. A.104 94
  • Hart, A. T.144 98
  • Hart & Thayer106 24
  • Hough, W. R.273 98
  • Howard, N. P., Sr.121 29
  • Heffernan, John67 05
  • Hinchman & Swope50 52
  • Hamilton, M. W.62 95
  • Hamilton & Williams74 95
  • Hauck, J.J.71 36
  • Jackson & Bro.59 60
  • Mitchell, William147 90
  • Marsh, W. & P. A.86 39
  • Moore, H. L.111 90
  • Mason, J. L.103 15
  • Morgan, J. M.90 40
  • Marsh, Ephraim204 40
  • New, J. A.70 07
  • New, A. J. & J. A.119 95
  • Offutt, C. G.64 94
  • Paullus, M . L.59 86
  • Poulson, I. P.76 63
  • Randall, G. T.227 82
  • Rardin, John, heirs58 56
  • Slifer, Jacob, Sr.110 86
  • Swaim, Reuben77 18
  • Thayer, H. B.50 66
  • Thayer, E. P.66 66
  • Thayer, Lee C.115 96
  • Williams Bros. & Hamilton103 42
  • Walsh, Ellen50 96
  • Walker, J. Ward88 80
  • Wood, Frances J.69 50
  • Walker & Co., J. Ward76 29

Remarks.—The reader will observe that in Center and page: 156[View Page 156] Greenfield we have given in the list of heavy tax-payers only the names of those paying fifty dollars and upwards, while in most of the townships we record those paying forty dollars and upwards. We make this difference on account of the difference in the levy. A man paying fifty dollars taxes in Greenfield is not assessed on as much property as one paying forty dollars in Buck-creek.

Law and Esquires.—Older than the history of the county is the provision for the convenient adjustment of petty difficulties and grievances among the citizens of a township at a trifling expense to the erring parties. The township system for promoting justice include two officers only—a justice and constable; the former acts as judge and clerk, and the latter is the executive officer, and corresponds to the sheriff in his duties.

The first justices acting in the territory now under consideration were Benjamin Spillman, Lucius Brown and O. H. Neff, all of whom served some time between the organization of Brandywine township and the formation of the original Center township, and hence were really justices of the peace in and for Brandywine township. The first justice of the peace for Center township proper after her organization was Joseph Chapman. W. O. Neff was elected in 1831, followed by Jonathan Dunbar, elected in 1834.

  • George Tague1834
  • William Justice1836
  • W. A. Franklin1841
  • William Sebastian1842
  • William Cushman1842
  • Harry Pierson1846
  • Thomas H. Fry1847
  • G. Y. Atkison1848
  • Erastus Church1848
  • John Rardin1848
  • Joseph Anderson1849
  • Jonathan Tague1850
  • Leonard Hines or Kines1850
  • Joseph Matthews1851

The above, it must be borne in mind, were the justices in Center proper during her twenty-two years' existence in her original diminutive size, as shown on page 89. During this same time the following persons served in page: 157[View Page 157] Harrison township, which now forms the northern part of Center, viz.:

  • Isaiah Curry1831
  • William Martindale1831
  • John Martin1835
  • William Martindale1835
  • John Martin1840
  • J. D. Conway1843
  • John Martin1845
  • J. D. Conway1848
  • John Martin1850
  • W. C. Walker1850
  • E. B. Chittenden1851

From 1853, the date of the organization of Center township into her present size, the following esquires have served the people:

  • John Rardin1854, 1858
  • James B. Rawlins1854
  • Joseph Matthews1856
  • William J. Foster1860
  • W. P. Cragan1860
  • George Barnett1862, 1870
  • John Rardin1862, 1866
  • Isaac Mullen1870, 1874
  • W. C. Walker1870, 1874
  • George Barnett1874, 1880
  • John W. Walker1874, 1878
  • James H. Thompson1878
  • James W. Wilson1880

Remarks: It will be observed that John Rardin served one term in the original Center township, being elected in 1848, and went out of office in 1870. John Martin served continuously for eighteen years, dating from 1835 to the termination of Harrison, in which he served. Mr. Martin was also elected in Center after her accession, but declined to serve. George Barnett, Esq., served one term in Sugarcreek township; afterwards, in 1862, was elected in Center, and is still holding forth. The present acting justices of the township are Esquires John W. Walker, George Barnett and James W. Wilson, all residents of the city. James H. Thompson served about half his term, when trouble from shortcomings in office overtook him, and he married a respectable lady of the city, obtained her ready cash; and skipped the county, and is now paying the penalty of a wasted life in a poor-house in Southern Indiana. The amount of business done by some of the early justices was very limited indeed. The first justice in Harrison page: 158[View Page 158] township, Isaiah Curry, served one year and died; the only business coming before him during that term was the advertising of an estray.

It is authoritatively said of another pioneer justice of this township, that in rendering judgment in a case of assault and battery, in the absence of definite instructions and a knowledge of the law, he assessed a fine of so much for "assault" and so much for "battery."

First Settlers of Harrison Township.—William Curry, for a time county commissioner, built the first grist-mill in the township. Joseph Anderson was the first school-teacher. William Martindale, the second justice in the township, became eccentric on religious matters, and took the name of "Buck Martindale." Among the other first settlers were John and David Kingen, Richard Frost, John page: 159[View Page 159] Carr, John Johnson, Jeremiah Hagan, John L. Garwood, Richard Guymon, John Martin, William Anderson, Elijah Leary and Isaiah Curry. John L. Garwood was one of the jurymen who tried the Whites for the Indian murders on Fall Creek, near Pendleton, in 1824. The first burials in the Curry cemetery were Allen Curry and Lucinda Simmons, son and daughter of William Curry.

First Business.—The first business of this section was with Elijah Tyner, of Blue-river township, who bought the venison hams, furs and ginseng of the pioneers, and sold them a few of the staple articles in exchange. Some of the trading of this section was done at Indianapolis, Pendleton and Raysville about this time. The first store in Center township was in Greenfield, about the year 1826, a fuller account of which will appear further on. We have no knowledge of any store in Center township, outside of Greenfield, during her entire history, other than the one now kept by Dr. George Tague, in the north-east part of the township, where the new post-office, Binwood, is kept by the proprietor of the store.

Ex-County Officers.—Center township, and especially that part of it incorporated as Greenfield, like Virginia, the "Mother of Presidents," has been truly liberal and patriotic in furnishing her quota of county officers to serve the people.

This was the home of Lewis Tyner, a pioneer merchant of Greenfield, and the first county clerk, being elected in 1828. Here resided John Foster, the first sheriff, and afterward representative for three terms and county treasurer. Greenfield was the home of Joshua Meek, the first recorder, who filled the office for twenty-one years. Henry Watts, the first treasurer, elected in 1828, was from Brandywine township. This was the home of Elisha Chapman, one of the three original commissioners who divided the county into townships.

In the little town of Greenfield resided Dr. Leonard Bardwell, the second physician and the first representative from this county.

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In Greenfield lived John Templin, a merchant, and the first auditor, being elected in 1841, the first date at which the State laws required that officer.

Here also lived Meredith Gosney, the first county surveyor and also school commissioner. He died in Green township.

Here lived in their day Thomas D. Walpole, senator and representative; Joseph Chapman, representative and clerk of the court; Joseph Matthews and John Alley, representatives; William Sebastian, John T. Sebastian, John Hager and Henry A. Swope, county clerks; Nathan Crawford and Samuel C. Duncan, treasurers; Jonathan Dunbar, Joseph Anderson, John Osborn and William H. Curry, sheriffs; John Milroy, Levi Leary, Frances O. Sears and N. H. Roberts, recorders; Isaac Willett, Nathaniel Henry, Abram Rhue, William Curry, Benjamin Spillman, Jacob Tague and Hiram Tyner, county commissioners; George Y. Atkison, joint representative, representative, and county clerk; James Rutherford, county clerk and school examiner; and Morrison Pearson, county treasurer and surveyor.

Still living and residing among us in the territory under consideration are the following well-known, honorable citizens, ex-officers: David S. Gooding, probate judge, senator, representative, and prosecuting attorney; James L. Mason, senator, joint representative, and school examiner; William R. Hough, senator, district attorney, and school examiner; Reuben A. Riley, representative, prosecuting attorney, and school examiner; John H. White, representative; Charles G. Offutt, representative; Morgan Chandler, sheriff, clerk, and representative; Jonathan Tague, auditor; A. C. Handy, auditor and representative; A. T. Hart, treasurer; L. W. Gooding, recorder and prosecuting attorney; William Mitchell, recorder by appointment; Jacob Slifer, commissioner; William Fries, school examiner and surveyor; James A. New, school examiner.

Here, also, lived William R. West, recorder and probate judge, now living in Anderson, and John Hinchman, county commissioner, who now resides in Rush county.

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Murders, Suicides and Remarkable Deaths.—In 1833 John Hays, an ex-sheriff of Rush county, was burned to death at the burning of the first log jail in the county, located on the south part of the public square. Hays kept a boarding-house on the corner now occupied by Doctor Boot's residence. He drank immoderately; became jealous of one of his male boarders; reason and judgment were dethroned; and he determined to wreak out his vengeance on somebody. Being indiscriminate in his selections, he entered the Milroy family and committed an assault and battery, for which he was confined in jail. In his account of the matter, he said he dirked and clubbed them as frogs, and they turned to "Milroys." Hays was the only one at the time incarcerated in the jail, which he set on fire, and was smothered and partially burned to death before the fire was discovered. From the "Illustrated Historical Atlas of Rush County, Indiana," by J. H. Beers & Co., we copy the following: "The second session of the circuit court met on the 3rd day of October, 1822. The sheriff, John Hays, did not appear this term, nor does his name hereafter appear on the record as officiating as sheriff. From other sources it is known that the unfortunate man became insane, wandered out to Hancock county, was placed in jail in Greenfield, set fire to the jail, and was consumed with it ere he could be rescued. An awful death to die!" But few people remain to recall the sad occurrence.

Mrs. Harris, wife of George Harris, hung herself, in March, 1845, with a skein of yarn attached to one of the joists. She was a woman in middle life, and nothing definite is known as to the cause of the act. Strange as it may seem, this was done while Mr. H. was asleep in the same bed from which she arose; and he knew nothing about it till morning, when he awoke to find the lifeless form of his wife cold in death. He did not delay to inform the coroner, but cut her down at once, when Mr. Thomas B. Miller, acting coroner, was informed, and proceeded to hold an inquest, and rendered a verdict: "Came to her page: 162[View Page 162] death by hanging. Cause unknown." This occurred on Brandywine Creek, on the land now owned by Thomas B. Miller, in Center township, about six miles north-east of Greenfield.

Isaac Stuart was born in Guilford county, North Carolina, April 23, 1796. He married Miss Sarah Johnson, who was seven years his junior, in his native county, December 8, 1822. In 1829 they immigrated to Indiana, and stopped one year in Wayne county and a similar time in Henry county, then removed to Rush county, six miles south of Knightstown, where they remained until July 14, 1835, when they made a permanent settlement in Harrison township, Hancock county, Indiana, where he remained until his death. Here, in the green woods, he carved out a home and reared his family, earning his bread by the sweat of his brow, never owing any man a cent. He accumulated some property, and on the night of December 28, 1846, at eleven o'clock, he was awakened by hearing some one walking across the room. Supposing it to be his son, Dr. John G. Stuart, who was practicing medicine at Charlottesville, and frequently stopped there when belated, he told him that the hired girl, Charlotte Reeves, was in the bed. On hearing the old gentleman speak, James Wise, a robber, turned, and rushing upon Mr. Stuart, struck him over the head with a large club (which is still in possession of the family), felling him to the floor. Mr. Stuart attempted to grapple with him, when he was struck again, and pushed out of the door, to receive another blow, this time from another robber, named Bodkins, which knocked him senseless. The two then entered the house, and demanded of Mrs. Stuart the money. She gave them all in the house at the time, about $I25-eleven in paper, the rest in silver, twenty-eight dollars being in quarters. After Wise received the $128 he called for $1,000 more, in reply to which Mrs. Stuart told him that was all that they had about the house; that Isaac had just loaned out $1,000; and that if he wanted to kill her he would have to do so, as they had no more. Whereupon he knocked her down page: 163[View Page 163] and beat her nearly to death, vainly attempting to compel her to hand over the $1,000 (which it was impossible for her to do). When the doctor arrived the next morning, the first thing that greeted him was the pigs licking up his parents' blood. The neighbors soon came in, and organized two searching parties of eleven each, and went to the houses of the guilty parties, but failed to find them at home. The companies then separated, one starting for Pendleton and one for Huntsville. One man was sent forward who should recognize, speak to, and pass the suspected parties, and give the rest the signal; and when near where George Mingle now lives they met Wise on horseback. They captured him, and soon took Bodkins also. On taking them in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Stuart they immediately recognized them, although they were blackened the evening before, and they were taken to Indianapolis and committed to jail, there being at that time no jail in Hancock county. Their trial came off in February, 1847, and on the 12th of February they were sentenced to the penitentiary, Wise for twelve years and Bodkins for six. The latter died in about eighteen months, and Wise was pardoned by Governor Joseph Wright, on a petition on which the names of the Stuart family were forged. Mr. Stuart never fully recovered from the injuries, never being able afterwards to attend to business, and after being paralyzed eighteen months, during which time he was as helpless as an infant, he died August 6, 1859. As a last request he ordered that as he had never owed anything in life, all his funeral expenses should be paid before he was buried, which was done. Mrs. Sarah Stuart, whose injuries were less severe, is still living with relatives, at the age of seventy-eight, loved and respected by all who know her.

William S. Wood committed suicide by taking sulphate of morphia and chloroform, at the Union depot, Indianapolis, September 30, 1875, aged thirty-seven years. The cause of this sad occurrence was financial difficulties and large forgeries, a full account of which were given by him in his dying statement and confession, published at the page: 164[View Page 164] time in many of the city and county papers of the state. On the 28th, two days before his death, he took two policies in the Masonic Mutual Benefit, for his children, to the amount of $5,000, and $7,000 in the Franklin for his wife and children, and he had previously taken $2,500 in the Union Mutual, or Northwestern, of Milwaukee. Among his forgeries last made were his father's and father-in-law's names to a note for $4,000, payable in the First National Bank of Cambridge City, Indiana; and the names of Pratt & Baldwin, Marion Forgy, J. W. Ryon, and Thomas Wood to a note for $1,000, which he discounted at the Citizens' National Bank of Indianapolis. Of his forgeries he said, which was doubtless true, that he "never intended that any one should know it or have a cent to pay for him." But the financial crisis was too severe. The shrinkage of values, the high rates of interest, and the difficulties experienced in borrowing money at any rate drove him to desperation, and for the time dethroned reason and judgment. Mr. Wood was one of the most enterprising citizens of the county. Starting in the grocery business in a limited way in Greenfield, in 1862, with but little capital, he had greatly extended his business; then in the hardware and implement trade, speculating in land and lots; was the prime mover in erecting the Citizens' Bank (of which P. H. Boyd, John B. Simmons, Abiram Boyd, W. S. Wood, and I. P. Poulson were the stockholders); he built the two-story brick in the east part of town, since known as the flax factory, then owned by the Greenfield Manufacturing Association, of which he was president at the time of his death. At heart Mr. W. was a good man; a little vain, but exceedingly charitable; and was one of the most liberal members of the Christian church. He was at the time of his death Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias for the state; president of the school board in Greenfield; superintendent of the Christian Sunday-school; and an active, energetic man, who was greatly missed by the community. In person he was square-built, heavy-set; weight, 160 pounds; dark features and dark hair, a keen page: 165[View Page 165] eye, healthy and temperate; of nervous, sanguine temperament; five feet eight inches in height, quick-motioned and dignified bearing. He left a wife, the oldest daughter of William L. Garriott, and three children to mourn his loss, and fight life's battles all alone, unaided by paternal guidance and a father's strong arm. Mr. Wood's education was limited, never having had the opportunity of attending school but for a short time; but by observation, quick perception, and a retentive memory, he had partially made up the loss; and being of an imaginary turn of mind, a fluent talker, and possessed of a strong voice, he was considered a good extemporaneous speaker on all ordinary occasions and subjects. The last public speech he made was on Monday morning, September 27, I875, in the collection room in the public school building, in Greenfield. Those who heard it will remember it as at least good for an extemporaneous effort. The writer knew him well, and on that Monday morning, the beginning of the school year, had met him a few minutes before the time for opening, and invited him, as the president of the board, to be present and make a few appropriate remarks to the children on entering on their year's work, which he accepted, as he usually did such invitations, on condition that he found the time. Little did we think while following him in his speech through the Elysian fields, and drinking deep of the crystal fountains, that he was then contemplating so rash an act, to be returned to us in three short days a lifeless form.

In this township, about four miles north-east of Greenfield, lived William Frost, well known throughout the county as a local politician, thoroughly posted in the current history of the county, a successful farmer, an unwavering democrat and once a trustee of Center township, who came to an untimely death by falling from the top of a willow tree, near a cranberry patch north of town, where he had stationed himself to watch for a fox which he supposed would pass that way for its place of resort. On Friday morning, January 19, 1877, Mr. Frost, in company with William Martin and William Creviston, page: 166[View Page 166] started out on a fox hunt. Frost being a good marksman, it was decided that he should take a station near the said cranberry patch, the fox rendezvous, while his companions should drive them up. In order to be unobserved by the fox, Frost took a stand in the fork of an inclining willow tree, some twelve or fifteen feet from the ground. Noon coming on, and Martin and Creviston being tired, finding no fox, and supposing that Frost had left the woods, went home. But as Frost failed to return home that evening, his family became uneasy, and early next morning instituted a search. About nine o'clock he was found dead in the snow under the tree where he had stood. From the scars on and about his head, and broken teeth lying in his mouth and driven into his split jaw, it was supposed that he had relied too much on a small limb, which would strike him about the shoulders as he stood in the tree, and which had broken and let him fall to the frozen ground head foremost, dislocating his neck and producing instant death.

On the evening of August 30, 1876, there occurred, in the northern part of Center township, just east of the Junction, one of the most shocking, horrible and diabolical tragedies ever enacted in the county, which resulted in the murder of James Reedy, a cripple, by his father, Jerry Reedy, in a drunken quarrel between the two after returning from Greenfield, where they had taken a load of melons, sold them, and partook freely of fire-water, or better called devil's water, which drowned reason, smothered judgment, obliterated natural affection, and drove the actors to desperation and deathly combat. In a quarrel about "bossing" the household, each of them claiming that high prerogative, the butt end of a buggy whip was broken across the head of young Reedy, breaking down the bridge of his nose, and two or three flesh cuts inflicted on the father, terminating with a horrible death gash in the skull of young Reedy, from the edge of an axe in the hands of a crazed, enraged and excited father. According to the statement of Mrs. James Reedy, the only witness of the terrible tragedy, the parties had returned from town about four o'clock, and both page: 167[View Page 167] [View Figure]
page: 168[View Page 168] declined to partake of the supper prepared for them; that James was lying on the floor asleep, when Jerry struck him a few licks with the whip and told him to get up, which originated the quarrel terminating as above. Young Reedy died in a few hours, leaving a young wife and an unborn child. Jerry Reedy said that while in Greenfield they drank together, each four glasses of whisky; that he remembered nothing about using the ax on his son, and after becoming sober and rational, wept over the act and mourned the loss bitterly. But past acts he could not recall; the life taken he could not return; and notwithstanding his sense of shame, grief and remorse of conscience, he must suffer the penalty of an infracted law, and is now serving out a ten year's sentence in the penitentiary south. This is the result of giving way to the first glass. Had poor Jerry Reedy never begun the use of intoxicants, he might have escaped the disgrace of being a worthless sot and murderer, and have gone down to his grave with a clear conscience and the approval of Heaven. What a grave commentary on the common habit of dram drinking. Let the unconfirmed and uninitiated take warning, and "touch not, taste not the unclean thing," remembering that reliable statistics show that nine-tenths of the crimes of the civilized world are the result thereof; that the accursed habit fills our jails, penitentiaries and alms-houses of various kinds, and is the mother of pauperism, illiteracy, illegitimacy, crime and high taxes, and produces untold toil, suffering, and despair by unnatural widows and helpless orphans, left unaided to fight life's battles. "Oh! that men would consider, and heed wisdom's ways ere it is too late."

In this township, on the fair grounds, at the south end of floral-hall, on the morning of June 26, 1875, William Keemer died of what Mark Twain denominates "throat trouble." The facts in the case are too fresh in the minds of the peoplo to need much rehearsing. Keemer was a tall, strong mulatto man, about twenty-six years of age, who had committed a rape on Mrs. Jerusha E. Vaughn, wife of Mr. William Vaughn, then of Blue-river township, page: 169[View Page 169] for which he was caught and placed in the county jail at Rushville, where he remained one night, when fears were entertained of violence, and he was removed to Greenfield after night, and placed in the new jail. On the following morning, at half-past twelve o'clock, about 150 masked men, realizing the enormity of the crime, and fearing the technicalities and uncertainties of law, determined to take the law in their hands for the time, and see that justice was speedily meted out. They entered the jail, broke into Sheriff Thomas's room, forced the keys from him, unlocked the cell doors, and took their prisoner by force, placed him in a spring-wagon drawn by a gray horse, and marched to the place of execution, as aforesaid. The testimony is that the wagon was backed up to the fatal spot and a cotton rope placed around his neck, when he was asked if he had anything to say; in reply to which he said: "Men, you are doing a great wrong," which he repeated, and the wagon was driven out, and the frail frame was left writhing and dangling between the certainties of earth and the uncertainties of the future, with the dark waters of death near by. After life was extinct a placard was pinned on his bosom, to be read by hundreds the next morning, of which the following is a copy: "It is the verdict of 160 men from Hancock, Shelby and Rush that his life is inadequate to the demands of justice." After life was pronounced extinct by one of the city physicians, who was present as a spectator, one of the masked men arose and announced in slow, measured tones something like the following: "Comrades and spectators: The scene just enacted was done in no spirit of bravado or revenge, but to vindicate in some degree an outrage upon an innocent, unprotected woman, and to give protection and security in the future to your wives, as well as mine. Now, if any one, be he officer or citizen, divulge the secrets of this night, he shall surely suffer (pointing to the hanging man) in the same way." The crowd then dispersed. The next day an inquest was held, and a verdict rendered in accordance with the above facts. The corpse was then cut down, page: 170[View Page 170] placed on Frank Barnett's old dray, and taken to an undertaking establishment, and after being gazed on by hundreds from the county and town, was taken that night, about eleven o'clock, and deposited in its last resting-place on the county farm, "unwept, unhonored and unsung." Not being a citizen of Greenfield, he could not be buried in the new cemetery without the payment of the required fee of two dollars, and no one was found to advance the money; hence, with the box in a wagon and "Buffalo Bill " to dig the grave, his last remains were deposited as aforesaid. Thus ended the earthly, career of William Keemer. We are no apologist for mob law; but if it is ever justifiable, this was one of those cases.

It was in this township, about five miles north-east of Greenfield, that Samuel Derry "came to his death by stabs and wounds inflicted in and upon his body, by a knife or knives, by Harrison Kingen and Lucinda Kingen," on the 26th day of July, 1873, from which he died on the 30th. It will be remembered that the immediate cause of the fatal affray was a tiny gosling, the ownership of which was in dispute. On the day before the culmination of the trouble Lucinda Kingen, wife of Harrison Kingen, and sister of Samuel Derry, had gone to the house of her brother and driven away the said gosling. This act revived an old feeling existing between the families, and on the Saturday following the three parties met in the public highway, near the residence of said Derry, which resulted in a fatal fight, in which it seems a club, brick and knife were freely used. While there were several cuts on the body of Derry, in the opinion of the physicians the wound in the back, extending into the cavity of the chest, was the immediate cause of the death of Derry. A post mortem examination also disclosed the fact that the stomach and part of the intestines had passed upward through the cut in the diaphragm into the chest, and lay in front of the heart and lungs, rather on the left side, where the lung was collapsed. The coroner's jury returned a verdict in accordance with the above facts. This was considered one of the page: 171[View Page 171] most shocking murders that ever occurred in the township. Considering the relationship of the families and the insignificant differences between them, it was wholly unnatural and unaccountable, and is certainly a sad commentary on family feuds and petty strifes. Hereby two families were ruined, and their happiness forever destroyed.

It was in this township, also, at the Judkins schoolhouse, that Theodore Gant was struck over the head with a wooden poker by his teacher, on March 8, 1870, which resulted in his death on the same evening.

There have been a number of other strange sudden deaths in this township, which we will notice briefly: Lewis B. Paris was found dead and badly mutilated on the railroad, west of the depot, in November, 1865; supposed to have been murdered and thrown on the track. Jesse McKinney was killed by the cars, at the depot, in 1860. John Tacket was killed in 1863, a few rods east of the depot, by the cars striking him in the head. He was standing beside the track, leaning too far over. John Crush was killed, it is thought intentionally, in a similar manner, on July 29, 1875. Henry H. Baxter, a shoemaker, fell dead at the Dunbar corner, April 13, 1872. He left in 1852, and had returned on a visit. W. F. Barnard was killed in November, 1878, on the Washington Duncan farm, by a pole falling on his head at a barn raising. David T. Davis's daughter committed suicide by drowning in Brandywine, near her home, a few years since. A Mr. Johnson, in the early history of the county, drowned himself in a pond north-east of the Junction. Henry Ford, an elderly man, dropped dead in the woods, in the presence of Sylvanus Campbell and David Deshong, December 26, 1876. In February, 1869, a man by the name of Chambers was killed at the Brandywine bridge, by his head striking against the top thereof. On the 15th of October, 1873, a man whose name was unknown was killed in the same manner and place. Shortly after, perhaps in 1874, a brakeman was killed at the depot in Greenfield by his head striking the projecting roof.

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Exports.—The exports of this township and town are mainly the products of the farm, forest and factory, and consists of corn, cattle, hogs, horses, flaxseed, flax-tow, staves, heading, school desks, lumber, potatoes, butter, eggs, hay, wool and furniture.

Remarks.—With this general view of the township we close the present chapter. Many of the points herein merely alluded to will receive more attention in the next chapter, entitled "Center Township—Continued," and also further on in the book.