Hancock County Township History - March 2014

So do you know where you live? Yes, you probably know what city and county and maybe even subdivision but do you know what township you live in?

You probably only have to answer that question once or twice a year, but you would be surprised at how many people don't know what township they live in. I'm a Center Township guy born and raised! I normally write about history that pertains to the City of Greenfield but in this addition I'm stepping out a little bit to cover all the townships in the county.

Did you know that there use to be a Harrison, Jones, Worth and Union Townships? Let's explore how all of this took place!

Hancock County originally consisted of three townships: Blue River along the eastern border, Brandywine in the center and Sugar Creek along the western border. These townships were organized in 1828. This is the same time that Hancock County split with Madison County and it is also the same year that the City of Greenfield was established as the county seat.

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Blue River Township was reduced in size and located in the south-east part of the county in 1831, with thirty sections. Jackson Township was the name assigned to the remainder of Blue River, and was located in the northeastern part of the county; buy the commissioners, in 1831.

Brandywine Township was reduced to thirty sections in the same year, and located in the central southern portion of the county.

Center Township was established in 1831 and located north of Brandywine Township, extending three miles north and south and six miles east and west, and containing eighteen sections.

Harrison Township was also organized in the same year, and composed of the remainder of Brandywine north of Center to the north line of the county.

Buck Creek Township was cut off from Sugar Creek in 1831 and made to extend from congressional line sixteen to the north county line.

Green Township was taken from the north part of Jackson and Harrison in 1832, and composed of that part of the county north of congressional line seventeen and consisted of sixty sections being the same territory now embodied in Brown and Green townships.

In 1833 Brown Township was separated from Green Township and contained 30 sections.

In 1835 Center Township was increased one tier of sections, taken from the northern part of Brandywine.

Vernon Township was cut off from the north part of Buck Creek north of congressional line seventeen, and made to consist of thirty-one sections.

Jones Township was formed in 1838, by taking two tiers of sections from the north part of Sugar Creek and the same number from the south part of Buck Creek and it composed of twenty-four sections.

Union township was made up from the eastern part of Buck Creek, the western part of Harrison, and the southeast corner of Vernon. It was organized in 1838 and composed of twenty sections.

Worth township was composed of the north part of Jackson and the northeast corner of Center and it was organized in 1850.

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At the March term of 1853, the commissioners divided Jones township between Sugar Creek and Buck Creek; Union township between Buck Creek, Vernon and Center; Worth township between Center and Jackson, and attached Harrison to Center; thereby eliminating Jones, Union, Worth, and Harrison and leaving us with the current format we all know today of the nine township.

The nine townships are arranged in a three tier setup consisting of three townships in each tier. As of 1853 Augustus Dennis, Ephraim Bentley and John Dye were selected commissioners for those three tiers.

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Here are some interesting stats from our townships. Green Township claims the honor of employing the first female teacher, Mrs. Sarah Gant. The first log cabin was also built in Green Township in 1818.

The first grist mill was built along the banks of Blue River by Joshua Wilson in 1824 in Blue River Township. This mill was a small, one-story log structure, which, soon after being erected was sold to Henry Watts, on account of some difficulty about the obstruction of water.

The first blacksmith in the county was Thomas Phillips, who set up shop in Blue River Township in 1822.

The first tavern in the county was established in Center Township in Greenfield by Andrew Jackson in about 1825.

The first store in the county was located in Blue River Township by Elijah Tyner. He was also the first to set out an orchard.

The first road in the county was an old Indian trial known as the "Napoleon Trace," which extended through Blue River, Jackson, and Green townships.

The first fence was also built in Blue River built by a man simply known as McCall. It was a brush fence, made of branches of the trees which McCall had climbed and trimmed.

Now let's take a little closer look at each township.

Blue River: The first to settle in Blue River were Andres Evans, John Montgomery, Montgomery McCall, Harmon Warrum, Elijah and Soloman Tyner, John Osborn, Joshua Wilson, George Penwell, the Johnses, Adamses, James and Benajah Binford, Joseph Andrews, John Brown, David Dodge and David Smith.

This area was popular for settlers due to the size of the Blue River and its rich bottom land for farming. There was a large oak tree on the Penn Binford property that was said to have measured nine feet in diameter and about seventy feet to the first limb. WOW! Try to put a swing in that tree? It fell in about 1852. It was also said that you could have driven a two-horse team and wagon through it.

This area is also hilling and undulating.

The only unincorporated town is Westland. B.P. Butler was the first post master and Thomas E. Hill was the first trustee. The chief exports of the township were corn, wheat, hogs, cattle, horses, apples, potatoes and flaxseed.

Brandywine: This Township takes its name from the principal stream that runs through it. The Little Sugar Creek also ran through the township but both of these streams were slow and sluggish and so there were fewer mills than some of the other townships.

The first settlers were David Stephenson, James Montgomery and a Mr. Rambo. Soon afterwards came James McKinney, Jonathan Potts, James Montgomery, N. Swim, George Troxwell, James Goodwin, J. H. Anderson and William Lucas.

This township is rather level and heavily covered with walnut and oak trees that were eventually cleared. It had at one time fourteen miles of toll-pike and three miles of railroad. They also had one brass band.

B.F. Wilson and T.W. Laribee were the first justices. The first trustee was William Service.

When it comes to towns in Brandywine it's probably home to one of the most interesting stories. There's been one town in Brandywine and but some could think there was several. Mainly because that one town has had more name changes than any other town in the county. It was originally known as Kinder when the post office first established an office in 1847. In 1869 it was changed to Carrollton. The railroad and express companies adopted the name of Reedville for their stations. In 1913 the post office changed names again this time to Finly, in honor of Congressman Finly Gray. The common folk referred to their town as "Tailholt", upon which James Whitcomb Riley seized and, with poetic genius, immortalized the town.

This little town is a prime example of a lot of towns in that the post office controls the official names when they would establish offices in these areas.

Brown: Brown township took its name from one of its first settlers, Prior Brown.

It is primarily level and was covered with Beech, Sugar Maples, Oak, Elm, Walnut, Cherry and Poplar. Farming and grazing. Sugar Creek was the main water source.

The first settlers John and Ezekiel Morgan, Geo. Nance, Mr. Davis, Perry Wilson, Sarah Baldwin, Morgan McQuery, the Johnses, Nibargers, Sparks, Hiatts, Seth Walker, Mosby Childers, Stephen Harlan and Thomas Collins.

At the time there was a tile factory, flour mill, saw mill, three toll pikes, and one mill stream.

The first township trustee was William Garriott in 1859. The first justice was Barzilla Rozell sometime prior to 1836.

Wilkinson and the west three quarters of Shirley are the townships primary towns. Nashville, Warrington and Willow Branch were other established areas.

Buck Creek: This Township gained its name from the numerous "bucks" or deer that drank from the banks of the Sugar Creek that runs through area.

The township is relatively flat. It was at first low and wet and was uninviting to settlers. It was heavily timbered with Beech, Oak, Ash, Elm, Sugar Maples, Walnut, Maples and Burr Oak.

The first settlers were James Burris, John Shirley, Thomas Craig, William Smith, William Arnett, Obadiah and John Eastes, J.A. Dunn, Thomas Rodgers, Isaac Snider, John Dance, Daniel Skinner, Archy Smith, Benjamin Percell, Charles Fish, Landis Eastes, Hance Steel, and the Beechman Family.

As of 1882 it was stated that the roads in Buck Creek were the worst in the county. They only had three and one-half miles of toll pikes. This was due though to the area being low and wet and they lacked gravel pits.

Buck Creek was primarily agricultural and grazing territory. There were just one tile factory, saw mill and hominy mill.

The first justice was Morgan Brinegar in 1831. The first trustee was Ephraim Thomas in 1859.

The only corporate town is Cumberland. Mohawk, Mt. Comfort and Pleasant Acres make up the unincorporated areas.

Center Township: Center Township gets its name because it sits dead center of the county.

It's primarily level with slight undulations.

Chief productions are corn, wheat, oats, flax, hogs, horses, cattle, Irish potatoes along with several factories and mills.

Sugar Creek runs through a portion of the district buts its main water source is Brandywine Creek.

First settlers were Platt Montgomery, Robert Burton, Isaac Roberts and David Vanglider who settled in the southeast corner of the township. Jeremiah Meek is said to have been the first settler in Greenfield.

Center Township had limited roads until the National Road was constructed. It ran through the center of the area east to west.

The first justice was Benjamin Spillman.

Greenfield is the primary town as it is the county seat. Maxwell borders on the far north side of the township.

Green: This Township got its name from John Green, the first settler, or at least one of the first settlers.

This area is generally level with some slight undulation.

The chief productions were hogs, cattle, wheat, corn, horses, oats, flaxseed and Irish potatoes.

The main water sources are Swamp Creek and Sugar Creek.

The first settlers after John Green were William Rickard, Miles Walker, Thomas Dorson, John Hanger, Vincent Cooper, John Alford, Abraham Rhue, Robert Walker, Thomas L. Fuqua and John Denney.

George Mason had the first mill built in 1835. Other mills would follow.

Green Township as of 1882 had twelve miles worth of good roads. The Greenfield and Pendleton pike extends across the township from north to south.

The first justice was John Alford in 1833. The first township trustee was Meredith Gosney in 1859. And in case you're wondering Meredith is not a female.

Green Township has no corporate towns. Eden was established in 1835. At that time it was known as Lewisburg. Milners Corner is located on the central eastern part of the township, on the line between Green and Brown. It derived its name from James Milner in 1850.

Jackson: Jackson township received its name from "Old Hickory" himself, who was president of the United States at the when the township was formed in 1831.

The area is essentially level and rich with good soil. The chief productions hogs, cattle, corn, wheat, horses, sheep, flaxseed and oats.

The main waterway is the Brandywine Creek, Six Mile Creek and Nameless Creek.

The first land entry was by William Oldham in 1824. Among other early settlers were John forts, John Catt, Bazil Meek, David Templeton, Samuel and John Dilla, James and Benjamin Forts, Mr. Lackey, John and James Sample, Andrew Jackson, Sanford Pritchard, James Barlow, Henry Woods, David Longinmaker, Valentine Slifer, John Magart, Thomas Ramsey, and John Shields.

The first mill was established by John Forts in 1827 along the Six Mile Creek.

Roads were descent. The first was the old State Road followed by the National Road. When first developed the six-mile stretch of the National Road was considered eyesore and a discredit to the county. But eventually it was graveled.

Basil Meek was the first justice in 1831.

The main unincorporated town is Charlottesville, which is along the National Road. The land for the town was owned by Josiah Vanmeter. The town was laid out by David Templeton in 1830. No reason could be found as to how they arrived at the name of Charlottesville.

Cleveland is another town also along the National Road. Leamon's Corner was located in the central western part of the township. It took its name from the Leamon family. No time frame was given but the post office moved location in 1881. Pleasant Hill is also listed but no information is given. We do know that there was a Pleasant Hill Methodist Church.

Sugar Creek: This township was named after the primary creek that runs through it. It was organized in 1828.

This area is level and slightly rolling, except along the creek which is hilly and broken.

The chief productions are corn, wheat, hogs, cattle, barley, oats, flaxseed, horses, Irish potatoes and especially wheat.

There are two water sources the Sugar Creek and Buck Creek.

The first land entry was George Worthington in 1822. Other settlers were Jacob Jone, Amos Dickerson, Jonathan Evans, Samuel Cones, Jacob Murnan, George Williams, Thomas and Richard Leachman, George Robison, Reuben Barnard, William Barnard, David McNamee, Andrew Magahey, John Delany, William True, J.A. Leonard, John Dye, Jacob Schramm, Albert Lange, Mr. Heffermeier, Andrew Fink, Anton Wishmeier, Anoton Kirkhoff, Christian Schildmeier, A. and J. Hudson, William Brown and Mr. Trevis.

The first mill was erected by Stephen Bellus along the Sugar Creek in 1828.

The first Justus was George Leachman in 1943. The first trustee was Charles Atherton prior to 1840.

Palestine, or New Palestine as we know it today, is the townships largest town. It was incorporated in 1838. The land was owned by John Weston and it was laid out by J. Evans. Other incorporated towns are Cumberland and Spring Lake. There were several unincorporated areas, Brookville Heights, Carriage Estates, Schildmeier Park. Philadelphia was established in 1838 and was named after the city of brotherly love. It is located along the National Road. Gem established a post office in 1878.

Vernon: This Township is uniquely named after final resting place of the first President of the United States, George Washington. It was organized in 1836.

This township is basically level. The chief productions were the same as the other townships with the exception of hennery and dairy.

The major water sources are the Sugar Creek, Buck Creek, and the Flat Fork.

The first land entry was by George Crim in 1826. Other settlers are Samuel Henry, John Brooks, Joe Winn, Richard Stokes, Nathan Blackburn, Micajah Shull, David Fisher, the Crossley family, John Robb, Tarleton Walker, William and Sarah McCord, George Pritchet, Jacob Smith, Hiram Duncan, John Caudel, George Chappel, George Jackson, John Denney and Arthur Morrison.

The first mill was constructed in 1849 by Noel and Company at Fortville. Roads were primarily dirt or corduroy. Eventually it had up to twenty five miles of pike roads. The Fortville pike running from Greenfield to Fortville still exists today.

The first township trustee was Perry Brinegar in 1859. The first justice was John Apple in 1837.

Fortville and McCordsville were the townships only incorporated towns. Fortville was established in 1849. It originally was called Walpole, in honor of Thomas Walpole. It changed names to Fort's Town, i.e. Fortville later. McCordsville was established in 1865. It is not stated how it was given its name but one of the early to construct the additions was named McCord.

Woodbury is an unincorporated burg. It lies between Fortville and McCordsville. It was established in 1851 by Ellen Wood. Colonial Village, Denny Corner, Eastgate and Helmcrest were other villages in this township.
So, do you know where you live now? There is so much more about each of these townships that we could write a book on each one. But I just wanted to give some details that gave us basic overview.

In studying these townships you can learn a lot about you county. Roads for example are one thing that shows a pattern in history. When roads were first developed they were simply dirt paths, but they were expanded by our early settlers and there would be a main road running from town to town. Pikes as they were termed. Some still exists today; Fortville Pike and Morristown Pike come to mind.

So the next time you are out for a drive in the country, take a look around and try to determine what township you are in and then try and search for each townships unique history.

 

Greg Roland

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