Franklin County, Indiana
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County History




Franklin county was the seventh county organized within the present limits of Indiana and was one of the thirteen counties which had been organized at the time the territory applied for an enabling act in 1815. All counties during the territorial period (1800-16) were either created by the governor or the territorial Legislature. During the first five years the governor created the counties, but after the Legislature was organized, in 1805. it took over the creation of counties. They were organized as fast as the increase in population demanded them, but it was not until 1810 that. Dearborn county was populated sufficiently to warrant its division.

There are four separate tracts of land within the present limits of Franklin county, representing four distinct purchases by the United States government from the Indians. The first land which was bought from the Indians was secured by the treaty of Greenville, August 3. 1795. This treaty line was drawn from the mouth of the Kentucky river in a northeasterly direction to Fort Recovery and entered Franklin county in Highland township, between sections 15 and 35, and passed out of the county as a boundary line between Blooming Grove and Fairfield townships. The land included within these limits now embraces all of Fairfield. Bath. Springfield. White Water, practically all of Highland and three-fourths of Brookville township. This land was entered from Cincinnati until the land office was established in Brookville in 1820.

The second tract of land in Franklin county which was secured by the government from the Indians was acquired by the treaty at Grouseland (near Vincennes), August 21, 1805. This includes a triangular tract in four town-.ships, as follows: Ray (section 15. and fractional sections 10, 16 and 17) : Butler (sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 9. 11. 12. 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 33 and fractional sections 1, 11, 28, 32 and 36) ; Brookville (sections 27, 34 and fractional sections 22, 23, 26 and 35) ; Highland ( fractional sections 3. 10 and 15).

It was the purchase of the third tract of land which led directly to the organization of Franklin county. This was the Twelve-mile Purchase, which was concluded by Harrison at Fort Wayne. September 30. 1809. This tract included a strip twelve miles in width lying west of the 1795 treaty line. It entered Franklin county at the south in section 22. Ray township, and passed out of the county in section? of Posey township. It is the second largest tract in the county which was purchased from the Indians and includes all of Blooming Grove. Metamora and Laurel townships, as well as the greater portion of Salt Creek and Ray township. There are also part of Butler, Brookville and Posey townships within this tract.

The fourth and last Indian cession, which includes a part of Franklin county, was concluded at St. Mary's. October 2-6. 1818. This purchase from the Indians included the largest tract of land which was ever secured from them in Indiana and is known in history as the New Purchase. There are only parts of three townships in Franklin county which fall within this fourth tract, namely, Ray, Salt Creek and Posey.

The Twelve-mile Purchase of 1809 practically doubled the area of Dearborn county and. as has been previously stated, led directly to, the division of the county and the formation of Franklin and Wayne out of its northern half. When the territorial Legislature met at Vincennes, on November 12, 1810. there was present a group of men who were desirous of organizing two new counties out of Dearborn and Clark, these counties being Franklin and Wayne. Solomon Manwaring was a councilor from Dearborn county and the same man who had surveyed Brookville in 1808. One of the three' territorial representatives from Dearborn comity was John Templeton. who resided in what is now Franklin county. It is safe to presume that Amos Butler and others interested in Brookville real estate and business enterprises were either present themselves or had able representatives to look after their interests. At least within fifteen days after the Legislature had met (November 27, 1810) Franklin county was created. Templeton, who was, by the way, a son-in-law of Robert Hanna. had the honor of giving the new county its name. As originally established, the county included all the territory between the Ohio line on the east and the Twelve-mile line of 1809 on the west. The southern limits of the county have never been changed, but as It was organized in 1810 it extended nine miles further north and Included a large part of what is now Fayette and Union counties. The act establishing the county is as follows

"Section 1. Be it enacted, etc.. that from and after the first day of February. 1811, all that part of Dearborn and Clark counties which is included m the following boundaries shall form and constitute two new counties; that is to say. beginning at the corner of townships 7 and 8 on the line of the State of Ohio; thence north until the same arrives at Fort Recovery thence from Fort Recovery southwardly with the line of the western boundary of the purchase made at Fort Wayne in the year 1809. until the same intersects the northern boundary of the purchase made at Grouseland: thence northwardly with the line of the last named purchase until the same arrives at a point where a due east-and-west line will strike the corner of town 7 and 8 on the aforesaid state of Ohio line.

"Section 2 That the tract of country included within the aforesaid boundary lie and the same hereby is divided into two separate and distinct counties by a line beginning at the corner of towns 11 and 12, on the line of the state of Ohio, and from thence west until it shall intersect a line of the western boundary of the before-mentioned purchase of Fort Wayne: and that from and alter the first day of February, the tract of country falling within the southern division thereof shall lie known and designated as the county of Franklin, and the northern division thereof shall he known and designated by the name and style of the county of Wayne.

"Section 3. 'That for the purpose of fixing the permanent seat of justice in and for the said county of Franklin, James Adair, David Hover and Elijah Sparks be and they are hereby appointed commissioners whose duty it shall be to convene at the town of Brookville, in the said county of Franklin, on or before the first Monday of May next, and being First duly sworn to discharge the duties enjoined on them by this act without favor, affection or partiality, before some justice of the peace of said county, legally commissioned, shall proceed to fix on the most convenient and eligible place for the permanent seat of justice for the same.

"Section 4. That so soon as the place for holding the courts for said county shall he established agreeably to the above section, the judges of the court of common pleas for the said county shall immediately proceed to erect the necessary public buildings for the same at such place, in the same manner as is required by law in other counties; and after the public buildings are so erected, the court of said county shall adjourn to the said place at their next term after the same shall he completed, which shall become and is hereby declared to he the permanent seat of justice of the said county of Franklin."


There was probably no question but that Brookville would be selected as the county seat, although there is a tradition to the effect that the town of Fairfield indulged in some county-seat aspiration. This tradition must be the result of a disordered imagination, since at the time Fairfield was laid out in 1815 there was being completed at Brookville what was probably the best court house in the state at the time. It is true that Fairfield was nearer the center of the county as it was originally laid out and that it was the center of the heaviest population of the county in 1811. However as soon as Brookville was selected as the county seat in 1811 there could certainly have been no hope on the part of those who wished the seat of justice placed at what was later Fairfield. Scores of Indiana counties have had difficulty in getting  the county seat located, but Franklin county has never experienced any trouble along this line.

Franklin county secured its present territorial limits as a result of three separate legislative acts, Fayette county was organized by the act of December 28, 1818, and began its independent career on the first day of the following year. This took off a strip nine miles wide lying between the Twelve mile line of 1809 and the line dividing. The erection of Union county by the legislative act of January 5, 1821, took off a tract nine miles wide lying between the Ohio line and Fayette county. The third legislative act which helped to define the present limits of the county was passed as result of the New Purchase of October, 1818. A triangular strip about two miles and a half wide and sixteen miles long was added to Franklin county by the Legislature of 1823 and on February 11, of that year, the commissioners of the county attached it to Posey township. The organization of the various townships of the county is given in detail in the separate chapter dealing with the townships. Unfortunately, the first records of the county are missing and there is no way of telling w hat the limits of the first townships were, although it seems certain that Brookville. Posey and Bath were the first three townships.

There is no way of knowing how many people lived in Franklin county when it was organized on February 1, 1811. It is fair to presume that there were at least five thousand people in the county; the census of 1815 credited the county with 7,370 people and a voting population of 1,430. At this time Franklin county was second only in population to Knox and had thirty-nine more voters than that county. By 1820 Franklin county had increased to a population of 10,703 and at that time was the third in the state in population, being surpassed by Wayne (12,119) and Dearborn (11,468.) During the next decade Franklin county passed through a terrible crisis and hundreds of its best people left the county, yet the census of 1830 gave it a population of 10,990. However, it was still fourth out of the sixty-two counties then organized, being passed by Wayne (18,589). Dearborn (13,955) and Jefferson (11,465). The census of Franklin county by decades since 1880 is as follows:

Townships. 1880 1890 1900 1910
Bath 754 638 556 604
Blooming Grove 795 664 653 651
Brookville 2,525 2,242 1,961 1,722
Brookville town 1,809 2,028 2,037 2,169
Butler 1.402 1,243 1,073 876
Fairfield 818 674 601 553
Highland 1,827 1,509 1317 1,161
Cedar Grove

Laurel 1,866 1,760 1,412 1,209
Laurel town

600 503
Metamora 1,040 928 712 693
Posey 1,034 882 810 713
Ray 2,478 2,224 2,122 2,017
690 957 956
Salt Creek 1,247 1073 849 699
Springfield 1,464 1,224 1,130 1,118
Mt. Carniel
142 153 142
White Water 1,446 1,237 1,154 1,150

Source: History of Franklin County Indiana by August J. Reifel 1915


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