HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY
Hancock county, Indiana,
little east of the geographical center of the state. It is in
40° north, and longitude 86° west, of Greenwich, or 90 west
from Washington, and is in townships fifteen, sixteen, and
north, and ranges five, six, seven, and eight east. In size it
an average county of the state, being composed of 307 sections,
square miles, and containing about 196,480 acres. It is bounded
the west by Marion and Hamilton, on the north by Madison and
Hamilton, on the east by Henry and Rush, and on the south by
Shelby, Rush and Henry. It is chiefly bordered, however, by
the west, Madison on the north, Henry on the east, and Shelby on
south. Hamilton forms only one mile of the western boundary and
the northern ; Rush forms six miles of the eastern and two of
southern, and Henry forms but one mile of the southern
boundary. The greatest length of the county is nineteen miles
and west, and its greatest width seventeen miles north and
Hancock county was cut off from
Madison and organized in the year 1828, and named in honor of
Hancock, president of the convention that adopted the
immortal " Declaration of Independence.
At the time of the organization of
the county it contained but few inhabitants, and they were
scattered. At the first presidential election held in the
occurred November 3, 1828, the whole number of votes cast were
now the whole number is, according to the census of 1880, 4,170.
the entire population of the county was about 400; now it is
Then there were, perhaps, 135 children of school age in the
now there are 5,646. Then there was but one clock in the county
there is one in nearly every household. Then there were no broad
of golden grain, cut with a self binder and threshed with a
thresher, but only here and there a small patch cleared in the
cut with a sickle and threshed with a flail. Then our whole
was almost one unbroken wilderness, in which were numerous
wild deer, bears, panthers, wild cats, rattlesnakes, wolves,
turkeys, opossums, raccoons, and porcupines. This condition' of
has changed. The Indian has bid adieu to his native hunting
the church bell has taken the place of the warwhoop; the
fanged serpent, at the sight of civilization,, has faded away as
under the benign influence of St. Patrick. What changes have
place! The old landmarks are nearly gone; but few of the early
pioneers, our grandfathers and their sires, are left, and they,
one, are fast passing away. Our progress, from a small beginning
present status has cost untold toil, hardships and privations,
fully appreciated by the young of the present generation. This
written, in part, that their names, and the trials they
to some extent, be perpetuated. We shall show, step by step, the
progress made decade after decade. This chapter is only intended
bird's eye view of the territory, preparatory to a more detailed
account, in which the townships will be considered separately,
elaborated thoroughly, when our minds will be carried back to
pioneers, to learn their names and mode of living, and to follow
up amidst the hardships incident to pioneer life to balmier days
more pleasant surroundings even to the present time.
Hancock county is quite flat, there
being but few hills, except in the immediate vicinity of the
water-courses, and several of these have no banks worthy of the
Blue River and Sugar Creek have considerable banks, and Brandy
wine at places. Blue river and Sugar creek townships are
somewhat undulating, but the county, on the whole, is remarkably
and was once considered "low and wet; but since it has been so
thoroughly drained by tile ditches, and good roads built, we
little complaint in that direction.
It is now considered healthful, and
as free from malaria and miasmatic diseases as any of its border
counties; though there was once a great deal of ague and fever,
fever, and considerable milk sickness.
Our soil, generally speaking, is
exceedingly fertile ; indeed, almost exhaustless in resources.
black, low grounds, which in the early history of the country
considered almost worthless, and were, therefore, the last
now, since being drained, found to be the richest and most
The first settlements in the county were made on the uplands,
knolls, if possible. Thirty years ago, about a hundred feet
Blue River, in the midst of a small field, there stood a tiny
cabin, without roof, window, chimney, or floor, unfinished,
which the writer passed hundreds of times when a boy, and then
that it was begun long years since for a pioneer cottage; but in
-'raising/' there being little help, the proprietor was crushed
falling of a log on nearing the gable.
The principal exports of the county
are wheat, corn, hogs, cattle, horses, oats, potatoes, flaxseed,
apples, hay, and sheep.
Hancock county's first exports were
ginseng, venison hams, firs, flax and tow linen.
The statistical returns of 1880 show
that our county produced, on 27,752
acres, 580,207 bushels wheat; on 37,072
1,187,328 bushels corn; on 1,665 acres, 45,129 bushels oats. The
year we produced 16,752 bushels Irish potatoes, 51,160 bushels
flaxseed, 42,028 bushels apples, and had in our county 5,228
horses, 285 head of mules, 9,609 head of cattle, 9,340 head of
and 23,400 head of hogs old enough to fatten. The county was
heavily timbered with a large per cent, of the best kinds of saw
timber, such as walnut, poplar, oak, ash, and cherry. Walnut
the finest quality was once not only used for fencing and
but was deadened and burned in log heaps, to get it out of the
There are large beds of sand and
gravel in various parts of the county. At least seven out of the
townships have sufficient gravel, of good quality, to make all
roads, public and private, in good order.
The county is well watered with
numerous streams, springs and wells of excellent limestone
Blue River, the largest stream in the
county, a fine, clear, lasting mill stream, runs across the
south-eastern corner of Blue river township, entering Shelby
just below Bacon's mill. Its bottoms are broad and exceedingly
Sugar Creek, the next in size, is a
clear, rapid, medium size mill stream. It rises in the western
Henry county, near Elizabeth City, enters Hancock county within
rods of the north-east corner, and runs in a southwest direction
to within half a mile of Warrington ; thence northwest, dipping
the edge of Madison a few rods; thence in a general
direction through Brown, Green, and across the corner of Vernon
thence through Center, Buck creek, and Sugar creek townships,
Shelby county a mile and a half south of New Palestine.
Brandy wine Creek, a rather
small sized mill stream, rises in Brown township, about a mile
Warrington, and runs in a south-westerly direction through Brown
Jackson townships, and to the central northern
portion of Center township, four miles north of Greenfield ;
nearly south through Center and Brandy wine townships, entering
Shelby county six miles south of the county seat.
Buck Creek, a small, sluggish stream,
rises in Vernon township, about a mile and a half south-west of
Fortville, runs south-west through Buck creek township, across
north-west corner of Sugar creek township, entering Marion
mile south of the south-west corner of Buck creek township.
Nameless Creek is a small stream.
Rising in the central portion of Jackson township, it runs
in Jackson, and empties into Blue River on the B. P. Butler
Six Mile Creek rises in Henry county,
flows south through Jackson, past Charlottesville, across the
Rush county, entering Blue river township at its central eastern
border; thence -south-west, emptying into Blue river on the Wm.
Little Brandywine Creek rises near
the boundary line between Center and Jackson townships, runs
south-west, and empties into Brandywine two miles south by
southeast of Greenfield.
Little Sugar Creek, a small, sluggish
stream, rises in the north-west part of Center township, and
south by south-west, empties into Sugar Creek.
Flat Fork of Lick Creek rises in the
south-east part of Vernon township, runs north by north-west,
Hamilton county one mile west of Fortville, and empties into
Creek. These small streams have all been ditched and cleared out
Swamp Creek is a sui generis
stream, taking its rise in Madison county. It runs nearly south,
crossing Lick Creek in Madison comity and Sugar creek in Hancock
county; crossing the National road at the Robert H. Ross farm,
finally losing itself in Brandywine Creek. This stream presents
general appearance of the bed of a lost river, being from forty
eighty rods wide, filled with decayed and decaying vegetable
more or less soft and yielding, and with a tiny, turbid stream
"through the center thereof.
Little Swan Creek rises in the
south-western part of Center township, runs south by south-west,
crosses Brandywine township, and enters Shelby county at the
southern extremity of the boundary line between Sugar creek and
There are numerous other small
streams, unworthy of notice, in various parts of the county.
Hancock county is reasonably well
supplied with good gravel road turnpikes, there being one
eighty miles of the same, 104 of which) are now incorporated and
taxes, and seventy six of which were once taxed, but have since
rescinded their charters and gone back to the public. These
several in number, and were built at an average cost of $1,200
mile, making a total cost of $216,000. Her public roads are
graded, and in many places graveled by her citizens in working
their road taxes, and personal privileges.
Hancock county originally consisted
of three townships, to-wit: Blue-river,
Brandywine, and Sugar-creek.
These townships were organized in
1828, at the time of the separation from Madison county, and
extending to the county line.
Blue-river township was reduced in
size and located in the south-east part of the county in 1831,
thirty sections. Jackson township was the name assigned to the
remainderf of Blue-river, and was located in the northeastern
of the county, by the commissioners, in 1831.
Brandywine township was reduced to
thirty sections in the same year, and located in the central
portion of the county.
Center township was, in 1831, located
north of Brandywine township, extending three miles north and
south and six miles east and west, and containing eighteen
Harrison township was also organized
in the same year, and composed of the remainder of Brandywine
Center to the north line of the county.
Buck-creek was cut off fgom
Sugar-creek in 1831, and made to extend from congressional line
to the north county line.
Green was taken from the north part
of Jackson and Harrison in 1832, and composed of that part of
county north of congressional line seventeen, and consisted of
sections; being the same territory now embodied in Brown and
In the year 1833, Brown township
dissevered from Green, and made to consist of thirty sections,
In 1835, Center township was
increased one tier of sections, taken from the northern
Vernon township was cut off from
north part of Buck-creek north of congressional line seventeen,
made to consist of thirty-one sections.
Jones township was formed in 1838, by
taking two tier of sections from the north part of Sugar-creek,
like number from the south part of Buck-creek, and composed of
Union township was made up from
eastern part of Buck creek, the western part of Harrison, and
southeast corner of Vernon, in 1838, and composed of twenty
Worth township was composed of
north part of Jackson and the north-east corner of Center, and
organized in the year 1850.
At the March term, 1853, the
commissioners divided Jones township between Sugar creek and
creek; Union township between Buck creek, Vernon and Center;
township between Center and Jackson, and attached Harrison to
thereby obliterating Jones, Union, Worth, and Harrison, and
nine civil townships, as we now have them.
Blue river township is located
south-east corner of the county; Brown in the north-east; Brandy
in the south middle ; Buck creek in the west middle; Center in
middle ; Green in the central northern portion ; Jackson in the
middle portion; Sugar creek in the south-west corner; and Vernon
north-west corner of the county.
Thus it may be seen that the
is composed of nine civil townships, arranged in three tiers of
townships each. The eastern division, composed of Brown, Jackson
Blue river, constitutes the first commissioner's district;
Center and Brandywine the second; Vernon. Buck creek and Sugar
the third; the present commissioners of which are. respectively,
Augustus Dennis. Ephmim Bentley and John Dye.
Hancock county was first settled about the year 1818. Previous
United States survey of 1819. Andrew Evans and John Montgomery,
their families and Montgomery McCall, came into this county, and
settled in Blue River. At the same time, Platt and James
brothers of John, and Isaac Roberts, with their families, and
Stephenson, settled in Center township. In 1820, Elijah Tyner,
Warrum, Joshua Wilson, and John Foster, with their families,
settled on Blue River. In 1822, Solomon Tyner. John
George Penwell. with their families, came and settled with the
on the same historic stream. The above, and a few others, were
the county at and before, Eta
organization. After this time
immigrants were more numerous, the more prominent of whom we
notice in the proper place in their respective townships.
Among the early incidents, which
more numerous than were the pioneers themselves, we will note
The first school-house in the county was a log one, diminutive
and exceedingly rude in architecture, erected near Elijah
place, on Blue River, in the year 1823.
The first male teacher who taught in the county was Lewis Tyner.
Green township claims the honor of furnishing employment to the
female teacher, Mrs. Sarah Gant.
In 1818, the first log cabin was built by Andrew Evans.
In 1824, Joshua Wilson built the first grist mill, located on
of Blue River. This mill was a small, one
story log structure,
which, soon after being
erected, was sold to Henry Watts, on account of some difficulty
the obstruction of water.
In the neighborhood of John Hinchman's old farm, in Center
now owned by Abram Hackleman. was organized, in 1820. by the
Methodists, the first religious society in the county.
The first blacksmith in the county was Thomas Phillips, who had
shop on Blue River, in about 1822.
Among the first taverns in the county, was one erected by Andrew
Jackson, near Greenfield, in about 1825.
Elijah Tyner, on Blue River, had the first store in the
county. He was also the first to set out an
The first road in the county was an old Indian trail, known as
"Napoleon Trace." which extended through Blue river, Jackson,
townships, crossing Blue River near Warrum's old home, and Sugar
near 'Squire Hatfield's, at a place known as the " Stover Ford."
When the Montgomery, McCall, and Evans, first settled, they had
to White Water lo mill, where Connersville now stands, some
McCall. when he first came to
county, cleared a few acres of ground by yoking his oxen to the
and pulling them out by the roots. He then climbed up the
trees, and trimmed oil" the branches to considerable height, and
them constructed a fence around his little patch, thus making
fence in the county.
It has been said, in illustration of the capacity of one of the
mills, erected in what was then Vernon township, but now
on Sugar Creek, that Rev. Wiley Pilkenton. who was a zealous,
long-winded, old school Baptist. would put in the hopper a
grist of corn, attend a two days camp-meeting, and return in
loll it. This mill was located just above the Sugar Creek
the Noblesville road. In size, it was about sixteen feet square,
story high, constructed of small logs, or poles, and covered
chipboards. A stranger was passing this mill, on a certain
when he vociferously ordered the
to "hold that danged
thing till I get by !"