Genealogy Trails
Owen County, Indiana
History


Owen County was settled in 1816-17. The first settlers were David Thompson, Philip Hart, Captain Bigger, John Dunn and Robert Blair. The county was named for Colonel Abraham Owen, who was in the battle of Tippecanoe, on the eighth of November, 1811. He was a volunteer aid-de-camp to General Harrison.
The first court held in the county took place at the residence of John Dunn, in March, 1819, located about one mile east of Spencer, Judge Blackford presiding, when Philip Hart, the second settler, was fined twenty-one dollars and costs for committing an assault on Dr. David Thompson, the first white settler of the county. Here is a case where the second settler whipped the first settler. The respect shown to "first settlers " in those days, however, is evinced by the fine. The first white child born in the county was John R. K. Dunn, whose father established the first ferry on the west fork of the White river. In the year 1818, William Baker built a mill on Raccoon creek, and soon after a few of the early settlers " rigged up a corn-cracker" on a small stream near the present town of Gosport.
John Dunn was the third settler of the county. He came in the winter, when the ground was covered with eight inches of snow, and arriving on the banks of the White river in February, 1817, with his family, without a house of any kind to protect them from the cold, he commenced life in a rude camp, and at once set about building a log house, which he accomplished after great difficulty and suffering.
Spencer, the county seat, was located in 1820. The site was donated by Richard Beem, Isaiah Cooper, John Bartholomew and Philip Hart. It was laid out by James Galletly and others. Spencer is very pleasantly situated in the valley of the west fork of the White river, on the Indiana and Vincennes railroad. It has a population of about fifteen hundred, and is in a flourishing condition. The town is named for Captain Spier Spencer, who fell at Tippecanoe.
There is some of the finest landscape scenery in this county to be found in the State. The county has also its curiosities, in the "Boone Cave," and the various Indian mounds. We have been unable to procure as full statistics from this county as we desired, but have ascertained that the schools in the rural districts are in a fair condition, while those in the towns are equal to any in the State.
HISTORY OF OWEN COUNTY
BY JAMES W. ARCHER

ANTIQUITIES.
That the White River Valley had been a favorite habitation for men in pre-historic times, is proven by the existence of many mounds along and in its neighborhood, and also near the various streams in the county. In the vicinity of large springs and wherever an adequate supply of pure water could be easily reached, are found unmistakable evidences of a large pre historic population. Quite a number of large mounds, and many small ones, are found near Gosport, and all down the valley of White River through the county are found many mounds. Some of them have been opened, and implements of polished stone, flint and pieces of rude pottery have been found. In others, large deposits of bones have been found, indicating burial places. In others, indications of fire, with fragments of bone partially burned, indicating religious or sacrificial mounds —places of worship. Heaps of shells from the river and large creeks are found in others. On the uplands, in many places, many flint implements are found—many broken and many entire—indicating that severe battles may have been fought in those places. In Clay Township, on the farm owned now by John D. Fox, there is a large field in which several bushels of these flint arrow and spear points and battle axes of stone have been found, and in all probability that field was at one time the place where a bloody battle was fought between races of men of whom all knowledge has perished except these implements of stone and flint. Many burial places of these pre-historic people have been uncovered. The bones differ in shape. Of what is apparently the oldest remains, the bones of the arms and legs are slightly curved, indicating an agricultural and laboring people—a people who worked with heavy tools of some kind, who bore heavy burdens, as is proven by the heavy stones transported to considerable distances, and of which are constructed receptacles for their dead. This first people seem to have gathered the bones of their dead, perhaps at stated periods, carefully cleaned each separate bone, and then deposited them in great quantities together in a stone vault covered with stone and then covered over with earth, some of which is of different character from the immediate locality, and evidently transported from the neighboring hills. A second and different race of people seems to have succeeded this first probably peaceful and laboring people. The bones of the second race are straight, thus showing a race of hunters and fishers, and also probably warlike, as the probabilities are this second people conquered the first, as they occupied the original mounds and seem to have had different habits. They buried their dead differently. The skeletons of this second people are found whole, sometimes two or three together, sometimes twenty or thirty or more buried together in a circle, with the feet toward the center and heads outward, and covered over with earth. Near Freedom, on Section 16, a very remarkable burial place was found. There was a large quantity of bones found, covered with flag stones laid peculiarly. The covering with the flagging seems to have been commenced at the top of the low mound, and the next lower tier overlapping the upper, just the opposite way from laying the shingles on a roof. Many very valuable and interesting relics of these pre-historic races found in this county, and which ought to have been retained, have been given away to people from other States and other counties. I have been trying for some years to gather together these relics as many as I could get, so as to keep them in the county as part of its early history, but the people seem to prefer to give them away to others, who have gathered and sent out of the county several barrels of most valuable relics of these lost races.

The Indians, our immediate predecessors, came next as occupants of this country, but they have no traditions respecting the former inhabitants. Their old men told the first settlers here that they had no knowledge of the former inhabitants. They knew of them no more than we, who only read their history in their mounds, bones, and implements of flint, stone, and rude pottery. So perish men and nations from the face of the earth. And who can say that, with all our boasted civilization, we, too, may not pass into oblivion, and as time progresses and the intellect and inventive powers of man develop, that a thousand years from this time a people may possess this land, who, upon unearthing some of our implements and habitations we think so complete and so admirable, will wonder how a people so ignorant and so barbarous could have lived. As the Mound-Builder walked and carried heavy burdens on his flattened head and on his back, as the later Indian had his pony and canoe, as we of the present age have our various kinds of steam machinery, railroads, steamships and telegraph, so the next century may surpass us—but in what, and what shall be their achievements? Who shall say?

INDIAN HISTORY.

That all of what is now Owen County was a favorite resort of the red man is well known. There was everything here to be desired by the Indian. The rich alluvial soil of the White and Eel River Valleys, and the valleys of the numerous creeks of the county, were covered with the rich, sweet nutritious pea- vine, the open glades with a dense growth of sweet native grasses, the nut bearing trees bore in great profusion, open spaces of the richest grounds were cleared and planted to corn and beans to make their famous dish of "succotash." On the uplands the wild plums, grapes, black and red haw, dewberries, blackberries, raspberries and other fruits and berries grew and ripened in their season in the richest profusion, and all kinds of game, from the monster buffalo to the smallest ground squirrel, lived and rioted in plenty of the choicest food. Buffalo, bear, deer and wild turkeys were everywhere plentiful, fat, and easily taken; beaver, otter and muskrat were numerous in the streams, and fish of the choicest varieties crowded each other in the various water-courses of the county. Is it any wonder that the red man resented the intrusion of the white man on this, his so richly endowed home? Is it to be wondered at that the red man stubbornly contested every inch of the territory he loved so well, or that he scalped, tomahawked and burned at the stake the hated pale face who, with his hunting rifle, could far outreach his own arrow—who, equally as brave as himself, steadily conquered by his superior intelligence? The white man^conquered, and, wresting this country from his red brother, drove him to the far West, to seek a new home beyond the " Father of Waters," the great Mississippi River. The tribes who formerly owned this country were the Miamis, Pottawatomies, Eel River Indians and Delawares. I remember seeing, when a very small buy, a great number of these Indians on their way to the West to their new homes. The common Indians, braves, squaws and papooses, were very dirty and filthy, but the chiefs and their squaws were very gaudily dressed, and profusely ornamented with paint and brass and silver gewgaws of all sorts.

While on a visit to the Indian Territory two years ago, I saw at the great International Indian Fair at Muscogee, a grand-daughter of Johnny Cake, a famous old Delaware chief, who had his home formerly in the valley of White River. She said she had often heard her father and mother talk of their former beautiful home in this country, and had always regretted its loss, considering it far superior to their present home in the Indian Territory. During the war of 1812, my grandfather, John Dunn, and grand-uncles, Capt. Williamson Dunn and Dr. David H. Maxwell, passed through what is now Owen and Monroe Counties, and grandfather John Dunn was so pleased with this place that he then determined that when this county should be opened for sale of land and settlement he would buy land and make his home here, which he did, as related in another place in this history. After the settlement here in 1816 and 1817, there was no more Indian fighting in this immediate neighborhood, and the settlers, with their wives and children, were not molested by the Indians. By the use of firearms, and the nearly equally deadly fire-water (whisky), the Indian had been entirely conquered here, and while he had the will, doubtless, to scalp, murder and burn, as of old, he lacked the ability and knew it.

TOPOGRAPHY, GEOLOGY AND PRODUCTION.

Owen County is bounded on the east by Morgan and Monroe Counties south by Greene, west by Clay and north by Putnam. The county is twenty -three miles east to west and twenty-one miles south to north, and contains 393 sections of land, including the rivers—251,520 acres—the county being less than a square, twenty-one by twenty- three miles, by thirty-six sections along the southeast border, which is in Monroe, and fifty-four sections at the northwest corner, which is in Clay County. Bowling Green, the old county seat of Clay, is in this corner cut off of Owen, and the old settlers used jocularly to say they had to cut off a corner of Owen and give it to Clay, so they could get a place for a county seat.

White River is the chief water-course in Owen County. It enters the county near the center at the east line, and follows a southwest course, leaving the county about ten miles east of the southwest corner. This river has in many places wide valleys of a rich alluvial soil, which produce fine crops of all the grains and grasses. The bluffs of White River are, as a rule, precipitous, built up of stone from 50 to 100 feet thick, of limestone from the eastern boundary to near Freedom, and below that of sandstone. At Gosport, the Keokuk beds of limestone are found, which is the lowest geological stratum in this county. In this stone is found imbedded many geodes and partings of chert. This is a very durable stone, standing exposure to the weather well, and is utilized for the foundation walls of buildings, cellar walls and other rough, rubble masonry. It is full of very beautiful shells in some of its strata. The next stone of economic value southwest is near Mill Creek, where the outcrop of the oolitic or white quarry limestone is found. This stone is overlaid with a shelly limestone, which is easily burned and makes a very excellent lime. The quarry or oolitic stone is used for all kinds of building purposes. It lies in massive ledges, works well under the stonecutter's tools, saws easily and well, can be quarried in blocks of any size, and is very valuable. In the exhaustive examination, and the most thorough and critical tests for stone of which to construct the new State-House now in progress at Indianapolis, lnd., the State House Commissioners pronounced this stone equal to the best. It bears a crushing presume three times greater than the famous Portland stone of England, of which St. Paul's Cathedral in London is built. There are several quarries of this stone now in operation, and it is being shipped all over the State, and to several other States, to be used in the construction of costly buildings. This stone is especially adapted to the construction of piers and abutments for railroad bridges, withstanding the action of frost and water for ages, and owing to its superior elasticity beyond all other durable stone, being less affected by the vibration of passing trains, less displacement of the stones in the structure of railroad work occur. The time is not far distant when this stone will be a source of great profit to its owners.

Next comes the St. Louis limestone near Spencer. Three or four quarries of this stone are now in operation near Spencer. It is known in market and specified by architects as " Spencer Stone." It lies in ledges of from two to twelve inches in thickness, is bedded with a fairly smooth bed above and below, works well under the mason's hammer, and is easily and cheaply prepared for the wall. As a material for all kinds of rubble masonry, both below and above ground, it is not excelled in the State. It is now being extensively used for the entire structure of churches, business houses and private residences, and gives perfect satisfaction wherever it has been used. The principal quarry which has been operated for several years is upon the land of B. Dickerson, one half mile below Spencer. The lands of B. Dickerson, D. R. Beem, W. M. Franklin and the Archer farm are underlaid with this stone, and it is here in inexhaustible quantities and easy of access.

The Kaskaskia limestone comes next. This stone is found at Cataract, and thence southwardly through the county by Fender's Hill, four miles west of Spencer, and Jackson's Hill, south of Freedom. This stone is of little economic value except for road material. It breaks irregularly under the mason's hammer, and is hard to work, and does not stand the weather as well as other stones in the county. The Chester sandstone comes next, and then the massive conglomerate, which extends south and west through the county. The Chester sandstone is extensively quarried in places for local use, and is used in buildings of all kinds, barns, dwellings, etc. It is very durable and works easily under the stone-cutter's tools. The great conglomerate is either heavily bedded or massive. It splits easily, can be quarried in large-sized blocks, works easily under stone-cutters' tools, is tire and weather proof. It is an excellent stone for all building purposes, and in time will be of great value to the county. There are some other varieties of stones which are used locally, and are valuable. Immediately over the St. Louis stone on B. Dickerson's land, there is a thin, laminated limestone which is tire-proof, and in the early days was quarried and hauled many miles for the back and jambs of the old-fashioned lire-places. It is now superseded by tire brick for that purpose.

Eel River comes into the county near the northeast corner, runs in a large loop or bend through the north part of Taylor Township, near the center of Jennings Township, through the northeast corner of Jackson Township, and out of the county; circling back again just without the borders of the county north and west, it enters Owen County again, in the southwest corner of Jefferson Township, and leaves the county in the same township. In this county, in the bottoms or valleys of Eel River, are many fine farms, very productive. At Cataract, in Jennings Township, Eel River, within a distance of three-fourths of a mile, by two plunges, falls eighty-one feet through a deep, narrow channel worn through the limestone. The first fall is a perpendicular plunge of twenty-five feet. The fall to the lower cataract is very rapid, and at the lower cataract the river takes another perpendicular plunge of thirty feet. The scenery around and in the neighborhood of these cataracts is very beautiful, and they are a favorite resort of visitors and pleasure parties from all directions. The water-power at the upper fall was partially utilized by building a flouring-mill, wool-carding machinery, saw mill, etc., about 1843, by Theodore C. Jennings, who commenced in the wild woods and built up a very extensive business, which is still continued by other parties. The affluents of Eel River are Jordan, Six Mile and Fish Creeks. These streams have some wide bottoms, upon which are many very rich and productive farms, and before the days of steam afforded power for numerous flouring and saw mills.

The affluent of White River, in Owen County, are McCormick's, Wyatt's, Big and Little Raccoon on the south, and Limestone, Mill, Rattlesnake and Fish Creeks on the north side. These streams also have some wide and very fertile alluvial bottoms, and in early times afforded power for numerous mills, which are now nearly all superseded by steam mills for sawing and grinding.

The soil of Owen County is diversified. The bottoms of White and Eel Rivers and their affluents are all of a rich alluvial character. In Taylor and Harrison Townships, there is considerable flat land; the soil is of a dark color, very productive in all the grasses, and good for small grain. Southwest of that, in the Steele neighborhood, and in Wayne and Montgomery Townships, the face of the country is rolling, underlaid with, limestone, the natural soil for blue grass, which it grows in perfection. The uplands in Jennings, Jackson, Morgan, Lafayette, Franklin, Clay and Washington are of a heavier clay soil, very strong, and, where properly farmed and cared for, very productive in all kinds of grasses and grain, and excellent for fruits of all kinds. The "Flat Woods," southeast of Spencer, seem to have been the bottom of a large lake, and here is found the deep, rich '' black soil," which seems to be practically inexhaustible, and grows enormous crops of corn, wheat and grass. In the southwest part of the county, in Marion and Jefferson Townships, in the coal measures, the soil is different from any other in the county, and in the hands of our thrifty, industrious, intelligent German farmers, yields larger crops and a finer quality of wheat than any other part of the county. It gives a good yield and good quality of grass. The county all over produces a fine quality of fruits of all kinds, both large and small. A vast amount of very tine timber, of oak, walnut, ash and poplar, has been destroyed in the clearing-up of the county; much has been sold for shipment, and much yet remains uncut. Many of our farmers are learning to save their timber, instead of wasting it, as heretofore.

Block and bituminous coal of the best quality is found in large quantities in the southwest part of the county. In Marion and Jefferson Townships many mines have been opened, and are now being operated. Kaolin has been found in several places, but not in beds of sufficient extent to pay for working. Iron ore of a fine quality is found in various places in the county. Fire clay of excellent quality is found in unlimited quantity; paint clays of different colors have been found; clays for the manufacture of brick and tile are found all over the county. Our facilities for the manufacture of fire brick, pottery, drain tile, and the best of brick are unlimited, and ought to be utilized. A firm has just commenced the manufacture of drain tile and pressed brick, at Spencer, on the lands of Calvin Fletcher, just north of the public school building. The firm proposes to furnish tile and brick in any quantity which may be required.

Our mineral springs in several places in the county have well attested curative properties, and merit the attention of those interested in curative waters.

The high hills on the divides between the water-courses in the county are specially adapted to fruit culture. The temperature on these high lands is higher and more even during winter weather than the lower lands, and secure greater protection for the tender fruit buds than the colder air lower down. Owen County will one day become a great fruitproducing county. All over the county on almost every quarter section are found never- failing springs of the purest and coolest of water. Clear, pure and life-giving, it gushes from the rocks or boils up from the sands on almost every farm in the county—cool in summer and warm in winter, for man and beast.

Taking into consideration the coal, stone, timber, kaolin, fire and paint and other clays, our rich and varied soils which yield everything required for man and beast, there is no reason why Owen County should not take high rank amongst the wealth-producing counties of Indiana. The inhabitants of Owen County are noted for intelligence, sobriety, hospitality and high social qualities. Churches and schoolhouses are numerous in every township in the county; our people are home-loving and law abiding; we have less litigation than any of our neighboring counties; if it were not for many cases brought for trial from other counties around us, our courts and lawyers would have much idle time on their hands. Go into any part of Owen County where you will, you will find an industrious, generous, hospitable people, who will open their doors and give you of the best they have with a pleasant welcome, which cheers the heart and sweetens the homeliest fare. We can show more handsome, intelligent girls to the square mile than any county in Indiana, who can get up a "square meal " in first-class style at short notice, and then entertain their company in the parlor with music and intellectual and cultured conversation. We are no less proud of our boys, who can plow a straight furrow, make a full hand in the harvest, can make rails out build fences, and then can analyze the soil they till, can toll you the chemical constituents of the grains and grasses they grow, write you a fair article on almost any subject, or solve you a problem in algebra.

THE EARLY SETTLERS.

The territory of which Owen County is a part originally belonged to the Miami, Pottawatomie, Delaware and Eel River tribes of Indians, and was ceded to the whites by the chiefs of these tribes by the treaty of Fort Wayne September 30, 1809. Owen County was settled first by the whites in 1816, and for a number of years subsequent to that time large numbers of Indians gained their subsistence by hunting and fishing in the bounds of what is now Owen County. When the first white settlers came to this county, the forests abounded with game of all kinds, and the streams were full of the finest fish, a veritable paradise for the hunter. With very little trouble, the early settler could supply the inmates of his cabin with an abundance of the finest bear meat, venison and wild turkey, and with his "gig" or fish spear, as true to his aim in water as his unerring rifle on land, he could quickly take all the fish he wanted, taking choice as to size and kind.

The extensive rich alluvial "bottoms" of White River were covered with a dense luxuriant growth of wild pea-vine, which afforded unlimited range for game of all kinds. Wild turkeys and deer were frequently shot by the early settlers while standing in their cabin doors. The first white settlers in what is now Owen County was Philip Hart, who settled where Calvin Fletcher, Esq., now lives, adjoining Spencer on the northeast. Philip Hart came here in October, 1816. He brought with him his family, consisting of his wife Susan and seven children. An unmarried man, James Bigger, came with Hart, and afterward married one of the Hart girls. In the fall of 1816, John Dunn, Gen. Bartholomew, the Beems and some others bought land in this county at the land sales at the old Post Vincennes. On the 5th day of^February, 1817, John Dunn came here with his family, consisting of his wife Margaret, or "Peggy," as she was called, and six children. He crossed the river with teams and stock on the ice at ' ' Mayfield's Eddy," and camped on the snow at the spring at the foot of the "narrows," above Spencer. Samuel W., his son, was then thirteen years of age, and is yet living-. Margaret, his daughter, my mother, who is yet living, was then six years of age. Samuel and his father at once commenced cutting logs for a cabin; assisted by Philip Hart and James Bigger, they got up the walls and a roof of clapboards on in a few days. They scraped the snow out of the cabin, built a fireplace and chimney of "cat and clay," built a big fire and moved in on the dirt floor, with neither door, nor window shutter and often in after days, when they lived in a fine residence surrounded by all the comforts of life in plenty, I have heard Grandmother Dunn say that she never felt so rich and happy in her life, either before or after, as when she moved into that cabin and had her little children under its shelter. Grandfather bored holes in the logs at the proper distance from the ground, secured the ends of round poles in the auger holes, the others on forks driven in the ground, then placed boards, split of oak, across the poles, and the beds were then placed on top of the boards. Sweet and refreshing sleep visited them thus in such rude surroundings. John Dunn lived on the river bank, and soon made a large canoe, which was used for ferriage purposes. The men were busy clearing ground of the timber preparing for a crop, and the women attended the ferry. My mother became an expert with the canoe paddle, and ferried many persons across White River ere she had reached her "teens." She retained her knowledge of the use of the paddle for many years as I can testify. I was her first born child, a very mischievous boy, tradition says, and I often hunted fur a soft, easy place to sit down upon by reason of that same ''proficiency with the paddle," which my mother had retained, and with which, no canoe being handy, on particularly mischievous provocations she "paddled" me.

Gen. Bartholomew bought the land where Benjamin E. Allison and Henry Keene now live. Richard Beem bought the land upon which the most of what is now the town of Spencer is located. John Bartholomew came and brought his family in April, 1817. He built his cabin on the south side of the hill upon which Henry Keene now lives. Thomas, John and Robert McNaught came then also. Thomas bought and settled upon the land which his son, Gen. Thomas A. McNaught, now owns and lives upon. On the 25th of March, Neely, Enoch and Levi Beem, sons of Daniel Beem, came and made their camp upon a mound south of Spencer, which mound is now in the Riverside Cemetery. Neely Beem brought his wife and infant daughter, two weeks old, along with him. That infant grew to womanhood, and became the mother of Laura A., wife of Gen. T. A. McNaught. Enoch Beem was about seventeen, and Levi about fourteen years when they arrived here. Their father, Daniel Beem, was sick, and was left at the old home in Jackson County, Ind. These boys lived in their camp until they had cleared and planted ten acres in corn. They then built their cabin on the mound above mentioned. In the spring of 1817, there came to this Dunn settlement, as it was called, Isaiah Cooper, Jacob Mclntire, Dudley Milner, Richard Kirby, William Anderson, Robert Blaine, George McHenry and Hugh Barnes, with their wives and children. These men all made crops here in 1817. They had to clear their lands from the green timber; then scratch up the ground as well as they could amongst the green roots and stumps with a " jumping shovel," a rude shovel plow with a colter attached to the beam of the plow, and fastened at the lower end to the point of the shovel; the lower end of the colter rounded in front, so when it struck a root it would jump out of the ground and over the root. They then dug around the stumps with their hoes, and thus got enough loose dirt to cover the seed. The soil was so rich that they raised good crops with this primitive culture. They were late getting their crops in the ground, and on the night of October 3, 1817, there came a heavy frost and hard freeze, which frost bit their immature corn very badly. They had to gather it hurriedly, husk it out quickly and spread it out on the " lofts " of their cabins and on platforms in the open air, in order to dry it as much as possible. When it did dry, it turned black and smelled badly. This bad corn was the best they could get, and was worth $1 per bushel. In order to get it into eatable shape, they had to pound it into meal in mortars, which were made by cutting four feet off a good sized tree, then burning a cavity in the end of the log of sufficient size to hold the desired amount of corn, then with a wooden pestle pounding the corn into meal tine enough to sieve. The sieve was made by stretching a green deer hide over a rude hoop of wood, and fastening the hide to the hoop. Then after the hide had dried, holes were punched through it with a pointed red-hot iron made for the purpose. there was a large family to provide com bread for, a fork was set in the ground, a long, springy hickory sapling was cut of a sufficient length, the butt end fastened to the ground, tho center of the sapling resting in the fork previously set for the purpose, the heavy wooden pestle hung by a nice straight grape -vine to the small end of the sapling; the mortar was then set up on end and placed in proper position under the pestle. In working this labor-saving apparatus, the operator pulled down the heavy pestle and the spring in the sapling greatly assisted in raising it again, thus saving the strength of the operator and expediting the pounding of the grain into meal. These mortars were used until one William Baker built a little " corn-cracker '' of a mill, run by water power, on Raccoon Creek. He also put up a bolt, turned by hand, to bolt the wheat he ground, thus making possible to the good housewives the much- longed for "hot biscuits" of the older settlements they had left behind. Now the good wife could set before the lord of forest and stream the steaming and savory " Johnny-cake " or "corn dodger," hot biscuit, sweet, fresh butter from the milk of cows fed on the sweet and fragrant pea vine of the river bottoms, rich milk, honey from the stores of the wild bees of the forest, rich, juicy venison steaks, roasts from fat bears' hams, and choice fish from the rivers, all cleanly prepared with willing hands, and proudly set out upon the puncheon table covered with a flax linen table-cover of her own make.

In 1818, quite a large number of settlers came in—Thomas Allan, Elijah Chambers, James Galletly, Joel Shields, John Moore, Hugh McDonald, Abraham Henderson, William Boalds, Martin Hardin, James Blair, John Franklin, William Latta, Alexander Eason, Peter Teal, Andrew and Jessie Evans, Eli Tarbutton, Alexander McBride and others whose names I have failed to get. Nearly all these men brought their families with them, and permanently settled here. Although many of these names have not been heard here for many years, they are all familiar to all the old settlers yet living. They have died and their descendants have moved away farther west, and but for the records would be entirely forgotten. Many others have left long lines of descendants here, who will perpetuate very many of the names which occur in the records of the early settlement of this county. John Hudson, some of the Steeles and others had made quite a settlement up in "Town 11," which is now in Montgomery Township. The Gosses, Alexanders and others had a good settlement at Gosport. The Speases, Arneys, Fiscuses and others had quite a little settlement in what is now Jefferson Township.

SEAT OF JUSTICE.

The people now began to talk about a county organization, and the location of a county seat of justice. The Dunn settlement was the most numerous of any in the county, but other places were talking county seat, and the matter had to be got into shape. A petition was circulated and signed by the citizens, praying the State Legislature to organize their county, and locate their permanent seat of justice. John Dunn was the messenger chosen by the people to bear their petition and pre sent it to the State Legislature, then in session at Corydon, Harrison County, which place was then the capital of the State. He started on his journey, while the people impatiently awaited his return. He returned at night. Before daylight next morning, he arose and went to report the result of his mission to Daniel Beem and family, who were deeply interested. His cabin was at the foot of the "Narrows " above Spencer, and he went across what is now Spencer, then an unbroken forest, to the Beem cabin on the mound, as before described, now in the Riverside Cemetery. The Beem family were all asleep, and Grandfather Dunn fired off his rifle, standing just beside the "cat and clay '"' chimney of the Beem cabin. That sound always started these old stout-hearted pioneers into wide-awake fighting trim from the soundest sleep. Instead, however, of the war-whoops and scalping-knife of the murderous savage, Uncle Daniel Beem met the outstretched hand of their messenger to the State capital, who bore the joyful news that the State Legislature had granted their prayer, and that their county would soon be organized. The Commissioners appointed were Gen. John Milroy, John Allen. John Engle, William Bruce and Toussant Dubois. Their location of the county seat was on the John Dunn land in the bend of the river, south of the narrows, where the storage houses of the Spencer Ice Company now stand—one hundred acres on the west side of the river, and fifty acres on the east side of the river, and the name chosen for the town was Lancaster. From some difficulty,or misunderstanding, the land was deeded for the proposed county seat by John Dunn, and a new location had to be made. The Commissioners for the second location were John Tipton, James Ward and Patrick Callan. They reported at a special session of the County Commissioners, at the house of John Dunn, on the 12th day of February, 1820. These Commissioners had accepted a donation of 70| acres from Richard Beem, 21 1 acres from Isaiah Cooper, 10 acres from Philip Hart, and 30 acres across the river, from John Bartholomew, 132 acres in all, which was accepted by the County Commissioners and the permanent seat of justice was so located.

ORIGIN OF NAMES.

The county had been named "Owen" in memory of Maj. Abraham Owen, a gallant Kentucky officer who was killed at the battle of Tippecanoe. When the question of a name for the county seat came up, on motion of Capt. John Johnson, late of Freedom, the new county seat was named '' Spencer " in memory of a Capt. Spencer, who was another brave soldier of Kentucky, and was also killed at the battle of Tippecanoe. It is said the suggestion for this name came from Gen. Tipton, who was present and was a great friend of Capt. Spencer.

EARLY EVENTS.

The first wedding in the county was a double one. James Bigger and Thomas Allen married on the same day two of Philip Hart's daughters, by virtue of a marriage license obtained at Vincennes, this territory being in the jurisdiction of Knox County, but I have not been able to ascertain the date.

The next wedding, as is supposed, was of a young man by the name of Joseph Pinkerton and a girl who lived in the family of John Mitchell, in the neighborhood of where Zebedee Parish now lives in the township of Montgomery. Joe lived with John Hudson on the Zebedee Parish farm. The couple were engaged, the morning of the wedding-day arrived, but Joe had no shoes. There were no stores to go to in those days for supplies, and Joe was in a bad fix. John Hudson had some leather of his own tanning of the natural tan color not blacked. The cows had wandered away in the range and had failed to come milking time the night before, and at breakfast had failed to put in their appearance, so John Hudson proposed that if Joe would go hunt and bring home the cows he would make him a pair of shoes by the time set for the wedding. Joe was only too glad of such a bargain. He mounted the old mare and started to hunt for the cows. Noon was the hour set for the' wedding. Noon came, but Joe came not. It was a cloudy day, no guiding sun was to be seen, and Joe was undoubtedly lost in the woods Mr. Hudson sent Ninian Steele over to Mitchell's to explain to the expectant bride why her lover was absent. The poor girl was much distressed; the country was full of Indians, who, though apparently friendly, were known to be treacherous; the woods were full of wild animals; bears and panthers were often seen, and who could tell what had befallen her lover? We may imagine Joe's feelings, poor fellow, as the time passed away and he at last realized that he was lost. No one unless he has experienced it can tell the feelings of a man lost in the woods; the utter helplessness and bewilderment which comes over a man at such a time is indescribable. So Joe now felt. The hour of his long-expected happiness had arrived, and now when at this blessed moment it should have held his happy bride in his arms, he was hopelessly lost in the woods, and she—oh, what was she doing? He rode this way and that, seeking to find his way out of the trackless forest. With no sun to guide him, he wandered further away from home and love, when a happy thought struck him. Perhaps if he turned the old mare loose she had sense enough to go home by herself. In the almost desperate hope that she would lead him to home and happiness, he turned her loose. The old mare finding herself at liberty, turned around and started off in a direction opposite to the one Joe had been guiding her; she started off leisurely through the woods, Joe following. She traveled along very nicely for a little while, until hearing some noise in the woods which, startled her, she set off in a gallop and Joe after her in a dead run. Through bushes and briers, over logs and brush, on he ran. It was a " ground-hog case. " If he lost sight of the mare, he was a "goner." He ran a good race—he was running in a good cause. The old mare was nearly out of sight; he had run so long that his breath came in great sobs. He was just about to fall from exhaustion, when the clearing^ opened up to his despairing eyes and Joe was found. But, sad to relate, in his frantic haste to get " out of the wilderness." he had lost his only hat. When he got to the house, the shoes were finished and ready. One extremity was covered, but the other w^as bare. He had as well gone to meet his bride in the morning bare-footed, as now bare-headed. Young Ninian Steele took pity on him, loaned Joe his Sunday hat, he wearing his old one to this, the first wedding he ever attended. The first wedding recorded in the old marriage record, No 1, of the county, is of Pitman Chance to Nancy Hicks, October 4, 1819, the ceremony performed by Jacob Mclntire. Justice of the Peace.

The first white child born in Owen County was John R. K. Dunn, son of John and Margaret Dunn. He was born December 12, 1817.

The first sermon preached in the county was by Hugh Barnes, a Methodist preacher, at the house of John Hudson, in 1818. The first ferry boat on White River was built and operated by John Dunn in March, 1818, and the first persons ferried over in the new boat were the Goss family, then on their way to settle at what is now Gosport. The county was organized in 1818, by act of the State Legislature, and the first court was held at the house of John Dunn on the 1st of March, 1818, Hon. Amory Kinney, President Judge; Hugh Barns and Joseph Freeland, Associate Judges; John R. Freeland, Clerk; Andrew Evans, Sheriff; John F. Ross, Prosecutor for the State; John Mitchell, Thomas McNaught and John Milner were the first County Commissioners; John Bartholomew was the first County Treasurer. There were three townships in the county only, at first organization, namely: Washington, Franklin and Montgomery, and the western boundary lino of Owen was the eastern-n boundary of Vigo County.

The first taxes levied were in 1819, as follows:

FOR STATE PURPOSES.

On first-rate lands, $1 on each 100 acres. On second-rate lands, 87 1/2 cents on each 100 acres. On third-rate lands, 62 1/2 cents on each 100 acres. And on bond servants, $3.

FOR COUNTY PURPOSES.

On first-rate lands, 50 cents on each 100 acres. On second-rate lands, 43 3/4 cents on each 100 acres. On third-rate lands, 311/4 cents on each 100 acres. And on horses, 371/2 cents per head.

EARLY OFFICERS.

The bond of the first Treasurer, John Bartholomew, was $20,000, with John Hudson, Philip Hart, Isaiah Cooper, John McNaught, Robert McNaught, Hugh Barns, Adam Brenton, David Johnson, Joseph Freeland, Jacob Mclntire, James Bigger, George McHenry, Thomas Allen and William Baker as his sureties. Elections were ordered to be held for 1819, at the houses of John Dunn, in Washington Township; Moses Hicks, in Franklin Township, and John Hudson, in Montgomery Township. Samuel Fain was appointed County Agent for the year 1819, with a $20,000 bond signed by Jesse Evans, David Fain, Hugh Barns, William Alexander, Joseph Freeland, John Freeland, David Lukenbill, Philip Hart, John Hudson and David Johnson as his sureties. An election for Justices of the Peace was ordered to be held on the last Saturday in April, 1819 —for one Justice of the Peace in each township. In May the following persons were appointed to serve as the first grand jury in Owen County, namely: Adam Brenton, Richard Morris, James Atha, John Latta, David Lukenbill, Jacob Mclntire, David Fain, Isaiah Cooper, Benjamin Croy, Abner Alexander, Elijah Chambers, Richard Kirby, Robert Patterson, David Thomas, James Bigger, Alexander McBride, William Anderson, John McNaught, Robert McNaught, Thomas Bull, John Parroshaw, William Baker, Joseph Skidmore, Luke Vaughn, Jesse Evans, Moses Hicks, James Pugh, Caleb Stansberry, Peter Zeal, John Dunn, John Johnson, John Hudson, Samuel Fain, Thomas Allen and John Bartholomew, thirty five men good and true. At the same time there was appointed the following-named traverse jury, to wit: William Alexander, William Latta, Cassius Edwards, Daniel Harris, Berry Jones, Daniel Hall, Samuel Hicks, Daniel Beem, Thomas Bush, Joshua Mathena, John Hasket, Hugh Endsley, William McDaniel, William W. Cooper, William Lindsay, Owen Roach, James Steele, Thomas Harvey, Samuel Risley, John Gregory, Thomas Smith and Obadiah Turpin, twenty-two men good and true, making a total of fifty-seven men for the grand and traverse juries. These jurors were paid 75 cents per day each. James Galletly was held at the house of John Dunn on the 1st of March, 1818, Hon. Amory Kinney, President Judge; Hugh Barns and Joseph Freeland, Associate Judges; John R. Freeland, Clerk; Andrew Evans, Sheriff; John F. Ross, Prosecutor for the State; John Mitchell, Thomas McNaught and John Milner were the first County Commissioners; John Bartholomew was the first County Treasurer. There were three townships in the county only, at first organization, namely: Washington, Franklin and Montgomery, and the western boundary lino of Owen was the eastern boundary of Vigo County. The first taxes levied were in 1819, as follows:

FOR STATE PURPOSES.

On first-rate lands, $1 on each 100 acres. On second-rate lands, 87 1/2 cents on each 100 acres. On third-rate lands, 62 1/2 cents on each 100 acres. And on bond servants, $3.

FOR COUNTY PURPOSES.

On first-rate lands, 50 cents on each 100 acres. On second-rate lands, 43 3/4 cents on each 100 acres. On third-rate lands, 31 1/4 cents on each 100 acres. And on horses, 87 1/2 cents per head.

Source: The Counties of Clay and Owen Indiana Charles Blanchard editor F.A. Battey & Co Publishers 1884







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