Sullivan county was organized in 1817, and embraced,at the date of
its formation, all the territory north of Knox county to the lakes.
The present limits include about four hundred and twenty square
miles.. The county received its name in honor of General Sullivan, of
revolutionary fame, who was the intimate friend of General Knox, after
whom Knox county was named.
The first settlement in Sullivan county was made by the family of James Ledgewood, who located near the present site of Carlisle, in 1803. Colonel Samuel Ledgewood, a son of James, lived within a mile of where his father settled, for many years after, and was a leading and respected citizen of the county. The Ledgewood family were the first settlers north of Knox county, and should have a prominent place in the history of Sullivan county.
Those who followed James Ledgewood, and were early settlers in the county, were Benjamin Price. :Major Watson, Thomas Holden, Edward. Parcell, Col. John Benefiel, and others. Colonel Benefiel was a member of the first constitutional convention, held in 1816. He represented Knox county, which, at that time, included Sullivan.
In 1808, Carlisle was laid off, and quite a settlement sprang up in that vicinity during the same year. It was at this place that the early county courts were held, Judge Prince, presiding; George R. O. Sullivan, prosecuting attorney; and R. Buntin, sheriff. The courts were often held under a large beech tree in the north part of the town. At an early day the county seat was removed to Merom, where it remained until 1843, when, after a good deal of difficulty, it was permanently located at Sullivan. Carlisle being the oldest town in the county, though not the largest, has several historical phases. In the first place, it is one of the oldest American settlements in the State. During the war of 1812, it figured prominently, furnishing many brave soldiers for the :field. It was near Carlisle that the " Dudley Mack" massacre took place during the war.
The county is watered by Busseron and Turman's creeks. The latter was named after Benjamin Turman, the first settler on the west side of the county in 1806. The lands lying in
Sullivan county are equal to those of the best agricultural counties in the State, and for mineral wealth the county has but few rivals. The Wabash bottoms, which are extensive in
this county, are excellent lands for com. There are large tracts of beach and sugar lands, which are well adapted to the production of clover and timothy, as also oak lands to that of
wheat and other grains. The townships of Curry, Jackson, Cass, and Jefferson, have an abundant supply of the very best bituminous coal in the State. These extensive coal fields are being mined, without interfering in any degree with the agricultural interests of the surface of the country. Numerous coal shafts are already in working order, from which immense quantities of coal are shipped to Chicago and other cities.
The town of Sullivan, located nearly in the center of the county, is the county seat, and has a population of over two-thousand. It is incorporated .as a town, having a board of trustees and a town clerk and a marshal. Until within a few years, the town government has not been very enterprising, but recently a new spirit of enterprise has taken hold of both people and government. The public schools, for so many years neglected, are now both an honor and an ornament to the town. The public school building, an engraving of which we present herewith, is one of the finest in the State. It is a magnificent three story brick structure, having been erected at a cost of over twenty thousand dollars, and capable of seating about six hundred pupils, exclusive of the spacious hall for general exercises, which is capable of seating about five hundred people. There is a well conducted school kept open in this building the whole year. When the town school year is closed, the school is continued as a private enterprise. It is known as the "Ascension Seminary," and is called one of the most successful graded schools in the State. Governor Hendricks, at a visit to this school, two years ago, expressed himself happily surprised at finding it so efficient, and the pupils so well advanced in all branches of study.
Sullivan is situated on the Evansville, Terre Haute and Chicago railroad, and will soon have .the benefits of an east and west road, which is now in contemplation to run through Greene county. With an extensive and abundantly rich agricultural region around it, with inexhaustible coal fields on. either side, and with sterling business men, May we not expect Sullivan soon to reach a position of eminence among the cities or the State. The court house located here. is a fine building having cost over sixty thousand dollars. It is
located in a pleasant square of over two acres, and will, during the present season, be enclosed by a substantial hon fence.
Merom is also a lively town in this county. It has the Union Christian College, one of the best institutions of the kind in the State, under the patronage of the denomination of Christians (New Lights,) and destined to become a leading college. This institution has a most delightful site, being built upon the highest point on the Wabash, and commanding an extended view of the Illinois prairies. This town is also interesting to the scientist and antiquarian on account of the recent discovery at that place of the remains of a once petrified town, located on one of the highest points of the Wabash. Investigation in this mound, has revealed stone vaults, human skeletons, implements of war, and many other rare curiosities.
The county was settled principally by Kentuckians, but embraces persons from nearly every State. The citizens are an exceedingly industrious and very intelligent class of people. Sullivan county will keep pace with the rest of the: State, in its grand march to progress and wealth.
The schools and churches all over the county are in a fair condition, and, what is still better, there is a disposition. manifesting itself to improve these. The county has fully entered upon a new era of progress in all branches of industry, and in all the professions. The population of the county is about twenty-five thousand.