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Government History

Before January 17 1814, the portion of Indiana now known as Washington County, was compromised within the old territorial counties of Clarke and Harrison.  Washington County came into existence, when Indiana was still a territory and while the war of 1812-1815 was still going on, Washington County came about with the "Act of the Formation of a New County out of the Counties of Harrison and Clarke".

In the month of February 1814, the Commissioners named in the enactment, met at the house of William Lindley.  After viewing several locations, they bought 174 acres where Salem now is.  On the 7th of January, 1814, Isaac Blackford was commissioned Clerk and Recorder of Washington County, by the Governor.

Three judges; Jonathan Lindley, Moses Hoggart and Simeon Lamb, met for the transaction of county business on February 2, 1814.  Their first business was to appoint John DePauw the County agent.  At the March session, Superintendents were appointed to lease the school sections in the county.  Various township officers were appointed in the April Elections.

The first townships were Madison, Lost River, Blue River, Washington and Driftwood.

During the April session of the County Board, several roads were ordered viewed and several licenses to keep taverns and sell goods were issued.  The tavern and grocery rates were fixed to as follows: 

6 1/4 cents
25 cents
Horse overnight
to hay and fodder
12 1/2 cents

Rum, Peach Brandy
or Wine
37 1/2 cents
per half pint
All other spirits
12 1/2 cents
per half pint
Cider or Beer
16 2/3 cents
per quart
Tavern License
$2 per annum.

Alexander Little was appointed County Lister for 1814.
At the July session, the Board a tax of 18 3/4 cents was levied on horses.
 Arrangements to build a permanent courthouse and jail were made.

In December 1815 both Orange and Jackson Counties were created, thus taking a large tract from Washington and reducing it practically (with the exception of Scott County stricken off in January 1820) to its present limits.

On the 10th of February in 1817, the first Board of Commissioners met.  The first act was to redivide the county into the following townships:  Washington, Franklin, Posey, Jackson, Vernon and Brown.

The county tax of 1816 brought in revenue. 
Town Lots
Store License
Tavern Licenses

In November 1817, James Harbinson was given the contract to erect a bridge over Blue River at Salem, for $475 the work was completed the following June.  Burr Bradley, instead of C. Harrison, made the maps for $15.
A Water closet for the court yard was built by Adam Cauble for $129.90.  John Smiley was County Lister in 1818.  Books for the Clerks office were bought for $50.37.  Tavern Keepers in Salem were taxed $10, outside of Salem, $7.  Dr Burr Bradley was the first poor or pauper physician.  In May 1819, Jonathon Lyon was appointed inspector of flour, beef and pork.  He was succeeded by Edward Carom the same year.  Alexander Huston was the Census Taker of 1820.  The court house was kept locked, only to be occupied by the Courts and for divine worship.  Beebe Booth succeeded John DePauw as county agent in 1821.  The Clerk's office was in the southwest room of the courthouse.  Joel Coombs was County Collector in 1824.  During these  years, important roads were laid out from New Albany to Salem, and on to Bono and Bedford; from Salem to Vernon from Salem to Charlestown; from Salem to Scottsburg, and connecting various points in the county.

In 1833 John Hardin was appointed Three Per Cent Commissioner. The books of the Fredericksburg Bridge Company were ordered exemped.  License was granted to the Washington County Trading & Manufacturing Co to do business.  Before this, the bridge over Blue River at Salem was declared a nuisance by the board and ordered removed.  In 1833 the Salem & Ohio Turnpike Company was given the right to occupy any road in the county.  In 1835 Livonia was incorporated.  Elijah Newland was Three Per Cent Commisssioner in 1840.  The total fund being $4,522.75, used in the construction of roads.  No record seems to have been kept of the creation of new townships.

In 1841 J. O. McKinney was appointed student to the State University; Dennis McMahon was appointed in 1842.  In September, 1842, in special session, the Board refused to receive Indiana State Treasury notes in of taxes.  In 1842 the grade of the Salem & Jefferson Turnpike was declared a State Road.  In September 1843, peter Nogle and Henry Young contracted to build a county seminary for $600.  In 1844 $200 was spent of the three per cent fund, for the bridge over Blue River on the Salem & Jefferson Turnpike.  .

Hardinsburg was incorporated in 1849.  In March 1851 took $1005 from the three per cent fund, for stock n the Salem & Millport Plank Road Company.  The right of way was given to the Brownstone & Charleston Plank Road Company at the same time.

March 3, 1853, the townships of the county were reorganized with new boundaries and new townships created: Gibson, Monroe, Jefferson, Brown, Vernon, Washington, Franklin, Polk, Pierce, Howard, Madison, Posey and Jackson.  Gibson and Monroe had been created between 1820 and 1840.  The others had been formed in 1817.

March 3, 1853, the line between Clark and Washington Counties was ordered surveyed.  Dennis McMahan was agent of the three per cent fund and in 1853, the fund contained $6,575.21.  In September 1853, the question of incorporating Salem was carried by a large majority.  A tract of 298 acres was incorporated.

In 1854 the Washington Guards, with Wiley Reeves as Captain, had 100 muskets, and drilled quite regularly.  In 1855 Hiram Wilcox was given the right to manufacture liquor in Brown Township.  In 1859 Fredericksburg, with 642.48 acres was incorporated.  In 1869, P. O'Beirne & Co., of New York City made a wall map of the county. 

During the war of 1861-1865, the board experienced much trouble with the management of the stand of arms in the county; sometimes the guns were kept under lock and sometimes were delivered to companies of home guards.  In 1862, $200 was spent on the bridge over Blue River, near McPheeter's Mill. 

In September, 1864, so prevalent had become crime (horse steeling, burglary, highway robbery, etc.) that an association was formed in the Washington Township to check and stop all unlawful depredations.  At the close of the war the County Board appropriated large amounts of county treasury for the county and relief.

In June 1866, it was decided to revive the municipality of Salem.
In June $240 was spent in grading, grassing and improving the public square.  The deferred question of reviving the corporation of Salem again in 1868.  In June 1874 the county board sold county bonds of $7000, to liquidate the existing county indebtedness.

In 1873-1874 the State Board of Equalization illegally raised the revenue $5,743.20, which amount was collected but refunded under court orders, the right of the act referred to that tribunal for settlement.  In 1872-1873, the boundary between Clarke and Washington Counties was definitely established by legislative enactment.  In 1877-1878 the County Board levied a tax of 5 cents on each $100 and 50 cents on each poll.  In 1884 a heavy iron fence with thick stone posts was built around the square at a cost of about $600.

Surplus Revenue
Bank Tax Fund
Saline Fund
Sinking Fund
Seminary Fund 1853
Sale of Seminary
Other Fund 1853
Sinking Fund of 1871-1873
Fines, Forfeitures, etc, of various
Courts from 1853 to 1854

Origin of the Congressional Fund
Section 16, Township 1 South, Range 2 East
$   909.60
Section 16, Township 1 South, Range 3 East
Section 16, Township 1 South, Range 4 East
Section 16, Township 1 North, Range 2 East
Section 16, Township 1 North, Range 3 East
Section 16, Township 1 North, Range 4 East
Section 16, Township 1 North, Range 5 East
Section 16, Township 2 North, Range 2 East
Section 16, Township 2 North, Range 3 East
Section 16, Township 2 North, Range 4 East
10, 646.23
Section 16, Township 2 North, Range 5 East
Section 16, Township 3 North, Range 2 East
Section 16, Township 3 North, Range 3 East
Section 16, Township 3 North, Range 4 East
Section 16, Township 3 North, Range 5 East
Section 16, Township 4 North, Range 3 East

The County Finances
November 14, 1822 to November 12, 1823

County Revenue
$318.96 1/2
John DePauw County Agent
414.12 1/2
From James Coffin
Store License
Tavern License
Tax on writs, seals, etc

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