CHAPTER III.
ORGANIZATION OF SULLIVAN COUNTY


During 1815 and 1816 there was a large immigration into the northern portion of Knox county. Settlement had progressed as far north as Fort Harrison and with the opening of the land sales for the New Purchase lands in 1816 all the desirable tracts were quickly taken up. There was every reason for the division of the old Knox county and the creation from its territory of several new civil divisions. The prospect of the creation of a new county excited considerable speculative activity in the laying out and promotion of townsites which at the proper time would be in a position to bid for the privilege of becoming the county seat of the new county.


The history of the town of Carlisle, elsewhere given, shows that this prospect was at the origin of that village. Up to this time the settlers in this vicinity had been grouped in the vicinity of the block houses and the Ledgerwood mill, but there was as yet no townsite. The first sale of lots in the townsite of Carlisle occurred June 23, 1815. But other rivals were also contending for the honors of being the seat of justice for the county which everyone confidently expected would be formed within a year.


The town of Busseron was also promoted. The proprietors of the site were James B. McCall and James Dunkin. Their agent, David Porter, in an advertisement dated at Busseron June 21, 1815, announced: "This town was first named and published 'Indiana,' the proprietors for the sake of conspicuity have changed it to Busseron. The town is laid out in squares, with 12 lots in a square. In the center is a square reserved for county buildings . . . . Busseron is situated on the north end of the beautiful prairie of the same name, twenty miles north of Vincennes, two miles from the Shaker settlement, one mile from Busseron creek, and three miles from the Wabash . . . . There is a fine settlement around this place . . . . two saw and two grist mills within two to five miles . . . . There is every prospect of this place being the seat of justice of the new county."


This was not the only townsite laid out as the prospective county seat. In 1816 Monroe was elected president of the United States, and two citizens of Sullivan county sought to commemorate his name by giving it to a town. These citizens were Benjamin Turman and Thomas C. Shields. It is known that the former was one of the first settlers on Turman's prairie, and it is probable that the town of Monroe was in what is now Turman township. What we know about this townsite is derived from an advertisement in the Western Sun of June 28, 1817. The proprietors above named advertise that in consequence of the seat of justice having been located elsewhere, on payment of the first installment on the lots sold in Monroe and the return of the title bonds, the purchasers would be released from further payments.


The history of the organization of Sullivan county and the location of its first seat of justice cannot be told in detail, since there are no county records of the period. An act of the legislature in January, 1816, directed that the townships of Palmyra and Busseron in Knox county be extended north to the "Harrison purchase line," meaning thereby to the line of the purchase of 1809. This placed, temporarily, all of the territory later comprised in Sullivan and Vigo counties in the two townships named, and so it remained until the organization of the new county. An election notice published in May, 1816, mentions two names one of which is especially well known as a pioneer of Sullivan county. The election was designated to be held in the house of William Purcell for Palmyra township and in the house of Joseph Latshaw for Busseron township.


Another item in the Sun is also of interest at this time just before the organization of the county. The matter of Canadian land warrants has been referred to in the extract from the Thomas travel journal. In the Western Sun of May 25, 1816, attention is called to an act granting bounties in land and extra pay to "certain Canadian volunteers," passed by Congress March 5, 1816. President Madison proclaimed that the warrants might be located on lands in either the Vincennes or Jeffersonville districts.


The first public sale of lands in the New Purchase occurred a few months before the organization of Sullivan county. It was through this sale that the belter lands of the county were purchased and a most important step taken toward the permanent settlement of the country. Previous to that time many settlers had located north of the old Indian Boundary line, but their rights in the land were those of actual settlement, without legal title to their homes.


The following paragraph from the Thomas diary concerns the land sales: "All the best lands near the Wabash river, which have not been reserved by the government or located by Canadian claimants, were sold at auction in the 9 mo., 1816. Much land of the second and third quality (and no inconsiderable part of these kinds is very fertile), remained, however, for an entry of two dollars an acre payable within four years, by installments. One Fourth within two years and the remainder in two equal annual payments. This condition is the rule; and eight percent interest is added to all payments after such become due, and eight percent discount is allowed for prompt pay. Thus, lands paid for at the time of entry cost only one dollar and sixty-three cents [$1.83 ? ] an acre. To accommodate persons who may be unprepared to make a payment in full -or who may wish to secure a lot while they make further discoveries -lands are permitted to be entered for a certain number of days. This privilege, however, has been abused. Entries have been made for the sum of sixteen dollars (one-twentieth of the purchase money), which confers the right to remove within forty days every valuable timber tree from the premises; and if no other purchaser appears, the term is even lengthened to 90 days. Last winter (1817-18) from five to ten dollars was the price of prairie lands, and from two to five the price of wood lands."


The following list of land purchasers in Sullivan county during the years 1816 and 1817 preserves the names of some of the pioneer citizens. Some of those whose names are given were no doubt speculative purchasers, who invested in the lands without intention of permanent settlement. For this and other reasons the names on the land patents of these years do not include all the settlers of the county up to this date. The names are given by congressional townships:


Township 6, range 8 (principally Jefferson township)-Robert Bedwell, Thomas Trimble, John Purcell, S. Shepard.

Township 7, range 8 (north part of Jefferson and portions of Haddon and Cass)-John Purdy.

Township 8, range 8 (Jackson township)-Willoughby Pugh and William Pugh.

Township 6, range 9 (the central part of Haddon, and most of it south of the Indian Boundary and in the area of the Donations and Surveys)-James Wason, John W. Nash, Stephen Milam, Richard Maxwell.

Township 7, range 9 (the northeast corner of Haddon, the south half of Hamilton, and a corner of Gill townships)-Thomas Hamilton, Thomas Pitts, William Purdy, John South, Jesse Haddon, John Pinkler, Thomas Creager, James Curry, A. N. McClelland, Eli Newlin, John Creager, Charles Hill, Henry South, Samuel Ledgerwood, Jonathan Batsom, Andrew Wilkins, John Haddon, Moses Milam, Samuel McClure, John Sinclair, Andrew Hamilton, John Robbins, Abraham Johnson, Jr., William Hamilton, George Boon, Morgan Eaton, H. S. Eaton, Robert Murphy, Titus Willard, Charles Scott, Friend Lemon, C. & F. Bullett, Patrick Smith, John Hall, Simeon Smith, Matthew McCammon, Brook Howell.

Township 8, range 9 (north half of Hamilton township, including Sullivan)-Paschal Shelburn, William Pugh, Samuel Smith, Thomas Hamilton, C. Crabtree, Eli Sinclair.

Township 9, range 9 (Curry township)-Thomas Carrithers, James Wier, William S. Watson, John Curry, Shadrack Sherman, William Curry, Calvin Curry, Isaac Hill.

Township 6, range 10 (southwest corner of Haddon and south part of Gill)-John Campbell, John Wallace, John Bond, Epenetus Webb, Jonathan Graham, Benjamin Sherman, Eli Joseph, Joseph Ridgeway, Uriah Joseph, James Duncan.

Township 7, range 10 (north part of Gill township, including Merom and New Lebanon)-John West, Ephraim West, Smith Hansbaugh, Edward Neal, James Jones, William Sherman, John Scott, Elizabeth Shepard, Joseph Warner, Felter & Hedges, William Lester, James Caldwell, John Booth, John B. Daugherty, C. & F. Bullett, Anthony and Richard Burnett, John Widener, Evan Rice, Levi Springer, David Thompson, Samuel Ray, William Hill, Samuel Elliott, Robert McNair, Samuel Smith, Samuel Ledgerwood, Jonathan Graham, Robert Polk, William Nudford, William Burnett, Andrew Wilkins, William Polk, Richard Maxwell, Thomas and John Bennett, John White, Peter Elliott, Abner Vickery, Jesse Haddon, William South, John Hopewell, Aaron Thompson, Abijah and Joseph Thomas, Henry French, Rankin Chandler, John C. Riley, Jacob Mumay, Thomas Edwards, Silas Dean, John Sproat, Elisha Boudmot, Alexander Chamberlain.

Township 8, range 10 (east half of Turman township)-John Flannagan, Jesse Davis, John McKee, Abraham Stagg, William Johnson, James B. McCall, John Miller, William Woods, Thomas N. White, Isaac Brocaw, John Haddon, Abraham McClelland, George Kirby, Seth Cushman, David Wilkins, Josiah Bryant, Henry Little, Benjamin Turman, Richard Posey, William Harper, James Harper, Arnold Potter.

Township 9, range 10 (all of Fairbanks township except the land along the river)-Phillip Frakes, John Gordon, William McGuire, Samuel Chambers, William Bryant, William Kelsoe, Jesse Ropel, Thomas Armstrong, Reuben Moore, Sbadrack Ernest, Thomas Robbins, Ludwick Ernest, James Pogue, Joseph Chambers, James D. Piety, James Lee, I. W. Drennan, Alexander Clark, Gideon Long, James Drake, James Patten, Edward H. Ransford, Isaac Hand, Joseph Thompson, William Sherman, Benjamin Harris, Robert Wier, William Patten, Elijah Payne.

Township 7, range 11 (fractional along the river)-John White, John C. Riley.

Township 8, range 11 (fractional, being the west side of Turman township)-John Lester, W. Lawrence, Thomas White, Jr., John White, J. C. Haliburt, Arthur Patterson, William White, John Seaton, Jonathan Lindley, William Harlow, James B. McCall, Benjamin Turman, Samuel Chambers, George Rogers, Clark Sullivan, Jonah Bryant, Nathaniel Ernest.

Township 9, range 11 (west fractional sections of Fairbanks) - Ambrose Whitlock, Philip Smoyer, William Patten.


The act for the organization of Sullivan county, quoted at length in the following paragraphs, was passed in December, 1816, and contained the following essential provisions: The organization was to take place in the following January, and the county seat was to be located in the latter part of February. The area of the new county was much more extensive than that of the present Sullivan county, but was not so large as has been frequently stated. The county jurisdiction did not extend north as far as the north line of the state, but only to the north line of the New Purchase, a few miles above Terre Haute. The western boundary was the Wabash river and the state line, and the county extended east approximately to the White river. The house of James Sproule in the recently platted town of Carlisle (see history of Carlisle) was designated as the first court house, to be used until the permanent location of the seat of justice and the erection of county buildings. The other and detailed provisions of the organic act follow:


An act for the formation of a new county out of the county of Knox.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the general assembly of the state of Indiana. That from and after the 15th day of January next, all that part of the county of Knox contained within the following boundaries shall constitute and form a separate county, viz.: Beginning on the Wabash river where the line dividing townships 5 and 6 crosses the same, thence running east with said line until it strikes the West Fork of White river, thence up the said fork to the Orange county line, thence with said line to the Indian Boundary line, thence with the said boundary line crossing the Wabash river to the line dividing the state of Indiana and the Territory of Illinois, thence with said line south to the Wabash river, thence down the said river with the meanders thereof to the place of beginning.


Sec. 2. The said new county shall be known and designated by the name and style of the county of Sullivan, and shall enjoy all the rights, privileges and jurisdictions which to separate counties do or may properly belong or appertain: Provided, always, that all suits, pleas, plains, actions and proceedings in law or equity which may have been commenced or instituted before the said 15th day of January next and shall be pending in the county of Knox shall be prosecuted and determined in the same manner as if this act had not been passed: Provided also, that all taxes which may on the said 15th of January next remain due and unpaid within the bounds of the said new county of Sullivan shall be collected and paid in the same manner and by the same officers as if the said new county had not been erected.


Sec. 3. Isaac Montgomery and William Harrington, of Gibson county, John B. Drennen and Andrew Purcell, of Knox county, and James G. Reed, of Daviess county, be and they are hereby appointed commissioners agreeably to an act entitled "An act for fixing the seats of justice in all new counties hereafter laid off," whose duty it shall be on receiving notice of their appointment as hereinafter provided to repair to the house of James Sproule in the said new county of Sullivan on the 20th day of February next and proceed to fix the seat of justice for the said county of Sullivan agreeably to the true intent and meaning of the above recited act, and it shall be the duty of the Sheriff of the county of Knox to notify the said commissioners either in person or by written notification of their said appointments at least five days previous to the time appointed, for the meeting of said commissioners, and the said sheriff shall heal lowed a reasonable compensation for his services out of the first moneys in the treasury of said county of Sullivan, to be allowed and paid as other county claims usually are.


Sec. 4. The circuit and other courts of the said county of Sullivan shall be holden at the house of James Sproule until the public buildings are in such state of forwardness that the circuit court of said county shall deem it expedient to adjourn said court to the place established for the seat of justice of said county, after which time the said courts shall be holden at the seat of justice established a> aforesaid.


Sec. 5. The said county of Sullivan shall be attached to and form a part of the first circuit, and the circuit courts for said county of Sullivan shall commence and be held at the place aforesaid for holding said courts 011 the Mondays next succeeding the week in which the circuit courts are directed by law to be held in the county of Daviess; Provided, that the agent to be appointed for said county of Sullivan shall reserve in his hands ten per centum out of the proceeds of the sale of the town lots at the seat of justice for said county, and shall pay the same over to such person as may hereafter be appointed by law to receive the same, for the use of a library for said county; And provided also, that the said county of Sullivan shall form a part of the representative and senatorial districts for the county of Knox, until altered by law.


This act shall be in force from and after the 15th day of January next. Approved December 30, 1816.


Jonathan Jennings. Isaac Blackford.
Speaker of the house of representatives.


Christopher Harrison,
President of the senate.


Carlisle was the county seat for about two years. Perhaps some of the court sessions were held, as the law directed, at the house of Janies Sproule, but there is a well circulated tradition that the judge and lawyers and litigants often held court in the open air under the shelter of a large beech tree that once spread its broad shade in the village.


Of the official acts of the commissioners and courts during this interesting period only fragmentary records remain. One of these is an advertisement in the Western Sun, dated November 20. 1817. signed by B. Johnson, Sheriff, announcing that he will expose certain lots in Terre Haute for sale for delinquent taxes. "The sale will commence at 10 o'clock at the court house in the town of Carlisle, Indiana." At that time Terre Haute was within the jurisdiction of Sullivan county, the organization of Vigo county being effected the following year.


A similar announcement of delinquent tax sale, dated January 17, 1818, refers to the town of Busseron, which, like Monroe, with the collapse of its county seat prospects, had failed to grow. There were 47 lots advertised for this sale, the owners' names being unknown. This is evidence that these towns, like many other towns laid out in a new country, were founded for speculative purposes, and the lots were largely sold to non-residents.


The principal institution of the town of Busseron was the old Ledgerwood mill. Though the court house went to Carlisle, this old mill seat for many years continued to supply the residents of this vicinity with flour, lumber, whiskey and other commodities of pioneer manufacture. An advertisement in the Western Sun dated "December, 1816, Busseron," and signed by Morgan Eaton, reads as follows: "The subscriber is happy to inform the inhabitants of Knox county and vicinity that his distillery is now in complete operation. Orders for whiskey, gin, etc., will be punctually attended to. He will sell corn whiskey at 75 cents a gallon, rye whiskey at one dollar per gallon, until change of market."


There is brief mention of another resident of that time at Busseron in the issue of April 21, 1817. James Dunkin advertises lots for sale in the town, among them three lots with buildings, store and tavern. All traces of these early business activities have long since disappeared from the site.


A pioneer of Carlisle and vicinity, who is elsewhere mentioned, was an advertiser in the Sun in January, 1817,-"Kenewha salt of the first quality for sale by John Duly, in Busseron prairie, one mile from Carlisle, which will be sold for cash, furs and skins, or for produce such as corn and wheat."


The first general election held in Sullivan county after its organization occurred in August, 1817, at which 155 votes were cast for Posey and 126 for Hendricks, they being the rival candidates for the office of congressman from this state.


After careful comparison of the existing records relating to the founding and early history of Carlisle and Merom, it is reasonable to conclude that Carlisle was never officially selected as the county seat of Sullivan county. The organic act designated the house of James Sproule as the temporary seat of justice until the permanent location and until the new county buildings were ready. For this reason Carlisle held the honor of being the county seat for a year or more. But in the account of Merom (elsewhere given) it appears that the county agent who managed the sale of lots for the county seat issued his announcement of this sale at Merom in June, 1817, and it is reasonable to suppose that the commissioners had previous to that time decided upon the location for the court house. However, it is probable that the actual removal of the seat of justice to Merom did not occur until the following year. Traditional accounts fix 1819 as the date when court sessions and other county business began to be transacted in Merom.




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