History of Bowling Green, Clay County, Indiana
From: A History of Clay County, Indiana
By: William Travis (of Middlebury)
The Lewis Publishing Company
New York - Chicago 1909


Historically, Bowling Green is the first and oldest town in the county, founded coevally with the organization of the county. Here was instituted primarily the system of local or county government then in vogue in the state of Indiana. It was made the capital, or seat of justice, of the separately and newly organized area of three hundred and sixty square miles of the state's territory. Because of this distinction, it was the first point within this territory to become known abroad, to which the early emigration to the new county was attracted and directed. The earliest recollections and reminiscences in the history of the county cluster about this place. For the first quarter of a century of its history half the inhabitants of the county received their mail at this point. Prior to the building and operation of the Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad, Bowling Green was the commercial and social center of the county. Here was found the professional talent of the county, legal, medical and ministerial. The official and public business of the county was transacted here for full half a century, as it was just fifty two years from the time that the pioneer public buildings were occupied to the time that the public records were moved to Brazil. A large percentage of the county officers elected for the first third of a century were residents of Bowling Green and Washington township, while yet others, residents of localities more remote, became citizens of the town by adoption succeeding their terms of official service, engaging in commercial pursuits or otherwise contributing their influence to the prestige of the town. Bowling Green was one of the but few county seats in the state of Indiana which did not have any railroad facilities. To this, in the main, is to be attributed the loss of its prestige.

Of the early resident attorneys and members of the bar who achieved distinction in the profession and gave reputation and credit to the town' and county were James M. Hanna, Delany E. Williamson, Henry Secrist, Samuel Howe Smydth, William Farley, John Osborn and Allen T. Rose, and those of a later generation, W. W. Carter, James G. Miles, Enos Miles, George D. Teter, George W. Wiltse, S. D. Coffey and others.

In recognition of their ability honors in both state and federal administration came to members of the Bowling Green or former Clay county bar. James M. Hanna and Silas D. Coffey were called to seats on the Supreme Bench of the state, Delaney E. Williamson elected Attorney General, Henry Secrist honored with candidacy for Congress, W. W. Carter made collector and custodian of government revenues, Samuel H. Smydth, John Osborn, Allen T. Rose, and George D. Teter chosen members of the law making assembly of the state.

Numerous disciples of the healing art have practiced at Bowling Green, some of whom became locally eminent, to, say the least, in their profession. All of this array of medical talent worthy of mention and memory cannot at this day be recalled. Dr. Charles Moore is said to have traveled over more territory in answer to professional calls than any of his contemporaries. Dr. Sewell Moore, a brother, was also a pioneer practitioner here, as were Drs. Burton, Shields, Lindley and Woods. One of the earliest and best known physicians of primitive times in this part of the county was Andrew Davis. Drs. U. G. McMillan, W. B. Gwathmey, John Williams, R. H. Culbertson, W. C. Hendricks and 'Dr. Reynolds were also prominently identified with the profession both before and at the time of the Civil war. A little later were Drs. Stephenson, Duffield, Picking, Black, Crafton, Talbott, McGregor, Hochstetler and others. At a still later day, Drs. Allen. Jones, Speibring, Griffith.

The Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists and Christians have maintained organized societies here for many years. Of the three houses of worship the Methodist, a brick structure, in the north part of the town, was the oldest said to have been built by William K. Houston at about the same time that he put up the Masonic hall and the two story brick residence building on the north side, now the property of Dr. John Williams. This pioneer brick church, having fulfilled its mission, is now being displaced by one of modern design and structure, the contract having been let for its construction, to be completed by the i5th day of October of this year. The estimated cost of the new building is between $5,000 and $6,000. The "life and times" of this original brick church covers a period of two thirds of a century in the history of the town. The frame church, on the east side of the public square, which was built at some time in the early fifties, was, in some sense, a jointure in ownership and use between the Presbyterians and the Baptists. The Christian church, in the northwest part of the town plat, was built in 1867-68 and dedicated in the month of May of the latter year.

In mercantile pursuits more individuals and firms were engaged here than in the commercial history of any other pioneer town of the county. No one now living is able to bring them all to mind. A former history of the county makes the statement that in 1825 Abner Hill opened the first store at this place, the first in the county. This statement, however, is contradicted, not as to fact but as to name that the name of this pioneer merchant should have been given as Abner Hall. Jesse McIntyre, John M. Melton, John Rizley, Jesse J. Burton, Hanna & Williams, and Shallum Thomas were among the very early merchants of the town. Others were Moss & Sloan, Wakefield & Parker, R. M. Wingate, Elkin & Son, O. H. P. Ash, D. A. Conover, Elisha Adamson, Wingate & Peyton, Peyton & Thompson, Black & Thompson, Long, Orman & Keith, Long, Notter & Murbarger, Barr & Boothe, Senseney & Smith, F. M. Pickins, Thompson & Thompson, W. S. Geiger, A. J. Montgomery, McGregor & Son, Givens & Dial, Royer Brothers, Dresler & McCann, Tapy & Gilbrech (furniture), J. C. Horton (jewelry, etc.), Shaffer & Son (stoves and tinware), Waugh & Orman (stoves, etc.).

Bowling Green was the first and is the oldest postofflee in the county, through which have passed during the time it has been in business over three hundred tons of mail. It was made a money order office August 6, 1866. There is no one now living who can enumerate in regular succession the postmasters at this office. Thomas Harvey, James Gildea, Jesse J. Burton and John S. Beam were among the very early ones. Clinton M. Thompson and O. H. P. Ash officiated in this position more than fifty years ago. Then came J. M. Vial, Samuel Miles, Lewis Rice, Samuel Pinckley, Abner Bohannon, W. H. Miles, Charles Cochran, Charles Smith, William Folsom, Harry Rodenberger, Samuel Carrithers, Walter C. Smith.

Bowling Green was incorporated in the year 1871. A petition having been filed with the Board of Commissioners at the March term of court, an election to take the preliminary vote was called, which was held on the 3d day of April, when 96 votes were cast, 77 in favor and 19 against the proposition. The first election of town officers was held on the 30th day of June following, when William H. Atkins, Enos Miles and Fred Stucki were elected Trustees; Luther Wolfe, Marshal and Assessor; Hiram Teter, Clerk and Treasurer. An assessment of the incorporated territory for purposes of taxation showed a valuation of $171,479. The town had previously been incorporated, at some time in the forties or early fifties, perhaps, but for reasons which do not now appear, the organization was not maintained. Succeeding the later incorporation the town authorities proceeded to build the substantial two story department brick school house, on the south side of the town, which has now been used for the third of a century, by which the ability of the municipality to pay was overburdened, the bonds having been issued for the purpose remaming still unpaid.

The old court house, which has been used by the town as a public hall since its vacation by the county, may continue to serve in this capacity for another period of a third of a century.

The Free Masons, Odd Fellows and Knights and Ladies of Honor maintain lodges here. The first named is the oldest, having been instituted sixty years ago, and is reputed to be one of the strongest in the state. This society recently celebrated the event of its having reached the one hundred mark in membership.

The population of Bowling Green as shown by the census of 1900 was 432; for 1890 it was 467, just one more than that of 1860, thirty years before, which was 466. It is here given from personal recollection, not by authority, that the limit was reached in 1870, when it was 551.

The history of Bowling Green is found, in part, in the chapters on county seat, court house, relocation, etc.

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