History of Clay Township, Dearborn County,
From: History of Dearborn County, Indiana
Her People, Industries and Institutions
Archibald Shaw, Editor
Published By: B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc.
Indianapolis, Indiana 1915
Clay township was organized in 1835 by an act of the board of county commissioners at their September session.
The description given in the entry in the commissioners' minutes is as follows: Commencing at the congressional
line dividing towns 5 and 6, range 2 west; thence east to the corner of section 4, township 4, range 2 west; thence
south to Laughery creek; thence westwardly, meandering with Laughery creek to the mouth of Hayes branch; thence
westwardly meandering with the main southwardly branch or fork of said Hayes branch to the first mentioned boundary
line to the center of section 20, township 5, range 3, on the boundary line of Dearborn county; thence northwardly
with said line to the place of beginning. Clay township was by this description made out of portions of Sparta,
Caesar Creek and of what was once called Laughery township, but now divided into Washington Center and Hogan. To
the north of Clay lies Sparta township to the east is Washington township, on the south lies Laughery creek and
Caesar Creek township and to the west is Ripley county.
THE FIRST SETTLER.
It is claimed for Clay township that the year 1796 marked the settlement of a Scotchnian by the name of William
Ross in the county. He first settled on Hogan creek. To show what vicissitudes some of the first settlers encountered
the following sketch of the life of Mr. Ross is herewith given: "William, the head of the Ross family, was
a native of Scotland, and came to America a single man with Lord Cornwallis, during the Revolutionary war, and
was made a prisoner at Yorktown. After living for a while on the farm of General Washington, he was there married.
He afterwards lived for a time at the old Redstone Fort, on the Monongahela river, and at a place called Grants
Station. He came to this county in 1796, settling at the mouth of Hogan creek, or near there. He then had a family
of six children. February 22, 1799, David, a son, was born at the mouth of Hogan creek. Just at what time the family
moved up Laughery creek is not known, but it was not long after their settlement on Hogan creek. Mr. Ross, with
his boys, cleared up a farm on Laughery creek in Clay township, where he continued to reside until 1816, when he
removed farther up the creek into Ripley county. He was a useful citizen, serving as a territorial justice of the
peace up until he removed to Ripley county. The land on which he settled was at the time attached to Switzerland
county, and during the time he was elected a commissioner of that county or a member of the board of supervisors.
His son, James Ross, was living in 1885 at Hartford. Ohio county, and was born on Laughery creek in 1803. Beginning
as a pioneer boy, amid the scenes of frontier life, where the wilderness was his playground, the Indian boys his
playmates and the blockhouse at times his home, he narrates with much interest and pleasure those bygone days.
The Indians were often encamped in the woods surrounding has father's cabin, to which the frequently came for food.
The settlers experienced little trouble from them but were at times subject to fright at their expense. Mr. Ross
remembers in the spring of 1812, that the men folks of the settlement went in a company in pursuit of a band of
Indians who had stolen a number of horses in that locality, but they failed to overtake them. Mr. Ross married
Elizabeth Pate, who died in 1847, by whom he hail seven children. His second wife was a daughter of Robert Conaway,
and a member of the pioneer family by that name."
EXPERIENCES OF A PIONEER.
The following record is taken from the biography of Ebenezer Harbert, one of the first settlers of Clay township. "Ebenezer Harbert came from Pennsylvania to Indiana territory in 1810. He came down the Ohio on a flatboat. The party with whom he came spent the summer of 1810 at North Bend, Ohio, and in the fall moved to Laughery creek, staying all night the first night at the log cabin of a settler by the name of Falls, living about a half mile from the Ohio river. The settler narrated to them so much of the disadvantages of the country that they proceeded on down the river to the mouth of Grants creek. Here during the absence of the men their cabin was besieged by a bear, which confined them to the house until the return of the men folks. About Christmas time they moved up to Laughery again, going up that creek as far as Guionville, where they commenced a clearing and erected a cabin. When they arrived here there were a few settlers along the creek both above and below but none on the hills. Samuel Purcell lived farthest up the creek, about two and one half miles above Guionville. Ross lived between Purcells and Harberts John Withers lived opposite Guionville, where Milton now stands. Still below were James Conaway, Mr. Crune and Ben Wilson. Harbert's nearest neighbor on either sick was distant one half mile. The whole country was covered with dense forests crossed only by footpaths, and was infested with bears, wolves and other wild animals. These, together with the hostile Indians, rendered the lives and property of the settlers precarious in the extreme, and many were the hair breadth escapes which never will be recorded. From time to time, the alarm of Indians would be sounded and the cry of 'The Indians are on us. run for your lives,' would be accompanied with great excitement and confusion. In such times each of the members of the family would gather what he could and repair in all haste to the blockhouse. On one occasion when the Indians made a raid on the settlement, John Harbert gathered up a pot of greens that were cooking, and not having time to reach the blockhouse hid it in a thicket until the danger was past. When the family came from their hiding places, the enjoyed their greens even better than that dish is generally enjoyed. The blockhouse was simply a neighbor's house, where it was understood that everybody was to assemble in time of danger.
"A fort was commenced on the farm of John Conaway, but the location being directly under the hill and too
much exposed it was abandoned. Soon after Mr. Harbert settled there a band of Delaware and Pottawattomie Indians
camped below Guionville. Among them were several renegade whites, including the notorious Simon Girty. The Indians
would steal everything they could lay their hands on. They stole three horses from Mr. Harbert. However, there
was much stealing attributed to them that they were innocent of, for some of the settlers were caught in acts of
that kind. The squaws took considerable interest in the household affairs of the whites, and they begged all the
cucumbers they could, of which the Indians were very fond, when ripe.
BEAUTY OF LOCATION.
Clay township lies mostly on a ridge, between the deep valleys of South Hogan, Laughery and Hayes branch. In
the center of the township it is high above the valleys. Dilisboro, which lies nearly in the center of the township,
is seven hundred and eighty five feet above the sea level and commands a fine view of the country about.
Dillsboro was laid out in March 16, 1830, by Mathias Whetstone. Nathaniel L. Squibb was the surveyor. It lies about one and one half miles south of the Baltimore & Ohio railway. Additions to the town were made in 1837 and 1855, by G. V. Swallow and John Lenover. The first merchant of the town was David Gibson, who was shortly succeeded by Jacob Egelston. In 1837 Mr. Egelston sold his store to William Glenn, who afterward became one of the prominent merchants of Cincinnati. Mr. Glenn was also the proprietor of the first hotel in the town. Not many years after the town was laid out the cooperage business became an important industry and was carried on by Philip, Samuel and James Wymond. They for a number of years operated quite extensively and employed as many as forty or fifty men. A flour mill was located here in 1858 by Arthur Beckett. Clay township was one of the most patriotic localities in the county during the Civil War and it is claimed that during that period every man between the ages of eighteen and forty five that was able for military service had seen service.
The Dillsboro Oil and Gas Company was organized in 1900, for the purpose of determining the presence of either oil or gas in the soil underneath the ground of Clay township. A spot was chosen adjacent to the town of Dillsboro and a well sunk to the depth of one thousand three hundred and eighty seven feet, but neither oil or gas was found in sufficient quantities to justify its use. However, they did find an inexhaustible stratum of mineral water which on being analyzed showed qualities the medicinal value of which proved to be a boon to persons suffering with rheumatism, kidney and kindred afflictions. A company which had its headquarters in Newport, Kentucky, was organized to develop the find, but it failed to perform its contract and was succeeded by the present company, which goes under the name of the Dilisboro Sanitarium Company. It was incorporated on August 14, 1911, with a capital stock of twenty five thousand dollars, and the following board of officers and directors: President, Oliver H. Smith: treasurer, Holland P. Long; secretary, Robert E. Fleming. Directors: Mary Licking, Oliver H. Smith, John W. Fleming, Louis Ruhlman, Holland P. Long. The company have gone to work with a will and erected a comfortable building with a broad piazza and rest rooms that are light and airy. The building has fifty six rooms and accommodations are arranged to comfortably house and care for from sixty to seventy five guests. It has been a success from the time the company had completed and ready for occupancy their new building and its rooms have been well filled with patients and those desiring to obtain a rest from the worries of life for a short season.
BUSINESS DIRECTORY OF DILLSBORO.
Auto bus line-Leslie Smith.