History of Harrison Township, Darke County Ohio
From: History of Darke County, Ohio
From its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time
By: Frazer E. Wilson
The Hibart Publishing Company
Milford, Ohio 1914

This township occupies the extreme southwestern part of the county and includes the territory known as township 10 north, range 1 east. It was erected in May, 1818, from the west end of Twin township and contained all of that township west of a line running due north from the southeast corner of section 31, township 10 north, range 2 east. On September 7, 1820, it was reduced to its present size by detaching one tier of sections from the east side.

Harrison is a township of springs, streams and rolling hills, and contains some of the highest elevations in the county. The headwaters of Mud creek and the West Branch of Greenville creek drain the northeastern part of the township, the east fork of the Whitewater drains the central and southeastern portion, and the Middle fork of the Whitewater and some minor branches drain the western section. The primitive condition of this township is thus portrayed by the historian: "Save in the northwest, the valleys of these streams and much of their basins were swampy and well nigh impassable. In some places there were tall rank grasses and swampy weeds; in others, timber and thickets of vinous brush, briery and woven as a network of nature's weaving, while on higher ground bordering these were walnut, hackberry, sugar maple and oaks; in the southeastern part, beech predominated. The native scenery presents an appearance of a western forest repelling the settler from interference with its domain. Such were the general features of this region before the pioneer had chosen his home, or any surveyor had ventured to trace the boundaries of town or range. All was wood and swamp. Nature reigned in unbroken solitude save the song of birds, the graceful flight of deer, the nightly howl of wolves and the occasional unearthly screech of the American panther. Abundance of game, the rolling lands, the springs and streams were marked by explorers."

Probably the glowing reports of the surveyors and of some roaming frontiersmen and hunters early awakened eager anticipations among the border settlers to the south and some of these had the temerity to make entries of land in this primitive paradise, several years before the remoter and less attractive sections were taken up.

As early as 1810, a few families, including the Brawleys, Purviances and McClures made entries in the southern section along the valley of the East fork. They were soon driven away, however, by the hostile attitude of the Indians and did not return until after the close of the war of 1812. During this conflict, in the fall of 1813, a fort was established by Lieutenant Black of a company commanded by Captain Nesbitt, and named Fort Black. This post was built in section 13 on the present site of New Madison. Its exact location is said to have been about twenty feet north of Main street between lots 104 and 105 in that village. Another post called Fort Nesbitt was also built in 1813 on the northeast quarter of section 32, just east of the present fork in the roads on land now belonging to William E. Roberts. William Boswell, James Shannon and others served in this block house.

At the close of hostilities the first families returned and eagerly took up the arduous labor of clearing up the lands for prospective farms. They were soon followed by William and John Wade, who located near Fort Black; Zudock and John Smith, who included the site of the fort in their entry; James Emerson, Joseph Gist, the Tilisons and Harlands, who settled along the Middle Branch of Whitewater. From this time settlement progressed rapidly. Dennis Hart, Judson Jaqua and the Lawrences settled in the neighborhood of Yankeetown; Solomon and Jonathan Thomas southwest of New Madison; John and Aaron Rush further north; Thomas Micham in section 16; John Downing in section 10; Frances Spencer in section 3; Samuel at Fort Nesbitt, and his brother in section 29. John and Jacob Miller, Daniel Owens, David, James P. and Daniel Edwards and John Watson in the central part and north of Fort Nesbitt. Other early settlers were Ernestus Putnam, Solomon Broderick, James Wooden, M. Buckingham, Nazareth Bunch, John Carrier, William Jones, Daniel Forkner, Jonathan Thomas, the Motes brothers, John Foster, E. Lovall and Thomas Gray. A large number of these were scions of the old families of Kentucky and the south, others were from the Miami valley settlement and a few from the east. Some came by way of the Whitewater and still others by the new roads of the older settlements to the south. In some cases two or three families came together with their meager household furniture and farming utensils all in one wagon. Some came afoot or on horseback, bringing possibly a cow, a few swine and a few tools and farming implements. The newcomers were often sheltered in the cabins of the earlier settlers and all were mutually dependent, thus developing that open heartedness everywhere characteristic of the pioneers. That they were of a substantial class is indicated by the fact that nearly all remained and improved the lands which they had entered.

The moral and religious tone of the community were enhanced by the presence of such men as John Purviance, John Forster, Isaac Mains and William Polly, all of whom were early preachers in the Christian denomination; as well as by the Tillsons, Harlands, Pollys, Solomon Broderick, Ernestus Putnam and others. The first church was a log structure and was built on the site later occupied by Friendship church, on northwest corner of section 28. Here John Purviance also taught school until the first regular school building was erected in 1819. William Hill and Moses Woods are mentioned as early teachers. Educational matters have received considerable attention in this township since pioneer days and its relative standing in educational matters is high today. Besides the regular school districts there are three special rural districts and the New Madison and Hollansburg schools.

The Pennsylvania railway enters the township near the northeast corner of section 13 and crosses the Preble county line in section 33 and the Peoria and Eastern pursues a sinuous course, crossing and recrossing the northern township line, and having probably three miles of track within the township. The real estate of Harrison township was assessed at $2,130,490, and the personal property at $1,141,700 in 1913. The entire population of the township in 1910 was 2,064.

New Madison.

The rapid settlement of Harrison township encouraged Zadock Smith to lay off a town plat on the site of Fort Black in section 13 as early as 1817. This he did partly as a matter of speculation. On Christmas, 1817, Smith held a pioneer jollification and public sale of lots, at which only two lots were sold upon which buildings were afterwards erected. Becoming disheartened at this first attempt, Smith sold his entire claim to Ernestus Putnam in 1819. Putnam then bought all the lots formerly sold, vacated the original plat, and in 1831, made a new plat comprising thirty four lots ranged on opposite sides of what is now Main street for a distance of three blocks. At that time he lived in Old Fort Black, where his son David (later colonel of the One Hundred and Fifty second regiment) was born. In this connection we append herewith an interesting sketch written by Col. David Putnam (deceased) and published in the Greenville Democrat, May 17, 1902.

"Returning to Washington he closed up his business, packed up their valuables that made the least bulk, loaded them with mother, Jane and John, who were born there, in a one horse wagon, and started for Fort Black, Darke county (which had just been organized), Ohio, where he had previously, through Uncle John Gray, entered a quarter section of land, just west of the quarter that the fort was located on.

"I will digress a little here.

"Grandfather Gray, Uncle Thomas Carson and Uncle John Kinnear had preceded them, Uncle Thomas having entered the quarter section west of father (half for grandfather), and Uncle John Kinnear the quarter section next west. The quarter second on which the fort was located had been entered by Zeddock Smith, who had made some little improvements and had laid out some lots and named his town Madison. He had sold three or four lots of which two had small hewn log houses on. At that time land had to be entered in quarter sections at $2.00 per acre, one half paid at date of entry and balance in deferred payments.

"I will resume my narration.

"After a long and tedious journey over mountains, rivers, plains and swamps they arrived at Fort Black. (Grandfather with grandmother and Aunt Mary, Uncle Thomas Carsons with Aunt Nancy and Uncle John Kinnear with Aunt Sarah and two children had preceded them.) They procured a guide who piloted them down the south side of the great pigeon swamp two miles to the McClure cabin, crossing the had of Whitewater, then north passing the John Rush cabin to grandfather's, going nearly five miles and were less than three quarters of a mile from the fort. After meeting and talking things over, father having saved some money from the financial wreck, went around to the fort and found Smith unable to make his deferred payment on his entry; purchased his interest in the land and purchased the lots that had been sold and some time after vacated the town, got a few things together, went back to the fort and went to housekeeping, using the houses that had been built: About this time General Harrison being in congress, secured the enactment of a law reducing the price of land to $1.25 per acre and authorizing those who had made entries and were unable to pay the deferred payment to relinquish one half of the land and take title for the other half. Father, having assumed the payment of the Smith entry, relinquished his entry, thereby getting title in fee for the town quarter. He again entered the swamp quarter. Upon getting his title completed he built a comfortable two story log house of three rooms below and three above, with an addition of a kitchen and porch; in which house I was born, with six younger children, and where we all spent our childhood's happy days.

"In 1831 father laid out and started the town of New Madison, and in 1832 built the first merchant mill in Darke county, Ohio. Soon after getting settled in their new home father opened quite an extensive shop, making and repairing guns, and for considerable time employed Abraham Hollenshead, who had worked for him in Washington nearly all the time they lived there. Soon after opening his shop they opened a small store, mother taking charge of it while father ran the shop. When I was about thirteen or fourteen years old, father sold his fine set of tools to Lewis Ginger, of New Paris, quit the business and gave his entire time to the mercantile business, in which he was suceessful. In 1835 he built in the new town a good store room and moved his business from the Fort Black stand and in 1837 and '38 built the large and commodious dwelling, yet standing in good condition and occupied as the principal hotel in the flourishing town. Father continued in the mercantile business until February 11, 1839, when brother John entered the store and business was then conducted under the firm name of E. Putnam & Son. This was continued until August 4, 1842, when father retired entirely from business and I, with John, continued the business as J. G. & D. Putnam, which firm continued until June 4, 1845, when I sold my interest to John and moved to Palestine."

Putnam opened up the first store in the new town; he also built a log school house on a triangular piece of ground at the southeast corner of the plat, and donated the same for public school purposes. In addition he gave ground for cemetery purposes, a military parade ground and the site of the old brick Presbyterian church on Washington street, which building he was largely instrumental in erecting. In 1857, Rev. Vogt organized a Reformed society which soon displaced the Presbyterian organization and came into possession of the property. After forty years of existence this society in turn merged with the newly organized United Brethren society in 1897. In 1899 the latter denomination built a beautiful brick church on lot No. 1 of the original plat on upper Main street, at a cost of some $10,000 or $12,000. This church has grown and prospered and now has a membership of about two hundred.

The Universalists organized in June, 1859, with thirty one members and purchased a large lot near the southeastern corner of the village where they soon erected a substantial frame building and dedicated it in January, 1860. This denomination has maintained an organization ever since, placing especial emphasis on Sunday school work. In 1903, this society built a nicely appointed, modern brick building on the old site at a cost of some $8,000. The present membership is over one hundred.

The Methodists built a frame church opposite the Reformed church in 1878, and maintained worship until recent years. They are now inactive.

The educational enterprise of the citizens is shown by the fact, that as early as 1870 they erected a two story, brick school house, at a cost of $6,500, not including equipment. This building was replaced in 1897 by a modern, six room, brick structure costing about $7,000. The new building is nicely furnished throughout, is heated by steam, has a good laboratory, a library and a piano. A recent report shows six teachers employed, fifty six pupils in the high school, ten members in the last graduating class, and 108 graduates, in chiding the class of 1913. The first class graduated in 1895. The high school ranks as first grade, has two courses of study and offers advanced work for those preparing to teach. There is a good school sentiment in the district, and the patrans want the best schools possible. The standard of the school has been raised from the third grade to the first grade and each year new equipment is added to the laboratory and new books to the library. The following persons have served as superintendent since the organization of this school: Thomas Eubanks. Edwin Lockett, Mr. Christler, Mr. Reed, Mr. Christnet, M. A. Brown, A. W. Warson, F. J. Mick, Floyd Deacon, M. F. Smith and C. W. Williams.

New Madison is one of the substantial conservative towns of the county, and although it has never experienced a boom, it goes steadily forward in improvements. Besides the church and school buildings already mentioned, it has a town hall, a fire department, a bank, two hotels, a newspaper, a K. of P. hall, a Red Men's hall, lumber yard, a grain elevator, tobacco warehouses and factories, Ace plant and garage, also several fine residences. At present there are Masonic, K. of P., Pythian Sisters and I. O. R. M. lodges in this village, and several thriving business enterprises. The census of 1910 gave New Madison a population of 628.


On March 28, 1838, James Stewart laid out the village of Union in the northeastern quarter of section 7, Harrison township, where the residence of Elihu Polly now stands, and offered lots for sale. It is said that William Hollaman, who was at that time one of the prominent men of the county, negotiated for the purchase of two or more lots, but when he came to settle with the proprietor, had a wrangle about the price, whereupon said Hollaman threatened to lay off a competitive plat on his own land in section 5 about a mile to the northeast of Union. This he did in October, 1838. Valentine Harland made two additions to the original plat and the new village was named by combining the first part of Hollaman's name with the last part of Harland's and adding the usual burgh, making the name Hollandsburgh, since reduced to Hollansburg. At first the village was designated "Republican P. O." as the postoffice of that name was transferred from section 29, German township, to the new village in 1839, and William Hollaman made postmaster. In time Hollansburg outgrew Union and finally displaced it. On account of the number of adherents to the "New Lights" in this section a society of this denomination was soon organized, and, in 1840, built a church on the present site of the cemetery. This was replaced by another structure in 1852, and much better one in 1896. The last named building was struck by lightning in 1912 and burned. A modern brick structure costing about 18,000 was soon erected and was dedicated April 26, 1914.

The Methodists built a church in the northern part of the village about 1875. The first school house was built on the present site of the cemetery in 1848. As in New Madison and Harrison township generally a fine educational spirit prevails. Besides the school and church buildings there is now a city hall, bank, postoffice, hotel, K. of P. building, newspaper office, saw mill and greenhouse in the village. Flourishing K. of P., Pythian Sisters and a Jr. O. U. A. M. organization also exist here. This village supported a noted physician in the person of W. W. French, who came in 1842, and built up an immense practice extending into Indiana. Hon. O. E. Harrison, formerly state senator and an assistant prosecutor in the Department of Justice, was for some time principal in the school at this place. H. W. Emerson, who is said to have been the shrewdest financier ever living in Darke county, came to Harrison township about 1816, and was a banker in Hollansburg for several years. Later he moved to Greenville and served as president of the Farmers Bank.

The only other villages in the township are Braffettsville, on the line between sections 33 and 34, Wily's station on the Pennsylvania railway in section 28 and Yankeetown on the high ground at the cornering of sections 25, 26, 35 and 36. The latter village has a new U. B. church erected in 1912, and is the oldest village in the township.

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