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.
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.