History of Center Township, Dearborn County, Indiana
From: History of Dearborn County, Indiana
Her People, Industries and Institutions
Archibald Shaw, Editor
Published By: B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc.
Indianapolis, Indiana 1915


Center township was organiged in January, 1839. Its territory was taken from Laughery and Lawrenceburg townships. Its area has not been changed since it was formed, except in 1849, when it gained in area from Lawrenceburg township, and lost some territory to the same township in 1853. In 1853 a little less than a section was given up to Hogan township, being the lands of David Walser, Conrad Huffman and Conaway Bainum. The boundary lines of the township, which were described in 1855, were as follow: Beginning at the southwest corner of section 21, congressional township 5, range 1 west; thence west to the southwest corner of section 21; thence north to the northwest corner of section 21; thence west along the northern line of section 20 to the center of Wilson creek; thence up said creek to the south line of Alfred Howe's land in section 7; thence west along the south line of Alfred Howe's land to the northeast corner of the southwest quarter of section 7, town 5, range 1 (being the center of said section 7); thence west on the north line of said southwest quarter of section 7 to the range line dividing ranges 1 and 2; thence south on said line to Laughery creek; thence down the creek to the Ohio river; thence up the Ohio river to where the east and west line, running between sections 28 and 21, township 5, range 1 west, strikes the river; thence west to the place of beginning.

The earliest land entered from the government was made by Daniel Conner, April 22, 1806, and it was resold to Oliver Ormsby, December 9, 1806. Ormsby must have purchased it for speculation, for the records fail to show that he ever lived upon it. Ormsby also bought a large tract of land at an early period in Mexico bottoms, in Switzerland county. The next tract of land entered was by Charles Wilkins, April 27, 1802. On December 29, of the same year, James Conn purchased fractional sections 27, 28 and 29 in township 5, range 1 west. Daniel Conner also entered fractional section 4. September 18, 1804, and resold it December 18, 1810, to G. R. Terrence. Charles Vattier entered sections 32 and 33, in town 5, range 1, September 18, 1804. This is the land on which the city of Aurora is situated. In 1806 David Rees and Nathan C. Findlay entered land in sections 19 and 20.

All the government land in the township was sold to settlers by the year 1816, and much of it had been cleared and made ready for cultivation. A part of section 5, township 4, range 1 west, was sold to Jesse L. Holman in the year 1810. The names of the persons that entered the rest of the lands in Center township are as follow: Joseph W. Winkley, in 1813; George Shinkle, in 1814.; John Walsh, in 1825; a part of section 6 to James Rumblay, in 1812; Valentine Barton, in 1813; Richard Norris, the same year, and Isaac Conner in 1815. Portions of section 7 to Eli Green and Henry Grove, in 1812, and to Squire Poteet and George Green in 1813. A portion of section 18 to John Robinson, Enoch James, Jr., Jehiel Buffington, Amor Bruce and Enoch James, in 1814. A portion of section 19 to Samuel Bond, in 1808; to Francis Cheek, in 1812; and to Samuel Perry in 1816. Portion of section 20, in 1811, to Page Cheek. A porton of section 30 was sold to Isaac Reynolds, Eli Green, John Buffington, and Conrad Huffman. Portions of section 31 to Richard Norris, Abraham Carbaugh, in 1812; and to Martin Cozine, in 1815. Portions of section 7 to Enoch James and David Hogan, in 1814; and to Charles Dawson, in 1815; also to Peyton S. Symmes and Lewis Whiteman.

From the early history of the township' it is learned that "Mrs. Barbara Cheek died in 1861, and at that time it was stated that she was born in Virginia and had lived there for forty years and sixty four in Dearborn county. She claimed to be one hundred and four years of age. Before her death she stated that she and her husband were the fourth family to settle in the township, that George Groves, Benjamin Walker and Ephraim Morrison had arrived just before them. Tavern Cheek, a brother of Nicholas, gave the year of their coming as 1796, which is very probable."


The following is written by George W. Lane for the centennial year: "George Griffin, in the year 1810, when he was ten years of age, with his parents, in company with the grandparents of the present Kyles, of Manchester, and with the grandparents of the present Johnson, of North Hogan, left Virginia, near Winchester, and were all bound in covered wagons for Vincennes on the Wabash. The destination was reached through an almost unbroken Indiana forest by the Johnsons and Kyles, but so great were their perils in consequence of the hostility of the Indians, that General Harrison, whose headquarters were at Vincennes, advised them to return as far as Kentucky; and to protect them, he sent with them an escort of seventy five soldiers.

"The Griffin family were induced by David Rees, father of Amos and Rezin Rees, to stop and try the Ohio river bottoms, he promising them whatever aid they might need the first year in getting subsistence, Wild meat was plentiful, for game was always in sight. Deer were often caught with skiffs while swimming the river, Wild plums and grapes were abundant in their season, Bread, the staff of life, the most necessary article of food, was the most difficult to obtain, When the Griffins built their cabin between Wilson and Tanners creeks, it was the fifth in this region, and one of these was occupied by. a bachelor, This neighbor, Joseph Barlow by name, had been a Revolutionary soldier, and on account of increasing infirmities, he soon removed to Kentucky, where he lived with a nephew to the great age of one hundred and eight years,

"The bottoms were then covered with timber. David Rees kept a ferry at Tanners creek where the railroad bridge now spans it, but his boat was so small that a wagon had to be taken to pieces to be conveyed across. Wild animals were very numerous and were a great annoyance. The howling of wolves at night often rendered sleep impossible. 'While eating breakfast one morning I heard a squalling,' said Uncle George, 'and on going to see I saw a bear devouring a wild hog,' It was necessary to keep all domestic animals in pens adjoining the house. The widow of George Griffin tells of driving away the saucy deer and turkeys from the grain shocks when she was a girl.

"But more to be dreaded than these were the lingering and hostile aborigines, some of whose tents were yet to be seen. The United States government had bought their lands two years previously, and they had removed to the Wabash; but incited by the British and French, both of whom were jealous of our national growth, they became dissatisfied and revengeful, In gangs, considerable numbers of them returned, with cheeks painted red and hair arranged for war, In those times it was not safe for one of the pioneers to venture alone away from his home. Horses and other property was stolen, `Many a morning on going out of my cabin door,' said Uncle George, 'I have seen fresh moccasin tracks.' Billy Winter's cabin was the largest and strongest, and when an attack was feared, the neighbors would occupy it as a fort. Subsequently, other block houses were built, Not until after the battle of Tippecanoe were the settlers relieved from the terror of the tomahawk.

"Wild turkeys were very numerous and troublesome, One day a large flock going down the bottoms was met by another flock coming in the opposite direction, and the result was a furious battle of the gobblers, The Griffin boys, attracted by the commotion, formed a semicircle and drove them all across the river, but so fat and heavy were they that they could not rise to the top of the rank in Kentucky. Their only alternative was to return to the Indiana shore, from which the boys frightened them away again, and before they could reach any landing place many of them were so exhausted that they sank into the water, and the boys returned to the cabin with eleven they had captured with their skiffs,

"Uncle George had various experiences as a river trader, Twice on his return from the south he walked home from Shawneetown, Illinois. The first time he was obliged to leave his flatboat at that place on account of the heavy ice in the river. His pedestrian companions were John Conway ( father of the late Captains Dan and John Conway), and his uncle, Joseph Johnston,"


The Democratic Register in the centennial year alludes to the early settlement of Center township thus: "Previous to 1800, although many families had settled in this neighborhood, little was done in the way of clearing lands. Each family had sufficient ground under cultivation to raise corn, potatoes, etc., to supply its individual wants, and with their primitive mode of farming this was perhaps all they could cultivate. Game of every species common to the country was abundant. Buffalo and elk were growing scarce. The black bear, deer, gray and black wolf, wild cat, beaver, otter and porcupine were plentiful. In the summer of 1807 Isaac Cochran brought his family here from the neighborhood of Chillicothe, Ohio, and built and moved into a log cabin on the site of the present residence of John Cobb, Mr, Cochran had a large family and his cabin was necessarily built on a larger scale than those of his neighbors with small families. It contained two rooms. His family consisted of Mary, his wife, and nine children, namely: Alexander, George W., Isaac, John. Nancy, Mary. Malinda, Eliza and Susan. Of this family George W. is a prominent business man of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, He also retains many of the lots in the town of Cochran, near Aurora, which is built on property originally owned by hint Nancy is yet living in Aurora at the age of seventy one years, the wife of Washington Stark,

"About this time came Martin Cozine and family, the Scott family, Thomas Horsley and family, Petite and others. A family named Ensley, consisting of an old couple and one child, were here when Cochran came. They lived on the bank of the river near the present residence of Abram Lozier, Their cabin, a primitive structure of logs and the bark of trees, was the first habitation erected by a white man on the ground where Aurora now stands. There were other cabins in the neighborhood but in the opinion of Mrs, Stark, who remembers the location of all, Ensley's was the only, one within the present town limits. It scarcely rose to the dignity of a cabin, being a mere hut, but as it marked the beginning of a prosperous city, let this brief record, at least, be made of its existence, It has long since passed away; the people who inhabited it have returned to earth, and this is all that remains,

"Martin Cozine settled on what is now the James farm on South Hogan; Horsley, Scott and Petite in the same neighborhood. Nicholas Cheek still lived below Wilson creek in the cabin first erected by him, but soon after Cochran came he built a small house out of hewed logs, probably the first one of the kind in the settlement. Francis, Page and Tavner, brothers of Nicholas Cheek, were here at that time. The bottom lands between this point and Petersburg, on the Kentucky side of the river were cleared and the country in the interior quite thickly settled. Petersburg, formerly Tanners Station, was an ambitious village. Lawrenceburg was laid out and growing. Aurora was yet unborn. Among those who settled in the neighborhood, from 1807 to 1812, and who have descendants still living here, may be mentioned the following: Charles Folbre, William Griffin, Thomas Billingsley, David Rees, Robert Milburn, Samuel Elder, Eleazer Small, William Vymond, Vachel Lindsay and William Winters, The last mentioned lived for a number of years on the bottoms above Wilson creek, Christopher Bingarnan and Joseph Barlow were others, Barlow died some time ago near Burlington, Kentucky, at the age of one hundred and seven years,"

The town of Cochran, now incorporated with Aurora, on the right bank of South Hogan creek, joins the city of Aurora, The Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern railway passes through it and the main street is the Aurora and Laughery turnpike, On account of the car shops of the railway company being erected here when the road was first constructed the town owes its origin. The town was laid out in section 31, township 5, range 1 west, and was platted and filed in the recorder's office of the county on August 25, 1860, The postoffice was established in 1878, on July 4, with A. P. Shutts postmaster. The village suffered the loss of many of its inhabitants by the removal of the railway shops to Washington, Indiana, but has recovered from it now and is becoming both a residence and business part of the city of Aurora.

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