History of Clay 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


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 settlement of Clay township was not commenced as early as the townships having more creek or river frontage. The earliest pioneers who purchased land, however, were those who located along Laughery creek where an outlet could be found for the produce raised during backwater season or a strong headwater.

The first land entries from the government noticed in the transfers were in 1806, which were made by Hamilton and Jones. Several portions of land were entered in 1813, but it was not until 1817 that settlers commenced to enter the land from the government in any number. Davis McKittrick purchased a part of section 8, in 1813, and Benjamin Purcell purchased a part of section 25, the same year. Terrent and Robert Huston, John Fleming, Jacob Spangler, Henry Spangler, David Williamson, Daniel and George Abraham, Daniel Loder, William Frazer, Daniel White. Nehemiah Knapp, William Randall, Daniel Wilson, Jesse Vandolah, Archibald McCabe, Samuel Fleming, Philip Rowland, Henry Brogan, Daniel Crume, John Wheeler and Elijah Thatcher are some of the names of persons who entered land in Clay township during the years from 1815 to 1820.


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."

The Conawav family came from Virginia and settled on Laughers creek in 1708. Mrs. Rachel Conaway with four sons. James, John, Robert and Simon came into the county at the time above mentioned and Robert and James settled on Laughery creek, becoming prominent citizens, a trait that has followed the family to the present day.

Ebenezer Harbert and Samuel Purcell were among those who settled in the Ross neighborhood, in the first part of the century, probably about 1812. Peter Wright also was an early settler on Laughery creek and erected a mill at the mouth of Hayes branch, that was a boon to the settlers in that vicinity.

Thomas Guion came here in the first decade of the century and afterwards platted a town and called it Guionville. Here he carried on the business of merchandizing and was prominent in the affairs of the county for a number of years, serving one term in the Legislature. In i816 William. L. Abbott came to the township from New Jersey and settled west of Mt. Tabor church. Besides the mill erected at the mouth of Hayes branch, by Peter Wright, no mill was erected in the township until 1835, when Alexander Noble erected a mill on Hayes branch, on the Aurora and Laughery turnpike, about thirteen miles from Aurora and three miles from Dillsboro. A mill has been run there continuously ever since and has undergone a number of changes of owners but is now owned and run by Schulenberg & Donselman, who also own and operate the flour mill in Dillsboro.

In 1839 William B. Miller built a mill on South Hogan just above Dillsboro station and on the Baltimore & Ohio railway. The building was four stories and was at the time of its erection a four hundred bushel mill, with four run of stones. It has been lying idle for many years and the machinery has been taken out of it.


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.

"The houses of the first settlers were round log cabins, and generally contained but one room. A man who could live, in a hewed log house was considered an aristocrat. The fireplace occupied nearly one whole side of the room, and they used backlogs so large that they had to roll them in with hand spikes. The outside of the fireplace was built of logs, the inside of stone, and the chimney of sticks and clay. The cooking was all done in the fireplace, from which they suspended their pots, etc. The table furniture consisted of pewter and delft plates, pewter spoons, wooden bowis. etc., with gourds to drink from. For seats they had benches or stools, and their cupboards were made of clapboards.

"The houses had but few lights, and sometimes instead of glass, they used greased paper. Each family was under the necessity of doing everything for itself as well as it could. To make meal three devices were used the grater, hand mill and hominy block; the last, however, used more for making hominy. The grater was made of a half circular piece of tin, perforated with a punch from the concave side, and nailed by its edges to a block of wood. The ear of corn was rubbed on the rough edges of the holes while the meal fell through them on the block to which the grater was nailed and which, being in a slanting direction, discharged the meal into a vessel. This was used for soft corn. The hand mill was made of two circular stones, the lower one called the bed stone, and the upper one the runner. These were placed in a hoop, with a spout for discharging the meal. A staff was let into a hole in the upper surface of the runner, near the outer edge, to turn the stone by. The grain was fed into the opening in the center of the runner by hand. I suppose the mill was similar to that used in Palestine. The hominy block was a log with an excavation burned in one end, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, so that the action of the pestle on the bottom threw the corn up the side toward the top, from whence it continually fell down in the center.

"The first water mill belonged to the old man Purcell and was of the kind denominated tub mills. The water wheel, five or six feet in diameter, was attached to a perpendicular shaft, on the top of which was a spur wheel, gearing into a trundle head on the lower end of the spindle.

"Instead of bolting cloth they used sifters made of deer skin, in a state of parchment, stretched over a hoop and perforated with a hot wire. The people wore home made clothing. Almost every house contained a loom, and almost every woman was a weaver. Most of the men wore moccasins and hunting shirts, and some of them wore buckskin trousers. The farmers made their own implements, wooden mouldboard plows, harrows with wooden teeth, etc. The diet of the early settlers was cornbread, pork and wild game, in which the country abounded, such as bear, venison, turkey, etc. The standard dish for log rollings, house raisings, corn shuckings and weddings was the 'pot pie.' There were no stores in this part of the country. When the settlers needed groceries, etc., they were compelled to go to Cincinnati for them.

"There were no churches meetings were held at private houses. People did not go to church to display their finery; the men wore jeans and the women flannel. A calico dress was a rarity. Preachers were muscular Christians; pointed men to the Saviour through a love for their race; endured hardships on a salary of fifty to seventy five dollars per annum and often sacrificed their lives in their untiring devotion to the cause. But even living as they did, the early settlers enjoyed life. They were an honest, industrious and hardy people. Of course there were some roughs; they are to he found everywhere. What a change has taken place in the last three quarters of a century. How thankful the rising generation ought to be that we live at the present time. The county has been cleared up and divided into beautiful farms; towns and cities are scattered over the land; school houses and churches are found everywhere, all for our benefit. I love to hear settlers tell of the life they have lived, of their trials and sufferings, of their backwoods life. There is a great deal of unwritten history within our reach which will soon be gone forever, Then let us gather it while we may."


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 is a very pretty village with neat front yards and cozy, homelike cottages. Its population in 79 to is given at four hundred and twenty five. which is probably less than it is at this time. The town has recently taken on a greater degree of prosperity on account of the good pikes leading to it and the growth of the sanitarium which has been established here. Some years ago the citizens of the town, desiring to find if there was natural gas in the ground beneath their place, organized a company and sunk wells, but instead of finding gas they unexpectedly discovered water with medicinal virtues which they were quick to take advantage of and give the public the benefit. They have organized a company, erected a building that they expected would accommodate the public for the present but have found it all too small and larger buildings will be necessary at once.

Besides the sanitarium the town has a number of stores that transact business with a large scope of country to the west and south. It is claimed for the town that the Dillsboro station does in the way of country produce the second best business of any on the line of the Baltimore & Ohio railway between Cincinnati and St. Louis. The town has concrete pavements on all its streets, electric lights and graded high school with a two years course. The postoffice has three rural routes going out from it to the country around about. The town permits no saloons and its citizens are of a high order of intelligence.

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.


Auto bus line-Leslie Smith.
Airdome-W. E. Talley. Blacksmiths-Mulford Brothers, Charles Neaster.
Banks-Dillsboro State Bank, Henry Bulthaup, president; First National Bank, William Gray, president.
Butcher -Rudolph Lieirmann.
Barbers-Leasure & Ashcraft.
Coal dealers-Louis Garrison, Thomas L. Cole.
Confectionery-Louis Lester.
Clothing-W. H. Kamping
Dentists-George A. Withrow, C. H. Burnett.
Druggist-G. A. Triplett.
Groceries-Edward Kuhn.
General Merchandise-J. W. Fleming & Son, H. H. Kamping, C. A. Gerkepot.
Hucksters-Edward Steuver, Ellerbrook Brothers.
Hardware-Pieper & Smith, J. N. Hooper & Son.
Harness-Aaron F. Neaster.
Hotel-John Graber.
Livery-McArdle, Long-camp & Bernett.
Milliner-Bertha Stevenson.
Miller-Schulenherg & Dornselmann.
Newspaper and real estate-Benjamin F. Calvert.
Physicians-Holland P. Long, Fleetwood H. Sale.
Stoves and Tinware-John L. Roberts.
Stoves and Furniture-W. S. Calhoun.
Telephone companies-The New Dillsboro Telephone Company, J. H. Greene, manager; Farmers Telephone Company, Mrs. Fleet Roberts, manager.
Veterinary-Frank Palmer.
Variety store-Walter Wheeler.
Wagon maker-Louis Klinkerrman

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