History of Lawrenceburg 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


Lawrenceburg township was one of the first settled townships in the county. No sooner had General Wayne, by his treaty at Greenville, Ohio, established peace and security to the lives of the pioneers, than the settlers came in to the county. Desirable lands were selected and cleared with an eye to entering, when the new lands had once been surveyed and prepared for sale. It was five long years to wait before the land was ready for sale by the national government. Many of the incomers grew tired of waiting and traveled on in search of greener pastures; others never became able financially to purchase the lands they had chosen, when they were open for entry.

The earliest entries were made by Joseph Hayes, Jr., Henry Hardin, George Crist and Samuel C. Vance in 1801; Barnet Hulick in 1802; Zebulon Pike in 1804; Jacob Froman, Isaac L. Masters and John Brown in 1806; Samuel Bond in 1808; Samuel Bond and Thomas Townsend in 1809; David Dutton in 1810; Cabel Pugh, Dell Elder and Robert Piatt in 1811; William Caldwell and Adam Pate in 1812; Samuel Evans in 1813; John Ferris, George Weaver, John Dumos and Stephen Ludlow in 1814. Timothy Guard, Amos Way, Isaac Lamasters, Jacob Brashear, Leonard Chase, David Rees, Enoch Pugh, Daniel Perine, in 1815; Zebulon Pike in 1816; Jesse Laird in 1817; Thomas Branin, Mary Muir and John Davis in 1831. This last tract entered, in 1831, is near the state line and on Double Lick run, adjacent to the first ground entered in the state by Joseph Hayes.

The land in Lawrenceburg was nearly all entered from the government before the War of 1812, and by the end of the war there were only two or three unentered pieces.

Samuel Morrison, a prolific writer of the early history of Dearborn county. says of the early pioneer history of Lawrenceburg township, "in the spring of 1791 Capt. Joseph Hayes, an officer of the Revolutionary War, and family; his two married sons, Job and Joseph Hayes, Jr., their wives and children; his two sons in law, Thomas Miller, Sr., wife and five children, James Bennett, and wife; Benjamin Walker, wife and three children; Samuel, John and Joseph and their sister, Jane Walker; Isaac Polk, Garrett VanNess. and Joseph Kitchell, landed at North Bend, on the Ohio river. During the previous spring Alexander Guard and his wife, Hannah, and their four children, had landed at the same point. The names of the children of this couple were Timothy, David, Ezra and Bailey. In 1793 Captain Hayes and Thomas Miller, Sr., took a lease of Judge John Cleves Simmer, for a tract of land at the mouth of the Great Miami river, and removed there early that spring, and to this point nearly the entire colony removed. Here Captain Hayes and family and the families of his children remained and cultivated the soil as best they could until after the ratification of the treaty of Greenville. Early in the spring in 1796 Hayes and family and the families of Joseph Hayes, Jr., and Thomas Miller, Sr., removed west of the Miami river and settled in this county (then Knox county, Northwestern Territory). Thomas Miller and Joseph Hayes, Jr., purchased the first tract of land purchased of the United States in the now state of Indiana. Their purchase was fractional section 1, township 5, range I west, and section 36, township 6, range 1 west, containing in all about 1,000 acres. It was entered in April, 1801, and was paid out fully in 1810. The amount in principal and interest was $2,635.03 in silver. This tract of land, with the addition of many more acres, is still owned by the descendants of these two men. The sections referred to are located a little northeast of Hardinsburg, and are next to the state line. Section I also bordered on the Miami river as it run at that time."


Mr. Morrison is authority for saying that Alexander Guard and family moved west of the Miami river and settled in the beautiful bottoms west of Elizabethtown, Ohio, and from thence into Dearborn county. In 1793 the family had moved down to Hayes station on the mouth of the Miami. "Among others living at the station referred to who moved into the country in 1796 and settled in the township were William Gerard and wife and two sons, Eli and Elias, and daughter, Mrs. George Crist, with her husband, and three step children, Rees, Rachel and William Crist. These settled about one mile above Hardinsburg. The same year Henry Hardin and family, consisting of William, Mary, James, Catherine, John and Philip, settled on the site where fourteen years later the village of Hardinsburg was laid out. Other families came during the same year, among which were those of William Allensworth and Isaac Allen, who settled on the land just north of Greendale cemetery. In 1810 Henry Fowler and family came west from Virginia and settled on Wilson creek. George Weaver settled on ground just west of Tanners creek, in the bottoms, where he lived for a number of years."

George W. Lane in his centennial notes says that "Samuel Weaver, a son of George, was one of the most chivalrous, high toned and daring young men that graced the forest homes of the period, the captain at the huskings, the first to lead off at the country dance, the acknowledged leader in all deeds of danger, generous to a fault, liberal without measure, and an acceptable visitor in any society." His uncle, Capt. James Weaver, was one of the most truly worthy men that graced the frontier settlements. He rendered valuable services in, defending the homes of the pioneers from the Indians, and was always regarded as the bravest of the brave. Capt. James Weaver was often called on to lead his company in driving back the savage foe that threatened to destroy all the pale faces on this side of the Ohio river. Less worthy heroes have had books written in their praise; while many of those who defended this country and preserved its pioneers from the tomahawk and the scalping knife rest alone in the memory of their old associates, or their immediate descendants, to do them justice and preserve their names from the tomb of forgetfulness. Captain Weaver was an enterprising business man, and was among the first to engage in running boats down the river loaded with the surplus produce of the county, which he continued for a number of years. Many will remember him for his promptness and fair dealing; his word was as good as his bond; he prized his honor as his life and would as soon have parted with the one as the other.

Davis Weaver was another of the family that was prominent about the time of the War of 1812, and for a short time after. He is spoken of in the writings of the early period as a genial, pleasant gentleman, fond of good company and enjoyed a good story or an inoffensive joke. He could not do too much for a friend and as a business man was straightforward and law abiding citizen.

"In 1801 Eli Hill settled near Lawrenceburg. He was the father of Capt. Abram Hill and was a well known man of his time.

"Capt. John Crandall and George Rabb settled on Pleasant Ridge (now Greendale). Captain Crandall had served during the Revolutionary War in the United States navy. He was an intelligent gentleman. Father Rabb was one of the best men we ever knew. 'As honest as Mr. Rabb,' was a byword in his day. His son, D. G. Rabb, moved to Ohio county soon after the death of his father, where he lived during the rest of his life. In early times a camp meeting was held in a grove near Father Rabb's. It was on the way to attend one of these meetings that the writer saw the first carriage, now so common on our roads and streets. A family of Lawrenceburg was on the road near where the residence of Joseph Groff, deceased, now stands, riding in a cart with a yoke of good oxen at the tongue. While thus traveling along at a gait that was fair for those times and such a team, Captain Vance came up in his fine carriage and span of spanking bays. with a shaded driver on the front seat, and would have passed us in a whiff. But not so fast; this is a game that two can play at, and those who remember Amos Lane will readily believe that he would not relish being passed on a dusty road, no more than to submit to a defeat in court or at the forum in a fair debate, without an effort. So down came the whip, off started the oxen, first at a trot, then at a run, until from the noise of the heavy wheels over the rough road, the rattle of the chairs in the cart, the laughing and cheers of the boys, the two well groomed horses took fright, and none too soon the driver sheered off to one side and let the ox team pass to prevent a runaway scene."

David Devitt, the grandfather of Stewart and John Devitt, came to the township shortly after the War of 1812. Mr. Devitt was a man of immense frame, strong and muscular. His son Frank was one of the men that crossed the plains to California in 1849 and spent many years in that far famed Eldorado, in the decade between 1850 and 1860. Like his father, he was a man of gigantic frame and hardly knew his own strength.

Jesse Laird settled on Wilson creek in 1817 where he lived for his natural life, leaving a large family. One grandson still resides on part of the same land his grandfather entered from the government in 1817. Howard Laird, the grandson, lives in the same house in which his father, Martin Laird, resided. It is claimed that just across Wilson creek on the hillside a few yards from the creek the last bear was killed in Lawrenceburg township, in the year 1817.


The village of Hardinsburg was laid out on the land that Henry Hardin entered from the government in 1801. It was surveyed by Moses Scott. The village was laid out on May 19, 1815, and acknowledged by Mr. Hardin the next day. It was named after the owner of the land, Henry Hardin. An addition of thirty lots was added by David Findlay, in 1817, the surveying being done by Benjamin Chambers, who had taken part in the survey of the lands of the government secured by the Wayne treaty, and had also been the surveyor for Captain Vance when he laid out Lawrenceburg fifteen years before. David Findlay and a man by the name of Delaplaine were some of the early merchants. The Miami river, at the time the town was laid out, made a horseshoe bend and the town was on its bank with a good landing and a good grade to load and unload produce. For twenty years or more after the town was platted it flourished and grew. Many flatboats were loaded here during the fall and winter seasons. For a time nearly as much business was done here as in Lawrenceburg and it began to feel that it wads a rival for the trade of the back country.


Col. Abram Ferris came to the township from Cincinnati in 1831. He was a brother of Dr. Ezra Ferris and had been a prominent business man in that city. Concluding to retire to a farm, after years of successful business life, he purchased a section of land on the Manchester pike and erected the largest and finest residence in the county. He also purchased two sections just over the Ripley county line and close to the state road. He farmed on a large scale and was quite as successful a farmer as he had been a business man. His son, Benjamin F. Ferris, lived on the Ripley county farms for most of his later life and was one of the best men of this section of the state. - being known far and wide as one of the best informed men of his generation.

Herewith is' an interview, published in the Versailles Republican, from Mrs. F. B. Freeland, a daughter of Rev. Benjamin Franklin Ferris and a granddaughter of Col. Abram Ferris. The interview is published in the Republican under date of July 21, 1915, and for accurate description of farm life and work of a half century ago it can hardly be excelled:

"Grandfather Ferris, Col. Abram Ferris as he was known, purchased from the government, during Jackson's administration, three tracts of land containing six hundred and. forty. acres each. One on the Lawrenceburg hill on the Manchester pike, one near Dapoleon, the other two miles south of Sunman. Father, B. F. Ferris, controlled the latter, and it was in the family until quite recently. Three hundred acres of the land was kept in meadow for years. During harvest thirty men were employed for six weeks to attend to the crop, all cut with scythes and raked with wooden hand rakes. At that time all the farmers kept whisky for their men, and the consequence was that some days they were nearly all drunk. Grandfather vetoed it. He called the men together and informed them that there would be no more whisky. All that could not work without it could stop. They all stopped, some swore, others pouted and declared they would not work. But they all changed their minds and finally became resigned. The trouble ended then and there.

"The hay was pressed with an old wooden screw press with two sweeps. Its music, which was not the most melodious, could be heard for miles. The first reaper and mower, the McCormick, was introduced by Eber Jones, of Greensburg. Then a wooden rake was purchased. Father built a large two story barn, which required one hundred men two days to raise. In the second story a threshing floor was made, surrounding a modern hay press, called a pounder press. The bales of hay were encircled by split wooden hoops soaked in vats and were nailed together. After wheat raising was introduced on the farm, the threshing was done on the floor spoken of. The sheaves of grain were spread on the floor and eight or ten horses were used for tramping it. It was occasionally turned and the tramping continued until the grain was all separated from the straw, then removed, and another supply placed there. It was then run through a fanning mill turned by hand and no small amount of work required.

"The first top buggy was purchased by James Stevenson, price $273. Not long afterward, William Ehler also purchased one at the same price. His wife took a great pride in it and kept it covered with quilts to exclude dirt. Not long after, Morgan and his raiders made their appearance. She kept an eye on the buggy, but when they spied it they began rolling it out of the shed. She cried out, 'Don't take that buggy, I am a Democrat.' But Morgan and his men were no respector of persons, so out came the rig, took the wings of the morning and away it flew towards the east. Henceforth, Mrs. Ehler took her joy rides in a spring wagon. The first fruit canning was done by Mrs. Thomas Slack, our neirest neighbor. She used some kind of an old tin can and began on blackberries. We were favored with a sample and found it a very dark purple and soft as mush, no sugar. The only fruit used was dried, even to elderberries. Wild grapes were gathered, placed in stone jars and covered with molasses, for pies in the winter. There were no evaporators. Pumpkins were cut in strips and apples strung like beads and altogether hung up over the fireplace and the ceilings. Sorghum was raised in small quantities as a curiosity, no mills to grind it. Mrs. Slack then experimented with it. She peeled the stalks of cane, cut it in pieces, boiled it in an iron kettle and strained, then boiled again. We also were favored with a sample of it, it resembled tar, but father said it would be a success some day. In a short time mills were introduced and kettles used for boiling the syrup. Then next evaporators were introduced. Mr. Neuforth, father of the doctor, was among the first, and Jacob Mendel also purchased one. The best quality of molasses was made at that time, it was as clear as honey. I have not seen any to compare with it for years.

"There has been a great change in social affairs and church work. The Methodist socieiy consisted of very few members and held their services in an old church at Clinton. The members were B. F. Ferris and wife, Martin Manley and wife, Curtis Abel and wife, Dr. J. B. Hoel and sister, Miss Bertha Critchfield, and John Bishop, Sr. We children were compelled to go to church and after the service compelled to remain for class meeting, which was a terror to us all, when the leader came to us, as was his custom and asked us to speak as he termed it, our hearts were in our mouths and the breath almost left our bodies. Then he would say 'God have mercy on you for you have no religion or you would be willing to say something.' Martha Manley, a little daughter of Brother Manley and wife, jumped up and repeated a poem that was going the rounds then 'Little robin red breast sat on a pole,' etc., and completed it before she could be stopped. She sat down felling she had done her duty as a Christian. The society was afterwards removed to the Ferris school house, by the instigation of Rev. S. B. Falkenberg and my mother.

"The Mr. Neuforth spoken of came here from Germany in 1825, and also purchased land from the government under Jackson. The Whitehead family came here when it was solid woods, built a small cabin and had only a quilt for a door and were surrounded by Indians. He kept whisky to treat them with to keep them peaceable and when he would go to Lawrenceburg to purchase corn meal his wife would be alone with two small children. The Indians would raise the quilt at night and ask for whisky. She would deal it out to them and they would depart.

"I must mention an amusing incident connected with Gen. Thomas L. Hayman, who afterwards died at Vicksburg during the siege. While S. R. Adams was president of Moores Hill College, we three sisters were studying there. Our home was a resort for the students, especially during vacation. Tom Hayman, as he was called, came out one Saturday evening dressed in a fine, black broadcloth suit, looking as though he had just come from a band box. Father and mother were gone and when the cat is away the mice will play. We had several cows to milk and Tom insisted on helping us. We warned him not to do it, but milk he would. He selected his cow and we told him it was treacherous. After looking her in the eyes he remarked 'I can always tell a cow's character by her countenance; she is safe.' He sat down and when the bucket was filled with milk she raised her hind foot and with one stroke inverted him and the bucket also. He was covered with the fluid from head to foot. His first remark was, 'Don't let the students at Moores Hill find this out. It was henceforth called 'the dead secret. He married my sister Louisa during the Civil War while home on furlough. As all connected with the incident are gone from whence no traveler returneth, I feel there is no harm done in telling the story after so long a period.

"We had one physician at Clinton. He had an extensive practice and seemed to be successful. It made no difference what the disease was, calomel was the main remedy, whether colic or smallpox. Mother kept her bottle of calomel and another of castor oil and rhubarb. If one of the family complained, down came the calomel. We were compelled to take it before Doctor H ____ arrived, for he would administer it anyway, and that would save time. After the calomel then we could choose between the oil and the rhubarb, but we were given to understand that it was certain death if we did not submit to one or the other, for the calomel would kill us alone. I vowed then that if ever I was my own boss I would never swallow a dose of either, and I stick to it yet. When capsules were first introduced, Henry Osting was ill and a physician was called. The quinine was placed in capsules. His wife took particular pains to take the medicine from them without breaking them, returned them saying, 'Here are your little bottles, doctor.'

"In those days of old the women of the community would exchange visits, spend the day, bringing knitting or sewing and never failed to bring from four to six children, as the case might be. Did not wait for a special invitation and drop in a few minutes before meal time as now. They would come early in the morning and remain until dark. Father had a large number of sweet cherry trees, yellow Spanish and Black Tartarian, very fine. The people would come in numbers, as did the jay birds and red headed woodpeckers, to help eat the cherries - come by the wagon load. One day, especially, I remember when we girls were alone, early in the morning the Farrar boys, cousins, of Lawrenceburg, accompanied by a friend, John Hibbetts, came out hunting. They brought in a few squirrels for us to prepare for dinner. My older sister made a pot pie of them, then people began to come in, and as a new wagon load approached they would add more crust to the pie. When dinner was announced, there were thirty guests.

"Our school houses were of logs with long benches without backs, no classes except reading and spelling. Young men six feet in height came. They ciphered from morning until night, and aimed to beat each other through the arithmetic. If they were puzzled the teacher would solve it, if he could, without explanation. Anyone could get a teacher's license who could read and write and whip. From the year 1855 to 1860 father held the office of township trustee. There were no banks, and as he drew the money for the teachers' pay in the fall, he gave it to mother for safe keeping. At one time he had $3,000. Mother wrapped it in paper (it was paper money) and placed it in a straw tick on her spare bed, as was the custom. In the spring, as the school was drawing to a close, he asked for the money. She had forgotten about it and where she had put it. Then she remembered she had emptied the straw in the hog yard, which contained about thirty or forty hogs, six weeks before. They never expected to see it again, but after a careful search it was found in perfect order. The hogs did not seem to relish as costly food as some people do now."


Col. Abram Ferris has been gathered to his fathers. His son, Rev. B. F. Ferris, has followed, the fine colonial mansion caught fire and was burned to the ground. The family, like most of families in this country of ours, is scattered; the land about the old mansion is now owned by Deidrich Ellinghausen, who has erected modern buildings, capacious barns and the place is once more taking on its former attractiveness.

On the Manchester pike the township has undergone many changes. The old time landowners have departed, never to return. Their descendants have sold out and sought other fields, until scarcely any of them are left to connect the present with the past of seventy five or even fifty years ago. On the west side of Tanners creek, about on the site where Henry A. Bobrink now has his dairy barns, Robert and Thomas Mason had, before the war, a large hay warehouse, from which many flatboats were loaded for the New Orleans market. Another brother, Charles Mason, moved to New Orleans, where he was an extensive dealer in northern produce under the firm name of Mason & Pleasants. The old three mile house has recently been torn away. The families of Daniels, Roland, Frazier, and Jelley have become extinct in the township. At one time Col. J. H. Lane resided near where the residence of William Mason is now located. The father of Philip, Samuel and Col. Benjamin Spooner at one time lived in about the same locality. Philip Spooner, father of ex United States Senator John C. Spooner, of Wisconsin, owned and lived for several years on the place now owned by George H. Wood. Stewart and John Devitt are the only representatives of the Nevitt family in the township. The extensive land holdings formerly belonging to David Nevitt are now divided up among a number of landowners, and all of them are prosperous and thrifty.


North and west from the city of Lawrenceburg, and adjoining on to it by the corporation line between it and Mill street, the town of Greendale lies along an extended gravel ridge, supposed to have been thrown up during the glacial period. It overlooks the broad valley of the Great Miami and gives a fine view of the surrounding hills, the Kentucky hills just across the Ohio, Fort Hill and the range of beautifully rounded elevations on the farther side of the Miami, reaching to the bold promontory that juts out overlooking the confluence of the Miami and the Whitewater. To the north the low range of hills reaches from the state line to Cemetery hill, just north of the beautiful Greendale cemetery. To the west overlooking the town standing some three or four hundred "feet above it, is the long range of hills that are led up to by the old state road, that has had such history to recount of the early pioneer days when it was a thoroughfare and along which the men and women who peopled the country to the west took their way.

This finely situated town was laid out in the year 1852 by Stephen Ludlow, but not recorded until 1883. Subdivisions have been added at different times by James H. Lane, William Tate and the Greendale Land Company. The population of the town is growing. The census of 1910 showed 697.

It has a good public school building, is furnished with electric lighting and waterworks, by contract and franchise, by A. D. Cook, manufacturer of well supplies. The main street has recently been laid with concrete and good concrete pavements have been laid that make it not only a very desirable residence town, but it is unexcelled as a manufacturing place. The Cook Well Company, W. P. Squibb Distilling Company, the H. P. Diehl Company, fireworks manufacturers, the Greendale Distilling Company, and James Walsh & Company, distillers, are the manufacturers. It is claimed for the town that it is, in proportion to the population, the wealthiest corporation in the country.


Harry L. Nowlin has his office in Greendale, as secretary of the Patrons' Mutual Fire Insurance Company, a history of which is here appended.

On March 14, 1877, the General Assembly of Indiana passed an act authorizing farmers to organize mutual insurance companies for the purpose of protecting the property of its members from loss or damage by fire or lightning, and limiting the territory over which any company could operate to three contiguous counties.

The farmers of Dearborn county were not slow in taking advantage of the law and in September, 1877, met in Aurora and organized the Patrons' Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Dearborn County, adopting articles of association and bylaws for their government, covering the counties of Dearborn, Ohio and Ripley, which were signed by the following persons: William H. Greene, William B. Miller, Joseph Bossong, Elijah Huffman, Ralph Collier, Samuel B. Sanks, William Foster, George A. Golding, E. T. Hubbert, A. S. Peck, William S. Tyer, David C. Wright, Henry Garrison, Adam Kerr, T. C. Hall, C. L. Olcott, R. B. King, Charles Ewan and J. D. Prichard.

The first officers were elected at a meeting held in Aurora on October 20, 1877, and were as follow: Directors, William B. Miller, A. D. Hopping, J. B. Chase, T. W. Hansel, Elijah Huffman, William Heustis, O. H. Smith, Joseph Bossong, J. R. McConnell, Tyler T. Annis, William S. Tyer and John Randall. These directors selected the following officers: President, William B. Miller; vice president, George V. Churchill; secretary, Elijah Huffman; treasurer, William S. Tyer.

Immediately the directors, acting as agents, began soliciting insurance and March 2, 1878, had $48,870 in applications, and policies were ordered issued to the applicants. From that date the Patrons' Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Dearborn County has continued to do business with rather varied experience. Sometimes losses were heavy and assessments high, and some felt discouraged; but the company grew gradually until the last few years when the growth has been rather rapid, till now it is one of the best and is fast becoming one of the largest in the state, as the following figures show:

January 1, 1888, there was $105,297.83 insurance in force; January 1, 1898, $212,788.99; January I, 1908, $619,811.25; September 1, 1915, $3,161,022. The gain in the past two years has been almost $1,000,000. The average cost of insurance, covering all fees and assessments, has been $2.30 per year for each $1,000 of insurance carried.

The present officers are: President, W. L. Pryor, Milan; vice president, H. D. Tufts, Aurora; secretary treasurer, H. L. Nowlin, Lawrenceburg, and assistant secretary, Lute Helm, Moores Hill. The directors are, W. L. Pryor, Milan; H. D. Tufts, Aurora; H. L. Nowlin, Lawrenceburg; Lute Helm. Moores Hill; M. F. Holman, Osgood; J. A. Horton, Versailles; J. M. Pate, Cross Plains; William H. Greene, Dillsboro; W. C. Mulford, Cold Springs; George W. Sawdon, Aurora; Frank C. Dam, Lawrenceburg; T. B. Cottingham, Harrison. Of these directors William H. Greene has served continuously since January, 1880, H. D. Tufts since January, 1881, and George W. Sawdon since January, 1883. Two of the original signers of the articles of association still have their insurance in the company, viz.: William H. Greene and C. L. Olcott.

You may also be interested in the City of Lawrenceburg.

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