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Greene County Organization

Greene County was organized in 1821. Prior to that time it had been a part of Sullivan County, and the county seat was at Carlisle. Those who had official business to transact had to ride to that town. Previously both had been a part of Knox County, Vincennes being the county seat. All official business was transacted there. Those who had county business to transact went to that town, which had been settled in October, 1702.1 Carlisle is the next oldest town in the state, it is claimed.

The first county election was held at the home of Thomas Bradford.

The following officers were elected:
Norman W. Pearce and John L. Buskirk, associate judges
John Seaman, county sheriff
Thomas Warnick, county clerk
Thomas Bradford, collector
John Owen, county treasurer
George Shroyer, county recorder

All were required to swear that they had not engaged in duels, either as principals or as seconds, and had not challenged any man to fight a duel.

The first county seat was at Burlington, that being the exact geographical center of the county. It was on the east bank of White River, directly opposite the pioneer town of Fairplay. A city was laid off in the woods, a public square was located and a courthouse erected at a cost of $250. The county officials had their offices there and court was held there, from May, 1822, to May, 1823. A well was dug, but no water could be obtained. The old well still is located on the original public square, which is now a part of the farm of Nicholas Flater, of Richland Township.

Two roads were surveyed, one running north and south and the other east and west, to the county lines. No town, it appears, was ever established there, although Burlington was laid off for a city. A ferry was operated across White River to Fairplay, where there were a few stores and several homes.

On finding that water was not obtainable at the site selected, a petition was submitted to the legislature praying to have the county seat relocated. The prayer of the petitioners was granted and a commission appointed to choose another site for the county seat. This commission consisted of Amos Rogers, William White, Charles Polk and Abraham Case.

Owing to the fact that Fairplay was so near the center of the county and being a town, and having plenty of good water, all expected that it would be selected as the county seat. Yet the citizens of the village were too confident and offered no inducement. But the citizens of Bloomfield showed more enterprise and offered the necessary inducements. A site was offered free and the county seat was located at Bloomfield, in 1823, and still remains there.

When Greene County was first organized it was subdivided into five townships as follows:

Highland: Which included what are now Jefferson, Smith, Wright and Highland townships; so named on account of the hills along White and Eel Rivers.

Richland: Which included what are now Fairplay, Grant, Stockton and Richland townships.

Burlingame: Which included what are now Beech Creek, Center and Jackson townships.

Plummer: Which included what are now Taylor and Cass townships.

Stafford: Which included what are now Washington and Stafford townships.

The first settlement in Greene County was formed at Point Commerce in 1812.

The second settlement in Greene County was formed at Fairplay, on White River, five miles below Point Commerce. It had 150 inhabitants. After a brief existence the old town perished. There was a ford just above the ferry.

Newberry, on White river, was the third town in Greene County. It was settled in 1822, when a store was opened there by John Ritter. Mike Neff erected a grist mill and started a ferry. In canal days Newberry was a place of importance. It is still a prosperous little town.

The fourth settlement formed in Greene County was at Bloomfield. This became the county seat in 1823.

The fifth settlement in this county was at Scotland, on Doan's creek, in 1834. That is now a quiet hamlet.

The sixth settlement in Greene County was made at Linton, then called New Jerusalem. It is now a prosperous and pretentious city.

In 1828 Jefferson and old Eel River townships were formed. They remained separate townships until 1881 when they were merged into one, under the name of the former, Jefferson. Old Eel River Township lay between White and Eel Rivers and extended northward to the county line. The first settlement was in that locality, which is still often designated by its original name.

Upon the formation of Eel River Township an election was held at the home of Mr. Dayhuff and the following officers were elected: Election inspector, Henry Little John; fence viewers, Alexander Watson and Jonathan Brashears; overseers of the poor, John Sanders and Caleb Jessup.

The second election in old Eel River Township was held at the home of Mr. Sanders, when the officers chosen were as follows: Election inspector, Ephriam Owen; road superintendents, Richard Wall and G. W. Haton; overseers of the poor, Caleb Jessup and John Archer; fence viewers, Herbert Sanders and Henry Smith.

The first elections were held in private homes, later in mills, and afterwards in the school houses.

The hotel and tavern rates were fixed by law as follows:

Dinner, 25 cents; breakfast, 20 cents; supper, 20 cents; corn and hay for horse, 25 cents; whiskey, ½ pint, 12½ cents; cider, quart, 12½ cents; rum, ½ pint, 37½ cents; brandy, ½ pint, 50 cents, board and lodging, week $2.00, horse keeping, week, $1.25.

The market prices for country produce and live stock were very low in those days.

Corn was 10 cents per bushel; wheat, 35 cents; cows, $7.50 per head; chickens, 6 cents each; turkeys, 25 cents each. The subscription for a weekly newspaper was $2.50 per year.

Officers of the law were permitted to arrest fugitive slaves and recover pay for their keeping, until returned to their owners. John Seaman, one of the first sheriffs of Greene County, was allowed $14 for arresting and keeping one runaway slave, two weeks. William Lemons, constable, was allowed $8.00 for arresting and keeping a fugitive slave for a few days.

The usual fee of a minister or a squire for performing a marriage ceremony in early days was 25 cents. Sometimes, the groom desiring to be especially liberal, the preacher was paid 50 cents.

1. This date is doubtful. - Ed.


Source: Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. XII March, 1916 No. 1, Settlement of Worthington and Old Point Commerce, by Robert Weems, 1916

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