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Settlement of Worthington and Old Point Commerce

The region which now embraces Greene County, Indiana, was once the home of the Piankeshaw Indians, a tribe which belonged to the Miami federation. In about the year 1767 the Piankeshaw made a treaty with the Delaware Indians who thereby gained certain privileges, although actual possession was not relinquished by the former tribe.

About the beginning of the nineteenth century the fertile lands of this region began to attract the white man. Prior to that time the only pale faces who had visited this region were explorers and trappers who passed up and down White River in canoes at intervals. Among these first visitors were the Jesuit missionaries, who were always well received among the Indians.

It was about the year 1805 or 1806 that the first white men began to visit this territory with a view of forming settlements. They came from Vincennes which had been established about 100 years and was known as the "Old Post."

The exploring parties from Vincennes had carried home favorable reports of the fertility of the lands lying along White river and our own meandering Eel River. These explorers came in pirogues or canoes, by the river route, that being the only line of travel except the Indian trails through the forests. Consequently the first settlements were formed along the rivers. Much of the adjacent territory being wet and marshy, elevated localities were chosen as sites for settlements.

The bold bluff, later known as Point Commerce, had long attracted the eye of the voyagers and explorers, and as a result one of the first settlements in what is now Greene County was formed on that elevation. It is known that a settlement was formed there as early as 1812. In a few years considerable of a settlement had been established and clearings cut in the forest in that locality.

Early Settlers

Edmond Jean
Edward Dyer
Samuel Dyer
Richard Wall
Thomas Smith
George Griffith
John Sanders
Caleb Jessup
James Stalcup
Thomas Stalcup
John Jessup
Jonathan Osborn
Eli Dickson
Thomas Clark
William Winters
Hiram Hicks
John Craig
John Stanley
Benjamin Shoemaker
William Lemons
Joab Wilsher
Henry Littlejohn

Some of these pioneers have descendants who are among the leading families of today. They entered land and acquired titles which have passed down to their posterity. Cabins were built, fields were cleared and homes were made in the forests. These settlers were hardy backwoodsmen, long accustomed to the hardships and privations of a life in the forests. In a few years the settlement at Point Commerce had spread over the adjacent territory.

Their cabins grew in number, their clearings broadened into fields and conditions improved each year. Corn was the principal crop, but soon wheat was sown and orchards were planted. Samuel Dyer and Richard Wall raised the first wheat. It was threshed, or beaten out, with flails on quilts in the door yards of the raisers.

Richard Wall, who had brought a quart of apple seed from North Carolina, divided with his neighbors and in time each settler had a small orchard. Cotton was raised, spun and woven. Some raised sheep and wool was carded, spun and woven into cloth. Everybody wore homespun and handmade garments in those days.

By the resistless encroachment of the pale faces the Red Men had been pushed back before a settlement was ever formed in this region; consequently the pioneers were in no danger of Indian massacre. The war-whoop, the tomahawk and the scalping knife had lost their terror and the block house was not a necessity in Greene County.

Yet the pioneers remembered the sufferings and the dangers of what they called "early days" in other places. From such dangers the first settlers of this region were exempt. Yet their hardships and privations were great. They were the advance guard which blazed the way for the civilization which we enjoy and to them we owe a debt of gratitude we can never pay. Let us perpetuate their memory.

This is one of our purposes in publishing this brief history.

An absorbing interest, which excels the most thrilling romance, permeates the story of the pioneers who first hewed homes out of the forests.

Volumes have been written about the adventures, dangers and hardships of the forerunners of civilization, who enacted the first chapter in the wonderful drama which transformed a wilderness into a populous land of culture and advancement, yet the most facile pen, the most gifted tongue and the deepest research fail to exhaust the subject or to do full justice to the brave men and women who were the links in the chain of history which trans-formed the wilderness.

Before the old town of Point Commerce, at the rivers' junction, was started, a settlement had been formed in that locality and was slowly spreading over the adjacent territory. The cabins had steadily increased in number and grown in dimensions, year by year. Log houses were the only homes outside the village, for a full generation.

The people were happy and contented amid their primitive surroundings. The first settlers had each "entered" a large tract of land, and, consequently, the cabins and clearings were widely separated. One's nearest neighbor often lived three miles away. Yet they visited and mingled in a very neighborly way.

Neighbors exchanged visits in cordial hospitality. Often the whole family went and spent a day with a neighbor, perhaps several miles away. "Come, bring your knitting and the children and stay all day," was the common form of invitation for the women; while "our latch-string hangs out" meant that a hospitable welcome awaited the guest.

Ox teams did all heavy hauling and sleds were used instead of wagons. A carriage was seldom seen in those days. To possess a family carriage would have been considered positive evidence of great wealth. The wagons had wooden axles and linchpins.

Social gatherings were not overlooked in early days. The neighbors held corn huskings, apple cuttings, and frolics, at which both old and young assembled. While the young folks danced, to the stirring strains of the fiddle, the old folks looked on in admiration and talked their homely matters over, in mutual exchange.

People rode horseback, or walked to church, parties or other places. To own a horse, saddle and bridle was the ambition of every young man. When a beau desired to accompany his sweetheart home from church, or to escort her to a dance, she rode behind him on, horseback. Often jolly crowds of young folks enjoyed a ride on big bob-sleds in winter when the snow was deep.


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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