Thorntown Indiana

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1887 Account of Thorntown History

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The following history was transcribed from
"Early Life and Times in Boone County Indiana"
compiled by Harden & Spahr Lebanon, Ind.
May, 1887.


No one could write up the early events of the county and forget the above town, for it is located on historic ground. Not only was it here that the first settlement took place by the whites, but it was the early home and scenes of the red man and the French trader and trappers for perhaps near one hundred years. Here the Indian built his hut; here the braves wooed their dusky mates, and the war dance and songs were: indulged in for years before the whites came to make a settlement. Reader, let us go back sixty years. What do we find -- here and there a cabin or a vacated wigwam, left by the retreating Indians. About this time a few hardy pioneers settled on Sugar Creek, where the now thriving town stands. Slowly but surely it has advanced - first the cabin, then the hewed log house, then the frame and finally the brick mansion has come to take the place of those rude structures. It has taken time to bring about these changes. Many have fallen by the way. But few if any now remain who were actors in the first settlement of Thorntown. When the railroad was completed here it was the signal for general improvement, and its future became a fixed fact. Up to that time it was the trading point in the county, outrivaling the county seat, Beautifully located on Sugar Creek, on one of the best sites in the state, amidst one of the finest countries in the state, could not be less than a good town. With its natural advantages it at once and all the time takes rank among the towns of the great State of Indiana. Thorntown is known far and wide as one of the healthiest places, as well as the most desirable to live in, to be found anywhere. From its few cabins 1829, it has grown to be a little city of 1,500 inhabitants - industrious, intelligent, thorough-going citizens. The people are justly proud of their place, with its bright past; its future is no less prosperous. At this writing, February, 1887, preparations are being made to dig for natural gas, which is now agitating the people in our state. Thorntown was the first in our county to move in this direction. Let us hope her most sanguine expectations may be more than realized, and that light may soon come to them. Following will be found a letter to the Lebanon Patriot, written December, 1886, which will give some very interesting facts in regard to Thorntown and vicinity, which will account for this seeming short article.

This thriving little city is the oldest in Boone County. In the year 1827 a settlement was commenced in this vicinity, and in 1831 the town was surveyed and platted by one Cornelius Westfall. As far back as 1719 there was an established French and Indian trading post at this point. From the year 1840 to 1875 there was not a licensed liquor establishment in the place, and spirits could only be had at the drug stores.

"The first church (Presbyterian) was organized in 1831, with Clayborn Young as its minister. The first Sabbath school was organized in 1834. Rufus A. Lockwood, of whom the Indianapolis News recently gave an interesting sketch, was the first attorney at law in the town. Relatives of this once famous and eccentric lawyer are still living here. The first school house was built in 1834, and was undoubtedly the first school house in the county. Today Thorntown has one of the finest and best arranged schools in the state, with 375 pupils. Prof. Linnius Baldwin, of Hamilton County, is the present principal, with the following corps of efficient teachers: H. C. Heal, Nelson Hetherington, Frank Moore, Mrs. Mary Gaddis, Miss Kate Beck, Miss Stella Horner and Miss Mattie Matthews. As above slated, the first church organized was the Presbyterian. This church has a membership of about 200, with Rev. Samuel Sawyer as its minister. The Methodist Episcopal Church has a membership of about 375. Its pastor is Rev. Isaac Dale, of La Porte. The Baptist Church has nearly 100 members at present. This church has no regular minister. The Christian Church has a membership of about 70. It also has no regular pastor. The secret societies are also well represented: Thorntown Lodge No. 113, F. & A. M., was organized in 1852, and to-day has a membership of 85. Osceola Lodge No. 173, I. O. O. F., was organized in 1856 and at present has a membership of 85. This order has a beautiful hall, which it erected in the year 1873, at a cost of $5,000. Moriah Encampment No. 83 has 60 members. Eden Lodge No. 149, Degree of Rebecca, has 50 members. Less than two years ago, through the efforts of a few of our young men, a Knights of Pythias Lodge was instituted here, with a membership of about 30. The growth of this order has been phenomenal. Today they have over 100 members, nearly all young men. This order has suffered a loss of one member (Mr. Frank Morton) since its organization. They have a neat and comfortable hall, recently fitted up, and are in an exceedingly prosperous condition. The P. E. & Q. Fraternity, composed entirely of ladies, was organized in 1885. Nothing can be learned regarding this society, as the members will not even give the meaning of the mystic letters representing their order. The Grand Army of the Republic also have a neat hall and have about 50 members. The Knights of Labor have an organization here, but we fail to get any particulars regarding their order.

"The first merchant in Thorntown was C. H. Baldridge, who opened up a small merchandise store in the year 1832. Of our present business interest we may mention the following: Dry goods merchants -- A. Mossler, Stutesman & Son, James L. Sailors and Harris & Gamso. Grocers -- Wm. Curry, W. Matthews & Co., Charles Johnson, A. S. Stall, J. T. McKim, -- Dunbar, Barker & Barker, Daniel Hutchings and Mrs. Thomas Maiden. Hardware and agricultural implements - C. B. Rous & Co., W. S. Hall and John V. Young & Son. Druggists -- W. C. Burk, James Hanna, T. E. Bradshaw and Geo. Coulson. Watchmakers and jewelers --Chas. E. Wasson, Robert A. Stall and Sam Sohl. Boots and shoes - Hanna Brothers, Charles Snyder and H. W. Henderson. Millinery - Mrs. Allie Shilling and M. A. & L. E. Cheeks. Bankers -John Niven & Co. Our physicians are A. Dunnington, Wm. F. Curryer, M. H. Rose, S. W. Hawke, J. A. Utter, D. B. Davis and E. L. Brown. The legal profession is ably represented by the following gentlemen: P. H. Dutch, Samuel M. Burk and Abner V. Austin. Solomon Sharp, L. B. Moore and M. M. McDowell are the gentlemen who deal out justice to suit the occasion. Our meat markets are operated by Dan B. Buser, Charles Buser and Albert Jaques. Witt & Kleiser are proprietors of the steam roller flouring mills. The steam sawmills are owned by Moses Hardin. Photographers -- M. A Keeler and Fred Hoffman. N.W. Weakly has for twenty-five years, and is still, managing the interests of the "Big Four" at this place. Our corporation affairs are managed by the following gentlemen: City Board, A. C. Clark, M. C. Moore and A. S. Stahl; Clerk, T. E. Bradshaw; Treasurer, James Hanna; Marshal, Green McDaniel; Township Trustee, Isaac Wilson. In conclusion we will say that we have a beautiful little city and by far the prettiest girls of any town in the state." We must not forget the Arguss, so long and ably published by F. B. Rose. It speaks for itself every week, and is hailed with delight every issue, by its hundreds of readers. It is one of the fixed institutions of the lively little city of Thorntown. Long may it live.

Source Citation: City and Town Histories [database online] Boone County INGenWeb. 2006. Original data: Harden & Spahr. "Early Life and Times in Boone County, Indiana." Indianapolis, Ind. Carlon & Hollenbeck. 1887.


Below is the land ownership map of Thorntown in 1878:

Thorntown 1878