Indiana became the 19th State on December 11, 1816.
At that time,
this area (what is now known as Shelby
County) was nothing but dense swampy forests and flowing rivers. The Delaware
Indians inhabited this
area and most of the surrounding areas. They were a peaceable tribe.
Conner was the first white man
to pass through Shelby
County. He was known as an “Indian Trader”. William was the son of
Richard Conner. Richard’s wife had been a captive of the Shawnee
Indians since childhood. After she and Richard were married, they
continued to live among the Indians. Their first-born son,
was born in 1775 and was the founder of Connersville. John and William
both married women from the Shawnee tribe. William married the daughter
of Chief Anderson. William and his wife left the tribe in 1802 and settled
on the White River. His cabin became known as ‘Conner
Trading Post’. It was rumored
that William Conner traded with the Indians
along the river banks in this area. However, there is no documented proof.
It is known that he traded along a trail from his cabin to Anderson (
County, IN), which lay to the north
of Shelby County.
Shelby County, Indiana
Wilson, the first man to settle
in Shelby County, was closely
associated with John Conner. Shelby County was officially established in
December of 1821 and named after Isaac
Jacob Wetzel purchased newly released land from the
government in the western part of Indiana near the Eel
River. He blazed a
trail over land rather than following the waterways. Before blazing the trail,
he asked for and obtained permission from Chief Anderson to cross the land
that had belonged to the Delaware
Indians. He embarked on his journey
July of 1818, accompanied by Thomas
Rush. A few days later, they were
followed by Cyrus Wetzel
, Jacob’s 18 year old son who was an expert axe
man, Richard Rush
Howe and Walter Banks
for the long and arduous journey. Their plan was to make a path and mark
it as they passed. They planned to cut a wide trace on their trip home again.
The group moved west from Laurel
, crossed the Flat Rock River
miles below Rushville, Blue River
four miles northeast of present-day
, and Sugar Creek
near Red Mill. It continued westward
through present-day Johnson County
until it reached the White River. He
stopped at this site, which was northeast of present-day Waverly. Jacob
Wetzel named this place “The Bluffs
” and eventually established his home
there in the following year.
It is told that the Brandywine
was named by Wetzel and his party.
Wetzel had stayed behind to look over the land that he’d bought. He
rejoined his party at a spot along the Brandywine. In celebration of his
reuniting with the party, they shared a bottle of Peach Brandy. They
christened the river ‘Brandywine’ in memory of the occasion.
The trail, known as Wetzel’s Trace
, was used until around 1826
because other roads were being opened up. The Trace eventually
disappeared altogether. Due to lack of use, the trail had become
impassable with the return of undergrowth and fallen trees. Since Wetzel
had no legal right to the land that the Trace used, it became a part of
acreage bought by the new settlers.
Wetzel had put a lot of work, time and money into the Trace which had
opened the area to settlement. William Conner petitioned the legislature
with a request to reimburse Jacob Wetzel for his part in opening up the
area. The 'Committee on Roads
' turned down his request.
Jacob Wetzel died on July 23, 1827 leaving behind only one son,
Cyrus, and one daughter out of eight children born to him and to his wife.
Aside from the Wetzel Trace, the ‘New Purchase’ was also extremely
important to the settlement and history of Shelbyville. In 1809, the last of
the land purchase from the Indians was completed by the Federal
Government. By the year 1818, people from southern Indiana, southeastern
Indiana and Kentucky were anxious to move north towards this area for the
prospect of rich land. According to a Madison
, Indiana newspaper, the land
purchased from the Indians was fertile, the water supply was abundant and
the climate was good. The treaty that had been signed with the Delaware
Indians had provided a window of three years for the Indians to move. By
the time people settled in Shelby County, there were very few Indians left in
Wilson had told of how he remembered
two families of Indians
that had camped near his family’s home around the winter of 1819-1820.
They often dined together. Isaac also remembered one of the Indian
women that had camped near his home bringing a pair of moccasins for one
of the Wilson babies. The day before, she had measured the child’s foot
with her thumb and forefinger. When she slipped the moccasins on the
child’s foot, they fit perfectly. There were others that told stories of Indians
in the area. The descendants of Dr.
Sylvan Morris passed on the story
an Indian woman that brought her sick child in for treatment. After the child
was treated, the woman left without saying a word. Several months later,
the woman returned. She brought to his cabin a beautifully woven blanket
that she had made for him to thank him. The Delaware Indians were
pushed further west, as time passed, leaving behind only memories and a
Isaac Wilson’s father, James Wilson
, was born in Virginia in 1779
and fought during the American Revolution. James was the only one of four
brothers to survive the war. James came to Indiana in 1800, first settling in
Jefferson County. In 1801, he married Nancy McCarty.
She was born in
1785 in a Fort in Kentucky. He and his wife and their family moved to
in 1808. After Wetzel had completed work on the Trace,
Wilson and two other men followed the Trace to where it met with the Blue
River. This is where he decided that he was going to build his new home.
He returned to Franklin County, gathered his three oldest sons, and the four
of them returned to the spot that he’d chosen. They built the new cabin and
then, on January 1, 1819, he and his wife, Isaac, four daughters and a baby
boy moved in. The two older sons that had also helped build the cabin had
a fire burning in the fireplace to welcome the rest of the family when they
arrived. Once they were settled into their new home, James established a
The Bennett Michael
family was the second family to settle in Shelby
County. In fact, it is believed that Wilson built the house for Bennett Michael
next to his own. Wilson had sent for Michael because the family needed
shoes and Michael was a shoemaker.
In early 1820, other families came to settle around the same area as
Wilson and Michael. There soon came a flood of new people that settled in
The Wetzel Trace had opened the way, but the Berry
Trace was soon
to follow. In 1819, the Berry Trace opened up a whole other route into
Shelby County. It began in Napoleon
, cut westward crossing the Flat Rock
River nine miles north of Columbus
, went north intersecting the Wetzel
Trace near Greenwood
, and ended where White River and
meet. No one knows for sure whether or not any Shelby County residents
used this Trace to enter the county, but it was noted to have ‘increased the
flow of traffic’ through this area and central Indiana. Thus, Indianapolis
was born. Indianapolis became the new State Capitol in 1824.
arrived in Shelby County in 1822 from Kentucky. He
had been commissioned to draw plans for the new county jail. He was
elected to the State Senate and served two terms and was instrumental in
forcing the hand of the Senate to move the Capitol to Indianapolis. In 1831,
he left Shelby County, traveled around for a while and in 1843, died of
The most important factor of the future growth of Shelby County was
the sale of the ‘New Purchase
’ land. The sale began in October of 1820.
After the land had been purchased from the Indians and surveyed, it was
sold to the highest bidder for private ownership. Those that had arrived
when the land was first purchase from the Indians, were allowed ‘squatters
rights’. All of the earlier settlers to this area were squatters.
In October of 1818, The Treaty of
St. Mary's was signed. In 1819, the
Federal Government started preparations to open a new Land
to handle the sales for the ‘New Purchase’ land. In October
1820, the office opened for business and stayed opened until 1825. The
office was then relocated to Indianapolis.
The minimum price for early land sales in Indiana was $2.00 per acre.
Hard times had fallen on the frontier. Many banks had failed and many of
the settlers, who had contracted for land, could no longer meet the
payments. The government reduced the minimum price to $1.25 per acre
and lowered the minimum number of acres needed to purchase to 80. In
exchange for the concessions made by the Federal Government, they
required full payment be made in cash immediately on contracts or upon
new purchases. The squatters were allowed to purchase their land at the
$1.25 per acre rate.
When the Land Office opened for business on October 2, 1820,
settlers rushed in to claim their land. Between October and December,
there were over 100 claims entered for Shelby County. There continued to
be a large number of sales for many years. Nevertheless, there was still
government land available in Shelby County in the 1850’s.
James Wilson and his family didn’t live in isolation for long. Shelby
County was no longer wilderness, but a well populated settlement.
Due to the increasing amount of people moving into Shelby County by
1821, it became apparent that a form of local government was needed. The
State Legislature was petitioned in order to request the organization of the
new county. An act granting the request was passed in December of 1821.
The act was set up in seven sections. The first designated the
boundaries for this county. The second provided for the rights, privileges
and jurisdiction of the county, as well as the name of Shelby County. The
third section listed the names of the men that had been selected to choose
where the County Seat would be and when the first meeting on the first
Monday of July, 1822 would be held. Section four provided for a temporary
meeting place to be used until permanent quarters were available. That
meeting place was to be the cabin of David
Fisher. The fifth section stated
that 10% of the proceeds from the sale of county property would be set
aside for a local library. Section six dictated that the county had 1 year to
build the necessary public buildings from the time the site was chosen. The
final section designated that the trustees for the library would be elected by
qualified voters. Governor Jennings
signed the act on December 31, 1821
setting the effective date for April 1, 1822.
It is unclear as to how the Legislature came to name the county
‘Shelby County’, but based on the fact that most of the early settlers came
from Kentucky area, it is appropriate that it was named in honor of a
governor from that state.
Shelby County was named after Isaac Shelby who had been an officer
in the army during the Revolution and who had also warred with Indians. He
was the first governor of Kentucky and served two terms. He led a group of
Kentuckians to the Battle of Thames
to join Governor Harrison
thereby becoming a part of Indiana history. A few of the early settlers to
Shelby County had fought some of the same battles as Isaac Shelby and,
more than likely, served under his command.
David Fisher, owner of the cabin where local proceedings were to be
held, was one of the early settlers that had settled in the area around
Wilson’s cabin. On October 9, 1820, he and Wilson entered their land at
the Land Office. This area of land where the two men had settled was
known as ‘Marion’
, which had been named in honor of
Marion, also known as the ‘swamp
fox’ during the Revolution.
Richard Tyner, Joseph Davidson
and David Fisher were the first
men to be sworn in as members of the Commissioners
Court. It was their
job to set up the local government and see to the needs of the settlers. The
court organized itself at a special meeting which was held on Tuesday, April
9, 1822. From that day to the present, the minutes of the meetings were
recorded and preserved by the County Auditor.
was appointed to act as the first County Treasurer. He
only held this office for a short time before moving to Connersville. The first
County Clerk was Hiram Alldredge
. The governor appointed him on April
25, 1822 and then again in 1828. He remained in that office until he died.
There are no written records of Hiram Alldredge prior to settlement in
Shelby County. He lived in what was known as the ‘Haw
Patch’ area of the
county. This area is approximately three miles north of Edinburgh
January of 1823, he purchased land from James
Davison, just west of the
land donated by Davison for the county seat.
Hiram Alldredge is buried in the City
Cemetery and his marker reads:
“Erected in memory of Hiram Aldredge. November 7, 1830” and according
to his tombstone, he was only 35 years old at the time of his death. It is
believed that an error was made when the date was placed on his stone.
The minutes for the Commissioners Court meeting on November 8, 1831
states that the reason that the meeting failed to be held on the previous day
was due to the unexpected death of Hiram Alldredge. Ovid
appointed on November 14, 1831 as pro tem clerk.
After the Treasurer and the Clerk had been appointed, the
Commissioner proceeded to divide the county into townships. Until 1823,
there were only four townships, Hendricks,
Marion, Union and
Addison township was added in 1823.
The instructions given by the Enabling Act to choose a seat of justice
for the new county was carried out on July 1, 1822. From this point on, the
county continued to organize and grow.
- Melinda M. Weaver -
Chadwick's History of Shelby County,
Indiana by Edward H. Chadwick, B.A.,
Well Known Local Talent, B.F. Bowen & Co, Publisher, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1909.
History of Shelby County Indiana
Chicago: Brant & Fuller, 1887
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