Madison County Historical Society

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Madison County Boundaries Shifted Frequently in Early Years

 

A log cabin near Fall Creek which was typical of those found in early settlements.

In the beginning, Madison County was much larger than it is today.  There have been five surveys of the county in its history, and each survey altered the boundaries and thus its size.  The first survey was done in 1823 when the county was the largest it would ever be at 592 square miles.  A year later, the Indiana Legislature reduced the area of Madison County by 150 square miles.  The 1827 legislature decided to re-adjust the boundaries for a third time.  After a number of changes the county was further reduced to 430 square miles with an additional 35 square miles set aside for a portion of the Miami Reserve.  A fourth survey dated April 1, 1831 made more adjustments leaving the square miles of the county at 420.  The fifth and final adjustment came February 17, 1838, when the current boundaries were firmly set, making the size of Madison County what it is today at 450 square miles.

All of the surveys were the result of the formal organization of our neighboring counties.

 

Commissioners Required Meetings

In Section 3 of the organic act the county commissioners were named.  It also stated in part, "The Commissioners shall meet at the house of William McCartney, in the said new county of Madison to discharge the duties assigned them by law."  Further on in Section 4, the act state, "The circuit and other courts of the county of Madison shall meet and be holden at the house of William McCartney, until suitable accommodations can be had at the county seat of said county." 

William McCartney's two-room log house was located in what is today Pendleton, at the southwest corner of Main and Water streets. 

On May 21, 1827, the commissioners met at the John and Sally Berry house located at the southeast corner of today's Central Avenue and 8th Street in Anderson where the wheels were set in motion to relocate the county seat to Andersontown.  On September 1, 1828, the commissioners ordered the construction of a new court house building on property in Andersontown deeded to the county by the Berrys.

Almost immediately after being formally organized, the Madison County Board began to create civil townships for the purpose of establishing local governing entities subordinate to the county organization.

A number of factors enter into the establishment of a township, one of which is population.  As our county was settled, beginning in its southern parts first, that is where the first townships were formed.

In Madison County, we currently have 14 townships.  However, that was not always the case.

One of the oldest records of county board proceedings is dated from the January 1829 term.  In those proceedings can be found the names of representatives from five townships being appointed inspectors of elections in and for their respective townships.  The five townships named were:  Adams, Anderson, Fall Creek, Green, and Jackson.

Obvious from these documented entries is the fact that the five townships had been organized sometime during the first five years-plus of the county's history(November 10, 1823 to January, 1829), but in the absence of official records - assumed to be destroyed during the December 10, 1880, burning of the Madison County Court House - the exact date of the establishment of each cannot be determined.

The "What's in a Name?" series will only touch on some key facts about each of our townships and therefore not be a standard township history.  Instead, the origins of the numerous place names associated with each township will be emphasized and they well be explored as thoroughly as the research allows.  Place names are defined as cities, towns and localities, many of which have disappeared from the landscape and in some cases disappeared from memory.

What's In A Name

 

Although the log cabin without question is the most recognized image of pioneer Madison County, new villages and towns were equally important.  Towns were necessary to the much larger agricultural community.  Most were primarily economic centers while many also provided political and government services.  

There were failed towns also.  Some were bypassed by a new transportation route.  Others suffered intense trade competition from nearby settlements.  Madison County towns, past and present, can identify with all of these scenarios.  

The United States Post Office played a role in why some localities were named, or rather why they were not.  For example, the town of New Columbus in Adams Township was called by that name when it was first laid out in 1834.  When a post office was established there in 1837, the post office service required the name be changed in order to avoid confusion with the post office already established at Columbus in Bartholomew County.  The name of Ovid was selected.  Today, postal zip codes have eliminated that problem. 

 

That same reasoning occurred several times in our county's history and I will attempt to identify them as the series develops.  The intent of this series is two-fold.

First, is to look back to a time when these community names were real and they were inhabited by real people and therefore should not be forgotten.  And second, we are now only five years away from Madison County celebrating its bicentennial in 2023.  Perhaps the series will enhance that celebration.

Starting next month and continuing the first Sunday of each month through December 1, 2019, the 14 townships will be presented in this space in the order by which they were organized.  Many townships will require two articles to fully tell their story. 

 

The exact order of organization for the first five townships is unknown.  I will present them in the order of what seems logical as to when they were organized.  After those five, the order of organization is known and will be presented that way.

Next in the series is Fall Creek Township, where the county's oldest community is located. 

 
Stephen T. Jackson, Madison County Historian.