More to Square's Story
Mounted near the southwest entrance to the Madison County Court House is a historical marker that is probably unnoticed by the daily traffic, both foot and vehicular, that passes close by. It contains the following information:
"This Public Square was part of Chief Anderson's Delaware Indian village. In 1827, thirty acres were donated to Madison County by John and Salley Berry to relocate the county seat from Pendleton to Anderson. The remaining acreage was sold by the County Commissioners to establish a treasury. Three of Madison County's Court Houses have been erected on this site."
They are nothing more than a few simple words to describe the location. However, there is much more to this story.
On January 4, 1823, the Indiana Legislature established the first survey for Madison County. At that time the county, designated as Madison, was much larger than its present size of 450 square miles. It was 592 square miles and included what is today much of Hancock County. The town of Pendleton was ideally located at the geographical center of this new configuration and enjoyed a growing population. Many early settlers had been drawn there because the falls on Fall Creek provided water power to run the mills that sprang up along its banks. And with the mills came numerous business opportunities which meant more settlers.
Making A Home
Pendleton became the first county seat in 1823, officially established in the two-room home of William McCartney at the corner of what is today Main and Water streets. However, it was not destined to continue in that capacity for very long. With the departure of Chief Anderson and the Delaware Indians in the fall of 1821, a considerable number of pioneers located within the borders of Madison County. They saw that the land was well watered and that the soil would provide abundant yields. They settled here in the wilderness and began the task of clearing the unbroken forests and making homes for themselves.
About this time other settlements sprang up in the vicinity of Chesterfield, Andersontown and Perkinsville, with a solitary cabin located here and there in the intervening dense forests. The land upon which Andersontown was located was purchased from Chief Anderson by his son-in-law, William Conner, upon the chief's departure. It is said Conner gave a fair price for the ground. Conner's purchase was officially conveyed to him by the government on October 10, 1823. This was done as part of the county's official organization earlier that year.
Andersontown came into more or less official existence in 1827 when John and Salley Berry obtained from William Conner the legal title to the original plat which was 111.80 acres. They in turn conveyed to the county 30 acres of the plat to be used for a seat of justice, or county seat, by deed dated November 7, 1827. A condition of the gift was that the town would be the permanent seat of justice of Madison County.
Several years earlier, John Berry made an effort to have the county seat located at Andersontown and had offered a different tract of land to the county as an inducement. Pendleton had the lead, however, and won the seat. Berry did not let it rest at that, but kept up a continual agitation and eventually won many of the settlers to his cause.
When the legislature met in 1825, Berry secured the passage of a resolution authorizing the board of justices to remove the county seat to Andersontown. A majority of the board was not favorable to the proposal, and ignored it. Berry shrewdly capitalized upon this and, thus, got through the next legislature a supplementary enabling act naming a commission definitely instructed to relocate the county seat. The commission met at Berry's home in 1826 and decided that the county capital should be located there. Even this did not prove effective at once, and it was not until the next year that the transfer was actually made. The progression of events that followed suggests periods of growth beginning in 1827. But, surprisingly, significant development had occurred prior to 1827.
In 1826, a "Gazetteer" was published in Centerville, six miles west of Richmond. This early form of a newspaper was accepted as one of the handiest authorities of just who was whom and what was what in that period in Indiana history. In it is found a description of Andersontown. Keep in mind that this was written only five years after the departure of the Delaware Indians. "Andersontown is situated on the south-west bank of White River, on a bluff of more than 76 feet above low water mark. The lots contain about one-third of an acre each, the streets are from 4 to 5 rods wide. Each lot has the advantage of a street and an alley sixteen feet wide. Every lot is laid off in the form of an oblong square and presents to the eye a beautiful appearance."
According to the reminiscences of the earliest settlers, the Indians were excellent craftsmen. The Delaware had erected some surprisingly good buildings in their village. In fact, Ninevah Berry, son of John and Salley, lived for years in the very house which had been occupied by Chief Anderson. This frame dwelling sat at the southeast corner of the intersection of Eighth Street and Central Avenue. The house was the scene of that very important meeting in 1826 that decided the county seat would be transferred from Pendleton to Anderson.
With a growing population, Andersontown was first incorporated as a town on January21, 1839. It gravitated back to village status with the failure of the Central Canal and resulting population loss. It remained a village for several years and it was not until the summer of 1853 that it was incorporated for a second time. In between, Robert N. Williams, County Auditor, and James Hazlett, County Clerk, appeared before the legislature of 1844-45 and requested the name be changed from Andersontown to Anderson. The petition was granted. The town officially became a city when it was incorporated as the City of Anderson, August 28, 1865.
By Stephen T. Jackson, Madison County Historian
Madison County Historical Society|15 West 11th Street, P. O. Box 696, Anderson, Indiana 46015-0696|(765)firstname.lastname@example.org