Madison County Historical Society

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Madison County Honors U. S. President

 

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

Place-names have always mattered in our county's history for as many reasons as there were people to give them names.  Names that require an explanation, if for nothing more than to have a better understanding of those who also once called this place where we live home.

The "What's in a Name" series will address the numerous inquiries that people have asked over the years about Toad Level, Buzzardsville, Scabby Hollow, Bell Rattle and Broomcorn Row.  It will attempt to answer the most often-asked question -- "How did Hardscrabble get its name"?

Many interesting discoveries were made in the research;  however, the origin of each and every place-name in the county could not be determined simply because the person or persons who first named a locality left no explanation.  Of the 143 place-names that have existed in Madison County over the years, the origin of the name of 53 of them has not been determined as of this writing;  but 90 are known.

 

Madison County

In Madison County, the first and most difficult obstacle to white settlement was Native American resistance, which was predominantly Delaware Indians.  They did not share the Anglo-American concept of individual land ownership.  It was their belief that the land should be used in common to supply the necessities essential to daily existence.  White settlement represented a threat not only to their land but, more importantly, their way of life.  To the settlers, the land belonged to the United States.

To most frontier settlers, the only solution was the removal of the Native Americans either by treaty and purchase of their land, or by force.  Fortunately, the Treaty of St. Mary's, Ohio, in 1818 peacefully removed the Indians from a large portion of Indiana, including Madison County.

With the removal, began a westward movement that varied by settlers' origins, routes traveled, ultimate destination and timing.  Three migration avenues evolved.  The largest population movement came from the southern states, specifically the upland South, Virginia and North Carolina.  Next in population size was the mid-Atlantic region, New York and Pennsylvania.  The smallest size was the New England states.  Madison County was settled primarily by people from the mid-Atlantic region with some from the other two regions.  Madison County mirrored Indiana in the way it was settled from south to north, like water fills a glass.

Pioneer Madison County, defined as the period up to 1850, was water-centric in its settlement.  That is clearly evident by the fact that the earliest communities established were on or near the county's waterways.

Between 1820 and 1850, all of the following had inhabitants.  On White River was located Chesterfield, Anderson and Perkinsville, while nearby was Hamilton;  on or near Fall Creek was New Columbus, Pendleton and Huntsville;  on Pipe Creek was Alexandria and Frankton;  near Stony Creek was Fishersburg;  on Lick Creek was Alfont;  on Killbuck Creek was Moonsville;  and on Little Killbuck Creek was Prosperity.

While some early pioneers simply squatted where they "darned well pleased," others understood the wisdom of obtaining a clear land title.  Federal land policy made ownership relatively easy.

What's In A Name Articles

Fundamental to settlement was the pioneer family.  The movement west was a family experience as hardly anyone pioneered alone.  Individual men or groups of men went ahead to select a site and construct a crude house, clear the land and plant a crop.  With this done, they returned home to bring the family.  This scenario was first played out in Madison County when the first to arrive in what became Fall Creek Township settled by the falls of the creek.

The first requirement of the frontier family was shelter.  The first attempt was often an open-faced lean-to.  Once crops were planted, the family embarked upon building a log cabin.  Logs of tulip poplar about a foot indiameter were cut to the desired length and notched at the ends to provide a level and secure cabin.  A door, windows and fireplace were added and sometimes a wooden floor, but more often, the floor was dirt covered with a layer of sand.  Clay, mud and small pieces of wood chinked the space between the logs.  The roof was of clapboards, making for a proper place to raise the family.

 

In the late summer of 1822, and only a year after the Delaware Indians had departed, there was a sufficient number of settlers living in this area to generate an interest in seeing the area organized as a county.  Interested persons gathered in the various wilderness settlements to meet and discuss the possibility.  Stemming from these meetings came an almost unanimous support in favor of a county organization.

When the state legislature met later that year at Corydon on December 2, 1822, a bill was introduced early in the session, and after passing both houses was approved by Gov. William Hendricks on January 4, 1823.  In accordance with the provisions set forth in the organic act, Madison County was formally organized on Monday, November 10, 1823.  Before then it had been a part of Knox County, the first county established in what became Indiana in 1790.  The organic act stipulated that the new county be given the name Madison, honoring our fourth president, James Madison, who served from 1809-1817.

 

Eventually, five counties would be named for presidents.  They are:  John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and George Washington.  Added to the total is Harrison County, named in 1808 for Indiana Territorial Governor and future President William Henry Harrison.  Finally, Jackson County was named in 1816 for the Ear of 1812 hero and future President Andrew Jackson.  Twenty-four counties are named for men who had connections to the Revolutionary War, plus three more that were signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Sixteen counties are named for participants in the Battle of Tippecanoe, November 7, 1811.  Another six counties are named for men who were heroes during the War of 1812.

 
Stephen T. Jackson, Madison County Historian.