Madison County Historical Society

Madison County History


Nanticokes Had Villages in County

The exact location of two Madison County Indian villages known as "Nancy Town" and "Our Town" has been a source of confusion for some time. 

We first learned of a site occupied by a group of Nanticoke Indians from the journal entries recorded by the Moravia Missionaries in 1805.  It Was not until 1817 that we learned its name was Nancy Town.

A government survey conducted in 1821 of the Indian towns along White River mentions a site the surveyor called Nancy Town, Nantico, and Nanticoke.  His confusion over the name stems from the fact that the village was empty when the survey was conducted.  Its inhabitants, the Nanticoke Indians, had been forced to leave the area earlier that year.

Further confusing the issue in the late 19th and early 20th century was the knowledge of a second Indian town called "Our Town."  It was assumed that Our Town was another name for Nancy Town.  At first, I too thought it was the same town called by two names.  But upon closed examination, I have concluded they were two different sites, occupied by the same group of Nanticoke Indians, during two different periods of time.

Alliance With Delawares

The origin of the Nanticoke People began along the Nanticoke River in Southeastern Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Migration began in the early 1600s from Maryland through Southeastern Delaware along the shores of New Jersey, and as far north to Canada and westward into Oklahoma.  As a result of this migration, the Nanticoke people formed an alliance with the Delaware Indians already living in New Jersey.  Eventually, this alliance brought both tribes to our county.

The Moravian missionaries recorded an entry in their diary dated June 1, 1805:  "The Nanticoke's live 20 miles down the river."  Given the river's meanderings the distance stated by them is probably fairly close.  I believe the 1805 location mentioned by them is a point today near where County Road 800 West intersects with Eighth Street Road.  This area was one known as the McClintock neighborhood and named for a family of farmers that inhabited the area.  I have been aware for some time that located somewhere in this area was an Indian village called Nancy Town and that there was a fairly sizable buying ground nearby.

Nancy Town is mentioned in the journal of Thomas Dean, who visited the area in 1817.  He placed it about nine miles west of Anderson.  Dean was an agent for the Brotherton Indians in New York State.  While here, he visited Straw Town, Green's village, and had a conference with Chief Anderson.  He did not mention visiting Nancy Town, but he would have passed it traveling to Straw Town.  Thomas Dean's journal and the Moravian diary establish a minimum time period for the existence of the village from 1805 to 1817.  It is very likely the village existed before 1805, as the Nanticoke migrated here at the same time as the Delaware.

A Clue to the Location

The early writers of Madison County History wrote about a nearby site associated with the first location.  John Forkner and Byron Dyson made mention of the site in their 1897 history when they said, "Fronting the beautiful eminence upon the north bank of White River, some eight miles west of Anderson, is an old Indian burying ground which occupies nearly an acre, and from the depressions in the ground it is surmised that one hundred or more Indians are buried there.  This ground is a part of the farm of Alexander McClintock."  But, is there a clue to the location of Nancy Town?

John Forkner provides a key piece of information in his 1914 county history where he writes, "In what is known as the McClintock neighborhood, near the site of an old Indian village and burying ground, was once a little hamlet called Nancy Town, but it is now extinct and the ground where it stood is used for farming purposes."  The hamlet, in my opinion, probably took its name from the earlier Indian town located there.

Forkner and Dyson also help locate the second site when they recorded that Nanticoke was the name of a chief whose village was located in the south bank of White River, on the present farm of Robert Cather, about four miles west of Anderson.  The records show this farm was immediately west of County Road 400 West on the Eighth Street Road.  This site was four miles overland north-west of Anderson's Town and is the last of the Indian towns shown on the government survey made by Bentley in 1821.  The survey placed it in the S.E. 1/4 of the S.E. 1/4 of Sec. 5, T. 19 N., R. 7 E. on the west bank of the river.  Our Town is no doubt the one mentioned in the Bentley survey of 1821.  The early historians all refer to it by this name.  This also established that Nancy Town no longer existed at this time.

Other Writings Sighted

In 1880, T. B. Helm wrote:  "James Nanticoke had a village in this county, not far from Anderson.  His squaw was said to have been a very beautiful woman, and at one time maintained the relation of "chiefest" to her tribe.  She gave the name Our Town  to the chief's village.  James Nanticoke, in his relation as chief, like Anderson, represented his tribe in the treaty of St. Mary's, and affixed his mark thereto." 

Isaac McCoy in his "History of Baptist Indian Missions" wrote that while making a tour of the towns on White River in 1818, his party reached this village on December 5, "procured a little corn for our horses, and dined at the house of an elderly couple, the wife being a woman of note, named Nancy, who could speak English tolerably well, and who was the principal manager of matters around her."

In summary, Nancy Town was the first village of the Nanticoke Indians.  It was there in 1805 and probably earlier.  It existed there until 1817 and was abandoned by Chief James Nanticoke and his wife, Nancy, in favor of the location nearer Anderson's Town.  This conforms to the general consolidation of Indian villages near Anderson's Town that was in evidence during the time period. 
It appears the "Our Town" site was occupied from roughly 1818 to 1821.  It was abandoned in 1821 as part of the general departure of the Delaware Indians who were adhering to the terms set forth in the Treaty of St. Mary's.

A beautifully restored home at the intersection of County Road 800 West and West Eighth Street Road now occupies the site of Nancy Town.  Likewise, the intersection of County Road 400 West and West Eighth Street Road is very near the site of Our Town.

By Steve Jackson, Madison County Historian 


County a Longtime Source of Winter Fun

Recent newspaper reports regarding the relocation of the sledding hill at Shadyside Park has precipitated a search into what the children did over 100 years ago for outdoor, winter recreation in this area.  Not much have changed over the years as children in the late 1800s went skating a sledding as they do today.  What has changed is where they where they found places to enjoy outdoor winter activities.

One hundred plus years ago, the drainage system was not what it is today, and standing surface water could be found in many parts of Anderson throughout much of the year.  These areas, together with the various ponds, mill races, and canal beds afforded ample skating opportunities when frozen over. 

The ice season generally lasted from late December through January, depending upon the severity of the winter and nowhere was that more evident than the river.  There was almost no limit to the distance a skate could travel on White River as long as one stayed away from the shallow places.  However, as it does today, the river usually froze later and thawed sooner than the ponds and other areas of standing water.  The big Blackbird Pond located south of the Big Four railroad tracks on what later became Jackson Street was a favorite site for students from the Smoky Row and Central Avenue schools to congregate after school.

Sledding At Recess

The abandoned Hydraulic Canal made its way through Park Place and water from melted snow and drainage made for great skating.  Further east, the old Hughel School stood on the west side of Rangeline Road at Fifth Street.  Immediately behind the school was a pond used by the children during recess and at noon for sledding and ice skating.

On the south side, at what later became south Main Street near the 2400 block, was a pond that attracted area children from the south end.  When Main Street was put in, the pond was still there and the street ran around the east side of it.  This explains why today the street sweeps to the east in this area. 

Ice Used By Many

Over on the west side was the large fish pond on West Eighth Street.  It was located on the William Morris farm.  Sometimes the skating was ruined because the slaughter houses, ice merchants sawed and stored the ice in sawdust from this pond for summer use.  In later years the popular site was known as the Conservation Club Pond.  The mill races, for both Killbuck and Moss Island mills, were considered among the best and most desirable skating areas because their water froze smooth.  When it came to sledding,  Anderson's hills afforded great opportunities.

One of the better slopes was known as Beachler Hills.  Located on the north side of the river across from the William Morris farm, it was reached by either crossing the frozen river at the ford, which lay north of the fish pond, or going west to the Moss Island Bridge to cross.  The farm was owned by Al Beachler who taught school during his career in two area buildings:  Whittinger and Moss.  The popular teacher welcomed his former students to slide on the farm hills.  Today, these hills are Grandview Golf Course.

Hills Lost to Homes

Outside the corporation limits(of the 1890s) and west of the city was a ridge that extended westward along present day 11th street beginning a Locust Street and extending past Atwood Drive in Malibu Heights.  It sloped toward the north and in some places reached what is now Ninth Street.  Before 1900, much of this area was pasture land and there were many places where there was little or no brush which made for excellent sledding. 

With the discovery of natural gas here and the subsequent rapid growth of the city,  this sledding area began to disappear, and most of the area east of Arrow Avenue was platted and homes began to appear on the hill sides.  One of the last hills to relinquish its sledding slopes was the Huntzinger Hill in Malibu Heights.  Located directly north of the old Fairgrounds Ford, which was immediately west of the Madison Avenue Bridge, was another fine group of hills.  At the ford, children pulled their sleds across the frozen river or walked the railroad trestle to the east to get to the hills on the river's north side.  Those hills today, are in the Anderson Country Club Heights.

Sparks Hills

About one mile east of there was one of the best sites anywhere in the city.  It was known as the Sparks Farm.  The wooded hills eventually became a city park in 1923 known officially as Shadyside Memorial Park.  Another popular site was located east of Cincinnati Avenue between Prospect Street and Miller Avenue.  Area residents called it Half Mountain.  It lay between two fords in the river, one just south of Wheeler Avenue and the other near the end of East Lynn Street.  To get to the hill from Cincinnati Avenue, kids used a little known path called Rocky Lane that ended at Miller Avenue.  From there it was smooth sledding as long as you stopped short of the river at the hill's bottom.

The inner city children found sledding on the downtown streets where traffic was light.  It was before automobiles and children would use the large hill on Jackson Street beginning at Tenth Street.  Under good conditions a ride of several blocks was enjoyed.  And, if you were lucky, you could attach your sled's rope to a passing horse and wagon and be pulled about anywhere the drayman would take you.  Later on, when automobiles appeared, ashes were scattered for tire traction which ruined the sledding until the next snow.

Bobsled Bed on Runners

Farm children enjoyed what was called a bobsled which was a grain wagon bed mounted upon sets of home-made wood runners.  Inside the bed wide boards were installed for seating.  Heated bricks were placed in straw scattered over the bed to act as foot warmers.  Hitch up a couple of horses, wrap yourself in a blanket, and a full day's fun was had by all as no snow drift was too deep for the draught horses.  Most of these former winter time recreation sites have disappeared or been altered by development.  Nonetheless, for those who can recall them, they elicit great memories and still echo with the sounds of joy.

By Stephen T. Jackson, Madison County Historian 

 Madison County Historical Society|15 West 11th Street, P. O. Box 696, Anderson, Indiana 46015-0696|(765)683-0052|

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