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Early History of Greens Fork, Indiana

The Village of Washington (Greens Fork)

One of the most honored and familiar names on the frontier that Indiana Territory was a part of was the name chosen by Thomas Hatfield when in 1818 he platted the town, Washington. Greens Fork in Winter The descriptions of the original plat, certified by him as proprietor, and Abraham Elliott, surveyor, September 28, 1818, was acknowledged for record November 19, 1818. It is situated near the center of the township, on section 26, and is the only town within its border. It was a station on the P., C. and St. Louis Railroad (based 10 miles Northwest from Richmond. It lay beside the large creek named Greens Fork near the center of present Clay Township, Wayne County, Indiana. Indiana Territory was created pursuant to the Act of Congress of May 7, 1800, dividing the Northwest Territory, and Wayne County was formed in 1810 from part of Dearborn, the county seat of which was at Lawrenceburg. Indiana became a state in 1816.

An obscure fact according to old records of the Wayne County recorder was that the town was first called Westfield. Why this name was first used is not known. The Greens Fork creek was named from a Delaware Indian named Johnny Green who lived along this creek. He is said to have been a man of more than ordinary talents and ferocity, shrewd but of ill disposition. His crafty ability gave him an unenviable reputation, which, together with his known influence in his tribe, made him a personage to be feared.

There was a second town in southern Indiana named Washington which caused postal service problems as well as mapping; therefore, the name of the post office was called Greens Fork. In November, 1889, after 71 years as Washington, the town board agreed to certify the name of the town as Greens Fork. Over the years there was confusion as to the spelling. After historical research in 1968 the correct spelling has been used officially.

Early Settlers

James Martindale, a native of North Carolina, settled on Green’s Fork, in the township, in 1812, settled on a farm about a half a mile from Washington (later Greens Fork). Ox-drawn Sled in Greens ForkThe farm was later that of his grandson James W. Martindale. Jonas Hatfield, Sr. came from Kentucky in 1812, purchased the land that the town of Washington (Greens fork) now is built on. Abel Jenny came the same year and joined lands with Hatfield, Sr. Jesse Albertson, from North Carolina, settled on a farm one-half mile east of Washington (Greens Fork). His brother Joshua came a few years later and settled south of his brother on what was in 1884, the Ratcliff’s land. William Fox came in 1813 and left in 1844, removing to Jefferson Township, where he died in 1860. Joshua Benny settled on section 27, and James Spray settled on section 35. James Odell settled in the eastern part of the township, on what was known as William Coffin’s place in 1884. Miles Murphy came in 1814, and in 1825, sold his farm to John Baldwin, from North Carolina. Mr. Baldwin’s four sons - Jonathan, Isaac, David, and Caleb - came with him. James Porter settled near the Friend’s meeting house in 1817. Moses Martindale, William Young, Benjamin Angell, John Peirson, and his son-in-law, Martin Martindale, William Ball, all came in 1814 and 1815, and settled in the eastern part of the township. Benjamin Albertson settled on section 36, and was from North Carolina, Owen Branson settled on land that later (1884) belonged to the heirs of Thomas Adams. Jonathan Cloud also settled on section 36, and William Pike, Isaiah Frazier, Jonathan Mendenhall, John Hunt and Israel Ganse all settled in the southeastern section of the township, all came to the area prior to 1816.

South and west of where Washington (Greens Fork) stands another settlement was made, commencing with the arrival of Jesse Bond in 1813, who settled section 35. Benjamin Hall, Jonas Foland, Stephen Horney, Moses Coffin, and Absalom Williams, from North Carolina, came in 1814, and died in 1868, aged 93 years, and Isaac Mendenhall, all settled in the south, southwest, and west sections of the township. Henry Hoover settled on Green’s Fork, and Peter Hoover adjoining him; Jonas Fincher not far from them, and Valentine Foland in the southwest corner of the township. Ephriam Genry purchased of David Hoover, on the west side. David Peacock came early, and his son David later (1884) lived on his farm land. William Wedims, mason Fitcher, Enos Veal, Sr., Peter Woolfert, Jonas Davis, James Owens, Sr. all came in 1817, and settled in the western portion of the township, as did Jonas Brockus, who came in 1815, as did Miles Dimet. Job Smith came in 1824, and Ezekiel Bradbury in 1825. They also settled in the western part. Jonathan Shaw settled on section 21, on the west line of the township, and Robert Walkins and William Elliott north of him on section 16. John and Josiah Bradbury on the same section, on Morgan’s Creek. John later settled on section 27. William Ball came in 1818, as did James Starling, Henry Riggs and Frederic Dean, and settled on section 15. Henry Garrett and Abraham Elliott came in 1814, and settled on section 23. Philip and Henry Renberger, in 1819, and settled on section 14, as did William Underwood. Jonathan Ross, David Young and John Ritchie settled on sections 22 and 15, about the last mentioned date. William Osborn, about 1820, settled near Washington (Greens Fork), and died in 1831, aged 29. Cyrus, his son, resided a half mile below town in 1884. Daniel Williams, born in North Carolina in 1792, from Pennsylvania in 1833, settled on the northeast part of the township, and later resided one and a half miles east of Washington (Greens Fork). Thomas Cook settled, at an early day, where his son, Samuel Cook lived in 1884, two miles north from Washington (Greens Fork), and where he died in 1824, aged 56. He was the first saddler in Washington (Greens Fork). Samuel Ball, born in Virginia, came from Tennessee in 1820, and died in 1849, near where his son John Ball resided in 1884. John Wilson, from South Carolina, came about 1820, settled two miles northeast from Washington (Greens Fork), where he died in 1852, aged 36. Joseph Lamb, from North Carolina, settled in 1829, on land adjoining Perry, where he died in 1855, at age 73. William Hindman, from Ohio, in 1839, settled 2 ½ miles west of Washington (Greens Fork) and died in 1843, aged 42. William Wright, from Maryland, in 1824, settled 2 miles southeast from town, where he died in 1854, aged 74. John Brooks came here from North Carolina, in 1831.

Hugh Allen, came from Ohio in 1820, settled one mile south of Washington (Greens Fork), where he died in 1870, aged 59. Emsley Hoover, from Ohio, came about 1811, settled on Green’s Fork, southwest from Washington, later home to his son, Owen P. Emsley died in 1865, aged 69.

Abraham Elliott is supposed to have been the first Justice of the Peace within what was in 1884 Clay Township; the next was probably John Martindale.

A block-house without a fort was built in war-time on or near Joshua Benny’s farm, a mile north of Washington (Greens Fork). On John Martindale’s land, four mile west of town a fort and block-house were built by Martindale and his sons, Elijah and William, Charles Morgan, Reynolds Fielder, Jacob Galion, and Jonathan Shaw.

Henry Garret built the first grist-mill, a mile and a half above town, about 1815. Jonas Hatfield soon after built a saw-mill the same year at Washington (Greens Fork), he did not live to finish it. It was completed in 1816, by his son Thomas, who 4-5 years later built a grist-mill at the same place. Henry Hoover, about 1840, built a saw-mill two miles below Washington (Greens Fork) - later selling it to Samuel Boyd, who in about 1855, also built a grist-mill at the same place.

In about 1825, or so, Thomas Hatfield built a carding machine and a fulling-mill near his other mills. After operating them for about a year, he purchased land (1/4 mile below his current site) from Jesse Bond, where he moved his operations, soon after selling them to the Bonds, who removed them further down to near where Nathan Bond resided in 1884.

William Underhill and Joshua Benny were the first blacksmiths in the township.

Special thanks to Jayne Beers of the Clay Township Historical and Preservation Society for providing this information.


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Did You Know?

John M. Westcott started the Hoosier Drill Company in Milton, Indiana in 1858. The company grew and expanded into Richmond and eventually became part of the American Seeding Machine Company, which, in turn, became part of the International Harvester Company.