Monday, February 9, 2015

Early settlement, commerce

Who lived in the Whitewater Valley in those early days -- the ones right after America became the United States?

Indians mostly, since they effectively "owned" the land until the battle at Fallen Timbers, Ohio. At that 1794 battle, Gen. Anthony Wayne forced concessions that led to the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.

That treaty line established the western border of what was to become Fairfield Township.

Other additional tracts of land were purchased from the tribes, mostly the Miami, to eventually create what we recognized as Franklin County. The county was basically carved out of Clark and Dearborn counties in 1811. Details, details.

Chelsea Lawlis, who did most of the research on the history of the Whitewater Valley, explored some of the details of the demographics in a 1947 article in the Indiana Magazine of History.

While the land was not offered for sale until 1801 at Cincinnati, squatters had already entered the territory in large numbers. In a letter written from Cincinnati, January 8, 1798, Winthrop Sargent told Timothy Pickering, Secretary of State, of the great increase in the number of intruders upon United States lands. According to Sargent, there were nearly two hundred families just over the Great Miami. Many of them had fled to that place to escape from their creditors. Sargent indicated that these settlers were cutting and wasting timber.

The native Indians were not quick to leave, apparently.

Settlers complained of having their horses stolen by the Indians since the beginning of the recent Indian war. Many had been disappointed in getting land in Kentucky. The settlers asked permission to purchase the land on which they had settled, in quarter sections if possible.

The early pioneers learned the hard way -- the Whitewater Valley still belonged to the Indians. The Greenville treaty had officially solved the Indian "problem" but it took patience and commerce to effectively settle the dispute. Not every native was inclined to follow an imaginary line that meant nothing to them.

Greenville did, however, restrict white settlement west of the line. Those squatters were less inclined to be protected by the few government soldiers in the area.

True commerce came to the valley in 1803 when entrepreneur John Conner opened a trading post not far from what was to become Cedar Grove. In 1808, Conner put up a building a few miles north of that and named it Connersville. In 1813, Connersville was given "town" status.

The valley began to fill up after that with immigrants from South Carolina who founded the Carolina Settlement; numerous Kentuckians; and many Quakers from North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Although most of the settlers came from the South, they were largely from the nonslaveholding class and many left that region in order to reject slavery. White protestants, almost exclusively.

Lawlis adds:

An indication of the rapid growth of the Whitewater Valley can be gained from an examination of the number of towns plotted during this decade. Brookville had been laid out in 1808. Fairfield was plotted in 1815, Union (Whitcomb) in 1816, and New Trenton also in 1816. Further up the valley in what is now Union County, the new towns formed were Brownsville in 1815 and Dunlapsville in 1817. Wayne County gave birth to Centerville, 1814; Jacksonburgh, 1815; Richmond, 1816; Abington, 1817; and Newport, 1818.

Brookville attained significant prosperity in the years immediately following statehood in 1816 because of its location near the Whitewater River. Flatboats served its economy. It grew from a dozen houses to "upwards of 80" by 1817, according to Samuel R. Brown, in The Western Gazetteer.

A sharp decline followed in 1818 due to new federal restrictions on loans, on which the pioneer economy depended heavily. The staggering boom would soon end as agricultural prices dropped sharply. The migration continued but at a much slower pace. It was becoming more difficult to buy land on credit.

A study of the age groups listed in the 1820 census indicates that it was still chiefly the young people who were migrating.

1820 Census data, by age group

41 percent, under 10
56 percent, under 16
73 percent, under 26
92 percent, under 45

Population in 1820

Fayette County, population 5,950, 9 blacks.
Franklin County, population 10,763, 65 free blacks.
Wayne County, population 12,119, 66 blacks.

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