Monday, March 9, 2015

William H. Eads

Eads Addition, in red
One of the more enigmatic names of the development of Fairfield in the early 1800s is William H. Eads. His name appears prominently in the first years of statehood.

Eads and his younger brother Thomas apparently had a plan, or at least a vision. Maybe just a hunch.

After Fairfield was platted in 1815, making it the second-oldest town in Franklin County, William and Thomas decided to buy some land and have it annexed to the town. It's marked on most maps as the Eads Addition. It's where the new schoolhouse was built in 1952.

Eads appears to be much more sophisticated than just a pioneer land speculator. Eads was born in Hagerstown, Md., moved to Kentucky as a young man and migrated to Indiana around 1810. He was known as a Federalist and an Episcopalian. And he was apparently not allied with Gov. William Henry Harrison.

The Eads family evidently came from some wealth and William was at least adroit enough in business matters to run a successful store in Brookville. He was also savvy enough to earn election to the territorial council that essentially carved out a Constitution for Indiana in 1815.

He was later elected to the state House of Representatives from Franklin County. Eads was one of five county representatives, along with James Brownlee, Enoch McCarty, James Noble and Robert Hanna, Jr. At the time, Franklin County carried considerable clout in the founding of the new state.

Later, Eads was involved in setting up the rules for charter banking. And he was part of a group of men who eventually selected Versailles as the county seat for Ripley County in 1818.

So it's clear Eads had something of an idea on how to manage inside the "system," whatever that was at the time. For practical purposes, it seems Eads was part of the group who actually created the "system."

Eads was also related through marriage to Dr. John Quick, a prominent Brookville physican at the time. Quick's father was a Maryland native who had married Mary Eads. (I am unable to tell exactly what Mary's relationship was to William, other than she was described as a "cousin" to James B. Eads, William's nephew, and Thomas's son.)

I don't know where William lived in later years, when he died or where he was interred. His brother Thomas is buried in St. Louis. about Thomas does not mention William.

James B. Eads
Thomas Clark Eads was born in 1794 and was married to Ann (Nancy) Buchanan before migrating to Fairfield to endeavor a business that lasted a very short time. Thomas apparently was in town long enough (1817) to help William carve out a plan for their Eads Addition onto the town of Fairfield. One theory is that William believed Fairfield would eventually become the county seat. When that did not happen, Thomas moved on. William pursued other objectives. William is listed in the 1820 Census for Indiana but he is not listed in the 1830 Census.

Thomas and Nancy relocated to Lawrenceburg and finally found their way to St. Louis. From all dispatches, Thomas was more of a scoundrel and opportunist than businessman.

His wife was the niece of James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, better known as the man who preceded Abraham Lincoln in the U.S. presidency.

Their son James built bridges across the Mississippi River and designed a jetty system to navigate the river at New Orleans. James B. Eads ran with the big dogs of the time, and was prominent in the affairs of the men who built the nation's railroads.

Men larger than life.

Source: Biographical and genealogical history of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin counties, Indiana.

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