Harrison Township

Harrison township is the smallest portion of Owen county, this area was originally included in the territory of Wayne Township. It was separated from there in the year 1837, the township is eighteen square miles. It lies in the northeast corner of the county, it is bounded on the south by Wayne township and on the west by Taylor township. Morgan and Putnam counties are the other two borders. The northern half is a light soil not well adapted to agriculture, but the southern half is more broken and well adapted to farming and grazing.

Brush Creek flows through the northern past. There are a number of springs in the township, with the most noted being Cave Spring, there is also Miller's Cave.

The first permanent white settlers in the area that would become Harrison township were in the year 1822 in the northern part, not far from the Morgan county line.The land was open to entry at the land offices as early as 1816, but the tract book shows no entry until one year later, when Lewis Gregg obtained a portion of Section 19. The greater portion of the township was entered between the years of 1823-1836, with some being taken by speculators, but the larger portion was by actual settlers.

It cannot be said who the actual first settler was, but from most accounts, it appears to have been John Mannon, who located in Section 19. Mannon was a Kentuckian with two sons, W.R and Robert; both who became land owners and prominent citizens in later years. John remained on the original land until about 1840 when he died, W.R. moved to Morgan county. Henry Hancock also came from Kentucky to Harrison township in the same time frame and he settled in the southeast section of the township.Henry met a violent death about 1864 when a bridge he was crossing fell and crushed him.

In the year 1823, Samuel Wheeler, Andrew Evans, Jesse Evans, William Evans, Levi Asher and Benjamin Arnold came to the township and all made land entrys. Wheeler in the southeast corner of the township, Andrew Evans in section 31, Jesse Evans, brother of Andrew, settled in the southern portion on what is today the land that the Asher cemetery sits on. Jesse sold this to Allen Asher about 1840.William Evans also settled in Section 19, but later migrated to Iowa. Levi Asher and Benjamin Arnold settled also in the southern portion and later became quite prominent citizens. Benjamin Arnold lated became a noted pioneer minister for the Baptist Church.

In 1823, Capius Edwards came to this county from Kentucky and entered land in section 21. The same year, McKinney Baldwin and his brother, James, John H. Holmes, Josiah Buchanan, and William Asher all arrived. The Baldwins were from Kentucky as were most of the early settlers, McKinney settled near the central part of the township on the land once owned by James Johnston and James entered land in the southwestern part of the township known as the Reno Place.James was the Justice of the Peace for several years and also active in the formation of the Little Mount Church. Holmes settled where Barton Hartsock lived and Buchanan made his home near the central part of the township. William Asher settled in the southern portion of the township.

Prior to 1830, the following surnames also came to Harrison township; Stierwalt, Brown, Applegate. Mr Stierwalt settled near the Wayne township line and it is said that he was a man of rare business tact. John Brown was a minister of the Christian Church, and the Applegates settled in the southern portions and became prominent farmers.

Other names that arrived in the early days were; Asher, Johnson, Smith, McCarty,. Later came, Benjamin Murphy, Nealy Jones, Thomas Jones, Thomas Holbert, Shake, Baker, Johns Dunnegan, and Chambers.

There were others that although they entered land and may have been thought to be residents, never actually resided there; M. Whitaker, John McMurray, Samuel Baldwin, W.B. Hall, Benjamin Freeland, George W. Condiff, Pleasant Trover, William Combs, David Fain, Rebecca Blunk and Ambrose Whitlock.

The first brick house in the township was built by Jesse Evans about 1825, he also set out an orchard. Other early orchards were set out by A. Dunnegan, William Evans, Solomon Dunnegan, Frederick Stierwalt and the Ashers. William Asher ran a mill at Cave Springs for several years.

In the year 1834-1834, Abraham Snodgrass started a distillery on the Bailey Farm and shortly after moving it to Taylor township. Another distillery was run by Nicholas Devore in the northwest corner of the township for five or six years.

The first saw mill stood near the Asher Mill, it was erected in about 1828-1830 and manufactured all the lumber used by the early settlers.

The oldest graveyard was laid out by Jesse Evans on the farm known now as the Allen Asher place. One of the first burials was Dr. Ross of Gosport. A man named Denney whose death occurred in the early day was buried there, as was Abraham La Master who was frozen to death while walking home one night.


The earliest schools in Harrison township were supported by subscription and not well patronized. One of the first buildings erected especially for school purposes was a small building on land owned by Daniel Smith.

An early house stood at the village of Middletown and was used by teacher, Andrew Steele, who was among the first teachers in the township. A man named Wedding and also John Williams later taught there also.

Public money was supplied in the year 1848, and 3 years loater the township was divided into 2 districts and two frame houses were erected; one on the northeast corner of the township and the other in the southern part. In 1884 there were four houses in the township and they were said to be well furnished with "modern" educational appliances. The teachers for the years of 1882-1883 were John S. Lockhart, Adaline Knox, W.H. Beaman and Ira Baldwin.


Religious services were held from house to house in the early days by pioneer preachers of many different denominations. Among these were; Henry Hancock, Benjamin Arnold of the Baptist Church and John Brown of the Christian sect. There were no known buildings made for churches within the Harrison township area.


Middletown--a little hamlet in the southern part o the township that was at one time a prominent local point, it had a flouring mill and a small store kept by Andrew Evans. Evans sold goods for several years and was succeeded by Burton Matlock, who left after a short while.

A blacksmith shop and a wheelright shop were also kept by William P. "Pop Corn" Chambers. A harness and saddle shop ran there for several years also. Nothing remains now except for the ruins of the mill and a few old cabins.