JENNINGS TOWNSHIP HISTORY
The section of Owen county known as Jennings township was organized as a district division in the year 1842 and originally formed a part of the township of Jackson. It lies in the northern part of the county and its boundaries are: Putnam county on the north, Taylor township on the east, Montgomery and Morgan twps on the south and finally Jackson township on the west. The township was named after T.C. Jennings, a man who took an active part in its organization. The original outline has been modified at different times. In 1852, its boundaries were enlarged by the addition of a part of Morgan township and in September of 1861 it was readjusted to its present twenty one square miles. The surface of the township except for the northeastern part is hilly and broken and has much wild scenery.
The most broken portions are along the Eel River and in the central and southern portions where the soil rests upon a bed of sandstone. Building stone of fine quality is found upon almost any farm in the township. An inexhaustible supply of block coal underlies the township and is easily accessible. Several mines have been developed for neighborhood purposes, the largest being on the farm of James Beaman. The principal occupation is stockraising.
The first land entry made in Jennings township was in the year 1816 by C & F Bullett who were speculators and obtained patents for 611 acres in the township. The same year entries were made by I. Lindsey and Fetter and Hughes in section 36. The first permanent settler appears to have been Isaac Teel who located near the lower falls of the Eel River and erected a small mill as early as 1820. One year later he entered land in section 26 and died a short time after this. His widow later married a man named Acres, another early settlers in the same area.
Settlements were made in the northern part of the township in an early day by William and Owen Martin, the latter becoming one of the leading citizens of the community. Pioneers came in rather slowly due to the broken conditions, the country provided little inducements.
In 1833, entries were made by William Goff and Amasa Tabor, the latter a native of Kentucky and a prominent member of the Baptist Church. Later came John Black, Matthew Spangler, John Allee, William Allee, William Branham and George Rogers, all who had homes there by 1836. The following year the population was increased by the arrival of Jonathan Branham, Alvin Beaman, James Beaman, Thomas Helm, W.P. Cook, Arabian Davis, Wyatt Cook and others. There were others who made land entries there but were not identified as residents of the township: James Dill, William Lafuse, Wesley Jones, Jane Aldridge, J.P. Sinclair, Benjamin P. Evans, John Gillaspy, G.W. Leach, James Townsend, Henry Ernhart, Josiah Williams and D.G. Martin and Perry Branham.
The earliest improvements of any note were the little corn mill erected by Issac Teel at the lower falls of Eel River. This was a small log building situated on the edge of a cliff; it ground both corn and wheat and did a good business for about ten years.
T.C. Jennings operated the second mill located at the Upper Falls of Eel River. Mr Jennings being public spirited planned several other ventures connected with the mill, however, none of them were successful. This mill was passed through several different hands through the years, those being: Clune & Co, Messers. Foster and Fullerton, Messers. Steiner and Wallace and a Mr. Taylor.
In an early day, James Townsend of Putnam County and founder of the village of Putnamville, conceived the idea of erecting a large factory at the lower falls and spent much money cutting a raceway through the sold rocks there. The project was abandoned eventually leaving Mr Townsend almost bankrupt. He also spent much time in mining salt and lead from the bluffs of the river, this also proving futile.
Matthias Spangler and James Beaman were the first to erect frame houses in the township. Owen Martin and John Black built frame residences in an early day also. On the farm of James Beaman is one of the earliest orchards.
The first burial place in the township was near the lower falls of Eel River where Issac Teel was laid to rest about 1821 or 1822. Several others were buried there also, however, the land was later abandoned and no sign of a grave exists now.
A cemetery was laid of about near the upper falls many years later. Among the first to rest there is the son of T.C. Jennings, Lewis Hill, Mahala Maze and a man named Willis.
The Cataract Graveyard was laid off about the year 1870-1871 on land purchased from T.C. Jennings. The first interment here was Theodosia Beaman, daughter of Samuel; the second was Jane Haltom, daughter of James.
The first marriage in Jennings township was solemnized about the year 1824 between Mrs. Teel, widow of Isaac and Joseph Acres; Samuel Beaman and Lucinda Rogers were also married in an early day.
Among the earliest births in the township was Calvin, son of James and Lydia Beaman in the year 1832. Two others were also Alvin Beaman, son of Samuel, and Silas R, son of Jeptha and Margaret Meek.
It is difficult to designate the exact time or place where the first school in this township was taught as opinions vary greatly. It is known however, that a certain Billy Strong taught a term on the place where James Beaman lived as early as the year 1836. The house which Strong "wielded the birch" was a rude log affair, erected by a few neighbors and was used for only a short period of time.
E. Hawkins was a pedagogue at the same place. An early house was erected for school and church purposes and stood a short distance from Cataract with the high sounding name of "Buckskin". It was also built by neighbors, each one giving what he could towards the building, some giving money, others giving items to be sold for money. Among the latter was a "buckskin" given by Arthur Cummings, a fact which gave the house its name. Other houses were erected from time to time in various parts of the township, but for many years the schools were of inferior grade and not very well patronized. After the public school system was adopted, the cause of education received new impetus and better buildings replaced the simple log structures. In 1884 there were six schoolhouses being taught from four to six months in the year, bringing the advantages of common education with easy reach of all.
Fallsboro--This paper city was laid out in the year 1830 by Rose and Acres in Section 26, township 12 north and Range 4 west and received its name from the falls of the Eel River. The plat shows thirty five lots each 66x99 feet in size and four streets; Main, Jackson, Van Buren and Washington. The first of which was 60 feet and the others were 30 feet each. The town was platted for the purposes of speculation, but the proprieters never realized their anticipated fortune and dispossed of the site.
Cataract--This village takes its name from the fall of the river and was once the milling and mercantile center for a large area of the country before the days of the railway. It is located in Section 2, Township 11 north and range 4 west and dates its history from December of 1851, at which time the plat was surveyed and placed upon record. The original survey consisted of fourteen lots, but since then two additions have been made by T.C. Jennings on the first of March 1860 and the second on the second of September 1863.
The large flouring and saw mill of T.C. Jennings early gave the place considerable importance and induced many persons to secure lots and settle in the village. A carding machine was one of the first industries of the place operated by Mr. Jennings in connection with the other mills and a store was brought to the village soon after it was laid out.The mills were all operated on an extensive scale, Gosport and Greencastle being the principal markets for lumber, while flour was hauled to Louisville and other distant points. One of the first buildings in the village was erected for a business house by A.M. Bullett, it was occupied in an early day by Clune & Co. of Cincinnati who stocked it with miscellaneous merchandise. They were in business about ten years. Other merchants who sold goods were: Creech & Campbell, A.M. Hodge, Jack Lewis, L.T. Gose and T. D. Stillwell. There was also a drug store, and a wagon and blacksmith shop.
The following medical men have practiced in the village: W. V. Wiles, Dr. Cole, J.B. Grimes, Dr. Hamrick, J.M.Jones, William Nichols, William Hickson, B. F. Spellbring and Dr. Brasier, George McNutt and J.H. Medaris.