Washington Township History

The history of Washington township is covered mostly in the history of Spencer. I will be covering that history in a separate entry.


Washington townshp was organized and its boundaries established on the 4th day of March 1819. It was named for the first president, George Washington. The township originally included the present townships of Washington, Marion and Lafayette, including all of Township 10 and extending across the county from east to west. As first organized it was 20 miles east to west and 6 miles north to south and contained 120 square miles. The present day boundaries contain forty eight square miles. The only town in the township is Spencer and most all of the businesses were located there.

The first settlements made in Washington township was made by Phillip Hart arriving in October of 1816. He was accompanied by his wife, Susan Hart, his family of seven children and James Biggar, who later married one of Phillip's daughters. John Dunn and his wife, Margaret with their six children were the next arrivals. Closely following the Dunn family came Levi, Enoch and Neely Beem on the 25th of March 1817. They were brothers and sons of Daniel Beem. In the spring of 1817 came Isaiah Cooper, Jacob McIntire, Dudley Milner, Richard Kirby, William Anderson, Robert Blaine, George A. McHenry, and Hugh Barnes. They arrived in time to clear ground and put in crops for the season of 1817. In 1818, Elijah Chambers , Judge Eson, Peter Teal, James Galletly, Thomas Allen, Joel Shields, John Moore, Abraham Henderson, William Boalds, Martin Hardin, James Blair, John Franklin, William Latta, Eli Labertew, Alexander McBride, Jesse Evans, Andrew Evans and others entered the township. Arah Osbourne first entered land on the 11th of September, 1816 in Section 23; William Biggar entered land in the same section on September 19, 1816, John McCormick, John Dunn, Jonathan Lindley and Jonathan Lyon all entered land in the township on September 20, 1816.

Early Industries

The hand mill was probably the first machine used if it could be called a machine. At first corn meal was made using a mortar. There were also horsemills in use. One was kept by James Galletly just about the schoolhouse in Spencer. Mr Galletly also ran a still house there as well. It is said that the hand mill was invented about 1822 by Obadiah Turpin of Clay Township. The first grist mill in the township was thought to be made by a man named Milligan on Mill Creek. It being built about the year 1826. Joshua Kelly built a second mill a short distance below it. About the year 1830, Joshua Kelly also built a water mill on Fall Creek. Stephen Barnes built a saw and grist mill on Rattlesnake Creek, 3 miles west of Spencer. James M. Archer was the first tanner of Washington township. Later on, Alexander Craig, Harlan Richards and Rezin Richards ran a tannery near the same place.

Roads and Ferries

The County Commisioners were first petitioned to establish roads in the spring of 1819. The first road established was the leading over the hill south of Spencer to Bloomington. It was located in the summer of 1820 by David Johnson, Alexander McBride and John Bartholomew, who were appointed Commissioners for that purpose. In a short time the roads called the Elletsville, Gosport, Greencastle, Terre Haute and Freedom roads were established.

The first ferries across White River were established in 1820. They were John Dunn's ferry at the south end of the "Narrows", Isaiah Cooper's at Spencer and Adam Brinton's at Munday's Station.

On the 4th of March, 1819 the Board of Commissioners were in session at the house of John Dunn and ordered an election to be held on the first Monday of April 1819 in each township of the county for the purpose of electing one Justice of the Peace for each township. There were only three townships at that time. The voting precinct for Washington township was John Dunn's house, which was also the place for holding public meetings.

On the same day, William W. Cooper was appointed Constable for Washington township and succeeded the following year by Joshua Matheny. The early elected Justices were not recorded, but it seems likely that David Johnson, Isaiah Cooper , William Biggar and Issac Heaton were the early dignitaries.The latter was elected Probate Judge.

In the election of 1820, Phillip Hart served as the Inspector of Elections, and served in that capacity for a number of years. At that time there were no other offices of any consequence.