A feature where the staff of the library’s Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room shines a light on little known interesting people, places, and things from Floyd County’s past that were researched using the library’s resources.

Nathaniel Scribner: Businessman and Lobbyist

Written by Peggy Roberson

Scribner Jr High School

Nathaniel Scribner was born in about 1783 in either New York or Connecticut though no records exist to verify the date or location of his birth. He grew up in a family of 12 children, the offspring of Nathaniel Scribner and Phebe Kellogg. The couple was somewhat prosperous and the Scribner boys, Joel, Abner and Nathaniel became interested in business. Before 1812, the brothers and their brother-in-law, William Waring, who had married their sister, Phoebe, planned a trip west in hope of becoming wealthy by starting a tannery in Cincinnati, OH.

When the War of 1812 broke out, William Waring and his brother left the Scribner brothers with a fledgling business to go off to war. The business collapsed and soon after, the three Scribner brothers set off on horseback through Kentucky. They were looking for a place to found a town of their own. They soon crossed the Ohio River into Indiana Territory and found a substantial piece of property. 826 acres of forested land was soon purchased from Col. John Paul and his wife, who resided in Madison, IN.
In the early months of 1813, a “green” log cabin was built and the three brothers and the rest of the families moved in to this structure. They made do with what they had until a more suitable home could be built. With the help of surveyor John Kennedy Graham they measured, platted and sold lots along the Ohio and the city New Albany was soon established.

Nathaniel Scribner married Elizabeth Edmonds on May 1, 1815. They had only one child, Lucinda Anna, who married W. C. Shipman. Nathaniel was a good businessman; many early settlers often asked for his advice on business matters. As New Albany began to prosper, the settlers wished for their own county since the area was shared by Clark and Harrison Counties. Since Nathaniel was well-qualified, he was appointed along with John Kennedy Graham to lobby the Indiana State Legislature in Corydon.

Scribner and Graham rode on horseback to Corydon and they spoke with many in the state government including Governor Jennings and soon obtained permission to establish Floyd County. After many days of not feeling well Scribner along with his friend Graham decided to head home. During the trip home Nathaniel became so ill that the two stopped at the home of Robert Watson on Corydon Pike for help. Nathaniel Scribner, who was only 35 years old, died during the night and was never able to bring the news of Floyd County’s status.
Nathaniel Scribner was buried, for a time, in the State Street Burial Ground. With the establishment of Fairview Cemetery in 1841, the founders of New Albany were disinterred and reburied on the north side of the cemetery.

Nathaniel was honored by the Floyd County school system in the early 1960’s when the new Junior High School under construction on Cherry Street and Old Vincennes Road was named after him. It is now called Nathaniel Scribner Middle School.

Material for this article came from Vertical Files-Scribner and from Find a Grave.com

William W. Borden:  Entrepreneur

Written by Peggy Roberson

William Borden Family

The Borden family of New Providence, Rhode Island can be counted among the First Families of Clark County Indiana. John Borden, the father of William, arrived in Clark County in 1816 to purchase land. He returned in 1817 and founded the town of New Providence in the western part of Clark County, naming it after the capitol of his home state. After about two years his wife, Comfort, arrived to live here while his son, Thomas, stayed in their home state. After about 18 months Mrs. Borden died. In 1822, John remarried to Lydia Bellows.

Mr. Borden and his family engaged in farming, blacksmithing, and inn keeping. William Borden was born a year later and was followed by his brother John in 1825 just six months after his father had passed away. Mrs. Borden took over the inn and would run it until her death. She would never marry again. She valued an education for her children so both William and John attended the local school and were later sent to Washington County Seminary in Salem.

At age 16, William entered Indiana University as a sophomore. Later he entered and graduated from Harvard Law School. Besides his interest in law, he had a keen interest in Geology. He collected rocks and minerals from many places.

Although he had his law degree he worked as a farmer, innkeeper, and caretaker of his mother’s business for the next fifteen years. The Borden land holdings were immense; they owned 1133 acres of farm land and 33 lots in New Providence. After Lydia Borden died in 1851 William managed the business interests until 1862.

William met a Dr. Reid of Salem, who sparked his interest in fossils and geology. In 1873, he was appointed Assistant Indiana State Geologist. His duties were to prepare geological reports for Clark, Floyd, Jefferson, Scott, Jennings and Ripley counties. After a divorce from his first wife, Lizzie Shaw Borden, he decided to take off to the mining camps in Leadville, Colorado, to make his fortune. His nephew was already there and the two teamed up to make a very large fortune in just a few months.

He returned to New Providence and married for a second time to Idumea Harrod of Canton in Washington County. She died two years later in a buggy accident when her horse was scared by a lightning strike. Three years later, he married for a third time, to Emma Dunbar, who was 18. Borden was 64 years old.

In 1884, William Borden founded the Borden Institute which was a private high school. Next, he established a Normal School to train elementary teachers. He built a large building with his earnings from the silver mines and became known as Professor Borden even though he had no degree and did not teach at the school.

The Institute charged $2.50 per week room and board and tuition was $8.00 per ten week course. The curriculum was a two year teacher course or a 3 year scientific course, a one year business course and a law course. A dormitory was built next to the school.

Professor Borden continued to accumulate fossil and mineral samples from around the community and built at two story building to house them. This is the current Borden Museum building. While this was being accomplished, Professor Borden arranged to have the small town renamed for his father and it became Borden, changed by the US Post Office in 1891.

In 1893 he employed an outstanding teacher, H. A. Buerk, who along with his teaching duties cataloged Borden’s extensive collections of rocks, fossils, minerals and rare books. In 1901 the professor obtained and installed an electric generator for street and house lights. In 1906 William Borden died at the age of 83. Shortly afterward H. A. Buerk resigned and the school was closed.

Borden was buried for a time in the yard of his Borden residence and then removed to Fairview Cemetery. Mrs. Borden married George W. Robb. Later Borden was disinterred and buried at Fairview Cemetery in New Albany. His collections were dispersed throughout the Midwest; some fossils and minerals went to the Indiana State Museum and the Eli Lilly Collection.

The property in Borden was eventually deeded over to the local school corporation. The Borden home in New Albany, on 905 East Elm Street, was sold and then razed in 1961.

Sources for this article include: Vertical File-Borden Family, and “A History of the Borden Institute” by W. E. Wilson

New Albany’s National Cemetery: Honoring Our Veterans

Written by Peggy Roberson

New Albany National Cemetery

In 1862, an act of Congress created the New Albany National Cemetery, along with eleven other cemeteries throughout the United States. Dr. Charles Bowman and his family sold the 5.5 acre site to the government for the use of a cemetery for $955. Later the Vance family, who lived on Beeler Street, donated approximately 2/3 of an acre to the cemetery, with the understanding that the Vance family would be buried there and their graves would be overseen by the cemetery caretakers.

New Albany was selected for the site of the cemetery because the city was a strategic center for supplies and training of soldiers for the Northern war effort. Wounded soldiers were sent north to receive treatment in the several military hospitals in the Southern Indiana and Louisville areas. The deceased of the training camps and the many battles were also sent northward, necessitating the need for a burial ground.

By 1870, at least 2,700 soldiers were buried at the cemetery– most being Civil War casualties. A few confederate soldiers are buried there, along with African American Soldiers who were buried in a segregated section of the grounds. Some of the burials are in unmarked graves as the identities of the deceased could not be determined. Three British soldiers are also buried among the graves of the American casualties.

In 1863 the citizens of Floyd County were asked to donate trees, shrubs and help landscape the area. A Dr. Fry was in charge of landscaping as the ground was bare and even grassless after the interment of so many soldiers, who had been removed from small burial plots in other places and buried in National Cemetery.

The Cemetery has since buried many veterans and casualties from other wars: The Spanish American, World War I, World War II, Korean and Vietnam conflicts. It is now full; as of 2005 there were at least 6881 burials of veterans and their families. A few burials still occur, mostly as interments in the same grave of a family member.

The New Albany National Cemetery has been a part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1999. This Veterans Day, these heroes will be honored for their service to their country.

Information in this article was collected from Indiana Room Vertical File: New Albany National Cemetery, and from Floyd County Deed Records, National Cemetery Website and Ancestry.com

The Mystery Grave on Daisy Lane

Written by Peggy Roberson

Mystery Grave

One day last spring, a tombstone with an iron fence around it was noticed on Daisy Lane, next to the small creek, in front of the new waterpark. Since the grave seemed to be undocumented, the Indiana Room staff and a volunteer began an attempt to figure out whose grave it was and why it was in that particular spot.

Volunteer Dianne stopped and snapped a photo of the grave. She also went to the Planning Commission to find out what was known about it.

Librarian Nancy Strickland took a look at the photo and determined that the name on the stone was that of John Link. Using Find-A-Grave.com, she was able to determine that Mr. Link was more than likely buried next to his wife, Susan, in St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery in Dogwood, Harrison County. The couple has a fairly new headstone at their gravesite. She also discovered that he died in Harrison County, and tracing backwards on Ancestry.com found out that he always lived in Harrison County according to numerous Census records.

Librarian Melissa Wiseheart used the Indiana Room deed records to find out that John Link never owned any land, especially the land where the old tombstone was found, in Floyd County. She could not find any record of Mr. Link ever owning any land in Floyd County at any time in his life.

The Mystery? If this was the first tombstone the Links had, was the original stone stolen or discarded? How did it make its way to Daisy Lane? When was it moved there? Who moved it? Why?

The city, while developing the land for the waterpark, discovered the gravestone. Or was it a grave? City officials found it easiest to put a fence around it, than to try to figure out if there was actually a person buried in the area. Many obstacles kept it in that spot, including the proof that no grave actually existed there. The logical conclusion was that the grave be left alone and the site be fenced off.

If any reader can shed some light on the stone’s present location, please contact the Indiana Room (812)949-3527 or Indiana@nafclibrary.org

First Settlers of Franklin and Georgetown Townships

Written by Peggy Roberson

Franklin Township

Franklin Township was first settled in 1804 by Robert LaFollette, a Kentuckian by birth. He brought his new wife across the river and they settled near Knob Creek, southwest of what would become New Albany. Life was primitive at best. The newlyweds camped out while land was cleared and logs were hewn to build a rudimentary house of sticks, logs and mud chinking. It had a fireplace, no windows and little furniture. A clapboard roof covered the building to keep out the elements. His closest neighbors were ten miles downriver in Harrison County. It was here that Mr. & Mrs. LaFollette raised two sons and six daughters.

An interesting side note is that Robert LaFollette wrote about the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811 and 1812. He described that after all the aftershocks, the trees in the forest became so tangled from the continual upheaval of the land that passing through the forests was nearly impossible.

Life was hard living near the banks of the Ohio, but game was plentiful and often could be shot from the yard of the domicile. Shawnee Indians often camped nearby. The band was friendly and often warned the settlers when the marauding Miami showed up to threaten the area. More than once Mr. LaFollette had to send his wife and family across the river to safety while he stood by with neighbors to defend their farms.

The LaFollettes lived a prosperous and long life and they and several generations of the family are buried in Hopewell Cemetery, near Lanesville.

The next documented family to come to Franklin Township was the Clement Nance Family. Arriving in 1805-6, the family had five daughters and six sons. The Nance’s were Virginians before arriving in Indiana Territory. Part of the family floated down the Ohio on flatboats. The rest came overland with cattle and livestock.

Later on, the Gwins, Deckers, Wrights and Waldens arrived to populate the township. Mr. Walden was a school teacher, who taught at a schoolhouse that had been erected on a corner of the Nance farm. Mr. Gwin, also a teacher, taught there from time to time. Other names of first families included Budd, Smith, Yenawine, Gunn, Sampson and Burton.

Georgetown Township

Just north and a little bit west of Franklin Township is Georgetown Township. Before 1812, the following families came to the general area and settled: Patrick and James Shields, Joseph and Levi Burton, the Hangers, Shaws, Utzs, Smiths, Yenawines, Hickmans, Mosar (Moser), Sisloffs, Kellers, and Waltzs.

There is little doubt that Patrick Shields was the first settler in the area. He would establish a farm and also served in the War of 1812 Battle of Tippecanoe. He was well respected in the community and was interested in politics. He built a water saw mill about 1825.

The village of Georgetown was established in 1833, when it was platted by George Waltz, who had come to the area around 1807. His son, Henry, soon erected a tavern close to the village, and later Henry would become the postmaster of Georgetown.

Today, Franklin Township is still decidedly rural in nature. Georgetown Township continues to expand as a bedroom community for the Falls Cities area.

To learn more about Franklin and Georgetown Townships, consult some of the following resources in the Indiana Room of the New Albany Floyd County Library:

  • History of the Ohio Falls Cities and Their Counties, Volume II
  • History of Georgetown, Indiana by Stanley Trinkle
  • Vertical Files: Georgetown, Edwardsville,
  • FindAGrave.Com: Hopewell Cemetery (LaFollette Family)

Mooresville?

Written by Peggy Roberson

Mooresville Covered Bridge

Small children often heard their grandparents speak of a place called Mooresville. Where was it? Where did it go?

What is now known as Floyds Knobs started out as a small village along the Paoli Pike called Mooresville, named after James Moore who settled there around 1810. He was a New York native. A store, gristmill, and tavern were built along the banks of Indian Creek. Other families followed, including: McCutchan, Nugent, Emmons, Searles (Sarles), Galloway, Fenwick, Atkins, Quackenbush, Hickman, Edwards, Duffey, Kelley, Coleman, Smith, Vernie (Vernia), Coleman and Carters.

Mooresville was the fourth settlement in what would become Lafayette Township. The first industry was a comb factory, followed by a sawmill, gristmill, taverns and stores. Early merchants included Mr. Moore, Chancy P. Smith, Ebenezer Danforth, Peter Burney, Nicholas Speaker, John Barber, Charles Byles, James Worls (the local hat maker), Jake Miller and John Sherley, who were tavern keepers.

Sometime between 1820 and 1822, a covered bridge was built over Indian Creek, just west of the town. This is claimed to be the first covered bridge in Indiana.

In 1852, a post office was set up with Lewis Hollis as postmaster. The mail was delivered daily by stagecoach.

In 1893, the town’s name came under scrutiny; seems there was another Mooresville, in Brown Township in Morgan County, Indiana. The first attempt at the new name was Floyd’s Knobs, but soon the apostrophe was dropped.

Schools, churches and homes sprung up over the years. Out Paoli Pike, Floyds Knobs residents established a church. Today the Floyds Knobs Christian Church sits in front of the Hillcrest Cemetery, where many early families are buried. A volunteer fire department was established; along with the Floyds Knobs Community Club.

The biggest claim to fame from the early 1900’s to the 1960’s was the town’s importance as a major Midwest shipper of strawberries. The Floyd Knobs Fruit Growers Association and the Naville Family Berry Station became two destinations for farmers to sell their berries and assorted other fruits and vegetables. Destinations for these delicious fruits included Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Chicago.

After a time, the Moores moved on to Kansas, establishing themselves there. Other families moved into the area to farm, milk dairy cows and produce fruits and vegetables for our region’s farmers markets and produce shippers.

To learn more about Floyds Knobs and its history, the following books and articles are available in the Indiana Room of The New Albany-Floyd County Public Library:

Vertical File: Floyds Knobs

“History of the Ohio Falls Cities and Their Counties”

“Floyds Knobs, Indiana” by Reverend Henry Verst

Brief History and Early Settlers of Edwardsville

Written by Peggy Roberson

Corydon Pike

Edwardsville was first inhabited about 1810 by Charles Paxson. Early settlers included Mr. Paxson, Mr. Nelson, Isaac Bowman, and Samuel Tresenriter. The small village was very rural in nature until Henry Edwards platted the town in 1853 with the help of James Burris, a surveyor.

Once the town was platted, a post office was established, the first postmaster was George Forman, a local merchant and general store owner, who was followed by James Thomas, another local merchant. Jake Miller was the first blacksmith; the first cooper was Frederick Gilbauche (Gelbach).

The first school, which was not in the platted village, but down the New Albany, Louisville, and Corydon plank road, was established in 1856, replaced in 1879 and then replaced with a three room schoolhouse, including a high school in 1900. Later on, high schools students traveled down the road to Georgetown for their advanced classes.

When the first settlers came, what was the area like? It was hilly, dotted with creeks and springs. Many trees were scattered throughout the landscape and the undergrowth was almost impassable. Wild beasts, such as deer, turkeys, bears, wildcats, snakes, buffalo, and elk roamed the woods and meadows. Indians were frequent visitors, camping near a large spring. It was necessary for the new residents to build a quick and sturdy home.

Rumors of Indian attacks kept the earliest residents on their toes. Often, the neighbors would spend the night in the sturdiest cabin. As the War of 1812 progressed, rumors of Indian uprisings were frequent but none ever occurred.

During the two attempts to build the railroad tunnel, Edwardsville became a raucous town of railroad men. The completion of the tunnel brought telegraph services and other modern conveniences of the time.

Today, a winding drive up Corydon Pike brings you to the top of the hill and the small village of Edwardsville. The brick school house still stands across Highway 62. Two beautiful churches, Edwardsville United Methodist and Tunnel Hill Christian Churches lie east and west of Highway 62. Edwardsville Cemetery, previously called Tunnel Hill, lies just north of Tunnel Hill Church. The first burial was the founder of this village, Henry Edwards, who was disinterred from his first resting place and reburied in the new cemetery. Today, over 1000 graves dot the hillside running down toward State Road 64.

Greenville: Almost County Seat of Floyd County

Written by Peggy Roberson

Greenville

In 1816, Andrew Mundall, a school teacher from Kentucky, came to the northwest part of what was Clark County and purchased 160 acres of land. Later, Benjamin Haines purchased the adjoining acreage and in May 1816, they laid out of village of Greenville. It would straddle what was later called Paoli Pike.

The village was set up as a parallelogram. A public square was designed and a street named Cross was laid out. When Floyd County was established in 1819, due to the efforts of Patrick Shield and Nathaniel Scribner, a county seat had to be selected. In the running were two towns, Greenville and New Albany. Since Greenville was more centrally located, it gained favor, but when New Albany offered money and a bell for the court house, the tides turned and Greenville lost out. New Albany went on to be a commercial and industrial mecca along the Ohio River, while Greenville went on to be a small, unknown village.

Some important dates and events in Greenville:

1819-Greenville was granted one of the first post offices in Indiana

1823-Mr. Kirkpatrick was appointed post master

1824-John Baptiste Ford worked the saddle shop (later he would leave and found American Plate Glass)

1838-Greenville Methodist Church building erected

1852-Greenlawn Cemetery laid out

1879-Greenville was surveyed by George Smith and incorporated

1890-Blue Jay brand cigars were manufactured by George and Alzara Jacobi, Jr.

1908-The Great Greenville Fire (started by a flue fire in Mary K. Wood’s tenement house, it left 16 families homeless and burned 24 houses and businesses. Damage estimates: $100,000.)

1908-First telephone service

Today, Greenville is governed by a town council. Public services, a town park, fire department, water utility, Greenville Elementary School (part of the New Albany Floyd County School system) and numerous churches dot the landscape.

It does make a person wonder what Greenville would be like as the county seat, if it wasn’t for the offer of a bell for the courthouse…….

Materials for this article are available in the Indiana Room of the New Albany Floyd County Public Library. Timeline was borrowed from an article written by Mayola Evans and Carmen Willian.