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From the Files
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
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