|A Susquicentennial History|
A History of Hancock County, Indiana In the Twentieth Century
June Williams and Thomas E.Q. Williams
copyright 1995 by Thomas E.
A special thanks to Thomas Williams for giving written permission to include
and other excerpts from this book.
A brief history of the county written by Dorothy June Williams, Hancock County
Historian, for the Susquicentennial in 1978 follows:
(Please note: The surnames have been placed in capital letters to aid
- Hancock County was cut off from Madison and organized in the year 1828 and
in honor of John Hancock, president of the convention that adopted the immortal
"Declaration of Independence".
- At the time of the organization of the county it contained but few
and they were scattered. At the first presidential election held in the county,
which occurred November 3, 1828, the whole number of votes cast were 101. The
entire population of the county was about 400. Then the whole territory was
almost one unbroken wilderness, in which numerous Indians, wild deer, bears,
panthers, wild cats, rattle snakes, wolves, owls, turkeys, opossums, raccoons
- Hancock County is quite flat, there being but few hills, except in the
vicinity of the water courses, and several of these have no banks worthy of the
name. Blue River and Sugar Creek have considerable banks and Brandywine at
places. Blue River and Sugar Creek Townships are rolling but most of the county
- The first settlements in the county were made on the uplands, hills and
if possible. The soil is fertile, but the black low grounds were considered
almost worthless in the early history of the county, until they were properly
- Hancock County's first exports were ginseng, venison, hams, furs, flax and
- Blue River is the largest stream in the county and was a good mill stream
the early pioneers. Sugar Creek is next in size and enters the county near the
north east corner and runs in a south west direction.
- Brandywine Creek rises in Brown Township about a mile west of Warrington and
runs in a south westerly direction through Brown and Jackson Townships and to
the central portion of Center Township and south through Brandywine Township.
- Other streams in Hancock County are Buck Creek, Nameless Creek, Six Mile
Little Brandywine Creek, Little Sugar Creek, and Lick Creek.
- Hancock County originally consisted of three townships, Blue River,
and Sugar Creek. These townships were organized in 1828, at the time of the
separation from Madison County, and each extending to the county line.
Branydwine Township was reduced to thirty sections in the same year and located
in the central southern portion of the county.
- Center Township was, in 1831, located north of Brandywine Township,
three miles north and south and six miles east and west containing eighteen
- Harrison Township was also organized in the same year and composed of the
remainder of Brandywine north of Center to the north line of the county.
- Buck Creek was cut off from Sugar Creek in 1831 and made to extend for the
congressional line sixteen to the north county line.
- Green Township was taken from the north part of Jackson and Harrison in
being the same territory now embodied in Brown and Green.
- In the year 1833, Brown Township was dissevered from Green Township and made
consist of thirty sections.
- Vernon Township was cut off from the north part of Buck Creek and consisted
thirty one sections.
- Jones Township was formed in 1838 by taking part of Sugar Creek and part of
Creek. Union Township was made up from the eastern part of Buck Creek and the
western part of Harrison and the south east corner of Vernon. Worth Township
was composed of the north part of Jackson and the north east corner of Center
and organized in 1850.
- At the March term, 1853, the County Commissioners divided Jones Township
Sugar Creek and Buck Creek; Union Township between Buck Creek, Vernon and
Center; Worth Township between Center and Jackson; and attached Harrison to
Center; thereby obliterating Jones, Union, Worth and Harrison Townships and
leaving nine civil townships.
- Hancock County was first settled about 1818. The first school house in the
county was a log cabin in Blue River built in 1823. In 1824 Joshua WILSON built
the first grist mill on the banks of Blue River. The Methodists were the first
religious society organized in the county. The first blacksmith was Thomas
PHILLIPS who had his shop on Blue River about 1822. The first tavern was
erected about 1825 near Greenfield. The first store in the county was owned by
Elijah TYNER and was located on Blue River.
- The first road in the county was an old Indian trail known as the "Napoleon
- In 1882 there were post offices located at Westland, Warrington, Willow
Cleveland, Charlottesville, McCordsville, Woodbury, Philadelphia, Gem, Mount
Comfort, Carrollton, Eden, Milner's Corner and Binwood.
- The first fair in Hancock was held in 1856 east of Greenfield. The first
published in the county was in 1844. An auxiliary of the American Bible Society
was organized in the county in 1837 by a Rev. RICHMOND.
|A Susquicentennial History|
- Greenfield, the county seat of Hancock County, was laid out in June 1828, by
five commissioners appointed for that purpose by the Indiana Legislature of
- The land from which Greenfield was carved was entered in 1826 and 1827 and
original plat of sixty acres was donated by Cornwell MEEK, Benjamin SPILLMAN and
John WINGFIELD. The name Greenfield was adopted on the suggestion of Samuel
VANGIEDER, Elisha CHAPMAN and John HUNTER.
- The first lot sold from the original plat was purchased by John ANDERSON,
deed bearing the date of June 4, 1828.
- The first to settle, on what later became the Town Siter, were Cornwell
Benjamin SPILLMAN, Morris PIERSON, Dr. Lot EDWARDS, William CARR, and Lewis
- The first business house, prior to the organization of the town, was built
John JUSTICE, of log post construction with clapboard siding and roof.
- The first frame building was erected in 1830 by Benjamin SPILLMAN. The
residence of any note was erected by James HAMILTON and used as a tavern.
- Being located on what was known as the National Road and being situated half
between the west and east boundry lines of Hancock County, the spot became
important as a stopping place for the stage lines. Many persons of state and
national note were among the early sojourners. John BRANDEN was the first
licensed tavern keeper, his place being located on what is now known as the
southeast corner of State and Main Sts.
- John CHAPMAN was the first postmaster of Greenfield.
- The first brick business block was erected by Hugh WOOSTER and Cornwell
- The Christian Church, the oldest in the town, was used for a district court
prior to 1842, at which time the County Seminary was built.
- The first Court House and the first Masonic Hall were erected in 1856.
- Greenfield was incorporated as a town in 1854 and grew gradually until 1867
when it took great strides in growth and civic improvement.
- In the year 1853 the first steam railroad was completed by the Indiana
Railroad Company. Later this road became part of the system known as the
"Pennsylvania" operating from New York to St. Louis.
- On May 8th of 1876 the City of Greenfield was incorporated. The first
meeting was held June 2, 1876.
- During the year 1876 natural gas was found, or struck by the Greenfield Gas
Oil Company was used over a period of 20 years for domestic and commercial
purposes. No one thing ever happening in this community had a greater effect on
the business live and growth of the city. Due to the very low cost of the fuel,
manufacturing institutions of many classes came to Greenfield. At one time
there were two window glass plants, one fruit jar factory, one rolling and
nail mill, a stove foundry, one gas machine shop, three printing and bindery
plants, one ice factory, as well as the Municipal Electric Light and Water
- The first paved or brick street was built on Main Street and certain
streets and alleys in 1897.
- The electric plant was dedicated in 1890 and the first water and sewer
were started in 1892 and 1893.
- The public-spirited citizens and civic organizations in 1924 caused the city
purchase a 20 acre plat of ground surrounding the banks of the Brandywine Creek,
in which was located a swimming hole used by the boys of years ago. This spot
was ... dedicated as Riley Memorial Park to the memory of James
a native of Greenfield, whose writings of the "Ole Swimming Hole" and "Banks of
the Brandywine" and scores of other poems has brought national fame to the city.
As a further development of the memorial during the year 1930, the park board
erected a modern sanitary swimming pool near the famous "Swimming Hole".
- During 1935 the city purchased the birthplace and childhood home of James
Whitcomb RILEY from his heirs. At the same time the council authorized the
formation of the "Riley Old Home Society". The society rehabilitated and
restored the home as of the year 1870. It was opened as a national shrine in
1937. The popularity of the poet is demonstrated by the fact that an average of
1,000 persons per month sign the register. The Hancock County Memorial Hospital
was built in 1951.
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Last updated 27 August 1996