Lawrence County Museum of History

Lawrence County Museum of History & Edward L. Hutton Research Library

A bicentennial look at
Marshall Township

The Hamer house in Avoca is said to have been a stagecoach waystation. This image is from1896. In the 1920s, it became part of the Avoca Fish Hatchery. The Hatchery was decommissioned in 2016. Perhaps it’s future will be as part of a county park.

The Hamer house in Avoca is said to have been a stagecoach waystation. This image is from1896. In the 1920s, it became part of the Avoca Fish Hatchery. The Hatchery was decommissioned in 2016. Perhaps it’s future will be as part of a county park.

By Becky Buher

Lawrence County’s Marshall Township was first created in 1855. It is located on the north side of the county between Perry and Pleasant Run Townships and named for the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall. 

Eliphalet Pearson is credited as being the first merchant in what is now Marshall Township. He came in 1826, before the township was established. Previously a ferryman on the Ohio River, he traded his ferry for goods valued at $5,000, moved to the McCrea farm and became a successful merchant and stagecoach waystation operator on the Leavenworth to Indianapolis stage line.

Avoca had been platted a few years earlier in 1819. Dr. Winthrop Foote named it for the River Avoca recorded in a Thomas Moore poem. Mr. Fitzpatrick built a spring-fed turbine water-wheel gristmill fitted with three sets of buhr stones to grind wheat, corn and chop feed. The Hamer brothers built a large two-story colonial style house near the spring in 1823. An upstairs room at that residence would later become a general store.

Once a week, mail came to Avoca from Louisville by horseback, and the person receiving the mail was charged 25 cents. Six yoke of oxen hitched to a linchpin wagon delivered groceries. A cattle trail ran through Avoca and was used for driving livestock to Louisville markets. A post office was established in 1856.

In 1876, the BSOB (Bedford-Springvile-Owensburg-Bloomfield) narrow gauge railroad line travelled through Avoca.

When the railroads were built, communities grew up along the tracks. Logan, Murdock, and Stemm were once lively Marshall township communities.

Slick Rock Ford was renamed Guthrie when the railroad came in 1854. W.W. Owens became that town’s first merchant/postmaster. A Judah School was established in 1862. Winepark Judah of the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago Railroad laid out the town in 1865. 

Men named Kinser and Whisman started a steam gristmill and sawmill in 1870, and later added machinery to make spokes. The Judah Hotel was there. At one time, six different Monon passenger trains stopped in Guthrie every day.

Guthrie once had three grocery stores, a blacksmith shop and a factory to make barrels. By 1878, Irish immigrants Sam May and his wife, started a dry goods and grocery business. Their family operated the store for three generations.

A 1913 flood was disastrous to the town. The water was three feet over the railroad tracks and furniture floated in some homes. 

An argument turned deadly there in the 1920s when William Fender was shot by his neighbor, Mr. Hassom, as they fought over who owned the bees that had swarmed on the fence separating their two properties. 

East of Guthrie is Peerless, which means matchless and incomparable. It became a “boom town” after it was platted in 1891. It’s located about 6 miles northwest of Bedford between Horseshoe Bend (aka Murdock) and Logan. The Peerless quarry opened in 1892. Later, W. McMillan and Son came from Chicago and created one of the industry’s finest mill and quarry operations.

Jackson J. Harrell was Peerless’ first postmaster in 1894. The quarry employed about 115 men and the town included about 200 people in the early 1900s. When the quarry and mill were booming, Peerless had three grocery stores, a large boarding house, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and of course, a saloon. 

Some workers lived at Jim Roe Blackburn’s two-story boarding house located about 100 feet from the mill. A work train transported other workers and limestone to and from the quarry. Six Monon passenger trains stopped there daily.

Two of the grocery stores were destroyed by fire in 1929, the quarry closed, the post office, located in Homer George’s store, closed when the store burned. After that, mail was delivered to Peerless families from the trains.

Another Marshall Township community is Needmore, which was founded in 1872. The community’s water came from local springs, and tradition has it that it was named for the early settlers’ need for more water.

The Marshall Township Consolidated School was built at Needmore in 1937 and later became Needmore School. In 1955, it had 516 students. Needmore basketball teams won the county tournament in 1947, 1948 and 1955. 

Marshall Township’s Goat Run became Coveyville, but Polecat, and Hell’s Half Acre are now historic memories.

Source: Museum records, Bedford Daily Times-Mail, June 13, 1956, Bedford Daily Times-Mail, Sat., Sept 15, 1956 Bedford Daily times-Mail, June 22, 1957, The Indianapolis News, Aug. 8, 1958, The Indianapolis News, Nov. 23, 1959, Indianapolis Star Magazine, Feb. 1966 and June 7, 1970, History of Lawrence, Orange, and Washington counties, Indiana—from the earliest time to present (1914) Indiana’s Abandoned Railroads, Part I, 1959. 

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