Lawrence County Museum of History

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

Bono once considered for state capital

Published in Times Mail newspaper June 7, 2018, by Becky Buher, Guest columnist


Lawrence County townships as organized in 1818—maps through the years are available for viewing in the Edward L. Hutton Research Library at the museum

Lawrence County townships as organized in 1818—maps through the years are available for viewing in the Edward L. Hutton Research Library at the museum


Much ado about organization

Much has changed in Lawrence County’s geographical description since the county was organized 200 ago.

In the beginning, there were five townships—Bono Township was located in the southeast corner of the county; Indian Creek Township was the whole northwest corner; Pleasant Run was in the northeast corner; Spice Valley in the southwest corner. Shawswick Township included the center of the county and extended to the county line on both the east and the south. Shawswick encompassed the largest land mass and included the county seat town of Palestine. 

The county boundary was changed in 1822 when the Indiana Legislature altered the eastern border moving it east two miles. The change resulted in Leesville, considered the county’s first settlement, “moving” from Jackson County into Lawrence County geographically.

Townships were soon added. Perry Township was carved out of the northwest corner of Indian Creek Township in 1822, and Flinn Township was added in 1823 removing a section of land on the east side of Shawswick Township. Marion Township was established in 1826 utilizing the southern section of Shawswick Township—eight townships.

Marshall Township came into existence in 1855 using lands from Indiana Creek and Pleasant Run Townships. Guthrie Township began in 1866 usurping land from Shawswick, Bono and Flinn Townships—ten townships.

But wait, Flinn Township, doesn’t exist today. Why? You guessed it—politics and taxes—a feud between Republicans and Democrats. Peace was finally accomplished between the quarreling factions when two thirds of the voters signed a petition to dissolve Flinn township. The Bedford Daily Mail reported Nov. 9, 1910, “The Board of Commissioners investigated the matter and made the order annexing the west two miles to Shawswick Township, and of the three miles on the east, the south four miles was given to Guthrie, and the north two miles to Pleasant Run Township—effective Jan. 1, 1911.”  That takes the township count back to nine—the number of townships that exist today.

To look in more detail at individual townships, let’s begin with the township once considered as the possible location of the Indiana state capital—Bono Township. 

Roderick Rawlins and his nephews settled in the Bono area in 1812 making it the second settlement in the county. In 1813, William Wright made the first land entry recording 142 acres.

The town of Bono is considered to be the oldest town in the county and was laid out in 1816. The community is located on a high bluff on the east side of White River about fifteen miles from Bedford. The first merchant was William Holland about 1818. Walker Kelso was the first physician. 

Elisha Simpson supervised the first election and David Green became inspector of elections in 1819. Moses Lee and Thomas Jolly were overseers of the poor. Robert Henderson was the first constable.

The farmers there needed to grind their grain, and John Hammersly made that his business when he started building and selling mills. His most ingenious gristmill was actually located in the river at Bono. In the History of Lawrence and Monroe Counties, Indiana: their people, industries and institutions, dated 1914, the publisher records, “He (Hammersly) built a cone-shaped dam, permitting the water to go through an opening in the center at a point where a large undershot wheel was placed between the flat-boats. The buhrs (grinding buhrstones) were on these boats and the grinding was done in midstream. This mill worked well until a flood washed the whole construction away.”

Bono flourished commercially until the Louisville, New Albany & Chicago railroad was built some distance west of Bono in the 1850s and made the movement of goods along the river less convenient and less profitable. The cemetery at Bono is one of the oldest in the county.

Among the other communities in Bono Township: Lawrenceport was platted in 1837 with 179 lots and named in honor of landowner, Josiah Lawrence. It is located at the mouth of Fishing Creek on White River. Dr. Knight was its first physician. S.P. Moore was a pioneer merchant and gristmill owner. A post office was established in 1851. Rivervale was named for its location on the East Fork of White River. Stonington is located a short distance southeast of Lawrenceport. It took its name from a local stone mill. 

More townships next month…

Source: History of Lawrence and Monroe counties, Indiana: their people, industries and institutions, 1914, published in Indianapolis by B.F. Bowen, and museum records.

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