Springville boom became a gentle murmur
By Becky Buher
We continue our bicentennial tour of Lawrence County with Perry Township, named for sea commander, Oliver Hazard Perry, who conquered the British on Lake Erie during the war of 1812. The township was organized in 1822 usurping the northern portion of Indian Creek Township.
Native Americans once hunted game there, found good campsites, but had no settlements.
The earliest settlers (circa 1803) were John Gray and his wife, Mary Trumbo Gray. They lived so remotely that it was two years before Mary saw another white woman. John had learned much from the Indians and knew how to “weatherboard” his lodging with deerskins. Feral pigs, deer and bears were abundant. Gray was an excellent marksman and tall tales were told of him once shooting four deer with one bullet by using the same bullet twice.
Settlers congregated into an area near Spring Creek, and it became known as Springville.
Settlers became farmers. Ari Armstrong who came in 1815 had 1000 acres. Reuben Davis settled in 1816 and acquired 182 acres. Kenneth Dye came in 1819 and had 300 acres. John McDowell settled in 1820 and acquired 312 acres. Samuel Anderson had 261 acres in 1822. Noah Bridwell came in 1826, acquired 417 acres. But it is likely that most settlers held small tracts of land and were subsistence farmers.
One desired crop was cotton, and by 1828, Adam Gainey and Samuel Owens had a cotton gin and operated it for about seven years. An eccentric itinerant American circuit preacher, Lorenzo Dow, preached a sermon at their cotton gin. It was said that everyone within seven miles of Springville came to hear him.
Thomas R. Cobb was born two miles east of Springville in 1828. He became a member of Congress for the Second Congressional District of Indiana.
Judge E. D. Pearson was born in Springville in 1829. He attended common school, studied law at the State University in Bloomington, was admitted to the bar in 1850, and later was elected Judge of the Circuit Court.
By 1832, Samuel Owens had platted Springville with two streets, Adams and Perry, and 26 lots along Spring Creek. Garton’s Addition added 20 lots in 1835, and Joseph Athon created two more additions of 30 lots in 1836 and 1846.
Some early merchants were Samuel Owens, John Vestal, A. H. Gainey, Eliphalet Pearson, Samuel Reddle, Giles Gainey, M. & J. Helmer, Cornelius Wells, Franklin Crooke, Jabez Owen, Thomas Butler, Winepark Judah, W. & J. Cook, Short & Rafferty, Lowrey & Helmer, Dr. W. B. Woodward, James Tincher, Gainey & Anderson, and J. E. Dean.
By 1835, there was a stagecoach line passing through Springville travelling from Leavenworth to Indianapolis. The state road came through Springville.
African-American, William Preston and his family were recorded in the 1850 census in Perry Township, near Springville, owning real estate valued at $600. Preston was born in 1792 in Kentucky and served as a soldier in the War of 1812, fighting in the Battle of New Orleans.
At the outbreak of the War Between the States, Springville had 132 voters. All 132 voters and 12 minors enlisted to fight for the United States union.
Jeremiah Dean was a blacksmith in Springville for over twenty years. He enlisted in 1861. Lieutenant Dean, Ind. 15th Co. F, had the command of several hometown men. He survived the battles at Stones River, Shiloh, Chickamauga and Mission Ridge.
Some Springville casualties were: Samuel T. Smith of the15th Infantry, Co. F, died in Middle Tennessee at the battle of Stones River. Both Corp. Joshua Brazelton and Parris Holmes came home but died at Springville in 1862. John Hardwick, died at Springville in 1864. James Madison East, Co. F 43rd, Regiment, Indiana Infantry, is buried at a private cemetery north of Springville. He was discharged, 1862 and died in 1864.
Business boomed— farmers hauled corn, wheat, tobacco and meat for Louisville markets. Springville had harness and blacksmith shops, a tanyard, sawmills, woolen mills, boot shops, a hatter, tailor and cabinet shop.
In 1874, the 35-mile Bedford, Springville, Owensburg and Bloomfield Railway was built. Contrary to expectations, the railroad took business away to Bedford, and Springville lost its growth potential.
In 1880, Popcorn became the township’s only other settlement.
Today, the township remains rural with beautiful rolling hills, and farmers still produce grain and cattle.
Source: 1871 Business directory of Lawrence County includes: Perry Township, 1880-Representative men of Indiana 2nd Dist,. Page 26, Biographical history of Eminent and Self-made Men of the State of Indiana, History of Lawrence, Orange, and Washington counties, Indiana from the earliest time to present, The Indianapolis News, May 19, 1928, museum records.
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The following was not printed with the story in the Times-Mail newspaper, but is added here for additional information on Reuben and Hanna Davis.
Reuben David was born in 1791 in North Carolina. In 1816, he came to Lawrence County, Indiana. In 1820, he filed for land entry, through the land office in Vincennes, for land in Lawrence County, near the village of Springville (Popcorn area) in Perry Township where he built a log cabin homestead. In the same year, 1820, he married Hannah Clark, also from North Carolina.
Hanna Clark Davis brought her belongings in a small deerhide trunk. Her father, William Clark, came with her to Indiana staying at the homestead with Hannah and Reuben for a year while he built home furnishings for the humble homestead cabin. William Clark was the brother of General George Rogers Clark. The cherry corner cupboard and tall wooden grandfathers clock which he made were still being used by Davis family descendants in the Railbolt family in 1990s.
The shirt as well a many of the belongings of Hanna Clark Davis were donated by Hanna and Reuben’s great, great, great, great, great granddaughter, Mary J. Apple.