Beginning in 1955, The Washington Herald published articles written by Russell Colbert, our editor’s great-uncle. During this bicentennial year we will re-publish excerpts from the series for your enjoyment. These excerpts are unchanged from their original printing. As such, they may contain terms that are considered less acceptable today, but were considered appropriate at that time. We hope these articles prove useful to you in appreciating the history of this area we call home.
Editor’s note: Neither of the following maps shows the original outline of Daviess County. They are representations of the county in 1905 and 1910, respectively. We applaud the Indiana State Library for preserving them and encourage you to dig about further in their collection. — dlc
Published July 5, 1955
Daviess county was created by an act of the Indiana legislature which was signed by Governor Jonathan Jennings, the first governor of the state of Indiana, December 24, 1816. This was just 13 days after the admission of Indiana to the union as a state. Isaac Blackford was speaker of the house of representatives at the time and Christopher Harrison was Lieutenant Governor and president of the senate. Many interesting stories are told about Christopher Harrison, our first lieutenant government. He was originally from Maryland and was not a member of the famous Virginian Harrison family.
Birth and Breadth
By the terms of the act creating Daviess county it became effective February 15, 1817, so our county really had its beginning on that date. The act defined the boundaries of the county as follows:
“Beginning at the forks of the White river, running thence with the east fork of White river to the mouth of Lick creek; all of Green county east of the west fork of White river, thence down said west fork to the place of beginning. (Orange county then included Lawrence county, the latter was organized in 1818).”
As originally laid out Daviess county included, in addition to the present limits of the county, all of Martin county except that part south of Lick creek; all of Greene county east of the west fork of White river. The county was about 57 miles long extending from the east fork of White river almost to Gosport; its greatest width was almost 31 miles. Martin county was created in 1820 and Greene county in 1821, thus reducing Daviess county to its present boundaries.
Selection of Daviess County’s Seat of Government
The act by which Daviess county was created named William Bruce and Henry Ruble of Knox county, David Robb and William Barker of Gibson county and Thomas Fulton of Orange county as commissioners to located the county seat. These commissioners after considering various sites, among them London on the east fork of White river—a community which no longer exists—selected Liverpool, which is now included in the city of Washington, as the county seat.
Original County Officials
Obed Flint was appointed by Governor Jennings as sheriff of the new county and was authorized to call an election for county officials. At this first county election in Daviess county John Aikman, William Ballow and Ephraim Thompson were elected county commissioners. Emanuel Van Trees was chosen clerk and William H. Routt and James G. Read were elected associate judges. At the meeting of the county commissioners in May 1817 four townships were created: Perry, Reeve, Veale and Washington; Perry township was in what is now Martin county. For each of the new townships the commissioners also appointed fence viewers, constables, overseers of the poor, lister or assessors, road supervisors and agents for the school lands. Section 16 of each congressional township was school land; this was a provision of the Enabling Act signed by President Madison April 19, 1816, under this act the Indiana Territory was admitted to statehood. It was the original intention to rent the school land, but this proved impractical so most of the land was sold. With the sale of the land the office of agent for the school land passed out of existence.
Another action by the county commissioners at the May 18178 meeting was the appointment of Ebenezer Jones as county treasurer of Daviess county. Thus Flint, Van Trees, Jones, Routt, Aikman, Read, ballow and Thompson became our first county officials, serving in the offices indicated.
At that time the Circuit court was made up of a presiding judge elected by the state legislatures for the several counties of the circuit and two associate judges elected by the voters in each county.
It is interesting to note that several of our first county officials have either lineal or collateral (or both) descendants living in Daviess county today.