By: Paula Dunn
Hamilton County’s Bicentennial celebration moves to Delaware Township in October. Are you ready to test your knowledge of Delaware Township history?
1. True or False — Delaware Township has always covered the same geographic area.
2. One of Hamilton County’s covered bridges used to be located in Delaware Township. What was its name?
3. Fishers has gone by other names. What were they?
4. Name four Delaware Township communities that no longer exist.
5. Everyone knows William Conner was the first white man to settle in Delaware Township (and Hamilton County.) Who was the second?
6. What year did Fishers elect its first mayor and who was it?
7. Where is Heady Hollow?
8. True or False — William Conner’s life inspired an opera.
9. The first African American on record in Hamilton County was working for William Conner when a Kentuckian spotted him and spirited him off to slavery in the fall of 1820. What was the man’s name?
And the answers . . .
1. False. In the beginning, it was one of the only two townships in Hamilton County. (The other was White River Township.)
When the county was divided into nine townships in 1833, the smaller Delaware Township included land west of White River, but in 1954 that land became part of Clay Township. Delaware Township is now Hamilton County’s smallest township.
2. Eller’s Bridge. It crossed White River at 116th Street. The bridge burned down in 1957, a victim of arson.
3. Fisher’s Station and Fisher’s Switch. They were both in use during the days Fishers was a stop on the railroad.
4. Gray, New Britton, West Liberty and Mattsville. Gray, originally called East Branch, was at 146th Street and Gray Road. New Britton was located where the railroad crossed 131st Street (between Lantern Road and State Road 37.) West Liberty was at the intersection of 106th Street and Allisonville Road. Mattsville was at the intersection of 116th Street and Haverstick Road.
(If Gray and Mattsville were around today, they’d be in Clay Township.)
5. George Shirts. Shirts and his family settled on William Conner’s land in March, 1819 — a month before the Horseshoe Prairie settlers arrived. (Local historian Augustus Finch Shirts was his son.)
6. 2014. The city still has its original mayor, Scott Fadness.
7. Heady Hollow is the dip in Allisonville Road at 126th Street. The name comes from the Heady family, early settlers who lived nearby.
8. True. “A Hoosier Tale,” was presented at Butler’s Clowes Hall by the Indiana University Opera Theater in August of 1966 as part of Indiana’s Sesquicentennial celebration. (My mother took me to the performance and I still have the program!)
9. The correct answer is “nobody really knows.”
In the last few years he seems to have become “Pete Smith.” I believe that can be traced to a couple of newspaper articles published 60+ years after the fact in which Augustus Finch Shirts calls him “Pete” and another in which Shirts refers to him as “Smith.”
“Pete Smith” is an assumption, however, not an established fact. I’ve never run across a reference to “Pete Smith” in that context, and I’m wary of just assuming that was his name. Shirts hadn’t even been born at the time of the incident, so his information is second-hand.
Robert B. Duncan, who was ten when his family settled near William Conner’s trading post in March, 1820, wrote in 1879 that the African American’s name was Bill Allen.
It’s possible neither name is correct. If the man was an escaped slave, as some early settlers stated in later years, he could have been using an alias, like the Rhodes family.
Or, he may have gone by a Delaware name. (He’d been living among the Delawares long enough to acquire three wives!)
– Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at email@example.com