A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the site of West Kinderhook, one of Hamilton County’s “lost” towns.
Technically, West Kinderhook lies in Tipton County, but it’s right on the Tipton/Hamilton County line and when the town was laid out in 1841, that land was actually part of Hamilton County. (Tipton County wasn’t created until three years later.)
Ed and Claire Snyder served as guides for the outing. That was a good thing because I would never have found West Kinderhook’s location on my own. It sits in a small clump of trees in the middle of a field, about two and a half miles east of Atlanta.
Besides Ed, Claire and myself, our little group of intrepid explorers included Ed’s sister, Lisa Hayner, and Ed and Claire’s friend, Jody Brown. Jody’s great-great-great grandmother, Eliza Goodykuntz, was one of the people who organized West Kinderhook’s church.
We waited until fall to pay our visit because the woods are full of poison ivy. However, when Claire called ahead to let the farmer who owns the property know we wanted to invade his field, we learned we should have come about a week earlier.
The farmer had just plowed his corn under. Luckily, the field had dried out some and wasn’t as muddy as it could have been, but it was still soft enough to make hiking through it a challenge.
All that’s left of West Kinderhook is a pump in remarkably good condition and a large stone with a plaque attached. The plaque, placed there by the Atlanta Christian Church in 2002, reads:
“Site of West Kinderhook community. Established by Dr. Silas Blount. Church services held in 1842 are believed to be the first in Tipton County. This church was the forerunner of the Atlanta Christian Church. Rev. Brazillai M. Blount, son of Silas, was the first minister of Atlanta.”
(I should note that most references to Dr. Blount’s son spell his name “Brazilla.”)
The stone and plaque mark the location of Dr. Blount’s log cabin.
I’ve written about Dr. Blount before, but it’s been several years, so I’ll refresh your memory. The good doctor wore many hats — medical practitioner, merchant, teacher, farmer, minister, postmaster and county judge.
A 1922 Noblesville Daily Ledger article states that Dr. Blount decided to name his town West Kinderhook, either because he was a friend of Eli Van Buren of Kinderhook, New York, or had read of him.
Curiously, I haven’t been able to find any information about Eli Van Buren. Since President Martin Van Buren was from Kinderhook, it seems likely the two men were related in some way, but I have no proof of that.
According to a 1935 Tipton Daily Tribune article, a log school and several homes were built at West Kinderhook. The town only lasted a few years, though.
In the early 1850s the Peru & Indianapolis Railroad (later known as the Nickel Plate) reached Buena Vista (Atlanta’s original name.) Losing out on the railroad pretty much sealed West Kinderhook’s fate.
A big thanks to everyone who braved the weather to attend the launch of “A Brief History of Noblesville” last week!
If you missed the launch, Nancy Massey and I will be signing books and presenting the program at the Hamilton County Historical Society dinner on December 2. It will be held at the First Presbyterian Church on Conner Street. You can come early and also attend the dinner, which starts at 6:30 p.m. or just come for the program at 7:15 p.m.
The program is free, but the dinner costs $17 and you’ll need to make reservations by calling 317-770-0775 by November 29.
-Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com