In this section you will find an interesting historical account of the communities that make up Gibson County.
Gibson County was once a wilderness situated in the Northwest Territory which, in 1784, was ceded to the United States of America by Virginia. The State of Indiana was organized April 19, 1816.
John Severns is recognized as the first white settler in Gibson County, arriving in 1789. He operated a ferry on the south side of the Patoka River.
A Welsh man, Severns answered the call of the colonists in the Revolutionary War, but on his first trip home to Virginia, Indians swooped upon the family. Severns' parents, sister, and younger brother were killed, while he and an older brother were kept as prisoners.
Severns, a short, heavy-set man, was held captive seven years before he was able to escape.
He later acquired a knowledge of surveying and assisted government surveyors in Pennsylvania and Kentucky. In 1789, he penetrated the wilderness of the Northwest Territory and he and his family settled on the south bank of the Patoka River near what is now the town of Patoka.
They lived as cave dwellers for several months until the Indians, remnants of the Shawnee tribe residing on the north side of the river, allowed the family to construct a crude hut of boughs, skins and other materials.
Severns was allowed to continue his residence in that region, now known as Severns' Bridge, and to establish a ferry upon the conditions that he keep ''firewater'' for the Indians and allow them free use of the ferry.
Originally belonging to Knox County, what is now Gibson County came to be in 1813. The county derives its name from Gen. John Gibson, a gallant soldier of the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.
Gibson was born in Pennsylvania in 1740 of Scottish-Irish ancestry, and he was well educated. In 1763, he was captured by Indians and was adopted by a squaw whose son had died in battle.
With the Indians, Gibson mastered several languages, along with the customs of several tribes. He was later released and he returned to business in Pittsburgh.
Gibson was appointed territorial secretary of Indiana in 1800 and held that office until 1816. While Gen. William Henry Harrison, governor of Indiana, was engaged in the War of 1812, Gibson was acting governor. He died in 1822, shortly before his 82nd birthday.
Harrison later became the ninth president of the United States. He caught a cold on his inauguration day in 1841 and died a month later. He was best known for the first half of the campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." Harrison was given the nickname of "Tippecanoe" after defeating the Shawnee Indians in 1811 at Tippecanoe. John Tyler was his vice president, who succeeded him April 4, 1841.
In February, 1814, at a special session of the court of common pleas, a county seat was located by commissioners Capt. William Prince, Robert Elliott, Abel Westfall and William Polk.
The name of the county seat was selected by the drawing of lots among the commissioners, Prince winning. Hence, Princeton was named.
Patoka, an Indian word for "log on the bottom" which referred to the many logs that had settled in the mud of the bottom of the Patoka River, was first called Smithville.
John Smith, a merchant, organized the first settlement, although John Severns is recognized as the first white settler.
Patoka was settled in 1789 and platted in 1813. It was named for the Patoka River.
Former names for Patoka were; Smithfield, for John Smith, an early settler; and Columbia.
Patoka is one of, if not the oldest town in Gibson County.
Thomas H. Martin of the regular Baptist faith, often preached to people in their homes in Smithfield. He was owner of Smithfield's first hotel.
In October 1813, after being laid out as a town, Smithfield was changed to Columbia.
The name Columbia was used until the townspeople asked for a Post Office. Because there was another Columbia in Indiana, a new name had to be chosen.
Since the village of Columbia set upon the banks of the Patoka River, the post office took the name for the town. "Patoka" means 'loggy bottom or river." It was named by the Indians because of the many logs and drifts in the river. Flatboats, and Steam Crafts and stave barges have ran upon its waters.
Patoka has been known as a great town for sawing lumber. Their furnishings of material have enabled other small towns to grow.
At one time, Patoka had the largest, most extensive distillery in the United States. These distilleries were so prosperous for Patoka that an enlargement was added on.
Patoka, according to the U.S. Census, had 704 residents in 1990. Patoka students today attend schools in Princeton as part of the North Gibson School Corp.
Hazleton, located on the south bank of the White River in northern Gibson County, is the county's second oldest town.
Gervas Hazleton, the second permanent white settler in the county and the town's namesake, was granted licenses for a tavern and a ferry in 1813.
The town was surveyed and platted in 1856. Hazleton, due to its location adjacent to the White River, became an important port in the days of flatboats and keelboats. Cargoes of corn, wheat and port were shipped to New Orleans, La., from Hazleton every week.
The first steamboat of any note to pass up the White River was the "Cleopatra," which attracted crowds of people.
The town became crippled by bad whiskey and destructive fires that consumed businesses and other important structures.
Railroad facilities were excellent with river advantages and the large expanse of farm land and forests.
Flat and Keel boats transported produce, groceries and dry goods.
The first building erected was a store frame in 1856, built by T. S. Fuller and Abraham Westfall.
According to the U.S. Census, the population of Hazleton in 1990 was 357.
Hazleton students attend school in Princeton as part of the North Gibson School Corp.
The first settlers arrived in what is now Johnson Township in 1804, nine years before Gibson County was organized. Henry Haub is credited with building the first house, and he operated a general store and stage station. The Post Office with Haub as Post Master was established January 8, 1856.
This German town is rare in Indiana names.
The village was first called Haub's Station, then sometime after 1852 when the Evansville and Terre Haute Railroad was built through Gibson County, it was renamed Haubstadt.
The German word "stadt" is translated as village, town, or city.
Although legally and officially platted in 1855, Haubstadt was not incorporated until 1913. The incorporation of the town was bitterly opposed by some citizens.
According to the U.S. Census, Haubstadt in 1990 had 1,455 residents.
Haubstadt currently has one public grade school (K-8) and two Catholic grade schools - Sts. Peter and Paul (K-6), located in Haubstadt, and St. James (K-8), located about a mile south of town.
The South Gibson School Corp. recently constructed a new K-8 community school for Haubstadt area children.
Haubstadt teenagers attend Gibson Southern High School as part of the South Gibson School Corp.
Fort Branch began as one of series of forts established along the edge of the western frontier in 1811 to protect the pioneers against raids by roving Indian tribes.
Fort Branch was laid out in 1852. It was named for the pioneer outpost, Fort Branch, built in 1811 which was near the present town. The town has grown much over the years. Log cabins on the South side are now gone. The Foster and Low and Strain storehouses and Tom Strain residence still stand.
It had been previously called Legrange.
The name Legrange was changed to Fort Branch because of another Legrange, Ind.
According to the Historical Society's book entitled The township line between Johnson and Patoka townships ran right through the center of the town and as Fort Branch soon showed signs of growth, house after house was added. Business after business came. The General Baptist and the Methodist both built churches but the school was handicapped on account of the inconvenience of the township line. There was not enough town on either side to support a school and those on the south side had to send to the old Marvel Schoolhouse which was on the W. T Stilwell farm. And those on the north side had to be sent to the Hopkins Schoolhouse near the cemetery and town children never felt at home going to school in the country. Descendants of the first families still live there today.
According to the U.S. Census, Fort Branch in 1990 had 2,447 residents.
Today, Fort Branch has a public elementary school (K-8), plus Holy Cross Catholic grade school (1-5).
High school students attend Gibson Southern High School, just west of Fort Branch, as part of South Gibson School Corp.
Long before Princeton was platted and before Gibson County was formed, pioneer James McClure deeded 30 acres of land to parties who eventually donated 10 acres which include what is now the public square.
Named for Capt. William Prince, one of four commissioners whose name was drawn from lots to name the settlement, Princeton's first house was erected by Capt. Thomas Chapman in 1814.
Chapman established a hotel - The Traveler's Inn - and boarded the hands who constructed the first courthouse. He sold the hotel in 1815.
A post office was established in Princeton in 1816, while the post office currently used was built in 1913 for $49,500. By 1818, Princeton businesses included a blacksmith shop, harness shop, pottery, cabinet shop, hatter industry, gunpowder mill, distillery and a copper shop. A cotton factory was built in 1824 near what is now the corner of Prince and Walnut streets. It was destroyed by fire in 1829 and never rebuilt.
Princeton was incorporated as a city in 1884.
On July 12, 1893, a fire started in a millinery store and within an hour every building on the block west of the square was ablaze. The fire, swept by a gale of wind, started on West Broadway Street, leaped across State Street, destroying two houses, a warehouse and two church buildings. A house and barn on North Main Street also caught fire from flying cinders.
According to Harry K. Stormont, former editor of the Clarion-News, sparks from an engine used in running the press for the Farmers & Laborers, a Populist Party weekly, were supposed to have caused the fire.
It was the first major disaster ever to visit the city and, while no lives were lost, the fire spread to at least 50 buildings in the business district, two churches and several warehouses, and scores of outbuildings, etc., which covered an area nearly equal to three blocks.
At 4:15 on March 18, 1925, 20 Princeton residents died and more than 200 were injured when a tornado leveled Baldwin Heights and McKaw Summit. The twister damaged or destroyed several hundred structures, including the H.J. Heinz Co. building on South Main Street.
According to the U.S. Census, Princeton in 1990 had 8,127 residents.
Princeton today has one public high school (Princeton Community), one public middle school, and two public grade schools - Brumfield and Lowell.
In addition, there is one Catholic grade school, St. Joseph (k-5, 8), and two Christian schools - Temple Christian Academy (K-12) and Bethel Christian (K-8) - are available.
Owensville was laid out February 18, 1817 by Philip Briscoe, a Kentuckian. It is named for Thomas Owen, a famous Kentuckian. Briscoe was Post Master, establishing the Post Office April 25, 1818.
Before this in 1814, Willis Alsop kept a small store at the present site of Owensville.
About 1820, the most important person in the early history of Owensville came and located there. John B. Warrick was the son of Captain Jacob Warrick who was killed at the Battle of Tippecanoe. He was in the mercantile business and carried on a very extensive business in buying and shipping immense quantities of pork, grain and all kinds of produce. He became quite wealthy. He gave employment to a large number of people.
The "great fire" in 1876 consumed the whole east side except for the brick building located on the northeast corner. Solid brick businesses now fill this gap.
According to the U.S. Census, Owensville had a population of 1,053 in 1990.
Today, Owensville has one public grade school (K-8) and high school students attend Gibson Southern High School as part of the South Gibson School Corp. The corporation recently constructed a new K-8 community school for Owensville area children.
Oakland City was platted in January 15, 1856 by James W. Cockrum and Warrick Hargrove.
It was originally called Oakland because of the oak groves on the town site. The first post office was established as Oakland City on March 15, 1860.
Col. James W. Cockrum was the father of Oakland City. He is known to have done more than any other man to build up the town.
Another prominent citizen was Jacob W. Hargrove.
Oakland City, like many towns in Gibson County, was named too late. When the government was asked to give the town a post office, they were refused because of another Oakland in the state where a post office was already established. The name was then changed to Oakland City as it remains today.
Oakland City's first newspaper was the Oakland Independent. It was published in a small frame building which stood on the present site of the Presbyterian Church.
Today, it is home of Oakland City University, formerly known as Oakland City College. It is the only college in Gibson County.
Oakland City's first school was founded in 1860. Currently, Oakland City Elementary (K-6), Wood Memorial Junior High School (7-8) and Wood Memorial High School are located in Oakland City, as part of the East Gibson School Corp. The high school and city elementary recently underwent a $6 million (construction costs only) renovation and reconstruction project.
The town was incorporated in 1885 and is now the county's second largest community with a 1990 census of 2,810.
William Reavis and his wife in 1817 settled near what is now Francisco after a tedious trip on pack horses from North Carolina.
Francisco was built on the line of the old Wabash and Erie canal. Had the canal continued in operation, Francisco would be one of the leading towns in Southern Indiana.
Francisco was platted and laid out in January of 1851 by John Perkins a Spanish laborer. He pushed enterprise by building several businesses, houses and dwellings. He went into business for himself building two flour mills. People came from all over the country to have their grain ground or to procure lumber. Perkins bought grain from them and in return, they bought goods from his stores.
Packing houses were built by Moore and Knowles. Farmers butchered their hogs at home and hauled them to these pork houses. Ruben Baldwin also built a packing house in Francisco. It was later taken over by Dr. Ireland who came to Francisco in 1854. In 1858 the canal above Port Gibson ceased to operate
A log schoolhouse was built. The first school teacher was Mrs. Sweeney in 1851.
Francisco, in 1990, had a population of 560, according to the U.S. Census.
Francisco today has an elementary school (K-8). High school students attend Wood Memorial High School in Oakland City.
Somerville was laid out in 1853 and originally named Summitville, because it was on high ground.
Its present name was applied by the Post Office Department to avoid confusion with another Summitville in Indiana.
A man named Zeigler formed the first business in Somerville. The first Post Master was Samuel G. Barrett. He also owned a store. When the mail arrived Barrett would close his store, go outside and call the mail deliveries through a window. The first lady to start a business was Liz Wallace.
The 'big well' at Somerville was dug in 1854. Farmers joined the Irish on the railroad in digging this well. The well was directed by John Martin. Reaching a depth of about 50 feet they put a heavy blast into the hole and a shovel of fire to set it off. A man named Pat Flanigan was lowered into the hole and found himself up to his shoulders in water. When they were finished, the well stood 30 feet in the finest water in the whole country. People from ten miles came to draw water from this well. The people of Somerville were religious and for many years, preaching was done in the woods under a large sugar tree. They would gather at 10 a.m. and the first sermon continued until noon. They would break for lunch and the second sermon would continue until sometimes 4 p.m. The Rev. John Kell was the first minister to preach at Somerville.
Somerville was the home of Co. F 42nd Ind. Vol. The company commander was Cop. Samuel G. Barrett and William M. Cockrum. A man named Henderson who taught school in Somerville became Colonel of the 33rd. Ind. Somerville will always be noted for their patriotism and good soldiers.
Mackey was founded around 1882, but had it's beginning in 1784. Inhabitants of Mackey dwelled in caves and survived on berries, corn, buffalo, bear, elk, deer and fish.
The town was named for David James Mackey, a railroad builder. The first postmaster was Mackel Market whou founded the first post offcie in 1884. The first school was built in the late 1800's.
The village of Wheeling was platted July 4, 1856. It was first called Kirksville, sometimes spelled Kirkville. It may have been named for Robert Kirk, an early judge. Locally it was also called Bovine. A Post Office called Bovine was established on April 4, 1854 but closed July 14, 1902.
Formerly called Cabot. It was settled in 1811 and named for a prominent local family whose name was spelled Crowley.
Mounts was a village that was established in 1880 as a flag station.
A Post Office was established in Mounts May 3, 1886. It closed November 15, 1919.
Mounts was named for a local family, Mathias and Smith Mounts. They settled in this area around 1806. Smith Mounts fought with General Wayne at Tippecanoe and many of his relatives lived in this area.
ST. JAMES STATION
St. James Station was named for the local St. James Catholic Church. It was established September 30, 1878; closed September 15, 1902.
St. James Church was named for the fourth bishop of Vincennes, the Right Rev. James Maurice deLong d'Aussac de Saint Palais. The Bishop used the name, Maurice.
Its leading business was carried on by John TenBarge, a general merchant and agricultural implement dealer.
The Kings Station Post Office was established November 30, 1868. This Post Office closed November 28, 1882.
The village was named for John King, who settled here in 1818.
Warrenton was platted in 1840. It was named for General Joseph Warren of the American Revolution.
The Post Office was established October 26, 1841 and closed January 8, 1856.
Variant names have been; Greeley, Tracewell and Warrentown.
EAST MT. CARMEL
East Mt. Carmel village was established in 1885 by Jess Wiseman.
Its name is locational. Mt. Carmel, Illinois is located just across the Wabash River.
Another name for Mt. Carmel was Fetters.
This village was originally called Ennes for a pioneer blacksmith named William Ennes.
Samuel Kelly, a schoolteacher, gave the village its present name. It reminded him of the Greek mountains.
"Olympus" means home of the Greek Gods.
Giro was laid out in 1848 and the name was changed to Buena Vista for the Mexican War, battle of February 22 and 23, 1847.
The Post Office, called West Buena Vista, was established March 25, 1854. It closed February 5, 1877.
Another Post Office called Giro was established February 9, 1887 and closed July 14, 1902.
Giro is also found in Australia and Africa as a place name.
A Post Office was established here in 1847. There are several attempts to explain how Buckskin got their name. One explanation was that it got its name from deerskins that hung on trading post walls.
Another explanation was that the road from Boonville to Princeton was cut through a woods. The stage coach carried passengers and mail by means of this road to their destinations. Hunters would take their skins to the roadside and hang them putting the names of the merchants they were to go to on the skins. The stage coach driver would stop to pick up the skins for deliveries. Emil Sasse, a young German from Evansville started a small store on this road in the early fifties. He also set up a post office and named it "Buckskin." Sasse, along with his brother, Theodore went into business together in Buckskin. They were so successful they had to open another store and hire employees. They became rich and began to buy farms and tracts of land until they owned much of the properties.
They began to buy leaf tobacco during the war. They were also bankers of the neighborhood. Emil Sasse was elected trustee of Barton township and twice as treasurer of Gibson County.
The store at Buckskin eventually began to decline and soon after it closed the E & I Railroad was built. A new town was laid out on this road and Herman Buckskin opened a store, secured the Post Office and continued the town at Buckskin.
Since Sasses owned nearly all the land available for town lots and were not selling any of it, Buckskin was hampered in its growth.
Lyles Station was a village in Gibson County. It was known as the Cherry Grove vicinity before the Civil War. The first settler was Joshua Lyles. Lyles Station was named in his honor in 1886. Joshua became interested in agriculture when he settled in Gibson county and soon became the owner of over 12,000 acres of land, north and west of Lyles Station.
Lyles Station was formed mainly because it was the only train location in this part of Indiana were freed slaves were allowed off of the train. Many freed or escaped slaves made their home at Lyles Station. It was the only all African-American community in Indiana at the time.
Six acres were donated to the Airline Railroad (now known as Southern) on the condition that they would maintain a station in Lyles. By the 19th century there was a population of 800.
During the administration of Grover Cleveland in 1866 Lyles Station was granted a post office. The office was petitioned for by William Roundtree.
The first schools were started around 1865. The teachers were paid through monthly subscriptions from patrons. Charges were $1 to 1.50 a month for each pupil. Later in 1919 the consolidated school was built. It was abandoned in 1958.
The Roundtree Settlement was the suburbs of Lyles. James Roundtree petitioned for a school which operated until it was consolidated with Patoka.
The town of Johnson settled in 1911 along the Penn Central Railroad and was named for a Railroad Construction Superintendent.
The pioneers of this township came from the southern states, mostly Kentucky and Tennessee. They possessed untiring energy and dauntless courage. Their task was to clear the land of forests and make way for emigration.
They were a noble people that knew no luxuries. They were sympathetic and kind people.
A few German families made their appearance in Johnson. They had left the land of oppression to come to the land of the free. They were poor, honest and frugal. They could only buy that land which was poor in quality.
The German people knew much about cultivation. His straw was used for feeding and bedding his stock and found its way back to the soil. The soil was properly cultivated and fertilized year after year until it reached a degree of perfection. This was done over and over through the years until the whole territory of worn out farmland was blossoming.
This village laid out in March 1851 by William Carpenter and Isaac Street.
A post office was established on September 9, 1851 and later closed on March 24, 1862.
The site was ideal and well laid. There were broad streets, a public square in the center of the town, and lots were large.
Dongola had the advantage of Francisco. Merchants were able to ship produce by canal or flatboat down the Patoka River.
A large saw mill plant was located in Dongola. This furnished many towns with lumber for building.
Shooting matches and fist fights were common. Dongola was a tough place.
The lumber business was the last to die when the town became desolate.
Dongola ceased to exist when the old canal closed.
This Sudanese place name is also found in Kentucky and Illinois.
This old town plot is south of the southern limits of Oakland City.
A man named Mason felt this was a good place to build a town.
Three dwelling houses were built but no business was ever established in Windham.
Windham and Dongola were like seed sowed among thorns. They were both choked to death.