BOONE COUNTY is bounded north by Clinton, east by Hamilton, south by Marion and Hendricks, and west by Montgomery. It is twenty-four miles long from east to west, and seventeen miles wide, and contains 408 square miles. The south-eastern, western and north-western portions are agreeably undulating; the interior generally level. The county was organized in 1830, and was named after the celebrated Daniel Boone, whose love of forest life, enterprise and disinterestedness were prototypes of much that is still admirable in western manners. The population of the county was 622 in 1830, 8,121 in 1840, and at this time at least 14,000. It is divided into eleven civil townships, Marion, Clinton, Washington, Sugar Creek, Jefferson, Centre, Union, Eagle, Perry, Harrison and Jackson.
The soil in most parts of the county is a black loam, usually several feet in depth, on a stratum of clay, and in some places of sand or coarse gravel. It is very fertile and well adapted for the production of wheat, corn, oats, grass, and all kinds of vegetables. There is no part of the State where the timber is heavier or of a better quality. It is not uncommon to see, on a single acre, 100 oak trees averaging four feet in diameter, and from 5O to 120 feet in height. The other forest trees which are most common, are ash, walnut, poplar, beech, sugar tree, &c. The only prairies are Smith’s, Hagan’s and Eel, which are small and wet, except a portion of Hagan’s, which is dry and agreeably undulating. They may all be drained with a little ditching, and made dry enough for tillage.
The principal kinds of surplus produce are wheat, corn, beef, pork, honey, &c., and cattle, hogs, horses and mules are driven to market. The annual value of the exports is estimated at $150,000, which consist of 100,000 bushels of wheat, 5,000 of corn, 10,000 hogs, 2,000 cattle, 200 horses and 150 mules. There are in the county twenty-one stores, one licensed grocery, eight lawyers, twenty physicians, six Ministers of the Gospel, eighteen churches of various denominations, about twenty taverns, sixteen saddle and harness makers, twenty shoe-maker’s, thirty carpenters, sixteen cabinet makers, ten coopers, five wagon makers, twenty-five blacksmiths, eight tanners and curriers, five brick layers, two tinners, one potter and six tailors; eight grist mills, ten saw mills, one woollen factory, propelled by water, and one steam saw mill. All building materials, except rock, are abundant and of an excellent quality.
Boone county is situated on the ridge or what were formerly called the dividing swamps between White river and the Wabash. It is the source of Eagle creek, White Lick and Walnut Fork of Eel river which empty into the former, and Big Raccoon and Sugar creek which empty into the latter. All these streams are quite large and important near their mouths; but they are very sluggish near their sources, and are there not well adapted to move machinery, though the former and the latter have some very good water privileges, yet still far from sufficient for public use, especially in dry seasons.
The heavy timber, level surface and porous soil of Boone county were not very attractive to the agriculturist at the first settlement, and accordingly the pursuit of game and the collection of skins, furs and wild honey, were reckoned far more important than any kind of farming. The only real necessaries for a family were then thought to be two rifles, powder and lead, a barrel of salt, a camp kettle and a couple of dogs. Deer, turkeys, bears and wolves were abundant, and the latter often came into the very door yards of the settler and took away his pigs and poultry. The only currency was the skins of deer, raccoons, minks and wild honey, and even as late as 1841, the trade in these articles was over $5,000 a year. It is said that in these early times a traveller from Cincinnati, in company with a resident of the county, fell in with a man whose horse was so covered and loaded with skins of “varments,” as almost to hide both horse and rider, and the only information he could get was that this was the Collector of the county, returning to the county seat with his “funds,” from one of the townships. At any rate, the story found its way into the newspapers, and those who gave full credit to the statement must have supposed the Collector of Boone had an odd set of customers to collect his “poll taxes” from. The coon skins, it was said, were for State, the deer for county revenue, and the mink for change. About the same time it was said that one of the Judges, who, for want of other accommodations, had taken his luncheon to Court, was supposed at a distance to be reading a newspaper, when, on nearer approach, it was ascertained that he was only eating a large buckwheat pancake.
There are few if any counties in the State where greater alterations have taken place within the last ten years; for many of the swamps have disappeared and first rate farms may now be found in every neighborhood. The opening of the Wabash and Erie Canal, and the proposed continuation of the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad to Lafayette, which is now in progress, are giving life and energy to the industry and enterprise of the citizens.
This county was once the abode and hunting ground of the Eel river tribe of the Miami Indians; here were their wigwams, their fields, and the graves of their fathers and their brave warriors. In 1819, Thorntown had a population of 400 Indians and a few French traders, and the large reserve at this place was not finally purchased until 1828, nor did they remove entirely until about 1835. Nearly all traces of this Indian population are now obliterated, and except the marks on the trees in their sugar camps, nothing they have done remains to bear witness of their ever having existed.
The whole number of acres of taxable land in the county is 255,000, and there are no longer any lands of the United States or Indian reservations here.
Topography of Boone County Indiana
Big Raccoon, an excellent mill stream, seventy-five miles in length, rises in the south-west corner of Boone county, runs south-west through Montgomery, Putnam and Parke, and empties into the Wabash two miles below Montezuma. The land along the whole course of this creek is not surpassed in fertility by any part of the State. The manufacturing privileges are very valuable and are now mostly well improved, and this part of the State is now very flourishing.
Brown’s Wonder, a small creek in Boone county, a tributary of Sugar creek.
Centre, a township in Boone county, with a population of 1,650.
Clarkstown, a small village in Boone county, pleasantly situated fifteen miles north-west of Indianapolis.
Clinton, a northern township, in Boone county, with a population of 950.
Eagle Creek, a fine mill stream rising in Boone county, runs south about forty miles, and empties into White river on the west side, four miles below Indianapolis. Its Indian name was Lau-a-shinga-paim-honnock, or “Middle of the Valley,” so called from the beautiful bottoms that extend along it, sometimes from two to four miles in width.
Eagle, a south-eastern township in Boone county, with a population of 2,000.
Eagle Village, a pleasant town on the Michigan road, in the south-east corner of Boone county, fourteen miles north-west of Indianapolis, and the same distance south-east of Lebanon. It contains about forty houses.
Eel River, a branch of White river, emptying into it at Point Commerce, in Greene county, is about the same length and width as the former, though in high water it runs much more and in dry seasons much less water. It rises in Boone and runs first south-west and then south-east through Hendricks, Putnam, Clay and Owen counties.
Fishback, a tributary of Eagle creek, in Boone county.
Harrison, a southern township in Boone county, population 710.
Jackson, a south-west township in Boone county, population 1,200.
Jamestown, a small town with about thirty houses and 150 inhabitants, in the south-west corner of Boone county, on the Indianapolis and Crawfordsville road, twenty-nine miles from the former and sixteen from the latter place. It is ten miles south-west of Lebanon, and has a fine farming country around it.
Jefferson, a western township in Boone county, population 930.
Lebanon, the County Seat of Boone, is situated on the State road from Indianapolis to Lafayette, twenty-six miles from the former and thirty-five from the latter. The Railroad between the two points will pass near the same route. Lebanon was laid out in 1832, and the first settler was A. H. Longley. It now contains eighty dwelling houses, four of brick and 76 frame, and a population of 500. The public buildings in Lebanon are a good Court House, a County Seminary, nearly finished, and Methodist and Christian Churches.
Marion, a north-east township in Boone county, population 920.
Mechanicsburgh, a small town on Sugar creek, north part of Boone county, eight miles north of Lebanon. It was first settled in 1836, by Moses Davison.
Mud Creek, a tributary of Sugar creek, in Boone county.
Northfield, a small town on the Michigan road, in Boone county, ten miles east of Lebanon and nineteen north north-west of Indianapolis. It was first settled in 1830, by Hiram McQuitty, population 150.
Perry, a northern township in Boone, population 620.
Rackoon, or Big Rackoon, a fine mill stream which rises in the south-west corner of Boone, and runs through Montgomery, Putnam and Parke into the Wabash. Its whole length is about 70 miles, and the country watered by it is not surpassed in fertility of soil, quality of timber, and beauty of situation, by any part of the State. Fifteen miles from its mouth, it receives Little Rackoon from the north, which is about 30 miles in length, and is also a valuable mill stream. The flouring mills on Big Rackoon, at Armiesburgh, Roseville, the Portland mills, and Crosby’s & Mulligan’s mills, are among the best in the State.
Royalton, a small town near the south line of Boone, on the Indianapolis and Lafayette State road, 14 miles from the former and 48 from the latter.
Sugar Creek, or Rock river, rises in the south-east of Clinton and runs west and south-west through Boone, Montgomery and Parke, falls into the Wabash five miles above Montezuma. Its whole course is about 100 miles.
Sugar Creek, a north-west township in Boone, population 1,650.
Thorntown, a pleasant village in Boone county, nine miles north-west of Lebanon, on the rail-road route from Lafayette to Indianapolis, 26 miles from the former and 36 from the latter. It was an Indian town in the centre of the Thorntown or 10 mile reservation, first settled by the whites in 1830. The population is now about 400. It has four churches, one each for the N.S. Presbyterians, O. S. Presbyterians, Methodists, and Christians. The water power on Sugar and Prairie creeks, and the fine soil in the vicinity must make Thorntown an important point.
Union, an eastern township in Boone, population 1,350.
Walnut Fork of Eel river, rises in the south-west part of Boone, runs through Putnam and joins Mill creek, or the main branch of Eel, in Clay county.
Washington, a northern township in Boone, population 1,600.
White Lick, a fine mill stream that rises in Boone, runs south through Hendricks and Morgan, and falls into White river seven miles above Martinsville. Near the mouth of this stream are quarries of excellent freestone.
White Lick Knob, a solitary hill near the mouth of White Lick, that presents fine views of the surrounding country. Near its base is the deer lick from which the creek has its name.
Wolf Creek, a tributary of Sugar creek, in Boone county.
Source: Chamberlain, E. The Indiana gazetteer, or, Topographical dictionary of the state of Indiana. Indianapolis: E. Chamberlain, 1850. Information transcribed and contributed by Sheryl McClure, 2015.