News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 23, 2013

Historical perspective: Terre Haute becomes incorporated as town in 1832

Mike McCormick
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — On Jan. 26, 1832, the village of Terre Haute — platted in 1816 — became an incorporated town by an act of the Indiana legislature.

During a meeting at the Vigo County Courthouse on March 25, the town was divided into five wards and William Herrington, Thomas Houghton, James Barr McCall, James Ross and James Wasson were each chosen trustee of the ward he represented.

Some accounts assert that James Warren was a trustee, instead of James Wasson, but Wasson is the more likely choice. He was the third owner of the Eagle & Lion, an inn and tavern in the village, and a promoter of the Terre Haute Seminary in 1833.

Soon after Capt. Wasson died in 1840, the Wasson residence at Sixth and Ohio streets was acquired by Beebe and Hannah Booth, parents of Newton and Elizabeth Booth. Wasson was a merchant marine in New England before relocating to Indiana.

On April 7, the new municipal government elected McCall, president; James Tillery Moffatt, town clerk; Charles G. Taylor, assessor; Samuel Crawford, town treasurer; and William Marrs, constable and collector.

A surveyor by profession, McCall was an energetic pioneer. Before coming to Terre Haute, he held prominent positions in Knox, Sullivan and Parke counties. He was one of the first associate judges of the Knox Circuit Court, state representative and  justice-of-the-peace; founder of the town of Busseron in Sullivan County and, with Gen. Arthur Patterson, one of the first two settlers of Rockville.

In 1837, McCall, Terre Haute businessman Lucius H. Scott and the two Law brothers of Vincennes founded the town of Lamasco, now the west side of Evansville. McCall died in Vincennes on Sept. 22, 1840.

Moffatt also held multiple positions in Vigo County. He was an associate judge of the Circuit Court serving Terre Haute, served seven terms in the Indiana legislature,  street commissioner, postmaster (1849-1853) and town councilman. Moffatt was president of the council for several years and certified the popular vote in 1853 which converted Terre Haute into a city.

Moffatt’s daughter Kate married Preston Hussey, esteemed president of the Terre Haute National Bank, and his son Blackford showed great promise as a member of the bar before his death at age 39 in 1864.

Until the 1890s, Washington St. in Terre Haute was known as Moffatt Street.

Marrs has been celebrated as the town’s first marshal, jailer and collector. He came to the village with his family in 1816, built a log cabin near Fifth and Cherry streets in 1817 and opened a blacksmith shop. In 1823-24, Marrs, popularly spelled “Mars,” cleaned the new courthouse and was paid five dollars for the fiscal year.

A native of Ireland, Samuel Crawford married Elizabeth, daughter of Terre Haute’s first postmaster Francis Cunningham, and established a mercantile business with his older brother John.

The Crawford brothers closed their business in 1852 and Sam, a confidant of Chauncey Rose, became secretary of the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad. Before his death at age 54 in March 1857, Crawford served as the second president of the railroad.

As an adjutant in the 85th Indiana, Sam’s son Frank C. Crawford is recognized as the first Union solider to enter Atlanta during Gen. Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Taylor was elected Vigo County Sheriff in 1830 and re-elected in 1832. Ross, Houghton and Herrington served several terms as town councilman and all contributed to the Terre Haute School Society, which built a private brick school in 1830.

The population of the new town was about 600. The bulk of the population was confined to the row of blocks which surrounded the Courthouse Square.

There were a few suburbanites: Horace Blinn’s residence was situated on a hill on N. Third St., then called Market St., the first house north of what was referred to as “Sand Hollow” or “Sandburr Hollow.” Blinn apparently was regarded as “an outsider.”

Wasson and John S. Beach, at the eastern corners of Sixth and Ohio streets, James Hite, on Poplar St , near its intersection with Seventh St., and Harry Ross, on Cherry St., between Sixth and Seventh, were “country gentlemen.”

George Dewees, east on what came to be known as Bloomington Road, was far out in the country at Fourteenth St. The Prairie House had not yet been built.

Before 1830, Elijah Tillotson, who became the first mayor of the Town of Terre Haute in 1838, built a residence at Fourth and Poplar streets amid a thicket of trees. Tillotson called his estate “Jackson’s Grove.” Tillotson was elected an associate judge in 1832.

Moody Chamberlain was chosen the other associate judge.

Curtis Gilbert was re-elected Vigo County Clerk and Recorder in 1832. Amory Kinney was Circuit Court judge. James Farrington was state senator representing Vigo County while Elisha Mills Huntington (succeeding Theodore C. Cone, who died  Dec. 19, 1932) was state representative. Farrington, Huntington and Cone were attorneys.

John Britton was Vigo County surveyor. Ezra M. Jones was the town tax collector. William C. Linton was fund commissioner for the Wabash & Erie Canal.

The two justices-of-the-peace were attorneys Charles T. Noble and attorney Rodolphus D. Skinner. The school commissioner was William Wines.

The physicians were Drs. Charles B. Modesitt, Septer Patrick, Edward Voorhies Ball, Azel Holmes, Ebenezer Holmes, Alexander Ross, Thomas Parsons, Marcus and John Hitchcock and Richard Blake.

Besides those mentioned, the lawyers were Thomas Holdsworth Blake, Salmon Wright and Greer B. Duncan., Samuel B. Gookins and George W. Cutter were law students.

Among other community leaders in 1832 were wealthy entrepreneur Chauncey Rose, affluent Demas Deming, William C. Linton and his brother David, the Early brothers: John, Joseph, William and Jacob, merchants and porkpackers; merchant John C. Cruft; shipbuilder Dayton D. Condit; and newspaper publisher Thomas Dowling.