The revolutionary war was over. Thirteen British colonies had become thirteen American states. Irishmen – Scotsmen – Englishmen – French – Germans…and many more nationalities that poured into the new world were now united as Americans.
The British Government had prohibited the settlement of land west of the Appalachian Mountains, as a result, the vast majority of colonists were held ‘captive’ in the lands along the east coast and the south. Spain held Florida and France had her claim in the vast lands along the Mississippi River. While some adventuresome men journeyed out of the confines set by England, most saw the rolling blue mountains of the Appalachians as a barrier that was unattainable.
After the war, however, Great Britain ceded the land west of the mountains to the new Republic. The northwest ordinance of 1787 allowed for the creation of as many as five states in the North West portion of the Ohio Valley on lines originally laid out in 1784 by Thomas Jefferson.
Two Hundred and Sixty Thousand acres of prime land that would become Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin, all held in title by the United States Government. No one bothered to ask the Native inhabitants if the minded new neighbors.
Armed soldiers were dispatched, Treaties were made…treaties were broken, battles were fought and a pathway was cleared for the overflowing American population. A surveyor General was appointed for the area. The land was then divided up into grids. Great plat maps were made and with the completion of the maps the surveyed land was then ready for sale at a Government Land Office. In 1801 the first Indiana Territory land went on sale. The land was divided into sections. Each section was one mile square. Prospective buyers could purchase whole sections, half sections or quarter sections and pay for it in one lump sum or make timely payments on the balance. Once the land was purchased it became the responsibility of the ‘county’ if it was not paid for, it would return to the Government and offered for sale again.
Meanwhile, in the backcountry of South Carolina a group of men, women and children were considering moving to the North West Territory. They lived in Laurens District. It was in the “Highlands” of South Carolina away from the populated cities of Charleston and Columbia. The red clay earth did not make good farmland for growing families and the issue of slavery was a volatile one. These families had much in common. They were Scots, Irish, and Presbyterian and had the courage it look toward the wilderness as their new home.
Robert and John Templeton were brothers. Robert was born in 1762 and John in 1766 in County Antrim, Ireland. Their family immigrated to South Carolina and settled in Laurens District when they were both young boys.
Robert “Robin” Hanna was the father of Mary Templeton, John’s wife. Robert was born in Virginia in 1744, attended William and Mary in Williamsburg Virginia where he met a young Thomas Jefferson. He moved his family to South Carolina and served during the Revolutionary War. According to family tradition, he spent only a few night of the war in his own bed and there was a reward for his capture.
Much of this history has been handed down through the families involved since no journals or letters of this time exists. It is believed that Robert Hanna and Robert Templeton were the leaders of this ‘Carolina Colony’ and in the spring of 1801 they departed South Carolina. It is believed that the company, at that time, consisted of the families of – Robert Hanna Sr, Robert Templeton, John Templeton, John Ewing and William Logan; the families of Robert Swann and George Leviston followed closely behind.
The exact route from Laurens to Indiana is not known. One of the most traveled routes from South Carolina passed through Virginia to the Holston River and then toward the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky. Another theory would take our settlers from Pittsburgh on flat boats to Ft. Hamilton.
The Carolina Company arrived in the territory late fall of 1801. They settled as a community on the Dry Fork of the Miami River east of Harrison Ohio. It was here that for the next four years they would raise their children, grow their food and make it a home. In an account given by Jane McCarty, daughter of John and Mary Templeton, she was born at Dry Fork while her parents awaited the land to come on market. Her family had come through Cincinnati, which had at that time but one store, the first shingle-roofed house in the city and kept by Micajah T. Williams.
The land to be opened was called ‘Wayne’s Purchase’ in the Indiana territory. A strip of land between the Ohio boarder and the Greenville Treaty Line; the Greenville Treaty line was an imaginary line that ran from Greenville Ohio to the mouth of the Kentucky River, where settlers could live and land west of it would belong to the Native Americans as long as the sun rose in the east and sat in the west…but that is another story.
In the summer of 1804 an advance party of men and boys sat out for to stake their claims. Heading into the wilderness they blazed a trail that would be known as “The Carolina Trace”. When I say blazed, that is exactly what a Trace is. A common practice of marking a trail was to use a torch to leave scorch marks on trees along the way: instant road sign and more permanent than breadcrumbs. According to accounts in “the House of Hanna”, the trace commenced on Lees Creek at the farm of Mathias Brown, then across the country to a a point a little west of the village of Mount Carmel, and from there along Big Cedar Creek to where the Big Cedar Church now stands and then it took a north westerly course overland until it reached the south branch of what is now Templeton Creek, down the creek to where it crossed the East Fork of the Whitewater River onto the land that once belonged to Robert Templeton’s son James.
The men chose their land carefully, but did not live together in a tight community. Robert Templeton chose land north of what would be Brookville and just west of Whitcomb. John Hanna and George Leviston took land together some 15 miles north on the river in a Fraction section just south of present day 44 on the Treaty-Line Ramp road.
Three cabins were begun at the same time. Robert Templeton, Robert Hanna and William Logan’s with Templeton’s being the first completed. It is not really known if these cabins the men were building were the fine two story cabins we know, or if they were cruder, quickly constructed buildings intended on sheltering families until better structures could be built.
John Templeton’s home would be built along the rich river bottom one mile south of what would be Quakertown in Union County. The Cabin we see today built of yellow poplar was originally a full two stories tall with a fireplace on both floors. It may have been constructed in that 1804-1805 period or it may have been built as late as 1810. The house stood in three counties over the next several years: Dearborn, Franklin and finally Union. It has been moved twice. The first moved was designed to preserve the old home. In 1938 it was moved from Harmony Township to a secluded spot near the Union County jail. It was subsequently moved to the prominent spot here on the courthouse lawn.
The last house to be built was that of Joseph Hanna. The days of summer had ebbed away and the long winter nights had encroached. As the sky was growing darker, the men found the cabin was not finished and a heavy snow was beginning to fall. Having no shelter from the weather the men agreed to build a large fire and finish the cabin by firelight. The riveted the clapboards and roofed the dwelling well into the night and when they were done, there was ten inches of snow on the ground.
When the men returned to Dry Fork for the winter of 1804-1805 many entered their land at the Cincinnati Land office. John Templeton and Robert Hanna entered their land on 24th day of September. John Hanna, George Leviston and Robert Templeton entered land 16th of October. It was 1805 before John Ewing, John Logan and Robert Swan went to the Land office to make their purchases.
According to family stories, in the spring of 1805 when the families began to move onto their new land, they found that Robert Templeton’s cabin had been occupied for the winter by a group of Native Americans. A female of the group had died and was almost buried under cabin floor when a group of French traders passed by and prevented the burial.
John Templeton moved into his home the 7th day of April 1805. He was 39, his wife Mary was 35, their eldest daughter Mary was 17, Nancy 13, Robert 10, David 6 and Jane who was born at Dry Fork was 3. John’s wife Mary gave birth to their seventh child, Catherine Hitch Templeton 15 July 1805 making her the first white child born in the valley. William Logan’s son, Thomas, was the first male child.
With the first houses built and the families settled in, the men and boys turned their attention to the clearing of the land. Crops were to be grown, but before that could happen the land had to be cleared of trees. The closest Gristmill was on the edge of Ohio and a journey of twenty-five miles was made to get flour and meal. Eleven-year-old Graem Hanna made the journey to the mill.
Settling in a new land without towns or any sign of civilization was quite daunting, however pioneers pitched in and did what was needed. Other than Robert Hanna, we do not know how much education these early pioneers had experienced, we do know that John Templeton was appointed in 1806 the first justice of the peace for the northern part of Dearborn county. He was commissioned as Judge of the court of common Pleas of Franklin County 14 December 1810. John was responsible for the naming of Franklin County. He represented Franklin County in the territorial legislature assembly in Vincennes in 1811. He also helped instigate a petition asking that “The Gore” or Wayne’s Purchase be annexed to Ohio because of the pro-slavery sentiment he found in Indiana.
John helped promote the Presbyterian Church by donating logs for the Dunlapsville Church. Until then services were held in the families homes with Rev. Samuel Baldridge working as an itinerate missionary in the Whitewater Valley.
Mary Templeton took on the challenge as a practicing midwife and did extensive riding up and down the valley to deliver babies and tend the sick. She and John had three more children of their own. John Franklin in 1806, Julia Ann in 1810 and James Madison in 1813.
John died April 30, 1837 in his cabin in Union County, Indiana. His wife Mary died 31 August 1853 they were buried in the Templeton family cemetery on the land they claimed in 1804. Their remains were relocated to the Community Cemetery in New Fairfield when the Brookville Lake was created.
Most of the land these pioneers worked so hard to clear is now under water and once again under the ownership the United States Government.
The name Templeton is all but gone from Union County. John’s family was blessed with more girls than boys, leaving those who are descended from him without the Templeton name. John and Mary’s cabin stands today in this prominent spot as a memorial to all those brave men and women who looked out into the wilderness and saw not a scary world, but a world of unlimited potential.
I am Karen Barlow Coffey, my mother is Crystal Titterington Barlow, her mother was Mayme Williamson Titterington, her mother was Bessie Wilson Williamson, her mother was Alice MacIntosh Wilson, her mother was Martha Leviston MacIntosh, her mother was Nancy Templeton Leviston and her parents were John and Mary Templeton.
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