Lancaster Precinct


It's a feeling we all share--wanting to be in the company of friends and family when we venture into unknown situations and places. I like to travel with friends and family, just as our ancestors and the first settlers of Wabash County did. They came in small groups in those times of dangerous travel, by water or over land, along sparsely traveled trails, sometimes attacked by Indians or river pirates and never knowing what nature had in store for them. The earliest settlers of what we now call Lancaster Precinct, came from Kentucky and a large group of people came from Alleghany County, New York in 1816.


Lancaster is a town on Round Prairie, a prairie about 1.5 miles in diameter. The settlers came prior to the founding of the town and various books and records differ on when the town was platted, 1826, 1856 or 1862. The first cabins, houses and businesses were there before the town was formally platted. The name probably came from the group of Pennsylvania Germans who came in the 1830s and 1840s.


But everyone agrees that William Jordan, Benjamin Reynolds, Henry Mills and John Arnold all came to the area in 1814 from Kentucky. William Jordan brought 4 of his children, Elisabeth, Louis, Jane and Sallie and his son-in-law John Arnold. Jordan settled on the SE 1/4 of Section 4 and around 1818 put up a distillery for corn whiskey. Jordan Creek begins on this property (or just south of it) and runs southwest into Bonpas Creek. Arnold was an early justice of the peace, built a horse mill in 1825 and later served as a captain in the Black Hawk War in 1832. He later moved to Wayne County, IL. Lists of service men from the Black Hawk war from Wabash County were listed in one of 3 companies, including Captain Arnold's.


John Arnold built the first mill in the area, run by horse power, about 1825. It was located on the SE 1/4 of Section 4. Prior to that time settlers had to have their milling done at Vincennes, IN. Col. Simonds built a horse mill in Friendsville precinct about 1820 which did help some of the milling travel. It was not until 1831 that Andrew Knight built a water mill on the west bank of Little Bonpas Creek in Section 6. This was directly west of Lancaster in a area where there are no county roads. The Little Bonpas Creek begins just north of the Lawrence County line and angles southwest for a few miles before emptying into Jordan Creek just east of the Bonpas Creek. The junction of these two small creeks is about 1/4 mile north of road N1950 Blvd and just north of a bridge which crosses the Bonpas into Edwards County. This is roughly in the vicinity of Frog Eye or Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church.


Benjamin Reynolds was also from Kentucky and had a family of three sons; John, Richard and Harrison and four daughters who were unnamed in my source. He settled on land in the NW 1/4 of Section 8 and had a horse mill and distillery by around 1820.


Col. Henry Mills also came from Kentucky and also settled on Section 8. He brought with him a Negro woman and Benjamin Reynolds brought a Negri man named Ned Mills. Mills and Reynolds were likely friends, relatives or neighbors in Kentucky and perhaps Reynolds had purchased or traded Mills for the Negro man who accompanied him to Illinois


Tarlton Borin came to the precinct in 1815 and made his home in the NW 1/4 of Section 7. He eventually accumulated quite a lot of land. Around 1828 he had a tannery One of his daughters was Mrs. Cunningham. She was probably quite young when arriving with her family as the Cunningham family did not arrive until around 15-20 years later.


Nathaniel Osgood and his family came from Ohio in 1814 and settled on the S 1/2 of the SE 1/4 of Section 34. He had a married son Almarine and other children; Almira, Lydia (the wife of James McMullen) and Lefie. Interestingly, the grave of the last victim of the Cannon massacre was on this property. It was the grave of a little boy and it was near the old Indian trail. The Indians had camped in a ravine and built a fire. It was not known if the boy died or if he was killed because he was slowing down the party as they left the area.


George Higgins, John Higgins, Edward Brines, Henry Utter, Lemuel Haskins, David Moss, John Harrison, Benjamin Smith, Levi Couch and their families arrived from New York in 1816. They set out on the Alleghany River, which begins in northern Pennsylvania, winds northward into southern New York and Alleghany County then makes its way southwest through the west side of the Appalachian mountain range before joining the Monongahela at Pittsburg to form the Ohio. The mode of travel was family boats which they used to navigate the Ohio. Near the junction with the Wabash, (possibly at Evansville) the group exchanged their boats for keel boats which the men then poled up the Wabash to Palmyra. From there they moved overland to choose the sites for their homes after receiving guidance at Palmyra.


Out of this group from New York, the ones who settled in Lancaster were John Harrison, Levi Couch, David Moss, Benjamin Smith and John Higgins. The others settled a bit farther southeast in Friendsville Precinct.


John Higgins settled in the NW 1/4 of Section 4 where Lancaster is located. Before leaving New York he had worked as a ship's carpenter. His wife was Betsy and their 6 children; William, George, John, Delia, Betsey and Sophia were born after they arrived in Wabash County. Higgins was one of the proprietors of the village of Lancaster and was the best in the area for setting broken bones. During the time when people believed that it was a good practice to have blood removed (or let) in the spring time, he was the person who performed this procedure. Higgins was a justice of the peace and was county commissioner for 2 or 3 terms. John Higgins was the son of George W. Higgins, brother of Willis Higgins and brother of Ransom Higgins, also a very early setter. Levi Couch was married to one of George Higgins daughters, Cynthia. John Higgins had a son names John also, who married Judah Kaercher, daughter of John Kaercher/Karecher, a proprietor of the village later.


John Harrison was married at the time of settlement but had no children until alter. Harrison Cemetery on the north edge of the little village is likely named for this family. The family homestead was on the NE 1/4 of Section 5, just west of where Lancaster is now located. Harrison entered the land in 1817.


Levi Couch, son-in-law of George Higgins, was a farmer wo settled 2 miles southeast of Lancaster. He accumulated some property and lived there until about 1830 and then moved to the area around old Timberville until the end of his life. He had 9 children: Ebenezer, Hiram, Levi, Laura, Cynthia, Diantha, Sally, Samantha and Betsy.


David Moss settled on Section 4 and lived there about 10 years then moved to Cincinnati. He had 3 children. Benjamin Smith settled on the SE 1/4 of Section 4. He and his wife were elderly when they arrived. Their sons were Rensselaer and John.


John Waggoner entered land in the precinct in 1814 in the NE 1/4 of Section 21. Jeremiah Ballard purchased 1/2 of the NE 1/4 of Section 3 in 1815. Jeremiah Slaughter purchased the SE 1/4 of section 17 in 1815. Richard Maxwell entered the SE 1/4 of Section 8 in 1816.


In 1816 Hiram and Mary Couch arrived in the precinct with their family. Isaac Harness came from Virginia by way of Kentucky with his wife Diana and 3 children. James McMullen came from Ohio in 1816 and settled in the SE 1/4 of Section 33.


Brothers George and David Pugh came to the area in 1816 and settled in the SE 1/4 of Section 7. George was a wagon maker. Brothers George and Andrew Knight came from Kentucky in 1817 or 1818. George settled on Section 31 and Andrew settled on the adjoining Section 32.


Henry Cusick came from New York state in 1817 and purchased the NW 1/4 of Section 4. Isaac Harness purchased the NW 1/4 of Section 3 in 1816. He came from Virginia but had lived several years in Indiana before heading further west.


John Higgins purchased the NW 1/4 of Section 4 in 1817. James Rollins came in 1819 with 4 children and the weaver Jesse Jones came in 1820 from Kentucky with a wife and 3 children. Jones settled on the SE 1/4 of Section 4.


In 1820 George Glick came from Berks County, Pennsylvania with a wife and son Louis. He settled on the NW 1/4 of Section 7. His brother-in-law Samuel Fisher settled in Section 7 also and opened the way for extensive immigration from Berks County later in the 1830s and 1840s,.