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Greene County, Indiana

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Greene County was formed in 1821 and was named for General Nathanael Greene, who commanded the southern theater in the American Revolutionary War.

The beginning of Greene county:

  • 1st Monday of February, 1821. By an enabling Act of the Indiana General Assembly. Prior to 1816, the year Indiana was admitted to the Union, all of the territory later designated as Greene county, west of White River was a part of Knox county. In 1816 it became a part of Sullivan county and in 1821 it became a part of Greene county. All that part east of White River was a part of Orange county in 1815; in 1817 it became a part of Daviess county, and in 1821 it became a part of Greene county .
  • By an Act of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana in 1821 Greene county was set up with its present boundaries... First County Seat Burlington
  • The first court house in Greene County was built in Burlington, a small village on the east bank of the west fork of the White River. Burlington was about three miles north of present day Bloomfield. This court house was a 20 foot by 20 foot two-room log structure

The first County Seat was located at Burlington. The account is as follows:

On March 10, 1821, the commissioners appointed by the legislature of the State of Indiana convened at the house of Thomas Bradford for the purpose of selecting the permanent seat of justice of the newly established county. After an examination of the various sites presented to them, they selected one and made the following report: "We, the commissioners appointed by the Indiana legislature, convened at the home of Thomas Bradford for the purpose of selecting the permanent seat off justice of Greene county." After "due examination and mature forethought’, they selected a site and called it Burlington, after Burlington, Vermont, and made the following report: "We, the under signed commissioners at the home of Thomas Bradford esqr. And after being duly sworn agreeable to law, proceeded to examine the situations presented to our view and have selected a place for the seat of justice for said county of Greene in Section 9-7-5 on a bluff which puts in to the west fork of White River on the east side, and we have received 60 acres of land for the use of said county from Thomas Bradford esqr. And forty acres out of Section 10-7-5 adjoining Thomas Bradford esqr. On the east side, 20 acres donation from Frederick Shepherd and 20 acres as a donation from Zebulon Hogue. - - Amos Rogers, Abraham Case, William White State Commissioners. After the county was duly set up, the report of the first election in the county was recorded as follows: "Thomas Bradford as Sheriff Pro Tem held an election as his house as provided by statute on ___ day of ___, 1821 at which time the following men were elected commissioners receiving the number of votes in the order of their naming: Thomas Plummer, David Deem and Peter Herrington." The record states that these men were elected to "Execute the public business."

Thomas Bradford, James Howell and Zebulon Jenkins built the court house, which was first occupied by the County Board in May, 1822. The building cost $250. Augustine Passmore was hired to finish the court house- to put a lock on the door, complete the windows, etc.

The Second County Seat

Bloomfield

By 1823 it became evident that there was not adequate water supply to furnish a suitable supply day after day for the horses tied about the public square by the employees, officers and visitors to the county seat. Thus it became necessary to relocate in 1824 for the reason that an adequate supply of water was not obtainable at this point. At this time, not a vestige remains of this former County Seat.

County Seat of Justice Relocated at Bloomfield – The State Legislature was again called upon to select a new county seat. According to the Act to relocate the seat of justice for the county of Greene on December 17, 1823, commissioners were appointed and ordered to meet in the court house at Burlington on the second Monday in February, 1824, for the purpose of considering donations and offers for a site for the relocated county seat.

Among the contenders for the new seat of justice was the thriving village of Fairplay on the west bank of the river, almost directly across the river from Burlington. Its location was good, it had a food and adequate supply of water and was the center of a thriving little community. The residents and the proprietors felt so sure of its attractiveness and suitability that they did not feel the need to tender any great enticement, being certain in their own minds that they could not be by-passed or out done by any other locality. . . .

The commissioners selected the site now known as Bloomfield, as Peter C. Van Slyke had made provisions for a sizable donation of land, splendidly located on a beautiful site overlooking the river, with a splendid supply of good water, and as an extra special inducement; one good citizen threw into the bargain enough logs to build the first jail - which act clinched the deal. Van Slyke had by contract acquired the donation of 25 acres of land from Samuel Gwathmey. Van Slyke purchased an additional 25 acres at $4 per acre from Gwathmey to make the original donation 50 acres. Later, Van Slyke added 12 more acres immediately west of the original 50 acres, to make the total donation 62 acres.

The elevation of land was high enough to be out of the flood zone, but an ever-flowing spring provided an abundant supply of water. The site was accepted and the city was named Bloomfield at the suggestion of Dr. Hollet B. Dean, a native of Bloomfield, New York.

On February 27, 1824, the board of county commissioners met at the new county seat and directed the county agent to lay off the donation into lots. The lots were sold on April 22, 1824

The First Court house at Bloomfield

In May 1824 the county commissioners authorized Ephraim Owen, the County Agent, to "proceed to build a court house on a public lot according to the following plan: A hewed log house, 26 feet by 20 feet, one story and a half high, with one door and one window with 12 lights of glass in it, in the under story with a good poplar plank, with one set of joice, and upper floor tongued and grooved, with one pair of stairs and one Petition (sic) across the upper story, and a window in each end of the said house, covered with joint shingle 20 inches long six inches to the weather all of which to be done and performed in good and workman like manner.

It was located on the northeast side of the intersection of Main and Washington Streets in Bloomfield.

The court house was accepted by the board of justices, who superseded the board of commissioners at their September term in 1824; and later in the same term authorized John Hill to chink it.

Also found is the following on this subject: \ After the frame work of the court house had been put into place, the commissioners made the following record ordering that "John Hill be appointed and chosen to finish the court house in the town of Bloomfield in the following manner to wit: to chink the said house with short blocks dobed with lime and sand, one third of lime and two of sand on the outside; and clay in the inside, washed over with lime, all of which is to be done in a good and workman like manner all of which is to be done on or before the first day of next November term of this court for which services said Hill is to receive the sum of $22.00 subject to the provisions in case of failure of the completion of the aforesaid work., It is said that material form the first courthouse was used in the second, but this is not recorded officially and is scarcely credible in view of the fact that timber was plentifully available from the clearing of the square and the remainder of the newly erected town. The records and supplies were hauled from Burlington to Bloomfield in a wagon by Benjamin Turley, who was paid $2.00 for his services.

This courthouse, completed in 1825, was located on the northeast side of the intersection of Main and Washington Streets.

John Hill was allowed $10.00 on May 4, 1825, for the same task, which he had done, presumably for the second time.

Two years later, a jury room was constructed as an addition; and in 1831 a chimney was built at a cost of $16.00.

The cabin-styled court house was changed by only the addition of a window in 1833.

The court house gave at least one cause for dissatisfaction: on September 20, 1834, the board of commissioner ordered the county agent to have the underpinning repaired "to prevent the Hogs from disturbing the Court or any other public business that may be transacted in the court house."

The Second Courthouse

The board of commissioners decided to build a new courthouse and a committee, appointed in November 1835 which consisted of: John Inman, William Freeland, Levi Fellows, Ruel Learned and High I. Livingston. This committee was to draft plans, to estimate the cost of a new courthouse and investigate means of obtaining funds for its construction etc. and gave them authority of borrow $1,500,but was not to pay a higher rate of interest then 10%. They reported in December that the probable cost would be $5157 and recommended letting the contract early the next March, outlining an advised method of payment: $1000.00 initially; $1500.00 on the first November 1836, providing the brick work was by that time "completed and enclosed"; $1000.00 on the first of April 1837; and the balance upon completion. The committee added that the available funds in the county treasury totaled $800.00 but that the balance could be raised through sale of donated lands, by the levy of a small tax for three years, and through loans at 6% interest.

The committee was authorized to superintend the building.

The contract on the suggested terms was let on April 11, 1836 to Calvin Hartwell for the sum of $5,800, to be paid in three installments. Upon receiving the first installment of $1,000 in April, Hartwell promptly left the county. The contract was turned over to his sureties Andrew Downing and Samuel Simons, but failure by the county to make payments according to the contract caused the work to come almost to a halt.; and the men attempted to complete the work but only succeeded in exhausting their own private resources. The committee on their own finally obtained a loan at 12% interest from a Bedford bank that rectified the situation, and the building was finished in 1838 at a final cost of $6,271.59.

The court House was a brick structure 50’ square and 28’ high from the ground to the eaves above the second story, situated on the square facing south. The first floor was divided by a central corridor with three rooms on either side. The upper floor contained three rooms: a courtroom and two jury rooms. Above the second story were the usual cupola, dome, and spire. The commissioners specifically stated that the "Criminals box" in the courtroom should be painted "in deep black"

No formal acceptance of the courthouse is recorded. The date of completion is usually given as 1839, as recorded in the "History of Greene and Sullivan Counties", but as late as September 1842 the board of commissioners ordered the building committee to report, whether the courthouse had been completed according to contract.

When this court house was torn down in 1886, Colonel Aden G. Cavins, a Civil War veteran and a Bloomfield attorney, bought the hexagonal-shaped cupelo for his daughter to use as a playhouse. The slate green roofed, white tower cupola may be seen in the side yard of the oldest house in Bloomfield at 412 South Seminary Street.

The Third Court house

In 1885 construction on another courthouse was started. The commissioners hired George Bunting to do the design and work. Today Greene County’s courthouse is one of the only six remaining Bunting courthouses left standing.

On Jun 15, 1885 William M. Moss as editor of the Bloomfield Democrat and among items in the paper the following: "The Court House kiln was fired up last night and the work of filling up Spring Street has commenced".

The courthouse bell

The bell was purchased from the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland during the 1886 courthouse construction project of Greene County. is now 120-years-old. The bell is mammoth in size - weighing an estimated 2,000 pounds and measures approximately 48 inches tall and more than 42 inches around.

The foundry still exists and is now the only large Western-style bell maker in the United States - one of about seven in the world. The foundry also has a computer database that went back prior to 1886 and confirmes that the bell that weighs a ton was sold to Greene County officials 120 years ago. The bell foundry, founded in 1856 by Henry McShane, who had emigrated from Dundalk, Ireland, in 1847, also offers a service that re-conditions and cleans the old bells .

The bell today still is etched with his name along with the names of county commissioners Moses Crockett, Robert McKee [this was Robert Thomas Mc Kee of Washington twp.] and Jno Miller, Jr. as well as county auditor John L. Harrel.

The old courthouse was torn down in 1886 when the new structure was completed.

In 1886 when the courthouse was completed, the total cost of building the courthouse came to $60,800; occupying the same ground as its predecessors.

A three story building of brick trimmed with native limestone, it is 112’ by 77’ in length and width and 55’ in height. The entrances, on the north and south sides, open into the corridor on the first floor ; the corridor runs the full length of the building, and the offices lie on either side. The stairways at the south end of the building lead to the upper floors. On the second floor a corridor, flanked on either side by the two rooms, leads to the courtroom, which extends across the width of the building. The space above the courtroom and the rooms behind it is an unoccupied attic. The remainder of the third floor is occupied by three rooms, one of which houses the older records of the county. The basement is similar in design to the first floor but is not directly connected with the latter and can be entered only from the outside.

The basement is floored with concrete, the upper stories with wood. Walls and ceilings are plastered and painted or papered. All of the rooms are well lighted and well ventilated, with

Yes, We Have No Bananas!

Yes, a Banana tree in Indiana! The how and why of it is unknown and how long it existed at its place of honor in the courthouse lawn also is unknown - It was placed there sometime before 1920.

The county had the major problem of dealing with money, bricks and stone - the court house. I was in the need on very extensive and much needed repairs. The four-sided clock steeple rested on a very precarious foundation; this was referred to as the "poor folks clock". Prior to its 1954 renovation, the Greene County Courthouse had corner pavilions and a bell tower with a pyramidal shaped roof.

In 1954 the county had the courthouse remodeled, which included removing the steeples on all four corners of the building and squaring the corners. In spite of the detail lost in the removal of the corner towers and Mansard roof, t he 1885 Greene County Courthouse exemplifies Neoclassical architecture. Brick pilasters emulate the columns commonly associated with classical structures. Limestone pediments once crowned the pilasters giving the building an imposing temple-like look. The rusticated limestone raised basement and steps leading up to the first level remind visitors and employees that this is a place of importance.

Nevertheless, the Greene County Courthouse is an important architectural example of the work of architect George Bunting, and maintains other elements of its original classical design. A prolific courthouse designer in Indiana and Michigan, Bunting's Greene County building is one of only six remaining in Indiana.

The clock tower was remodeled. The steeple clock was replaced by the modern designed limestone clock that sits on the south side of the court house today. The tower is still a focal point of the structure - located in the center front on the top of the building, but the bell tower was deactivated. The bell was then lowered to a wooden catwalk-like structure where it has remained for the last 52 years.

Brick Veneering was added also in 1953.

Also, the building was reinforced with iron beams; the ceilings were lowered. The building was completely fire-proofed (all wooden floors were replaced.) The court room was completely redone with new walls and a new ceiling, plus entirely new furniture and fixtures.

The clock tower was remodeled. This tower is the focal point of the structure as it is located in the center front on the top of the building.

The biggest problem with the court house immediately after the remodeling was that the mortar between the bricks was cracking and loose; also the concrete steps leading to both entrances needed replaced.

In 1994 and 1995 the court house steps were replaced and the building was tuck pointed.

Future renovation was now in the planning stages for several years as the present facility lacks adequate space to accommodate the growth of the departments and offices. Renovation has started as of 2002.

Significant Firsts:

  • The first Circuit court met in the house of Thomas Bradford in September 1821
  • 1st indictment for murder was Andrew Ferguson and Julius Dugger being charged with the murder of Isaac Edwards during the October 1823 term
  • The first Court convened in Bloomfield in 1825, upon the completion of the court house
  • The first record of the first session of the court, In Record A. page 1 September 1821, Greene county, Indiana September 4th, Monday
  • The first marriage license Isaac Johnson and Elizabeth Griffith 4th of Aug. 1821; filed 10th Nov. 1821 married on 9th Aug. 1821
  • First divorce granted to a man in Greene county was in 1825 to Ezekiel Herringbone

Stettlements

The first settlement in Greene County was formed at Point Commerce in 1812.

The second settlement in Greene County was formed at Fairplay, on White River, five miles below Point Commerce. It had 150 inhabitants. After a brief existence the old town perished. There was a ford just above the ferry.

Newberry, on White river, was the third town in Greene County. It was settled in 1822, when a store was opened there by John Ritter. Mike Neff erected a grist mill and started a ferry. In canal days Newberry was a place of importance. It is still a prosperous little town.

The fourth settlement formed in Greene County was at Bloomfield. This became the county seat in 1823.

The fifth settlement in this county was at Scotland, on Doan's creek, in 1834. That is now a quiet hamlet.

The sixth settlement in Greene County was made at Linton, then called New Jerusalem. It is now a prosperous and pretentious city.

In 1828 Jefferson and old Eel River townships were formed. They remained separate townships until 1881 when they were merged into one, under the name of the former, Jefferson. Old Eel River Township lay between White and Eel Rivers and extended northward to the county line. The first settlement was in that locality, which is still often designated by its original name.

Adjacent Counties

Cities & Towns

  • Bloomfield (County Seat, 1823/1824)
  • Jasonville (1858)
  • Linton (New Jerusalem) - chartered and named in June 1850,
  • Lyons (187)
  • Newberry (1822)
  • Switz City (1869)
  • Worthington (1850)

Other Communities: Antioch, Beehunter, Burlington (1821-?, county seat 1821-1823) Bushrod, Calvertville, Cincinnati, Dixon, Doans, Dresden, Elliston, Fairplay (defunct), Furnace, Gilmour (part), Hashtown, Hendricksville, Hobbiesville (prev. Jonesville 1837-1840), Hoosier, Ilene, Island City, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnstown, Koleen, Lone Tree, Marco, McVille, Midland, Midland Junction, Mineral City, Newark, Owensburg, Park, Plummer, Point Commerce, Redcuff Corner, Ridgeport, Rincon, Scotland (1834/1837), Solsberry, Sponsler, Stalcup Corner, Summit, Tanner, Tulip, Vicksburg, Victoria, and White Roset

Townships When Greene County was first organized it was subdivided into five townships as follows:

  • Highland: Which included what are now Jefferson, Smith, Wright and Highland townships; so named on account of the hills along White and Eel Rivers.
  • Richland: Which included what are now Fairplay, Grant, Stockton and Richland townships.
  • Burlingame: Which included what are now Beech Creek, Center and Jackson townships.
  • Plummer: Which included what are now Taylor and Cass townships.
  • Stafford: Which included what are now Washington and Stafford townships .
  • Beech Creek,
  • Cass,
  • Center,
  • Grant,
  • Highland (1821)
  • Jackson,
  • Jefferson (1828, 1881) 1828 Jefferson & Eel River formed & merged as one in 1881
  • Richland, (1821)
  • Smith,
  • Stafford, (1821)
  • Stockton, ,
  • Taylor,
  • Washington, and
  • Wright

Links

Wikipedia

Genealogy Trails

Bloomfield Library

Linton Public County

Richland-Plummer Covered Bridge

Scotland Hotel