Friday, May 25, 2012

Another Episode of House Genealogy

The last couple of weeks I’ve had a couple of different requests to find something on some old houses in Brown County. Both from different perspectives and for different reasons, but in both I needed to find an age for a house.

The first one was a typical genealogy query of a sort. A gentleman contacted me to help him find his great grandparent’s ancestral home. He had been researching on the internet and had been looking at Brown County history hoping to find something on his ancestors, David and Emma Phegley. The phone call was a little confusing, something was said about one of the oldest homes in the state of Indiana was in Brown County, and somehow he got that connected to his ancestor. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on his part, but I agreed to look into it.

David Phegley owned land on the eastern edge of Brown County in Section 28, Township 9, Range 4. He at one time owned the whole section in the late 1890s up until his wife’s death in 1910. Making a trip to the County Recorder’s office I was able to find where part of his land went up for Sheriff’s sale. And several sales later the land was split up among several buyers. He died in 1921 and no Probate or Will was to be found. Looking on the county map I was surprised because I knew right where the area was, or at least I knew who owned part of it now. I pulled out my copy of the Brown County Interim Report - Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory. It was prepared by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. There was nothing in it for any houses in this area. I found no mention of a house in any of this. This has become a pretty useful book and most Indiana counties have one.

Next, someone advised me to go to the Assessor’s office and get a copy of the current owner’s property card. I was expecting to pay out some kind of fee for the service, but was instead directed to their website. I was able to view and download any property I needed to see. I looked up the current owner’s property card and it gave the age of the house as being built in 1930. I then checked every piece of property in this section and couldn’t find any older house. So it appears that the Phegley house didn’t survive. This was bad news for my client, but the whole process was very educational for me.

My next step for my client if he wished I can deduce what was the last few acres David Phegley lived on before he died. A possible trip to the area with questions for the residents maybe someone will remember seeing an old homesite on their property at sometime in the past. Going back to the house there now built in 1930 has me intrigued. I went by once to talk to the one of my friends. She says her father bought it in 1948-49 so I still would like to find out who built the house in 1930. I’ll be checking the Deed books and Tax Records to see if I can find a mention of a house or some taxable improvements on this land. The reason being I want to add this one to my Historic Homes database I’ve been working on for a couple of months. I stopped by to photograph the house which was a log cabin which has now been mostly covered up with stone. Log cabins here in Brown County are not too rare, but it is one of our biggest requests from house history hunters. Every new resident wants to know how old their log cabin is!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Displaced Families of Brown County

Weed Patch Hill - Parade

Last year I wrote about how my grandparents, Alonzo and Millie Conner, and their families where forced to moved from their ancestral homes for the good of the rest of mankind and progress. Today here in Brown County this has been run over and over again like a broken record. Today, a couple of my genealogy girlfriends and me made a visit to Brown County State Park to view their historical records. One of these friends wrangled a visit for us to see what types of records they carried and if any of it was worth our getting copies for our Archives. We’ve always had a good working relationship with the State Park management from time to time. They’ve given us the Scrapbook of the CCC and info on the history of the State Park.

Reflecting on the history of the State Park brought to mind the instances that has had an effect in our county. After all, besides the State Park, we have the Camp Atterbury Military installation, Yellowood State Forest, Hoosier National Forest, Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and Monroe Reservoir all bounding our county. Brown County is full of beautiful and useful natural resources. Our county has never grown to be a major metropolis. Of all this beautiful wilderness the one natural resource that has never been studied much is the people. This is just now coming about due to the efforts of the Historical and Genealogical Societies.

So what about all these families that have been displaced from their homes? Entire communities have disappeared. Some have made a good effort to keep their history alive by the former residents mostly because their families never moved much farther away. In the southwest corner of the County Lake Monroe reservoir cut off communities such as Elkinsville, Youno, and Cooper. The former Elkinsville residents hold an annual community reunion every year and have written several books on the community and the families. The State Animal Preserve, which is now called Brown County State Park, swallowed up the communities of Kelp and Weed Patch Hill. There is a lot of interested genealogy research done on the families of Kelp, but not much in the way of a published history. Camp Atterbury Military reserve took over land in the northeast part of the county and small communities like Mt. Moriah and Kansas have disappeared. A lot of good history was lost about these communities and their people. There is one published history written many years ago on the coming of the Camp and the process of moving the people. There is some history of the communities and what remains of their passing – mostly their cemeteries.

Browning Mountain - Root cellar remnants

Of the other three government acquisitions there is not much know about the history of the communities and families that were displaced from the areas of Yellowood State Forest, Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and Hoosier National Forest. Not much of the histories of these areas have been published. Most likely it is because they were located in more remote areas of the county with little or no usable farm land. You can bet though that there are stories out there that need to be written or told so these people and their communities won’t be forgotten. All that is left testifies to the fact that there are communities lost to time with names like Scarce-o-Fat Ridge in Yellowood and Browning Mountain in Hoosier National Forest. Sometimes the only evidence left behind are from remote cemeteries miles from civilization that was left after their families moved out.