Pike Township, Where Forest and Indian Trails once Weaved in and Abouts Cabins of Wilderness, Now Presents Maze of Paved Roads and Rich Farms

The Indianapolis News, September 13, 1930, By Mabel Wheeler.
Community along Lafayette Road blessed with wealth of forest trees, rolling land, streams, and properous farmland. Modern schools, churches, store and oil stations show trend of progress. Several homes, built more than 100 years ago, still stand with original interiors. Artificial lake at Lakeside is recent development where wooded banks make cool home sites.As motorists speed along the smooth pavement of the Lafayette Road with airplanes circling overhead and radios sending out broadcasts from various farmhouses and with filling stations and while farmers on tractors are busy at work, it is hard to realize as one crosses the stone bridge over Big Eagle Creek in Pike Township that 100 years ago Indians still roamed about the woods; that wolves howled around the cabins of settlers at night, and that the pavement was only a narrow forest trail, over which traveled ox-carts and covered wagons.
Today the township is a maze of up-to-date fine roads, both pavement and crushed stone. Even the smallest and most unimportant of roads is improved, so that those in rural districts may motor into town for a movie or other entertainment any evening, winter or summer. This is in contrast to the days of 1832 when it required two days to make the round trip to Indianapolis, some ten or twelve miles away, owing to the impassability of the roads.
The Lafayette Road, when it was first laid out in 1832, ran through the swampiest land in the township and certain spots had to be corduroyed–a great help in wet weather, farmers then thought. The road was not graded until about 1860, when the cost of such improvement was $1,200 a mile, according to record.
In Pike Township there are three small towns. Old Augusta is the veteran town, situated in the eastern part of the township near the Washington township line. The first settlements at Augusta were made by George Coble, Sr. and Jonathan Ingo back in 1829. The town however was not laid out until 1832.
New Augusta, originally termed Hosbrook, grew up about 1852. It was laid out by William Hornaday and the laying of the railroad tracks and the establishment of the railway station caused the village to be built up rapidly. A post office also was placed in the town, but both station and office bore the name Augusta, although the town was termed Hosbrook. Many still call it that. In 1878 the name was legally changed to New Augusta.
Traders Point is the third town and is a similar settlement, mainly along the Lafayette Road, just across Big Eagle Creek west of Augusta and New Augusta. It was laid out in 1864 by John Jennings and Josiah Coughran, who erected a flour mill with four run of burr, three for wheat and one for corn, which gave the town its name no doubt, as much trading in grain was done there. A crossroad, where an abandoned blacksmith shop stands, together with a store, is termed Boot Jack, but it is hardly classed as a town.
The township is unusually picturesque, with rolling land, a wealth of forest trees, a number of streams, with Eagle Creek and Crooked Creek perhaps the best known. The farms are prosperous looking and the ground is fertile. The highways have been built on it until it appears that in a few more years Indianapolis will reach through the township. Modern brick school buildings and churches of practically all denominations and busy general stores, restaurants and numerous gasoline stations show the trend of progress.
One of the most enlightening accounts of the pioneer days in Pike Township is included in a clipping cut from an Indianapolis newspaper of 1885 that gives an interview with Mrs. Anna Wilson, then eighty years old, whose grandson, Ad Wilson, lives on a large farm west of Traders Point. It gives a vivid picture of the early settlements in the townships as follows:
“We left Ohio for Pike Township where my father had bought two tracts of land in November 1825. Our party included my husband, our two infant children, my sister and her husband, and myself. We came in two wagons and brought with us a team of horses, three cows, and 100 head of sheep. It took us eight days to reach this county from Preble County, Ohio. We carried a tent in which we slept every night until we reached Indianapolis. We stopped in Indianapolis overnight. Indianapolis at that time had only about 100 houses, nearly all log cabins and a few stores.
“Our party crossed White River in a flatboat at McCormick’s Ferry, forded Big Eagle Creek and between the creek and Bush’s Run was our future home. We pitched our tent near the bank of the creek and enjoyed a good night’s rest, happy in the thought that we were ‘home’. The next morning the men went to work building a cabin of buckeye logs, which was completed in about ten days. It consisted of one big room.
“During that winter my husband made enough rails to do away with the old bush fence which was a nuisance in more ways than one. It was, for instance, a harbor for many snakes. When we burned the brush we saw the reptiles leaving their nests, going in every direction, some making their new homes under our cabin.
“There were nightly visitors that killed a good many of our sheep — the wolves. We finally had to sell our flock to save them all from being killed by wolves. The howling of the wolves kept us awake at night and some times we could hear them right at the cabin door.
“I was very much afraid of the Indians, for there was a small settlement in our neighborhood. The men and squaws would frequently come in our door with articles for sale, but they gave us no trouble. Sometimes, however the braves would have sham battles along the creek, and we could hear their yells for miles.”
Mrs. Wilson, in her narrative, spoke of her husband starting a sawmill, of the ‘flourishing business’ he had, and of her youngest son, then only seven, hauling logs to town with a team of small oxen.
“At one time,” she relates, “three of the children had gone to town with a load of hogs and they came very near drowning, Big Eagle Creek having risen while they were in town. The oldest boy had to swim part of the way at the head of the oxen while the other two boys had to hold on to the wagon to keep from being swept down the stream.”
Mrs. Wilson gained a reputation as a doctor and midwife and told of some thrilling experiences she had in getting to cases in the night when the creeks were swollen. At one time, carrying her youngest baby, she crossed the creek on driftwood, with a man going ahead carrying a torch and another man assisting her. At other times she rode horseback and the horse swam the streams.
The old farm southwest of Traders Point, of Grandmother Wilson and her husband, is a rich farm now and the old spring from which they drank still bubbles clear and cold, but none of the original buildings is left.
Grandma Wilson has been dead for many years, but as she was the mother of seventeen children, many of her descendants live in the community. Her son David, was deputy clerk of the county at one time.
An early settler of Old Augusta who still is alert and interested in life is Mrs. Melissa Mericle Darling, who lives in a home that is 110 years old and bought by her father from old Riley Hogshire, who operated the first grocery after the town was planned in 1832. Her husband, John R. Darling, now dead, who served three years in the Civil War, enlisted from Augusta. The house is just as it was when it was built with a quaint lean-to room across the back and a sloping roof. Her daughter, Mrs. Frank Smelser, and her husband, live with Mrs. Darling.
Another old home at Augusta that claims more than 100 years of existence, is a large red brick colonial house. The house has been kept in excellent condition and is an attractive landmark in the community. The walls inside are two feet thick, and quaint corner cupboards, built-in wardrobes, and wide board floors of ash are interesting details. It is now owned by John Trester, who lives in it.
One of the old “timers” at New Augusta is Jonathan S. Pollard, who was born and reared on the outskirts of town.
“I well remember what excitement there was when the first train came into New Augusta or Hosbrook as we called it most of the time,” said Pollard, his keen gray eyes twinkling. Farmers drove in for miles around and although I was just a little boy, my dad brought me in to see it, and that was one exciting day for me. One fellow who came in, saw it come roaring and steaming with the fire flying and was so scared that he turned and ran as fast as he could away from it.
“Why, what if the danged thing had blown up,” he said when he was reminded about it afterward by my father.”
Mrs. Elizabeth Klingensmith, age ninety-three, is one of the oldest persons living at New Augusta. She is an aunt of Dr. George A. Coble, of New Augusta, and was born and reared in the township. She lives with her nephew who is eighty years old. Mrs. Klingensmith remembers the days of more primitive living when bridges, railroads, and improved roads were unknown in the community and of her young days when she rode horseback on her neighbor’s horse to go to church.
The general store now owned by M.J. Wagle, operated by his father before him, is a quaint old building. The front of it was once the old Lutheran church and was situated across the railroad track. The north side of the building shows the old church windows now boarded up. According to Pollard, it is older than the town, being probably ninety years old or more. A large grain elevator is a prosperous industry in the town.
At Traders Point, one of the best informed men on the history of the town and township is A.W. Voorhis, whose father and mother lived in the vicinity of Traders Point before he was born, but who left in 1852 and came back in 1855 with their infant son, who has lived there ever since.
“I came here in a covered wagon,” said Voorhis as he reminisced of the history of the community. “I don’t remember much about it as I was only about two years old. Things have changed around here since then. I was here when Traders Point was laid out in 1864. The church over in the trees there on the Lafayette Road, just above the bridge, that is now called the Church of Christ, was once a flour mill and had four stories and it stood nearer the creek and a mill race ran along back of it. The race has been plowed in but you can see a hint of it at some places in the fields.”
One of the old buildings of the town is the general store owned by C.W. Conarroe. It was established about 1873, only about nine years after the platting of the town, and has been operating ever since. The front porch is a meeting place for the men of tthe community, who sit on cracker and bread boxes or the old bench.
Some interesting details concerning the early history of the township are found in Sulgrove’s Marion County History. The first township schools were taught in cabins of early settlers it says.
The first school was taught in the cabin of David McCurdy on land on the west bank of Eagle Creek with George Canard as teacher. A description of the modern new school buildings erected in the township to succeed the cabin schools reads as follows:
“Several schoolhouses, 10 x 20, high enough for the large scholars to stand erect in, were built. The doors were hung outside, holes were cut in the walls and greased paper pasted over them and called windows. The furniture consisted of split poles with legs in them for scholars, and they were called seats. The teachers were paid from $6 to $10 a month and had to board themselves.
The consolidated brick schoolhouses and their efficient motor school hacks and teaching staffs of today are a long call from those crude log cabins that could not be operated in the winter. Children could not get to school owing to the impassibility of roads, as many walked two or three or more miles to school.
A beauty spot that has been developed in the last few years in Pike Township, just east of Lafayette Road near Traders Point is Lakeside, where an artifial lake has been built. Bathing, fishing, and boating are popular and the wooded banks make cool home sites.

About Ross Reller

I am pleased you have expressed interest in learning more about the historic Traders Point area in Indianapolis, Indiana. From 1980 to 1982 I was employed in the PR department at Conner Prairie Museum in Hamilton County. There I learned about William Conner, an important figure in Indiana's pioneer days. A decade later I became interested in the history of the Traders Point area and was surprised to learn that William Conner had been the first land owner in the area. In 1823 he acquired, through the Federal land office in Brookville, a patent for an 80 acre tract carved by Eagle Creek and an Indian trail that was about to be named the first toll roadway through the township (Lafayette Road). Thirty years later a village took shape within this tract. A grain mill on the creek, houses, churches, stores, restaurants, and two gas stations would take shape here in the creek valley hamlet of Traders Point. By 1962 all improvements (except a farmer's co-op) had been removed by the Indianapolis Flood Control Board to make way for Interstate 65 and a new reservoir. This blog is dedicated to preserving evidence of this historic area but I will occasionally use it to discuss related topics. To activate this follow, simply click the confirm button below. If you don't want to follow, ignore this message and we'll never bother you again. I am also a member of the Old Pleasant Hill Cemetery, a non profit association still selling burial plots for those who would like to spend all eternity in Traders Point, and I am an officer in the Pike Township Historical Society and the Traders Point Association of Neighborhoods.
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