Two Vivid Accounts of William Conner’s Trading Post and Wealth

1. A History of the Formation, Settlement and Development of Hamilton County … By Augustus Finch Shirts Photo of Augustus Finch Shirts (1901)

“The First Settlers. The lands within the bounds of Hamilton County Indiana together with other lands were purchased by the Government from the Indians in 1818. At that time there was but one white man permanently located within the present bounds of Hamilton County. This man was William Conner. He was at that time living in a double log cabin with his Indian wife. This cabin was situated four miles south of the present site of Noblesville on the east bank of White River. His place was called a trading post. In one room of his cabin he kept beads, lead, Hints, steel, knives, hatchets, and such other goods and trinkets as were usually necessary in such a place. These articles he exchanged for pelts taken by Indians and brought to him for trade. Mr Conner had a brother named John then living on or near the present site of Connersville. This brother was the proprietor of a trading post at that point. Both of these men were taken by the Indians when young and detained. This explains their presence among the Indians and also the fact that they had Indian wives. John Conner received his supplies from points along the Ohio River and William Conner received his supplies from his brother John. The furs purchased by William Conner from the Indians were dressed, stretched and then packed in proper form and sent by him by means of pack horses to his brother and in a like manner the goods furnished William by his brother John were transported from John Conner’s post to William Conner’s post. At that time there was no road leading from this point in any direction. There was an Indian trail leading from the John Conner trading post to William Conner’s place by way of the present site of New Castle and Anderson to the mouth of Stony Creek thence down the river to William Conner’s place. This was the route over which the supplies mentioned were transported.

The distance from one post to the other was sixty miles over this trail and no settlement between the points all were forests Indians and wild beasts. Soon after the purchase of these lands by the Government the people began preparations for moving to the lands called the new purchase for the purpose of selecting suitable homes to be purchased by them when the lands could be bought. A white man, one Marshal, lived with William Conner a short time before the Conner Indians left. John Conner’s Indian children left this man Marshal went with them in the late fall of 1818. My father George Shirts moved his family from or near the present site of Connersville on pack horses to the William Conner place in the month of March 1819. My father made a trip from the William Conner place on horseback to the John Conner trading post at Connersville. On his return trip to this county he was joined by Charles Lacy who came with my father and camped upon an old Indian field now known as the Tunis Gerard farm. Mr Lacy did not bring his family with him. He came for the purpose of building a cabin and putting out a small field of corn. The implements brought with him were carried on his horses pack saddle fashion. On the first day of April 1819, Solomon Finch, his wife Sarah, his daughters Rebeccah, Mary and Alma, and his sons James and Augustus, then living near the present site of Connersville, left their home for the horse shoe prairie two miles southwest of Noblesville. Their route was over the Indian trail spoken of above. “
2. WITHIN ONE MAN’S RECOLLECTION(2); What Was an Indiana Wilderness Has Grown to be a Large City. (NY Times April 3, 1896,) From The Indianapolis News. ” Fabius Finch continues to be a consulting member of the law firm of Finch Finch, is among the last of the first settlers of Marion County. He lived within a few miles of this city years before it was chosen as the site of the State capital, or before, perhaps, even a cabin had been erected in what is now Center Township.
Finch wrote in 1896: “When we arrived (in 1814) there was not a cabin built except those at Mr. Conner’s trading post and four or five at an Indian village across the river. Most of the money in those days was silver. There were times when William Conner had a good deal of it. He kept his money in a trunk at the head of his bed, and a rifle within easy reach. The trunk would hold a bushel and a half, and I have seen it full of silver dollars. There was little or no thought of thieves then. We were living on the prairie when the Commissioners chosen to locate the state’s capitol came to William Conner’s place. They were looking to see if it would be an eligible place.”

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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2 Responses to Two Vivid Accounts of William Conner’s Trading Post and Wealth

  1. Rosie Molina says:

    If only I had a dollar for each time I came to Amazing writing.

  2. Hah am I honestly the first comment to this great article!?

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