William Conner and his “chain” of Trading Posts?


I have more about William Conner and his significant patent at Traders Point, Marion County (from digging through data at the Bureau of Land Management Land Patent search site and googling some Indiana county websites).

The Traders Point area purchase by Conner is truly fascinating. Conner displays a pattern of behavior that I saw until very recently in site selection; a businessman/family acquires multiple sites for their businesses in a hub and spoke fashion in areas that are in the path of progress and that are proximate to a central location. My hunch is that Conner was establishing a “chain” of trading posts, much like the modern day chain of hamburger restaurants, with Hamilton County as the hub.

This pattern of site selection is fascinating and makes the Marion County selection even more interesting as it was foundational in his later investment activity.

Conner’s Marion County patent (Traders Point) issued June 26, 1823, was Conner’s second land patent but his first land investment without a partner. He and Samuel Dickson received the first patent issued April 3, 1823 for 160 acres in the se 1/4 of sec 31, twp 19, Hamilton Cty (Conner House) for their service with the Canadian Volunteers. Wm. Conner would eventually purchase through patent 37 parcels in Hamilton County. Yet this 80 acre Traders Point site was the only parcel he ever acquired in Marion County. Later William Conner would acquire sites in :

1. Vigo County (1831)The county’s name honored Colonel Francis Vigo (pronounced Vee-go) (1747-1836). Vigo, born in Sardinia, off Italy, became a prosperous merchant-trader in St. Louis. During the Revolutionary War he supplied George Rogers Clark with information, money, and materials for use in ending British influence in the Northwest Territory. Moving to Vincennes after the war, Vigo, now a naturalized citizen, rendered conspicuous military and civil service. The United States delayed repaying Vigo’s crucial wartime loans, and he died practically impoverished. Consequently, Vigo’s wish to donate a courthouse bell went unfulfilled until the government compensated his heirs and they subsidized a bell for the 1888 courthouse. The Terre Haute plat bordered the river for eight blocks and extended five blocks east. The town spread out from its public square at the center of the plat. In 1832 the approximately 1,000 residents voted to incorporate as a town. Officials began making headway in removing trees and underbrush from around the courthouse, grading streets, inspecting packing house, and building cisterns and a new jail. By the mid-1840s more than 100 businesses plus churches and schools encircled the public square.
2. Shelby County (1833 and 1837), Shelby County was formerly a part of Delaware County and was occupied by the Miami Indianas, though was vacated by them before the organization of the county. Shelbyville is the County Seat. By 1849 it contained 182 dwelling houses (16 were brick, 46 were 2-story and 2 even had 3-stories), 11 stores and groceries, 22 mechanics shops, two churches and two mills and a population of about 900.
3. Rush County (1834)Rushville is the County Seat. Settled in 1821 by Drs. H. G. Sexton and W. Laughlin, Joseph Nicholas, Stephen Sims and others, by 1849 it contained twenty-one stores, twenty-two mechanics shops, thirty carpenters and masons, eighteen professional gentlemen, one merchant mill, two sawmills, large and convenient churches and 222 dwelling houses with about 1,000 inhabitants.
4. Madison County (1835)Madison County was formally organized July 1, 1823. Pendleton was the first County Seat. Selected 1823, it was too far from the center of the county to be satisfactory. According to the act of January 13, 1826, the County Seat was relocated to a town called Bedford. Andersontown was the third County Seat. The rapid growth of Andersontown, a town much nearer the center of the county, caused the citizens of the county to apply to the Legislature for an act to relocate the County Seat and the change was then made as the result of the act of January 4, 1827 and the actual site appears to have been chosen in 1828. By the legislative act of December 6, 1848, Andersontown became simply Anderson. Anderson was an old Indian town named after Anderson, a Delaware chief, who formerly resided there. In 1813 it was burnt by a detachment of troops from Kentucky, then on an exploring tour. In 1849 Anderson had a Courthouse, Jail, fireproof public offices, a County Seminary and a population of about 300.
5. La Porte County (1837)This railroading town originated in 1831 when six men purchased the land at auction. In the following year, the layout for the town was designed.
6. Tipton County ? (1849)Tipton County was formed by a decree of an Indiana State Law, in 1844, from the northern portion of Hamilton County, and the southern portion of the Great Miami Indian Reserve. At that time, when Tipton became the 89th county in the state of Indiana, there were nineteen states in the Union. The northern 2/3 of the county, taken from the “Old Reserve” had no permanent Indian villages but it was the hunting grounds of the Miami, Delaware, and Pottowatomie tribes. The southern 1/3 of the new county contained only ettlements due to the harshness of the land, and for some time it was not considered a good place for new settlements. In 1846 the Indians were moved, under duress by the Army, west to Kansas; but nearly half of them, those with some white blood, or who owned land, or had influence with authorities were allowed to stay. When the Indian lands were offered for sale in 1847 the “wild land where fallen trees and beaver dams held the water in overflows and swamps” was still the hunting grounds of those Indians that had not been moved.

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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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