Franklin township was created on a date recorded as March 4, 1819 and originally was quite a large township. The area encompassed was the present day Franklin township as well as the area of Jefferson and Clay Townships, covering approximately 120 square miles of southern Owen county.Racoon Creek flows easterly through the southern portion of the township and empties into White River which nearly divides the township equally.
The land of Franklin township was surveyed and placed on the market in the year 1816, however, there is no record of any white persons as residents that early.Some of the earliest settlers were; John Latta, Levin Lawrence, Joseph Bartholomew and Alexander Kirkpatrick. Hamilton Reddaugh, Joseph Freeland and Vance Wilson laid claim to large land portions also.
It is not possible to determine just who was the actual "first" settler because none of these men moved onto their lands until about 10 years after their entries were made. It is of general opinion though that John and William Latta were the first permanent settlers as they had many improvements to their lands in the summer of 1818. Joseph Freeland was probably the next permanent settler as he came from Maryland in the year 1818 where he located near Freedom for about ten years prior to returning to Maryland. He later returned to Indiana and settled in Franklin township until his death in 1838.
Another early settlement in the northeastern part of the township was made by a man named Buskirk. He established a trading post on the east bank of the White River that became known as "The Point" about 1819. Buskirk kept a small stock of goods consisting of fabrics, notions and whiskey; he also trafficked with the Indians for furs and venison. These he traded with men in Louisville where he purchased his stock at.
Elisha Childers came from North Carolina about 1824 and settled close to Freedom. Elisha was the first shoemaker in the township.
Prior to the year of 1825, the closest market for most products was either in New Albany or Louisville. A number of persons engaged in shipping their corn and pork to these markets and also to New Orleans for good prices. One early industry was the manufacturing of maple sugar, this they exchanged for food and dry goods. Some settlers made a good penny selling venison hams which traders would purchase at the price of 25 cents per pair. The traders would collect these until they had a large amount and boat them down to New Orleans and sell them for a dollar a pair.
The first orchard in the township was planted by Capt. Johnson with seed brought from Kentucky. The second orchard was set up by Abner Light and the first grafted tree fruit was raised by Hugh Light in about 1840.
The first frame house erected was the residence of Hugh Light and the first brick dwelling was built by Capt. Johnson near the village of Freedom. The second brick dwelling was erected by Charles Ooley.
The first mill was constructed in Franklin township by Christopher Ooley who moved it from Greene County, it stood in the eastern part of the township.
Another early mill was that of James Johnson built on Racoon Creek but it was only used a couple of years. A water mill was constructed about the year 1842 on the White River. However, it was destroyed about 8 years later by ice.
A man named Starr erected the first saw mill in the southeastern part on Racoon Creek. This was later purchased by James and Alf Dyar and converted to grind corn and wheat. Flouring mills were also built by a man named McClerren and one by Nathan Cooper whose last proprietor was Hiram Johnson.
Several distilleries were in operation in the early days of the township, however, at that time they were looked at as respectable businesses. Silas Myers manufactured leather southwest of Freedom and a man named Keck operated a tannery in Freedom.
The first ground set aside for the burial of the dead was laid out on land belonging to Stephen Barnes in the southwest part of the township. Among the first to be laid here were Isaac Brown, John Barnes, and William Wells. A graveyard was also laid out about 3 miles north of Freedom in the Scott settlement as early as 1823. The earliest recorded burials were of Robert and Agnes Scott, John Oaks and Mahala Scott.
One of the first deaths in the township was of William Johnson, brother of Capt. Johnson in the year 1821. He was buried in the graveyard with several members of the Light family to follow him. The Hicks graveyard in the northeast part of the township was first used in the year 1826, it was at one time the largest cemetery in the township.
The first marriages were recorded in the year 1823. These were; Israel Light to Miss Elizabeth Russell, daughter of William; John Jackson and a daughter of Luke Vaughn and also Henry Jackson and a Miss Dyar.
It is not possible to determine the first birth in the township, however, Mrs Elizabeth Hicks, daughter of Caleb Nichols born in 1819 would seem to be one of the earliest. Robert M. Scott, son of Alexander Scott was born in the year 1824.
The schools in Franklin township were started in a most primitive manner. In any neighborhood where a dozen or more children could be gathered, any man who had muscles, and could read, write and cipher some would be employed to teach for so much pay per scholar and his board.
During the first twenty years, the schools were all supported by subscription and at no time were they kept open for longer then 3 months.One of the first schools was started about one half mile from Freedom in a cabin on Ritter Farm. This was as early as the year 1825. The teacher for this school was Samuel Folsom, he was succeeded by William Sloane who taught a few terms prior to 1830. Perhaps the first building erected specifically for school purposes was in the northeast corner of the township on government land. The first teacher in this school was Luke Philbert in 1832-1833. He was followed by: William Sloane, Alexander McBride and R.B. Landrum
Freedom, the only village considered of any importance in the township is on the west bank of the White River on parts of Sections 16,17,20 and 21. The plat was surveyed on November 18, 1834 for Joseph Freeland. The village had gotten a considerable reputation as a shipping point for flatboats prior to the actual village being laid out. Early settlers were there about 1833, among the surnames were; Randolph, Lewis, Lestre, Johnson and McKee. In the fall of 1833 a man named John Young brought a small stock of goods and sold them in a small log building.
Frederick Lester worked as a shoemaker and kept the first hotel there. James McKee and George Wise were the first mechanics and started blacksmith shops about the time the village was laid out. One of the first merchants was Pleasant Johnson who opened a grocery store in 1834; Matthew and David Phipps sold goods from 1839-1841.Businesses of every kind could be found there, Mr. Kennedy erected a flour mill in 1883 and the Wright Brothers had a saw mill. In the year 1844, Dr. A.J. Minnich came to the village. Doctors of other surnames have also practiced in Freedom; Drs. Carter, Johnson, Shell, Secrest, Hillburn, Goss and Gauntz.
There were three religious orders in Freedom, the oldest one being Mount Zion Baptist Church that was organized in 1842 by Elders Mugg and B D C Herring. The Freedom Christian Church about two miles northeast of Freedom was erected in 1844 with services conducted by Elder Thomas Johnson. The Methodist Episcopal Church of Freedom was organized in the year 1850 at the residence of Dr. Minnich.
Pottersville-- The town of Pottersville is in Sections 23 and 24 and was laid out in the year 1858 by William Kinnaman. The plat had 14 lots, and was laid out as a speculative venture, but growth never reached the expectations. At one time there had been a blacksmith shop, a small store and a harness shop, in addition, Dr. Goss practiced here in 1865; he was succeeded by Dr. Perry.