278 - History of Vermillion County Biographical and Historical Record of
Vermillion County, Indiana

Eugene Township


In this township, more than any other in the county, where the Indian villages, the Indian battlefields, the first trading posts and the first settlements. While the first settler in the county was John Vannest, in Clinton township, in 1816, Eugene township was more rapidly settled at the beginning than was Clinton. It was in Eugene township that the Groenendykes, Thompsons, Porters, Armours, Colletts, Hepburns, Colemans, Malones, Naylor, Shelbys, etc. settled, all on the Big Vermillion River. Most of these have numerous and prominent descendants. Although the first mill in the county is claimed for Clinton Township, -- built by John Beard in 1819 or '20, -- probably the first large and reliable mill in the county was built by John Groenendyke, about the same time or shortly after, on the Big Vermillion, at the point in the northern portion of the village of Eugene still occupied by the largest and best mill in the county.

The following list of early settlers is not designed to be a complete catalogue; it is only a chronological classification of some of the most important arrivals, from the data available.

1816. -- Noah Hubbard, with a wife and a large number of children. After residing here many years he became a Mormon and went to Missouri, to join his people, then to Nauvoo, Illinois, remaining with them until they were driven away from there, about 1847, when he returned to this county and began preaching the peculiar doctrine. Rejoining the Mormon colony at Council Bluffs, Iowa, he died there. His wife, Catharine, then returned to this section of the country, and finally died near this county, in Illinois. Their daughter Pamelia, married a man named Curtis.

1818. -- Isaac Coleman settled three miles

Eugene Township - 279

south of Eugene, on the little prairie since known by his name. Judge J. M. Coleman came to the township a subsequent year, from Virginia, settling on section 16, 17 north, 9 west and was long intimately associated with the Colletts. He had helped to lay out the city of Indianapolis, and also the town of Terre Haute, where he also built the old court-house. in this county he was one of the first grand jurors and associate judges. He afterward moved to Iowa City, where he built the State house, died and was buried.

This year came Major James Blair, who settled on the northeast quarter of section 16, 17 north, 9 west; and at his cabin on this place was held the first court in the county. Mr. Blair had been a sharp-shooter on Lake Erie under Commodore Perry, in the war of 1812, when he was detailed to shoot at the Indians in the rigging of the British war vessels; but at the very first fire of Perry's artillery the Indians were so frightened that they hastily "scuttled" down into the hold, and there were no Indians for Mr. Blair to do his duty upon. As his vessel sailed past the British men-of-war, he could see the glittering tin canisters down through the muzzles of their guns. For his faithful services, Mr. Blair received a medal from the Government. On one occasion, after he became a resident of this county, he was a candidate for the Legislature, he attended a shooting-match, participated, and aimed so well that every man present voted for him at the ensuing election! On still another occasion he played an amusing trick upon the simple-minded pioneers and Indians, in the settlement of a controversy between them. See section on Indians.

Blair married a daughter of Judge Coleman, resided for a time on Coleman's Prairie, and then moved up the river and founded Perrysville, which place he named in honor of his brave commander, Commodore O. H. Perry, remaining there until his death.

Both Blair and Coleman had an intimate acquaintance with the Indians, and lived in friendship with them for a number of years. It frequently fell to their lot to act as peace-makers between the Indians and what were termed the "border ruffians," who were much the worse class of the two. These two pioneers always spoke in the highest terms of Se-Seep, the last chief who lived in the vicinity, who was said to be 110 years old when he was foully murdered by a renegade Inidan of his own tribe. Like the fading autumn leaves, the aborigines of the forest died away. The guns and dogs of the white man frightened away the game from their hunting grounds, or destroyed it, and the virtue of a dire necessity called upon them to emigrate, to make room for the ax and plow, the cabin and the school-house, of the incoming white man.

1819. -- John Groenendyke came from near Ovid, Cayuga County, New York, first to Terre Haute in 1818, and the next year to this county, settling on the Big Vermillion where Eugene now stands. He was the father of James -- who built the "Big Vermillion," the first large grist-mill in the county already referred to -- and Samuel, and the grandfather of Hon. John Groenendyke and his cousin Samuel, and also the grandfather of the present Colletts. The name was originally Van Groenendycke, which the express agent at Eugene, Samuel, has abbreviated still further to Grondyke -- a word of two syllables, the first syllable being pronounced groan. The first family of this line came to America from Holland with the Knickerbockers in 1617, settling in New Amsterdam (New York).

1821. -- James Armour settled here soon after Mr. Groenendyke, and assisted in building the mill; he moved to Illinois over twenty