History of Sandcreek Township
Kellar Mill picture courtesy of Jennings County Public Library
November 22, 1923 - North Vernon Plain Dealer, pg 2
This history of Sand Creek Township was compiled by Miss Edith Hale, assisted by Cecil Clarkson from date supplied by
some of the older inhabitants and what few records could be obtained.
Sand creek is a small township five and one half miles from north to south and five miles from east to west located in
the north central part of Jennings County, and crossed from north east to south west by the Benton Harbor and Louisville railroad.
It derives its name from the creek which flows through it. Winding here and there leaving exposed steep banks of limestone,
which can not be surpassed in their beauty.
Very little is known about the early government of the township.
Among the early settlers who located here were, Adam Kellar, Absalom Elliot, Noah Spillman, Washington Riggs, Frankie Coryell,
Elias Littell, Frank Cheevers, Stephen Cadby, Henry Renn, Robert Beesley, Michael Sheedy, James Kane, Robert Dixon and William Boyd, Jno. McCammon and
The first settlers built their homes along the banks of the creek, but on the higher land in order to avoid the swampy lands lower
down and naturally our early highways tended to follow the higher land. In 1815 there was only a blazed trail through the township.
Three laws were passed by our State Legislature in 1834-35 pertaining to roads in our township. The first of these provided for
the construction of a road from Shelbyville via Hartsville to Adam Kellar's Mill in Jennings County. The second provided that Adam Kellar be appointed
commissioner and that "fifty dollars" be expended on that part of the Vernon and Fort Wayne Road that lies between Kellar's mill and Edward Davises" The
commissioners were to improve their turnpikes by casting up same in the center making a clay turnpike. The third law provided for the construction of a
state road from Versailles to Rockford. They were authorized to locate this road from Versailles to Zenas and thence by Adam Kellar's to Scipio.
The first pike was built in 1900 and extended from the Center Township line north three and one-half miles to Pleasant View church
road. The pike that extends from the Neeley corner to the Bear Creek Schoolhouse was built the same year.
In our township as in others we find that our pioneer settlers though struggling against many disadvantages were concerned about the
education of their children and at the earliest practical period erected rude log school houses.
The first school in the township is thought to be the McCammon school located on the Jas McCammon farm. Jesse Grinstead was one of
the earliest teachers.
Another early school was the Bear Creek School on what is now the Bert Tempest farm. Hiram Prather was one of the first teachers at
this school. The Hinds school was located in the north west corner of the township. Simeon Stearns and Mary Kellar were remembered as teachers.
Brush College also another early school was located on the farm now owned by John W. Kellar. The building served a double purpose.
It was their school and their church. The first teacher was Worthy L. Richardson.
Most of the early school houses were built of logs with the usual accompaniment of puncheon seats and oiled paper windows and heated
by the huge fireplaces in one end of the room.
School terms averaged about three months to the year. Teachers received a small sum in cash and "boarded round" with their patrons.
O. M. Kellar relates that his father paid 75 cents in cash and boarded the teacher three weeks in order that his son might attend school.
The first school house in Brewersville was a log building located near where the depot now stands. It was later moved to the Charles
Day house. The present building was erected in 1884 when C. A. Jackson was trustee in 1903 O. A. Stearns, the trustee having received a petition from the people,
added another story and established a high school offering a two year course. Leslie Barnes was the first high school teacher.
Later the high school was abandoned due to lack of students, but was re-established in 1912 and 1919 another teacher was added and the
school certified. Of a class of thirteen graduated in 1919, ten became teachers.
Brewersville High school, though handicapped by lack of a modern building has been able to send out students who are qualified to take
rank in other schools and the world with graduates of some of the best commissioned schools of the state.
One of the oldest protestant churches in the township is the Pleasant View United Brethern Church which was built in 1868 or '70. Before
this was built meetings were held in a log school house at Wimple Creek.
Simeon Smith was one of the first ministers and another was William Spears, a Baptist.
David Clark and wife and Zachariah Neely and wife were charter members. About eight years ago the church building was remodeled and today
they have a very modern church.
The Methodist Church at Brewersville which was abandoned several years ago was probably the first church to be built in Sand Creek Township.
Jacob Brewer deeded to the church two lots and the church was built about 1840.
The present Brewersville church had its origin in the meetings that were held in the Brush College school house. Joseph L. Stearns was the
first minister later, meetings were held in the Fish Creek district, then in No. 9 district and in the mean time the attendance had increased to such an extent that
it was made possible to build a church and one was erected in Brewersville in 1890. Morton Hobson was the first minister. The church was remodeled when W. W. Moore
was in charge of the circuit.
In 1782 a Union Church was built at Antioch. The land was donated by John McCammon Sr. and remains the property of the church so long as
services are held there at least once each year.
The Dunkards remodeled the church. It has been used by the United Brethern, Dunkards, Baptists and Holiness.
On September 1st, 1837 the town of Brewersville was laid out by Jacob Brewer from whom it derives its name. Lots numbering 1-46 were sold.
The location of the town was determined by convenience to the mill and the boating on Sand Creek.
At one time Brewersville was a very thrilling little village. Both mills were operating; there was a drug store, three general stores, saloon,
wagon shop and a blacksmith shop. It boasted two doctors and one undertaker.
Dr. William Riley was the first doctor and Dr. S. D. Adams the last.
Early storekeepers were David Mis, Maupin and Spillman.
Andrew Ade in 1842, kept a tavern near Sand Creek bridge in the same building where Charles Cadby now lives however the building which is
standing there today is but half of the old tavern.
Mail was brought from North Vernon on horseback once each week.
St. Ann is a German settlement situated in the south eastern part of the township.
The first settlers were families, named Frietz, Winters, Henry, Gehl, Gasper, Dager and Shupert.
In 1830 a log parsonage was built and Rev. Father Machino was their first stationary pastor. As the settlement increased there was need and
demand for a larger and better building so in 1866 the present building was constructed. The steeple was placed on it in 1890. The old parsonage was torn down and
a new one erected in 1870. This was destroyed by fire in 1910 and the present building was begun in the fall of the same year.
At the present time there are about fifty-two families as parishioners of the church with Father Schneck in charge.
The early settlers here being far sighted realized the need of an education for their children and about 1834 arranged a building which
corresponded with their own rude dwellings. Tim Sheedy was their first teacher.
Later a better building and accommodations were provided and the school remained as a district under the supervision of the township trustee
until 1921. Prior to this date the school term was the same as others in the township, but in addition the patrons paid a tuition fee and maintained a summer school.
Since 1921 the school has been a parochial school.
Life and Work of Two of Our Earliest Settlers
No history of this township can be complete until it contains a sketch of the life and work of Adam Kellar, one of the first settlers.
Adam Kellar, a native of Maryland, came down the Ohio River on a flat boat from Pennsylvania and settled in Clark County. While out looking
for a prospective site for his mill, he chanced upon the one on the banks of Sand Creek. At various times he entered enough land in this locality to enable him to
control both mill sites, the one where the mill now stands and where the old Woolen Mill formerly stood.
Jno. W. Kellar had in his possession one of the original deeds, issued in 1818, executed on parchment paper and signed by James Monroe, president.
Adam Kellar cleared a small tract of land built a log cabin near where the mill now stands and in 1818 brought his family here to live.
His son Wilton, father of Jno. W. and O. W. Kellar present residents of Brewersville was then a lad of five years. He at once began work on his mill.
The race was blasted out of solid rock. The drill used was sharpened in Madison, and in order to have this done was carried back and forth by some one who made the journey
on horseback. One man turned the drill while the other hammered it with a sledge hammer. The old race today bears testimony of the work that was done and the gigantic task
that it was.
When work was begun on the mill race, there was an Indian village just across the creek on what is now the John W. Kellar farm.
When the Indians saw that something unusual was occurring, they made inquiries and when they learned what was taking place they objected. They
believed that when the water was turned into the race for grinding, the creek below would be dry and their fishing would be ruined. The Indians had never seen any blasting
done, so they thought the white man was shooting rocks at them. Later after this was explained and the Indians were pacified, they would help hold the drill because they
liked to shoot the "big guns."
These Indians left about 1822. On Sept. 11th 1823 the mill was completed and it began operating. Corn was ground on old fashioned stone burrs, parts
of which are still at the mill. If the purchaser wished to obtain the finer white flour, he sifted it himself through a device that was fitted up for that purpose.
The mill was improved from time to time. Another story was added. Newt Robison introduced the roller process.
Corn was ground at night and lumber was sawed during the day.
The mill today is on the same foundation on which it was built a hundred years ago. If not the oldest mill in the state, that is run by water power
and still owned and managed by G. M. Robison a descendant of Adam Kellar actively engaged in the work of grinding corn and sawing lumber. The Mill
Closed in 1937 and there are no buildings remaining at the site.)
In 1858 the Woolen Mill or the Rocky Mound Mills as it was then known was built. The mill was located at what is now called the Tunnel. The blasting
of the tunnel was begun about 1852 or 53.
The Woolen Mill was three stories high, eighty feet long and forty feet wide. There was another room on the east end which served as a dye room and
boiler house. The lumber was sawed at the mill south of Brewersville. It was built by John Kellar and for several years was managed by Newt Robison.
All kinds of woolen goods were manufactured here. The goods was loaded on flat boats at the mill and sent south to New Orleans and other cities along
the Mississippi river. This mill was destroyed by fire in April 1867.
Another very early settler was Absalom Elliot, who was of English descent and born in Pennsylvania in 1793. He was a soldier in the War of 1812. He
settled in the north part of the township near Millstone. He walked to Jeffersonville entered his land and walked back. This man must have been a typical representative of
the settlers of his day, who lived entirely within their own resources. When he settled here turkeys, deer and wolves were numerous and often troublesome. He carried his
grain to Rockford over twenty miles distant, to get it ground.
Mr. Elliot soon erected a band mill which came to be used by his neighbors who paid for their grinding by a part of the corn. They took their wool to
Milford and had it carded, or carded it at home and worked it into cloth for family use.
Mr. Elliot had a family tannery and made leather for use in his own family. He also made his own sugar as long as he lived. He was skilled in the use
of medicinal herbs and was so successful among the sick that he had a wide practice. He was the first doctor in the county to use electricity in the treatment of diseases.
The recreation of the early settlers seemed to be church going and social neighborhood gatherings, log rollings for house building, quiltings, etc.
One son, Samuel Elliot, became a soldier in 1862, was wounded at Franklin, Tenn., captured by the enemy and taken to Richmond Va., where he died in a
Confederate prison. The descendants of Absalom Elliot still living in Sand Creek Township are Mrs. John Temple, Mrs. Elnora Fike and S. S. Neely.
There were probably more settlers at this time, but it has been impossible to obtain a record of them.
Sherwood was a little village in the northern part of the township. It was laid out in 1833 after the building of the railroad. A switch extended from
the main track down to the Hicks and Holmes Quarry on the banks of Sand Creek.
Albert McCammon was store keep and post master.
Stringtown was another little village located on the hill north of Brewersville. Several families lived in this village. Many of the men were employed
in the Woolen Mill.
When the Kellar Mills began sawing lumber, the best poplar lumber was rafted down the creek and sold at forty cents a hundred.
Wheat was hauled to Madison. It required three days in which to make the journey and return. The pioneers received as high as thirty cents a bushel for
Tony Daeger has in his possession a tax receipt dated in 1846 which shows that $1.78 in taxes had been paid by his father on two hundred acres of land in
the St. Ann neighborhood.
Charles Singer was postmaster at St. Ann in the earlier days, but the post office was abandoned when the railroad was built.
At one time there was a block house in Sand Creek Township located on the Jimmie McCammon farm.
Outwitting the Indians
Many interesting stories are told by the descendents of Adam Kellar. When the mill race was being blasted. The Indians who were encamped across the creek
while friendly, proved at times to be a source of great annoyance to Mrs. Kellar. For example, when she blew the dinner horn the Indians who were sitting waiting for the signal
would make a rush for the house and proceed to eat all that had been prepared for the men who were at work on the mill race. Finally they thought of a plan whereby they hoped to
out wit the Indians. The hogs were trained to come to the house when the horn blew. In the meantime the noon meal had been set up out of sight, so when the Indians came they
found Mrs. Kellar feeding the hogs and after a few days they stayed away entirely.
On the Geo M. Robison farm there is a mound that is believed to be the work of the Mound Builders.
Even the Indians when questioned concerning this could tell nothing. Years ago when Mr. Robison's father began digging a cellar out of a hillside, he
found there the skeleton of a little child. The hair was white and there were many indications that the child was not an Indian, but belonged to a fair complexioned race of people.
Again in 1881 the skeleton of a human of unusual size was found in this mound. From comparative measurements of bones of this skeleton it was thought to
have been about nine feet in length. Cedar sticks were found around his waist, probably a symbol of some religious rite. Some of these were in as perfect condition as if they
had just been placed there. A chain of mica was around the neck. These statements have been verified by Elmer Adams and Charles Cadby present residents of Brewersville who were
present when the skeleton was unearthed.
In the Brewersville cemetery lies the body of a Revolutionary soldier, William Meserve, who died in 1850 aged about 100 years and three months. This man
was with Washington during the terrible winter at Valley Forge. After the war when the trend of immigration started westward, he managed to make his way to Indiana Territory and
make a home for himself and family.
It is thought that the body of another Revolutionary soldier, Wm. Smith lies in this cemetery but his grave has not been definitely located.
Sand Creek Township seems to have produced an unusual number of ministers and teachers. Four son of Abasolom Elliot were ministers. Others in the families
of Smith, Stearns, Clark, Renn, Richardson, G. A. Daeger has one son Albert, Archbishop at Santa Fe, New Mexico another son Virgil, priest at Oldenburg, Ind. The Klein family also
has a priest among their number.
G. A. Daeger the oldest resident of St. Ann, relates of the earliest inhabitants that some of the men walked to Madison, worked all week in a slaughter house
and walked home on Saturday night. One man by the name of Knaub bought a No. 2 plow in Madison and carried it home on his shoulder. Mr. Daeger remembers when coon skins were used
as legal tender, their value about 10c per skin He also says that his father bought corn at 10c per bushel. Preston Shields the first white child born on Sand Creek was born in this
Westport Column - November 29, 1923 - North Vernon Plain Dealer
The Sand Creek Township history was read with interest, as I was born there and lived there several years. The history did not reach back quite far enough.
For instance the first school house in Brewersville was a log house built on the Reynolds farm just south of town. The last teacher that taught there was Harriett Kellar in the late
50's and she afterward married A. M. Robbinson.
The Washington Riggs who was never married spoken of as one of the earlier settlers was a son of John Riggs who came to Bear Creek about 1818 and lived on the
north side of Bear Creek until his death in 1851. His wife Sarah Wilson Riggs was born in October 1785 and died in Brewersville in 1875 lacking only 2 Days of being 90 years old.
The cemetery spoken of was never known as Brewersville Cemetery, but was always called the Kellar grave yard.
The school house on Bear Creek was almost, if not quite the oldest in the township as Dr. Burroughs says that he went to school there in 1841 and that it was
an old house then. One of the teachers was Jesse Grinstead, others were Ann Chauncy, Richard and Nelson Smith and some whose names I cannot recall, the last two schools were taught
in 1862 and 1863 by Jennie Riggs and Jennie Eddleman, after that the building was used for a sheep house by the Denny family who bought the Riggs farm, on which it was built, in the
spring of 1862. The Bear Creek Cemetery is also on the same farm on the east side and about 50 of the relatives of that family are buried there. The Spillman family who lived on the
original Riggs farm were John D. Spillman and his father Thomas, and their families both men were Methodist preachers. If I am not greatly mistaken the first protestant church in the
township was a M. E. Church in Brewersville just when it was built I cannot say but I have attended the church there as far back as 1854 one of the first pastors that I remember besides
the Spillman's was S. B. Chamberlain and others were A. L. Roope, T. B. McClain and one of the last named Maupin.
Westport Column - December 13, 1923 - North Vernon Plain Dealer
John Riggs of whom I spoke in my last letter came to Sand Creek township, April 1, 1820 where they, he and his family lived for three months in what they called
a camp of bark, still surrounded by savage Indians, many wild beasts and poisonous reptiles. They built their fires against a bluff on Bear Creek and one morning while they were eating
breakfast, their son Henry was noticed gazing upward toward the face of the bluff, his mother reproved him telling him to be gazing but to eat his breakfast; he said "I see something
moving, and would like to know what it is" this attracted the attention of the others and they soon discovered that the heat of their fire had aroused a den of poisonous reptiles, and
that day they succeeded in killing 33 copperheads and 7 rattle snakes. Their home was about three miles from Brewersville on Bear Creek, where they lived until after his death September
15, 1851. After emigrating to Indiana from Grand View, Ohio, he returned to Ohio on business and brought back eight hen eggs which his wife wrapped in towels and carried in her bosom
until they hatched, thus they got their first chickens. Henry Riggs was married to Cynthia Prather in 1825. She died February 1834 leaving four children. The youngest only six weeks
old. He afterward married Amelia May, July 30, 1835. Their were eight children by this marriage. He died March 17, 1851.
The first schoolhouse in Brewersville was built of logs and located just west of Brewersville near Sand Creek and later moved into Brewersville proper on the north
side of Jeffersonville Street on a lot that came to be known as the School Lot. In 1884 the brick building was erected. According to a Commissioners record, the then-trustee, C. A. Jackson
was granted a petition to build "a brick school house consisting of two rooms - one upstairs and one downstairs - not to exceed one thousand dollars." However, the upstairs was not actually
added until 1903 when Oscar Albert Stearns was trustee. The upstairs room was to serve pupils of high school age and offered a two year term. Leslie Barnes was the first high school teacher.
Later the high school was abandoned due to lack of students, but was re-established in 1912 and in 1919 another teacher was added and the school certified. Ten of the thirteen students that
graduated became teachers. In 1925, due to State requirements and a lack of pupils, the High School was again abandoned. The students then attended High School in Vernon. Chesley Holmes
and Edith Hale (Bliton) were teachers during the 1923-1924 school year.
The new Sand Creek School was completed in 1963, consolidating pupils from Brewersville, St. Anne and Walnut Grove. The last year for classes at Sand Creek was 1985
and the building reverted back to the original land owners, Chesley and Dorothy Clarkson. Sand Creek Township students now attend Jennings County Schools.