History

Town of Brookville - History

Brookville, the County Seat of Franklin County, Indiana

Physical Features

Brookville lies both on the “first high ground” at the juncture of the East and West fork of the Whitewater Rives in the Northwest quarter of Township 29, and to the east of this promontory, bottom land in the Southeast section. The high ground represents a “V” expanding northward on its west side close to the river, and more irregularly on the east side along Franklin Ave to about Seventh Street, then generally along Fairfield Avenue. The former has been referred to as the “the hill” and the river plain on the east side as “the bottom.” This natural feature has affected Brookvilles history and development.

Brookville Platted

Amos Butler and Jesse B. Thomas, of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, entered the Northwest corner in 1805. Butler was a practical businessman and Thomas, a well-respected lawyer and legislator. Both saw the potential for a town at the first of the Whitewater River with Thomas being recognized as its principle proprietor. Brookville was platted in August 1808 with the plat recorded in Dearborn County.

LOOK at THIS!

The subscriber will sell at public sale on Thursday the 25th inst. A number of lots in the town of BROOKEVILLE, in the forks of the Whitewater, in the county of Dearborn, 30 miles from Lawrenceburgh. Sixteen months credit will be given – bond with approved security, payable in pork, tallow, beeswax, hog’s lard, hemp or tobacco. The sale will commence at eleven o’clock, A.M.

JESSIE B. THOMAS
Lawrenceburgh, Aug. 6, 1808
Liberty Hall and Cincinnati Mercury Saturday, August 13, 1808, page 2, Column 1

The original town consists of 77 lots, each running 82.5’ north and south and 165’ east and west. Upwards of 13 lots were sold between 1808-1811, with deeds recorded at Lawrenceburg. The Dearborn County Courthouse burned in 1826, with loss of its deed records. As early as 1873, and then thereafter, in articles and in histories to the present, the source of the name of Brookville was from Thomas’ mother, whose maiden name was “Brooks,” with the “s” later dropped. Jesse Burgress Thomas’ mother’s maiden name was Symmes. An 1810 petition to the governor for John Allen to be a justice of the peace for “Brooks Ville” and only one reference to the town being “Brooksbille,” in over 1,700 territorial court records, and none in any deed records, suggests the town was named after its geological feature. [However, Thomas lived in Brooksville, Bracken County, Kentucky before moving to Lawrenceburg.]

Butler and Thomas jointly patented the quarter section, with Butler to make the first payment, Thomas, the second and so on, until paid. Thomas assigned his interest to James Hamilton and Michael Jones , of Lawrenceburg. Butler, Hamilton and Jones entered into an agreement in March 1811 in which Butler gave up all rights to the section land east of the west fork of the river, including Brookville. It was only after this agreement did the sale of town lots continue. On January 8, 1812, Hamilton, as proprietor, recorded the plat in Franklin County. Butler platted an addition of 83 lots north of the original town and John Allen added 66 lots in “the bottom,” both May 26, 1812. The quarter and sectional lines run along Franklin Avenue and between Seventh and Eight Streets.

Jesse B. Thomas is recognized as Brookville’s founder and Amos Butler and John Allen as the town’s exclusive pioneer contributors. Lesser honored is James Knight. He may have been the first lot purchaser and in 1808 erected a block house on the lots where the jail is located and had the principal tavern there, at the sign of the “Indian Chief.” He, among others, made at least three petitions in 1808 to the Legislature for a new county to be created from Dearborn. With the original plat including a “public ground” Brookville was to be the county seat. Knight, was an extensive owner of town lots, and as a civil engineer, built the first log jail and courthouse. He began constructing the brick courthouse in 1815 but died before it was finished. His widow had her brother, an architect, finish it. Most of Knight’s children moved from Brookville in the early 1830’s, thus contributing to his lack of recognition by local historians.

Incorporations

The first three incorporation was by an act of the territorial legislature, effect February 1, 1814. The trustees were authorized to maintain its streets and alleys, eliminate nuisances, erect a market house when petitioned by its citizens, and keep in good repair the public well, its maintenance to be paid for by the citizens residing on the “high ground.” No records survive, and the length of its existence is unknown.

Brookville was incorporated a second time in 1817, with an election held September 1. 49 were in favor and 2 against. On September 8th five trustees were elected. The incorporation was duly recorded in the clerk’s office on September 8th. No record also survives for this second incorporation but most likely its functions were the same as before.

The current incorporation occurred in March 23, 1839 under the requirements of “An Act to Incorporation of Towns,” Revised Code of 1838. There were 77 voters. A town incorporation included all “building lots as recorded in the recorder’s office… and when any new building lots shall be laid off adjoining to any town… the same shall form a part of the said corporation, “but incorporation excluded out lots. No survey was required. On interest was the proviso “for the purpose of removing nuisances, issue licenses for “public shows” and taverns, maintain public wells, build market houses and keep in repair streets, alleys and drains. The board also could establish jails and fire departments. It could levy and collect taxes, which evidently caused residents of th southern part of to town petition the General Assembly to establish a town called “New Augsburgh.” An act in 1840 legalized the town’s incorporation and power to tax.

Under the present Constitution, the General Assembly passed a comprehensive law for incorporating towns in 1852, which the town board adopted in December 12, 1853. In addition to continuing the powers listed above, among many others given to the board of trustees was one to annex contingent recorded plats and to petition the County Commissioners to annex unplatted territory. The town also could establish cemeteries. Brookvilles town minutes from 1839 are complete.

Town Boards

With the first incorporation, 1814, the board always has consisted of five trustees, originally elected for one year. Trustees now serve a four-year term. The first action of the board, March 29, 1839, was to establish seventeen rules for conducting business. In 1877 the board passed a comprehensive set of rules for conducting its business, including a detailed list of rules of decorum for debating issues. The local papers have published the proceedings of the board regularly. The town marshal, first listed in 1839, performed various duties for the board, primarily maintaining streets and alleys, controlling nuisances, preventing livestock from running loose, and lighting street lamps. Today many of these duties are conducted by various departments. More traditionally, the marshal served as the law enforcement office. The Act of 1852 gave me the same power as a constable. Technically, he is town marshal but serves as chief of police.

Annexations

Over thirty annexations have occurred. In addition to the Allen and Butler ones, prior to the current incorporation, were the following: Eads, on north Main 1818, Henrie, in the bottom, 1819, Price and Mary & W. W. Butler, 1838. With the exception of the Fairview addition west of the river (1923) all others have been contiguous to the town until after WWII. Most prominent has been Riverview Heights, east of the river (1947).

Water

Water was lacking on the hill. The incorporation act of 1814 called for a public well. This was dug on the courthouse square and was from 90-100 feet deep, lined with stone, and it fell into disrepair about 1837. Perhaps the second incorporation in 1817 was designed to more permanently solve this issue. Brookville had the second water works in Indiana. On March 10, 1819 Amos Butler entered into an agreement with the town board, valid until March 13, 1831, for constructing a reservoir at or near any of Butler’s springs in Section 20 and to construct “aqueducts from said reservoir or springs or fountains to Brookville.” The reservoir was a large vat about ten feet square and from eight to ten feet deep from which log pipes would direct the water to Brookville. One source states that is was located on high ground on Ninth Street between Main and Franklin Avenue. Problems with leadking logs led to its failure by 1824 and perhaps the town’s incorporation as well. Beginning in the late 1830’s private cisterns provided the water for residents on the hill. Brookville did not have another waterworks until 1891.

Market House

Market houses were established to permit country produce to be offered for sale before 9 a.m. Clarkson, editor of the American, noted in April 1839 “our farmers when they bring any thing to market, either have to go around to our residences to dispose of their produce, or dispose of it to our merchants at whatever they please to give.” Brookvilles market house was located at the southeast corner of Fifth and Main streets, on the public square. It consisted of a roof over a number of individual stalls. Its value waned after the Civil War, and it was offered for sale, or to be rebuilt with the town hall on top, 1872. It did sell that year and three years later was replaced by the town hall.

Streets

One major continuous issue have been the improvement and maintenance of the streets, and secondarily, sidewalks. The town marshal was in charge of leveling an grading streets, including providing proper drainage. It frequently was an issue given the number of criticisms appearing the local newspaper about poor conditions. The minutes record multiple reports of work done. Parallel to needing safe streets were ordinances requiring homeowners to provide sidewalks. In 1867 the owners of property on Main Street were to pave with brick or stone a sidewalk, along with a stone curb next to the gutter. In 1905, as part of laying sewer lines, Main, Franklin and Eleventh streets had Laurel limestone curbing, gutters and concrete sidewalks. By 1910, as these improvements extended to streets in the valley, concrete replaced the stone. Main Street was paved in 1922. Before malls and box store, Main Street was crowded with shoppers who parked all day. Merchants urged the town board to install parking meters, which occurred in September 1950. Twelve minutes cost one cent.

Brookville Cemetery

The Methodists and Presbyterians established a cemetery at the site of the former’s church in the 1820’s, and as space became a premium, the town purchased four of Butler’s lots immediately west of the existing Cemetery in 1854, laying our 320 cemetery lots. On April 2, 1859 the board began selling lots. The combined cemeteries (along with Saint Michael Cemetery) remained the only ones until the former began filling up. The trustees considered purchasing the Agricultural Society grounds as a corporate cemetery in the spring of 1872. It did not and in 1882 Maple Grove Cemetery, west of Brookville, was establish.

Street Lights

In the 1870’s Brookville installed street lights using an unknown fuel source. Evidently these were tricky to light and were given to exploding. The board passed an ordinance in 1877 limiting lighting to the marshal. In 1891 the town entered in to an agreement with National Electric Manufacturing Company for a series of arc lamps. Evidently there were problems, thus this comment in the American October 18, 1894:  “Where are the electric lights? Out making political speeches?” Later the trustees contracted with the Brookville Electric Company. Carbon arc lights were replaced, progressively, with newer technologies throughout the Twentieth Century, the last set, installed in 1979, being replaced in 2018.

Origin of the Brookville Fire Department

In June 1877 the board passed an ordinance creating a fire department and the next year purchased a hand fire engine and 600 feet of hose for $994.50. Between 1881 – 1883 five cisterns were installed for the fire department, including one at Fifth and Main holding 1,500 barrels of water. On July 24, 1893 the board passed an ordinance organizing a fire company, to consist of “twelve athletic men, sober, respectable residents of Brookville.

Street Names

Original street names led to confusion. In June 1877 the Board changed Main Burgess Street to Main and Main to Franklin Ave and Head Street to Central Avenue. In December 1894 the final change occurred. The original street names, Bank, Race, James, Claiborne, Walker, Central Avenue, Lean, Rose, Grave, John and Butler became in the order named, Second Street to Twelfth Street.

House Addresses

In 1877 the Board passed an ordinance numbering “houses and vacant lots on Main Street for advertising and business purposes.” On the east side of the street, starting at lot 15 the numbers placed at every 25 feet, being even number, 1-259, to the north end of town and odd on the west side of the street. Just before WWI the current street addresses were established.

Growth

Given legal issues over the original plat and the War of 1812, with Brookville being near the frontier, the town grew slowly. In July 1816 the town had one grist mill, two saw mills, 7 stores, a market house, brick courthouse, 16 artisans from cabinet makers to tanners, and 5 taverns. Businesses occupied the original town, along with some residences. Most citizens lived in the “bottom,” on Allen’s lots, including many of its prominent residents. The editor of the American, in 1854, chided a Mr. Price for a building on the hill, noting that almost all the prominent people lived in the bottom. However, he did not mention that his brother-in-law, Wilson Morrow, who was building a brick residence that year at 912 Main Street.

Due primarily to the lack of dependable water, the Butler and Eads additions grew slowly. John C. Ellis moved from Wynn to Brookville July 1, 1861 and noted that there were but five houses north of Tenth Street.  Based upon his service both as Brookville Township Trustee and County Assessor, he noted, when interviewed in May 1914, that 425 houses had been added since 1861 and an additional 145 remodeled. Spurts of development occurred as a result of the canal and immediately after the Civil War. The population in November 1827, was 443; in 1835, 520. By April 1887, it had grown to 2,056 but dropped to 2,037 in 1900, to 2,194 in 1940, and 2,568 in 1950. For many years its population stabilized at approximately 2,500.

John J. Newman

Town of Brookville - History

Brookville, the County Seat of Franklin County, Indiana

Physical Features

Brookville lies both on the “first high ground” at the juncture of the East and West fork of the Whitewater Rives in the Northwest quarter of Township 29, and to the east of this promontory, bottom land in the Southeast section. The high ground represents a “V” expanding northward on its west side close to the river, and more irregularly on the east side along Franklin Ave to about Seventh Street, then generally along Fairfield Avenue. The former has been referred to as the “the hill” and the river plain on the east side as “the bottom.” This natural feature has affected Brookville’s history and development.

Brookville Platted

Amos Butler and Jesse B. Thomas, of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, entered the Northwest corner in 1805. Butler was a practical businessman and Thomas, a well-respected lawyer and legislator. Both saw the potential for a town at the first of the Whitewater River with Thomas being recognized as its principle proprietor. Brookville was platted in August 1808 with the plat recorded in Dearborn County.

LOOK at THIS!

The subscriber will sell at public sale on Thursday the 25th inst. A number of lots in the town of BROOKEVILLE, in the forks of the Whitewater, in the county of Dearborn, 30 miles from Lawrenceburgh. Sixteen months credit will be given – bond with approved security, payable in pork, tallow, beeswax, hog’s lard, hemp or tobacco. The sale will commence at eleven o’clock, A.M.

JESSIE B. THOMAS
Lawrenceburgh, Aug. 6, 1808
Liberty Hall and Cincinnati Mercury Saturday, Augsut 13, 1808, page 2, Column 1

The original town consists of 77 lots, each running 82.5’ north and south and 165’ east and west. Upwards of 13 lots were sold between 1808-1811, with deeds recorded at Lawrenceburg. The Dearborn County Courthouse burned in 1826, with loss of its deed records. As early as 1873, and then thereafter, in articles and in histories to the present, the source of the name of Brookville was from Thomas’ mother, whose maiden name was “Brooks,” with the “s” later dropped. Jesse Burgress Thomas’ mother’s maiden name was Symmes. An 1810 petition to the governor for John Allen to be a justice of the peace for “Brooks Ville” and only one reference to the town being “Brooksbille,” in over 1,700 territorial court records, and none in any deed records, suggests the town was named after its geological feature. [However, Thomas lived in Brooksville, Bracken County, Kentucky before moving to Lawrenceburg.]

Butler and Thomas jointly patented the quarter section, with Butler to make the first payment, Thomas, the second and so on, until paid. Thomas assigned his interest to James Hamilton and Michael Jones , of Lawrenceburg. Butler, Hamilton and Jones entered into an agreement in March 1811 in which Butler gave up all rights to the section land east of the west fork of the river, including Brookville. It was only after this agreement did the sale of town lots continue. On January 8, 1812, Hamilton, as proprietor, recorded the plat in Franklin County. Butler platted an addition of 83 lots north of the original town and John Allen added 66 lots in “the bottom,” both May 26, 1812. The quarter and sectional lines run along Franklin Avenue and between Seventh and Eight Streets.

Jesse B. Thomas is recognized as Brookville’s founder and Amos Butler and John Allen as the town’s exclusive pioneer contributors. Lesser honored is James Knight. He may have been the first lot purchaser and in 1808 erected a block house on the lotes where the jail is located and had the principal tavern there, at the sign of the “Indian Chief.” He, among others, made at least three petitions in 1808 to the Legislature for a new county to be created from Dearborn. With the original plat including a “public ground” Brookville was to be the county seat. Knight, was an extensive owner of town lots, and as a civil engineer, built the first log jail and courthouse. He began constructing the brick courthouse in 1815 but died before it was finished. His widow had her brother, an architect, finish it. Most of Knight’s children moved from Brookville in the early 1830’s, thus contributing to his lack of recognition by local historians.

Incorporations

The first three incorporation was by an act of the territorial legislature, effect February 1, 1814. The trustees were authorized to maintain its streets and alleys, eliminate nuisances, erect a market house when petitioned by its citizens, and keep in good repair the public well, its maintenance to be paid for by the citizens residing on the “high ground.” No records survive, and the length of its existence is unknown.

Brookville was incorporated a second time in 1817, with an election held September 1. 49 were in favor and 2 against. On September 8th five trustees were elected. The incorporation was duly recorded in the clerk’s office on September 8th. No record also survives for this second incorporation but most likely its functions were the same as before.

The current incorporation occurred in March 23, 1839 under the requirements of “An Act to Incorporation of Towns,” Revised Code of 1838. There were 77 voters. A town incorporation included all “building lots as recorded in the recorder’s office… and when any new building lots shall be laid off adjoining to any town… the same shall form a part of the said corporation, “but incorporation excluded out lots. No survey was required. On interest was the proviso “for the purpose of removing nuisances, issue licenses for “public shows” and taverns, maintain public wells, build market houses and keep in repair streets, alleys and drains. The board also could establish jails and fire departments. It could levy and collect taxes, which evidently caused residents of th southern part of to town petition the General Assembly to establish a town called “New Augsburgh.” An act in 1840 legalized the town’s incorporation and power to tax.

Under the present Constitution, the General Assembly passed a comprehensive law for incorporating towns in 1852, which the town board adopted in December 12, 1853. In addition to continuing the powers listed above, among many others given to the board of trustees was one to annex contingent recorded plats and to petition the County Commissioners to annex unplatted territory. The town also could establish cemeteries. Brookville’s town minutes from 1839 are complete.

Town Boards

With the first incoproation, 1814, the board always has consisted of five trustees, originally elected for one year. Trustees now serve a four-year term. The first action of the board, March 29, 1839, was to establish seventeen rules for conducting business. In 1877 the board passed a comprehensive set of rulesfor conducting its business, including a detailed list of rules of decorum for debating issues. The local papers have published the proceedings of the board regularly. The town marshal, first listed in 1839, performed various duties for the board, primarily maintaining streets and alleys, controlling nuisances, preventing livestock from running loose, and lighting street lamps. Today many of these duties are conducted by various departments. More traditionally, the marshal served as the law enforcement office. The Act of 1852 gave me the same power as a constable. Technically, he is town marshal but serves as chief of police.

Annexations

Over thirty annexations have occurred. In addition to the Allen and Butler ones, prior to the current incorporation, were the following: Eads, on noth Main 1818, Henrie, in the bottom, 1819, Price and Mary & W. W. Butler, 1838. With the exception of the Fairview addition west of the river (1923) all others have been contigious to the town until after WWII. Most promindent has been Riverview Heights, east of the river (1947).

Water

Water was lacking on the hill. The incorporation act of 1814 called for a public well. This was dug on the courthouse square and was from 90-100 feet deep, lined with stone, and it fell into disrepair about 1837. Perhaps the second incorporation in 1817 was designed to more permanently solve this issue. Brookville had the second water works in Indiana. On March 10, 1819 Amos Butler entered into an agreement with the town board, valid until March 13, 1831, for constructing a reservoir at or near any of Butler’s springs in Section 20 and to construct “aqueducts from said reservoir or springs or fountains to Brookville.” The reservoir was a large vat about ten feet square and from eight to ten feet deep from which log pipes would direct the water to Brookville. One source states that is was located on high ground on Ninth Street between Main and Franklin Avenue. Problems with leadking logs led to its failure by 1824 and perhaps the town’s incorporation as well. Beginning in the late 1830’s private cisterns provided the water for residents on the hill. Brookville did not have another waterworks until 1891.

Market House

Market houses were established to permit country produce to be offered for sale before 9 a.m. Clarkson, editor of the American, noted in April 1839 “our farmers when they bring any thing to market, either have to go around to our residences to dispose of their produce, or dispose of it to our merchants at whatever they please to give.” Brookville’s market house was located at the southeast corner of Fifth and Main streets, on the public square. It consisted of a roof over a number of individual stalls. Its value waned after the Civil War, and it was offered for sale, or to be rebuilt with the town hall on top, 1872. It did sell that year and three years later was replaced by the town hall.

Streets

One major continuos issue have been the improvement and maintenance of the streets, and secondarily, sidewalks. The town marshal was in charge of leveling an grading streets, including providing proper drainage. It frequently was an issue given the number of cristicisms appearing the local newspaper about poor conditions. The minutes record multiple reports of work done. Paralell to needing safe streets were ordinances requiring homeowners to provide sidewalks. In 1867 the owners of property on Main Street were to pave with brick or stone a sidewalk, along with a stone curb next to the gutter. In 1905, as part of laying sewer lines, Main, Franklin and Eleventh streets had Laurel limestone curbing, gutters and concrete sidewalks. By 1910, as these improvements extended to streets in the valley, concrete replaced the stone. Main Street was paved in 1922. Before malls and box store, Main Street was crowded with shoppers who parked all day. Merchants urged the town board to install parking meters, which occurred in September 1950. Twelve minutes cost one cent.

Brookville Cemetery

The Methodists and Presbyterians established a cemetery at the site of the former’s church in the 1820’s, and as space became a premium, the town purchased four of Butler’s lots immediately west of the existing Cemetery in 1854, laying our 320 cemetery lots. On April 2, 1859 the board began selling lots. The combined cemeteries (along with Saint Michael Cemetery) remained the only ones until the former began filling up. The trustees considered purchasing the Agricultural Society grounds as a corporate cemetery in the spring of 1872. It did not and in 1882 Maple Grove Cemetery, west of Brookville, was establish.

Street Lights

In the 1870’s Brookville installed stret lights using an unknown fuel source. Evidently these were tricky to light and were given to exploding. The board passed an ordinance in 1877 limiting lighting to the marshal. In 1891 the town entered in to an agreement with National Electric Manufacturing Company for a series of arc lamps. Evidently there were problems, thus this comment in the American October 18, 1894:  “Where are the electric lights? Out making political speeches?” Later the trustees contracted with the Brookville Electric Company. Carbon arc lights were replaced, progressively, with newer technologies throughout the Twentieth Century, the last set, installed in 1979, being replaced in 2018.

Origin of the Brookville Fire Department

In June 1877 the board passed an ordinance creating a fire department and the next year purchased a hand fire engine and 600 feet of hose for $994.50. Between 1881 – 1883 five cisterns were installed for the fire department, including one at Fifth and Main holding 1,500 barrels of water. On July 24, 1893 the board passed an ordinance organizing a fire company, to consist of “twelve athletic men, sober, respectable residents of Brookville.

Street Names

Original street names led to confusion. In June 1877 the Board changed Main Burgess Street to Main and Main to Franklin Ave and Head Street to Central Avenue. In December 1894 the final change occurred. The original street names, Bank, Race, James, Claiborne, Walker, Central Avenue, Lean, Rose, Grave, John and Butler became in the order named, Second Street to Twelfth Street.

House Addresses

In 1877 the Board passed an ordinance numbering “houses and vacant lots on Main Street for advertising and business purposes.” On the east side of the street, starting at lot 15t he numbers placed at every 25 feet, being even number, 1-259, to the north end of town and odd on the west side of the street. Just before WWI the current street addresses were established.

Growth

Given legal issues over the original plat and the War of 1812, with Brookville being near the frontier, the town grew slowly. In July 1816 the town had one grist mill, two saw mills, 7 stores, a market house, brick courthouse, 16 artisans from cabinet makers to tanners, and 5 taverns. Businesses occupied the original town, along with some residences. Most citizens lived in the “bottom,” on Allen’s lots, including many of its prominent residents. The editor of the American, in 1854, chided a Mr. Price for a building on the hill, noting that almost all the prominent people lived in the bottom. However, he did not mention that his brother-in-law, Wilson Morrow, who was building a brick residence that year at 912 Main Street.

Due primarily to the lack of dependable water, the Butler and Eads additions grew slowly. John C. Ellis moved from Wynn to Brookville July 1, 1861 and noted that there were but five houses north of Tenth Street.  Based upon his service both as Brookville Township Trustee and County Assessor, he noted, when interviewed in May 1914, that 425 houses had been added since 1861 and an additional 145 remodeled. Spurts of development occurred as a result of the canal and immediately after the Civil War. The population in November 1827, was 443; in 1835, 520. By April 1887, it had grown to 2,056 but dropped to 2,037 in 1900, to 2,194 in 1940, and 2,568 in 1950. For many years its population stabilized at approximately 2,500.

John J. Newman

Town of Brookville - History

Brookville, the County Seat of Franklin County, Indiana

Physical Features

Brookville lies both on the “first high ground” at the juncture of the East and West fork of the Whitewater Rives in the Northwest quarter of Township 29, and to the east of this promontory, bottom land in the Southeast section. The high ground represents a “V” expanding northward on its west side close to the river, and more irregularly on the east side along Franklin Ave to about Seventh Street, then generally along Fairfield Avenue. The former has been referred to as the “the hill” and the river plain on the east side as “the bottom.” This natural feature has affected Brookville’s history and development.

Brookville Platted

Amos Butler and Jesse B. Thomas, of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, entered the Northwest corner in 1805. Butler was a practical businessman and Thomas, a well-respected lawyer and legislator. Both saw the potential for a town at the first of the Whitewater River with Thomas being recognized as its principle proprietor. Brookville was platted in August 1808 with the plat recorded in Dearborn County.

LOOK at THIS!

The subscriber will sell at public sale on Thursday the 25th inst. A number of lots in the town of BROOKEVILLE, in the forks of the Whitewater, in the county of Dearborn, 30 miles from Lawrenceburgh. Sixteen months credit will be given – bond with approved security, payable in pork, tallow, beeswax, hog’s lard, hemp or tobacco. The sale will commence at eleven o’clock, A.M.

JESSIE B. THOMAS
Lawrenceburgh, Aug. 6, 1808
Liberty Hall and Cincinnati Mercury Saturday, Augsut 13, 1808, page 2, Column 1

The original town consists of 77 lots, each running 82.5’ north and south and 165’ east and west. Upwards of 13 lots were sold between 1808-1811, with deeds recorded at Lawrenceburg. The Dearborn County Courthouse burned in 1826, with loss of its deed records. As early as 1873, and then thereafter, in articles and in histories to the present, the source of the name of Brookville was from Thomas’ mother, whose maiden name was “Brooks,” with the “s” later dropped. Jesse Burgress Thomas’ mother’s maiden name was Symmes. An 1810 petition to the governor for John Allen to be a justice of the peace for “Brooks Ville” and only one reference to the town being “Brooksbille,” in over 1,700 territorial court records, and none in any deed records, suggests the town was named after its geological feature. [However, Thomas lived in Brooksville, Bracken County, Kentucky before moving to Lawrenceburg.]

Butler and Thomas jointly patented the quarter section, with Butler to make the first payment, Thomas, the second and so on, until paid. Thomas assigned his interest to James Hamilton and Michael Jones , of Lawrenceburg. Butler, Hamilton and Jones entered into an agreement in March 1811 in which Butler gave up all rights to the section land east of the west fork of the river, including Brookville. It was only after this agreement did the sale of town lots continue. On January 8, 1812, Hamilton, as proprietor, recorded the plat in Franklin County. Butler platted an addition of 83 lots north of the original town and John Allen added 66 lots in “the bottom,” both May 26, 1812. The quarter and sectional lines run along Franklin Avenue and between Seventh and Eight Streets.

Jesse B. Thomas is recognized as Brookville’s founder and Amos Butler and John Allen as the town’s exclusive pioneer contributors. Lesser honored is James Knight. He may have been the first lot purchaser and in 1808 erected a block house on the lotes where the jail is located and had the principal tavern there, at the sign of the “Indian Chief.” He, among others, made at least three petitions in 1808 to the Legislature for a new county to be created from Dearborn. With the original plat including a “public ground” Brookville was to be the county seat. Knight, was an extensive owner of town lots, and as a civil engineer, built the first log jail and courthouse. He began constructing the brick courthouse in 1815 but died before it was finished. His widow had her brother, an architect, finish it. Most of Knight’s children moved from Brookville in the early 1830’s, thus contributing to his lack of recognition by local historians.

Incorporations

The first three incorporation was by an act of the territorial legislature, effect February 1, 1814. The trustees were authorized to maintain its streets and alleys, eliminate nuisances, erect a market house when petitioned by its citizens, and keep in good repair the public well, its maintenance to be paid for by the citizens residing on the “high ground.” No records survive, and the length of its existence is unknown.

Brookville was incorporated a second time in 1817, with an election held September 1. 49 were in favor and 2 against. On September 8th five trustees were elected. The incorporation was duly recorded in the clerk’s office on September 8th. No record also survives for this second incorporation but most likely its functions were the same as before.

The current incorporation occurred in March 23, 1839 under the requirements of “An Act to Incorporation of Towns,” Revised Code of 1838. There were 77 voters. A town incorporation included all “building lots as recorded in the recorder’s office… and when any new building lots shall be laid off adjoining to any town… the same shall form a part of the said corporation, “but incorporation excluded out lots. No survey was required. On interest was the proviso “for the purpose of removing nuisances, issue licenses for “public shows” and taverns, maintain public wells, build market houses and keep in repair streets, alleys and drains. The board also could establish jails and fire departments. It could levy and collect taxes, which evidently caused residents of th southern part of to town petition the General Assembly to establish a town called “New Augsburgh.” An act in 1840 legalized the town’s incorporation and power to tax.

Under the present Constitution, the General Assembly passed a comprehensive law for incorporating towns in 1852, which the town board adopted in December 12, 1853. In addition to continuing the powers listed above, among many others given to the board of trustees was one to annex contingent recorded plats and to petition the County Commissioners to annex unplatted territory. The town also could establish cemeteries. Brookville’s town minutes from 1839 are complete.

Town Boards

With the first incoproation, 1814, the board always has consisted of five trustees, originally elected for one year. Trustees now serve a four-year term. The first action of the board, March 29, 1839, was to establish seventeen rules for conducting business. In 1877 the board passed a comprehensive set of rulesfor conducting its business, including a detailed list of rules of decorum for debating issues. The local papers have published the proceedings of the board regularly. The town marshal, first listed in 1839, performed various duties for the board, primarily maintaining streets and alleys, controlling nuisances, preventing livestock from running loose, and lighting street lamps. Today many of these duties are conducted by various departments. More traditionally, the marshal served as the law enforcement office. The Act of 1852 gave me the same power as a constable. Technically, he is town marshal but serves as chief of police.

Annexations

Over thirty annexations have occurred. In addition to the Allen and Butler ones, prior to the current incorporation, were the following: Eads, on noth Main 1818, Henrie, in the bottom, 1819, Price and Mary & W. W. Butler, 1838. With the exception of the Fairview addition west of the river (1923) all others have been contigious to the town until after WWII. Most promindent has been Riverview Heights, east of the river (1947).

Water

Water was lacking on the hill. The incorporation act of 1814 called for a public well. This was dug on the courthouse square and was from 90-100 feet deep, lined with stone, and it fell into disrepair about 1837. Perhaps the second incorporation in 1817 was designed to more permanently solve this issue. Brookville had the second water works in Indiana. On March 10, 1819 Amos Butler entered into an agreement with the town board, valid until March 13, 1831, for constructing a reservoir at or near any of Butler’s springs in Section 20 and to construct “aqueducts from said reservoir or springs or fountains to Brookville.” The reservoir was a large vat about ten feet square and from eight to ten feet deep from which log pipes would direct the water to Brookville. One source states that is was located on high ground on Ninth Street between Main and Franklin Avenue. Problems with leadking logs led to its failure by 1824 and perhaps the town’s incorporation as well. Beginning in the late 1830’s private cisterns provided the water for residents on the hill. Brookville did not have another waterworks until 1891.

Market House

Market houses were established to permit country produce to be offered for sale before 9 a.m. Clarkson, editor of the American, noted in April 1839 “our farmers when they bring any thing to market, either have to go around to our residences to dispose of their produce, or dispose of it to our merchants at whatever they please to give.” Brookville’s market house was located at the southeast corner of Fifth and Main streets, on the public square. It consisted of a roof over a number of individual stalls. Its value waned after the Civil War, and it was offered for sale, or to be rebuilt with the town hall on top, 1872. It did sell that year and three years later was replaced by the town hall.

Streets

One major continuos issue have been the improvement and maintenance of the streets, and secondarily, sidewalks. The town marshal was in charge of leveling an grading streets, including providing proper drainage. It frequently was an issue given the number of cristicisms appearing the local newspaper about poor conditions. The minutes record multiple reports of work done. Paralell to needing safe streets were ordinances requiring homeowners to provide sidewalks. In 1867 the owners of property on Main Street were to pave with brick or stone a sidewalk, along with a stone curb next to the gutter. In 1905, as part of laying sewer lines, Main, Franklin and Eleventh streets had Laurel limestone curbing, gutters and concrete sidewalks. By 1910, as these improvements extended to streets in the valley, concrete replaced the stone. Main Street was paved in 1922. Before malls and box store, Main Street was crowded with shoppers who parked all day. Merchants urged the town board to install parking meters, which occurred in September 1950. Twelve minutes cost one cent.

Brookville Cemetery

The Methodists and Presbyterians established a cemetery at the site of the former’s church in the 1820’s, and as space became a premium, the town purchased four of Butler’s lots immediately west of the existing Cemetery in 1854, laying our 320 cemetery lots. On April 2, 1859 the board began selling lots. The combined cemeteries (along with Saint Michael Cemetery) remained the only ones until the former began filling up. The trustees considered purchasing the Agricultural Society grounds as a corporate cemetery in the spring of 1872. It did not and in 1882 Maple Grove Cemetery, west of Brookville, was establish.

Street Lights

In the 1870’s Brookville installed stret lights using an unknown fuel source. Evidently these were tricky to light and were given to exploding. The board passed an ordinance in 1877 limiting lighting to the marshal. In 1891 the town entered in to an agreement with National Electric Manufacturing Company for a series of arc lamps. Evidently there were problems, thus this comment in the American October 18, 1894:  “Where are the electric lights? Out making political speeches?” Later the trustees contracted with the Brookville Electric Company. Carbon arc lights were replaced, progressively, with newer technologies throughout the Twentieth Century, the last set, installed in 1979, being replaced in 2018.

Origin of the Brookville Fire Department

In June 1877 the board passed an ordinance creating a fire department and the next year purchased a hand fire engine and 600 feet of hose for $994.50. Between 1881 – 1883 five cisterns were installed for the fire department, including one at Fifth and Main holding 1,500 barrels of water. On July 24, 1893 the board passed an ordinance organizing a fire company, to consist of “twelve athletic men, sober, respectable residents of Brookville.

Street Names

Original street names led to confusion. In June 1877 the Board changed Main Burgess Street to Main and Main to Franklin Ave and Head Street to Central Avenue. In December 1894 the final change occurred. The original street names, Bank, Race, James, Claiborne, Walker, Central Avenue, Lean, Rose, Grave, John and Butler became in the order named, Second Street to Twelfth Street.

House Addresses

In 1877 the Board passed an ordinance numbering “houses and vacant lots on Main Street for advertising and business purposes.” On the east side of the street, starting at lot 15t he numbers placed at every 25 feet, being even number, 1-259, to the north end of town and odd on the west side of the street. Just before WWI the current street addresses were established.

Growth

Given legal issues over the original plat and the War of 1812, with Brookville being near the frontier, the town grew slowly. In July 1816 the town had one grist mill, two saw mills, 7 stores, a market house, brick courthouse, 16 artisans from cabinet makers to tanners, and 5 taverns. Businesses occupied the original town, along with some residences. Most citizens lived in the “bottom,” on Allen’s lots, including many of its prominent residents. The editor of the American, in 1854, chided a Mr. Price for a building on the hill, noting that almost all the prominent people lived in the bottom. However, he did not mention that his brother-in-law, Wilson Morrow, who was building a brick residence that year at 912 Main Street.

Due primarily to the lack of dependable water, the Butler and Eads additions grew slowly. John C. Ellis moved from Wynn to Brookville July 1, 1861 and noted that there were but five houses north of Tenth Street.  Based upon his service both as Brookville Township Trustee and County Assessor, he noted, when interviewed in May 1914, that 425 houses had been added since 1861 and an additional 145 remodeled. Spurts of development occurred as a result of the canal and immediately after the Civil War. The population in November 1827, was 443; in 1835, 520. By April 1887, it had grown to 2,056 but dropped to 2,037 in 1900, to 2,194 in 1940, and 2,568 in 1950. For many years its population stabilized at approximately 2,500.

John J. Newman