Pioneer Cemeteries and Their Stories,

Madison County, Indiana

Lafeyette Township

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Lafayette Township--Henry Ry 1831

    Lafayette Township is centrally located, and because the ground remained very wet, it was one of the later areas to be settled.  Finally, in 1831, Henry Ry was the first to enter land and build a log cabin--a round one. In 1832, John Croan, George Mustard, John Pennisten came with their families.  The Junks, Wilson, and Lower families were settled by 1835. 

    In 1836, James Hollingsworth and his mother Elizabeth moved from Fall Creek Township, which his father Elias had helped settle in the early 1820s, to what would become Lafayette Township.  James made a difference.  He built a carding factory, which converts sheared wool into usable material, and organized the settlers in the area to petition for their own township.  The petition was passed, the county commissioners designated the new township's sections, and Lafayette Township was recognized.  Soon afterwards, other families started arriving, and the township quickly became very populated. 

    James's mother Elizabeth, who is considered the first white woman in Madison County, also added to the development of the township.  She organized the first Sabbath school and was indispensable as a midwife, "attending more births, perhaps, than any other woman in the county," according to historian Samuel Harden.  In that capacity, Harden give Elizabeth high praise:  

    "After attending to her domestic duties and perhaps assisting in the clearing [of land], she would ride ten or fifteen miles at night on horseback over what were then called roads, but would hardly pass for such at the present day.  It took courage and determination to undergo what Mrs. H. did, and it is well such women found their way to the frontier.  They were needed..."

Mrs. Elizabeth (Curtis) Hollingworth died in 1853 and is buried in Richland Township somewhere in an unmarked grave.

    The name of the new township was proposed by son James Hollingsworth to honor the French general Marquis de La Fayette who aided General Washington in the Revolutionary War.  On January 17, 1837, the first elections were held, and Mr. Hollingsworth was the official inspector.   For a number of years, Hollingsworth also served the area as justice of the peace and township trustee.  On March 19,1838, James Hollingsworth was part of another important event in the history of Lafayette Township: he and Elizabeth Shinkle were the first couple to be married within its boundaries. 

    In a letter dated 1895 addressed to Harden, James Hollingsworth writes:

    "I am glad I am spared to be a living witness to so many changes and to live so many years in so good a county as Madison and to review the scenes that seventy years have brought.

    "My father, Elias Hollingsworth, was born in South Carolina in 1793 and came to Madison County in 1820.  He settled at or near the falls of Fall Creek, where Pendleton now is.  I was born in Ohio in 1815; consequently, I was but five years old when my parents came.  I have passed through all the scenes of pioneer life, the flax break, spinning wheel, the corn grater, the grain flail, cleaning wheat with a wind sheet, the lamp stuck in the crack of a log of the cabin, the log schoolhouse with greased paper to let the light in...all of which have long ago disappeared.

    "I was married to Elizabeth Shinkle in March of 1838.  She was born in Ohio, February 6, 1819, and died October 5, 1891, after living fifty-five years and seven months.  She is buried at Anderson Cemetery.

    "Twelve children were born to us, some of whom are deceased, others somewhat scattered in different parts of the country.  My old friends and neighbors are gone...Yet I enjoy life well and have good health for one my age, and I delight to attend the old settlers' meetings.  I have attended nearly all ever held in the county, and that of 1894 was the best of all.  Yes, we live in a grand county, and it is worth preserving and improving.  I trust we will continue to prosper as in the past."

    The five cemeteries in Lafayette Township are the Knights of Pithias I.O.O.F, Keller, Melson/Highmiller/Hymiller, Ooton/Ooten, and Gooding/Salem School/Salem.

Lafayette Township's winter wheat in the summer sun.

Click here for modern map of township pioneer cemeteries.