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Mount Vernon, IN 47620
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History

THE HISTORY OF MOUNT VERNON

Out of Carolina, his first home in a new country, to Bowling Green, Ky., came one Andrew McFadin, a Scotchman, and the founder of our town. He was a friend of Daniel Boone, a courageous hunter......... following old trails and making new ones. While on such an expedition in 1798, he crossed the Ohio River into what is now Posey County. On a trip down the river he discovered the location of our present town, and being impressed by its beauty and high elevation (it is the highest point on the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio and Cairo, Illinois) he was determined to make it his permanent home. Seven years later in 1805 he built his home a few miles down the river from Mount Vernon. One year later in 1806 he built a log cabin at the foot of what is now College Avenue and, with his family, established his residence there. This was the first house in what is now Mount Vernon.

He was soon joined by his cousins, William and Andrew McFadin. At this time the town site and all the surrounding country was an absolute wilderness. The McFadins' were soon joined by others. Among

them, William Weir, Thomas Givens, Aaron Williams, Aaron Burlison, Absolum Duckworth, Paul and Thomas Casselberry, Thomas Duckworth, William and Hugh Todd, John Black and the Rev. Samuel Jones, a Baptist and the first minister to preach in the area. Some descendants of these men still live in Mount Vernon and Posey County.

During the next few years a number of things happened. In 1807 the first white child was born in the vicinity, Malinda Weir. She married into the York family and their descendants are living in the Savah neighborhood today. It was in 1807 that Andrew McFadin, who up to this time had been a squatter, secured title to his land. By 1808 Congress had put a stop to slave importation, and this encouraged further settlement north of the Ohio. A year later, 1809, Samuel Rowe, who was destined to play such an important part in the naming of Mount Vernon, came to the settlement from North Carolina.

In 1810 James Black built the first mill. It was a horse powered mill, that is, the power was furnished by horses. The mills were used for the grinding of grain, the sawing of lumber, and the making of whiskey.

The years 1810 and 1811 brought more families to the area. John, Samuel, Elijah, Reuben, Henry, William and Aaron Aldridge, Thomas and Ralph French, Nathan and Moses Ashworth. Moses Ashworth was an ordained Methodist minister and the first Methodist minister to locate north of the Ohio River. Other coming at that time were: Thomas and William Goad, James Thomas, Sanuel, Shubal and Eli York, and Joshua Curtis.

In 1811, at the suggestion of William McFadin, cousin of Andrew, the settlement was names McFadin's Bluff. This was a year of great importance to the territory and to this village. The Indians, still claiming title to the domain in Indiana, were again on the warpath; and it was in the decisive battle of Tippecanoe the Tecumseh and the great Miami Confederacy were finally crushed. History books tell us that thirteen men from McFadin's Bluff were in that battle.

It was in 1811 that the first steamboat passed the village wharf. A brother of Robert Fulton and Nicholas Roosevelt were surveying the river from Pittsburgh to New Orleans and passed McFadin's Bluff. This year also marked the coming of the Jesse Y. Welborn family which was to play an important role in our locality. The first ferry boat to cross the Ohio River was built in 1813. It was small, propelled by hand, and owned by "Squire McFadin.

The first schoolhouse in McFadin's Bluff was built in 1814 on the southeast corner of what is now the Public Square, or the Court Square as we call it today. Thomas Heady and William Hooker were the teachers. The teachers were paid from $1 to $1.50 per pupil for a term of three months, and they "boarded around among the parents, at the expense of the parents. Many times they took a great portion of their pay in produce.

In 1816 a group of men had gathered in the Andrew McFadin's cabin. One of them, a young man named Sam Rowe, suggested the name of the village be changed from McFadin's Bluff to Mount Vernon in honor of his father's general, George Washington. George Rowe, father of Sam, had served with General Washington during the Revolution and now his son proposed calling the town Mount Vernon after Washington's home, "Mount Vernon on the Potomac. The proposal met with hearty approval and, so the story goes, "The men tossed their hats in the air and passed around the jug. Thus McFadin's Bluff became Mount Vernon.

It was in this year of 1816 that our present Public Square was laid out. By 1817, fifteen families were living in the village of Mount Vernon. In 1820, the first hotel in our town was built by Jesse Y. Welborn on the corner of what is now Main and Water Streets. A man and his horse could find overnight lodging here for $0.25. A good glass of whiskey cost $0.12 1/2. Jesse Y. Welborn was also Mount Vernon's first postmaster. He received his appointment in 1818.

In 1821, Alvin P. Hovey, later Governor of Indiana, was born. He grew up in Mount Vernon, attended the Mount Vernon school built in 1814, and as a young man "read law with John Pitcher, an outstanding Mount Vernon lawyer.

By 1825 Mount Vernon's population had grown to 100 inhabitants. In 1826, a cotton gin was built and started in operation by Daniel McDaniel.

Mount Vernon was incorporated for the first time in 1832. Perhaps you have heard of Hoop-Pole Township and have wondered just where it is located. I suppose it sounds a bit strange to say that there really is no such place, and then to say that we live in Hoop-Pole Township. But this is true, for Hoop-Pole Township really exists only in the land of legend, although there is a factual basis for the name and a story which tells of its origin. The story goes like this:

Soon after Mount Vernon became the county seat, a leading business in the town was that of barrel making in which large numbers of hoop poles young tender saplings, grown in Lynn Township were used for staves. In 1833 Mount Vernon was a river landing and a trading point for flatboats on the Ohio River. Crews from these flatboats patronized the taverns on the river front. On this same water front were two large cooper shops. One day, the story goes, some ten or fifteen flatboats were at the wharf. Their owners and roustabouts were in the taverns drinking and rioting. All of them were rough river men. Several of them became involved in a quarrel with some of the town fellows. At first, the river men were the victors, then the "home-towners gathered reinforcement and, heavily armed with hoop poles from the cooper shops, fell on the river men and forced them back to their boats. The boatmen, fearing to return to the town, went on down the river. As they passed down the river, their physical condition attracted inquiry and comments. To their chagrin, the bullies sneered at their opponents speaking of their hoop poles until word was passed amongst the river men to "look out for Hoop-Pole Township in Posey County for it was a "tough place. So the Hoop-Pole legend grew.

The Mount Vernon High School Year Book, published each year by the Senior Class, is called "The Hoop Pole. There is a traditional ceremony in which the graduating classes add their class colored ribbons to a real hoop pole which carries the colors of preceding classes.

During these earlier years the principle business section of the town was built around the present wharf.

By the time of Mount Vernon's second incorporation in 1849, the population had grown to 350 people. River traffic on the Ohio River was at its zenith between 1850 and 1870. The greatest and grandest of all the well-known sidewheelers was the "Eclipse. Built at a cost of $375,000, she passed Mount Vernon in March 1852 on her maiden trip to New Orleans. The floating theatres or "show boats , as they were called, were very popular during this period. Circuses also used river transportation.

In 1851, a stock company built a plank road from New Harmony to Mount Vernon. Toll gates were established, and business between the two towns increased rapidly. It was believed that the 50 percent increase in population was due to the toll road.

Although the village of Mount Vernon had had schools since 1814, there were no facilities for higher education. A number of prominent businessmen felt the need for a "select school for young ladies, and as the result, "The Young Ladies Seminary opened its doors on September 1, 1856. A Dr. Jury, of Mount Holyoke, was the president of the school, and he was assisted by Judge William P. Edson, a Miss Dill and Miss Elizabeth Berg. The school opened with an enrollment of 30 young women, including girls from Carmi, Grayville and Albion, Illinois, and others from the southern parts of Kentucky and Indiana, as well as those from Mount Vernon. The school was located on what is now College Avenue, between Second and Third Streets. After the outbreak of the Civil War, interest in the school became a thing of the past; it was closed and the building were sold.

On December 7, 1865 the first election was held to decide whether the town should assume the status of city government. The election was successful and candidates winning were: William Nettleton, Mayor; William H. Whitworth, Clerk; William F. Stiehl, Assessor; Edward S. Hayes, Marshal; and Adam Lichtenberger, Treasurer. The first Board of Council was composed of William McArthur and Antone Haas, First Ward; Joseph Gregory and John Pfeiffer, Second Ward; and Edward Brown and Henry Greenland, Third Ward.

Mount Vernon's interest in education was revived and the first high school was built in 1868 and two grades schools were built in 1869.

The first railroad to be completed through the county was the Louisville and Nashville Railway was established in 1869-1870, running east and west through Mount Vernon.

Early Mount Vernon industries were: The Keck Gonnerman Company, which began the manufacture of engines, threshers and portable sawmills in 1884. The American Hominy Company in 1877. The Home Mill and Grain Company in 1900. The Sunlight Mill in 1902. The Fuhrer Ford Milling Company in 1904. The Mount Vernon Strawboard Company, also in 1904.

Mount Vernon was fortunate in having among its citizens Mrs. Matilda Alexander, who was very interested in securing a library for Mount Vernon. On October 11, 1892, the Alexandrian Library Society was organized at Mrs. Alexander's home. The purpose of this society was to found a library for the citizens of Mount Vernon. On September 28, 1895, the Alexandrian Library was opened to the public.

In the early 1930's, Mount Vernon took a new lease on life. It was then that the oil industry moved to Southwestern Indiana. Carter Oil Co. was one of the first to begin exploration which sparked a flurry of oil activity which eventually led to the establishment of the Farm Bureau Refinery & Oil Co. and the tank farms of Texaco, Marathon and Superior Oil Companies.

October 23, 1956, a Metropolitan School District, consisting of Black, Lynn and Marrs Townships and the school district of the city of Mount Vernon was created. Point Township joined the Metropolitan District in late December 1956, and the District was organized officially on January 8, 1957. In October of that year, contracts were let by the Board of Education for the erection of three new elementary school building; Farmersville, Marrs and West. The new buildings were occupied with the opening of the school for the 1958-1959 school year.

Previous to this, Central School had burned and been rebuilt. It was renamed Hedges Central School, honoring the recently deceased Superintendent of Schools, Stoy Hughes. This building was completed in 1951. With the completion of the Marrs, West and Farmesville schools, the district had four new elementary schools.

On May 25, 1959, a contract was let for the construction of a new $2 1/2 million high school. On December 5, 1960 the students and faculty moved into the new building. After this moved, the Junior High School occupied the former High School building so that in 1969, the Metropolitian School District of Mount Vernon consisted of four modern elementary schools and an adequate Jr. High and High School.

In 1959, the Greater Mount Vernon Association was formed. It was the purpose of this organization to aid existing local industries and to promote new industrial development. More than $111,000 was pledged by popular subscription and more than $96,000 of this had been paid by 1965. This is a revolving fund; loaned to industry by the Association and then repaid. The Greater Mount Vernon Association has served our community well.

Today, Mount Vernon is a community in transition, changing from a sleepy river town, where everyone knew everyone else, where agriculture was the mainstay, to a fast developing industrial area.

Yes, Mount Vernon is a community in transition ...... cherishing the heritage of the past ...... at the same time accepting the challenge of the future.