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John Gray
…At the time John Gray came to the Springville locality, there were few if any white people in what was to become Lawrence County.  He had married somewhere in the Carolinas,  a woman named Mary Trumbo in about 1801.  At the time of the settlement at the Gray spring, north of where the town of Springville was to be, they had several children.  Gray said that it was so remote from white civilization that he never expected to have any neighbors, and that it was two years before Mary Gray saw the face of another white woman.

At first, Gray did not establish a permanent home.   He had roamed the game trails from the Carolinas through Tennessee and Kentucky and northward into Indiana Territory.  Now, feeling the responsibility of having a family, he decided it was time to settle down.

Gray built what he called a camp.  He set saplings in the ground for an outside frame.  Connecting these were more saplings running horizontally.  They were tied to the frame with buckskin or hickory withes (A tough supple twig).  The frame was weatherboarded with deerskins.  In a similar way he put on a roof…  John Gray had been among the Indians a great deal and, no doubt, had learned much from them about making a warm, dry shelter…

…Just how long the Grays lived in the camp we do not know.  However, Mary Gray wanted a real home.  John Gray went back to North Carolina and brought back a young hunter named Zack Dix.  These two experienced woodsmen built a substantial cabin, one that lasted the Gray family for many years.

Gray also brought back from North Carolina some razorback hogs…  But the hogs bought a new problem.  The Grays liked pork for a change of meat and so did the bears.

The Bears
One day Mary Gray heard a big squeal, she ran to the “branch” and saw a pig in the embrace of a bear.  She quickly raised the alarm.  John, the boys and the dogs came on the run and killed the bear…  After the first bear adventure, whenever Mary heard a pig squeal, she would fire a rifle.  John, the boys and the dogs would rush to the house and kill the bear.  The dogs quickly learned the signal… they would have the bear up a tree by the time the hunters arrived for the kill… We do not know how many bears were killed in this way, but it is an assumed fact that the pigs outlasted the bears…

…One cold winter night, Mary Gray and a Mrs. Norvell were talking in the Gray cabin.  John was gone and they were alone.  After awhile they thought they heard something prowling around in the night…  All at once they heard scratching on the walls and the roof.  The next sounds came from the chimney.  The two women held their breath. Whatever it was, it was coming down the chimney.

…Taking the gun that was hanging above the door, Mary aimed it up the chimney and pulled the trigger.  Down fell a huge black bear into the ashes, dead.  Luckily the shot had been fatal although the bear was quite large.

The Indians
There came a time when the Indians visited the Gray cabin… They seated themselves in a circle in front of the cabin and invited John and Mary Gray to join them.  Then the Chief lighted his pipe and drew on it. Then he handed it to Gray who took a puff. It was then passed to Mary who also drew lightly on it.  It was then passed around the circle.  In a few minutes the chief arose, gathered his blanket around him, and strode toward the forest.  One by one the other Indians followed in a single file.  The Grays did not understand the meaning of the visit and there was nobody to enlighten them.  But after that there were never any Indians seen in the locality.

The question arises, when did all of this happen?  John Gray’s sons remembered events, but they were indifferent as to dates.  The doings of the outside world either never came to them or it did not interest them.

Let us take a look at some to the treaties in history.  On June 7, 1803, a purchase treaty was made at Fort Wayne.  By it the Indians gave up about 12,000 acres, including about one-third of Spice Valley and a small portion of the southwest corner of Marion Township, Lawrence County.  The treaty was signed by Chiefs of the Delaware, Wea, Shawnee, Grouseland, Eel River, Kickapoo, Piankashaw, Miami, and Kaskaskia Tribes.

A second treaty made near Vincennes was dated August 21, 1805.  It included some 9,920 acres in the southwestern part of what was later to be Lawrence County.  It was signed by the Chiefs of the Delaware, Potawatomi, Miami, Eel River and Wea Tribes.

The remainder of Lawrence County was acquired by the Harrison Purchase of Fort Wayne, September 30, 1809.  This treaty bore the signatures of the Delaware, Eel River, Potawatomi, and Miami Tribes.  This tract embraced three million acres and it was about seventy miles wide.  For it, the Indians received $10,000, or about one cent an acre.

It must have been shortly after the last treaty that the last visit for the Indians was made to the Gray cabin.

John Gray must have come into the Springville area some years before the formation if the County.  The fact that he did not purchase any land, at least not on the records, until 1817, tells little as to when he settled in the Springville locality.  It took some years for the town to get a start and he predated Springville by several years…  It is quite probable that John Gray came to the old Gray springs a few years after 1800, and that he was one of the earliest settlers of Lawrence County.

…Mary Trumbo Gray was born about 1780 and died in 1829.  John Gray’s children were William, Hamilton, John Wesley, Charles, Jacob, James, Ephriam, Lydia, and Dorothy.  Later in life Gray married a second time.  One daughter, Martha, was born of this union.

This man, neglected by historians and all but forgotten, was the first settler of Springville, Indiana and most likely one to the very first to settle in what is now Lawrence County.

The Beginning
Meeting in the cabin of James Gregory, the first three commissioners of the county-to-be worked out the plans for the organization and to lay out the tract.  The new county organization was completed on March 18, 1818, and on that date it was decided to call the new county “Lawrence” in honor of Captain James Lawrence, who was killed while in command of the frigate Chesapeake in battle with the British frigate Shannon off the coast of Massachusetts on June 1, 1813.

Perry Township was named for Oliver H. Perry, Commodore of the American Navy, who won a great victory over the British on Lake Erie in the War of 1812.

Springville, the principle town of the township, was platted in July, 1832.

–Taken from the Book:  Springville, Indiana – Village on Spring Creek (Sesquicentennial Edition) Compiled and Written by Jay Wilson, Jr.

1 Comment

  1. Robert G Baker

    Im looking for info about houses in Town called widows row

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