Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Band of Gypsies

They didn’t have much, if any impact on Jefferson County, and they may have left no descendants in the area. But a band of gypsies that settled in Hanover by 1860 got more than their share of stories published about their brief sojourn in Jefferson County.

The group showed up in the town of Hanover when 81 persons identified in the 1870 census were shown as gypsies. They carried the surnames: Green, Youngs, Woods, Reynolds, Knobbs, Smythes and Bofo and included some distinct first names, such as Whyte Youngs and Pablo

Youngs. Thirty-seven bore the Young/Youngs surname and 12 were Greens.

The 1860 Jefferson County census doesn’t shown the surname Stanley, even though several sources show that Owen Stanley, reportedly the Gypsy King (there were probably many of them) and died in his wagon near Madison on Feb. 21, 1860 in his sixty-seventh year. There were supposed to be 200 in this group so the rest must have left by 1870.

Stanley was born in Reading, Berkshire, England, and his body was taken back to the Woodland Cemetery near Dayton, to be buried next to his wife, Harriet Warden, who died on Aug. 30, 1857, age 63. That's according to the History of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, published in 1909, whose author found their tombstones. This book claims Woodland was the first gypsy cemetery in the United States, but that’s one of those claims that should be immediately questioned.

he group appeared to have arrived at Dayton in 1856 from Canada (where they can't have stayed long), moved on to Indiana quickly, and most moved on quickly again. The best evidence of their emigration date comes from a transcribed tombstone in the cemetery that showed: “ daughter of Mary,Dangefo and Dovie Stanley; born in England, died December 11th, 1857, aged two years and fourteen days," …

The publications talking about them were kind, compared to some of the comments made about gypsies. Part of this seems to have been racial--the Stanleys were far more European looking than some of their darker brethren.

Owen Stanley
was succeeded as king by his son Levi Stanley, whose wife Matilda became queen. There is no indication they came to Indiana with the rest of the tribe and were shown in Troy, Miami County, Ohio, in 1860. There were 25 people shown as wanderers in Troy. The 1880 census shows none of these families remaining In Indiana--they apparently came together and left together.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Madison’s Curious Status

An earlier column on this blog looked at the odd way in which the founding of Madison has been given as 1809 and which has led to the city’s 200th anniversary being set for 2009—even though the only thing that happened in 1809 was John Paul’s purchase of the land on which lots were later created.

As pointed out, the first settler within the land that became Old Town Madison, John Henry Wagner, arrived in 1808 and no lots were sold until 1811. But beyond that is the question of the status of Madison as an officially authorized government entity, after its platting by Paul.

Initially, Madison was simply a populated area governed by the Court of Common Pleas, which handled all areas of government for Jefferson County after it began operating on Jan. 11, 1811.

The first act specifically naming Madison was the creation of road districts—for defining the area in which residents could be required to work on public roads. This occurred on June 18, 1811, although for some reason the court then authorized Madison to be formed into a road district on Feb. 19, 1812, perhaps reducing the number of districts to one—the minutes do not spell out the difference.

Madison was the also site of a justice of the peace court with the appointment of William Vawter on May 15, 1808. Justices were appointed by the governor until Indiana became a state in 1816, and there is no indicated that these justice’s territory was limited to Madison. (Even though John Vawter stated he was the first justice, territorial records clearly show William’s appointment and that John was named to the position “vis”—in place of—William, who had resigned on July 16.

Madison definitely got its own justices on March 5, 1817, as the commissioners authorized an election to be held on the first Monday in April for the election of two justices “for the Town of Madison who are to reside there …”

The usual report is that Madison was not incorporated as a town until April 1, 1824. However, the minutes of the county court showed the election of Dawson Blackmore, Nathaniel Hunt, Abraham Clarkson, James Ross and Martin Rowzer as trustees on Sept. 8, 1817. The language of the minutes is clear in referring to these men as trustees for the “corporation of the town of Madison” and this seemed to end the court’s direct governance.

Besides the 1824 action, there were more involving Madison’s status as a town. It was incorporated again on Jan. 2, 1829. Then followed a series of laws, including one of Jan. 25, 1850 in which the state legislature extended the town’s southern boundary from High Street to the Ohio River. However, the lawmakers felt that a series of amendments to the charter had made the situation confusing, and reincorporated the town on Feb. 4, 1831

As a town, Madison had no mayor. The trustees choose one of their own members as president who presided over meetings and signed official documents. In 1824, and perhaps earlier, the board had been expanded to seven from the five-member board of 1817.

Madison achieved its final government form in 1838 when it was incorporated as a city.