Abandoned Towns

October 31, 1997

Special to the Times-Mail
Reprinted by permission

Local senior citizens may remember them well, for they were once small -- but flourishing -- communities in Lawrence County.

Numerous such towns were scattered throughout the county. Many were platted back in the 1800s, and some were still in existence into the 1920s or later. A few continue to serve residents of their areas with grocery stores, other small businesses and churches. Some of them are now known by other names.

A road map of Lawrence County, drawn up prior to World War I and updated about 1925, included these towns, many of which are now abandoned:

Flatwood and Armstrong in Perry Township; Peerless and Grayson in Marshall Township; Dark Hollow in Indian Creek Township; Georgia in Spice Valley Township; Beck's and Rivervale in Marion Township, and Stonington in Bono Township.

Even before 1925 the following communities -- many with interesting and unusual names -- boasted business places:

Hog Holler, Speed Hollow, Wolf Creek, Coveyville, Logan, Kentucky Hollow, Reed's Station, Torphytown, Pattonville, Stringtown, Giberson, Coxton, Goosetown, Jugtown, Moorestown, Pinhook, Five Points, Caseyville and Fishing Creek.

At one time there were also these spots with odd names:

Lickskillet, Goat Run, Heathen Bend, Dog Fennel, Cross Lanes, Grindstone Hollow, Jones' Defeat, Lookout, Miles Standish, Maul Ridge, Sinking Spring, Rock Ledge, Sunset, Zelma and Opposition.

Palestine was first county seat

One of the most familiar names among the abandoned towns is Palestine, the first county seat of Lawrence County. Establishment of Bedford as the county seat seven years later, in 1825, came as the result of a plague in Palestine.

One historian once said "how the town came to be called Palestine, or by whom exactly, is lost beyond the hope of recovery."

The community grew fast at first, but tapered off after the population had reached 300. A two-story log courthouse was completed late in the fall of 1818. It served for two years, until a two-story brick building was ready for occupancy.

Although on high ground overlooking White River, Palestine was an unhealthy place from the beginning. It became infested with a plague that threatened to wipe out the small community.

A few years before, another plague had wiped out the entire village of Hindostan Falls in Martin County, not far downstream along White River.

Just exactly what the disease was at Palestine is not certain. Several names were used, including the ague, fever, milk sickness and malaria. Many people died and the situation became so acute that the inhabitants, totaling 600 by now, decided to evacuate the site and find a new location for the county seat on higher ground.

A stone marker was erected in 1968 by the Lawrence County Sesquicentennial Committee at the site of the courthouse in Palestine. It is on the property of Garris and Sue Hillenburg, who have resided there for 11 years.

"The property has been in my family over 150 years," Sue Hillenburg said. "We have some bricks from the original courthouse, which was located where we now live."

The Palestine courthouse was two stories high and 45 feet square. The town of 200 acres contained 276 lots, and was abandoned in the 1830s.

It was local businessman Joseph Rawlins who suggested the new county seat, located three miles north of Palestine, be named "Bedford" in honor of Bedford County, Tenn., from where he had recently returned.

In laying out the town of Bedford the original plan of Palestine was duplicated as closely as possible. There were the same number of lots with a courthouse square in the center serving as a hub.

Liberty founded in 1829

It was just four years later, in 1829, that the village of Liberty, 41/2 miles southwest of Bedford, was platted. Several small buildings immediately sprang up, with John S. Daughton, Frank Tilly and Alexander H. Dunihue among the early merchants. Health conditions finally became so bad and living there so dangerous that the town was abandoned.

The community of Pinhook, nine miles southeast of Bedford, once had a post office, three different school buildings, three churches, two grocery stores, a saloon and blacksmith shop. The post office, established about 1900, existed for only a few years.

Bono, located along White River in southeastern Lawrence County, was the commercial center of the area for several years. It was platted in 1816 and believed named for Pierre Bono, who carried mail by horseback and settled in the community. Bono was so important that there was serious talk at one time of making it the state capital. Indianapolis, however, won out by a single vote.

Town names came from locations

Several of the now-abandoned towns in Lawrence County received their names as a result of being near particular locations, such as limestone quarries or railroads. Peerless, located north of Bedford, was one of those.

Peerless was a boom town around the turn of the century and so-named after the nearby Peerless stone quarry, at that time referred to as one of the finest in the county. The name, "Peerless," means without equal.