Parke County, Indiana
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Copyright 2016   James D. VanDerMark   - All Rights Reserved  -  Remember to quote your source. 

An Illustrated History of the State of Indiana

Richard S. Peale & Co., Publishers Indianapolis, 1875 


 PARKE County was organized in 1821, and was named in honor of Benjamin Parke, the first member of Congress from the territory. The county contains about four hundred and forty square miles, with a population of nearly 25,000. The county was first settled in 1818, by John :M. Doty, who located on Henry's prairie. Judge Joseph Walker settled near where Numa now is, in Florida township, in 1819. Judge Seybold settled on Big Raccoon, not far from Bridgeton, in the same year. The mills at Roseville were erected by Chauncey Rose, Moses Robbins and Andrew Brooks, as early as 1820. When the county was organized, an Indian reservation was made, running up and down the Wabash, from the mouth , of Sugar creek to the mouth of Big Raccoon, and about seven miles in width. Most of this territory was afterwards included in Reserve township. The last Indian representative who lived on these lands was a half-breed named Christmas Dozney. John Adams settled in 1820, at the forks of the two Raccoon creeks, and Judge Steele, now a prominent resident of Terre Haute, settled at Portland mills in 1821. Moses Hart settled at the same place about one year before. Judge .Strange and Tobias Miller settled in Raccoon valley, in 1820, as also George and Alexander Kirkpatrick. James Kelsey and Francis Dickson built Dickson's mills (now Mansfield mills), in 1821. Thomas White and James Allen were also among the early settlers. Daniel Buchanan settled in the county in 1822, and Selman Lusk settled at the narrows of Sugar creek in 1821, where he built a mill and had a post office. John Beard built .mills near the mouth of Sugar creek, in 1822. In 1821, Perley Mitchell settled in Penn township.  

In the year 1825, the friends settled in Penn township. Prominent among them may be mentioned Peyton Wilson, , James Morrison, Solomon Allen, James Pickard and Jeremiah Siler. The Friends added much to the settlement, in the way of industry and thrift. They have now an excellent church and high school at Bloomingdale. The latter is under the supervision of Prof. B. C. Hobbs, who has made it a superior school for the education of boys. Dr. E. Allen was one of the first settlers in Reserve township. His associate pioneers were William Cook and Joseph and Daniel Wolfe. Mr. Cook was father-in-law to Governor Joseph A. Wright.

The first settlers of Wabash township were James and John Laverty, Samuel Hill, Dr. Taylor, Colonel Hays and A. Punteny. Quite a number of the old log cabins of pioneer days are still standing-some that were erected in 1820.

The first county court was held in 1821, at Roseville, and was removed permanently to Rockville, in 1824.

 With regard to the soil and productions, we will remark that Parke is a county of timbered land. Although situated on the very margin of the great western prairie region, it has, with but the exception of a few acres, or bottom prairie along the Wabash river, nothing deserving the name of prairie in the county. Nearly every other variety of soil found in the northwest is represented in the county. However, for agricultural purposes, the soil is excellent, and most of the farmers have become wealthy. 

The available coal in Parke county belongs to the lower members of the great western coal field. Measuring from the base of the coal measures upward, the seams number one and two are the only reliable coal beds in the county; but these are productive, and sufficient for all practical purposes. 

Rockville, the county seat of Parke county, was laid out in the fall of 1823, and became the permanent county seat in the following year. Previous to the latter date, the county courts had been held in Roseville and Armiesburg. " The donors of the land on which Rockville is situated, were the .first settlers of the town," viz. : Arthur Patterson, Andrew Ray, Aaron Hand and James B. McCall. Andrew Ray built the .first house, which was a  log cabin, situated on the public square. It was the place of entertainment for all land " prospectors " in that section of the country for many years. He also built and conducted the .first hotel in Rockville, which was opened .first in 1824. Mr. Ray was a careful pioneer, lived economically, practiced industry, and died in 1872, a wealthy and respectable citizen of Parke county. The first white child born in Rockville, was James B. Ray, son of .Andrew Ray, in 1824. 

Rockville being situated some distance from the Wabash, and only accessible over almost impassable roads, it was for many years backward in its growth and improvements. The first house built expressly for school purposes, was a small brick structure, north of the old Baptist church, and the first teacher was a Mr. Patterson. The celebrated Lorenzo Dow preached in Rockville in 1832, in the woods, on a lot south of the public square. That was a great day for the infant town. The settlers gathered from far and near to see and hear the . eccentric preacher. "A man came into the meeting with a cigar in his mouth, and was peremptorily challenged and ordered to throw it away." There were some other interesting incidents connected with the meeting. 

The first church organized in Rockville was by the Baptists. They held their first meeting in the old county court house. 

During the last ten or fifteen years Rockville, and, indeed, the whole of Parke county, has improved rapidly. The manufacturing and commercial interest of the former are now full of promise, while the agricultural prospects of the latter are a source of material comfort to the farmers. The railroad facilities of Rockville have done considerable to promote its commercial enterprise, and have been largely instrumental in placing it on a solid footing. 

The educational facilities of Rockville are second to no other town of equal population in the State. The new public school house was begun in the fall of 1872, and finished in January , 1874, at a cost, including grounds, of $36,000. It is a fine three story brick; containing ten rooms, besides the large  chapel, or lecture room, and is arranged to accommodate five hundred pupils. Rockville is a pleasant place to reside. The people are intelligent, sociable, and sensible; and the same remark holds good wherever you go in Parke county.