Portersville

First County Seat of Dubois County

      On September 19, 1814, Jacob Lemmon bought the land on which Portersville now stands, and he received from the government a large parchment deed bearing the signature of James Madison, then the President of the United States.  The amount of acreage was 445 of which part of that acreage became the first county seat of Dubois County.  It was also known that white men had been here before 1802.

       Gen. W. Johnson of Knox County, Thomas Polk of Perry County, Thomas Montgomery of Gibson County, Richard Palmer of Daviess County, and Ephrian Jordan, were appointed commissioners to select a site for a county seat.  They selected the place where Portersville now stands on Monday, February 9, 1818.  Arthur Harbison, one  of the associate judges, and Jacob Lemmon, prominent in local affairs, influenced the location of Portersville as the county seat.  The town was named in honor of favorite relatives of Harbison.

        Surveyor, Hosea Smith, of Pike County, laid out the town, but the map he made was later lost.  John Niblack, the county agent, was appointed to lay out all the lots of the town of Portersville. He conducted the sale of the lots and built the courthouse and jail in 1818.  The first lots were sold in July of 1818.  It wasn't until October, 1877, that Henry Berger, Dubois County Surveyor, re-surveyed, re-platted and re-established the corners of the town.

        In the early days Portersville was a prosperous little village.  Court was held here, and soldiers were frequently mustered at the county seat town.  Portersville gave promise of a thriving and enterprising town, but there were two elements, however, destined to be its overthrow.  The malaria prevalent along the streams of the new and unsettled country, and as the population of the southern part of the county increased, Portersville was situated too far to the North border of the county.  So in 1830 it was decided to move the county seat nearer the center of the county, and they chose the site of Jasper.

       Simon Morgan, the first county clerk, recorder, and teacher, set up the first school at Portersville.  His school was located in the courthouse. A one room school was built shortly after Portersville was founded.  Trustee, Napoleon Coffman had the one room school torn down in 1897 and built a two room school.

       It was in the first courthouse at Portersville that the Presbytery for Indiana was organized on April 18, 1826.  The Portersville church was built in 1879.  The Rev. George Cooper was the pastor at the time. A parsonage was built in the early days by Dr. Hunter.  He also used it as a Doctor's office.  Later it was sold to the Portersville and Lemmons Church as a parsonage for the pastor who served both churches until 1917.

       Jefferson Street led to the White River, and barges and large flatboats, plus an occasional small steamboat carried the products of the White River bottom lands and the other fertile Boone Township acres up and down the river.  The produce was usually shipped in the spring of the year when the river level was high enough to enable the boats to get over the dam at High Rock west of the village.  The sound of the whistles, as the steamboats passed up and down the river, was a familiar one.

       The Buffalo Trace and the Base Line pass through Boone Township.  The area was known in those days as Gladly Land, meaning fertile land.

       Portersville has a well maintained cemetery which dates back to the early 1800's.  It is organized and stands on it's own as to repairs, mowing, and of the selling of new grave sites.  The present board consists of: John Webber, Karen Krodel, Micheal Dink, and Bernie Thewes. For more information e-mail Karen at: www.krodelaw@fullnet.com. More on the cemetery will be published later.

       Both the courthouse and the jail were two-story buildings.  The courthouse had a large brick chimney at each end.  Both buildings were constructed of hewed logs and both faced the south.  The lower story of the courthouse building was used as the courtroom and the upper story was divided into smaller rooms which were used for jury duty and other purposes.  The old desk, that was a   feature of the courtroom, can be seen in the corridor of the present courthouse of Jasper.  Court was held here until the county seat was moved to Jasper.  The jail was located west of the courthouse.  The lower story was built with double log and single wall and was called the debtor prison.  Non-payment of an ordinary debt was punishable by imprisonment under the old state constitution.

       The original courthouse is where many of our ancestors received their marriage licenses until 1826.  The courthouse building stood for years after the jail building was torn down.  It was used as a meat packing plant, and much of the meat was shipped down the river. 

       In 1998, Lillian Doane (the then official Dubois County Historian) copied some Portersville Items from the Jasper Weekly Courier from 1858-1920 for this writer. Two of these items read:  February 22, 1895, A FINE HALL--Guild Lodge AOUW just fitted up, under lease, a fine hall in the McCormich building at Portersville.  The room is 26 X 37 feet has a commodious entrance and ante room.  The Workman dedicated it on Wednesday night and had a pleasing program of music, addresses and a bountiful supper in the hall.  A good many ladies were in attendance and arranged the table for the brothers, and helped in the singing.  There was an excellent choir of 4 gentlemen and 6 ladies and at supper there was enough chicken, cakes and pies, as good as the best epicure would desire to feed twice the 150 persons there. And: May 7, 1897, HELLO!!--Work began Tuesday on the extension of the telephone from Haysville to Portersville, and by next week the citizens of ye ancient county capital will be answering to the cry of "Hello".  There are several pages of these Portersville Items (usually was a column a week in this weekly newspaper).  The items are all on microfilm in the Dubois County Library for your pleasure in the different issues.

       Not all the businesses of Portersville are known, but during the course of time, Portersville has had a shoe shop, post office, hotels (with a place for plays, etc.), blacksmith shops, doctors office, wagon-spoke shop, several general stores, saloons, barber shops, livery stable, butcher shop, ice house, flour mill, telephone exchange, saw mill, Daniel Boone Cannery, strawberry farm and hat shop. Portersville also had an active band.  Portersville was the home of the Straber-Harris GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) Post #96, a Civil War Veterans organization.  You still can get some work done for you in Portersville.  If you have need of body repair for your truck or car, you can get that done at Blaize's Body Shop (812-695-3581).  For repair of small appliances, etc., go to Fisher's Home Appliances Repairs (812-695-5241).

       Portersville also had it's own semi-pro baseball team.  From time to time, over the course of 70 years, starting in the late 1800's, Portersville fielded a team.  For the most of those years, they were called the Portersville Reds.  Their best known days is when they fielded a team for the Deer-Trail League.  The league was well organized and they played their games on Sunday afternoons.  At that time the Rudolph's "lent" the Reds land to play on.

       An early ferry boat was operated by Henry Graham and others, including Cyrenus Cox.  In 1913, the present Portersville Bridge, between Dubois County and Daviess County, was completed.  A major flood came that year and overflowed the bridge. The bridge had to be raised three feet to prevent that happening again.  A favorite story of the bridge began when in September of 1911 "Dimp" Graves came to town as the foreman of the Vincennes Bridge Company.  His company was awarded the contract to build the bridge for $17,250 (Dubois Countys part was $7,750 and Daviess Countys part was $9,500).  During the bridge building Dimp met Dot Cox of the historical Cox family of Portersville.  Dot (Cox) Graves was the town historian. Dimp and Dot eventually got married.  The marriage was July 13, 1913 on the Dubois County side of the very bridge that Dimp built.  Dimp went on to build more bridges, but always resided in Portersville.  The irony of this particular wedding was Dimp Graves actually had a hand in putting his father-in-law out of one of his businesses.  Cyrenus Cox had ran the Portersville Ferry for may years prior to the advent of the Portersville Bridge.

       This bridge has been condemned for some time and is closed.  The original bridge is still standing.   It is proposed to build a new Portersville Bridge somewhat east of the present bridge.  So, people of Portersville, watch your daughters as it pertains to bridge foreman.  History sometimes repeats itself.

       The Portersville Community has an annual get together.  Get in touch with Mike Denk (812-695-5241) or Elsie Keller (812-695-2861) for details.

        (Written as of May 20, 2004)     

         *** The new Portersville Bridge is open as of September of 2008 ***   The old bridge may be remove and used in a park in Southern Indiana.  Come to Portersville and cross                   over into Daviess County or vise-versa back into Dubois County!

 

 
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