Freeman Corner

Friday, October 7, 1938

Perry County's Most Historic Spot To Be Marked

Lafayette Spring Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution will place a monument in the form of a bronze plaque mounted on a huge block of sandstone, at Freeman's Corner, Perry County's most historic spot, in a ceremony tentatively set for the last Sunday in October.

Mrs. Louis Zoercher, regent of Tell City, with her committee members Mrs. John Gerber, Cannelton, chairman, Mrs. P.J. Coultas and Mrs. H. C. Powers of Tell City are planning to have some of the State's best historians and speakers for the program and they have invited the Perry County Historical Society for a joint meeting on that day.

George R. Wilson, historian-surveyor of Indianapolis and Prof. Ross Lockridge of Indiana University have been invited to speak in addition to Mrs. William H. Schlosser, state regent of the D.A.R. and other state officers.

Freeman's Corner in Perry County is the southeast corner of the Vincennes Tract deeded in 1803 to the United States of America by several nations of Indians in the Treaty of Ft. Wayne. The Chapter is eager to mark this historic spot, surveyed by Thomas Freeman by placing the monument on the St. John Road, a county road in Clark Township near Bristow, a quarter mile from the actual corner, which corner is almost inaccessible for the average traveler being n a deep woods not much different from the time of the original survey.

Mounted on a huge block of native sandstone the bronze plaque will be placed at an angle that the following inscription may be read by a passing motorist without alighting from his automobile: "This monument stands one fourth mile south of the southeast corner of the Historical Vincennes Tract as established by Surveyor Thomas Freeman in 1802-1803. Placed by Lafayette Spring Chapter, D.A.R. in 1938.

The sandstone block is a gift to the Society by H.C. Powers, Superintendent of the Ohio River Power Co. it was taken from the old waterworks plant at Cannelton.

George R. Wilson, surveyor and historian of Indianapolis, who is particularly interested in all old surveys has made a study of the Vincennes Tract of land. He came here in 1927 to locate the corner and all of the information contained in this article was obtained from him.

The story of how there came to be a tract of land know as the "Vincennes Tract" with its Indian, French and English Association, wars, treaties and settlements and their bearing on history and surveys in Indiana constitutes interesting reading dating back almost 200 years.

In 1742 the Indians gave to the French at Vincennes by means of a "gift deed" a tract of land lying at right angles to the general trend of the Wabash River at Vincennes. In 1763 the English conquered it from the French and in 1779 General George Rogers Clark captured it from the English in his conquest of the Northwest Territory.

In 1803 the United States of America, represented by William Henry Harrison, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and Commissioner Plenipotentiary of the United States, cleared title to this land in a treaty with the Delawares, Shawnees, Potawatimies, Miamis, Eel River, Weeas, Kickapoos, Piankashaws and Kaskaskias nations of Indians made at Fort Wayne. In doing this the Government went back of all deed and former treaties and bought the land from the Indians, the remote owners.

One of the articles contained in the Treaty at Ft. Wayne, the United States agreed to furnish salt not to exceed 150 bushels, from the Salt Spring on the Saline Creek, to be divided among the Indians. Indians were allowed to fish in the rivers and cross streams on ferries free of toll during floods. At that time salt was a luxury and scarce. The Vincennes Tract includes 1,600,000 acres of land. It is 70 leagues long and 42 leagues wide.

The General Land Office of the Department of the Interior at Washington, D.C. describes the land as follows:

"Beginning at Point Coupee on the Wabash, and running thence by a line north seventy-eight degrees, west twelve miles, thence by a line parallel to the general course of the Wabash, until it shall be intersected by a line at right angels to the same, passing through the mouth of White River, thence by the last mentioned line across the Wabash and toward the Ohio, seventy-two miles, thence by a line north twelve degrees west, until it shall be intersected by a line at right angles to the same, passing through Point Coupee, and by the last mentioned line to the place of beginning."

Most of this land lies in Indiana but a small part is in Illinois, the boundary lines of the Vincennes Tract are known as the "Old Indian Boundary." the southeast corner of said tract is located on the line between Sections 25 and 30 Ts 4s Rs 2 and 3W and 2nd P.M. Indiana, according to a description furnished by the Department of the Interior.

The exact corner is between the farms of Henry Delaisse and Perry Andrews, the latter an oil operator of Vincennes who has found gas in several holes on his land and a little oil.

In speaking of his trip here to locate Freeman's Corner, Mr. Wilson said "It was a thrill few surveyors are privileged to have. Having found the range line and armed with the Freeman's original field notes which gave the distance from line tree to line tree and from creek to creek (in this care Anderson river) the search for Freeman's corner began. In an hour's time the marks of the old surveys began to appear. They grew plainer and plainer as they neared the corner and finally upon three moss covered beech trees were the figures and letters wanted. They had broadened until the lines were two inches wide and eight inches long. The half mile corner and its official witness trees were found. Finally the stone was found and south on the line 300 links was the site of the southeast corner of the Vincennes Tract with the topography and forest descriptions given by Thomas Freeman in 1802-1803.

Led by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Delaisse, who own the farm on which the corner is located the local committee visited the place and also found the cornerstone on which were the letters T.T., 24, 4s and on top was a cross. The committee also found the witness trees with the lettering and marks. Mr. Delaisse said that he has sold considerable timer from his place but because the witness trees of beech are not suited for lumber they have been spared. They are very tall having been forced to grow tall in order to reach the sunlight. Shafts of the golden sunlight cut through the dense woods at the time of the visit of the committee but there was not enough light to get good Kodak pictures.

Mr. Wilson said that he could easily imagine Thomas Freeman at his work, with his Jacob staff in his right hand, his compass swinging on his left shoulder and on his right hip, his buckskin pouch swinging from a shoulder strap containing his instructions, papers, field notes and ink horn, opened at the smaller end containing homemade ink brewed from the forest bark; another horn opened at the larger end containing dry sand to be used as a blotter; a dozen or more wild goose feathers from which to make quill pens. With him were his axmen, blazers, chainmen and in the lead a flagman wearing a red flannel shirt that he might be more easily seen.

Freeman's cooks, tent men, hunters and camp followers were nearby and there may have been a few Indian chiefs provided for in the Treaty to help. It was not a large party for Freeman speaks of a "small party." Pack horses with provisions, medicines and the Kentucky cure for snake bite were in charge of farriers or teamsters, Mr. Wilson visualized.

The white men wore buckskin trousers, raccoon caps, moccasins and other pioneer clothing. The guards carried their trusty Kentucky or Tennessee rifles and they know how to hit "either eye" of a deer, buffalo or even a squirrel. Wild game furnished the fresh meat and the streams the fish. Flint steel and "punk" supplied fires and thus the party slowly but surely blazed their way over creeks, rivers, valleys, hills, through briars, thickets and woods, snow and rain to open the way for those who came after them.

Mr. Wilson said that the old musty field notes of Freeman as written on the ground or at camp of the pioneer surveyors are interesting documents, especially to one who has followed the lines called for in them and one who has placed his transit over the very "posts" called for in the fading notes, as he had.

Most of Freeman's note books are about three inches by six inches made by hand out of fools cap paper, sewed together with thread as awkwardly as a man could do it or tied together with strips of buckskin cut as thin as a pioneer could cut them. The notes show the result of perspiration, snow, rain, pocket wear and the cruel hand of time, yet they tell a story of pioneer life no court or jury ever set aside.

Occasionally along his lines, Freeman split a sapling and a limb was returned through the body of the tree, thus a line of "peace trees" was established. In time the sapling became a deformed forest tree and did its part to preserve the location of the line. A number of people living along the Freeman lines recall seeing the "peace trees."

Peace trees should not be confused with "witness trees" as they are quite different.

In October, 1804 Ebenezer Buckinham, Jr. established the second principal meridian which extends from Ohio to the State of Michigan. When Buckinham came north from Freeman's Corner in what is now Perry County he recorded two "Beech Trees as witness trees" and thus a system began and they are the first witness trees on record.

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Early Surveys, Trails, & Traces