Elkinsville Reunion 2000by Bill Weaver
You might say that a "virtual community" is one that belongs on the World Wide Web. Yet, Brown County has had a virtual community for the last 13 years. In fact, Elkinsville is a larger community now than it ever was before.
Once Elkinsville nestled in the southwestern corner of Brown County within some of its wildest terrain. From 1817 until 1964 it was a place to be reckoned with, like Christiansburg or Stone Head. And like these and other small towns Elkinsville has faded in all but memory. In this case, though, time did not remove the community, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did, a result of the construction of Monroe Reservoir.
But this unnatural death didn't stop former residents from forming a community anyway. A community of the spirit.
This October marks the 13th year the residents of Elkinsville have gathered in the shadow of Browning Hill to celebrate the founding of their community.
It began after a visit to the little cemetery far out in the woods that was about all that was left of old Elkinsville. In a nostalgic mood Beverley "B.J." Blankenfeld, wondered if there was some way for these families to be together again. She began calling and writing her old friends and in 1987 they organized their first reunion.
Located 18 miles southwest of Nashville, Elkinsville became a town in 1850. Named for William Elkins, the first pioneer to settle permanently in the hills of Brown County, it was said that "[Elkinsville] is a thrifty little place."
Born in 1796 the young Elkins had come up from Pulaski County, Kentucky with his parents soon after the Treaty of 1809 was signed (resulting in the 10 o'Clock Line). Sometime after 1810 the family settled near the fort in Leesville, Lawrence County, while the last years of the "Indian troubles" played out.
From there they moved to northern Jackson County and Elkins is mentioned as being in the Maumee area, called Muddy Fork and Finley's at that time.
I drove the back roads up from Leesville north through Maumee towards Elkinsville and it is very easy to see how Elkins came north to the beautiful valley where he made his home.
This was around 1817 or 1818. Columbus, Indiana was a place with but one log cabin. "Old David Johnson" settled nearby but there was no "extensive settlement until the 1830s." Solomon Fleetwood made the area's first land claim in 1821 but Elkins and Johnson waited until 1834 to secure their claims.
"The story is that William Elkins built his cabin on his claim, and later when the lines were run, the chimney of his cabin was on the line. `Old Billy' without waiting for his supper, hastened to Jeffersonville, to take out the land before the other man who claimed the land next to his, could do so."
Elkins, who was married four times during his long life, figured in the first recorded marriage in the area, to Mary Polly on July 20, 1837. "Nathan Davis, Justice of the Peace, officiating."
Strangely this was followed in Goodspeed's history by this sentence, perhaps an editorial error, "No, the marriage of John Arwin to Mill `Mernervey' Quick, on the 4th of December, 1836, by Squire Nathan Davis, was the first in the township."
Elkins died at the age of 92. It has been reported that his cabin was moved to Town Hill in Nashville but there is no evidence to support this assertion.
For many years the town prospered. Somewhat isolated from Brown County it traded to the south and west, in the valley that would one day be the Monroe Reservoir. Butcher and Bennington opened the first store and a church, school and post office followed.
Goodspeed, who published his history in 1884, also reported: "The bottoms about Elkinsville are rich and productive with the wealth of the lacustral silt deposited by torrents down the hillside." The hills were heavily forested with hickory, the saplings of which were cut for barrel hoops. There were traces found of gold and iron.
They drilled for oil around 1860, ". . . but escaping gas ignited and frightened workers so badly that no further efforts were made to secure oil."
On Browning Hill, south of town, Keokuk limestone lay on top of the hill in blocks, as if quarried by some ancient race. A mystery never solved to everyone's satisfaction and giving rise to the legend of Browning Mountain.
Each October two or three hundred people gather at the foot of Browning Hill for the Elkinsville Reunion.
"We're not trying to make a big deal out of it," says Bob Cross. "It's primarily for people who lived here or had relatives who lived here. The reunion is more than just a get together. There is anticipation each year of who will come."
Folks show up all day, visit the cemetery, renew acquaintances, make new friends, learn something about their heritage, add to that heritage, and eat one big whopping pitch-in dinner.
This year subscriptions will be taken towards the printing of a history of Elkinsville, its families and businesses. Compiled, edited, and typeset over the last two years by Nancy Deckard with the help of her husband Oliver and Bob Cross, (who wrote many of the entries) the book contains 597 pages, 294 pictures, 97 family stories, recipes, and poems. Subscriptions are available by writing the Elkinsville Committee c/o B.J. Blankenfeld, 3490 Covenanter Dr., Bloomington, Indiana 47401.
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