Week 38: #52 Ancestors – On the Map
By Eilene Lyon
I confess to being a bit of a map geek. I even minored in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) when I attended Fort Lewis College in 2004-7. Maps are excellent for visualizing the context of events in our family history. They can help us understand the juxtaposition of our ancestors, their friends (or foes), and neighbors.
I found this 1847 map in a deed book at the Blackford County courthouse in Hartford City, Indiana.1 My Ransom ancestors lived in the town known as Trenton, seven miles due east of Hartford City.
James Ransom (my 3rd great-grandfather) served as a justice of the peace for Jackson Township and in that capacity authenticated this map with his signature (on the original, not this recorded copy). He owned property adjacent to the town as laid out here, but not within the bounds.
Other names on this document of interest to me are: Basel B. Anderson (James Ransom’s brother-in-law) and William Taughinbaugh. Taughinbaugh held a record four positions in the county government. He served as county clerk for many years.2 His son, Franklin Taughinbaugh, went to California with James’s sons, Robert and William Ransom.
Robert H. Lanning, Ezekiel Lanning, and William Cortright held the original patents for the parcels surrounding the crossroads, and were partners with Basel Anderson in laying out the town.3 Robert Lanning once sued James Ransom for slander, winning a sizeable judgment. Two of Cortright’s sons went on the California trip with the Ransoms.
As you can see from the plat, the crossroads sat at the corner of Sections 11, 12, 13, and 14 of Jackson Township. There are five named streets running east-west, centered on Main Street. Four named streets run north-south, plus border streets and alleys. It looks like a nice, regular little town.
This is what the area looks like today per Google Earth:
A picture tells a thousand words. There is no town at this crossroads. A few residential lots, two (yes, two!) cemeteries, and surrounding farmland. There are no storefront businesses, and Google didn’t bother doing a Streetview, though you can find nearby Pennville has been done.
I would really love to see some interim maps that might tell the story of how Trenton grew and eventually declined. I know that it did grow, because James Ransom’s son, Robert (2nd great-grandfather), established a store and several other businesses there in the 1850s and 1860s, after returning from his California gold rush adventure.4 He also served as the first postmaster.5
In 1860, Robert’s brother, Basil, worked as a merchant, and there was also a shoemaker, carpenter, physician and blacksmith in or near the town.6 A decade later, Trenton had two blacksmiths and two millers, a merchant, physician, wheelwright, cooper, carpenter, plasterer, teamster and shoemaker. Robert’s occupation is given as “Dealer in Davison.”7 (I have no idea.)
The post office closed in 1907.8 By the time the 1940 census rolled around, Trenton was not even a named place in the Jackson Township enumeration. Only Millgrove earned that distinction.9 Neither place is considered a town today, but you can still find them…on the map.
Feature image: You would never know that you were driving through Trenton, Indiana, unless you noticed this sign on Highway 26. (E. Lyon 2017)
- Blackford County Deed Book B, p. 321.↩
- The Biographical and Historical Record of Jay and Blackford Counties, Indiana. 1887. Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, p. 728-9.↩
- https://glorecords.blm.gov/ ↩
- Family letters and notes.↩
- Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971. NARA Microfilm Publication, M841, 145 rolls. Records of the Post Office Department, Record Group Number 28. Washington, D.C.: National Archives – via Ancestry.com.↩
- Year: 1860; Census Place: Jackson, Blackford, Indiana; Page: 633; Family History Library Film: 803245 – via Ancestry.com.↩
- Year: 1870; Census Place: Jackson, Blackford, Indiana; Roll: M593_300; Page: 402B; Family History Library Film: 545799 – via Ancestry.com.↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trenton,_Indiana ↩
- 1940 U.S. Federal Census for Jackson Township, Blackford County, Indiana – via Ancestry.com.↩