Introduction to the Intro

To celebrate 17 years living here at Sonnystone Acres, today we start a series of posts chronicling the first three families who lived here, spanning 111 years…this could take a while.

In 2003 we bought a falling-down old house on 4 acres of property, just about a mile from where we were living in Evansville IN.  We were new empty-nesters and had been looking for a fixer-upper with some land for a while. This one fit the bill and was less than a mile from the neighborhood where we’d lived and raised our children for 18 years.

We bought the house from a couple of 80-somethings who had lived here for 30 years. The lady was ill and he was old and it fell into disrepair.  They had no children and when the gentleman died a nephew moved her to St. Louis.  About a year after we moved in, we received a package from the nephew that contained the property’s original paper abstract, a collection of legal documents that chronicles transactions associated with the land, including references to deeds, mortgages, wills, probate records, etc.

The abstract is only about the property and though its owners are named, it gives me no clue as to what was built here, e.g. homes, barns, businesses.  It’s full of measurements using chains and rods and stones that interest my husband, but I was more intrigued by the presence of a Last Will and Testament and a couple of court records, as well as recognizing the surnames of some of the former owners who have streets around here named after them.

I had already been curious about the “S” on the chimney outside…what did it originally stand for?  (Smith)  There is a name carved in a stone step (with a boot-scraper embedded) that sits at our front door.  Who was that? (John E. Reed) The answers in the Abstract only led to more questions, and nearly 15 years ago I collected some info at our Historical Society. The venture was sidelined for years until I subscribed to ancestrydotcom. Recently I started a Sonnystone Acres Family Tree and uncovered all new info about the first three families, stretching from 1846 to 1957.

We’ll start, though, with the original land patent.  On March 26, 1821, the northwest quarter of Section 5. Town 7 south, Range 10 west, containing 169.2 acres according to Government survey was entered at the U.S. Land Office at Vincennes, Indiana, by William Hampton.

This land is located in Vanderburgh County, Center Township, specifically in an area once known as Mechanicsville.

From “A History of Vanderburgh County, from the Earliest Times to the Present”, published in 1889:

{referencing Center Township}: The principal village in the township is Mechanicsville, commonly called Stringtown, because its houses are strung along the road.  At a very early date, the point where the Petersburgh road left the State road was selected as a good place for a smithy and wagon shop. It was a busy place in early times…

Mr. Ira Fairchild, who came with his family from New York to Indiana in 1818, thus pictures the early days of this village : “In 1829 my father removed’to Mechanicsville and opened a blacksmith’s shop …  which was a famous institution in its day. This house was built of heavy hewed logs, 30×40 feet square, had five forges and worked a force of seven or eight hands. All the livery horses of Evansville were brought there to be shod, and all sorts of iron work was done. At this time Mechanicsville seemed in a fair way to outstrip Evansville in the race for position. Thomas Smith had built a saw-mill on Pigeon creek, and on the hill where he afterward kept tavern he carried on a cabinet shop, … and supplied the demand for furniture for miles around. The village also boasted of a well-kept hotel, a’ wagon shop, and country store, and was withal a place of very considerable local importance.”

In 1839, William Hampton and wife conveyed to John H. Craig 89.2 acres.  The next year, 1840, John H. Craig sold 20 of those acres to Jacob Miller and another 20 acres to Jacob Winkleman.  Mr. Winkleman sold his 20 acres to John Hardy in 1845.  In 1847, Hardy and his wife sold those acres to Jacob Miller.  Miller now owned about 40 acres of the original William Hampton land patent.

Jacob Miller and his wife Maria (Mary) were Sonnystone’s first residents.

Stay Tuned…

Peace