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Swanksville

When I started this project of sharing the information on the old and often forgotten communities in Putnam County, I had some details for a couple dozen or so of these places. Many of these were noted on the older maps such as the 1864 Putnam County Map and the 1879 Putnam County Atlas. Then in my research I located the old record entitled “Postmasters 1832 to 1971” from the postal service. This record listed many communities not on any map, nor were they always described in any previously published histories. Thanks to the Hoosier State Chronicles and a lot of research of other documents, I have been able to determine the location of 49 different post offices that have existed at one time or another in Putnam County. Some of these were different post office names at various times at or near the same location, leaving something like 40 old communities, not counting the established cities and towns still in existence. Some of these 40 still exist in some form or another, but most are long gone.

 

One of these communities was Swanksville, also known by its earlier name of Newcastle. I had noted it in the “Postmasters 1832 to 1971” with but one postmaster, David Swank, appointed about 1831. It was noted that the post office was moved to Parkersburg in Montgomery County, so I initially thought this was really more a topic for that county. But my curiosity got the better of me and I started digging deep and found interesting information about this, one of the early communities in Putnam County. This will take a while, so pull up a chair. 

 

Various historical records indicate David Swank was one of the early settlers in the northern part of Putnam County, arriving about 1820 and building a cabin in this area. 

 

As noted in The Daily Banner on August 3, 1838, Newcastle was one of the ghost towns of the county whose plat is in Deed Record A in the office of the recorder of the county. The plat, however, does not appear in any regular plat books in that office. 

 

The first deed conveying land in Putnam County was made on September 23, 1822. By this indenture Christopher Miller conveyed to Daniel Swank, for the sum of $800 in Section 12, Township 16 north, Range 5 west. Here, Newcastle was platted March 16, 1829, by David Swank, who also was postmaster there later. It was described as being located in “the east half of the northwest quarter of section 12 in range 5 west, township 16 north, on the land of David Swank near his mill on big Rackoon,” which puts it in Russell township, about a mile southwest of what we now know as Raccoon. Thomas Glenn was named as the surveyor of the townsite. This would put Swanksville a little north of Raccoon Creek, north of the old Skillman Cemetery, which is about a mile west of the intersection of current U. S. 231 and 236, on the north side of the road.

 

A review of land patents indicate that David Swank and John Swank entered patents for land in Russell and Franklin Townships of Putnam County on April 1, 1824. David, Jacob, Joseph, John and Joshua Swank also took out land patents in Montgomery County from 1824 through 1832. The Crawfordsville Review on August 26, 1899 noted that Joshua Swank, son of David, entered 80 acres in section 29 of Scott Township on December 24, 1824. This location is a few miles northeast of Raccoon, and just north of the old Chief Peter Cornstalk Indiana Village. This article also indicates that Peter Cornstalk came to the mill of David Swank on Raccoon Creek southeast of current day Raccoon to have his corn milled, and that the Swank family mill was quite a help to the early settlers who previously had been pounding corn for meal in a hominy block with an iron wedge fastened in a hand spike.

 

Swanksville was first named Newcastle, but when a post office was established there about 1831, it was determined that there was already a post office in Indiana by that name. In a flash of inspiration, David Swank, who was the only postmaster in the short life of this post office, decided to name it after himself and the post office, and then the community, began to be referred to as Swanksville. Various historical records indicate the post office was moved to Parkersburg in Montgomery County, probably about 1832. Typically, when we see that a post office has been moved, that means the mail was being delivered to a new physical location. But not here. Sources indicate that David Swank desired to move his post office to be near the big spring in Parkersburg. And move it he did, by loading it on a wagon and physically moving the building. It appears that the post office, while by now being in Parkersburg, still used the Swanksville name for a few years, until Nathaniel Parker was appointed postmaster and the post office then took his name and became Parkersburg, which then became the name of the community as well.

 

Another interesting item of note, contained in the Wabash Herald of Rockville on July 16, 1831, indicates that a W. M. Layne of Russellville desired to hold a lottery and advertised for the sale of tickets and listed the prizes, which included land, cows, horses, wagons and other items totaling $2,000. He advertised the tickets to be available at Russelville, Rockville, Montezuma, Greencastle, Crawfordsville, Blakesburgh, Swanksville, Milligan's store, and Gilkeys mill on Sugarcreek, at two dollars. The drawing was to be held February 1, 1832, providing enough tickets being sold. He assured purchasers full refund if not. I never could find any follow up articles about this scheme, so I wonder if Layne sold the 2,000 tickets necessary to break even and award the prizes, or if he had to refund the money for those that did by tickets.

 

David (1780-1842) and his wife Elizabeth (1784 – 1851) Swank are buried in the Skillman cemetery, south of the old community of Swanksville, as are several of their descendants Their daughter Elizabeth (1819-1883) married William Skillman (1816-1894, and they are both buried at the Skillman Cemetery as well. 

 

The Daily Banner on November 23, 1939 talks also about a community called Frankfort. This place, which never got off the ground, straddled the Putnam and Montgomery county line, northwest of Raccoon and due north of Swanksville.