Old Knightstown Houses – 5

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235 East Jackson Street

Mettel House

235 East Jackson today

The house on the Southwest corner of Jackson and Adams Streets is another house that plays a part in the history of our little town. It was built in about 1860 by members of the Charles family. The deed to the property shows that the land in that part of Knightstown was originally part of a Land Grant by the U.S. Government to David Louderback on August 13th 1821. It’s unlikely that Louderback ever lived in this part of Indiana and it’s unclear how and why he got the Land. The deed also shows that 160 acres of the Grant was sold to a Joseph Fort in 1824. A portion of the land was sold again to Waitsell Cary then resold to Samuel Charles on May 23rd of 1835 for $30. The property was to remain in the hands of the Charles family for 79 years, until 1914.
Samuel and Eunice S. Charles were both natives of North Carolina. They came to Indiana in 1809 and located in Wayne County. In 1834 they moved to Knightstown, where, for many years Samuel engaged in the manufacture of chairs and worked at the painter’s trade. They had three children, John, Oliver and Minerva. Samuel died in 1848 and his brother Eli was his executor. He wasn’t very old, only 39, and his wife was only 40 at the time of his death. When Samuel died he apparently left the property to his three children. It’s unclear where they were residing before the house on the southwest corner of Adams and Jackson Streets (235 E. Jackson) was built in 1860. Meanwhile, Minerva got married in 1857 at the ripe old age of 16 to William C. Moreau. The 1860 census shows a Lewis Charles age 4 living with Solomon’s widow, Eunice, and her two sons, John and Oliver.

In February 1862 Minerva and her husband, Will Moreau, sold their interest in the property to her two brothers for $900. Moreau had joined the Union Army just after the shelling of Ft. Sumter in April of ‘62 and was commissioned Captain of Company F, 6th Indiana infantry. He served the agreed 3 months and upon discharge organized a Cavalry company of Knightstown men for the 19th Indiana Cavalry. He was appointed Captain of Company I. There was a mix-up in orders and he resigned in Feb ‘62 over the mixup incident then was recommissioned in May of ‘63 and served until near the end of the war. Oliver Charles his brother-in-law was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the same unit and resigned at the same time. So it was about when they returned to Knightstown after they resigned that Minerva’s third of the property was sold to John and Oliver.
Not a lot is known about Minerva and Will Moreau since they cannot be found in any Knightstown census. He is mentioned as having an interest in an early Knightstown newspaper, “The Citizen” in 1859. William is also listed as an attorney in the 1868 Knightstown Business Directory then they fall off the radar.

Charles/Mettel/Knott House

The house at 235 E. Jackson in the late 1800s.

Oliver Charles made Photo


Oliver never reentered the Army, as Will Moreau had done, and his service with the Union forces was very brief. Shortly after his return from the 19th Cavalry he was married to Sarah Loucks and probably moved out of the house on Jackson Street. According to the 1880 census, living with Oliver and Sarah were their 3 children, Stella b. 1864, Ada b. 1869, and Raymond b. 1875 and Sarah’s mother, E.W. Loucks. They were listed as living on Adams Street, (no address). Oliver established himself as a very successful photographer in and around Knightstown throughout the later 1800s. For some span of time Oliver was partnered with a man named Hart. Mr. Hart must have lived in another township because he cannot be found in any Wayne Twp/Knightstown census or directory.

Oliver’s older brother John T. Charles was also a very successful business man. John began his mercantile career as clerk in the store of A. B. Fithian, a Dry Goods dealer in Knightstown, remaining with him two years. Then, in 1859, he engaged in business for himself and became well established in the Dry Goods trade with one of the largest stores in Knightstown taking up the space of the two buildings directly to the east of Bell’s Hall on Main Street. John T. married Mary B. Bales of Knightstown in 1869 and they had 1 child, Cora, who was born about 1871. The 1870 census shows John and Mary with John’s mother, Eunice and Lewis who was then 14 living at the residence at Adams and Jackson. Where Lewis came from is a mystery. John’s business continued to prosper and he became a man of prominence in Knightstown. John had responded to the Governor’s call for volunteers to repel Morgan’s Raiders from the State. So he too spent a brief time in the military in service to the Northern cause. He was a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge No. 99 in Knightstown, a lifelong member of the Friends (Quaker) church, and he served as a member of the Town Board. John died in 1911. Oliver had preceded his brother to the grave in 1896. John left the property to his wife, Mary, and his daughter, Cora.

J.T. Charles Dry Goods

An early picture of John T. Charles’ Dry Goods Stores.

In 1914 the property was sold by Mary B. Charles and her daughter Cora Harold and her daughter’s husband, Aldue Harold to Frances L. Beeson for $2600. Beeson gave (or sold) the residence to his daughter and her husband, Lloyd and Lucile Mettel after their marriage.
Lloyd Mettel owned and ran a successful Bakery on the Public Square. He was in business for many year and was well known and respected. Lucile Mettel was a school teacher at the Raysville Elementary School and became the Principal there. The Mettels never had any children of their own but devoted much time and money helping children.
Lucile lived at 235 E. Jackson until her death in 1992. Her husband Lloyd preceded her by several years. The Beeson/Mettel family also owned the property for 79 years. So the two families, Charles and Mettel, between them owned the land for 158 years.

Charles/Mettel/Knott House

I think this was one of Mrs Mettel’s classes in the early 1900s

Greg Hahn bought the property from the heirs of Lucile Mettel in 1993 then sold it to a Mr. Sanchez in 1997. Sanchez sold the house to the present owners Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Knott in 2000. The house is beautiful and well cared for. It is very well preserved considering it is more than 150 years old. Our thanks to Kevin for providing a lot of good information.

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203 North Adams Street (In Work)

JoAnn Smith House

203 North Adams

The property at 203 North Adams Street and the beautiful old house there is presently owned by HKI board member Mrs. Joann Smith. Joann gave me a copy of the deed to the property and it provides some very interesting reading and a lot of insights into the history of Knightstown.
The first entry in the deed is dated August 1st 1821 and records the transfer of ownership of 80 acres in Henry County from the United States of America to Samuel Cary. The next entry dated Nov, 13th 1822 did the same thing with a small difference in the wording. This time it was President James Monroe and the U.S. of A. transferring the same hunk of land to Samuel Cary, his heirs and assigns. Maybe the first transfer was found to be in legal error.
On Feb 18th 1826 Samuel sold the same 80 acres to Watstill M. Cary, (and his heirs and assigns). Samuel and Watstill Cary were brothers who came to Indiana from Ohio. Watstill is always considered to be the founder of Knightstown but Samuel actually came to Indiana before Watstill and owned the land first. They were living in the settlement of West Liberty when Samuel bought this land.
In August of the following year, 1827, Watstill sold 12 acres of the land containing that portion which is now 203 N. Adams to Jeremiah and Caroline Grover for $100. Then, in 1832 Grover turned over a larger piece of land including the subject 12 acres to Benjamin G. Stratton for $450. Very little is known of either Grover or Stratton. Both can be found in Henry County court records as having served on juries about 1830 but that’s about all.
The wording in the deed seems very strange and ill-defined to this writer, although, my experience looking at deeds is very limited. Here’s the entry for the 1832 transfer of ownership:

Jeremiah Grover and Caroline Maria Grover, his wife,
Benjamin G. Strattan, heirs and assigns.
Warranty/Deed for $450.00, dated March 10, 1832, and recorded (date not give) in Deed Record B, page 445. Acknowledged before Vincent Mechel, Justice of the Peace, Union County, Indiana. Clerk’s Certificate attached.
Beginning at a stake 12 poles West of the Northeast corner of Section 33, township 16 north, range 9 east; thence 60 —- & 7 —- East 78 poles 6 inches to a stake; on the North side of Warrick Street in Knightstown; thence N. 76 degrees 30’ E. with the North side of said Street 31 poles 19 links to a stake; thence S. 13 degrees 30’ East 12 poles 21 links to the Northeast corner of Lot No. 6 in square No. 9 in Knightstown; thence E. 6 poles 13 links to a stake; thence N. 40 — east 5 poles 15 links to a stake on the W. bank of Blue River; thence up said River with the meanders thereof to a Hickory tree 8 inches in diameter; thence W. 14 poles to a stakes; thence N. 10’ W. 20 poles 16 links to a stake in Section line; thence S. 84 degrees W. to the place of beginning, containing 26 1/2 acres, more or less.
Also Lot No. 5 in square No. 7, and lot No. 1 in Square No. 9 in Knightstown, Henry County, Indiana.

Seems strange to see the legal boundaries of a properties defined as meandering down the river to a Hickory tree.
One wonders if there might have been a lot of land speculation going around Knightstown since the properties were bought and sold in relatively short time frames. Surely, there were no serious attempts to farm the here-to-fore virgin land in the short times they owned it.
Next, a month later in April of ’32, Stratton sold a portion of his land, 20 acres of the 27 acres he bought from Grover, to Ruben and Joanna Wright for $200. It doesn’t seem like Stratton did all that well on the sale since he had just, a month before, paid $450 for the 27 acres. Then, another month later, he sold the remainder of the property, about 5 acres, to a Banister Kirby for $95. Nothing further is known of Kirby.
Kirby sold his portion of the land to George Davis, a prominent man in early Knightstown, on November the 5th of 1833.
Here’s where the deed gets really confusing. It shows in the next entry that George Davis bought another lot from Watstill Cary on May 11th, 1835 which is defined as follows:

One fourth of an acre, more or less, and bounded as follows towit: on the south by Warrick street in the village of Knightstown, Henry County, Indiana, on the west by the county road leading to New Castle, Henry County, Indiana, and bounded on the east by said Davies line, being part of the Northeast quarter of Section 33, township 16 north, range 9 east.
Also one town lot, known and designated as Lot No. 2 in square No. 5 on the plat of Knightstown, Henry County , Indiana.

Well, that sounds like the lot we know as 203 North Adams. So why is all the other acreage mentioned in the deed…?? Guess it takes a Lawyer….
The Wrights owned their 20 acres for nearly 8 years and sold it for $1000, also to Davis, on January 5th, 1840. So the original 27 acres was back under a single ownership. The Wrights made pretty good money on the deal. Ruben Wright was an early co-pastor of the Methodist-Episcopal Church in Knightstown. He died in 1856.

George Davis was an influential person in the development of Knightstown from an early pioneer village to a bustling commercial and light manufacturing town. Not much is known of the background of Davis except what we learn from the 1850 census. He was born in Ohio in 1794 and spent some time living in Washington D.C. because that’s where his daughter, Margaret, was born in 1824. He probably came to Knightstown in 1830 give or take a couple of years. He was a signatory of the Knightstown Charter in 1837, the very first President of the Town Board, and an early Post Master, a position he held for many, many years. I believe he was fairly wealthy because he is listed as an investor in the Whitewater Canal Company in about 1840. There is no mention of his wife in any document I’ve found so she must have died young.
George Davis held the property until May 5th 1851 when he sold it for $1500 to his son-in-law, Solomon McCain, and his daughter, Margaret. Solomon and Margaret Davis had been married since June 24th, 1840. She was 16 years old and he was 29 when they married.
Solomon McCain was a real frontier “go-getter” and tried a lot of various occupations and ventures. He never did the same thing or stayed in the same place very long. He was born in Fort Hamilton, Ohio on August 19, 1810. When he was twelve his father died, and from that time he was thrown upon his own resources to obtain a livelihood. He was ambitious and energetic and greatly desired an education and status, to secure which he made many extraordinary ventures. In 1824 he went to Maryland, where he tried his hand at several different occupations without any success which only increased his zeal, and strengthened his resolve to establish himself. In 1832 he came to Knightstown and was employed as salesman in a store. He soon became a partner in the business with a Mr. McCall. The following year he bought out McCall but then in 1834 he sold the business and went traveling through Michigan and Illinois, looking for who knows what. He must not have found it because he then returned to Knightstown, and entered the drug business. He stayed with a drug store business for five or six years until 1840, when he got married, sold out, and went to Iowa which was on the frontier at the time.
He made investments in Burlington, Iowa and again returned to Knightstown, where he tried his hand at the mercantile business and at one point he was partnered with a man named Lowe. That venture lasted until about 1852, when he entered the employ of the Knightstown & Shelbyville Railroad Company, where he remained two years.
In 1846 Governor James Whitcomb asked that volunteer companies be formed by the Indiana Counties to go fight in the Mexican War. Henry County formed 5 companies with the “Knightstown Grays” being one of them. Solomon McCain must have had some leadership ability because he was chosen as Captain of the unit and he certainly had the adventurous spirit for it. The companies were never called into service.
In 1855 he again went to Iowa, this time to Des Moines where he purchased 600 acres of land. Then he returned to Knightstown where he then came down with a severe illness. On the restoration of his health he, in 1856, with his family, moved to Des Moines, which was a small hamlet at the time. He purchased another eighty acres of land adjoining the city limits on the west and a whole block on Walnut street, corner of Sixth, eastward to the alley, both of which investments paid off very well. He lived long enough in his new home to see his family pleasantly and happily situated. He died November 11, 1859. Solomon and Margaret had five children, four of whom lived to adulthood.
Here is Solomon’s Obituary:

MCCAIN, Soloman, residence Des Moines, heirs: Margaret A. McCain, wife; Mary Francis McCain, daughter; George Davis McCain, son; Walter Moffett McCain, son; flora Belle McCain, daughter. Executors Steven V. White Saylor; Rueben S. Clarke and Margaret A. McCain. will dated 24 September 1859, witnesses Schuyler R. Ingham and Daniel B. Spaulding. Admitted to probate 5 December 1859. Codicil dated 4 October 1859.

Just three months before his death Solomon and Margaret sold the property back to Margaret’s father, George Davis. The sale took place at Des Moines on August, 26th of 1859.

The deed does not indicate when the original house at 203 N. Adams was built. The 1850s when Solomon and Margaret were still in Knightstown is a good guess but it could have been some years earlier or later. We just don’t know but maybe we can find further information later. The house was probably originally a lot smaller than it’s present size and, no-doubt, added to and remodeled several times through the many years.

It’s likely that Davis went to Des Moines to be with his daughter after the death of Solomon because he is not found in the 1860 census of Knightstown. The next March, March 11th, 1861, George Davis sold all of the property to Thomas Estell of Knightstown for the odd sum of $1030.

Estell was also one of the early Knightstown Pioneers and one of the original purchasers of land in Henry County in 1821. He was pretty old when he made the purchase being born in 1791 and, therefore, 70 years old in 1861. He was born in Arbermarle, Virginia and was married to Charity Wiggins in February of 1814 in Kentucky. Thomas and Charity were prolific and had 14 children.
Old Thomas was a hardy sort and lived to the ripe age of 88. He died on August 19th of 1879. Charity had preceded Thomas in death but the date of her death is unknown. There were 19 heirs to his estate named on the probate document. There was no will and there was only $75 cash in the estate. He left debts of about $500 so the property, which was free and clear, was put up for sale at a Sheriff’s auction to pay off his debts.
The sale was finally held two years and 8 months after his death on the 14th of April, 1882. That seems a long time to get things sorted out.

more on this coming soon….

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305 North Adams (In Work)

Tom and Peg Mayhill House

The Mayhill House at 305 N. Adams

Some history of this house coming soon….

Mayhill House

An early view of the house with John Mills and his wife and his Mother-in-law.


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15 West Pine Street (In Work)

The Henry Woods House

15 West Pine now

Some history of this house coming soon….

The Robert Woods House

Henry Woods and Guests in the front yard.

Fanny Woods

Fanny Woods in the back yard at 15 W. Pine

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