By Stephen Jackson | For The Times-Post
Of our 14 townships, Richland is the eighth in the order of formation, and it was quite large when originally formed by the county commissioners on March 4, 1834.
Furthermore, the commissioners selected the name Richland because of the fertility of the soil.
Madison County’s rich forest soil, when stripped of the trees, was gaining notoriety beyond its borders for its fertility, especially in the flat, well-watered till plain.
The township’s original boundaries included all its current 28½ square miles plus all of Monroe Township except for three square miles in the northwestern part, the eastern half of Lafayette Township, and a strip half a mile wide across the northern part of Union Township.
Two creeks water the township.
Killbuck Creek is the principal waterway entering from neighboring Delaware County near the northeast corner and traversing in a southwesterly direction exiting near the township’s southwest corner before entering White River.
In the southwestern corner, Killbuck Creek is joined by its smaller namesake, Little Killbuck Creek, whose origin is also in Delaware County.
Both creeks are named for the Delaware Indian Chief Killbuck, whose known existence in Madison County spans at least 20 years, 1801 to 1821.
William Curtis is acknowledged as the first to settle in Richland Township when he built a log cabin in 1830 near Killbuck Creek in the southwest corner of the township.
It was about that same time that the Shelbyville and Fort Wayne State Road was laid out, with a portion of it passing through Richland Township.
That road today is known as the Alexandria Pike, short for the Anderson and Alexandria Turnpike.
It was the principal north-south highway through the township for 100 years until Indiana State Road 9 was constructed in the 1930s.
The presence of Killbuck Creek and the old state road were contributing factors that encouraged early settlement in the township.
Before the close of 1831, and only a year after the state road was opened, several pioneers had settled within convenient distances, and the more enterprising of them introduced some modern innovations capitalizing on the nearby water supply.
In 1833, a saw mill was built by Mathew Fenimore on Killbuck Creek near the future township’s southwest corner.
A dam across the creek supplied the necessary water power to operate the mill.
Utilizing the same dam, two men — the original settler William Curtis and James Barnes — built a grist mill.
Roughly three miles upstream Benjamin Walker built another saw mill supplying lumber needs to growing settlement in that area.
In 1840, he added a carding mill to his little enterprise.
It was a mechanical process that disentangled, cleaned and intermixed fibers to produce a continuous web of wool suitable for subsequent processing, satisfying the need for the weaving of clothing and bedding, among other things.
Capitalizing on the proximity of the carding machine, John Purcell established a woolen factory to manufacture and sell woolen products.
Madison County Historian Stephen Jackson is leading a series of “First Sunday” presentations covering the history of Madison County townships. The talks are set for 2 p.m. on the first Sunday each month in the Bowman Room at Museum of Madison County History, 11 W. 11th St., Anderson. The talks began Sept. 4 and run through Nov. 5. The information he prepares for those presentations form the basis of this series of columns in The Times-Post.