1840 Infiltration of Local Government

A meeting of the Democrat party of Owen County, Indiana was held on the 28th of September 1840 in Seminary Hall in Spencer, the county seat. The reason was to nominate delegates to attend a convention in Bloomfield on 10 October.

The Wabash Enquirer, published in Terre Haute, Vigo County, reported on 6 October 1840 (p. 3) which delegates were chosen for “Gracen” Township. This was actually Grayson Township, named after Grayson County, Virginia.

Many of the residents came from Grayson County, Virginia or adjacent Ashe County, North Carolina. It’s said after some of them were forced out, the township name was changed to rid the county of their memory.

Blanchard, in his 1884 county history, confesses ignorance on the subject except to say that it was originally known as Grayson Township, but then the name was changed to Marion Township. He says that this was done “on petition of divers citizens, for what reason was not learned.”

Those chosen as delegates to the “Bloomfield Convention” were “Owen Long, John Fiscus, Windel Crouse, Jesse Phipps, and William Sparks.” This was almost certainly further indication of the extent to which the outlaw gang had infiltrated local politics.

We quoted from a 19th century history of Owen County (Blanchard’s 1884 history of Clay and Owen Counties, p. 742) several posts back. That history referred specifically to Jesse Phipps and Owen Long, and did not mince words. Blanchard referred to the outlaw gang of which some of the Long and Phips or Phipps families were members.

Jesse Phipps was referred to as one “whose reputation was none of the best.” He “kept a house” (which may refer to an inn or tavern, although it’s hard to tell). This place was described by Blanchard as “the general resort of a class of roughs who set at defiance the laws of both God and man..”

Owen Long, another of the delegates, is mentioned by Blanchard as being “of the same ilk.” Blanchard notes how Owen Long’s sons John and Aaron were “noted desperadoes” and were hung for murder.

John Fiscus was another of the nominated delegates. The Fiscus and Fulk families appear to have been related to the Condor or Conder family.

Serena Elizabeth Conder lived with an Owen County Firebaugh family and was sometimes called Betty Firebaugh. She married John Andrew Phipps of Owen County (after both families moved into Missouri). He was a grandson of Jesse Phipps or Phips, and her mother was a Fulk.

Another delegate was Windel Crouse. Crouse appears to be another Ashe County, North Carolina family which intermarried with the Spurlin family. Jesse Phipps’s first wife was a Spurlin.

Windell (Wendell) Crouse) would appear to be the person discussed by secondary sources as born in Ashe County, North Carolina. Oddly, however, one source calls him a “staunch” Republican, so why was he nominated as a Democrat delegate?

Blanchard says that Wendell Crouse planted one of the first vineyards in Marion Township (Grayson Township at the time) in Owen County. This is the same township where the Phips/Long outlaw gang was centered.

William Sparks, the other delegate, was one of the first blacksmiths in Grayson Township, later Marion Township.



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