Daviess County’s First Grand River Ferry

Daviess County government was first founded in the spring of 1837, but some settlers had been here for seven years as part of northern Ray County. One of the first businesses in the county was a ferry across Grand River, at the mouth of Honey Creek.

Daviess County government was first founded in the spring of 1837, but some settlers had been here for seven years as part of northern Ray County. One of the first businesses in the county was a ferry across Grand River, at the mouth of Honey Creek.

I was unable to confirm the ferry in Ray County records since the first two books on the actions of the County Court were not in the Courthouse, but I will tell you what I have on it. Most of the information is in our 1882 history book for Daviess County.

John and Ruth Tarwater claim that they came from Tennessee and were the third white family to come to this area. They say that they built the third white cabin, on the east side of the Grand River, north of the mouth of Honey Creek. They reported arriving Feb. 25, 1830, with a daughter, also named Nancy. John’s daughter, Elizabeth, was born Jan. 8, 1832, and was claimed to be the first white child born in what became Daviess County.

John and Ruth’s first cabin was reported to have been in SŠ34, TŞ59, RŠ27, just above the mouth of Honey Creek. The early maps, done in 1833, show a cabin just east of section 34 in section 35, just across the east section line. This cabin, east of the Grand River, may be the cabin in question. John ran the first Grand River ferry, just south of the cabin, that could land on either side of Honey Creek.

John’s daughter, Nancy, married W.K. Nation in 1841, the son of Rev. Christopher Nation. He had a cabin north of the place of the later Wabash Depot about where the second Grand River bridge was constructed. This place was called the Adkinson Crossing and had a covered bridge for a few months. W.K. Nation claims that he served in state forces at the Battle of “Honn’s” Mill in 1838.

Before the end of 1833, John and Ruth Tarwater moved to SŠ14, TŞ60, RŠ28 to build another cabin in what became Grand River Township. This cabin shows on the 1833 map as being at the head of
Tub Run Creek on the edge of the prairie about where the black top ends just to the west of Jameson. John may have been the northernmost settler at that time.

John Tarwater helped to form the first Baptist church in Grand River Township on Dec. 14, 1833, “two miles northeast of Jameson.” Christopher Nation was reported to have been the first minister to give a speech in Grand River Township. He was a Methodist.

So, in the terms of first in Daviess County, this is reported to be the 1) first ferry, 2) first business in the county, 3) first white child born and 4) first squatter to move on north.

Written by David Stark, Gallatin