Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Royse (Royce) Family of Fredericksburg; Part 1

The French explorers were probably the first Europeans to come into the region that later became Indiana.  At their arrival in the late 1600’s, the area was mostly wilderness, with a sparse population of Indians and a few fur traders.  The French established a Fort at Vincennes about 1732, but it came under British control in 1763.  The British were successful in winning the loyalties of the Indians and traders in the area, but settlement by newcomers remained difficult. 

In 1778, as the American Revolution was raging on the East Coast, George Rogers Clark led a group of mostly Virginia soldiers into the Indiana wilderness area, and in February of 1779 they claimed the British fort at Vincennes.  The region came to America as part of the Northwest Territory in 1787.  Indiana Territory was organized in 1800 and Indiana statehood arrived in 1816. 

As a gift for Clark’s service, and as payment to his soldiers, in 1781 he was awarded 150,000 acres northwest of the Ohio River, in what became Clark county Indiana.  The surveying of Clark’s Grant began in 1783.  It established the town of Clarksville just above the Falls of the Ohio, and set aside over eight thousand acres to George Rogers Clark.  There were several large tracts for officers, and  three hundred soldier’s parcels of 108 acres each.  A few settlers came, but much of the property was sold off by the soldiers, awaiting later settlement. 

Twenty years later, property from Clark’s Grant became the lure to draw our Royse family to the region. From Warder William Stevens’ 1916, Centennial History of Washington County Indiana, we learn, “The old Vincennes and Ohio Falls trail passed through Posey township, and it was along this trail the first white men located within the present borders of the county.“   He goes on to identify the earliest settlers:  Thomas Hopper, Thomas Poison (Poulson), Jesse Spurgeon, Elijah Harriman, John Butler, Benjamin King, and the Catlin family.  He also names, in 1806, Martin Royse and his sons John, William, and Martin.  (Note that the father’s name should read Frederick Royse.)

In several places on the internet, I have come across this statement related to Frederick Royse and the establishment of Fredericksburg, Indiana:

As early as 1802, a man named Frederick Royce lived among the Ox Indians at a place known as the Lick, two miles east of Salem and is probably the first white man to inhabit this county.  He was a hunter-trader and salt manufacturer. 

This simple statement was like fodder for the fire.  I wanted to know more about my 5xgreat-grandfather, Frederick Royse

There were a series of mineral (salt) licks across Southern Indiana, roughly strung along the path between the Falls of the Ohio River, near Louisville Kentucky, and the fort at Vincennes, on the western edge of Indiana.  We do not know what enticed Frederick Royse from his home in Bardstown Kentucky to a rather obscure salt lick in southern Indiana, but the pathway is pretty clear.  Louisville Kentucky, a bustling port town on the Ohio River, rests forty miles north of Bardstown.  The path between Louisville Kentucky and Vincennes Indiana was known by various names, among them Buffalo Trace and Old Vincennes Trace.  It was an ancient and well-worn path, originally formed by migrating Buffalo.  It was the major route for Southern Indiana settlers.  About halfway along the path, and slightly north, is the mineral lick that became known as Royse’s Lick.

A small community grew up around the mineral lick, and we might assume that Frederick Royse played a significant role there, as it bore his name.  The little bit known about the area suggests that during the first decade of the 1800’s the Indians and white men of the area coexisted peacefully.  But, who were these “Ox Indians” that Frederick Royse “lived among”?   A diligent search on the internet turned up no Ox Indians, but again, Stevens’ 1916, Centennial History of Washington County Indiana gave me the clue I needed:

One of the temporary villages was on Royse's Lick near the store kept by Dr. Lamb. Here "Old Ox" a Delaware Chief and his family and immediate followers were established.

A later description gives further details of the community around Royse’s Lick:

The signs of civilized man were more numerous about the “Lick,” two miles east of Salem, than any other point. A man named Royse is known to have lived here among the Ox Indians as early as 1802. He built, or someone did before him, a sort of pen out of poles and covered it with bark, for a place of shelter. The entrance to this “shack” was through a hole made in one side of same by cutting out a pole, through which the occupant had to crawl. It stood among the Indian ‘wakiups’ (wickiups) that were located at the foot of the hill just west of the “Lick.” Royse was a hunter, a trader and in a small way a manufacturer of salt. The “Lick" took its name from this man and the stream that flows nearby was known as Royse’s fork of Blue river.

I was not able to learn anything of the Salt Works at Royse’s Lick, but interesting descriptions of activities at the Scioto Salt Works in Ohio during a corresponding period, give some idea of what might have gone on there.  Researcher Emmett A Conway describes in detail how Indian women first dug into the salt beds, withdrawing and then boiling down the salt.  When the white men arrived they duplicated their practice, but began mining deeper and deeper into the bedrock.  At Big Bone Lick State Park, southwest of Cincinnati Ohio, a sign describing the Salt Furnaces reads:

Old salt furnaces were merely long trenches about four feet deep and lined with stones or clay.  Two rows of kettles, each holding 12 to 15 gallons of brine, were placed on this trench and the water boiled away leaving the salt granules.  The furnaces were fired with wood from the grated front.

Frederick Royse probably lived in the area around Royse’s Lick for about ten years. Some of his older sons spent time there, but it is not clear at what point his wife and younger children came to Indiana Territory.  By 1815, Frederick Royse sold his property around the Lick and, at the age of about sixty, he moved a little south and started a new venture – establishing the town of Fredericksburg, Indiana. 

Upcoming on this Blog -  The Royse (Royce) Family of Fredericksburg; Part 2.

For more details on Frederick Royse and his family, visit his page at Family Stories,

Moving back in time:  Albert Luther Clarkson 1901 > Samuel Edwin Clarkson 1875 > Elizabeth Jane Robinson 1848 > Sarah Nugent Edmonston 1821 >  Elizabeth Royse 1799 > Frederick Royse abt 1760    
Photo: Apache Wickiup; Created by Edward S Curtis, about 1903; Wikipedia Commons.

Further Reading:
Centennial History of Washington County, Indiana:  Its People, Industries and Institutions: with Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens and Genealogical Records of Many of the Old Families; W W Stevens; McDowell Publications, 1916. (Google eBook)

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