Throughout Franklin County’s history, there were numerous little towns –some flourished and some just didn’t get off the ground and slowly vanished over time. In January 2020, I wrote about the little town of Woodsville that disappeared from the Franklin County landscape over 150 years ago. Today our topic is Springfield, the tiny lost community that was in section 9 of Springfield Township. 

In addition to the town of Springfield, that township also had three other defunct communities. In Reifel’s county history, he mentions West Union as being platted in 1818, and Lebanon as being platted in 1819. He states both were defunct, but mentions nothing about where they were located or how long they were active. The 1882 county atlas mentions Mt. Pisgah as a little community of people near Asbury Church. It said, “…there was formerly a flouring mill and a saw mill at this town, which made a busy place of it.” In modern terms of location, Mt. Pisgah should have been near Raymond and Merrell roads. By the time the county history was printed in 1915, Mt. Pisgah was referred to in the past tense, and regarding the town of Springfield, the book claimed, “It does not now exist.” 

The 1882 county atlas, in part, incorrectly says about Springfield, “The county records show that there was a town called Springfield laid out and platted by William Snodgrass in 1816, but said record fails to locate the plat. It was probably in what is now Union County, though there are traditions of it in this township.” This statement must have been in the compiler’s working notes and not caught during the final editing of the atlas. Oddly, just a few paragraphs later on the same page regarding Springfield Township, the atlas claims, “Springfield is the name of a post office and town in the northern part of the township; there is a store and a few shops there, also an organization of the Patrons of Husbandry.”

In spite of the erroneous comment about the town possibly being in another county, the first part is traditionally accepted history - the town of Springfield was platted by William Snodgrass in 1816. However, as additional research was done, discrepancies were encountered as new statements were discovered in the Franklin County Postal History, which was produced by the Indiana Postal Society in 2014. Regarding the town of Springfield, they stated, “On May 22, 1813, William Snodgrass purchased the Northwest quarter section 36 in Springfield Township at the Cincinnati land office. On Dec. 31, 1816, he laid out a town called Springfield on his purchase. He soon found that he could not make the required payments on his purchase and it went into assignment. His town soon expired just like his dreams.”

Section 36 is not near section 9 where the traditionally recognized town of Springfield was located. To make things more confusing, the Indiana Postal Society states, “In 1828, a small hamlet in section 9 of Springfield Township requested a post office under the name of Springfield. The request was granted.”

I can’t explain how William Snodgrass is the accepted “Father” of Springfield. The Indiana Postal Society’s information about the Springfield post office corresponds with the known location of the town, but a connection with Snodgrass ever owning that property has yet to be made. The Postal Society claims that there were actually three towns named Springfield in our county –two in Springfield Township and one in Fairfield Township that was laid out by Benjamin Abrahams in 1816 and eventually incorporated into a part of the town of Fairfield. Wow - three! I didn’t see that coming.


The doctor’s office at Springfield.
Adelpha Miles’ photo from Don Dunaway’s book.

To get back to the town that lasted the longest, the Springfield that was in section 9. In Don Dunaway’s book, Springfield Township: A History, Adelpha Miles had presented a paper for the M. Louisa Chitwood Club. In her remarks, she claimed the town of Springfield had a sawmill run by William Armstrong, who also owned the farm where Mildred and Donald Barbour lived on Urban Road. The town also had a doctor’s office. Dr. Buckingham was there in 1882, and Doctor John Morgan in 1897.    

Adelpha referred to the Donald Barbour residence and ironically, to date, the best source of information regarding the town of Springfield came from diary entries written by Donald’s grandfather, Richard M. Barbour.

Donald Barbour lived in Franklin County all of his life and had been a farmer. Some of you may remember him from the Franklin County Historical Society or the Franklin County Farm Bureau. He was a long-time member of both. Donald’s parents were Robert and Minnie (Bourne) Barbour. The following information, from an unsourced clipping in the library files, was submitted to the local newspaper by Donald Barbour in a letter to the editor. More than likely it appeared in the newspaper between 1989 and 1991. Some of the comments were Donald’s and some were taken from his grandfather Richard’s diary that was written in 1876. 

According to the Barbours, Springfield was located at the intersection of Urban Road and the Brookville-Oxford Pike, one mile west of the Springfield Church. Springfield was a busy little town from the middle of the 1800s until the early 1900s, when the C&O Railroad went through, one mile east of the Springfield Church.

Charlie Roberts had a blacksmith shop on the south edge of Springfield. John Miles had a house and store. A post office and livestock scales were along the Brookville Road, and Dr. Morgan lived at the west edge of town. There was also a shoe shop there. There was a Grange Hall across the road from the store. William Armstrong had a sawmill one fourth mile south of Springfield at the intersection of Abbott Road and Urban Road –a place to which Richard Barbour hauled logs to be processed and used in the framing of the Grange. Mr. Osgood had a chair factory just southwest of the sawmill. According to Donald Barbour, in his family’s collection they had “several chairs that were made there.” There was a tile factory eighty rods east of Springfield at the intersection of Shaffer Road and Brookville Road in the little three-cornered field. 

The little store in town offered supplemental groceries the locals might have needed and provided a place for farmers to visit and socialize. The Barbour diary told of a few things Richard encountered in the early months of 1876 like taking a load of wheat to Brookville to sell, paying a tollgate fee of 24 cents on the Mt. Carmel Road, and breaking a bolt on his buggy that had to be repaired by the blacksmith. In April, two men stopped by his farm looking for a job. Richard hired them to cut and split rails at 80 cents per hundred produced. They cut and split 600 rails in two days for $4.80. While working there, the itinerants were allowed to stay overnight and their meals were provided. 


The P.T. Jones farm as it looked in the late 1970s. It was located near the town on Urban Road at Oxford Pike. Practically nothing remains of this farm today. Courtesy of Don Dunaway

Entries in the Barbour diary gave other particulars but mainly dealing with farm life and activities. 

Donald Barbour lived at 11095 Urban Road, and died at the age of 84 in August of 1991. To date, we have found no other first-hand recollection regarding the town of Springfield or its inhabitants and merchants. The businesses and houses have long since disappeared, and us wishing for any photos or additional information about the lost town is probably fruitless. 

So what happened to the Richard Barbour diary that Donald shared and was so proud to have in his possession thirty years ago? Was it passed down through the family, was it sold at a farm auction, or was it thrown away because someone thought it had no value just because it was old? 

Julie Schlesselman - Local History and Genealogy Department Manager, FCPLD 765-647-4031

NOTE: If you are interested in learning more about Springfield Township and would like a copy of Don Dunaway’s book, contact me for details.