COLONEL JOHN VAWTER
The question is often asked—just who is Colonel John Vawter and why does Morgantown honor him? The Morgantown history book “One Hundred and Seventy-Five Years on Main Street in Morgantown, Indiana” says this about Colonel John Vawter.
“Colonel Vawter was born in Virginia on January 8, 1782. He was married four times. Licensed in Kentucky as a Baptist minister in 1804, he moved to Madison, Indiana, in 1807. He was the first magistrate of Madison and soon after was elected Sheriff of Jefferson and Clark Counties. In 1810, he was appointed US Marshall for the Indiana Territory. He served as a Frontier Ranger during the Indiana Campaign of 1811-1813, and was elected Colonel of the Militia in Jennings County in 1817.
He founded Vernon, Indiana, in 1815, serving the pastorate of the Baptist Church there between 1821 and 1848. He was a member of the Indiana legislature in 1831-1835, and a year later, became a member of the Indiana Senate.
In 1835, he sent $3000 in merchandise to Morgantown to start a general store. While he did not reside in Morgantown until 1848, he was instrumental in re-platting the town with Isabelle Teeters in 1836. He was not a founder of the town nor the first merchant as some have suggested. In 1850, he donated land and nearly all of the $2000 expense for the Morgantown Baptist Church. This first Baptist Church was located on lots 46 and 47. Later, the Baptist congregation built a new church on lot 48 where Triggers Restaurant now stands (2006). In the early 1990’s the congregation procured the land and buildings of the former Morgantown School on Elm Street where they now worship (2006).
Colonel Vawter is buried in the Baptist Cemetery on north Church Street. He died August 17, 1862. On his tombstone is a long epitaph that he wrote himself. The stone is still standing but weathered and hard to read. Several descendants still live in this area.”
Colonel Vawter was also instrumental in many churches in Southern Indiana after moving there from Kentucky. While in Kentucky, in 1805, he was with the Long Lick church in Elkhorn. He accepted a call as Pastor on the first Saturday, August 1826 at the Butlerville Baptist Church. He was an Elder during the formation of the The Freedom Baptist Church in July 1827. By profession he was a civil engineer and employed by the government to survey large portions of the State. He surveyed in the counties of Jennings, Brown, Bartholomew, Johnson, Marion, Shelby and Decatur—and preached in them during his surveying tours.
That answers the question—who is Colonel John Vawter…..and possibly some clues as to why we honor him.
Samuel Teeters, Isabella Adams Teeters, Elizabeth Teeters, Robert Boles, Elijah Moskal
So, the question becomes, if Colonel Vawter wasn’t the founder of Morgantown, then who was? And the answer is in the wonderful book, “One Hundred and Seventy-Five Years on Main Street in Morgantown, Indiana”. It says. “Samuel Teeters and his wife Isabella Adams Teeters came to Morgan County from Henry County, Kentucky with Isabella carrying their infant daughter, Elizabeth, on horseback. Elizabeth was born in Henry County, Kentucky on November 26, 1826. She was the first baby to live where Morgantown is now located. The Teeters entered land north of Robert Boles on September 12, 1827 and built the first log cabin here. Coming from Kentucky with Samuel’s family were Jonathan Teeters and Henry Jacobs Adams and their families, all being relatives. On April 12, 1830, Samuel bought more land to the south of Robert Boles from Elijah Moskal. At this time, Samuel and Robert Boles conceived the idea of a town and founded Morgantown. Samuel died September 20, 1830, before the town was platted. His widow, Isabelle, continued the work with Mr. Boles.
Dr. Pat Murphy
Morgantown Food Pantry