Pioneer award presented to local family


Abraham Miller and his family moved from Kentucky to Vallonia in the early 1800s before Indiana became a state.

He later helped build the fort in the community, and relatives donated land they owned for a cemetery and a school.

Thirty years ago, one of Miller’s descendants, Harry Beaty, moved onto property in Vallonia.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, though, that he learned the land was once owned by Miller.

Beaty discovered that once he began delving into his family history. He didn’t know the Jackson County History Center in Brownstown existed, either, until he began his ancestry journey, and its genealogy library has been a big resource.

“It would be a shame for a lot of this to just disappear,” Beaty said of his family history. “I’m glad there’s a place like that up there where people can actually go. I wish I would have gotten more interested in it when I was younger because when my mother was alive and my grandmother, they could have told me so much. But when you’re growing up, you don’t think about stuff like that.”

While doing research at the genealogy library one day, Beaty was encouraged to fill out a Jackson County Pioneer Society application.

Since his earliest ancestor settled in Jackson County before 1820, he qualified to receive the First Family Award.

Along will filling out the form, he had to give proof of each generation with various documents, including birth, baptismal, marriage and death certificates, census records and newspaper obituaries.

Beaty found Miller’s record from fighting in the War of 1812, a land record and a marriage certificate. He also learned Miller was buried in the old cemetery in Brownstown.

Those finds resulted in the family being added to the history center’s list of Pioneer Families, which includes three other categories: Founder (1821 to 1850), Settler (1851 to 1880) and Builder (1881 to 1910).

During the history center’s ninth annual Pioneer Dinner on Nov. 8 at Pewter Hall in Brownstown, Beaty was presented a plaque and a Jackson County Pioneer Society bowl for the First Family Award.

There are now 22 First Families, 24 Founder Families, seven Settler Families and three Builder Families.

Beaty said he became interested in his family history after seeing a commercial on television about having DNA tested to determine lineage. Then when he began his research and discovered the history center, he joined and started visiting the genealogy library.

While researching, Beaty learned Miller and his brothers were born in Pennsylvania, and their father, Peter Miller, had fought in the Revolutionary War.

Peter died at the end of the Civil War, and his wife couldn’t take care of the kids, so she “farmed” them out to work for people in Kentucky.

Abraham got married in Kentucky, but because it was getting overcrowded in the area he lived, the family moved to Vallonia in 1809.

According to records, Abraham had the first white child born in Jackson County, which was established in 1816, the same year Indiana became a state.

One of his claims to fame was helping build Fort Vallonia.

“We have a cool picture of his great-uncles and they are standing in the center of Fort Vallonia and they have their mules in between them,” said Beaty’s wife, Angie.

Harry said several of Miller’s grandchildren fought in the Civil War, and relatives donated a lot of land they owned in Vallonia.

Harry didn’t know any of this information until he looked at books he found at the history center and at yard sales and did online research.

“It’s really interesting when you get up there and you start looking at all of the information they have,” Angie said. “All of these graveyards around here, we didn’t know about, and his family is buried in a lot of them. We went to look at the stones.”

Harry said some relatives are buried in the cemetery that’s close to where they live now near Starve Hollow Lake.

Angie said Harry also has been able to link with family members he didn’t know about.

“He met with somebody in Seymour that he didn’t know he was a cousin to, so these people that are on ancestry with him are linking with him, and now they are communicating, so it’s really pretty cool,” Angie said.

“It’s amazing, really, how many cousins you’ve got that you didn’t know about,” Harry said. “It goes way back.”

Now, Harry wants to ensure his family history is passed on to other generations.

“Hopefully, all of this will because I know the book that I did for the history center, I have another complete one at home that I made so it could be passed on to my boy,” he said. “It’s got all of the records all the way back.”

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The Jackson County History Center is a 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2010 with the merger of local historical and genealogical societies.

The Jackson County Historical Society was formed in 1916 as part of the Indiana and Jackson County centennial observance. The Jackson County Genealogical Society was formed in 1983.

The center is at 105 N. Sugar St., Brownstown. The office and genealogy library are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays; from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; and by appointment Wednesdays and weekends. The museums and pioneer village are open from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

An annual membership costs $15 and is tax-deductible.

For information, call 812-358-2118, email [email protected] or search for Jackson County History Center of Indiana on Facebook.


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