Elkinsville: ‘The town that was’ -- in the ‘shadow of Browning Mountain’

All that remains of Elkinsville is a pioneer cemetery and a roadside monument memorializing 18 families that lost their homes to Monroe Lake. Named after its inaugural resident William Elkins, who arrived about the time Indiana achieved statehood in 1816, their Southern Brown County community was submerged when the lake was created between 1962 and 1964.

Today, Elkinsville Road dead ends at Combs Road, which dead ends on a rusty iron bridge over the Middle Fork Salt Creek about 4.5 miles past Story at the foot of Browning Hill, one of the 928-foot peak’s multiple monikers. The roadside monument says of the town: “Bathed in the shadow of Browning Mountain, a wonder in itself.”

On the second day of 2018, the Elkinsville area smacked of the Antarctic, with white-tail deer and frigid photographers blithely tracking on the Middle Fork. Smooth and snow-covered, with stark, blue-black arboreal shadows, the creek could have been mistaken for a backwoods road disappearing into its Hoosier National Forest neighbor to the south.

The Middle Fork, which seasonally swells across the valley flatlands and retracts to its banks, mostly bisects broad swaths of the Hoosier on a winding path to the lake’s main body five miles west from the bridge.

The Hoosier's Nebo Ridge Trail rises a mile east of Browning Hill and runs a tortuous six-mile path south through national forestland, across the Jackson County Line, to Maumee, a crossroad community on the South Fork Salt Creek. A mile from the bridge, the Middle merges with the South Fork, twists its way north to the Crooked Creek ramp and a hairpin south, through the Middle Fork Waterfowl Resting Area to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area.

At the Elkinsville bridge, the creek drains two equally sized forks from the north, only one of which appears on maps, from Google to National Geographic to old and current topos.

The Elkinsville Cemetery lies atop a hill above the old town that, the roadside marker declares, was a thriving commercial center: “In its early years, the town flourished because of its extensive trading. In the late 1800s, the town had a one-room school, a grocery store, a post office, a church for the faithful, and a simple way of life for its residents.”

Like any pioneer cemetery, the Elkinsville graveyard is a tale of families, this one with names like Stogdill, Lutes and Shirell. James White was born in 1800 and died a month shy of his 65th birthday. Sarah Moore lived 36 years, 11 months, and 13 days, her headstone says. Gertie Davis just was.

They also tell tales of premature death. Ernest Arthur and George Wesley Wilkerson both died in 1906 at ages 5 and 6. Some siblings are identified only by last name, sex and date of death – Folks boy 2-25-14, Folks Boy 3-26-15, etc.

A poem graces the memorial.

That day we moved, we’ll never forget

As good-byes were said and the sun set.

Never again in these hills we’ll roam

But in our hearts this is always home.


Photographs: Top, Middle Fork Salt Creek; Middle, Elkinsville Cemetery; Bottom, Combs Road Bridge over Middle Fork Salt Creek.


 

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