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Townsend, Billy

Or, Uncle Billy Townsend, as called by both young and old, was from Guilford County, North Carolina.  How near he lived to Beards hatter-shop, I am unable to tell, although I know that shop was in Guilford County.  Uncle Billy arrived in Wayne County in the fall of 1820, left his family there, came out to this place and built a cabin preparatory to moving out in the spring.  It was in this cabin we lived the first few days of our residence in this place. 

Mr. Townsend was a short, thick, rotund man, pretty near as round as a pumpkin; he was a quaker, dressing in their style, and used their dialect.  He was a very clever man, and an obliging neighbor, but sometimes very irritable, and could be as contrary as any person if he wished to, and often let his passion get the advantage of the mildness of the Quaker. 

As has been said in another chapter, Uncle Billy's cabin happened to be where Kentucky avenue was afterward laid  out, and the Agent of State, General John Carr, intimated to Mr. Townsend that he would have to remove the house; for the necessity of this Mr. T. could see no immediate cause, as it was all in the woods, and could not be used.  This irritated the old man, and he got very angry with the agent while talking the matter over; he jerked off his coat and violently threw it to the ground, saying, "Lay there Quaker, until I administer to the 'gineral' a gentle chastisement."  This the general politely declined to receive at his hands, and the matter was finally compromised.  While living in this cabin one of Mr. Townsend's children died, and was buried close to the house; but after the graveyard was located, it was taken up and reburied there.  This was the first white person that died in this place (not Mrs. Maxwell, as stated in Logan's history).  This child died in May, 1821, from the effects of a burn she received while living in Wayne County.

Mr. Townsend then bought land on Lick Creek, four miles south of town, improved a farm, and built a mill; but subsequently, say about 1825, sold out and went to White Lick, in Hendricks County, where he also built a mill, and for many years furnished a good portion of the flour that was consumed in this place.

He afterward represented Hendricks County in the Legislature, and was the author and projector of the celebrated financial measure, known as "Billy Townsend's Bank Bill."  This bill provided that the State Treasurer should find out the exact indebtedness of every adult citizen of the State and cause a corresponding amount of bank paper to be issued and pay over to each individual an amount equivalent to his liabilities.  Unfortunately for the success of the scheme, there was no means provided by this bill for the ultimate redemption of the paper.  The discussion of the merits and demerits of this bill occupied several nights, toward the close of the session, when the members wished a little sport.  The bill eventually passed both houses (as Mr. Townsend thought), while the bill was under consideration in the Senate.  A resolution was offered and passed, admitting Mr. Townsend to a seat, and as a member of the Senate during the pending of his bill.  A committee was appointed to conduct him to a seat, as Senator, pro tem.

After the passage of the bill in the Senate (which was late at night), Mr. Townsend, with others, was appointed by the chair as a committee to wait on the Governor and request his signature, that it might become a law.  Mr. Townsend (with tears of joy in his eyes) presented the bill to Governor Whitcomb for his signature, and was not willing to take any denial or excuse until the Governor had to tell him he was the victim of a hoax.

    Mr. Townsend died about fifteen years since (1854), at a good old age, leaving a large and respectable family living on White Lick, in Hendrick's County, all of who re prosperous farmers and in good circumstances; and if this should meet their eye, I hope they will take no offence [sic] at my noting the part their father took in the early history of Indianapolis.  With all his peculiarities he was an honest man and a good citizen, which is more than I could say of the person whose name stands at the head of the preceding chapter.  [TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:  The biography preceding Mr. Townsend's in this book was that of Caleb Reynolds, and I assume that is the person he is referring to in this last sentence.]

Nowland, John H. B., “Early Reminiscences of Indianapolis, with Short Biographical Sketches of Its Early Citizens, and of a Few of the Prominent Business Men of the Present Day,” 1870, pp. 70-72