This June, the once-bustling town of Reelsville will have existed for 182 years.
Named for the family who founded the town and built the first mill, it was just this time of year when the Reel brothers, John and Henry, met a pioneer settler by the name of John Athey.
The two brothers were returning home to Montgomery County, Ohio in 1824 from selling goods in Little Rock, Ark. They became sidetracked by the Wabash River in Vincennes and then by the Eel River. They ended up at the junction of the Eel River near Bowling Green.
It was here the two men encountered Athey, who had arrived in Indiana in 1819 and built a homestead.
Enticed by the area, John was determined to settle near Athey's homestead. With Athey's help he found a site suitable for a gristmill and in June 1826 John brought his wife Sarah and family of five children to the area, which eventually became known as Reelsville.
Reel built a log mill to grind corn and operated it for ten years. In 1837 he added a frame mill made of local limestone. He ran it with his son Daniel until it was swept away in a flood in 1875.
Daniel rebuilt the mill and continued to operate it for several more years.
According to countryconnect.com, "the dam, which marked the site of the old mill, eventually became the place where, for many years, the local inhabitants gained their first swimming experience."
Henry, who was unmarried at the time of the Reels' trip to Little Rock, had returned home to Ohio and married his sweetheart Catherine Starr.
He, along with four of his siblings and their spouses followed John to Reelsville.
Eventually, a town grew north and south of the railroad. By 1864 there were two dry goods stores, a harness shop, hotel, carpenter shop, freight house, post office and the mill.
By 1879 a telephone office, drug store, two doctors, grade school and church were added. Growth spread along the railroad tracks to the west and water tanks and coal bins were added.
The railroad provided passenger service twice a day.
But, as with many small towns, changes in travel routes like U.S. 40 caused business to decline. The rail depot was closed. An accident caused the collapse of the old covered bridge across the river and Reelsville was temporarily cut off from easy access to the highway.
Today, only the church and cemetery remain of this bustling little town. The school and post office are now located half a mile south of the original town in an area called Pleasant Garden.
John Reel died in 1858 and his wife, Sarah, in 1859. They, along with several of their 11 children and other descendants are buried in the Reelsville Cemetery.
Gravesites of members of the Reel family, along with other early settlers can be found in the Upper Boone Cemetery between Reelsville and Greencastle and the Lower Boone Cemetery located about a mile west of Reelsville.