Only a small band of Indians on the hunt were camping at the fork of the Whitewater River when two Moravian missionaries and the wife of one arrived on April 24, 1801 at the present site of Brookville.
They could not know, as we do now, that they were on the "Dearborn Highland"—a part of Indiana and Ohio where upheavals within the Earth’s crust forced rocks from the earliest geologic ages upward. They may well have been puzzled by the unusual fossil formations found in the rocks along the streams. Nor did they know that ancient Mound Builders lived in this region before the Indians who greeted them.
But the newcomers were quite sure that they were safely within the "right to settle" according to the Greenville Treaty. On May 25, 1803, Benjamin McCarty signed for the first land entry in the county—a site in New Trenton. Amos Butler from Pennsylvania soon followed suit. (His son, William Wallace Butler, was the first white child born in Brookville.) Industry in the form of paper mill, grist mill and bank sprung up, and on August 8, 1808, the original plot of Brookville was duly recorded in the Court House at Lawrenceburg. Consequently, the county began its corporate existence on February 1, 1811 as the seventh county in the Indiana Territory—and named in honor of Benjamin Franklin.
Still, the flood of pioneers truly began after the War of 1812, when thousands came on the "horns of a crescent moon," up the Whitewater. Many were in search of religious freedom.
To ship their commerce to the world, these pioneers established an impressive 76-mile horse-drawn canal and lock system that cost several million dollars to build, and ran through Metamora. (Much of the canal was completed through the efforts of private citizens who organized into construction companies.) In particular the 80-foot long Duck Creek aqueduct, built in 1848 to carry the canal 16 feet above Duck Creek, was once featured in Ripley’s "Believe It or Not" as the only working wooden structure still in the United States. However, the canal was no longer used for transportation by the 1860s—today its heritage is preserved as a unique tourist attraction.
A host of famous people have called Brookville home, starting with Indiana governors James Brown Ray, David Wallace and Noah Noble. General Lew Wallace, author of such classics as Ben Hur, was born here, and painters J. Ottis Adams, T.C. Steele, William Forsythe and Otto Starke set up a studio/art colony in the 19-room house today known as The Hermitage. It’s one of the properties in the town that qualified Brookville to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.