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John Phillip Goddard

Former resident Phil Goddard is writing much of this column today. Phil, son of Judge John and Alice Goddard, is a direct descendant of Thomas Hendrick’s wife who came to Decatur County from Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Phil is a former Marion County Prosecuting Attorney, Deputy Prosecutor, and Former Chief Counsel and Deputy Director at Indiana Department of Financial Institutions.

On June 14, 1822, Col. Thomas Hendricks, a veteran of the War of 1812, founded the town of Greensburg, Indiana. He came and built the first cabin in the town. His first wife, Elizabeth Trimble, chose the name Greensburg after her native town in Pennsylvania.

Has anyone thought about what or who is behind the name of Greensburg? Many people are aware that when Colonel Thomas Hendricks founded this community in Indiana that he named it for the hometown of his wife who was from Greensburg, Pennsylvania. I don’t recall any further conversation about the origin of the word Greensburg. Was it named after a person, color, or an area of dense foliage and vegetation?

Greensburg, Pennsylvania was named after a remarkable man, Nathanael Greene (1742-1786), considered by many to be the greatest military genius of the American Revolution. He was born in Rhode Island and self-educated in history, mathematics and military science, and amassed and read a library of over 200 books. In 1770, he was working in the family forge when he was elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly. He was returned to this office in 1771, 1772 and 1775. In 1774 he married Catherine Littlefield.

In the growing conflict between England and its American colonies, Greene was firmly on the side of the colonies and raised three regiments to join the fight against England. Named commander, with the rank of brigadier general, he marched his troops to Cambridge, Massachusetts to take part in the siege of Boston under General George Washington.

The British fled Boston and Greene went to New York with Washington. Greene was at the side of Washington in every encounter during 1777. Washington came to seek the advice and counsel of Greene and sent him on important missions. Once, when Washington had to be away from the army, Washington had designated Greene to act as the commander in chief in his place, and on one occasion he let it be known that should he be killed or captured Greene would be his successor.

England was in control of the Carolinas and Georgia. Washington sent Greene to recover those states. By the end of 1781 Greene had cleared the British from the Carolinas and Georgia and sent them running into Virginia – and into the trap at Yorktown which led to England’s surrender.

Greene’s brilliant strategy, characterized as “dazzling shiftiness,” consisted of dividing the enemy, eluding him, and tiring him. Greene is credited for his heroics at the Battle of Brandywine, Battle of Monmouth, Battle of Germantown, Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Siege of Boston, Battle of Eutaw Springs and the Battle of Trenton. Some say he was instrumental in winning the American Revolution.

Greene spent his last few years on Mulberry Grove near Savannah, which the grateful state of Georgia had given him. There he died of a sunstroke on June 19, 1786.

So a town in Pennsylvania named its community Greensburg in honor of this great American. It makes no difference whether or not Thomas Hendricks knew about Nathanael Greene when deciding to name a community in Decatur County, Greensburg. It nevertheless remains a fact that in doing so Greensburg, Indiana had adopted a name after the extreme patriotic and heroic actions of a man instrumental in the creation of the United States of America.

Phil’s family has the original document from the legislature appointing Greensburg as the county seat of Decatur County. It is dated 1822, and Greensburg is spelled with an H as in Greensburgh. Phil is great-great-great-grandson of Col. and Mrs. Thomas Hendricks, and a great-great-great-nephew to Vice President Hendricks.

Decatur County resident Pat Smith may be contacted via this publication at

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