My life story: The Moffitts


Historical group highlights family with 193 years of Carmel history


By Sam Robinson

The Carmel Clay Historical Society discovered that there are living links to the very first settlers to call Carmel home.

In fact, there more than 750 of them, most of which reside in and around Carmel today.

The Carmel Clay Historical Society launched a new exhibit entitled “My Life Story: The Moffitts.” It documents the roots founder Silas Moffitt planted in the community when he first traveled from North Carolina to the area in 1822.

Whitney Dennis, the director of the Carmel Clay Historical Society, said that investigating the Moffitt family was exciting because it’s not an ancient thought of yesteryear. The Moffitts are still part of the community, and they’ve held onto their history.

“The reason we found it all is that the family saved it,” Dennis said. “The fun part of local history is you can reach out to the actual family.”

The exhibit is a collection of donated letters, photos and heirlooms. There are deeds and documents, love letters and run-of-the-mill correspondence. But what was business as usual for the people that wrote those letters and made those business deals ended up being much of the foundation of Carmel’s history.

The Historical Society tracked down family members of the Moffitts with the information it already had. Dennis said that they started putting a family tree together by piecing together clues: who married whom, who moved where, who sold what and to whom.

“The history of the Moffitt family is the history of Clay Township,” Dennis said.

“The line gets confusing,” Dennis said. “There are a lot of Silases, a lot of Carls, a lot of Alberts.”

The Moffitts were Quaker farmers that owned large stretches of land in eastern Carmel, which was established as Bethlehem in 1837. The name later changed to Carmel in 1846. The Moffitts were one of the first families to attend the Carmel Friends Church on West Main Street.

The Moffitts had around 800 acres of land in total, but their descendants that set off on their own or married into other families extended the Moffitts’ reach.

Marianne Schafer, the three times great granddaughter of Silas Moffitt, lives in Florida, but she spent her summers with her grandparents in Carmel during the Second World War. She said she knew her family was big as a child, but she didn’t realize her family’s place in history until she got older.

“My grandfather loved this land so much,” Schafer said. “And it’s lovely to have his place recognized after all these years.”

“This makes my history come alive.”

The Historical Society had a gathering of Moffitts on June 26. The question of the evening was “So, how are you connected?”

Douglas Dolen of Carmel said he’s the third great grandson of the original Silas Moffitt. Dolen said he had no idea his family stretched back so far until that evening.

“I didn’t know when I was younger, but I do now,” Dolen said. “But what kid does?”

Marget Dolen, Douglas’ mother, said that being a part of the family, through marriage or blood, is like being a part of history.

“Genealogy interests me, and it’s great to see all of the family links here,” Margared said.

Judy Henshaw-Singleton, one of the three-times great granddaughters of Silas Moffit, said that the women of her family has owned land in Carmel over 150 years.

“They were farmers coming to build a better life,” Henshaw-Singleton said. “I’m sitting here looking, thinking ‘Are these people my cousins?’”

“It makes me feel even more close to Carmel,” Henshaw-Singleton said. “We’re in a deep part of Carmel. I graduated from Carmel High School. I’ve always loved Carmel.”

Looking back, Marianne Schafer said she loved Carmel, too. Growing up the pride her grandfather had in the Moffitt family rubbed off on her.

“He made us feel like we were part of something,” Schafer said. “This is the first time I’ve been in Carmel for 10 years. And everything’s different.”

Schafer said that investigating Carmel history is vital as the town continues to change.

“Because in 10 years, it’ll likely be different,” she said. “No matter where you live, you want to find out what happened before.”

Did you know?

The first Moffitt family member came to Carmel in 1822.

There are more than 750 decedents of the family still living in and around Carmel today.

The Moffitts owned more than 800 acres of land around Carmel.

Carmel used to be called Bethlehem. The name later changed to Carmel in 1846.

Source: The Carmel Clay Historical Society

If you go

Carmel Clay Historical Society

221 1st St SW, Carmel