OLD SETTLERS’ MEETINGS.
Several years before the breaking out of the late war, (Civil War) the citizens of this county instituted the custom of holding annual picnic’s. The excitement during the progress of the war took away the interest in those meetings ; but after the return of peace they were resumed. The meeting of 1869 was held on the fair ground at Centerville, on the 18th of June. It was represented in the newspapers as a successful one. Since the first meeting, held ten years previously, there had not been so large an attendance as there was at this meeting. The following report of its proceedings and of the remarks of the speakers, is taken from the newspapers:
Hon. James Perry, of Richmond, was chosen president of the meeting.
The President, on taking the chair, made an appropriate address, in which he briefly compared the state of the country and the county fifty years ago with their present condition. There can not be a more beautiful contrast than that between the county as it was in the days of the red man, and the county as it is now. Then all was wilderness ; now we have turnpikes and railroads, cultivated farms and splendid mansions, and the fields are decked with grain and flowers. After a few remarks on the propriety and good results of this association, he concluded. The organization was then completed by the election of Oliver T. Jones and Isaac N. Beard, as Vice-Presidents, and Dr. Samuel S. Boyd, Secretary.
On the stand were Colonel James Blake, Hon. J. S. Newman, and Hon. Oliver P. Morton, former residents of Wayne county, now of Indianapolis; Joseph Holman, John Peelle, Barnabas C. Hobbs, Colonel Enoch Railsback, Jacob B. Julian, Noah W. Miner, John Green, Dr. Mendenhall, and others.
Hon. Oliver P. Morton was introduced by the President as the first speaker. He said he was a native of Salisbury, the old county town which has passed out of existence, the house of Colonel Railsback being the last and only one. A half century ago, Indiana was called the extreme West; and a trip from the Eastern states took as much time as it did now to go to the Sandwich Islands, or to Japan. Indiana is not now in the West at all. An Omaha paper claimed that that city was in the East! He spoke of the progress of the country in wealth and population, and its moral and intellectual improvement. He did not believe there would be another rebellion; the country, a hundred years hence, would be bound together by stronger ties than ever of affection, of honor, and glory.
Joseph Holman was then introduced. He said he was the sole survivor of two events; of the first emigration party of eight, who came to Wayne county in 1805, and also of the body of men who framed the first constitution of the state in 1816. When he came, Knox, Clark, and Dearborn were the only counties in the territory. Mr. Holman read a sketch of his early reminiscences which he had prepared. [As a large portion of the facts alluded to in the sketch are mentioned elsewhere in this work, they are here omitted.] While he was reading, the emigration train passed by, with their pack horses, hominy kettle and bell, all in the order they started sixty-four years ago. This exhibition excited a good deal of interest. Mr. Holman was born near Versailles, Woodford county, Ky., and was married November 22, 1810. and went to housekeeping two days afterward in a log cabin built by himself. He served in the war of 1812, and built a block-house on his farm near Centerville.
The meeting next adjourned for dinner. A reporter of the proceedings, alluding to the ample supply of provisions for the occasion, wrote: ” We heard of one poor family who only made way with thirteen chickens; and from the appearance of the ground, this may be taken as a fair average of the way the barn-yards suffered all over the county.” The first thing done by the President was to offer a set of knives and forks made by Henry Hunter, of Richmond, to the oldest person on the ground. The prize was carried off by William Bundy, aged eighty-two.
Colonel James Blake, of Indianapolis. When he came to Marion county, Wayne was called ” Old Wayne,” being sixteen years ahead of Marion. Between Centerville and Indianapolis there were not a half-dozen inhabitants. The people of Wayne and Marion wore neighbors, and were familiar with each other. The citizens of Indianapolis got their mail from the Connersville post-office, taking two days to go and two days to get back. In early times there were two parties in the state, the Whitewater party and the Kentucky party, trained in all sorts of tricks by the controversy over the removal of the county seat from Salisbury to Centerville.
The Whitewater party always beat the Kentucky party, and virtually controlled the state. He remembered the first United States mail that came to Indianapolis, in April, 1822. The news came one day that the next the United States mail was to come; and at the appointed time all Indianapolis gathered, to the number of thirty or forty families, to see the mail come in. Presently, through the woods was seen a young man riding his horse at a gallop, now and then blowing his horn; and that was the United States mail. The saddle-bags were opened, and there were about a dozen letters. It was a great day for Indianapolis. The young mail carrier’s name was Lewis Jones. [At this instant, Mr. Jones, still residing in Center township, arose.] That young man carried the mail for two years, swimming all the creeks. He was once so far frozen, that it required two men to take him off’ his horse into a store to thaw him out.
In 1821, when the speaker came to Indianapolis, there was no property held except by the government. It was one great forest, through which they could not see the sun and sky. Once the people got so famished to see the firmament, that they made up a party, and rode eighteen miles to William Conner’s prairie, and spent the day roaming round. When they first saw the sun, the whole party took off their hats and cheered for half an hour! Colonel Blake also complimented the people of that day for being so honest, that notes for borrowed money were never thought of. People helped each other as a matter of course, and borrowed money without interest. Nothing was known of usury until 1834, when the banks started up, and a bank aristocracy was created.
John S. Newman was introduced. He had been a long time a resident of Wayne county, and his mind was crowded with recollections. He remembered letters addressed to his grandfather, “Andrew Hoover, Dearborn County, Indiana Territory.” In the audience before him he recognized many old friends, and not a few he might call “chums.” He remembered many of the incidents related by Joseph Holman; but one Mr. Holman had forgotten to tell. At the election held in 1814 to elect members of the legislature, James Brown received one vote more than Holman ; and as they voted viva voce, when one man came up and voted for Brown, some one said, ” I thought you intended to vote for Holman ? ” ” So I did,” was the reply, ” but let it stand now.” That vote elected Brown; but Brown died when he was within a few miles of the capital at Corydon, and Holman was elected at a special election to fill the vacancy. [Mr. Newman here omits a fact. Brown had voted for himself; and had Holman voted for himself, he would have prevented the election of his rival, which he was unwilling to do.]
There were then about six hundred votes cast in the county. In 1818, John Sutherland got 888 votes, and it was thought nobody would ever get so many votes again. Mr. Newman’s folks landed in Wayne county March 29, 1807. At that time the land belonged to the Indians. The line between the red and the white men’s grounds then ran about two and a half miles west of Richmond. In 1809, a strip of land twelve miles wide was purchased by Gen. Harrison, west of the Wayne purchase of 1785; and the west line of the purchase ran near Cambridge City. It was a great thing then to go to the new purchase. The price of land was $2 per-acre ; but for cash down the Government made a reduction of 37 & 1/2 cents.
He remembered the old path by Cox’s mill, built in the year 1807, to Richmond, down the Whitewater. When he was old enough to sit on a horse, his uncle and himself used to go to mill; and the pathway was so narrow that they had to push the bushes on either side to allow their animals to pass. That is now the most thickly settled part of Wayne county. He concurred with Gov. Morton in the belief that the world was growing better intellectually and morally, but doubted it a little as to muscular strength. Handling the ax, splitting logs and rails, developed a strength of muscle superior to that enjoyed by the men of to-day.
John Peelle was the next speaker. He said: I have so often told you the same old story, that you know it by heart. You know I was born in the year 1791, near Beard’s hatter shop in old North Carolina. You remember the plow made of a forked stick, the cotton rope traces, my tanning leather, or pretending to, and making my wife’s shoes out of it, which hurt her feet to this day. You know, for I have told you before, that after I came to this State, I often got up from the table hungry, and sighed, with tears in my eyes, for my mother’s milk-house in North Carolina. But we soon raised plenty of corn and squashes and pumpkins, on which we fared sumptuously.
We used to hand round a basket of turnips to company in the place of apples. I remember once at a neighbor’s house, I did not scrape the turnip as close as the good lady of the house thought I ought to; so she scraped it over again and ate it herself. I believe I have seen as hard times as the next man. I made two farms from the green. One day, going to Moffitt’s on a borrowed horse, he fell down fourteen times, but he got the bag off only once. Let me say a word about my nephew, Judge Peelle. I believe he is present. Well, whether he is or not, he was as bad a child as I ever knew. He cried nearly all the way from North Carolina, for which I often wanted to thrash him. Yet after all, the judge is quite a man now. Mr. Peelle exhibited a shilling once owned by John Wesley, and a mate to the one he paid to the ‘squire who married him.
Being about to leave the stand without alluding to his pantaloons, some one reminded him of his forgetfulness. Turning to the audience and laying his hand on his pantaloons, he said: These are the identical ” overhauls ” for which I swapped another pair at a log-rolling shortly after I came to this country. We went into a log meeting-house close by to make the exchange.
Barnabas C. Hobbs, Superintendent of Public Instruction, was the next speaker. He was born in Washington county. When the emigrants started to North Carolina, they parted company in Kentucky, a portion going to Wayne county, the other to Washington county. He remembered the laying off of the city of Indianapolis. When the people got home and were asked the name of the new town, they replied, ” Indian no place.” He remembered Judge Parke very well, who used to stay at his father’s house when on his circuit, which extended from Vincennes to Richmond, taking in all the intermediate country, Lawrenceburg and all.
Mr. Hobbs told a story of the courtship of Gabriel Newby, of Washington county, who was in love with the daughter of John Harvey, of Wayne county. It took the lover two days to go to and from Harvey’s house, requiring him to spend one night in the woods on the journey. On one occasion, after Newby had encamped for the night, the wolves came around him; and through the darkness until daylight he had to nght the beasts with fire-brands. Such was the trouble young men had then to get wives. Although Mr. H. omitted to tell it, Miss Harvey finally became Mrs. Newby. He closed with an interesting examination of the old constitution of 1816, and the school laws of that time, to show that the men of that day had the most expanded ideas of the advantages of a thorough education of the youth of the state.
The exercises were now relieved by the band playing the air, ” Auld lang syne,” after which Col. Enoch Railsback made a speech crowded with interesting tacts. He came to Wayne county on the 17th of March, 1807, when the land belonged to the Shawnee and Delaware Indians. Polly Whitehead, daughter of the Baptist preacher, was the first white woman married in the county. [Mrs. Hunt, the lady named, was present, and came upon the platform.] She was then one of the finest women in the settlement ; and although now eighty-one years of age, she steps off as lively to-day as almost any one can. The first Methodist Episcopal church was established by Hugh Cull and old Mr. Meek, in 1808.
The preaching places were at John Cox’s, Hugh Cull’s, and at the speaker’s father’s. The first mill was built November 30,1807, by old man Hunt, on the Elkhorn. Squire Rue and Squire Cox, the first justices of the peace, were as much revered as a judge is now-a-days. The first doctors were Dr. David F. Sackett and Dr. Davis; but the first of a higher order of physicians, as the people believed, were Drs. Pugh, Warner, Pritchett, and Mendenhall. He had worn as many, if not more leather breeches than any one else on the ground, and was just as happy then as he was now, worth a hundred times as much.
He recollected John Green very well, a gentlemanly old Indian, who lived on Noland’s Fork. He had often seen Indians pass his father’s house, sometimes fifty or sixty, going to Hamilton, Ohio, to trade; and they were very friendly. The last crowd of Indians he saw was when Gen. Harrison reviewed the eight regiments of militia just south of Richmond, where he had come to warn the people of danger. There were about fifty sitting on the fence looking at the review. Mr. Railsback related several interesting incidents connected with the Indians, one of which was their stealing Lydia Thorp, a little daughter of Boaz Thorp, near Milton. The Indians were tracked by men and dogs, but they escaped, and nothing was seen of the girl until, about ten years after, they saw her at the forks of the Wabash, the happy wife of an Indian. The mother and father did not dare to speak to her, and she soon left, and was seen by them no more. Jeptha Turner is the oldest native born inhabitant of Wayne county living, and is about sixty-three years of age. Mrs. Railsback was the first white child born in the county. She came into the world October 5, 1806.
Jacob B. Julian next addressed the meeting. He appeared for the reason that most of the other speakers had been born away from home; and he wanted the andience to see the advantages of being born in Wayne county. He was ” native and to the manor born about fifty-four years ago. A portion of the old house he carried in the shape of a walking-stick, as a sacred memento of his father and mother. When he was born, the tax duplicate was only about $950; now it amounted to between $350,000 and $360,000. The Twelve Mile Purchase was then in market. Between Cambridge and the Pacific ocean there was not a foot of land subject to entry.
There were not, probably, one thousand white men in all that country, where there are at least ten millions to-day. When he was born, not a turnpike was thought of. Railroads had not been dreamed of. There was but one church, and no school-house, that was not made of logs. To-day there are three hundred miles of turnpike, and $300,000 invested in churches and school-houses. What a change in one short life ! Mr. Julian then passed into a enlogium of Wayne county, and alluded to the feeling of pride and love which animated the breast of every native of the county.
Noah W. Miner, the last speaker, said he could n’t attempt a speech in less than three or four hours; but if the committee would give him that length of time on some occasion, he would show them what could be done in the way of a speech, He came from the Beard’s hatter shop locality, being born in the year 1800. He had seen the century in, and he knew no good reason.why he shouldn’t see it out. He had lived sixty-nine years, and if something didn’t happen to him that never had happened, he would see the century out, sure. Mr. Miner told sundry interesting things about his early life corroborative of the facts related by others, and gave way about four o’clock to the museum of curious things, which was conducted by Mr. Jones with all the empressment of a regular exhibitor of striped reptiles or fat women. The following is a list:
- A pewter bowl, over one hundred years old, belonging to Leah Bartlett, of Maryland, now owned by her granddaughter.
- A pair of spoon molds, with spoon.
- A copy of the Ulster County Gazette, of the date of January 4, 1800, with an account of the death and funeral of General Washington. Published at Kingston, Ulster county, N. Y.
- Old plow with wooden mold board.
- A pair of names accompanying the plow.
- A powder horn made of gourd used by the grandfather of Levi Warren in the Revolutionary war, under Gen. Benedict Arnold. As the President said, “a better gourd now than Arnold was a man.”
- A pocket-book one hundred and fifty years old, made in Germany, and brought over with German guildern of date 1709.
- A lot of German almanacs, the oldest dated 1775.
- A foot stove used by old German ladies when riding in sleighs.
- A pair of gum shoes fifty years old.
- A pewter basin from Holland, two hundred years old.
- A small tea chest, three sides made of wood of the elm tree under which Penn made his treaty with the Indians.
- An old frying-pan from Holland.
- An old gun of the American Revolution. The grandfather of the exhibitor owned it at the time of the battle of Monmouth, and, it is presumed, did service in that engagement. A modern cock had been substituted for the old flint lock.
- After the exhibition of these articles, the meeting closed.
Source; The History Of Wayne County, Indiana; By Andrew White Young ~ 1872