Dubois County Letters

Letter of Virginia Edmonston Kean
August 1, 1911
Courtesy of Vicky Matlock

Virginia Caroline Edmonston (Mrs. M. W. Kean) sent an interesting family story to the Huntingburg Independent (Indiana). It was published    1 Aug 1911. It tells so much about her father, Bazil Brooke Edmonston, Jr, and the early experiences of their family....Vicky Matlock

Dear Independent:

I was born Oct 4, 1836 at Kellerville in a little log cabin on the right side of the road as you enter the town from Jasper. My father was Col. B.B. Edmonston and my mother was Johanna H. McDonald Edmonston who was the first white, and for some time the only, white girl in Dubois County, having come from Fayette Co KY with her parents in 1803. Her brother Allen M. McDonald was the first white child born in Dubois Co. He was born near the Sherritt Graveyard. I have often heard my mother tell about grandfather McDonald coming to this country and settling. He came in 1801 and built the first log cabin in Dubois Co. It stood near the Sherritt Graveyard. My great Aunt was the first person buried in the cemetery. There now lie buried there my grandfather and grandmother McDonald and my uncle, Allen McDonald.

At the time they came there were lots of Indians and they came one day to my grandfather's cabin. They insisted that the paleface should be initiated into the mysteries of and the secrets of the original redmen. He consented whereupon one of the braves killed a hawk. Its head was cut off and impaled on a tall pole. When all proceeded to the banks of Mud Hole Creek, Pale Face McDonald was given the pole and required to hold the hawk's head above his own while the Indians joined hands and danced about him in all their gruesome style. He thus became the first adopted redman in Dubois County and lived to tell the tale to his future neighbors.

In our family there were nine children, three boys and six girls. One died in infancy and the others all lived to be grown. My sister, Minerva, died in August 1860 and was the first person to be buried in Shiloh Cemetery. My brothers and sisters are all dead and I am the only one of the family living. My sister Nancy Weathers died 1 April 1911 at the age of 81.

When I was six months old my parents moved to Jasper. Here I spent my childhood and went to school in the old log school house. Well do I remember the old log fireplace, the puncheon floor and the old slate writing desk. Later a frame building was erected. For some time the school was 'kept' in the Cumberland Presyterian Church. Here the Rev. Cheever was teacher.

In 1839 when I was but three years old the court house was burned. It was night and I would jump out of bed, go look at the fire and then go back to bed, keeping this up until the building was consumed. I was terribly frightened. I remember well the building of the brick court house and the first Catholic Church. At the latter place we children played and made mud cakes. In 1854 the cholera was raging and many people died. Among the prominent ones were John Harker, blacksmith, and Robert Carr. We were living where the jail now stands. Father was building a new house where Trinity church stands and the doctors told us to move at once as the new lime would be a preventive of the disease. We moved and brother Brooke took the cholera but recovered.

April 9, 1856 I was married to Milton W. Kean. For one year after our marriage we lived at Jasper then moved to what is now the Andrew Schmitt farm three miles west of Ireland. Here we lived ten years then moved to Ireland where I have since made my home. My husband was a veterinary surgeon and with Sam McCrillis opened at Jasper the first drug store in the county. After moving to Ireland he kept a drug and grocery store. Mr. Kean died 3 March 1880. I am the mother of two boys: Samuel E. Kean who lives with us and Horace M. Kean who lives in Indianapolis and is the first assistant to the attorney general, R.M. Milburn.

When I was a girl there were lots of deer, turkey and other game in the woods. The squirrels were thick and men killed them with guns, clubs and whatever they could to keep them from eating the crops. When I was about seven years old, one day a cry was raised that a deer was coming into town. Men, children and dogs turned out to chase it. The deer ran down Main Street, turned north, jumped a rail fence and escaped into the woods. My husband, while hunting, killed two deer with one shot. When we lived on the farm the wild turkeys roosted in our backyard. I have many times seen Mr. Kean stand in the door and shoot the best of the flock.

My father, Col. B.B.Edmonston came to Jasper from Buncombe Co NC when he was sixteen years of age driving a team all the way. He came to be one of the county's leading men. He was clerk of the court for twenty-eight years and filled every county office. A more generous and free-hearted man never lived. No one came to him for help and was ever turned away. At one time he was a wealthy man but through his generosity he died a poor man. During court people came in large numbers and put up at our house. It was like a hotel. They brought their horses and none paid a cent for board or lodging. I have known my father to rise, while court was in session, and say to someone, 'Mr. A, have you any corn or hay to sell? The horses are starving and I will pay any price for feed.' The horses belonged to his visitors. When father collected taxes the people paid in coon skins or anything of the kind.

When I was a child nearly everyone kept a jug of whiskey about the house and drinking was a common custom. I have heard father tell many times about going to prayer meeting when it was held around at peoples' houses. He went one day and when the minister asked the congregation to kneel in prayer, one good brother knelt beside the bed and spied a jug of whiskey under it. He quickly seized it and soon the liquor was gurgling down his throat. He replaced the jug, wiped his mouth and shouted, 'Oh my blessed Redeemer!' I remember one year in August everybody came to Jasper to vote. In the old Joseph Egg property where Florian Gutzweiler now keeps a saloon was a grocery store and saloon. The men gathered there. They would go into the saloon and drink, come out, pull off their shirts and fight, wash themselves, shake hands and go back in and drink again.

The Monroe's used to keep the flour mill at the site of the Andrew Eckert Mill. I lived on the farm during the Civil War and we were very much afraid of Morgan and his raiders. When there were rumors that he was coming through southern Indiana we went to Jasper, thinking we would be safer at that place. Word came to town that raiders were in Patoka Bottoms and the men were ordered to mold as many bullets as they could. The Loogootee Home Guards were sent for. It was a strong guard. When they reached the town they joined the Jasper Home Guards and all marched to Patoka Bottoms. It was night and the camp fires were seen brightly blazing. The guards surrounded the camp and ordered the raiders to surrender. They did and proved to be a band of hunters who had set the leaves afire.

I professed religion 17 Feb 1876 and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church 2 April 1876, and have remained loyal to that church ever since. I am a charter member of Colfax Rebeckah Lodge. I am blind in one eye but read, write and sew without glasses. I am not physically strong but my memory is as good as it ever was.

Mrs. V. Carrie Kean