REMINISCENCES OF ARLETTA LEWIS UMMSETTER
(As Related to Deer Creek)
September 22, 1927
Read at the Deer Creek Homecoming.
Arletta Lewis was born in 1843 in a log cabin just east of the present farm home of Mrs. Nannie Gannon. She
was a daughter of Charles and Charlotte Parks Lewis and her grandfather Alexander Lewis came from Virginia in company with John Vawter,
founder of Vernon, in 1816. This Alexander Lewis had been married in Virginia to a Miss. LaFollette who died leaving him two daughters,
Nancy and Sarah, one of whom became one of the county's leading women school teachers. On his way to Jennings Co., he married in
Madison Miss Nancy Vawter, cousin of his companion, John Vawter, and to this union were born four children, Chas., David, Martha and
To follow you must think away the B.& O. Railroad, Federal road No. 50, and the Muscatatuck wagon bridge.
Alexander Lewis took up his abode on the east side of the Muscatatuck and entered from the government the land now contained in the
farms of Mike McGinty, J.E. Simmons, Mrs. Nannie Gannon, Pete Shuck, Bridget Wickens and part now owned by James Wickens and Wilber
Gannon. Alex Lewis died in 1835, his wife twenty years later.
His children attended school at Vernon, and one incident related by her father stands clearly in Mrs. Ummsetter's
memory. As Charles Lewis and his sister, Anna, were returning from school they saw a bear rearing upon its haunches sniffing up a tree
trunk. The children stood motionless until Bruin finished his measuring and ambled on across the hollow after which they tiptoed quietly
away from the spot and then ran home.
Mr. Chas. Lewis became the first constable of Vernon. He often obtained books from the county library at Vernon.
Mrs. Ummsetter attended her first term of school in a log cabin that stood just east of where Matt Wickens now
lives which was then the Abercrombie place. This must have been old and without the customary loft for she recalls a child trying to
pick up some shining object which proved to be only a spot of sunshine that fell through an opening in the roof. This school was in
charge of John M. Grinstead. Her only text was a McGuffey's spelling book, no slate, blackboard, tablet or pencil. Her second term of
school was passed in a large room that now forms the middle room of the W.T. Holsclaw residence. Here Lewis Whitcomb was the teacher.
Mrs. Ummsetter recalls the proud day when the teacher promoted the class to the first reader. Her father went to the store at North
Vernon and bought her book that evening. Imagine her dissapointment next morning when the class assembled and the teacher said that
as hers was the only reader, she must pass it on to the remainder of the class and the rest could get theirs Saturday. The next school
was taught in the new frame building on the site where Vawter Feagler's house was later and in this building the remainder of her
school years were spent until her father moved to Zoar. This latter building was moved and still stands on the Frank Knaub farm.
The children and families whom she recalls during the years of school life were as follows: Mary and Sarah
Burns grandchildren of Wm. E. Vawter on Summerfield place, Frank, Irwin and Butler Huckleberry, lived on Wissel farm; George and
John Carrol lived on same farm later; Taylor, Miles, Nancy and Almira McCaulou, on the Chaney farm; Tip, Charles, Sarah, Clarkson and
two other sisters (later Mrs. Osborn and Mrs. Wagner), who lived on Mrs. Hannah Wickens farm; Ella and John Lovett, Mary and Anna
Fitzgibbons on the Sasetter place, (the latter Mrs. Rosendoll, who died recently), and Anna Fitzgibbons daughter of Thos. Fitzgibbons
who lived on the Nugent farm; Ellen and Edward Scanlon on McDonnel place; and Will and Almira King on present Cummins farm. The
family of Mrs. Ann McCauley lived where the House sisters now live.
After Chas. Lewis had lived for a time on the present site of the Gannon farm he moved to the "big log house"
consisting of two front rooms, an entry and kitchen which stood near the coffee-nut trees between Riley's cut and the RR bridge
north of the track. When the B.& O.R.R. was built Mrs. Ummsetter recalls that a row of apple trees in front of the house that had
to be cut down to make room for the track. The road was built in 1852, and when the first train consisting of engine and one car
appeared, everyone ran out, to see it pass. But when the engineer blew the whistle the children scampered back into the house.
The Gannon land was sold to a Mr. Tate and within a year of the purchase a row of apple trees and a row of
maple trees had been cut and made into cord wood. Think of the waste!
Things boomed while the road was a building, and to accomodate the workers, six chanties were built with
Mr. Lewis permission on ground lying between the abandoned road thru Mrs. Gannon's farm and the creek bank. This was the period
when the town of Clifton sprang up and threatened to outgrow N.V. This village was located on the Muscatatuck where the Simmons
brickyard was later and had at one time the "big house" on the bluff where Mr. Harris, foreman, and his family lived, a store an
office and a house occupied by Mr. Tate. One of the several shanties east of Mr. Lewis house was occupied by one Pat Riley which
gave his name to Riley's cut. Pat Sharon and John Sharon lived with him, stepsons. The McGinty family bought the same land which
Mike McGinty now owns. Sergt. John Corrigan of Indianapolis, lived in one of the houses of Clifton when it had ceased to be a
boom town and the houses were rented for dwelling houses. Just west of the present Muscatatuck bridge may be seen traces of the
old grist mill owned by Mr. Josiah Andrews.
An occurance of this time illustrates the simplicity of the life of the time. A man was missing at a time
when the water in the creek was frozen except for a tell tale hole in the ice. One morning when Mrs. Harrison looked out the window
she saw to her horror a dead man raised in the water. She called others and they searched and found the body. A Mr. Sumpter made
the coffin and they buried him along the creek bank further up.
This gathering. A Home-Coming, is tinged with sadness today as we realize our school house is gone and with
it the traditions and experience of rural school life for what is taking place in Center Township has always taken place or will
soon do so everywhere. The cycle seems to be completed, the sunlight filters through the roofs of abandoned schools elsewhere as
here. Progress can not be stopped nor should we wish to do so. The present generation faces a different world and needs a different
training than those of the past. We can only trust that these young people shall see and grasp the light as did that child in the
log cabin school of old.
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