OUR TRAVELS THROUGH JENNINGS COUNTY HISTORY
A series of articles written in the North Vernon Sun in the winter of 1923 by H.G. Miller
Wondering where we could find material for our first article on the early history of Jennings county, we strolled down
Deer Creek on one of our Sunday afternoon jaunts and noticed a little dwelling nestling at the turn of the road, protected from the north east
winds by a hill covered with young trees and snuggling down among the fast drooping flowers which covered the front yard, white smoke issuing
slowly from the brick chimney, giving proof that a wood fire burned within, we knew we had found the place.
We were greeted at the door by a kind faced genteel lady who bade us enter and make ourselves comfortable while her
husband busied himself with the fire making sure that we were warm.
After discussing the weather and a few minor things, the talk drifted to the years long past-the years that could never
come again. We did not know until that day, that this little dwelling had been built nearly a hundred years ago and that this couple had lived
here nearly all of the 61 years of their married life.
Back in 1862, Almira King, the daughter of George and Francis (Vawter) King, then twenty-seven years old, and to this
union were born eight children, five living and three dead.
The eldest Ezra Holsclaw, now 60 years of age lives in Richy, Ill., Mrs Jennie Carson, age 57, lives in Seymour, Ind.,
Mrs. Grace Beeman, lives on rural route 5 out of this city, Harry Holdsclaw in Montrose, No. Dakota, and Mrs. Bertha Searles in Spokane, Washington.
Mr. Holdsclaw (William T.)
for his age is a man of keen intellect, does all the manual labor about the house and the little farm and
is a strict believer in prohibition, never having touched liquor in his eighty-seven years of life.
He as well as his wife love to talk of the old times and if one wishes to spend an enjoyable hour with people it is good
to know, one can do no better than to visit at their home.
Mr. Holsclaw was born in 1835 in the state of Kentucky and was brought to Indiana and Jennings county a year later by his
parents, his mother carrying him on horseback thru the woods and trails (there were no roads in those days) until they reached what is now the Selmier
farm near the Zoar school house.
It was here that Mr. Holsclaw received his education from a man teacher in a log school house, with a fire place the width
of the room. He recalls how the boys when in need of fire wood would carry a log that length of the room and put the entire piece in the fire place.
It was here that the early settlers knowing their lack of education made use of this advantage to better themselves in the use of reading and writing.
Many of the scholars were over thirty years of age when attending this school.
Mrs. Holsclaw, his wife, was born in 1842, in the dwelling now standing and occupied by the Cummings on Deer Creek. She is
a descendent of the Vawters who settled this county, her grandfather, William Vawter coming to this county in 1829, buying a piece of land from a
party by the name of Stribling who had leased the ground from the government.
George King, her grandfather on her father's side came to Jennings county in 1827 and erected the grist and saw mill which stood
where the Muscatatuck bridge now stands, just east of this city. This mill was known as the Andrews mill, and a part of the foundation still remains
as a relic of pioneer days.
For a time after marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Holdsclaw lived with her parents but later moved to where they now live and should
Providence be with them, will celebrate their Sixty-second wedding anniversary on January 2, 1924
Mr. Holsclaw did not enter the war as a soldier, having three brothers who enlisted, and he always has a high regard for the
soldiers and never misses an opportunity to speak highly of them.
During the war and especially during the time of the Morgan raid thru this county, farmers lost their horses and stock. Mr
Holsclaw having two fine horses stolen from him. In some cases they were returned to the rightful owners, but in the majority of cases, the owner
was satisfied to accept a worn out horse for the one stolen. Quite often, the farmer received nothing, and in Mr. Holsclaw's case this was a fact.
At the time of this raid, every man, woman and child was used to stem this rush of Morgan's and all were hurried to Vernon
where it was supposed the main strength of his assault would be made. Morgan believing that the town was defended with too large an army for him
to attempt to enter, kept to the south, missing the town entirely.
Speaking of churches with Mr. Holsclaw, he informed us that the first Baptist church in this county was built in 1832 and
the building is still standing, now occupied by the family of John Mick on the road to St. Ann. This building was also used as a school house and
was attended by many of the first settlers. The first teacher was a Mr. Sterling a native of France. In 1850, the building was sold to Phillip Mick,
the father of John Mick, and a building erected at what is now the Zoar school house. This also was used for a meeting house and school.
At the back of this piece of ground never deeded to the people who settled there in early years, was started a little grave
yard, at first for private families and later, bodies of relatives buried at Madison were moved to these grounds. It is on these grounds that one
of our Civil war soldiers lies buried, his grave unmarked, and probably difficult to locate. It is also on these grounds that one of the victims
of the explosion of a boiler in a saw mill at Oakdale was buried.
How many of our citizens remember back to that time when a boiler in the saw mill exploded and killed four of the men. This
happened in the early fifties and we'll venture to say that there are not many who can recall the accident.
Speaking of fishes with Mr. Holsclaw led him to remark that way back in his boyhood people came for miles to the creek just
below the road that is now being used for a ford between the Knaub and Selmier farms, and shoveling the fish into tubs and barrels, hauling them
away in wagon loads. There was very little money in those days and it was the habit to barter what you did not need for something you could use, and
the fish were hauled to Madison to be traded for groceries and the necessities of life.
Going back to the subject of school houses, at one time a school house stood on what is now the B.& O. railroad near the
Wickens home, and which was torn down to make way for the building of the railroad. Among those who are still living who attended this school were
Mrs. Holsclaw and Rev. Frank Huckleberry.
Between the time of the coming of the railroad and the erection of the present brick school house on Deer Creek, school was
held in the private residences of people in the neighborhood. Later a one room school was built near the Holsclaw home on the banks of Deer Creek
and for a time the present home of the Holsclaws was used for this purpose.
In 1878 the present one room brick was built and as far as we can learn, F.E. Little of this city was the first teacher. The
school was abandoned in 1901 on account of the lack of pupils and was again used for this purpose later on and up to the present day.
Like hunting game, one generally looks fartherest from home for news which he is seeking, and it was with much surprise that
the writer was told that within a stone's throw of his home lived a man who was born in this county in 1837 and has lived here all his life.
This led us to call on "Uncle" Jesse Grinstead who lives with his nephew, James Grinstead near Maple street and who entertained
us for hours with accounts of his boy hood days.
"Uncle" Jesse was born in Campbell township in the year 1837 and for his age has a remarkable memory. Hardly a day passes but what
he can be seen going to and from town for his daily exercises.
His father, Jasper H. Grinstead and his mother Elizabeth Davis Grinstead came from Virginia in search of new country. Their trip
was made down the Ohio river on a flat boat until they reached Madison where they rested for a time and then on horse back thru the forests and the few
trails that were marked in those days, started for Jennings county. They finally landed on Brush Creek in the neighborhood or near what is now Butlerville.
At that time there were no towns near or was the railroad even thought of. Butlerville was a store and post office where the Quaker
church and cemetery now stands and not until 1854 when the O. and M. railroad was completed from Seymour to Cincinnati was the town of Butlerville started.
John Morris who owned the store and acted as postmaster at the Quaker church moved his store near the railroad near where the depot now stands and called it
Butlerville after a family of Butlers who lived in the neighborhood.
Mr. Grinstead's father staked a government claim of 160 acres and then their real life began. He remembers hearing his father tell
of droves of deer and once in a great while a bear was seen in the neighborhood. Wolfs were frequent visitors and carried off sheep for the farmers until
they were driven from the country by the advent of the railroad.
He remembers distinctly on one night the family heard a great noise in the sheep shed where the sheep were kept during the night for
protection from the wolfs and his father armed with an ancient rifle, shot the marauder while he was dining on the remains of a lamb. This ended their troubles
with the wolves for some time at least.
In 1860 Mr. Grinstead married Mary Rice, daughter of Ichabod and Mary Rice of Kentucky. His wife's parents were with the parents of Mr.
Grinstead's parents when they settled in the Brush Creek settlement. No children were born to this union. His wife died five years ago last September and since
then Mr. Grinstead has been making his home with his nephew.
Mr. Grinstead enlisted in the 93rd Indiana Volunteers and served three years as a soldier for Uncle Sam. He recalls many incidents of
his soldier life and we hope in the near future to be able to print more of his history as a soldier.
Next week Mr. Grinstead will give us more details regarding the schools in this county as well as his recollections of the first
railroad thru Campbell township and other matters.
In continuing his narrative of days of long ago, Mr. Grinstead laughed when he told us of the first wagon in Campbell township. Mr.
Samuel McCauley bought a hand made wagon from Virginia and was so proud of his possession that he would not allow the wagon out of the shed where he kept it
protected from the weather.
The wagon was painted a bright red and had stood for such a length of time without being used that when he sold it to a neighbor, it fell
to pieces before the man reached home with his purchase.
But five farmers in those days owned wagons, and they were the most crudely home made affairs the mind can think of. An old tree or small
sapling was used for an axle and the wheels were made from the trunk of a tree sawed three to six inches wide and a hold bored thru the center for the axle.
You can imagine traveling over our hills in those days with each and every wheel different in size. It is no wonder that our earlier
pioneers were able to withstand most of the hardships of this life, since any thought of foolishness was soon bumped out of their minds.
Mr. Grinstead reminds us of the first court house built in this county and of the first man killed by fighting, at least the first known
of in this county-was killed while sitting in a log house used for a court room in those days.
No doubt many of our readers have heard, either from their parents or others of the gas well struck in Vernon in the year of 1862. How
the farmers, after the gas shot from the well, hauled stone, saw dust and dirt to stop this flow?
In 1848, Mr. Grinstead's father moved to what is now Zenas. It was here that Mr. Grinstead at the age of 13 years, saw for the first time
a cook stove; stoves in those days being a rare article of comfort.
It was here also that Mr. Grinstead witnessed his first election when Taylor was elected president of the United States. Instead of ballots,
when you wished to vote, you went up to a window in the voting booth and stated to the clerk the name of the candidate you wished to vote for, and the clerk
tabulated your vote on a slip of paper and your duty was over. You never knew whether your vote counted or not.
About the year 1850 a frame school house was built at Zenas and Mr. Grinstead's father was it first teacher. In Campbell township near where
Mr. Grinstead was born was a log school house similar to the ones mentioned in our first articles and attended by the older people in the neighborhood as well as the
Mr. Grinstead chuckles when he speaks of the first train run on the B. & O. track. All excavation was made before the ties or rails were on
the ground and the track was finally built from Cincinnati to Seymour, and the first train scheduled to run on the Fourth day of July, 1854.
This train was made up of three or four cars with a flat car on the rear of the train. This flat car was used for hauling a cannon and
powder and at every stop along the line a charge was fired from this cannon to celebrate the occasion.
Everything went along smoothly until the train reached the other side of Hayden and nearing Seymour the entire stock of powder carried on the
train exploded giving a unique ending to the celebration. Luckily no one was on the car at the time. The wheels on the engine were six feet high and altho very
crude the train made good time. For fuel, wood was used, stops being made at different times along the route for the purpose of loading this fuel.
The freight trains of course did not pull the load they do in these modern times, even the cars were loaded very light. Three hundred bushels
of wheat making a fair load for a box car. Not over ten cars were hauled at one time to any one train.
The work for the building of this road was contracted for and then sub-tracted to smaller firms and in this way, work was being pushed all
along the line until the road was completed. Mr. Grinstead drove a cart for one contractor at $8.00 per month and considered this big wages.
The day the first train was to run over the lines, that eventual fourth of July 1854, Mr. Grinstead and his brother determined to witness the
spectacle and starting early took seats on a clay bank near the track and where they would get a good view of the train as it whizzed passed.
As even in these days, the boys owned a dog-a small fox terrier. This dog accompanied them to the railroad and amused himself as best he could
until the train approached from the east, when the dog frightened nearly to death, started down the middle of the track to escape this monster.
The dog handicapped by the rough going between the ties, was overtaken by the train which passed over it, and, as Mr. Grinstead relates it,
they expected to see their pet grounded to pulp, but what was their surprise when after some time the train passed by, to see the dog still running, apparently toward
the train. In it's fright the dog was unable to realize that the train had passed and continued on its journey, and as far as Mr. Grinstead knows, is still going, for
they never saw their poor doggy again. How the dog escaped being killed was a mystery.
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