RIGHT HERE IN INDIANA.
Lost River Disappears, Then Re-emerges An Artesian
(National Road Traveler, Cambridge City, July 13, 1967)
Most Hoosier streams meander. The flow of a number
of them is intermittent and seasonal. But only in the distinctive karst country
of southwestern Indiana
is there a sizeable stream which disappears into the earth entirely and then,
some miles away, returns to the surface like a gushing spring. This phenomenon
is called Lost River. It is one of the outstanding
features in a scenic and historic region long famous for its mineral springs,
caves, sinkholes and other limestone oddities. The region is the only part of Indiana never covered by
Ice Age glaciers. It abounds in caves and extends into Kentucky. In Indiana
it runs down through Putnam, Owen, Greene, Monroe,
Lawrence, Martin, Orange,
Washington, Harrison and Floyd Counties.
Geologists call it the Mitchell
Plain. Crawford Upland is
to the west of the Mitchell
Plain and the Norman
Upland is to the east. These two uplands have the most topography with the
greatest terrain contract in Hoosierland. Frequently in the Mitchell Plain
the solvent action of water on limestone has produced sinkholes, caves and
underground water routes. Some sinkholes are 50 feet deep and six acres in
area. This karst situation also makes for fewer and smaller surface streams as
well as for natural bridges, poorly drained land, and a repetitious undulation
or roll of the land.
Southern Indiana contains more than 400 known caves and
hundreds of springs. The most famous of the caverns - the Wyandotte Caves
- were purchased recently by the Indiana Dept of Natural Resources. The smaller
cave is now open for guided tours and the larger cave will be opened as soon as
certain safety measures are completed. The Wyandotte
Caves are now a part of the
state-operated recreation area being developed at the Harrison-Crawford State
Forest. Eventually it
will include 25,000 acres and both banks of Blue River
for many miles. The famous Indiana
limestone was formed from lime ooze and beds of shell fragments at the bottom
of shallow seas that existed 300 million years ago. The region became land
about 200 million years ago.
Lost River rises near Smedley's Station in Washington County at an altitude of 900 feet above
sea level. In its first dozen miles there is little evidence of sinkholes as it
advances through a broad shallow valley. However, just east of the Washington-Orange County line, the channel deepens to 75
feet. Sinkholes and springs begin to appear. By the time Lost
River is five miles into Orange County
its bed has dropped 200 feet. Its water begins to disappear in sinkholes. The
major sink is about 23 miles southeast of Orleans,
in northern Orange
County. When white
settlers came to the region they found several Shawnee Indian villages there,
as well as elseqhere in the county. During dry weather Lost River
disappears entirely. Then, about one mile south of Orangeville, it bubbles up
again as an artesian spring. The altitude of this "spring" is 400
feet and the linear distance is about eight miles from where the river
submerged. Although the wandering and usually-dry bed is 21 miles long, the subsurface
route of the river seems to be in a virtually straight line. The sub-surface
course is a complex system of mains and leads and not a single stream, however.
A smaller stream - Stampers Creek - is similar in its hide-and-seek tactics but
it does not have a completely-dry bed.
There are many other natural phenomena and unusual
scenic features in this part of Indiana,
some of which have been purchased and developed as State-operated properties. Spring Mill State Park, in Lawrence
County north of Orange, includes caves, springs, and rocky
streams as well as its virgin timber and famous mill and reconstructed pioneer
village. Spring Valley State Fish and Game Area is in Orange County.
Hindostan Falls State Fishing Area is in Martin County.
Jackson-Washington State Forest
as well as Elk Creek State Fishing Area are in Washington County.
Forest is in Dubois County.
Several famous Indian traces and animal trails led
through Orange County. The Cincinnati
Trace - from Cincinnati to Vincennes
-passed through the present town of Orleans.
West Baden and French Lick were known as
mineral water spas long before the white pioneers arrived. The Indians most
frequently followed the buffalo trace which led from the Falls of the Ohio (now Jeffersonville
and New Albany) to Vincennes. Buffalo, deer, bear and other animals sought
the salt at French Lick. There was a French fort at French Lick in the early
1700s. The American community there was founded in 1811.
A North Carolina Quaker - John Lindley -
came up the Wabash valley in 1809, planning to found a Friends colony in Vigo County
near Fort Harrison
His oldest son, Zachariah, had stayed a bit behind and built a grist mill at
the bend of Lick Creek in what is now Orange County,
in 1808. Joel Chambers, another Tar Heel, built a cabin that same year on Lick
Creek near half Moon Springs. Joel Charles and his son William soon followed.
The Wyatt Hanks family came to live near the Lindleys in 1810.
Jonathan Lindley decided that Orange
County was preferable being closer
than Vigo County
to the Ohio River and its outlet to down
stream markets and also abounding in springs. He returned to North Carolina to lead a group of 80
settlers - more than two-thirds of the Quakers. Lindley was accompanied by his
wife, Deborah Dix Lindley, and their 12 children. She died soon after reaching
the new country. Lindley then married a widow, Martha Sandra Henley, who also
had 12 children. They themselves had a baby, and thus their family totaled 27.
Lindley became truly friendly with the Shawnee
Indians, who were all about. They remained peaceful for the most part when the
frontier flared into violence with the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, and then
with the War of 1812. After William Charles was scalped by Indians in Orange County
in 1811, the settlers took the precaution of building numerous blockhouses and
a big stockade, the latter near the site of the present county seat of Paoli.
They were seldom used.
In 1811 a log Friends Meeting house was built near Chambersburg.
Lick Creek Meeinghouse, also of logs, was erected at Paoli in 1813. The town
had been founded less than two years before on some of Jonathan's land. Almost
immediately it received the status of a Friends Monthy Meeting. In 1825 a frame
meeting house was built at Paoli and the third Lick Creek Meetinghouse was
constructed in 1860. Newberry Meetinghouse was built west of Paoli in 1818.
Beach Chapel, a unit of Lick Creek Meeting, was created south of Paoli on Lick
Creek in 1826. The continued Quaker immigration from Virginia,
Tennessee and the Carolinas
enabled the Lick Creek Monthly Meeting to become part of the West Branch
Quarterly Meeting of Ohio. The Methodists built their first Paoli church in
1816 and the Presbyterians also formed a congregation about that time. The
first public school was opened at Paoli in 1817, only one year after
establishment of Indiana
as a State.
Capt Spier Spencer's Rangers - called the "The Yellow Jackets"
- passed through Paoli on Sept 14, 1811, en route from Corydon to Vincennes and Tippecanoe.
When General Harrison was an overnight guest of Jonathan Lindley, Zachariah
joined his army and was wounded at Tippecanoe.
He returned home, not to be dismissed from the church because of his military
service but to be elected Orange
County's first sheriff.
was created from Knox and Clark
Counties in February,
1816. It ws the 15th and last of the counties established under the Territory
became a state that December. For a time the new Orange
County also included what is now Lawrence County
and much of the present Monroe
County. The area was such
an historic crossroads that four different Indian Treaties were necessary to
complete transfer of land titles to the white settlers. Indeed, there are
evidences that long before the latter-day Indiana mound builders occupied the
area, the sulphur and saline waters and their medicinal effects seems to have
been known to centuries of men as well as to the animals.
Originally the federal government had retained French Lick as a source of
salt. Huge iron kettles were used to boil the water and the salt thus
preciitated was eagerly bought by the entire area. In 1816, the federal
government transferred French Lick to state control. It was sold in 1832 when the
state decided the salt-making was a losing venture. The new purchaser was Dr.
William A Bowles, a rather controversial Carolina Baptist minister who turned
to study of medicine. Bowles built a three-story frame hotel at French Lick in
1840 and operated it as a health resort. Bowles died in 1873. His heirs in 1880
sold the French Lick tract to H E Wells and J M Andrews. In 1902 Thomas
Taggart, who was three times Mayor of Indianapolis, built a sumptuous hotel at
French Lick and enlarged the property to 4,000 acres. Taggart, who had
prospered as proprietor of the restaurant at the much-traveled Indianapolis
Union Railway Station, later was a United States Senator and Democratic
French Lick Springs Hotel and nearby West Baden Springs Hotel attracted a
worldwide clientele. As many as 100 private railway cars would be parked at one
time at the French Lick siding. The wealthy came to drink medicinal waters, to
take mineral baths, and to patronize the
lively gambling casinos. The automobile era and then the jet airplane altered
the pattern of rich men's diversions. Today French Lick's Sheraton Hotel caters
to all economic classes and West Baden's 700-room hotel, built in 1901 and
including a vast famed dome, is a unit of Northwood College.
From 1834 to 1864 it was a Jesuit theological seminary.
The architectural jewel which links Orange County's
early years with the present is the beautiful courthouse at Paoli. A two-story
courthouse was built for $3,950 in 1817. It was 50x33 feet and had stone walls
two feet thick. It resembled the First Indiana State Capital building, which is
preserved as a State Memorial at Corydon. In 1817 the present Orange County
courhouse was erected for $14,000. It was 53x74 feet, had a basement of brick,
and was adorned by six tall fluted Doric columns and an iron grill balcony. In
1858 the citizens of Paoli bought the four-face town clock which continued to
function in the court-house cupola. In 1938 fire threatened the court house and
caused $10,000 damage. But the beautiful structure was sved and continues to
dominate Paoli's town square. Many regard it as one of the finest architecturay
features in Indiana.