OLD-TIME CARD-PLAYERS
Judge John Pettit and William Digby
 

Lafayette Sunday Times  -  In the early history of Lafayette card-playing was more than an amusement - with a good many men it was "business."  The founder of Lafayette, "Old" Digby, was for many years the most noted card player on the Wabash.  There are many anecdotes of him that have been handed down and are worth preserving.

If the old settlers are to be believed, "Old Dig" and the late Judge Pettit had many a lively tussle at the card table.  On one occasion the two sat down early in the forenoon at their favorite game of "old sledge," five dollars a game.  About 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when Pettit was about seventy dollars winner, he announced to Digby that he must quit.  "What are you going to quit for?" inquired Digby.  "I want to go and take care of my horse," replied Pettit.  In those days every lawyer kept a horse to ride the circuit.  "I can go without my dinner," the judge continued, "but I am not going to abuse my horse just to accommodate you at the game."  Pettit retired with Digby's $70 in his pocket.  The next morning, bright and early, they were at it again.  Digby had a big streak of luck, and before 12 o'clock had bagged $120 of Pettit's money.  Raking from the table the last $10 put up, he announced to Pettit that he was going to quit.  "What are you going to quit for?" inquired Pettit.  "Why I must go and feed my horse, John."  "Why - you," replied Pettit, "you haven't got any horse!"  "Well, John, if I haven't got any horse," slapping his hand on his breeches pocket, "I've got the money to buy one!"  The game was closed.

Digby, who was a bachelor, had a small one-story frame house put up on Main street, close to where the canal now is, as an office and sleeping apartment.  After it was finished, but the plastering not sufficiently dry to be occupied, Digby and Pettit sat down to play their favorite game of old sledge.  Digby's money was soon exhausted and Pettit declared the game closed.  Digby proposed one more game, staking his new house against a certain sum of money.  The game was played and Pettit was the winner.  The next morning he made a bargain with a house-mover to remove the building to a lot he owned on the south side of Main street, a little east of the public square.  The wooden wheels were put under it, and in the afternoon it was started up Main street with a long team of oxen before it, and at dark had just reached the public square.  That night Digby and Pettit had another game, and in the morning there was a readjustment of the wheels and the house was started on its return towards the river.  It reached its proper place in the street and was left to be put back in its old position on the morrow.  But the next morning it was started up town again.  The next day it took the other direction, and by this time the whole town came to understand it.  Finally it remained in the public square over Sunday and on Monday continued its way up Main street and was wheeled into Pettit's lot.  He soon moved his books into it and for many years occupied it as a law office.

In the early days on the Wabash nearly all the lawyers played poker.  During court week the time was about equally divided between trying cases, playing poker and attending horses races.  It was no uncommon thing for Judge Porter - the first circuit judge, and by the way, a Connecticut Yankee - to adjourn his court to attend a horse race.  He was very fond of cards, but would enforce the law against gambling.  And thus it once happened, as published in the Sunday Times of February 6, that he was indicted along with several members of the bar, in the Tippecanoe circuit court, for gaming.  The records shows that he pleaded guilty, assessed the fine against himself, and paid it.

The Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, page 4
April 16, 1881
Fort Wayne, Indiana

 


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