Lafayette Daily Courier, Saturday, November 12, 1859
"In compliance with my promise made in a former number, that I would give you a sketch of the early settlement of Fountain County, I now proceed to the task, with such data as I have been able to procure.
The most authentic and reliable information I have found on the subject is contained in an original letter, written by the Black Creek schoolmaster to his "Cousin Bob," who resided in Wayne county, near Richmond at the time he received the friendly epistle, which reads thus:
FORKS of COAL CREEK, FOUNTAIN
CO., April 3, 1826
Dear Cousin Bob--In my last letter from Crawfordsville,
I promised to give you a
description of this region of the country, shortly after our arrival
here. I shall now attempt
to redeem my promise, though I confess there is little to write about
here, except the
country, which is in general in a wild, unreclaimed state, just as
it came from the hands of
God, and the Indians.
You recollect seeing, while on your visit to our house in Montgomery county last Spring, how the outside walls of the settlers' cabins were covered with stretched coon skins, muskrat, and mink skins, and the eaves of the house were surmounted with buck horns, and other trophies of the chase. The same can be seen here on a more extended scale, and as fast as they become dry, the skins are taken down to make room for more. We have in this neighborhood a blacksmith named JOHN SIMPSON, a most excellent man, who is a perfect Nimrod in the hunting line. He kills more deer and turkies in one week with his old gun "Betty," than your favorite hunter, PHIN THOMAS would in a month with his Yauger. But it may be because game is more plenty here than in Montgomery county, where "PHIN" did his hunting.
It is a heavy timbered country here, and some of the settlers have a few acres a piece cleared and under cultivation. I want father to move to the Wea Prairie, on the Wabash River, where he owns prairie lands which are much the easiest improved; but he thinks the country there entirely too new to move to, for a year or two to come. I don't see for my part how it could be much harder to get along any place than it is here; for after we are through with our day's work--clearing, making rails or grubbing, we have to put in a good part of our evenings pounding hominy or turning the hand mill. But it gives us a relish for our hoecake, and there is no dispepsia amongst us.
It is very thinly settled around the Forks of Coal Creek, and indeed, throughout this new county of Fountain. I believe I know every family around us, and as it will take but three or four lines of my letter, I will give you their names and localities.
East of the forks lives WILLIAM COCHRAN, HIRAM JONES, BEN KEPNER and the BROWNS. Further up on the south fork of Coal, lives HESTER, Esq., MENDENHALL, WADE, PETER EASTWOOD, BALL and GARDENER. Below on the Forks, in our neighborhood, lives ABNER RUSH, SAMUEL RUSH, JOHN SIMPSON, JOHN FUGATE, JACOB STRAYER, BOND, WILLIAM ROBE, BARNY RISTINE, EVANS, and LEONARD LLOYD, a bachelor, who lives in his cabin alone--"Monarch of all he surveys, and lord of the fowl and the brute"--on his own premises, at least.
On the south side of the creek
there are four families,
viz: DEMPSEY GLASSCOCK, JOSEPH GLASSCOCK, JOHN BLAIR and
PATTON. Down the
settlement, composed of WHITES, BRYANT, FORBES, METSEKERS, and
a few more
families. Up the north for of Coal Creek, in the vicinity of
the Dotyite Mills, lives OSBORN, LOPPE, HELMES, JONATHAN
BIRCH, and SNOW.
I have found two species of birds here, different from any I ever saw on White Water--the sand hill crane and parroquet. This new species of crane is quite different from the common blue crane, being much larger, and of a sandy, grey color. They go in large flocks like wild geese, but fly much higher, and their croaking notes can be distinctly heard when they are so high in the air that they cannot be seen.
Parroquets are beautiful birds, and fly in flocks of from twenty to fifty in a flight. In size they are some larger than a common quail, and resemble small parrots, from which they derive their name. When full grown their plumage is green, except the neck, which is yellow, and the head is red. The heads of the young ones continue yellow until they are a year old. When flying, this bird utters a shrill, but cheerful and pleasant note, and the flash of their golden and green plumage in the sunlight, has a most bewitching effect upon the beholder, who, for a moment, deems he is on the verge of a brighter sphere, where the birds wear richer plumage and utter a sweeter song.
It is with regret that I
announce to you the death
of our excellent dog--old Bose (the same SANDFORD CATTERLIN and
me had the fuss about the night we cut the coon tree that fell across McCAFFERTY's
fence, above Crawfordsville). His death, which was a violent one,
was brought about in the following manner: A gang of cattle came
into the sugar camp, and commenced drinking water out of the
Bose was sent to drive them off. Eager, as he always was to do
duty, he seized a large ox by the nose. The ox ran and jumped
a large log, drawing the dog
over with it, and striking the point of the hoof on one of its fore
feet on the poor dog's side and crushing in his ribs. He lingered
a few hours and died; but we buried him with the honors of war, by the
side of a large log. BYRON's dog, that he thought so much of, and
wrote such a pathetic epitaph upon, was not a better, true dog, than
I did not get the school I expected, when I wrote
to you last. Col. L--- got it ahead of me." INCOG
Lafayette Daily Courier, Tuesday, November 15, 1859
"The next summer after writing the letter published in our last number, we find the following entry made by our journalist:
July 14, 1827
Lafayette Daily Courier, Wednesday, November 16, 1859
"Another letter from the School Master to his cousin has been found which reads thus:
FORKS OF COAL CREEK, May 2,
Dear Cousin Bob-
Father has sold his farm here in the woods, and talks of moving to the Wea Plain. The whole family are in favor to go there, as soon as we can get ready.
Game still continues very plenty here. Last winter I stood in our door and counted twenty-two deer in a drove, skipping along within one hundred yards of the house. In a few minutes after they passed, we heard the report of a gun about a quarter of a mile distant, followed by a loud screaming as of some person in distress. Brother RICHARD and a neighbor man ran to see what was the matter. They found JAMES SIMPSON, eldest son of "our mighty hunter." sitting on the snow a few rods from a prostrate buck he had just brought down twisting a cotton handkerchief around his thigh, to stop the blood in a wound he received while attempting to stick the deer. As he stooped to cut its throat, the prostrate buck gave a flounder and turned the point of the knife into the hunter's thigh, above the knee, cutting a branch of the femoral artery, which was bleeding profusely. My brother and his assistant surgeon, discovering the extreme danger of the wound compressed the artery by twisting a stick through a tourniquet, made of a strong pair of suspenders, staunched the wound with lint and tallow from the gun box, put JIM on a temporary hand sled constructed for the purpose, and hauled him home, leaving the slaughtered buck which had died from loss of blood, to be devoured by the wolves--"unwept, unhonored and unsung."
We have in our neighborhood another indubitable proof of the truth of the adage, "Necessity is the mother of Invention," which may be regarded as a parallel case to the one related in your story of the Choke Trap.
There is a little old man named
B---, in this vicinity,
who is in the habit of getting drunk at
every log rolling and house raising he attends, and on coming home
at night makes indiscriminate
war upon his wife and daughters, and everything that comes in his way.
It was not long until they had a chance to put their decree into execution. True to their plan when they saw him coming two of them placed themselves behind the door with ropes and the other caught him by the wrists as he crossed the threshold; he was instantly "lassoed." A tussle ensued, but the old woman and girls fell uppermost. They made him fast with the ropes and dragged him out towards the designated tree.
He raved, swore, remonstrated,
and begged alternately,
but to no effect-the laws of the Medes and Persians were not more
than was their determination to punish the stubborn offender.
tied him fast to a tree and kept him there in limbo most of the
they untie him even after he became sober, until they extracted a
from him that he would behave himself and keep sober for the future,
not maltreat them for the favor they had conferred upon him and
Two or three other applications of this mild and diluted form of lynch
law has had an admirable effect in restoring the domestic order and
of the family, and correcting the demeanor of the delinquent husband
father. The old woman thinks the plan they pursued far
better and less expensive than it would have been
if they had gone ten miles to Esquire Make-peace every few weeks, and
out a writ for assault and battery, or warrant to keep the peace which
would cost the family, besides the trouble and expense of attending as
witnesses before the Justice and Circuit Court ten or twenty dollars
every month or two, and done no good towards reforming the old
I reckon she is more than half right. By the bye, Bob, I would be
much obliged if in your next letter you would rehearse the story of the
Choke Trap, which I wish to show to Mrs. B--- and the girls, to let
see the striking coincidence in the two cases.
Your affectionate cousin" INCOG
Lafayette Daily Courier, Friday, November 18, 1859
"Fountain County was organized in 1825, and soon afterwards the town of Covington, situated on or near the Wabash river, was adopted as the county seat. Shortly afterwards Portland was laid off at the mouth of Bear Creek, and Attica near the mouth of Pine Creek on the east bank of the Wabash.
Terre Haute was the only river town of any considerable importance above old Post Vincennes, and it was clearly evident from the vast body of rich lands, lying on both sides of the Wabash river recently purchased of the Indians, and brought into the market by the general Government, that there must be at no very distant day, at least one large Commercial town on the river above Terre Haute.
As yet Montezuma, Covington, Portland, Attica, Williamsport, LaGrange, and Lafayette were in the chrysalis state, but were ambitious to enter the list as rivals to become the great Emporium of trade on the Upper Wabash.
All of them being river towns, and possessing equal, or nearly equal, natural and commercial advantages, it was hard to divine which of them would get and keep the start in the race.
Keel Boats and Picrogues touched at all those points, and the same pioneer steamboats-- Victory, Paul Pry, Daniel Boone, William Tell, Facility, Fairy Queen, Fidelity, Science, Republican and others, stopped at the wharf of each of those towns, whenever the business of the place required it - and it was some time before the friends of either town could say their favorite was a "head and neck" ahead of the rest.
The rapid growth of Crawfordsville which thus far out-stripped all other towns in western Indiana, inspired a hope that inland towns might enter the list of competitors, even against river towns, and forthwith sprung up Rob Roy and Newtown, so near Attica that they cramped her energies and held her back from making an early and fair start with the rest.
Indeed they so cut off her trade, and hopes of success, that in the spring of 1830, poor little dwarfed Attica well nigh give up the ghost.
Her enfeebled and dying condition excited the pity of her sister, Williamsport, across the river, who brought her over several bowls of porridge to keep her from kicking the bucket.
Whether Williamsport acted from pure motives of disinterested benevolence, or on the principal of the boy, who when fighting cried, "help Jack, fer "help again" tradition does not inform us. My opinion is that she acted from the prompting of a noble and generous philanthropy. Her subsequent conduct and character justifies this conclusion. I believe that Williamsport can this day (although not as large as many other towns), say with a clear conscience, "That mercy I to others show, that mercy show to me."
It may not be amiss here to mention that KEEP's store at Portland, and SLOAN's store at Covington, furnished the most of the goods used by the people for one hundred miles up and down the river. Powder, lead, salt, iron, whisky and leather, were the staples of the trade of those days, and were exchanged for the productions of the country, such as beeswax, tallow, feathers, ginseng, furs, deer skins, wild hops, &c.
After a while Lafayette dashed ahead of all the rest, throwing dust in their faces until she got so far ahead that the dust ceased to annoy them. Portland and Lagrange being distanced, were ruled off the track. The rest continued the race. Montezuma and Covington kept side by side several lengths behind Attica and Lafayette which led from the scratch. Attica in running spread herself so that she threw so much dirt in Williamsport's eyes, (who was so close to her) that Williamsport was compelled to fall behind, and just kept from being distanced.
The last round found only Lafayette and Attica on the track. The prize was a glittering one - bewitching and dazzling. Attica felt her inability to win it. She yielded the conquest in favor of Lafayette; nay more, she took the sparkling diadem and placed it on the brow of Lafayette, and crowned her the STAR CITY of the West, then modestly stepped back, like a bride's maid, blushing in her beauty, she felt that she was second best, at any rate, and is now everywhere hailed as the brightest jewel on the brow of Old Fountain." INCOG
Lafayette Daily Courier, Saturday, November 19, 1859
"Having concluded my last number at Attica, I will next cross the river to Williamsport, the county seat of Warren county, and draw a daguerreotype of that town, and some of the old settlers of Warren as far back as 1829-30.
The reader may wish to know why my peregrinations over Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Fountain and Warren counties, were so extensive in those early times? The question is easily answered. Being a school master, I was, of course, abroad in the land, looking up the most densely settled neighborhoods in the country, and it often took two or three of the largest neighborhoods to furnish "scholars" enough for one good school.
I ought, perhaps, at an earlier stage of my chronicles, given the reader a description of our schools in this region of country in those early times. I now propose, with the reader's consent, to make amends for the omission by giving a brief description of backwoods schools, school houses, &c., before drawing my picture of Warren county and her pioneer settlers.
The school house, which was generally a log cabin with puncheon floor, cat-an-clay chimney, and a part of two logs chopped away on each side of the house for windows, over which greased newspapers or foolscap was pasted to admit the light, and keep out the cold. The house was generally furnished with one split bottomed chair for the teacher, and rude benches made out of slabs or puncheons for the pupils to sit upon, so arranged as to get the benefit of the huge log fire
in the Winter time and the light from the windows. To these add a broom, water bucket and tin cup or gourd, and the furniture list will be complete.
The books then in general use were: Webster's Elementary Spelling Book, the Bible, English Reader and supplement to the same. Dillworth's and Pike's Arithmetics, Murray's English, Grammar and any history of the United States or geography that could be procured by the parents or guardians of those who attended school. Maps, Charts, Atlases and Geographies were much more scarce than at the present day. Parents and guardians then did not have to run the gauntlet every quarter or two, to buy a new atlas, grammar or arithmetic, to suit the taste of every new teacher that successively swayed the birch in the district, at no little pecuniary sacrifice, as well as at the destruction of all symmetry and uniformity in the intellectual training of their children.
"Baker" was then spelled and pronounced the same way in all the books. And the multiplication and enumeration tables were set down in figures and diagrams just as they are now, nor have they changed a whit since I was a boy. The nine digits and the three R's (toasted by an American Tittlebat Titmouse as the initial letters for Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic), were then great institutions in the land as well as now. The appropriate and classic lessons contained in the text books used in those schools were indelibly impressed upon the memories of the learners, and lasted during life. Who does not remember the fable of the "old man who found a rude boy upon one of his apple trees, stealing apples?" Of the fox, that was entangled in the bramble, by the bank of the river, and came near being destroyed by flies, and when assistance was offered it, declined it for the reason that a "more hungry swarm" might pounce upon him, and suck away all his blood. And the story and picture of poor dog Tray, who got "severely whipped for being caught in bad company," and other like useful and instructive lessons, containing the best of morals, which loom like mile posts along the pathway of the past.
In my humble opinion, there was more system and uniformity in the education of the youth of those days than there is at the present time. The young man educated in any portion of our government, knew the elementary course of reading and studies pursued by any other, and all other students in the Union, from Maine to Louisiana, and from the shores of the Atlantic to the most remote log school house in the West, thus the better-enabling the citizens of our widespread and common country to understand and appreciate each other; drawing lessons, and sentiments, and household words, from the same books.
There were then no one hundred and one different spelling books, grammars and geographies to bewilder and discourage the young mind with varieties, resembling Hubiras' description of conglomeration: "An ill-baked mass of heterogeneous matter, to form which all the devils spewed the batter."
That great improvements have been made in the art of teaching, as well as in the arts and sciences taught, within the last quarter of a century, none will deny. Mental arithmetic, the outline maps, the introduction of the of the black-board, and mathematical and philosophical apparatus into the schools has greatly facilitated the acquisition of learning--rendering it easier for both teacher and student, and enabling a larger class to look upon the demonstrations exhibited in figures and diagrams than could be otherwise be made to understand the truth or fact sought to be illustrated.
But the fact is equally clear, and to be regretted, that this easy and ready mode of imparting knowledge, often fails to make any very deep or lasting impression on the memory of the learner, who feels that he has been galloped through a multiplicity of studies, deemed necessary in the course laid down by the school or institution to which he belongs, and he finally graduated and obtains his diploma--feeling, however, that the has threaded a labyrinth through which he could not have passed without the help and side lifts of experienced tutors--who, had they kept him
much longer at this spelling and copy book, would have done him and his country far more service.
Bad spelling and chicken track chirography, is far from being creditable to a graduate of a popular college, like Dartmouth or Yale, yet we sometimes have the mortification to witness such scholastic specimens.
It was not so with those who graduated at our log school houses in the country. They were generally all good spellers and could write a legible hand." INCOG
Lafayette Daily Courier, Monday, November 21, 1859
"On my first visit to Williamsport, the county seat of Warren County, I stopped with WILLIAM SEARCH who kept a boarding house on Main street, near where the Warren Republican (an excellent newspaper) is now printed and published.
JAMES CUNNINGHAM, the Clerk and Recorder of the County, boarded and kept his office in SEARCH's house, and as the most of his time was occupied in building a couple of flat boats to carry corn to the New Orleans market the next spring, he employed me to write in his office of nights, and on Saturdays, which would not interfere with my school hours.
The town then consisted of five families viz: WILLIAM HARRISON, the proprietor of the village, who kept the ferry, and a little tavern and grocery at the foot of Main street, DOCTOR JAMES H. BUEL, ULLERY, SEARCH and a man called WILDCAT WILSON. Two only (HARRISON and WILSON) of the families above named, had children large enough to go to school. The rest of my patrons lived in the country some two or three miles from town, and consisted of JOHN SEMANS, Sheriff of the county, WESLEY CLARK, ROBB, HICKENBOTHAM, and one or two more.
At this time, Warren county was but thinly settled. PERRIN KENT, County Surveyor, TILLOTSON, CLINTON, and few other families, lived down towards Baltimore and Mound Prairie.
On Redwood, and sprinkled through the woods and on the edge of the Grand Prairie, lived JOHN B. KING, SHANKLIN, HALL, JAMESON, BUTTERFIELD, PURVIANCE, and a few others. On Kickapoo, a small stream lying north of Big Pine Creek, was a settlement composed of BOGGS, ENOCH FARMER, SAMUEL ENSLEY, JOHN and JOSEPH COX, SEAVERS, the widow MICKLE, McMAHAN, the widow COX, HOLLINGSWORTH, SOLOMON MUNROE, ISAAC WAYMIRE and ZACHARIAH CICOT, a French and Indian trader who was born on the place where he lived (near where the town of Independence now stands) more than forty years before the organization of Warren county.
It was at this place--Cicot's landing--in the spring of 1829, if my memory serves me correctly, that DOCTOR SIMON YANDES and two other men attempted to cross the Wabash river in a canoe and were thrown out in the middle of the river, and the DOCTOR and one other were drowned, the third with difficulty made the shore and escaped a watery grave.
Up Pine Creek, in the Rainsville neighborhood, lived JAMES GOODEN and BENJAMIN CROW, County Commissioners, WILLIAM and JONATHAN ROADS, DICKSON COBB, RIDINOUR, SEYMOUR ROADS, WILLIAM RAILSBACK, MEDSKER, ESQ.. KEARNS, McCORDS, and a few others. Above CICOT's was JUDGE SAML B. CLARK, FENTON, MAGEE, EDWARD MACE (father of the Hon. DAN MACE), JERRY DAVIS, JOHN and GABRIEL REED, THOMAS JOHNSON, DAWSONS, ORRIN MUNSON, SINO MUNSON, JAMES STEWART, MOORES, BOWYER and JOHN STEVENSON, alias "JACK STINSON," who in his earlier and palmier days taught school in the REED and DAVIS neighborhood and perpetuated none of the eccentricities which filled up the last twenty years of his life.
While "Jack" is on the topic-the notorious "Philosopher of the Nineteenth Century," as he styled himself, with whom the most of my readers have long been acquainted, I will relate a novel triumph achieved by the "Philosopher" during a term of the Circuit Court held at Williamsport many years since.
During the early times in this country, before books and newspapers became plenty, some of the members of the legal profession, including Sheriffs, Bailiffs, &c. would occasionally engage in the very reprehensible practice of playing cards, and sometimes drink a little too much whiskey.
During a term of the Court, Jack found out where these genteel sportsmen met of evenings to peruse the history of the Four Kings, as they termed it. He went to the door and knocked for admission. To the question who is there? he answered "Jack." The insiders hesitated--he knocked and thumped importunately--at length a voice from within said, "Go away Jack, we have already four Jacks in our game, and we will not consent to have a 'cold one' wrung in on us."
Indignant at this rebuff from gentlemen from who he had expected kinder treatment, he wheeled off from the door muttering vengeance, which excited no alarm in the minds of the players.
At first he started up towards the falls to walk off his passion, if possible, but the further he went, the madder he got. He finally concluded he would not "pass" while he held or might hold so many trumps in his hands; but would return and "play a strong hand" with them.
He gathered his arms full of stones, a little larger than David gathered out of the brook to throw at Goliath, and when he got near enough he showered a volley of them through the window into the room where they were playing--extinguishing their lights, the first platoon, and routing the whole band with the utmost trepidation into the street in search of their furious assailant. Jack stood his ground, and told them that was a mere foretaste of what they might expect if they molested him in
Next day the pugnacious Jack was arrested to answer an indictment for malicious mischief, and failing to give bail, was lodged in jail. His prosecutors laughed through the grates of the prison as they passed.
Meanwhile Jack "nursed his wrath to keep it warm," and indicted a speech in his own defense. In due time he was taken before the court--the indictment read, and he was asked what he plead to the indictment. "Not guilty," he answered, in a deep, earnest tone. "Have you counsel engaged on defend you? Mr. S." enquired the Judge. No, please your Honor, I desire none; with your permission I will speak for myself. Very well, said the Judge. A titter ran through the crowd.
After the Prosecuting Attorney had gone through with the evidence and his opening remarks in the case, the prisoner arose and said: "It is a lamentable fact, well known to the Court and Jury, and to all who hear me, that our County sear has for many years been infested and disgraced (especially during Court time), with a knot of drunken, carousing gambler, whose bacchanalian revels and midnight orgies, disturb the quiet, and pollute the morals of our town. Shall these Nuisances longer remain in our midst, to debauch society, and lead our young men to destruction? Fully impressed with a sense of their terpitude and my duty as a good citizen of the community in which I live, I resolved to abate the Nuisance which according to the doctrine of common law, with which your Honor is familiar, I, or any other citizen, had a right to do. I have often listened with pleasure to the charges your Honor gave the Grand Jury, to ferret out crime and all manner of gaming in our community. I saw I had it in my power to ferret out these fellows with a volley of stones and save the county the cost of finding and trying a half dozen indictments. Judge--I did able the Nuisance--and consider it one of the most meritorious acts of my life."
The prosecutor made no reply. The judge and lawyers looked at each other with a significant glance. A "nolle prosequi" was entered, Jack was acquitted, and was ever afterwards considered a trump. INCOG
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