The History of
Crawford and Clark County
W. H. Perrin, O. L. Baskin & Co., 1883
Transcribed by Kevin Ortman and Barbara Z.
YORK TOWNSHIP— TOPOGRAPHICAL— UNION PRAIRIE— THE PIONEER SETTLEMENT OF CLARK COUNTY— EARLY LIFE ON THE WABASH— BOATING— YORK VILLAGE—ITS GROWTH
AND DEVELOPMENT— THE RISE OF CHURCH AND SCHOOL, ETC., ETC.
" It is not now as it hath been of yore. "
THE early flow of emigration coming up the Wabash reached the territory of what is now Clark County, in the present township of York. Very many of the early members of the community that
gathered here were persons of culture and wealth, and a society grew up in this vicinity that for years dominated the county. The general settlement of this part of the State, and the incidental
changes wrought, effected great modifications of these characteristics, and the seat of county influence has long since moved to the interior. The early precinct included a large portion of the
eastern part of the county, but subsequent changes have shorn York of much of its early territory, and under the township organization it was left an area something less than the regular
Congressional town, and given the name of York in deference to the nativity of the early influential settlers. Its western and northern boundary lines are regular, but on the east, the Wabash
River, flowing in an irregular southwesterly course, cuts off nearly two sections from the northern corner and nearly three from the southern corner, leaving the central range, however, nearly
complete. The southern line is about two miles and a half long in a direct line, but the regular outline is broken by the addition of the section on which the village of York is situated.
The general surface of the township is level, with a slight inclination in the central part toward the southeast. This marks the line of drainage through Mill Creek, which, entering the northwest
corner, passes diagonally to the Wabash a mile above York village. The creek has of late years formed a new channel, which separates from the old bed about three and a half miles from its
mouth, and takes a more southerly course and empties in the Wabash River near the limits of the village. Several ponds emphasize the general level state of the land, Walsh pond in the
northeastern part, drained by Snyder Creek, being the more important one. Receding from the Wabash River, the land rises by "benches" from the "bottoms" to the prairie, and then to the
highlands of the interior. The river bank, nowhere in the town-ship exceeds a height of twenty feet above the ordinary surface of the water, and from this the bottom land extends from one to
three quarters of a mile, where a gentle rise brings one to the level expanse of Union Prairie. This prairie extended from this point to Mill Creek on the east, and on the north to a narrow strip of
timber, near the northern boundary, which divides Union from Walnut Prairie. East of Mill Creek was principally the heavy timber land incident to this region. The early settlers found the "
bottoms " of this precinct well wooded, sycamore and walnut being the principal growth. These trees frequently attained an enormous size, the latter proving a source of considerable revenue
in later days. The sycamore, though less valuable, were more remarkable for size. One of these was found blown down, in the hollow of which a man rode his horse and found room to turn him
about to ride out.
The soil of the bottom lands is a rich alluvial deposit annually enriched by the overflow of the river. Fields have been cultivated for forty consecutive years and the last crop shows no diminution in the yield. The soil of tile prairie is a sandy loam, which is only second to the bottoms in its productiveness. Tliis land has been farmed upon much the same plan as the bottoms, but not with the same impunity. Farm lands thus over-cropped are beginning to show signs of exhaustion, and farmers are forced to consider how this loss of vitality of the soil may be repaired.
Clover can not be successfully grown, and it seems probable that resort must eventually be had to artificial fertilizers. The soil of the woodlands is the usual yellow clay of this region, which is a strong, productive soil for grass and corn. The latter is the principal crop of the whole township, though on the prairie land considerable attention, of late years, has been paid to wheat growing. The early interest in the raising of fine stock has long since died out, and no attention is paid to this branch of farm industry save the raising of a few barnyard animals.
At the close of the war of 1812, the favorite site for immigration was the Wabash valley, and settlers from all parts of the country excited by the descriptions of chose whom military duty had brought here, came Hocking to this region even before the pacification of the Indians had been accomplished. The first to reach the present territory of York was Thomas Handy and his famiy. They were natives of New York, and came by the Alleghany, Ohio and Wabash rivers to Vincennes, Indiana. This long tedious journey was made in a keel boat, and much of the way not only in danger of perils by water but on land as well. After a short stay at Vincennes, they selected what is now York Township for their future home and late in the spring of 1814, landed on the site of York Village. They at once made their wav to the wood-land east of Mill Creek and fixed upon a site on section eighteen. A temporary shelter was constructed over a log with brush- wood covered with bark, and under this the family found sleeping apartments, the cooking being done in open air. A permanent cabin was at once put under way, the father and one son standing guard against the approach of Indians, while the others put up the house. A little later in the year, a son, John Handy, put up a cabin a little further north. The improvements made here were
only temporary, as the land had not been brought into the market and there was no assurance that the land could be held against the speculators. Two years later they entered land on section 16, which still remains in the family. The next settler to come to York was William Hogue. He was a native of Virginia and made the journey from his native State by river, pushing his boat up the Wabash, arriving at York in the early part of 1815. Hogue prepared the frontier and though a man of good intelligence kept as far from the settlement as possible. He cleared a small patch of ground from which he got enough witii the abundant supply of game to support his family, but made no permanent improvement, and subsequently went to Terre Haute. He was followed to York by a brother, David Hogue, in 1816.
In this year came the Richardson and Fitch families and settled on the site of York Village. John and Joseph Richardson were brothers, natives of New York and had been prominent and wealthy men of business. About this time, however, the failure of soma large speculations had brought about such financial embarrassment as to force the sacrifice of the larger part of their property. They came by way of the river and landed on the site of the village of York. John F. Richardson, the son of John Richardson entered, subsequently, a large amount of land, a considerable poruion of it being for his father and uncle who did not care to own property in their own name lest their creditors should levy on it. He was a bachelor and was prominent as a business man. His brother George F. Richardson afterward went to Texas and succeeded in amassing a large fortune. Chester Fitch was related to the Ricbardsons and had suffered with them in a business way, and owned considerable land in young Richardson's name. Another arrival of this year was Jonathan Lindley. He was a native of North Carolina, and moved from there in wagons in company with several other families, three of his brothers being in the compative who settled in Crawford County. Lindley settled on the northwest quarter of section 3. John Welsh came from Kentucky by wagon in this year, and settled on section 12; he was a prominent citizen and the
second sheriff of the county.
About the same time with the Richardsons came James C. Hillebert and family from New York, by river, and landed on the site of York Village. Their first introduction to this new land was characteristic. It was some days before the family were landed and in the meanwhile they lived on the boat as they had done on their journey. A single plank led to the shore, and in an unguarded moment Mrs. Hillebert slipped from this to the river. Her outcry attracted the attention of Welsh who sprang to her rescue. In her fright she grasped him by the neck, and it was only by dint of vigorous blows that her clasp was shaken off and both were not drowned. Welsh finally succeeded in grasping her hair and bringing her to the surface, when both were helped out of the water. Hillebert was a man of some wealth, very careful in husbanding his gains and a hard worker. He settled just north of the village of York, where he put up a blacksmith's shop, primarily for his own use, but occasionally did work for his neighbors. A little later in the year 18113, Joseph Shaw came from Kentucky by wagon. He had been a soldier in the old Indian wars; was with St. Clair in his defeat and at the Battle of Tippecanoe. He is remembered as an austere, aristocratic man of fine business qualities and successful in amassing a large property. There were some exceptions to this class, however, in the immigration of 1816, and among these were Isaac Moore and John Chenoweth. The former was a native of Virginia and brought beside his family, little more than his household goods and his energetic disposition. He was three weeks making his way to this country, cutting his own roads most of the way, guarding his camp each night from attacks of wolves and Indians. He had been a sailor and ship-carpenter and soon engaged in rafting produce, etc., down the river. In the spring of 1835, he went to New Orleans with a raft and reached Natchez on his return, where he died. Chenoweth came here almost penniless, started a ferry, and by enterprise and energy became possessed of a large property, but he after-ward became involved and moved to Coles County in 1855.
George Catron was a prominent settler of 1817. He was a member of a leading Tennessee family, his brother being an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Possessed of fine tastes and good education, he did not possess the faculty of easily identifying himself with a pioneer community and was wont to resent the familiarity indulged in in a new country. Samuel Prevo came in the same year from North Carolina, and made the tedious journey of several weeks in wagons.
Mr. Prevo settled one mile west of York Village, and early took a front position in the community. He " ran for the Legislature " but was defeated. He was popularly known as Judge Prevo, and his characteristic pertinacity in the pursuit of an object gave rise to the popular saying of " headstrong as Prevo." Enoch Davis was another addition to the community here in this year. He made no permanent improvements and supported his family by trading, and, it was popularly believed, by counterfeiting. He was a mechanical genius, given to gambling, and traveled up and down the river plying his trade at all points from York to New Orleans. At Natchez he got in difficulty on account of some counterfeit money and narrowly escaped hanging by establishing his innocence in this case at least. After a short stay he left for a more congenial community. Newell Leonard, a native of New York, settled on section 28 in this year. He was an industrious and intelligent man, and improved a fine farm.
In 1818, there were several notable accessions. Of these, John Parker came from New York but was subsequently drowned while crossing Raccoon Creek. The creek was at fall banks, but, trusting to his team to swim across, he pinnated in. The wagon box unfortunately floated off and then sank with its onupant, who was immediately drowned. William Ketchum also came this year with his family from New York. The journey was made by boats and three long months were consumed on the way. He settled at first on Grand Prairie in what is now Crawford County, but he came soon afterward to the vicinity of York Village cultivating a farm just south of the town. He was a carpenter by trade and soon found plenty of work in the thriving town just then growing up. Reuben Crow, a native of North Carolina, in the same year settled northwest of the village, and John Salmon, of Kentucky, in the village. Ambrose Pease came from Sackett's Harbor where he had lost his property during the war of 1813. By sleigh he came to the Alleghany River and from thence took a family boat down the Ohio to Evansville and in the spring of 181S came to York in a keel boat, which proved a difficult undertaking as the Wabash was high and the current strong. They moved into the Crocker cabin and rented land of .J. B. Richardson and subsequently engaged in trade on the river.
In this year Zachariah Archer and his family moved into York. Charles Archer had come the year before and on his representations and through the influence of W. B. Archer, the family came to the Wabash country. Old Mr. Archer was a native of the County Down, Indand, emigrated to New York, thence to Kentucky and later to Warren County, Ohio, where he had at this time a good farm. When the subject of again changing their home came up, it was thought that the price of the Ohio farm could be profitably invested in Illinois, and the change was decided upon. The farm was sold, the house-hold goods placed on wagons, and the mother and two boys started over land driving with them a number of, cattle. The father with his son and his daughter, now Mrs. Hogue, came by a keel boat, down the Ohio and up the Wabash. The river journey was accomplished only after the most trying difficulties were overcome. The river was very low and time and again the men were obliged to drag the boat over the bars and through shallow places in the river. On reaching Vincennes, however, the river began to rise rapidly and the diffieuly was, then, to make any headway against the current. The part of the family that came by land reached their destination some weeks in advance of the river party. After making the family comfortable in a cabin which had been erected in the northern part of what is now York Township, they began to get alarmed at the protracted delay of the other members. Fears were entertained that the rise in the river had shipwrecked them, and the community was aroused to hunt for some trace of them. They soon put in their appearance, however, and were enabled by the high stage of water to float their boat over the land almost to their cabin. There is but little to be said of this family's influence in the settlement. Through William B. Archer, their influence is felt in all the history of fio county. They were public spirited in
the highest degree and while prospering financially by their industry, they gave to the interest of the county at large more than they received.
In 1820, Jesse Miller came from New York and settled on the prairie just north of the village. He was here but a short time, and is remembered chiefly as the object of considerable excitement in the early community. His wife was an invalid, and in the dearth of professional men he prescribed for her himself, with such effect, however, as to cause her death. It was thought that he administered poison because of his admiration of a young woman who was a member of his family. The people took summary measures to rid the community of him and he fled, though not in company with the object of his admiration. She remained in the settlement and was probably innocent of any previous knowledge of Miller's crime. Reese Pritchard, a native of Virginia, came here in 1824:, from Ohio, where he had immigrated a few years before. James McGath had come to York the year before, and his description of the country had given the Wabash fever to Pritchard. At that time Cincinnati was but a straggling little village, and eight lots on a prin-cipal street were offered to him for a cheap " bull's eve " watch he carried, and promptly refused. He came by boat to Charleston, Ind., from whence he came by wagon to the farm now owned by Reason Bell. He subsequently rented the Hogue farm, on which he raised 6,000 bushels of corn in one season, and sold it, delivered, for eight cents per bushel.
It is impossible to note all who formed a part of the early settlement in this township. Enough have been mentioned to show the character and notoriety of a community which for years had no equal in this part of the State for culture, vigor and prosperity. There was but little opportunity for the display of fine taste, or the exercise of the prerogative of the "gentleman;" and there were but few who attempted by their demeanor to draw any line of distinction between an honest, well-disposed man and the man of gentility. Where this was done it was promptly resented by those who came from the commoner walks of life, and in a pioneer com-munity they were masters of the situation. For a year or two this settlement was on the frontier. The Indians who had enlisted in the British cause, in the contest of 1813, had not yet learned that the war was over; and though they made no organized raids on the white settlements, lost no occasion to requite isolated Americans for their defeat in the national struggle. The early community of York was therefore in a constant state of insecurity, and many an anxious night was spent, expecting at any moment to hear the signal that the Indian hostilities had broken out with renewed vigor. William Hogue, who came here in 1815, had practical evidence that this apprehension was not unfounded. He was a great hunter and had bad previous experience with the savages, and was not daunted by a fair hand-to-hand fight with them. Soon after coming to York, while out in quest of game, he became aware that an Indian, on the east side of the Wabash, was trying to "get the drop" on him. He had no thought of retreat, but taking to a tree, prepared to argue the question with him. The Indian caught sight of him and sent a bullet in close proximity to him, knocking the bark off the tree. Hogue was at once on the alert to catch the savage, should he expose himself while reloading his gun. His opportunity presented itself. The Indian making a false step, exposed his back for an instant, and in that instant was struck by Hogue's bullet and killed. On another occaision, while out hunting for deer with his son, he came into fatal contact with another Indian. He had shot a deer and placed it with his son on a horse to be taken home. He followed after his son a short distance to see that he got on with the burden successfully, when he caught sight of an Indian skulking in the woods, evidently following the bov. To see was to act, and in another moment the Indian was stretched out lifeless. In explaining the matter afterward, Hogue said he ordered his victim to "lay low," and he did so. Hogue carried the gun and trappings obtained fiom this Indian for years afterward. Fortunately for the families located here, these summary inflictions of the death penalty were not known or not heeded. Hogue had numerous adventures of this nature, but the general pacification of the tribes soon followed; and having no better game to pursue than the animals of the forest, he became dissipated and finally went to Terre Haute, where he died many years ago.
Indians, principally of the Kickapoo tribe, were here a little later in considerable numbers. They came regularly to hunt and make sugar, but were always on the friendliest terms with the whites. York Village was a fa-vorite resort of these nomads for trading purposes, and considerable traffic sprang up in exchanging furs and skins for ammunition, metal trinkets, dry-goods, etc. In 1830 or '31 these Indians ceased their visits and were not seen in that vicinity afterward. It was supposed that the emissaries of Black Hawk had induced them to join his standard of revolt. The ensuing trouble of 1832 greatly alarmed the people living here. Many believed that these Indians, once incited to bloodshed, would return to York for the double purpose of plunder and revenge for any fancied slight they might have received. The wiser ones, however, believed the seat of war was too far removed to excite any reasonable fear of attack there, but they were not less willing and anxious to lend their assistance in restraining the fiery spirits enlisted under that savage chieftain. A com-pany was enlisted in the settlement, a part of which went forward to join the military forces raised to drive back the Indians, but they did not see any fighting. The captain of the company was John F. Richard on; John Dolson, lieutenant; and among the privates are remembered the names of Thomas White, Sam'l Dolson, Christian Jeffers, T. F. Cooper, John Hollenbeck, Woodford Dulaney, George Wilson and .John Wilson.
Up to the year 1817 the nearest point at which goods, groceries or mail could be obtained was at Fort Harrison, on the Wabash River, a few miles above the present site of Terre Haute — a journey of twenty-five miles. Vincennes was the nearest point south, which then contained some three or four frontier stores. The only means of communication with either of these points, was by the river, or over blazed trails easily traveled only on horseback. The necessities of the situation therefore compelled the majority of the settlers to depend upon their own resources, even when they could command the money for such pioneer luxuries. " Blood Mills," as they were called, served an excellent purpose for some. These were pieces of old tin, punched full of holes and fastened to a board, like the modern grater, and on these the corn was worked up fine enough to make coarse " dodgers, " or mush, thouhg the grating was done at considerable risk of bruises, which gave this contrivance the sanguinary name it bore. Improvised mortars were in general use, made either from a section of a log or the top of a stump, hollowed out by fire and some edge tool that the farmer happened to have. In this, with a heavy wooden pestle, the corn was reduced to a condition that could be used for food. The finest was made into dodgers, while the coarser made very good hominy. About 1817 Jacob Blaize put up a horse-mill ou the line of the county west of York Village. Here the farmers brought their corn, and attaching their own team, did the grinding and paid a liberal toll for the use of the machinery. It is said on one occasion the Archer family lived for six weeks on lye hominy, unable to get to Blaize's mill for some meal. It was mid winter when they went, the snow was deep, and the thermometer — probably their ears — marked ten degrees below zero. At the mill the father took charge of the horses and the grinding, and bade Stephen, who accompanied him, to go into the cabin and warm. Before he got into the house, however, he was set upon by a pack of hounds led on by a bulldog, and was pretty well used up before the animals could be beaten off. This mill subsequently passed into the hands of Benjamin Evans, a native of North Carolina, who came here in 1816. He ran it in partnership with Samuel Prevo, and after running it about two years, they built an improved mill, which was propelled by oxen on a tread wheel. This was a saw and grist mill combined, and attracted pat-ronage for thirty miles around. At best, it ground very slowly and patrons were obliged to wait for days to take their turn, in the meanwhile " camping out." This mill, though running night and day, failed to answer the demands of the community, and in 1819 John Parker erected the first water mill in the county, on Mill Creek. The stones were made from bowlders found near by, and the whole structure was little more than a temporary shed. It did good service, however, when the supply of water was sufficient, and was a great relief to the settlers who were wearied with waiting for the ox mill alone. A third mill was built some years later by John HoUenbeck. He was a native of New York, and settled on section 11 in 1816. He was an enterprising man of business, and at first engaged extensively in the river trade, but observing that there was still a demand for an improved mill, put up a combined saw and grist mill on Mill Creek. This was fitted to grind wheat, and was the
first of its kind in this region of country. People brought their wheat from a distance of forty miles, and it was no unusual thing to see two or three four-horse teams waiting three or four days for their flour. The mill was in use many years, and later was moved down the creek and furnished with a boiler. This mill continued to servo the public until destroyed by fire some ten years ago.
Most of the early members of this community came with an intelligent conception of what pioneer life meant, and brought with them such stock and supplies as were needed to make a life in the woods tolerable. But it was impossible to bring over the long distance to be traveled, and by the laborious means employed, any great amount of furniture. A few dishes and cooking utensils, personal apparel (of which there was no great surplus), the smaller tools indispensable to a farmer, and bed clothing, was the limit of the load. Oxen, cows, and some sheep and horses were brought in at the same time. A cabin hastily but substantially put up, the next care was to provide the necessary chairs, table and beds. These were generally crude affairs, constructed out of soft, easy working timber, and finished with the ax and draw-shave. Beds were made of skins and fars of animals, until the first crop furnished husks, not so warm, perhaps, but less merchantable than the skins. Most of the cabins were built in the edge of the timber on the prairie, and the first season was principally devoted to learning how to manage the huge wooden mold-board plow and " breaking prairie." Corn was the first crop planted, and what the squirrels and blackbirds left, matured and yielded a fair return for the labor, and furnished the family the supply of food for the year. Stock generally lived during the winter without shelter, and with very little more than the prairie hay provided, and in the summer thrived on the prairie grass. Hogs were easily obtained and maintained on the nuts that grew in rich abundance on the timber lands. The wolves, however, proved a source of great loss and annoyance to the settlement. Young pigs, calves and sheep, though carefully folded at night, were the easy prey of these ravenous animals; and it was only when the last wolf was driven from the country that sheep, at least, increased in numbers here, the stock only being kept up by fresh importations. Stock raising in later years became an important feature of farm industry in this township, Geo. W. Catron being prominently engaged in this enterprise.
Game was an important feature in frontier life and in this community was for years one of the chief sources of the settlers' support. Deer, prairie chickens, and the small game that found a shelter in the timber were to be found in large numbers. Indeed, deer were shot in self-defense. Fences were no obstacle to them and farmers were greatly annoyed by them as late as 1845. They would go through a field, bite off the end of the growing earb, and startled by some alarm would trample and break down more than they ate, and this was of such common occurrence that farmers arranged to guard their fields at night. One night a farmer was on guard when he heard a tramping through the corn, and firing in the direction shot and killed a neighbor who was out on the same business.
In such a country there were certain to be a class who made hunting a prominent feature in their daily avocation. Among these were John Handy. He kept a number of hounds and his adventures with wolves were the boast of the settlement. William Hogue and James Parker were others who were noted for their devotion to and success in hunting. Of the latter it is said, that he was especially successful as a bee-hunter. Bee trees were numerous along the river and their stores formed a favorite delicacy of the homely fare of the cabin and when properly prepared supplied a powerful intoxicant called Methiglin. Parker made the discovery of these trees a specialty and was one of the few who could trace these rapid winged insects successfully. On one occasion, it is said he found a tree with an unusual amount of honey stored in it. He filled the pails he carried, but there was still a large quantity which he disliked very much to leave. He wore buckskin breeches, and taking them off he tied the ends of the legs securely and went home bare-legged carrying his pails and breeches full of honey.
Leather breeches were not uncommon in York at that early day. Buckskin was the general wear of the men and moccasins much more common than shoes. The distance to any carding mill, made the wool less available though hand carding was known to some ex-tent here. Considerable flax was grown from which jeans were made and linsey-woolsey by the addition of wool. The latter formed the greater part of women's outer wear, and jeans "foxed " on the knees and seat with buckskin was the holiday clothing of the men. In 1818, Reuben Crow came from North Carolina and settled northwest of the villase. He brouo-ht with him some cotton seed, and being familiar with its culti-vation planted some with such success as to introduce it quite extensively among the set-tlers. He afterward erected a cotton-gin on his place which was worked by horse power. So extensively was this staple grown that he worked up a considerable business, taking toll for the use of his machine. Ketchum afterward constructed a gin which worked by hand. A good deal of use was made of this cotton by the women of this settlement and largely took the place of flax; samples of the fabric made is still shown. The climate proved too variable for the crop, however, and its cultivation in this country long since ceased.
With all the earnestness of pioneer life there was probably much more time given by all classes to recreation than is devoted today to that purpose. Inside the cabin there was more necessity for the economical expenditure of time, and the women united play with much of their work. After deer skins could be dispensed with for bed covering, quiltings brought the women of the neighborhood together during the day, the men joining them in the evening. Sugar-making was another occasion when work and play went hand in hand. Sometimes several families would join together and camp through the season where the largest number of best sugar magles could be found. The men tapped the trees and gathered the sap while the women cared for the kettles and camp. There was always time in the evening for a gathering of the young folks and a merry dance. Dancing was the great in-door amusement of the community, and a walk of several miles after a hard day's work only added zest to the entertainment. Wm. Buck, Whalley and Larvill were noted knights of the bow and were in constant demand for miles around. Necessity was the mother of invention with them, and to save their moccasins and shoes, both sexes danced barefooted, not, however, without some minor casualties. The doors were rough and not devoid of splinters, and a spirited romp was not infrequently interrupted to give time for the removal of a troublesome splinter. Outdoor sports were such as are common to pioneer settlements, but here was added to the usual hunting, shooting and athletic matches, a passion for horse-racing and gambling. The latter was undoubtedly encouraged by the river traffic which brought many in contact with this vice which prevailed to such an alarming extent upon the Mississippi River and in the towns along its banks. It was thus transferred to York, and practiced to a very serious extent. Horse racing and horse trading also took on the more vicious type here. The Richardsons were noted as horsemen but had the reputation of being too honest to make money out of the business, but there were others, not a few, that were more successful if not less honest. The outcome here, as well as else-where, was an unpleasant number of brawl which too often ended in homicide or murders ous assaults. As a natural concomitant the use of whisky was unrestrained. This free use of liquor was not peculiar to this locality but at this period the whole nation used it as a common beverage. The natural habit was here further stimulated by a peculiar com-bination of circumstances. Corn was sold for eight cents per bushel and must be deliverer at one of the river towns to get that. It was of no avail at the stores in exchange for goods and was almost a drug in the market. Whisky, on the contrary, was always available, either at the stores in barter or for shipment down the river, and this at eighteen to thirty cents per gallon, was a better investment than the corn. This stimulated the construction of stills in various parts of the country, one of the earliest being erected at York Village. The consequence was that large quantities of this liquor were manufactured. Farmers carried their corn to the still and brought back their whisky, as farmers of today get cider, and where every one had it a larcre amount was drank. The conservative force in the society of York seems, through this lapse of years, to have been in-adequate to curb or correct the evil, and when, in most communities, the people were becoming aware of the nature of this evil and shaking it off, the settlement of York, had hardly reached its climax. All elements of society united in the practice, and the history of many of the early influential men is clouded to its close by unfortunate dissipation.
The Wabash River proved, in this respect, as in many others, an important factor in forming the character of this settlement. It required at that time no particular acquaintance with nautical science to navigate its waters, and many citizens of the settlement traded more or less on the rivnr. The lower river men were often found here in the prosecution of their business, and this repeated contact seems to have been especially effective in its evil influence upon the plastic community. The influence of the river was scarcely less marked in the advantages it brought. It offered an untrammeled communication with a profitable market, and the enterprising men of the early settlement were not slow to take advantage of it. The coun-try produced an abundance of corn, pork, whisky, hay and hoop-poles, all of which were in good demand in New Orleans, and a way was soon devised to convey these commodi-ties to market. A rude flat-boat of varying dimensions was made, supplied with the usual steering apparatus and shelter for the crew and cargo. It was then freighted with hay, or poles, or a variety of the country's products, and cast off in the stream with a force of three to six men to manage it. Before the date of steamboats the main object was to avoid obstructions in the river and to float in the strongest current to the journey's end. On reaching the Ohio it was a common thing to lash several smaller boats together, which gave a greater morhentum and a quicker voyage. Arrived at New Orleans and the cargo disposed of, the timber of the boats was sold and the boatmen made their way home as they felt disposed. Thomas Handy, on one occasion, after he was sixty years old, walked back, and this was not an uncommon occur-rence at the inception of the business. Others bought a horse and rode home, and both methods were in vogue until the steamboat offered a more satisfactory mode than either. The adventures uf these river men, if all told, would fill a volume. Assailed by roughs, gamblers and footpads, the return trip was by far the more diflicult one to make, and many a wreck is reported where the whole proceeds of a cargo would be expended upon the gilded vices of the southern city. But the more experienced traders, among whom are remembered John F. Richardson, Ambrose Pease, John Hollonbeck, and Isaac Moore, found means to avoid these dangers, and to make the business a source of profit.
Until 1829 there were no regularly established roads through the township. Its official relations attracted travel to the southward, Palestine then being the county seat. Business activity found its outlet by the river, and the York settlement was practically isolated from the interior. Clark County was formed in 1819, and the new seat of justice established on the river, so that the irregular trails sufficed general purposes until the growth of settlements to the north and west demanded something better. With the establishment of the National Road and the subsequent line of stages, a more expeditious and direct line of travel was inaugurated, and York began to find itself cut off from the principal thoroughfare. The "middle lane road" was first established, running north and south, west of the Vincennes and Chicago State road, and was extensively traveled. In the following year the State road was laid out, and tlirougli the exertion of J. G. Hillebert, who was interested in property near the site of Auburn, another road was laid out by the county from York Village to the former point. The latter village bejran to attract some attention as a business point about this time. In 1825 the town had been platted by Chester Fitch as attorney for John F. Richardson, though probably the real owner himself. As laid out, York comprised thirteen blocks of eight lots each, located on the west fraction of section 4, town 8 north, range 11 west. The base line was run parallel with the river, which at this point runs a southwest course. A broad street was laid out on the bank of the river, called Water, and parallel with this, in regular order, followed Union, Market and Cherry. At right angles to Water street, Broadway, 99 feet wide, extended through the middle of the plat, while south and parallel with it ran Green and Fish streets, and north of it Mechanic and Liberty streets. The town had been irregularly laid out before this, sufficient to accommodate the
business that began very early to center here, but in just what manner is not definitely remembered.
The first structure erected on the site of this village, was a log house erected in 1815, by Israel Harris. The cabin occupied a prominent point close to the river brink, near the end of Broadway, but the bank has since been so washed away, that only the well remains to identify the spot. On Richardson's coming in the following year, the cabin, which had not been occupied, was purchased and occupied by them, with the Fitch family until cabins could be erected elsewhere. Joseph Richardson and his family, including John B., his son, retained the Harris cabin; John Richardson built another nearby and Fitch took up his abode on his land west of the village. The latter Richardson was a man of marked ability, and had served in the New York Legislature. He was an ardent Federalist and very severe in his strictures upon Aaron Burr, with whom he had on one occasion in the Legislature, a vigorous debate. His son, John F., early engaged in the river trade and veas one of the most active in it.
In 1817, Elisha Crocker came with his sister from New York, and built a log cabin on Water street, near where the remains of the old warehouse now stands. Here he opened up a little stock of goods, but four years later wentjito New Orleans. He was succeeded by James C. Hillebert, who left his farm and forge and engaged in mercantile pursuits. About 1820, French & Wise began business in York, kept a general stock, manufactured saddlery and harness, and bought grain for shipment down the river. They continued only about two years when they closed out. In the year following the beginning of their business, Benjamin Olney opened up a small stock but closed out in 1823. Succeeding them, John B. Richardson began business in a log building on the river bank in the upper part of town where he continued for a long time. In 1829, a man by the name of Snyder put up a frame building nearly opposite Hillebert's store for the purpose of engaging in trade, but sold it to Hillebert before he purchased a stock of goods. The building stood on the bank of the river with a stone store room below. On purchasing it, Hillebert moved his goods into it, and built a frame extension out to the river's brink. This was the main warehouse in the village, and a place of considerable business until the building of the railroad robbed the town of its early importance. The extension has disappeared, thoujrh the original structure, preserved by its solid I'ouiidation, still remains. For years the steamboats discharged the most of their freight for the village here, and took on a large share of the grain exported from tliis point.
In 1830, James McGath erected a brick building on Broadway near Water street, and opened a store in it. He came to York in 1821, from Virginia, but subsequently tried business in the village. Two years later he was succeeded by Woodford Dulaney, who continued business here until 1839, when he removed his stock to Marshall. The building still stands, the second brick building erected in the village. The first brick was erected on the river bank just below Hillebert's warehouse in 1829. This was erected for a pork packing establishment, but after serving this purpose for two seasons the business was abandoned, and Eli Curtis opened it as a hotel and entertained the public in it for some twenty years. In its time it was considered one of the finest edifices on the river. The first building which served as an inn, was a log cabin on Broadway, built by Elisha Fitch. He did not pretend to keep hotel, but just allowed people to stop over night and get a bite." The wife of Ambrose Pease being left a widow soon after coming to York, opened hotel in a little log house that stood on the river bank at the north end of the site subsequently occupied by the pork house. She conducted the business for five years, acting as landlady, cook and chambermaid. At one time she boarded twelve men and did the cooking entirely at an old fashioned fire-place, receiving one dollar and a quarter apiece per week. A third hotel was kept in a hewed log house near the central part of the village by Amos Murphy.
The manufacture of whisky was an important industry all over the country. At the time of which these pages are written, the river trade in which corn in the form of whisky could be more profitably handled, led to the early establishment of stills John B. Richardson established the first one, erecting for it a substantial brick building north of the village, near the present steam mill. A large business was built up here, and large quantities of the liquor were shipped down the river. The business was continued some fifteen years, when the building was destroyed by fire and not rebuilt. About 1833 a log building was erected near the south end of town, and a distilling apparatus put in it by a man by the name of Warner, It had a capacity of about three barrels per day and was carried on about six years and abandoned. The building was subsequently burned down. Another distillery was established about 1810, in a log building in the southwest part of town, by John Fitch. It was run about six years and then abandoned, the old cabin rattling down at last.
Among the early mechanics of York is mentioned the name of Martin Sparks, who came here with Parker and Ketchum. He first settled on Grand Prairie and afterward moved to the village where he followed his trade of carpenter. John Salmon was another tradesman; came from Kentucky in 1818, did a cooper business, making pails, tubs, etc. Thomas Rod and Samuel Doughty were early blacksmiths. The only professional men were doctors. The season of 1818 was especially noted for the sickness that generally prevailed in the settlement. At times there were not enough well persons to attenil upon the sick. An extensive overflow had left considerable debris to decay in the summer sun, giving rise to miasmatic poisons, that prostrated the whole community. This was of almost annual occurrence, though its elFect was not always so disastrous. It was the practice, however, to prepare for an attack of malaria, as it was known at such times, that it was idle to expect aid from neighbors. Among the physicians who lived in York, Dr. Tutt was perhaps the earliest. He was a native of Kentucky and practiced here for some fifteen years, when he removed to Marshall. Dr. Seaborn also practiced here for three or four years, when he, too, succumbed to the prevalent disease and died. Dr. Oglesby, who was something of a preacher as well as physician, came here from Indiana and practiced a few years, and is said to have received as fee from one man for one year's services, 6,000 bushels of corn, two yoke of oxen and a fine horse.
In the meanwhile the village had been increasing in the number of its inhabitants and area. Before the erection of Clark County it had been a strong rival with Palestine for the honor of the county seat, and through the numerical superiority of its friends and actuated by its jealous fears, the latter town secured a boundary line which would include York in the new county. This did not check the prosperity of the latter place. Its business increased rapidly and its reputation spread abroad so that it was considered a good point to make in the description of Marshall, in 1835, to state its nearness to York. The growth of Darwin, however, brought a new rival in the field, and at the date mentioned, was rather bearing away the laurels. The completion of the railroad in 1870, however, added the crowning disaster to the town's waning fortune. It is now a pleasantly situated village of some 250 inhabitants, standing on a moderately elevated plateau, on the outside of a curve in the river. The channel of the Wabash near the village is deep, and runs near the shore, affording excellent opportunities for loading and unloading boats. The old business houses have many of them passed away, and not being replaced, the business has shrunk within its modern limits without leaving vacant buildings to mar the appearance of the village or to tell the story of its decline.
In the early time there was not that division of labor that is found so effective in later days. The demand for labor in all the avenues of human activity was considerably in excess of the supply of laborers, and all the capabilities of men and women found ample exercise. It thus happened that the doctor was often the preacher as well, and the preacher sometimes did not scruple to excel as a hunter and trader, and in one case at least, showed his mechanical skill in counterfeiting. The latter combination of gifts was said to exist in John Parker, who came here from Kentucky in 1818. He at first squatted on Mill Creek, where he afterward purchased land. He subsequently built a mill as noted above, and was noted as a successful hunter. His preaching was somewhat hindered in its effect by the general belief that it was but using the "livery of the Lord to serve the devil." His sons, Joseph, James and Benjamin all followed in the same path, preaching, hunting and counterfeiting. The whole family afterward went to Texas, where it is said they met a violent death at the hands of the Indians. The community happily was not compelled to depend upon such broken reeds. The needs of the hour raised up men who preached the gospel without money and without price until the people became able to do their part in sustaining religious worship. James McCord was an early self-constituted missionary. He was an earnest but illiterate man, possessed a rude fluency of language, was a ready singer and gained considerable influence along the line of the Wabash River. He was one of that class of preachers, popularly known as " Bible pounders," but seemed especially adapted to the time and place. He successfully carried on several extensive revivals, and on one occasion in York was encouraged by the conversion of some twenty or thirty persons. On being congratulated upon his large draught of fishes, he replied in his characteristic way, "Yes, we caught a great many fish if they don't all turn out tad-poles." Lorenzo Dow, the celebrated Methodist preacher of New York, held a large meeting near Holienbeck's mill at an early day, and Richard Newport, an early evangelist of the old school Baptist church preached here.
The outgrowth of these efforts, but more especially of McCord's, wa.s the organization of a Methodist class at the McGath school-house, among the earlj' members of wiiich were the Pritchards, McGath, and Woods families. This organization maintained a l)recarious existence until 1837, when the York Protestant Methodist Church was founded and the two organizations united. The original members, thirteen in number, were Charlotte Hillebert, Susan Moore, Amy Baker' Harriet Dolson, Jackson Barker, Lewis McClure, Elizabeth McClure, Mr. and Mrs. James McCabe, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Earle, and Mr. and Mrs. Erastus Collins. This church was organized at the York school-house by the Revs. McCabe and Witherspoon, who served it some time as preachers. Two years later conference held its first session at York, and attached the church here to the Mill Creek circuit. After holding services in the school-house for some three years, the church bought ground of J. F. Richardson, and two years later erected a frame building at a cost of about one thousand dollars. This place of worship, with occasional repairs, has continued to serve the church until the present. There are fifteen members at present, but the condition of the organization is not the most prosperous. Services are held at irregular intervals, there being no regular supply. Among the names of former pastors are those of Revs. Doyle, Witherspoon, Richard Wright, Crawford, Green, Hamilton, and Burkett, the latter serving in 1881.
Rock Hill Methodist Episcopal Church was organized about 1868, by Rev. Mr. May, at the Union school-house. It began with about twenty-four members, and a place of worship was erected at once on ground donated by Jonathan Hogue at a cost of $1,200. The church still maintains regular services, though the membership is much reduced.
The York Presbyterian Church was, perhaps, the first religious organization in the township. This society was founded about 1825 by Rov. Samuel Scott, a missionary of this denomination, whose field of labor extended along the course of the Wabash River. He served without pay, supporting himself by the cultivation of a farm he owned near Vincennes, and carrying a supply of food with him on his trips, in a pair of capacious saddle-bags. The church at York was organized in the school-house with but few members, and was served for some years by Mr. Scott. The church subsequently erected a frame building, which was burned about 1862. Three years later the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions gave the church generous assistance to build another. This is a frame building, 40 by 60 feet, and cost about $1,200. The church subsequently died out, but in 1869 was reorganized by Rev. Thomas Spencer, and has since maintained regular services until 1882. There are about thirty members at present.
An Old School Baptist organization existed here for a few years, about 1835, holding services in the village school-house. Elder Canady served as pastor and leader, but the organization failed to mature, and has been out of existence some twenty-five years.
The schools date from 1818. In this year an old log cabin on the Fitch farm, which had been used as a dwelling, was fitted up for school purposes. The windows were covered with paper saturated with coon's oil, the desk and benches made of smoothed puncheon, and the floor made of split logs. Here Peleg Sanford bore the rule and proved a good teacher. Among his scholars were Samuel, William, Ira, Reuben and Polly Prevo, William Berkley, John Moore, Richardson, Lewis Pease, Loyal Towsley, Lucy and Anna Moore. In 1821, another school was taught in the shed part of the Crocker house, by J. Niles. Another school was taught near the Handy settlement, in the deserted cabin of a squatter, by James Jewell. It was the custom of the scholars to occasionally lock out the teacher to make him "treat." Jewell, however, was proof against all minor devices, and the older attendants of the school determined to use more persuasive means. They seized him and carried him bound to the river, and were breaking the ice to "duck" him, when he yielded and promised to treat the whole school on a certain day. It was, of course, known throughout the neighborhood, and on the appointed day not only the whole school but the whole grown population of the neighborhood gathered and partook of the whisky and maple sugar provided, some of the older ones finding it difficult to walk steadily on their return home. Morrison was the name of an early teacher, who also conducted occasional singing schools. Robert F. Taylor was among the earliest teachers of this township. He came to the county in 1818, and was a man of fine education. He first worked by the month for John Handy, and afterward taught school on Union Prairie as early as 1825. He taught, in 1829, the first public school, in a frame building on the McGath farm in section 28, where the buililing still stands. Taylor was rather severe in his discipline, and believed in saving the child so far as a liberal use of the rod was concerned. Soon after 1830, a brick school house was erected in the village of York This was the first of its kind in the county.
York Lodge, No. 313, Free and Accepted Masons, finds its home in the village. Its charter was granted October 5, 1859, to Chas. Johnston, J. S. Cox, W. H. C. Coleman, Samuel Doughty, Chas. Gorham, L. D. McClure, Enoch Meeker, J. A. Parker, R. Falley and John Ketchum, as charter members. The lodge has had a prosperous experience; erected a hall in 1867 at a cost of $2,200, and now numbers thirty-two members.
York Star Lodge, No. 419, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was chartered in October, 1870, to William Evans, W. J. Martin, J. H. Daniels, H. S. Lee, and John W. Harris, as charter members. In 1879 the lodge bought a hall of Elisha Jackson in the Lindley Building. They have a membership of twenty.
The Grand Army of the Republic have a post here. It started with eleven members, which has since increased. Its meetings are held in the Odd Fellows' hall.
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