A Glimpse of Newton at the Close of the Civil War

as told to the Newton Press, December 14, 1926
©Transcribed by Kim Torp

Mrs. Martha J. Buck, who came to Newton in 1865 and who is 86 years of age, lives with her grand-daughter Mrs. John Beverlin, here in Newton. She is exceedingly active for her age sharing in the housework and frequently walking to the square.

When Mrs. Buck, then Mrs. Abram Birt, came to Newton, this city was a struggling little village in the wilderness. Mr. and Mrs. Birt came in from Olney on a stage over all kinds of roads through prairies and woods. They came from Indianapolis. Mr. Birt was a harness maker here for a time. They lived in a log cabin just south of the George Franke bookstore at first and then moved to a large log house east of the present Beco Filling Station. Their home there was at the edge of the woods and no houses were east of them.

At the time the Fuller Nigh store, a brick building, was the pride of the town. It is now Stanley & Son's feed store. Also Shambeck's had a store where the Boos block is. There was a house here and a store there around the square. The Litzelman Hotel, then a frame structure, was one of the most prominent edifices. Small frame Catholic and M.E. churches occupied the same cites (sic) on which modern large churches of the same denominations now stand.

Once her husband had occasion to go back to Indiana and on his return in the stage had to stand up and hold the mail sacks when crossing Brush Creek then flooded. About this time the best blackberry patch in Newton vicinity was in the hollow at and around where the I.C. Depot now stands. Deer meat, venizon, was sold in Newton at all of the butcher shops (or better at the butcher shop) and by the hunters who peddled it around to the few dozen houses then in our city.

After five years of residence in Newton, they moved to Pleasant Ridge vicinity. There were only two or three families between Newton and Bogota vicinity at that time and no road. There was a pretty good sized prairie there and they settled on the edge of it. When making monthly trips to Newton they came across the prairie a different way each time as there was no trail or planted fields or fences to guard them. Prairie wolves would gather at the wood pile which was next to the Laws Creek woods and serenade the pioneers till they could not sleep. Once while picking hazelnuts in the woods near their home Mrs. Birt was startled to see a deer spring up and dissapear in the underbrush.

This is the description of a school Mrs. Buck attended in Indiana: It was log and chinked with clay; holes were bored at an angle in the log along the wall and long pegs drove in. A board across this made a desk. Logs with pegs in them served as seats for the children. Mrs. Buck had to walk two miles across a millpond on her way to this school such as was in the "The Hoosier Schoolmaster."

The Newton Press, December 14, 1926

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