GREENE COUNTY SIXTY-NINE YEARS AGO.
BY HENRY BAKER.
Sixty-nine years ago, October 20, 1839, the parents of the writer, with their family of an even half dozen boys, came in wagons from Niagara county, New York, by way of Indianapolis, to Greene county, Indiana.
The state was only twenty-three years old, new and wild, and Indianapolis was less than twenty years old, with a population of less than two thousand; the first state house was then new and was the pride of all the state.
Sixty-nine years ago was eight years before the first railroad was built in the state, and thirty years before the first railroad was built in Greene county. How vast the difference! The first telegraph line in the county was in 1870. Prior to that date all messages had to go and come by the old horseback mail routes, through the dense woods and wild prairies, as best the way could be found from one point to another, since all the roads went the nearest way and on the best ground, regardless of lines, and all rivers and small streams had to be ferried or forded. Costly bridges have long since taken the place of cheap ferry boats and puncheon bridges.
Sixty-nine years ago the entrance price of what was known as congress land was one dollar and a quarter per acre, and what was known as canal land two dollars and fifty cents an acre, and swamp land was twelve and one-half cents per acre; there were thousands of acres of the latter in Greene county that no one wanted at any price. This same land, after ditching and tiling, is now the best land in the county. At the date referred to not one-half of the land in the county had been entered, and not one-tenth part had been fenced for cultivation.
Land was cheap and there were thousands of acres of the best land in the county on the market waiting for buyers. It is notable that the last entries of land was the best land in the county, and this also held good in most all parts of the state. Labor was cheap, and the average farm hand could get only about five or six dollars a month, working from ten to twelve hours a day, in clearing and plowing among the trees and stumps, a thing that but few farmers have to do now, all of which was hard work in the strictest sense of the term, and he who saved his hard earnings could have at the end of the year money enough laid by to enter forty acres of congress land and some to spare at five dollars a month, and many a young man in this way secured a farm that made him and his chosen life partner a pleasant home and a good living in their old age. Most all of the timbered land was covered with the finest saw timber known in the history of the state, the best of which, at saw-mill prices, was only about fifty cents a hundred feet, and with but few buyers. Now, the same grade is worth five or six dollars a hundred feet. Not sixty years ago the biggest and best poplar, white-oak and walnut trees would sell from one to two dollars a tree, according to the locality ; they would now be worth twenty-five or fifty dollars a tree.
Most of the houses in the county were log houses and required but little lumber in the building, and many were built without any kind of lumber in the construction, some without nails or glass. The old-time puncheon floors and clapboard doors were common, and were a great saving in the lumber in the log cabin homes of the early settlers. All the first houses of the early settlers were built in this way for many years, as the nearest place to get lumber was at Vincennes, Terre Haute, or Indianapolis, and until waterpower saw-mills sprung up on the creeks, early in the twenties, the first of which was the grist and saw-mill of Colonel Levi Fellows on Plummer creek in Plummer township, now Taylor township, that supplied the lumber for the country for many miles around and also made the meal and flour, doing away with the hominy block, the hand mills and horse mills that cracked the com from which "dodger" and pone bread were made.
A good horse or a good yoke of oxen would sell for about twenty-five dollars each. Oxen were then used for heavy hauling more than horses. Two horses or two yoke of oxen would pay the price of forty acres of congress land, or four hundred and fifty acres of swamp land. Who wouldn't wish for the prices and times of sixty or seventy years ago, when a very little monev had to go a long way? When the average farmer's tax for a whole year was about five or six dollars—not onetwentieth part of what it is now ? And this was when men were honest and grafting was scarcely known.
In the spring of 1861 the writer entered the last forty-acre tract of canal land at two dollars and fifty cents an acre in Fair Play township, and the first year's tax was ninety-three cents, and the cry was hard times.
Sixty-nine years ago there were only two mail routes in the country and those were horseback routes, and only once a week. One was from Sullivan to Bedford, the other from Washington to Point Commerce, both by way of Bloomfield. What pay the mail carrier and postmaster received is not known to the writer; it is not likely that any of them got to be immensely rich. So meager was the pay of the postoffices that postmasters had to be almost drafted into service. The postage on a single letter as twenty-five cents. The writer has a few letters bearing the date of 1839 that have the mark of twenty-five cents, which he is keeping as a relic of olden times. There were no stamps or envelopes in use at that time; it was cash in advance, or on delivery, just as the writer saw fit, but almost invariably the receiver had the postage to pay. Paying the postage by the receiver was termed "lifting a letter." Money was often hard to get. The price of a day's work on a farm was twenty-five cents, working from sunrise until sunset, two and one-half bushels of corn at ten cents would, either of them, pay the desired twenty-five cents for postage, and when the contents were scanned and found to be a dun for a debt long past due. or "I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well and hope these few lines will find you en-joying the same blessing." the feeling toward the writer can better be imagined than told, after the payment of the twenty-five cents.
At the date referred to there wasn't a frame church or school house in the county, and but very few frame houses of any kind. Point Commerce, Fair Play. Bloom-field, Scotland, Newberry and Linton were the o.ily towns in the county, and the entire population was scarcely over two or three hundred. The old court house at Rloomfield was then new,' and served for many years as a meeting house for all denominations. The first church in the county was built in Linton in 1842 (Methodist), where an organization had been made in 1830. The first name of the town, as well as the first name of the postoffkre, was New Jerusalem, and thus remained until the name was changed to Linton some time in the thirties. Such is the history of the first church in the county as given by the late Samuel Baldwin Harrah, one of the first settlers at Linton, a lifelong member of the Methodist Episcopal church. Mrs. Nancy Fincher, yet a resident of Linton, and who is nearing the century mark, is the only person left that was a member at the time of the building of the first church in the county, which was at Linton in 1842.
The early preachers had many difficulties to overcome, as but few of them were college graduates or polished scholars, so also with the early teachers, and they well earned the scanty pay they labored hard for. Ministers generally preached for the good of the soul and for whatever the people saw fit to give them. The early settlers kindly tendered the use of their log cabin homes to the preachers of all denominations for preaching, and all other meetings, and in the winter for night spelling schools. As there were no clubs or secret orders to take up the time of the average church members and others not connected with any church, as they do now, nearly everybody went to meeting, miles and miles away, in all kinds of weather and over all kinds of roads, in their homespun suits, either on foot, on horseback or in the old-time linchpin wagons, seated in hickory bark bottomed chairs, happy as happy could be, and in time of "big meetings" and "camp meetings," that often lasted for weeks, everybody went to "meetin'," and nearly everybody "jined" the church, and everybody took part in the singing of the old familiar1 hymns, such as "Happy Day," "The Old Ship of Zion," "Our Bondage Here Shall End By and By." The writer hasn't forgotten yet how the good sisters and brothers, too, used to sing and shout and shake hands. Times have changed somewhat in the last sixty years or more, and those whom we knew in those good old days are about all gone home.
Prior to 1850 all schools were subscription, and for a term of about three months each winter, and the ruling price was one dollar or one dollar and fifty cents a student, according to the teacher and his or her qualifications. We used to have some good teachers and some very poor ones. The opportunities for good schools were poor and many neighborhoods had no schools.
In the summer of 1840 two brothers and the writer, who was then under eight years old, attended a three months' school in an old log house that was but little better than a rail pen, so far as comfort was concerned, the house being without chinking or "daubing," an opening was made for a door, but no door, two openings were made for windows, but no sash or glass were in them. An opening for a stick and clay chimney about six feet square was in one end of our "college in the woods," but stood open all summer, good ventilation, but in our case it was a little too much so, on cold rainy days and cool mornings, as we could not make a fire except in an iron kettle set in the middle of the room, in which was placed a little fire, where we warmed our hands and toasted our feet, occasionally, for not a child in the school wore shoes and stockings. A school day was all day long-, and the days were very long for us tow-headed, barefooted children where we sat and wearily swung our-bare feet and legs all the day, while mosquitoes were not forgetful of us in plying their bills on our bare feet and legs, thus reminding us that they, too, had to live. We had light that shone in on us between the logs of the house on all sides ; we had to rule our paper by hand, and write with goosequill pens; we had no charts, globes, blackboards or maps, and but little of anything to make school interesting or instructive. Our teacher was a good Christian woman and we all loved her as we did our mothers. She went to heaven a long time ago. Of those who attended that school there yet live two besides myself.
After this school there was a period of six years that myself and the rest of our family had no schooling except what our mother gave us at home, for the reason that no schools were near enough for us to attend, which proved a calamity to us. At the end of the six years a cheap log house was built two and one-half miles away, after the blacksmith shop style, as most all school houses were then built. Here we attended school again after a vacation of six years. This was1 in the fall of 1846. A few years afterward we had the first public schools, but not in time to do us much good. As a fair sample of how cheap many of the first school houses of the county were, one in Washington township, built by the lowest bidder for fifty-nine dollars, of the blacksmith shop style, is called to mind.
The early farmers had hard times and dark days in more ways than one, while they had sunshine and flowers in other ways. This the writer knows something about from actual experience.
Sixty-nine years ago there was but one buggy in the county. The axles were wooden and with linchpins, the same as the old-time wagons had. But few of the fanners could afford a wagon, but many of them had a substitute which they called a truck wagon, a description of which would be too much to give in print. The oldtime farmers well recollect what a truck wagon was.
Many of the old settlers came here from Tennessee and North Carolina, and many of them moved all their household goods on pack horses, not including chairs, tables and bedsteads. It cost more to raise one bushel of corn or wheat sixty years ago than it costs now to raise four or five of either, yet in many ways we lived far better than we do now, and we had our "side range," so called, for all kinds of stock, and the man that didn't own a foot of land had the same right and privileges that all big land owners had, and no one dared to molest him in his God-given right—a right that no poor man can now enjoy.
Hogs fattened in the woods, that never tasted com or slop, and cattle that never ate hay made better beef than we now get from the city markets, and it was as good as it was cheap ; and meat of some kind we had on our tables three times a day the year around, which did not cost twenty or twenty-five cents a pound, as it does now. And besides this we had all kinds of game and fish that was unmolested by law, and if hog meat or beef ran short, as was sometimes the case, we could go to the woods and lay claim to any part of the game that was in abundance and no one dared to interfere, and if we failed to raise turkeys for the holidays or any other time we could buy a fat turkey for twenty-five cents, and if we did not have the twenty-five cents we could go to the woods and shoot the real wild turkey and have the sport free. The streams and ponds had fish in abundance that we could catch as we pleased. The heavens swarmed every fall and winter with wild ducks, geese, pigeons and prairie chickens more plentiful than blackbirds, and quail as plentiful as those we read of in Bible times.
Sixty-nine years ago we had the real, genuine maple syrup and sugar, luxuries that but few can now have. The prices were five cents a pound for the sugar and twenty cents a gallon for the syrup. The bees made honey in the hollow trees in the woods, and we "sopped" our pancakes and biscuits on both sides in the maple syrup and honey, and the ham gravy from the hogs fattened in the woods, .and ribs and backbones and "dodger" bread our mothers used to roast and bake by the old-time fire-places in our boyhood days can never be enjoyed again or forgotten in the dim future.
The early settlers lived at home and boarded at the same place, and their latch strings hung on the outside of their doors for all their neighbors alike, and in going to a neighbor's house they rapped on the door and at the same time called out in a loud voice, "Who keeps house?" If at home the response, "Housekeeper"—that meant come in—"Good morning; throw your hat on the bed and take a 'cheer' (chair). How's all the folks?" Style and manners had no part in the lives of the earlv settlers. They wore their homespun and buckskin suits when and where they pleased. And the young man who was fortunate enough to be the owner of a horse rode to "meetin' " with his best girl behind him with her arm gently twined about her gallant beau, just to keep from falling off, you see, and many a rosy-cheeked bride in this way rode many miles behind her happy husband to the infair, as infairs were then common.
In the long time ago we burned tallow candles, or "dips," as they were then termed, for lights, and in the absence of candles we often burned any kind of soft grease at the end of a rag out of a saucer or other shallow dish, that made a good substitute for a light. And, many a fair maiden entertained her blushing beau by this kind of a light, while the old folks snoozed away the wee hours of the night. This fact the writer well knows, for he has been there.
Jack Maber's history of Greene county, written in 1875, recites the fact that the first white man buried' in Eel River township was interred in a poplar trough made expressly for the occupant. Mrs. Josephine Andrews widow of William C. Andrews, one of the founders of Worthington, tells of early coffins made of hickory bark when in the peeling season a tree of sufficient size was selected, the bark chopped around about a foot from the ground and again about six or seven feet higher up the tree. The bark was then split up and down the tree when it was taken off in a whole piece, and so placed in the ground, and spread open enough to take the corpse in, when the bark was again closed up and the burial in a hickory bark coffin was so completed. This was when there were no saw-mills in the county from which to get lumber for coffins, and this did not require much skill or labor in the making. John Weatherwax used to tell of the making of coffins out of clapboards of white-oak timber.
The first saw-mills in the county were the whip sawmills, but it was a very slow way of making lumber and about the first mill of the kind in the county was operated by Benjamin and Jesse Stafford, brothers, on the farm where now lives Henry C. Morgan, in Stafford township, where some of the lumber is yet in use that was sawed about 1818. After the buildings made of the lumber sawed by the first water power saw-mill in the county, lumber of all kinds was cheap, and coffins were cheap, as there was but little material or labor used in the making. My father was a cabinet maker by trade, so coffin making was a part of his business. The best grade poplar lumber was only fifty cents a hundred feet, so the amount used in making a common-sized coffin cost less than twenty-five cents, and for a child's coffin five or ten cents, to which add the work, and the aitire cost would be about fifty cents or one dollar—no lining, no costly handles, no plates with "Father" or "Mother" engraved on them. The highest priced coffin I ever knew my father to make was six dollars, and he made many for nothing. The first hearse in the county was about the time of the building of the Indiana & Dayton Railroad, about forty years ago. In the spring of 1842 two men came to my father's shop driving a yoke of oxen, hitched to a sled, drawn through the mud. They wanted a coffin' made as quickly as possible. It was made while they waited and placed on the sled without any kind of covering, and was taken to the house, four miles away, where lay the corpse. After the corpse was laid in the coffin it was again placed on the sled and was so followed to the cemetery by the friends and relatives. Such funerals were quite common in early times. Contrast the present prices of coffins or caskets with those of fifty or sixty years ago.
Owing to a scarcity of preachers their services could not be had at funerals, so funeral sermons were often deferred for many weeks, months or years, as best suited the early-time preachers.
The early preachers and justices of the peace did not receive much pay for performing marriage ceremonies. Many amusing incidents might be related of early-time weddings, one in particular—that of Robert Inman and Rhoda Wines, the father and mother of the writer's wife, in the early spring of 1832. Elisha Cushman, a justice of the peace of Bloomfield, performed the marriage ceremony at the residence of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wines, well known, to almost every one in the county, or at Linton (known at that time as New Jerusalem). The distance from Bloomfield was about fifteen miles. The justice of the peace rode over in the morning on horseback, married the happy couple, got his horse fed and a good dinner and returned in the evening, and charged fifty cents for his services.
Near where Linton now is lived a young man, in the early forties, who concluded it was not best to live longer single. He started to Bloomfield, the county seat, fifteen miles away, early in the morning and on foot, to get a marriage license. He was without money to pay the fee, but trusted to luck for a credit, as the clerk often trusted his many friends in times of need. The road was all the way through the woods, and footmen nearly always went where their business called them with their trusty rifles on their shoulders, ready for any and all kinds of game that might come in their way. So it was with young Moss (for that was his name), who went with his trusty gun, and on the way he shot a wild turkey, which he carried through to the clerk's office and traded it for the license.
Jacob Dobbins, a long-time justice of the peace of Richmond township, was never known to charge more than twenty-five cents for a marriage ceremony when at home, and only fifty cents when miles away.
THE GOOD OLD TIMES.
By Henry Baker. It was in 1839 when my father moved Ins family in wagons from Niagara county, New York, to Greene county Indiana. We were thirty-two days on the way More days than it now takes hours to travel the same distance, seven hundred and fifty miles. His family cou- nted of my mother and an even half dozen small boys
I was then just turned into my eighth year Our parents and half of the boys have been long since passed away. My father came to the county the winter before ookmg for land and a location for himself and family for a home in thq wilds of Greene county, and he found it five miles east of Bloomfield, where the hills were almost hke mountains and the hollows were so deep that we had to look straight up to see the sky. Here he bought one hundred and twenty acres and entered fifty-eight acres, making in all one hundred and seventye-eight acres, of which about thirty acres was cleared was and about worn out by continued cultivating in corn A very cheap log house and barn were about all the improvements. My father got carpenter work until the 9th of July following, when he started home for his family on foot, and walked the entire distance to New York, seven hundred and fifty miles, in the hottest weather in the summer. He arrived at home in just a month, and this was when he was fifty-two years old. Blackberries were just in their prime and he said he had blackberries all along the roadside the entire distance. The day he started from Bloomfield he mailed a letter to my mother saying he was going to start to walk home and he beat the letter through. Most all mail routes then were by horseback. The postage on a single letter was twentyfive cents, the price of two and one-half bushels of corn, or a day's work on a farm. The postage on all papers was paid by the subscribers.
On the 20th of September following (1839) he loaded his family and household goods into two wagons and bade old New York state a long farewell and drove through to the wilds of Greene county in just one month, all tired and worn out, and unloaded our goods and ourselves into the hardest-looking old log house that ever sheltered poor mortal flesh—just one room about sixteen by sixteen feet, with a very low loft. It was very close quarters for a family of eight, after leaving a good house in New York. We had everything to buy and but little to buy with. Corn was ten cents a bushel delivered ; wheat, twenty-five to thirty-five cents ; oats, ten cents. A good cow sold for seven or eight dollars, and most everybody had something to sell, and awfully cheap, to the newcomers. Full grown chickens were six and one-half cents apiece. So great was the strife for a little ready cash that the prices looked fabulously small.
The winter following was a hard winter and with many deep snows; the roof to our cabin was of clapboards and weighted down with heavy-weight poles (not nailed) and was a good roof when there was no snow or rain and not much cold weather.
My two oldest brothers had their bed in the loft, where it took lots of clothes to keep from freezing. I shall never forget one night of an awful snow storm that sent snow all through our cabin, much to our discomfort. Next morning when mother had breakfast ready I was sent up the ladder to the loft to call my brothers to breakfast. I found the bed and the loft floor covered with two or three inches of snow, and my brothers sleeping soundly and wholly unconscious of the storm that raged through the night, as they were covered up head and ears. Before breakfast was over the fire from the old-time fireplace had warmed the loft floor so that the dirty snow water began to trickle down through the loft floor onto everything in the house, in a way that made us almost wish we were back in old New York state again. I assure you it was no place for girls with white dresses. Unfortunately our stick and mud chimney was wrong end up, as more than half the smoke came out in the room and up into the loft, to our great annoyance. I haven't forgotten how often my mother cried over the situation that to her was, almost past endurance. We wintered through as best we could, roasting on one side and freezing on the other. Before the next winter came around my father, with the help of my older brothers, turned the chimney the other end up, and made other improvements that were badly needed.
Our land was of a very poor quality, and made us but a poor support ; the timber was first-class, no better anywhere, poplar, white oak, black oak, red oak, black and white walnut, sugar tree and beech, and many other varieties, as good as ever grew anywhere in the state. A large part of the land was good, while some was poor, fit only for fruit of various kinds. The virgin soil yielded bountiful crops of apples and peaches mostly that were not infested with insects that we now have to contend with. Nearly all the first orchards were raised from the seed plantings, and from which we had good apples ; the yellow Bellflowers, the big Romances, the Baldwins and many other varities that we now rarely see, and the peaches that grew in every fence corner and on every hillside, such as the old Mixon frees and clings, the Indian clings and frees, and almost a countless number that can't be named now. No peaches were then canned as we do now, but nearly every farm had their dry kilns, where they dried peaches and apples for the family use, as well as for sale, that yielded a good profit. With the coming of white frost we had the wild grapes and the lusty pawpaws, that would tempt the appetite of an epicure. A little later on we had the hazelnuts and the big shellbark hickory nuts, that were plenty everywhere, and everybody laid in a good supply for the long winter evenings and cold days, to crack while they cracked jokes and ate the big apples that were laid by for winter use.
Less than a mile away was a waterpower saw grist mill, where we got logs sawed for the half, and our corn and heat ground for one-eighth toll, when there was plenty of water to run the mill, and that was generally in the late fall, winter and early spring. In the summer time there was but little sawing or grinding done for lack of water. Then the only chance was the hand mills, horse mills and hominy blocks that were then common, or a trip to the Vincennes mills, forty-five miles away. That used to take three or four days to make the trip and return. Milling was often a serious matter to the man who had no team or wagon to go to mill with. It would often be the case that families had to live many weeks in succession without meal or flour—their living being roasting- ears, hominy and potatoes, with wild meat, which was then plentiful. Most of the early dry milling was on horseback, or sleds (without snow) or on truck wagons drawn by oxen, many, many miles, and in bad roads and often bad weather.
Here we lived in the old log house until we built a frame house in the summer of 1844, into which we moved the next winter. Lumber was all sawed at the half, shingles were hand-made, and all other work. The house is yet standing and in good repair, and is about the oldest frame house in the county. My mother had the first cook stove in our neighborhood, while there were but few anywhere else in the county, consequently nearly all the cooking was done around the old-time fireplaces, where our mothers baked the cornpone and corn dodgers that showed the finger prints in the baking—the best bread ever made—the bread that made bone and nerve. "Go away with your pound cake and nick-nacks," the farmers had no use for such feed. They plowed the land with their wooden mold-board plows and harrowed the ground with their wooden harrows, and harvested with reap hooks and wooden cradles; and cradled the children in sugar troughs and pitched their wheat and hay with wooden pitchforks, while the women and girls spun and wove their flax and wool and made their clothes for every-day wear and Sunday, too.
The happiest days we ever saw in our lives, except in the fall of the year when nearly everybody had the real shaking ague that made the dishes rattle in the chimney corner clapboard cupboard, and the glass rattle in the windows, where there was any glass, as many houses had no glass in them. Then it was that we almost wished that we had never been born, almost sick enough to die. With many the chill came to stay and did stay a whole year or more.
With the coming of white frosts the chills began to abate, and the rosy tint began to show on the once pallid cheeks of all alike.
The cooking stove mentioned cost thirty dollars, the price of three hundred bushels of corn at ten cents a bushel, then the standard price, and Vincennes was, the nearest place to get a stove; and four dollars was the price of a barrel of salt.
In the summer of 1845, and many years before, there lived, in fairly good circumstances, in the eastern part of Greene county, on a small farm, an honest man in the person of John Cooper, better known as "Uncle John," a farmer and Campbellite preacher, so called in early times, who preached the gospel on Sundays, and on week days worked the farm he earned the price of in hia early manhood. The living was made almost entirely from his farm, as he was never known to accept a stated salary for his services, but whatever the good people saw fit to give him was thankfully received, and nothing more. It will be remembered by the old people that many of the early time preachers knew but little about stated salaries ; so it was with Uncle John Cooper. A few of the oldest citizens of Greene and adjoining counties where his sendees were called for will ever remember John Cooper. He was noted for his honesty and integrity, and his word and all his acts were in strict accord. As evidence of this fact, in the summer of 1845 he contracted to a farmer a few miles away fifty bushels of corn at twelve and one-half cents a bushel, which at the time was considered the market price, but before the day of delivery came around the price dropped to ten cents a bushel, and the buyer demanded the fall in the price ; not so with Uncle John, for he sternly refused to accept anything but what his contract called for. Then the buyer refused to take the corn unless it was shelled, although this was not stated in the contract. But as Uncle John was sorely in need of a little ready cash, and not wishing to have hard feelings or a lawsuit, he agreed to comply with the buyer's demand. So he and his two boys shelled the fifty bushels of corn by hand, which required a whole week's time of hard work for the sum of one dollar and twenty-five cents, and five dollars for the corn made a total of six dollars and twenty-five cents. It will be remembered that sixty years ago the county was new and wild, and but few farms were clear of stumps and trees, so that farming could be done with any kind of machinery ; in fact there was no kind of farming machinery then in use, and for many years after, when it cost more labor and time to raise one bushel of corn than it now takes to raise five bushels. Doubtless Uncle John Cooper then plowed his ground for corn and laid it off and tended it with the same plow, and dropped the corn by hand and covered it with a hoe, and corn then had to be hoed, or a farmer didn't get half a crop among the weeds and sprouts that were sure to grow without the good use of a hoe and the sweat of the brow Talk about hard, times and work for almost nothing, to the man that rides the four-horse breaking plow, the drag the roller, the harrow, the planter and the cultivator as compared with the making of corn crops of fifty or sixty years ago. When a day's work on a farm among the stumps was from sunrise until sunset, for twenty-five cents a day, and often for less money for any and all kinds of farm work, except wheat harvest, which was generally about fifty cents a day.
True we had many privileges and favors then that we don't have now and never can again. Then a neighbor hired to his neighbor to do a day's work or more It was the rule long established to go before breakfast and stay until after dark, thus getting three "square" meals a day and that the best "grub" the country afforded, and it was good and very good, and the writer w.shes he could afford as good as we could sixty years ago, when wild meat was plenty, of all kinds, on almost every man's table three times a day; and bacon didn't cost fifteen to twenty-five cents a pound, nor bread made out of corn at fifty cents a bushel, and if we had to buy tree molasses to sop our biscuits, corndodgers and buck-wheat pancakes in, we didn't have to pa)' a dollar or a dollar and a half a gallon for the sap, but the contrary, only about fifteen or twenty cents a gallon, or the real tree sugar at five cents a pound. Who wouldn't like the sap and the bread, too, made and baked at an old-time fireplace such as was in use over sixty years ago?
In the days of my boyhood I saw not a few times cows milked in a gourd. In early times almost every family raised gourds, as they were considered a necessity, and useful in many ways besides for milking in and placing the milk in to raise the cream. The long-handled or crooked-handled gourd bad a place in the water pail, or bucket, also at the well or spring, thus saving the expense of tin cups or glass, when money to buy them with was so hard to get. The gourd was all right in its place, and it had many places to fill in the homes of the early settlers, and with many it was claimed that the water, milk or cider drunk out of a gourd tasted "a heap" better than out of a tin cup or glass, and the writer believes it, too, especially new sweet cider just from the press, such as we used to have in our boyhood days when the boys and girls went to apple cuttings miles and miles away, and drank cider out of a gourd, as cider was a prime neccessity at all apple "cuttings," and then we played old Sister Phoebe and "weevily wheat," sometimes until the wee hours of the night. Who wouldn't like to be young again and drink cider out of a gourd as we used to, sixty years ago, when the girls were a "heap" sweeter than they are now, when it was no disgrace to drink cider, milk or water out of a gourd, and this brings to our memory a little rhyme that was common then.
We had a little old cow, we milked her in a gourd and sat it in the comer and "kivered" it with a board, and mother used to tell how she skimmed the milk with a mussel shell.
A mussel shell for skimming milk was quite often used, and many of the old women argued that the butter' wouldn't come as quick where a tin skimmer was used as when it was skimmed with a mussel shell.
Back in 1846 poultry and everything else was cheap. Tame turkeys were cheap and cost but little to raise; wild turkeys were cheaper, and cost nothing but the hunting and the sport was free, hence the price of turkeys sixty years and more ago. In our boyhood days, twenty-five cents would buy many articles of trade and commerce that couldn't now be bought for twenty-five dollars and more. The price of a fat turkey, twenty-five cents, would then buy two acres of marsh land at twelve and one-half cents an acre, land that now is worth fifty to one hundred dollars an acre, and five turkeys would buy an acre of congress land, or ten turkeys would buy an acre of canal land. A forty-acre tract of either of the last named lands with timber on would now be an independent fortune. What if we had as good foresight as we now have hind-sight?
The price of a weekly newspaper at two dollars, with the postage added, would almost take the price of a twenty-five-bushel load of corn, or of eight or ten bushels of wheat or of several fat turkeys.
Turkeys, wild and tame, ranged the fields and wood and got fat beyond description on the grasshoppers and beechnuts and acorns.
When the writer was married, in 1858, the license fee was one dollar, and not many years before, I think, the fee was fifty cents. Preachers and justices of the peace were often called on to perform the marriage ceremonies on credit. A young man of the writer's acquaintance, not one hundred mites from Bloomfield, whose funds were a little short, employed David Burcham, an old-time justice of the peace, to marry him, and the day following the young man paid for the ceremony by grubbing on the farm of the justice of the peace. Some of the old people of Bloomfield well knew Mr. Burcham in the days long gone by.
A very little money in early times had to go a long way in more ways than one. This the writer well knows from actual experience. The late Baldwin Harrah used to tell of one Daniel Moss, who, in 1835, lived a few miles from where Linton now is and who was then a young man and wanted a marriage license and wasn't the owner of a horse and couldn't afford to hire a horse to ride to Bloomfield to get the coveted document, so concluded to walk and did walk, with a gun on his shoulder, and on the way shot a wild turkey, which he carried through to the clerk's office and paid in part, or all, for the license. Samuel R. Cavins was then clerk, and often befriended his many friends in times of need and when funds were short.
Sixty years ago the average day wages on the farm was about twenty-five cents, except in harvest time, when the wages were about doubled. Fifty cents would then buy one hundred feet of clear yellow poplar lumber, a better grade than can now be bought for six dollars a hundred.
A hearse was not then in use or thought of. Friends and neighbors kindly tendered their services in digging and filling" the graves. Funeral expenses and doctor bills were then very light as compared with the present times. It used to be said that many doctors only studied the profession from three to six months, when they would be full-fledged and ready to go out to kill or cure, as the case might be, a sure "pop" one way or the other. Many of the early preachers had hard times in caring for the wants of the body as well as for the soul. One old preacher whose head is getting white with the frost of many winters tells of living a whole year on one circuit where the sum total paid him was seventeen dollars.
Many of the old-time members of the Methodist Episcopal church constructed the quarterage rule or system to mean twenty-five cents every three months, which no doubt made a lean steak for many of the early preachers.
One old-time Methodist Episcopal church member boasted that he had paid his quarterage twenty-five cents regularly every three months for "mor'n" thirty years.
The old Methodist Episcopal church at Linton was the first church in the county, and was built in 1842. Prior to this date no one went to church, but nearly everybody went to "meeting" (not in buggies or surreys) but. on foot, on horseback or in the old-time, home-made, linchpin wagons, riding in hickory bark bottom chairs, with mother's reticule, hanging on a chair post, with a pipe stem sticking out of the top of the reticule, as most all women in those days smoked a pipe.
A reticule was a prime necessity with the old and young women alike to carry the pipe and tobacco in. Many of the old ladies and men, too, of Greene county will recollect this. Col. Levi Fellows, one of the first settlers in Taylor township in 1819, was the owner of the first buggy in the county, but it was called a carriage, and resembled a buggy but had little linchpins, the same as all the old-time wagons had, the front wheels being about half as high as the hind wheels. The bed was big enough to hold seven or eight bushels of corn and was all painted in the colors of the rainbow. It was a dandy. The writer took a ride in this grand old buggy in the summer of 1840, and it was his first buggy ride; he thought it was almost heaven on earth.
By Henry Baker.
Isaac Ward, a stonemason, living near the old Richland furnace, engaged Col. Levi Fellows to marry him at a fixed day and hour. The day arrived and the colonel, agreeable to promise, was on time, but the groom failed to put in appearance. It was soon ascertained that Mr. Ward had gone about two miles distant to work at his trade. Two young- men who had come to witness the ceremony were sent posthaste for the groom, while the anxious crowd and expectant bride whiled away the time as best they could. The groom was captured and soon brought to time, and was not slow in explaining to the colonel and all parties present that he had forgotten the day.
A SHORT CEREMONY.
About 1826 Colonel Fellows was engaged in building a a mill at or near Fair Play, the main business town of the county. Daniel Ingersoll and others were in his employ. The colonel had Just been elected or appointed judge, and hadn't yet performed a marriage ceremony.
Mr. Ingersoll engaged the newly-fledged officer to marry him at the home of his intended at Fair Play. As the wedding was at night all the hands in his employ repaired to the wedding to witness the young officer's first marriage ceremony.
All were top-toe with glee, much to the embarrassment of the new officer. The ceremony was gone through with the groom, but when he came to the bride, his confusion was too great to proceed further. After a little halt his speech was regained, he told the waiting couple they might take their seats, saying he guessed they were married enough anyway.
A WEDDING WITHOUT A HONEYMOON.
Alexander Plummer, an old pioneer flatboat man, started down the river to New Orleans on a flatboat from near Gosport and landed on the west bank of White river, near the home of old Thomas Plummer, the home of his intended wife, some two or three miles west of Bloomfield, late in the afternoon in February, 1828. Mr. Plummer at once proceeded to the home of his intended fatherin-law, Mr. Thomas Plummer, a distant relative, and of the same name, and soon arrangements were made for a wedding. A messenger was dispatched to Bloomfield for a license and a justice of the peace and the happy couple were married the same night. Next morning Mr. Plummer bade the wife of less than one day an affectionate good-bye, and started on down- the river and was gone six weeks. Mr. and Mrs. Plummer made honored citizens and lived to a ripe old age. Thomas Plummer, the last one of the family of Alexander Plummer, yet lives in Fair Play township, where he was born and has lived all his life, and is in his seventy-sixth year in 1908.
Samuel Simons, ex-commissioner and United Brethren preacher, who once lived where Lyons now is, was three times a widower, and each time concluded it was not best for man to live alone, and the last, time a widow of long acquaintance in his neighborhood was the center of his affections, and as old folks' courtships are generally short and mean business, so it was with Uncle Sam, as he was long and familiarly known. So early one summer morning he repaired to her home and gently rapped at her door. The door was opened, and with a friendly good morning, he was invited to come in and take a chair, to which he answered that he hadn't time and that he came to see if she would marry him. The good widow, somewhat astonished at the abrupt manner of popping the question, said she never had thought about it, but would think it over and give him an answer. Uncle Sam was bent on business and demanded an answeii in fifteen minutes and said he would sit down on the woodpile in front of her house and wait the time and answer while the good old lady whirled the wheel and drew out the long home-made yarns, for she was spinning when Uncle Sam called to see her. Time up, he went to the door, and laying one hand on each side of the door and asked what she had concluded to do, to which she replied that she would marry him. The proposition was no sooner accepted than Uncle Sam mounted his horse, and, on double-quick, started to Bloomfield for the license, returning the same day, and the two were married before the sun went down. Although both well advanced in years they lived long to enjoy the sweets of connubial bliss, as reported by a near neighbor.
ONE COAT ANSWERED FOR BOTH.
The following good story is related by Samuel Baldwin Harrah of one Adam Ridingbark and his son, Isaiah, of Shake-Rag settlement, near the Sullivan county line, who in 1832 married sisters, and both the same day and by the same justice of the peace, but with separate ceremonies. Between the two they had only one' coat, and the coat had to answer the purpose for each to be married in. The father claimed as he was the older he should have the use of the coat first, to which the son readily consented.
After the ceremony was over and the usual handshaking and congratulations were ended, the old man shed the coat and the son donned the "linsey-woolsey" and was soon made a happy bridegroom and the four started out with fair prospects for a happy never-ending- honeymoon. A few weeks or months after, the tune changed and Isaiah concluded if "sparing the rod would spoil the child," the same would be applicable with his wife, as he was not slow in frequently applying the birch to her as a gentle reminder that she must be subject to his control. Not content with his own way of running affairs, he hied away to parts1 unknown, leaving the young wife to stem the storms of life as best she could alone. But like the prodigal son, he found time to repent and return home to his rejected better half, who didn't care to meet with a fond embrace, or have a "fatted calf" killed for the occasion. The repentant asked permission to come into the house and lie down on the floor. The request was granted, and the good wife, to keep his clothes from getting soiled, spread on the floor a homemade tow-linen sheet for him to lie on. Wearied and wornout from loss of sleep and hunger, the offer was gladly accepted, and soon the truant husband fell into a deep slumber, from which he didn't awake until he found himself safely sewed up in the sheet the good wife so kindly spread on the floor for him to lie on. The wife, quick to instinct, seized the opportunity, and with a good cudgel proceeded to administer justice to the wayward husband in such a way as to leave a lasting impression and a call for faithful promises never to desert her or whip her again, if she would only set him at liberty.
On the 14th day of April, 1832, Elisha B. Cushman, a justice of the peace of Bloomfield, married Robert Inman and Rhoda Wines (afterward the father and mother of the writer's wife) at the residence of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wines, one mile west of where Linton now is. The distance from Bloomfield was about fifteen miles. Mr. Cushman rode over in the morning on horseback, married the happy couple and returned home in the evening and charged fifty cents for his services. The probability is that the justice of the peace had to pay twelve and one-half cents for ferryage, which reduced the amount to thirty-seven and onehalf cents. At that time ten-cent pieces hadn't come into general use. The wages of a day laborer then was about twenty-five cents, so the justice of the peace was ahead twelve and one-half cents and a good square dinner, such as was common in those days, when every farmer's table was spread with the best "grub" the country afforded in an abundance.
Mr. Cushman, the justice above mentioned, used to tell of. a couple that called at his office in 1842 to be married. After the ceremony had been performed the happy groom asked what the fee was, and was told that it was fifty cents. Not a little embarrassed he hardly knew what to do, as thirty-seven and one-half cents was the sum total of his pile. Bravery cheered him as he handed over the thirty-seven and one-half cents, and with a promise to pay the' remaining twelve and one-half cents, the first time he should see Mr. Cushman, and although they only lived a few miles away, it is hardly probable that he ever saw the justice again, as the sum was never paid. Samuel R. Cavins, who was clerk at the time, said Mr. Cushman came out better than he did, as the licenses were obtained on a credit, and never paid for. Mr. Cavins was noted for his generosity, and the poor never went from his door empty-handed.
The writer is reminded of a puncheon floor he saw in the eastern part of this, Greene county, where he attended a wedding in the spring of 1858, fifty years ago. In those days puncheon floors and clapboard doors were quite common, and good poplar timber was plenty, from which the puncheons were mostly made. The puncheons in the floor referred to were just five inches in width, three feet in each puncheon, and two lengths to the room. And the bride and groom and the justice of the peace who performed the ceremony, all stood on one puncheon, facing the long way of the room. The floor showed it had been in use many long years and was as white as soap, sand, water and a hickory broom could make it, for the occasion. The house hadn't a pane of glass in it, and doors stood open all times of the year to afford light. After the ceremony and the usual handshaking was over the blushing groom asked what the charge was and was told that as it was Sunday and the justice of the peace didn't have to come put a mile, he wouldn't charge but twenty-five cents. The fee was paid and the justice of the peace and wife and myself were invited to stay for dinner. The invitation was cheerfully accepted, and I shall never forget the nice biscuits, fried ham and eggs and tree molasses we had for dinner, and what made the dinner relish the more was that is was all cooked by an old-fashioned fireplace such as was common in those times when not one family in ten wanted or thought they could afford a cookstove and many believed they couldn't make as good bread by a stove as by the old-time fireplaces and the writer believes it too, especially the corndodgers with the finger prints in it, such as our dear old mothers used to make. The grand old poplar trees and log houses with puncheon floors and huge fireplaces, with their pots, skillets and frying pans sitting around, are about all gone, and our dear old mothers, too, are gone, in a space of fifty years.
SUGAR MAKING TIME.
By Henry Baker.
As the season of the year for maple sugar and syrup of the kind we used to have long years ago approaches, when men were honest, and when maple sugar and syrup didn't get into market three months before its season, a good story is in season as told by a doctor who was many years a resident of Indianapolis, and whose reputation for truthfulness and veracity was never doubted. Many of the good citizens of Indianapolis were no doubt acquainted with him.
In the midst of the season for maple syrup an old farmer, wearing a slouch hat and smoking a cob pipe, with his better half, seated in a home-made split-bottom chair, right from the rural district, drove into the city in a rickety old linchpin wagon, drawn by two old horses that compared favorably with the wagon and driver, a type of an old-time, honest farmer. In his wagon were about twenty gallon jugs corked with cobs, the novelty of which attracted the attention of the passers by. A location was sought close by the sidewalk, where there were many passing.
The old farmer alighted from his wagon and the good wife handed the jugs out, and they were placed in a huddle, and the announcement was made, "Tree molasses, one dollar a gallon, and ten cents for the jug."
Enquiry was made of the honest old farmer if it was genuine. The answer was, "Taste it," and it was tasted, and each with a gusto smack pronounced it all right. "It's the Val' stuff." And one old man happening along who had spent his early days on a farm was asked to sample the molasses.
A taste and a smack, with an honest wink that it was all right, satisfied the crowd that had formed a circle around the jugs that they had a rare- treat before them.
A stampede ensued as to which should be the first to get a jug, and the old farmer was kept busy handing out jugs and receiving his pay. And soon all were gone and several were sadly disappointed at being too late. And one expressed his disappointment by saying he guessed he was born in the dark of the moon.
After the sale was over the old farmer knocked the ashes from his cob pipe and filled it anew, and with a smile assured his patrons that he would return in a few days with another load and would then pay each one ten cents for all jugs returned.
The honest old farmer from the rural "districts" wended his way home, but was never heard of after, and each lucky buyer no doubt, as he wended his way home with a jug in each hand, fancied how he would sop both sides of his pancakes for a long time to come, but their fancies ended in disappointment when they found their jugs had been filled almost to the top with cheap sorghum, with just a taste of hickory-bark tree molasses at the mouth of each jug, as a taste for the lucky buyers. Dr. Minich spent several years of the last of his life at Worthington.
SMALLPOX IN THE EARLY DAYS.
By Henry Baker.
In the summer of 1843 the family of Eli Faucett, living near the old Fellows mill, had the smallpox in the very worst form. Joshua Roach, James Elder and my father and mother were the only persons in the neighborhood who had had the disease and that could minister to their wants or visit them save the doctor in attendance. The mother died and the father lost his sight from the effects of the disease. Mrs. Faucett was buried at the family graveyard on the farm a few hundred yards from the residence. Mrs. Faucett was a large woman, weighing over two hundred pounds. My father made the coffin and with the help of my mother put the corpse in the coffin, and Mr. Elder and my father and mother carried the coffin and corpse to the grave, which had been made by the neighbors, and after depositing the coffin in the grave those who dug the grave came and filled it up.
In carrying to the grave Mr. Elder and my father carried the front end almost balanced on a hand-spike, and my mother followed behind and carried the head of the coffin. How they managed to lower it into the grave I never fully understood, though probably on the balancing of the rope or lines the same as the carrying of the coffin and corpse. Considering the weight it was a herculean undertaking.
Mrs. John Ruth, who died a few years ago, was the youngest of the family and the last to be called away. Dr. Heacock was the physician in attendance. Some of the old people about Bloomfield may have a recollection of him. Sixty-five years have made many changes.
THE PIONEER'S LIQUOR.
By Henry Baker.
It froze up on him in the winter and soured on him in summer.
The worst evil we had in early times, and we have it yet, only in a more gigantic way, was that of intemperance. There was no beer, but whisky straight and whisky hot, whisky cold, and it served two purposes beside making drunk. In the summer it drove the heat out, and in the winter it drove the cold out, but it didn't kill offhand as it does now. Cheap whisky was made at cheap distilleries, or still houses, as they were termed, and sold cheap, or exchanged for corn, two gallons of whisky for one bushel of corn, and it was considered almost a prime necessity in eve/y home. One old man I well knew, who loved his dram dearly, was a frequent patron of one of these cheap still houses, though he lived several miles distant. He would take a sack of shelled corn on horseback and go to the still house and exchange it for four gallons of the one thing needful, and the amount would last him about a month. At last, tired of doing business on so small a scale, he decided to take a wagon load in the fall and get a barrel, as he thought that would last a whole year. The exchange was made and the barrel was carefully set away in his smoke house, where he could draw at his liking, but when cold weather set in, and he needed warming up every day, his hopes were frustrated, for the cheap whisky froze up and his labor and corn were gone. He was not slow in notifying the distiller of his loss and demanded reparation. The distiller, not wishing to have his business reputation wrecked, told him he would make another barrel in the spring that would be all right. Agreeable to promise, the barrel was filled again and placed in the smoke house and better times dawned once more on the old man. But alas! when the weather warmed, the whisky soured and the old man's hopes were again frustrated. If the same grade of whisky was made now it would be a God-send to the country.
OLD PIONEER HORSEBACK MAIL CARRIER.
By Henry Baker.
James Stalcup, an old pioneer horseback mail carrier, died at the home of Thatcher Stalcup in Washington township a few years ago, aged eighty years. "Uncle Jim," as he was familiarly known, was a son of Thomas Stalcup, one of the first settlers in Washington township, where he made the entry of the land in 1818, that for many years past has been known as the Charley Harwood farm. Here "Uncle Jim" was born in 1819, when Washington township was almost an unbroken wilderness and the nearest neighbor was Thomas Plummer, three miles distant. A family now three miles away would hardly be known as a neighbor. Washington township at that time, and for many years after, was the center of attraction for hunters for many miles around, as game of all kinds was more plentiful there than elsewhere. Mr. Stalcup's family were all noted hunters, and could report the capture of more game than any other family that ever lived in the township, or perhaps in the county —except it might be Emmanuel Hatfield, whose equal was not known in the state.
As there were several Jim Stalcups, as well as Elis and Tommys, confusion sometimes grew out of the same, and to avoid mistakes he was called "Honest Jim," or, "Watermelon Jim," as he was a noted hand at raising watermelons—hence the name.
In early times mails were nearly all carried on horseback, and "Uncle Jim" embarked in the business when quite a young man and said he would rather carry mails than to eat when he was hungry. His routes were where he got the best wages, as he hired to contractors, and this he followed many years.
About 1852 he began carrying the mail from Washington to Point Commerce, forty miles, and by the way of Owl Prairie, Newberry, Bloomfield, Fair Play and Worthington. Over this route he carried until about the time of the completion of the Indianapolis & Vincennes Railroad, about eighteen years. In the travel between the two points named he made the trip once a week each way, eighty miles, and in the time he traveled over sixty thousand miles, more than twice the distance around the world, or over six times the distance from New York to San Francisco.
He had a constitution that never showed defect until he passed the meridian of life. High water was all that ever prevented him from delivering mails on time. One time on the way from Washington to Newberry in time of high water he came to a stream that was full and beyond the banks, and, not knowing the exact route, he decided to try his horse's swimming faculties, so he plunged into the water and swam across without wetting the mail, and upon arriving at Newberry, wet as water could make him, the postmaster, seeing his situation, asked him how it happened that he didn't get the mail wet, to which he replied that he carried the mail bag on the top of his head while his horse swam across the stream with him on its back.
"Uncle Jim" was a bachelor and an honest man. His memory will long be revered by all who knew him.
COFFINS IN EARLY TIMES.
By Henry Baker.
The first white man buried in Eel River township was John Banyan, who was buried in a poplar trough made expressly for the occupant. Mrs. Josephine Andrews, widow of the late William C. Andrews, one of the founders of Worthington in 1849, a daughter of James Stalcup, one of the first settlers in Greene county, tells how her father said many of the first coffins in the county were made of hickory bark, if at a time of the year when the bark would peel, which was May, June and July. The bark of the hickory is very thick, and by chopping the bark off around a tree of sufficient size, about a foot from the ground, and again about six or seven feet up the tree, to suit the height of the corpse, and then, by splitting the bark up and down the tree, the bark could be taken off in a whole piece. It was then placed in the grave with the open side spread open enough to lay the corpse in, when the bark was closed up and the hickory bark coffin was completed and the grave was ready to fill up. It will be remembered this was before the days of a hearse or of embalming or of high-priced burial outfits such as are now common.
Other times of the year troughs were dug out of solid logs or boxes were made out of clapboards riven out of the finest white oak tree the world ever produced. This, too, was before the days of sawmills of any kind where lumber could be had, although the price of lumber was very low. Often it was the case that many were not able to pay for the lumber in a coffin so were compelled to take the cheap kind of coffins, bark, clapboards and troughs, as above mentioned. About the first sawmills in the country were at Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Bloomington and Vincennes. A few years later mills sprung up on the streams farther out in the wilds, which were hailed with approval of all the early pioneers, whose lot it was to encounter many hardships and privations incident to the settlement of a new country.
About the first water power saw and grist mill in the county was built about 1820 by Col. Levi Fellows on Plummer creek in Plummer township, so named after the building of the Fellows mill. The writer's father was a cabinet maker by trade and made many coffins along in the forties from lumber sawed at the old Fellows mill when prices ranged from fifty cents for a child's coffin to one and two dollars for large sizes. The cost of the material used in the making was from fifteen to twenty-five and fifty cents each and it was found that the prices, were about all that could be paid, as times were hard, and money scarce.
Contrast the prices as compared with the present prices. A plain, flat lid covered the whole coffin. A lot of fine, soft shavings was generally put in the bottom of the coffin for the body to lie on. Sometimes before screwing the lid on, a little piece of cheap muslin was tacked over an extra lot of shavings in the head of the coffin for a pillow, and it was a very nice pillow indeed. The screws used were the common wood screws, and often in their place nails were used. As an extra the coffin was lined from the head down to the bend. The corpse, where the family could afford it, was always dressed in a white shroud or winding sheet made by the women or girls of the neighborhood, who always donated this work, as did the neighbors in digging the grave.
Sweet milk and venetian red applied with a rag made a very nice finish for coffins, after a vigorous rubbing with a handful of fine soft shavings. Sometimes, when this cheap paint or stain couldn't be had, a very good substitute was found in summer berries bruised in water and applied with a cloth, which gave a violet color. The first raised lid coffin I ever saw was made by my father in 1848 for Alexander Gault, one of our old-time teachers, who gave orders for my father to make his coffin and not to spare any pains or expense. It was of white walnut, and was said to have been the nicest coffin ever made in the neighborhood, or, perhaps, in the county, and the cost was six dollars. Six dollars now wouldn't pay for a pauper's coffin.
I don't think my father ever received cash in full for a coffin of any kind. Payment was generally made in a few bushels of wheat or corn, or perhaps work, as best he could get, and very often getting nothing. The coffins for my father and mother, who died in the fall of 1861, only three weeks apart, were made of walnut and cost four dollars each and were considered nice, and were made by a regular cabinet maker, whose trade it was to make coffins. Coffins required but little skill in the making, as they were generally very plain. About 1855 the first hearse was brought to the county, and embalming was many years after, and it was many years later on before any one thought of making a charge for digging graves without it was in the cities or large towns. And the neighbors kindly tendered the use of their wagons and team to go for the coffins and also conveyed the coffin and corpse to the grave free of charge, so it will be seen that funeral expenses were very light as compared with the present times. In the spring of 1842, when the mud was knee-deep and roads almost impassable, two men came four miles through the mud with an ox team hitched to a sled to my father's shop and wanted a coffin made as quickly as possible. The order was filled in two hours or less time and placed on the sled and the team waded through the mud as best they could to the house where lay the corpse, and after placing the corpse in the coffin, the coffin and corpse were placed on the sled and followed to the grave by the sorrowing relatives and friends, most of whom were on foot, as the roads were almost unfit for travel in any other way, as was often the case in early times.
Biographical memoirs of Greene County, Ind. B.F. Bowen Co 1908
Source: FHL 1351156
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