(BY W. H. Peerin, Esq.)
JENNINGS COUNTY lies in the southern part of Indiana. It was organized in 1816, and named for Jonathan Jennings, the first Governor of Indiana, after it was admitted into the Union as a State. It is bounded on the north by Bartholomew and Decatur counties, on the east by Ripley, on the south by Jefferson and Scott, and on the west by Jackson and Bartholomew. It contains 375 square miles, and by the census of 1880 it had 16,453 population. The surface bordering the streams is broken, while rich alluvial valleys, and high table-lauds or "flats" form the water-shed between the streams. The ground is well drained by Big Creek, which washes the county on the southwest; Big and Little Graham, uniting below San Jaciuto; the north or west fork of the Muscatatuck, which unites with the South Fork at Old Vernon; Sand Creek, rising in Decatur county, flowing through the western part of this county, with its various branches, Rock, Nettle, Wyalusing, Rat Tail, Bear and other small tributaries, making one of the main feeders of the White river; Coffee, Six Mile, Tea, Ice, Storm, Wolf, etc.
Heavy timber originally covered the county. The timbered lands were of two different kinds; first the " flats," which were covered with large and tall timber—white oak, beech, gum, soft maple, burr oak, hickory, and some other varieties, with a thick undergrowth in many sections, interwoven with native grape-vines. Second, the rolling land, where the timber is white oak, black oak, beech, sugar tree, linden, ash, black walnut, white walnut, cherry, poplar, with an undergrowth on rich bottoms of pawpaw and an occasional large sassafras. On the bottom lands along the streams, sycamore, hackberry, elm and buckeye flourish. These forests have, as a general thing, been stripped of the best timber. The white oak has been extensively cut for staves, the upper parts of the trees being left to decay upon the ground. In some sections the native forests remain untouched, and from these may be formed some conception of their vigorous growth.
A killing frost which
May 8th, 1833, is still vividly remembered by many of the older people.
The timber in certain localities was much injured. On the "west flats"
the beech growth was nearly entirely killed and in other places the
tops of the white oaks were killed. Coming so late in the season and
being so severe, all the fruit in this section was killed, except a few
varieties of late, hardy apples. A frost so late in the season is rare
in this latitude and is productive of great harm. It also becomes a
kind of chronological event from which all neighborhood happenings date.
Productions.—As a general rule, the rolling lands bordering the numerous streams are more productive than the flats. Bordering on Sand Creek, North and South Forks of the Muscatatuck, and Big and Little Graham, are rich alluvial bottoms yielding bounteous corn crops. In fact, all the small streams of Coffee Creek have more or less of such lands along their borders. The principal productions are corn, wheat, oats, rye, buckwheat and hay. The following are the crop statistics, according to the census of 1880: Corn, 651,119 bushels; wheat, 159,358 bushels; oats, 67,904 bushels; buckwheat, 1,280 bushels; hay, 9,919 tons; Irish potatoes, 34,611 bushels; value of orchard products, $26,117. A considerable area is in pasture and large numbers of mules, horses and cattle are raised for the Cincinnati and other markets. Large numbers of hogs are fattened for the various
markets. The same statistics (census of 1880) show the following: Horses, 4,816 head; cattle, 12,456; hogs, 22,273; sheep, 9,354; wool, 53,436 pounds. The disease known as " hog cholera," is sometimes quite prevalent and the most practical farmers attribute the disease to parasites which find lodgment in the intestines of the hog, and fin-:lly develop themselves into worms, which destroys its health and terminates in death.
Fruit culture is becoming more and more extensive every year and the soil proves that it is a good fruit region. The usual varieties of summer and winter apples do well; occasionally, cherries and pears. Peaches are not extensively grown. Wild blackberries grow in profusion, and are quite a source of income at some points, also wild grapes. Strawberries are successfully cultivated in certain localities.
The most valuable minerals
of this county are
building stone, limestone for lime, brick and tile clay. The continuous
beds of North Vernon blue limestone are very valuable and extend over a
large area of the county. The amount
this stone quarried for the Cincinnati Southern railroad bridge, over
the Ohio river, besides a great many other shipments which are
constantly being made from the various quarries, has given employment
to a large number of hands within the county. "
The layers of blue limestone," says Mr. W. W. Borden, "will alone, in
the course of time, bring an
immense revenue, while immediately below are the white limestone layers
which afford good material for white quick-lime. * * * Below the white
limestone are the Niagara rocks, which are noted for making good lime
and for building and nagging purposes. Good (ocherous) clay, suitable
for red brick is found convenient to all the large towns. Sand for all
ordinary purposes is to be found along all the streams throughout the county."
Few are aware that gold exists in Indiana, but it does in almost every part of it. It nowhere exists, however, in sufficient quantities to pay for working it. It was found in greater quantity in the bed of the south fork of the Muscatatuck river than anywhere else, in the black sand washed down from the glacial drift of the uplands, and at one time the excite- ment occasioned by its discovery was very great.
Settlements.—Jennings County was settled principally from the Southern States—most of the early settlers coming from Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, with a number of families from Kentucky. They were of that hardy class whose trials and hardships were as nothing compared to the longing desire to possess a home of their own. They had come from States where the bane of slavery rendered the poor man's lot a hard and disagreeable one. Hence, to obtain a home in the distant West, where slavery would never disturb the peace and tranquil- ity of their settlements was the dream
of their life, and when the end was accomplished they would not have been willing to exchange their little unpretending home for the slave-owner's acres and slaves. They did not come in great rushing crowds as emigrants now go West, on railroad trains, but they come on foot, in ox-wagons, on horseback and, in fact, any way they could get here. But without following them in all the hardships and vicissitudes of their settlement, we will leave them and their descendants to the pleasures and enjoyments their courage and perseverance have won them.
County Organization.—Jennings County was organized in 1816. Following is the act of the Legislature for its formation:
An act for the formation of a new County out of the Counties of Jackson and Jefferson, and for other purposes.
1.—Be it enacted by the
General Assembly of the State of Indiana,
from and after the first day of February next, all that part of the
counties of Jackson and Jefferson which is included in the following
bounds, shall form and constitute a new county
is to say), beginning on the line of the Grouseland Purchase, at the
intersection of the line dividing ranges six and seven east; thence
south with said line to the line dividing townships III and IV north;
thence east six miles; thence north six miles; thence east with another
township line four miles; thence north two miles ; thence east two
thence north two miles; thence east two miles; thence north two miles;
thence east with the line dividing townships V and VI north to the
southeast corner of section thirty-one in township VI north, range X
east ; thence north with the sectional line to the Indian boundary
line; thence westwardly with said line to the place of beginning.
2.—The said new county shall, on and after the first day of February next, be known and designated by the name and style of the county of Jennings, and it shall enjoy all the rights and privileges and jurisdiction which to a separate county does or may properly appertain and belong, Provided always, that all suits, pleas, plaints, actions and proceedings which may, before the said first day of February next, have been commenced, instituted, and pending within the now counties, of Jackson and Jefferson, shall be prosecuted to find judgment and effect in the same manner as if this act had never been passed, Provided also, that the State and county's levies and taxes which are now due within the bounds of said new county, shall be collected and paid in the same manner and by the same affairs as they would have been if the erection of said new county had not taken effect.
Simington and Daniel Searles of Jefferson county,
William Cranshear of Jackson county,
Thomas Carr, of Clark county, and
Elijah Golay, of Switzerland county, be
4. The Board of Commissioners of said new county, shall within twelve mouths after the permanent seat of justice be established, proceed to erect the necessary public buildings thereon.
5. Until suitable accommodations can be had, in the opinion of the Circuit Court at the seat of justice of said new county, all the courts of justice shall be holden at the house of John Vawter in said county; after which time the Circuit Court and all the courts necessary to be held at the county-seat shall be adjourned to the same.
6. The said new county of Jennings, be, and the same is hereby attached to, and shall form a part of the third circuit; and the Circuit Courts shall be holdeuin the said County of Jennings, three times in each year hereafter, and shall commence on the first Mondays of April, July and November, and shall sit six days at each term, unless the business shall be sooner dispatched.
7. Whenever the seat of justice within the County of Jennings shall have been established, the person or persons authorized to dispose of, and sell the lots at the seat of justice, shall reserve ten per centum on the net proceeds of the whole sale for the use of a county library in said county, which sum or sums of money shall be paid over to such person or persons as may be authorized to receive the same, in such manner and in such installments as shall be authorized by law.
Two or three more sections
follow but are not specially pertinent to the formation of the county. The act was approved December 27th,
1816, and was signed:
have been established, the person or persons authorized to dispose of, and sell the lots at the seat of justice, shall reserve ten per centum on the net proceeds of the whole sale for the use of a county library in said county, which sum or sums of money shall be paid over to such person or persons as may be authorized to receive the same, in such manner and in such installments as shall be authorized by law.
Two or three more sections follow but are not specially pertinent to the formation of the county. The act was approved December 27th, 1816, and was signed:
Speaker of House of Representatives. Christopher Harrison,
President of the Senate. Jonathan Jennings,
The county was organized under the foregoing act, officers elected and all the legal machinery set in motion. Vernon was fmally chosen as the county seat, and the public buildings erected according to the act of the Legislature.
Vernon.—The county seat of Jennings county, is beautifully situated at the junction of the North and South forks of the Muscatatuck river, and on the Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis railroad. It is a rather dull old town of 616 inhabitants by the last census (1880), but has a sound and solid foundation from a financial and business standpoint. The court
house is a handsome brick structure, with white limestone trimmings, obtained from the neighboring cpjarries, and was built under the supervision of Isaac Hodgson, of Indianapolis. There is, and has been, considerable manufacturing done in Vernon, among which may be mentioned spoke and hub factory ; foundry and plow shop; stave and heading factory; woolen and flouring mill; wagons and buggies; pumps and rakes ; etc., etc., etc.
North Vernon, the largest and most prosperous town in the county, is situated at the junction of the Louisville division of the Ohio and Mississippi railroad, with the main line, and the crossing of the Madison branch of the J. M. rail road. It had a population of 1,842 by the census of 1880 and is a brisk business town. The manufacturing interests are flouring mills, furniture and planing mills, woolen mills, chair factories, and others of lesser note. The town is well supplied with churches and schools; the church denominations being Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Catholics ; and a large and fine school house being located here, with an excellent graded school.
Other villages and hamlets are Scipio, situated on the J. M. & I. railroad ; Queensville is located on the same road, and between the latter place and North Vernon; Paris is an old town
" A place for idle eyes and ears,
A cob webbed nook of
The stranded village seems situated on the bluffs of Graham creek; Paris Crossing is on the O. & M. railroad, and is a live little place; Commisky, Sherman, and Lovett are located on the O. & M., south of North Vernon; Butlersville and Nebraska are east of North Vernon on the O. & M. and do a large mill and lumber business; Zenas is situated on the North Fork of the Muscatatuck, in Columbia township; Brewersville is situated on Sand Creek, and Hardinburg on the O. & M. railroad. These are all small places.
Railroads. — Jennings county is well supplied with railroads and North Vernon, its principal town, is quite a railroad center. The main line of the Ohio & Mississippi railroad crosses the county from east to west, and is intersected by the Louisville division at North Vernon, where it is also crossed by the Madison division of the J. M. & I. These roads have been of great benefit to the county in moving its surplus produce and facilitating trade; also of causing a number of small manufacturing enterprises to spring up in various sections of the county which give employment to many people, and are the means of distributing considerable money in business circles. Upon the whole, the county is doing well and is in a most prosperous condition.