(Transcribed from Early Indiana
Trials and Sketches by Oliver Hampton Smith)
CAPT. VANCE held his first commission in the Army from General
Washington, was in many hard
fought battles, the "bravest of the brave,"
present in the midst of St. Clair's defeat, fought with Gen. Anthony Wayne in his campaigns
against the Indians, and afterward
Fort Washington. The war over, Captain Vance
returned to civil life, married Miss Lawrence, a grand-daughter of General St. Clair, became proprietor
of Lawrenceburgh and named the
town for his wife. The person of Capt. Vance was tall and
his face large, his nose of the
Roman cast, his eye light, his hair
with a cue hanging down his back, his forehead high and
slightly retreating : his nature was frank, noble, magnanimous and generous. He was the father of Lawrence
M. Vance, of Indianapolis. Capt.
Vance died years since, honored and respected by all who knew him.
GENERAL JAMES DILL was my preceptor. He was frank and open in his intercourse with others, about
the common height, wore a long cue,
with taste, features good, eyelids heavy, hair thrown back in front. The General married a
daughter of Gen. St. Clair, was
many years Secretary of the Senate, and Clerk of the Dearborn Circuit Court. The General has long
since left us.
Harrison I will speak in his proper connection.
About the same
time I became acquainted with Judge Isaac Dunn, of
Lawrenceburgh, a native of New Jersey, one of the prominent men of the State. The Judge was Speaker
of the House of Representatives, and
many years Associate Judge of the Dearborn Circuit Court.
He married a sister of John H. Piatt, of Cincinnati. Judge Dunn was one of the most energetic men
the State ever had in it, good
common sense, clear intellect and sound judgment, with a pure moral and religious character. He still
enjoys a green old age.
JUDGE JOHN WATTS, another of the pioneers of Indiana, I must number with my early friends. Judge
Watts was a Baptist preacher. His
person was large and fleshy. He was the predecessor of Judge Eggleston on the circuit bench; was
plain in his dress and manners, of
a strong, clear mind, hospitable and liberal, friendly to all, and always courteous to the bar. He was the
father of Col. Johnson Watts,
Dearborn, and Judge John S. Watts, of New Mexico. Judge
Watts has years since gone to his reward, beloved by all who knew him.
MORRIS MORRIS, of Indianapolis, was one of the prominent early emigrants from Kentucky, that settled in
the woods where the Capital now
The first time the court was held at Indianapolis, I became
acquainted with Mr. Morris, then residing in a small cabin on Pogue's Run. In person Mr. Morris was
tall, over six feet high, fine
form, dark complexion, good eye, fine features. Mr. Morris was many years Auditor of State, and
discharged the duties with great fidelity.
He was an ardent Methodist, and his door was ever hospitably open to the itinerant ministers who
called upon him. Mr. Morris is
the father of Austin W. Morris, Col. Thomas A. Morris, and John Morris, of Indianapolis. He still lives.
I saw him yesterday, venerable and
aged, trembling, as it were, on the brink of the grave.
Let me not forget
my early friend. Colonel THOMAS H. BLAKE, whose
residence in Indiana dated back to the territory. Col. Blake came to Indiana from Washington City,
where his father was at one time
mayor. The Col. held the offices of Judge of the Circuit Court, Representative in Congress, colleague of
mine, Commissioner of the General
Land Office, in all of which he most faithfully discharged his duty. The person of Col. Blake was fine,
very fine, of the first class mold
; six feet high, straight as an arrow, head erect, grace in every
movement, intelligence beaming from
his countenance, a smile on his
and a warm grasp of the hand. In the whole range of my personal acquaintances I never knew a
more perfect gentleman, nor a
man of a higher sense of honor. The Col. died comparatively a young man.
JONATHAN JOHN, of Connersville, can not be forgotten. He was one of my early cherished friends. A
word to his memory. Mr. John
was an early settler, a noble Kentuckian, honest, frank, kind, sincere, a good farmer, his house a
welcome home to all who sought it.
was the intimate friend of John Conner, the proprietor of the town. Mr. John died years ago; for his
kindness to me, I sketch this
tribute to his memory.
JOHN CONNER, the proprietor of Connersville, was one of Nature's strong men. Taken by the Shawnee Indians
when a mere youth, he was
raised and educated in Indian life, language, and manners. When dressed in their costume, and
painted, it was difficult to distinguish him
from a real savage. On one occasion, as he told me, he came to Andersontown, then the lodge of
a large band of Indians, under
Chief Anderson. He was dressed and painted as a Shawnee, and pretended to be a Representative of
Tecumseh. As is usual with
the Indians, he took his seat on a
log barely in sight of the Indian encampment,
quietly smoked his pipe, waiting the action of Anderson and his under chiefs. After an hour he
saw approaching the old chief
himself, in full dress, smoking his pipe. I give his language. " As the old chief walked up to me I rose
from my seat, looked him in
the eyes, we exchanged pipes, and walked down to the lodge smoking,
without a word. I was pointed
to a bear skin, took my seat, with my
back to the chiefs. A few minutes after, I noticed an Indian by the name of Gillaway, who knew me well,
eyeing me closely. I tried to
evade his glance, when he bawled out in the Indian language, at the top of his voice, interpreted, ' You
great Shawnee Indian, you John
Conner.' The next moment the camp was in a perfect roar of laughter. Chief Anderson ran up to
me, throwing off his dignity. ' You
great Representative of Tecumseh,' and burst out in a loud laugh." Mr. Conner was an active,
prominent, honest man, represented his
county in the Senate, and gave the casting vote in favor of the ballot system of voting. He was
father of William W. Conner, of
Hamilton county. He long since departed this life.
His brother WILLIAM CONNER was taken
and educated by the Indians
at the same time, was intimately acquainted with the great Shawnee chief, Tecumseh. He spoke the
language of many of the tribes,
as interpreter at several treaties, was with General Harrison at Fort Meigs, marched up the Maumee
with the army, was in the
battle of the Thames, and was the first man that recognized the dead Tecumseh on the battle-field, after
the action. I have often heard
tell the story of the battle. To the question, " who killed Tecumseh?" his answer invariably was, "
General Harrison and Col. Johnson,
commanders; no one ever knew who fired the gun that killed
him." This, I have no doubt, was the truth. Col. Johnson, in my presence, always avoided the
question, and I have yet to learn from
any reliable source that he ever said he shot the Shawnee chief, in person. William Conner, like
his brother John, was a man of
great good sense, of indomitable energy in early life. He was many years a Representative in the
Legislature from Hamilton, of strict
integrity and high honor. He was the father of Richard J. Conner, and Alexander H. Conner, of
Indianapolis. Mr. Conner died
a few years since at an advanced age, highly respected by his numerous acquaintances.
JUDGE WILLIAM HELM, of Fayette, was another of the first settlers of the Whitewater Valley. I class him
among my most valued early friends.
Judge was a Kentuckian, deeply imbued with the hospitality
of his countrymen. He was a strong and a good man. The
Judge was many years on the circuit bench of his county; his judgment was sound, and his integrity
above question. He was the father
Meredith Helm, of Fayette, Dr. Jefferson Helm, of Rush, and Robert D. Helm, of Wabash. The Judge
long since departed this
With these brief
charcoal sketches of individuals, I must ask the reader
to excuse me from noticing others. My space will not permit me to extend them, as I design hereafter
to sketch scenes and persons of
more general interest.