SKETCH OF VERMILLION COUNTY.
W. W. HIBBEN, Historian.
The county of Vermillion, which is one of the most fertile of any in
the State, is worthy of special notice for its interesting historical
record, its beautiful physical scenery, its agricultural products, and
for its rich and immense mineral resources.
It is bounded on the north by Warren county; on the east by Fountain
and Parke counties, with the channel of the Wabash river as its
boundary line; on the south by Vigo county, and on the west by Edgar
and Vermillion Counties of the State of Illinois. It is thirty-six
miles long, and varies in breadth from five to ten miles, with an
average of a little less than seven miles, thus including an area of
two hundred and forty-nine square miles.
Of this area from one-fourth to one-third consists of the rich
productive bottoms and terraces of the valleys of the Wabash and its
affluents, the Big and Little Vermillions, and Norton Creek.
Its attractions of beautiful, picturesque scenery are equal to any
oilier county in the State. The modest meanderings of the classic old
Wabash, which ever and anon are hiding their silvery waters away amid
the luxurious foliage of the forest trees, give to its eastern border a
lineal presentation of romantic beauty such as attracts universal
attention; while the long range of bench-hills, which skirt the west of
this garden valley, throw along its railroad line a continued display
of panoramic, rural beauty, which, without any coloring, might be
termed "the lovely valley of the West."
The main terrace, or second bottom, is especially developed between
Perryville and Newport—an order of nature resulting, probably, from the
combined action of the two main affluents, which join the Wabash within
The terrace is here from one to four miles wide, furnishing a broad
stretch of rich farming lands, and has an average elevation of about
forty feet above the more immediate bottoms.
Below the town of Newport, the bluffs approach the river so closely
that this famed terrace is almost obliterated, and even the bottoms
become somewhat narrowed and unattractive.
At the mouth of Little Raccoon Creek, the bottoms set in again in a
wider form, though the terrace assumes no considerable extent until we
reach the head of Helt Prairie, about six miles north of Clinton,
whence it stretches southward with an average width of from two to
three miles. It narrows again about three miles below Clinton, as we
approach the mouth of Brouillet's Creek and the county line.
THE AZTEC MOUNDS.
The fact that these whole beautiful regions were once, perhaps, densely
inhabited by an extinct race, gives, even now, an interest to the
country that inspires one with a sort of reverential awe as he looks
out upon the numerous "mounds " which still lift their quiet and
unpretending elevations, here and there, after having been washed by
the rain storms of centuries, as if they were, or had been preserved by
the Grand Architect of the universe Himself, that all succeeding
generations of people might learn that any race which might thereafter
become denizens of this lower world,
" Build too low,
who build beneath the skies."
In company with Hon. John Collett, an intelligent gentleman of this
county, and to whom we are indebted for a vast amount of our historical
notes, we visited a number of these mounds which lay thickly scattered
over his farm, as if there the ancient Aztec had once held empire when
his race was in the zenith of their glory. The lost history of this
once wonderful people can now only be gathered up in scattered and
broken fragments as they are seen, at the present time, over the
various plains of the West.
What precise purpose these mounds were built for, of course may now
only be guessed at. But the evidence is sufficient to satisfy any one
that they were in some way connected with the burial of their
dead. At least there are evidences of such use to be found
in the fact that bones are found in nearly all of them that have been
examined. Still these bones may have belonged to the subsequent race of
the red man who, as is supposed, exterminated the former.
These mounds are of different circumferences and of various heights.
None that we have seen, save those at Marietta, Ohio, are of any
remarkable elevation at the present time. Whether all these works had
their origin among the Indians, or are the monumental relics of a lost
race, such as the Aztecs, is a historical question which as yet has
never been satisfactorily settled.
Looking over those in Vermillion county, and remembering that they may
be thousands of years old, one would naturally presume that they had
some connection with war or were intended as burial places for the dead.
In his able report of 1870, Prof. John Collett says:
"When first explored by the white race this county was occupied by
savage Indians, without fixed habitations, averse to labor, and
delighting only in war and the chase. Their misty
traditions did not reach back to a previous people or age.
"But numerous earth-works arc found in this region, of such extent as
to require, for their construction, time and the persistent labor of
many people. Situated on the river bluffs, their location combines
picturesque scenery, susceptibility of defense, and convenience to
transportation, water, and productive lands. These are not requisites
in the nomadic life of the red man, and identify the Mound Builders as
a more ancient and partially civilized and agricultural people."
Here in Vermillion, these mounds, though not so high as in other parts,
may be counted by hundreds.
Prof. Collett says, "that over one hundred of these small mounds, from
two to four feet high, may be seen about one mile north-west of
Middletown, in Vigo county."
On the Hunt farm, conical knolls of loess have been artificially
rounded and used for sepulchral purposes. One of these contained at the
summit, seventy feet above its base, a burial vault, three stories high
; on each floor from five to seven human skeletons were found.
On Mr. Drake's lands, in the same county, there are two large mounds,
one two hundred feet in diameter and eighteen feet high ; the other
twenty-eight feet high, covering an elliptic base one hundred and
eighty feet wide and three hundred feet long. The contents of the two
mounds amount to nearly 30,000 cubic yards, and at present contract
prices for earth-work would cost five thousand dollars.
"All the mounds which have come under my notice," continues Mr.
Collett, "are located so as to secure an out-look toward sunrise,
confirming the belief that the fires of the sun-worshippers have blazed
upon every mound-capped eminence in the great valley of the Continent."
That these mound-builders were worshippers of the sun is
circumstantially probable, and that these mounds in some way were used
as cemeteries of the dead is as fully corroborated, as the ashes and
mineralized bones of the mound-builders have been found at their base,
while near the surface the remains of the more modern red man have been
The lands of this Western Hemisphere, it seems, have not been left
without their inhabitants. Their histories are recorded in the ruined
wrecks of their ancient temples as seen in Central America, and in the
mounds and grand earth-works of the plains and terraces of the great
North. To their labors and mode of living many attribute the beautiful
prairie sceneries of the West. What they did, showed that they were
endowed with the intelligence of an honorable enterprise in accordance
with their attainments in civilization, and their mysterious
disappearance and total extinction tell us that they, like ourselves,
were only mortal, and that this life at best is only a temporary scene.
To look now upon all that is left of these ancient denizens of our
country may be mournful and melancholy, but yet it has a lesson in it,
as far as it goes, as deep as the philosophy of human life, and as full
of the moral of eternal truth as even the stereotyped letters of our
present inspired volumes.
THE SAVAGE RED MAN.
Even the record of the red man is wrapped in mystery. Hence his origin,
like his own wild spirit, has never been fully or satisfactorily
comprehended. A native of the woods, he partook for ages of
the savage wildness of the ferocious beasts of the forests, and making
his living by hunting the weaker animals than himself—blood became his
chief currency cf trade, and he grew familiar with barbarity and savage
warfare long before the white man crossed his path. What he was in
history and in the long genealogy of his tribes, we of the present day
can not now tell. It is only in contemporary history that we read
anything of his doings, and therefore we are left to class him in his
origin with the mound builders or the Aztecs, whose records are only
seen in the dilapidated ruins of the past ages.
With but few exceptions, the settlement of the whites, all over the
continent, has been associated with the conflicts of savage warfare,
where neither age nor sex was respected, or the laws of civilized
The savage claimed the whole boundless continent as his, and so indeed
it was, and when the white man came upon his hunting ground he declared
him an intruder, and made war upon him—just as we civilized people
would do now. But the Indian was a savage, with no knowledge of the
arts and sciences and the higher Christian civilizations of the white
man. Hence, he must be driven out in some way—if it even had to be done
by war. The improvidence of the Indian, together with his savage
barbarities opened the way to apparently justify the white man's
attack, and the receding footsteps of the red man have long told the
results of the conflict. The light of the western sun directed his
retreating footsteps until he lost his vested rights, and now it may be
said of him, live where he may, that he is only a " tenant at
will." The white man now owns the continent.
When the white man first came to this grand Wabash Valley, he found it
everywhere populated with various savage tribes. Here and there were
their wigwam villages, while forest and prairie, creeks and rivers,
mountains and valleys, constituted their unlimited hunting grounds.
The coming of the white man among them made them fear, for they knew he
had fire-arms, powder and lead, while they only had the bow and arrow,
the tomahawk and scalping-knife. The white man's weapons they dreaded
in open battle, and hence they early adopted the guerrilla mode of
warfare, which soon educated the whites to hunt him down and put him to
death as if he had been but a wild beast.
The southern portion of this county was occupied, when first visited by
the white man, by the Pi-unka-shaw tribe of the Miami nation; and the
northern part by the Kickapoo and Pottawattomics—subdivisions of the
same tribe. Their common headquarters or treaty grounds were at the
village which the whites called Springfield, south of Eugene. At this
point treaties were made with the English and French colonial
governors, and even after the county began to be settled old pioneers
remember seeing on ordinary occasions a thousand Indians assembled
The early French missionaries visited these regions of the Wabash, with
the hope and purpose of converting the Indians to Christianity, about
the year 1670.
A French trading-post was established at an early day here, called La
Chappelle, by Monsieur Laselle, the father of Hon. Charles Laselle, who
is now one of the distinguished and worthy lawyers of the city of
Logansport, Cass county.
Another trading post was subsequently established on the farm now owned
by Hon. John Collett.
In the year 1790, the Indians of this region, while acting only on the
defensive, were attacked at their village by Major Hamtramck, who
commanded a force from "The Old Post"—Vincennes. Their village was
situated on the lands since constituting a part of the farm of the late
Colonel Shelby, near where Eugene is now located. The entire Indian
village was destroyed and most of the inhabitants indiscriminately
massacred. It was not a matter of wonder, therefore, that the Indians
of these regions subsequently took part in the battles of Fallen Timber
and of Tippecanoe.
James Blair, a soldier of the war of 1812, and Isaac Coleman, who were
among the first as well as most distinguished of the early pioneers of
this portion of the Wabash, settled three miles south of what is now
the village of Eugene in the year 1818. They formed an intimate
acquaintance with the Indians, and lived in friendship with them for a
number of years. It frequently fell to their lot to act as
peace-makers between the Indians and what were termed the " Border
Ruffians," who were much the worse class of the two. These
old pioneers always spoke in the highest terms of Se Sepp (Si-Siep),
the last Chief, who lived in the vicinity, and who was said to be one
hundred and ten years old when he was foully murdered by a renegade
Indian of his own tribe.
Like the fading of the autumn leaves, the aborigines of the forest died
away. The guns of the white man frightened the game from their hunting
grounds, and the virtue of a dire necessity called upon them to
emigrate, to make room for the ax and plow, the cabin and the school
house of the incoming white man.
Among the first settlers who came to this part of the Wabash before the
county of Vermillion was organized, were the Groenendykes, Colemans and
John Groenendyke, the father of James and Samuel, and the grandfather
of Hon. John Groenendyke, and his cousin Samuel, now living at Eugene,
and also the grandfather of the present Colletts, came from near Ovid,
Cayuga county, New York, first to Terre Haute in 1818, and to this
region in 1819. He settled on the Big Vermillion river, where Eugene
now stands, and where his son James built a mill subsequently, of very
fine water capacity for that early day, which was esteemed by the new
immigrants as one of the most substantial hopes of the settlement. This
Groenendyke family is among the oldest in America, having emigrated
from Holland to New Amsterdam, and settled among the Knickerbockers in
John was the first generation of this family to strike for Indiana,
bringing with him his sons, James and Samuel, who were long known here
as enterprising farmers and business men, and who did much to build up
the country, and to establish a good order of civil society. These men
appeared not to know or think they were making history, and therefore
they have, like many others, passed away without having left those more
definite records, which the present generation would be proud to have,
as the memorable relics of the pioneer age. James Groenendyke died in
The cabin and forest history of the earliest settlers of the West
involves the most interesting records of the State, and yet much of it
has gone down into the grave with the pioneer himself. There was no
Homer to sing the song of his battles, and no chronicler even to make a
note of his toils and sacrifices. His children chiefly remember him,
and even they speak of him only in the terms of modesty, lest they
excite the envy or criticisms of some pigmy cynic who lives only for
himself. It has been said that " he who makes two blades of grass grow
where only one grew before, is a benefactor." There is certainly solid
philosophy in the declaration, and the deduction should be made that
the honorable mention of any of these good old pioneers is history
deservedly and well told.
James Amour, who was one of the early pioneers of Vermillion, and who
assisted James Groenendyke in the erection of his first mill, yet
lives. In the simple complacency of a green old age he lives to see the
living progress of the third generation, with no regrets of the past,
and with no fault to find with the present or future.
William Thompson, the father of James, John and Andrew Thompson, and of
Mrs. Col. Jane Shelby, came to the Wabash from Pennsylvania in 1822,
and settled at Thompson's Spring, one mile south of Eugene.
If we had the full data of these men and families we should be pleased
to give them in detail; but we have not, and hence are compelled to
stop at only a brief mention. But the numerous broad acres
of rich, productive soil, owned by these families, tell, not only of
their prosperity, but give good evidence of their industry and
frugality, as well as of their early settler good fortunes.
The blessings of the fathers have descended upon the sons and daughters
to the third generation; and endowed, as they now are, it is to be
hoped society will be made better on account of their wealth, and that
the nobility of a generous hospitality and true christian charity will
never want a name among them.
John Collett came to Indiana, with his sons Josephus and Stephen, from
Huntington county, Pennsylvania, in the year 1818, and to the county of
Vermillion in 1825. He was an old man when he came here, for he had
served under Washington in the battles of the Revolution of 1776, when
he was but eighteen years old, and bore in his mien the soldier's bold
spirit, and though advanced in years, he led his sons to this beautiful
Eldorado of the West, where he could point them to a promised land of
wealth and prosperity, which they could not hope to find in the old
He began merchandising first at Clinton, and then at the Little
Vermillion Mills, where he rendered himself useful as a citizen and
popular as a man. He served as Agent of the county in selling lots in
the town of Newport, the county seat, and entered for himself several
choice pieces of land, which have remained in the hands of the family
for three generations. He died at Eugene in 1S34, aged seventy-two.
Josephus Collett, Sr., was the son of John, and the father of William,
who now live back of the village of Eugene, the possessors of some two
thousand acres of the rich lands of this county. Josephus, Sr., was one
of the marked men in this community. Born in Huntington county,
Pennsylvania, in the year 1787, he moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1816,
and was appointed Deputy Sheriff of Ross county the same year, and two
years afterward was elected to the same office. After having served out
the term of his Sheriffalty, he was appointed, in 1820, Deputy United
States Surveyor by Gov. Tiffin, then Surveyor General of the
Northwestern Territory, and in his capacity as Deputy Surveyor he
surveyed a district of country which embraces a large part of the
counties of Parke, Vigo, Hendricks, Montgomery and Putnam.
In November, 1815, he joined Ohio Lodge, No. 30, A. F. & A. Masons,
at Franklinton. At that time there was no Lodge at Columbus, and the
Franklinton Lodge was subsequently removed to Columbus and was called
Columbus Lodge, No. 30.
In 1825, Mr. Collett removed to Vermillion county, Indiana, where he
continued to reside till the time of his death. He died of dropsy at
his residence near Eugene, February 21st, 1872, aged 85,
During the early part of his residence in this county, Mr. Collett was
an active participant in the politics of the county and in all matters
of general and public interest. He was a man of sagacity and prudence
in the management of his property , hence, though starting out in life
with but little, he amassed a fortune of $130,000, the comforts of
which he enjoyed in his old age. He used to say that "the young man who
won't dig and work himself will never become wealthy; for it is
grubbing for one's self that teaches economy." He simply meant to say
that a man should not be ashamed of or shrink from doing whatever his
occupation requires to be done.
Stephen S. Collett, Sr., father of John, Stephen S., and Josephus, who
all live in this county, was also born in Huntington county,
Pennsylvania. He had a family of ten children, eight of whom are still
living. He was a pay-master, with the title of Major, in the war of
1812. In his business life he was active and full of enterprise as
farmer, merchant and pork packer. He shipped his pork to New Orleans in
flat boats down the Wabash. He was the proprietor of the village of
Eugene. He served several terms in the Indiana Senate, representing the
counties of Parke, Vermillion and Warren. He had the honor of being one
of the nine that, amid jeers and twits, voted against the internal
improvement bill of 1836. He died at Indianapolis, while a member of
the Senate, in the year 1843.
Among the early settlers at Walnut Grove were Zeno Worth and Shuble
Gardner, from North Carolina. Mr. Worth selected some good lands which
have been held by his family to the fourth generation. One of his
daughters—Mrs. Dr. Coffin, who still lives near Walnut Grove—is now one
of "the old relics."
Judge John R. Porter was born in Berkshire county, Massachusetts,
February 22, 1796, and attended the Episcopal Academy in Pittsfield, of
that State. He entered Union College, New York, under the presidency of
Dr. Nott, in 1813, from which he graduated in 1815, taking the first
honors of his class. He then entered upon the study of law, and in 1818
became a partner of his preceptor. At that time reports filled the air
of fortunes easily made in South America, and he sought passage to Rio
Janeiro. But before he got off a revolution broke out in Buenos Ayres,
which changed his plans, and the spring of 1819 found him on his way to
the far West.
Armed with letters of introduction to Henry Clay and others, he landed
in Louisville, Kentucky, in December, 1819. Finding nothing to induce
him to remain there, he struck out for Indiana, stopping at Paoli, in
Orange county, where he put up his law "shingle" to vindicate the
rights of the people.
Soon after this he made the acquaintance of Charles Dewey and others of
the bar, who became his life-long friends. Clients came and business
followed, though at that period the labors of the bar were arduous, as
those who practiced law had to travel the judicial circuits on
horseback, and often over the most miserable of roads.
Mr. Porter was commissioned Postmaster at Paoli in 1822, which was the
first office he ever filled. In 1825 he was appointed Circuit Judge,
and the same year was one of the commissioners to locate the seat of
justice of Fountain county, which was formed from the counties of
Montgomery and Wabash. He was married to Miss Mary Worth, November 13,
1825. The legislative changes of his judicial circuit were so frequent
and so great, that he held courts during his term of service from the
counties on the Ohio river to those of the lakes. In 1832,
he assisted in making a treaty with the Indians, where, surrounded by
three or four hundred red men, some dressed in the richest of clothing,
artfully and elaborately ornamented; while others, in squalor, rags and
vermin, gathered in the crowd, while one of them in his speech wrought
himself into such a rage that he seized the minutes of the council from
the secretary's table and tore them furiously into fragments,
fortunately his ire was subdued, and he was brought back to stolid
equanimity of temper again by a few trifling trinkets, which greatly
diverted the Judge, as he thought it the finest forensic farce he had
Many of the early courts of Judge Porter were held in private
residences, selected by the Legislature. With such men as Law, Blake,
Dewey, Bryant, Blackford, Hannegan and Evans, Judge. Porter assisted in
laying the foundation of Indiana jurisprudence, and of these and other
distinguished associates he ever spoke kindly until the day of his
In '833. by an act of the Legislature, organizing the Eighth Judicial
District, he was greatly relieved by having his Circuit cut down to a
civilized boundary, which gave him more time to be at home with his
family, which he loved so well.
His term as Circuit Judge expired in 1837, and he was afterward elected
Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the counties of Parke and
Vermillion, which office he held at the time of his death, April 23d,
1853, aged fifty-seven years. He was a citizen of this county from
1826—twenty-seven years. His sons, John W., Isaac and C. D.T are among
the most prominent and wealthy citizens of the county. They
still retain the paternal inheritance, which is one of the richest and
most sightly farms in this broad and beautiful valley.
Judge Rezin Shelby who was, while living, one of the prominent citizens
of this county, came here about the year 1824. His wife was a Thompson,
and came to the county in 1822. They lost a valued son in the army of
the war of 1861, Major David Shelby, who was a gallant officer, and did
his duty fearlessly and faithfully up to the period of his death. His
widowed mother, Mrs. Jane Shelby, still resides on the old place. Their
lands are among the most valuable of the Wabash Valley.
There are many other families in this county whom we would have been
glad to see enrolled in this connection, but we have no notes of their
history and therefore are forced to silence even where worth and virtue
have been prominent. In our township histories we have others to speak
of who were taken in that order, and we can not now transfer them.
Judge John M. Coleman was at one time known as a prominent citizen of
this county, and though he did not die here, he left behind him a
record of honor and usefulness which should give him a place in
Vermillion county history. His father, James Coleman, was a soldier in
the Revolution of 1776, and also in the war of 1812, and in fighting
with the Indians it is said that he received seven halls in his body
and clothing in one day's battle. Judge Coleman came to this place from
Virginia, and was long intimately associated with the old Collett
family. He helped to lay out the city of Indianapolis and also the town
of Terre Haute, and built the old Court House of the latter city.
Afterward moving to Iowa, he took the job and finished the State House
of Iowa City. He subsequently died in Iowa City and was buried there.
Lieutenant Henry Groenendyke, a son of James and brother of John, moved
by the impulses of patriotic ardor, enlisted in the war of 1861, and
went out with one of our Indiana Regiments to do battle for the Union.
The arduous services and many privations of the camp and field wore
heavily upon his constitution, but still being unwilling to quit the
field he was detailed by General Sherman and placed in the Signal Corps
at Sherman's headquarters. But disease had already made such inroads
upon him that even his more favorable position failed to give him back
his health again, and he sank to death among the war victims of 1863.
His mortal remains were brought back to this, the place of his birth,
where amid the deep emotions of those who loved him and had known him
from his youth, he was solemnly interred in a soldier's grave.
CHARACTER OF THE
When these broad bottoms were first settled they were covered with
heavy timber, except parts of the terrace land, which being free from
trees, was termed "prairie." It is probable, however, as we have
already intimated, that these ancient clearings were a portion of the
civilized progress of the Aztecs, or mound builders. This seems to have
been the conviction of Prof. Bradley, an able geologist, who assisted
Prof. Cox in making a survey of this county in 1867. We are indebted to
the Professor for many valuable suggestions and observations, which we
have freely used, as the result of his inspections has become the
common property of the State. The Professor thinks it probable that
during the period when the Indians occupied this country, their annual
fires prevented the growing up of these clearings. We think
this possible, if the annual fires of the Indians were not of
themselves the primary cause of the prairies. The Wabash
river, running from north to south through the county, with most of its
tributaries coming in from the west, has given rich alluvial bottoms,
which once, perhaps, were heavily timbered. These bottoms
are from one to three miles wide. The first bottom is from twenty-five
to thirty feet above low water mark. The tributaries have
bottom from one-half to a mile wide. These were originally
clothed with giant oak, walnut, cotton-wood and hickory trees.
The small blue grass prairies, interspersed along these bottoms, being
exceptions to the general rule of timber, made the work of clearing
very arduous to the primitive settlers. But now that they arc mostly
cleared, they make one-tenth of the county. The second
bottoms, which are termed "terrace-prairies," beginning at the north,
are called Walnut, Mound, Eugene or Sand, Newport and Melt's Prairies,
and arc, with the brushy lands around them, from thirty-five to
sixty-five feet above low-water mark. The soil is black, sandy loam,
producing the richest crops of wheat, corn and grass, and in these
respects considered the most reliable in their annual products of any
lands in the county. The well known "Walnut level," at the outskirts,
is bordered with walnut, sugar, maple and cherry trees.
These terraces comprise three-tenths of the county. The center part of
the county is heavily timbered with good choice growth of hickory,
sugar, maple, beech, white oak, walnut, etc., and has an elevation of
two hundred and fifty to two hundred and seventy feet above low water
The Grand Prairie region skirts the county on the west, and is rich and
gently rolling, and produces good crops of corn, oats and grass. Nearly
one-third of the county has an elevation of two hundred to two hundred
and fifty feet above the level of the river. Good fruit, particularly
apples, grows on all these lands. The grass crop of the county may be
noted as a specialty, particularly the blue grass. Prof. Collett
exhibited for our inspection a sheaf which had been gathered off his
farm, which measured four feet nine inches. Newport, the county seat,
has an elevation above the ocean of five hundred and twenty feet, and
the Wabash river opposite four hundred and sixty-two feet.
COAL RESOURCES OF
The coal supply of this county is beyond the comprehension of the most
calculating. Prof. Bradley, after making only a partial survey of the
county in 1869, says:
"The first subject to which the seeker for mineral wealth in this
county would turn his attention is the coal supply. The first
impression of even a superficial observer would be, that there is a
great abundance for all future demands; and the final conclusion of the
scientific explorer must be that good coal can now be mined profitably
under at least one-half of the area of the entire county, and
ultimately under probably two-thirds of the remainder, A thickness of
eight feet would probably be a small enough estimate for the coal
underlying every foot of the county. This would give, by the usual
estimate of one million to the square mile, for every foot of
thickness, the amount of 1,950,000,000 tons, or 48,750,000,000 bushels,
as the supply of the county!"
A county so rich in soil as Vermillion, and so beautiful and romantic
in scenery; so well watered and so productive in all the healthy
succulents of the West, and so unlimitedly wealthy in its resources of
rich bituminous and block coal, must have before it ages of prosperity
which no mathematician may calculate or financier define.
The coal is here as an extra or surplus revenue, and although the
working of mines is yet in the infancy of its developments, the time
must soon arrive when furnaces, forges, rolling mills and every other
conceivable establishment which works in iron, and which uses coal,
must see that such counties as this afford facilities for manufacturing
which can not fail to bring fortunes such as other distant portions of
the country can never possess. The very freights such localities have
to pay for ores and for coal to run their machinery with, would soon
amount to a fortune if it could be saved. The coal resources at the
Horse Shoe Bend of the Little Vermillion, furnish the highest coal
measures of any other part of the country. At this point manufactories
*might be established, communities of industry be organized, whose
products would enrich themselves and give a life of enterprise through
all these grand valleys. This is the language of advice and counsel
given by nature itself, and if followed out with any ordinary
perseverance, would give employmcnt to thousands who could and would
make honest and happy livings for themselves and families, and thereby
increase the wealth of the country and enrich the State, which would be
a far more economical system, both of morals and finances, than the
present condition of inactive and useless monopolies.
Indeed it may be safely said that the coal, iron ore, and fire brick
clay, as it is commonly called, of this county of Vermillion alone,
would give employment, if the proper manufactories were established, to
a hundred thousand people. The crime of inactivity—for it
is a crime—lies at the doors of men of wealth— men who have capital,
but who hoard it in lands, stocks, bonds and banks, instead of making
it active in the way of industrial enterprises. These beautiful valleys
might be peopled with happy communities of artizan industry, where
peace and plenty would serve as protectors of the public virtue, and
this grand Vermillion valley be made the Andaiusian garden spot of the
The coal fields of Clay, Green, Owen, and other counties of the
southern part of the State, may be fully equal, or even superior to
those of Vermillion, but none of these counties have the topographical
and physical advantages of this beautiful Wabash county, and therefore
they would not be as pleasant and sightly for thickly populated homes,
for industrious artizans, as Vermillion presents in a hundred different
Hitherto this Wabash valley, with the exception of a few scattering and
modest villages, has been wholly given up to agricultural pursuits, and
until the building of the Evansville, Terre-Haute & Chicago
Railroad, the Wabash River was their only resource of transportation.
Hence the country all along this beautiful little river, for years
remained almost in statu quo. Farms, it is true, were improved, and
agriculture was conducted on a pretty fair line of progress; but still
in many respects the country stood still. But the opening of the coal
trade, and the institution of splendid railroad facilities, have now
brought them to a new era of enterprize and progress, and it might be
said that the sun of their prosperity has just now risen above its
eastern horizon—that their day of action has just come—albeit there are
still many of the old " pod-auger " denizens living along the valley,
who have eked out a tolerably fair living by raising a patch of corn
and a little "garden sass," while there are others in the villages
dwelling in content with the mere meagre show of " independent poverty
"—who perhaps do not know that they have around them a country, built
by Nature, far richer than the lands of Ophir or the gold regions of
Golconda. With as good soil as can be found in the United States, and
as lovely valleys as are seen in the West, with their vast coal fields
underlying almost every acre of land in the county, they have only to
wield the resources which God and nature have given them, to exhibit to
the industrious and commercial world as extensive and productive
manufacturing establishments, and as large and prosperous commercial
enterprises, as may or can be realized in the country.
To depend on making money and building up the country by the poor
policy of shipping all their coal to other points to sustain
manufactories elsewhere, can only be compared to the folly of another
Western policy, viz: the shipping of all our wool to Eastern markets
and then buying all our clothing, ready made at that, from the Eastern
But we need not argue the question of Vermillion county enterprise
here. This is not the place for it. We are only aiming at brief
histories and the presentation of the resources of the county, and the
matter of future activities and of future home manufactories we must
leave in the hands of the leading, wealthy men of the county, and to
the general enterprise of the capitalists of the whole country.
The geological explorations of Professors Cox, Bradley and Collett,
have brought before the eyes of the State and of the world sufficient
knowledge of the vast mineral resources of this county, to show that
Vermillion has in it, over it and under it as many of the rich gifts of
nature as any other county within the limits of the State.
The fire brick and terra cotta works of Messrs. Burns, Porter &
Co., of this county, located at Hillsdale, on the line of the
Evansville, Terre Haute & Chicago Railroad, one mile west of
Montezuma, deserve to be classed among the wonderful productive and
artistic operations of the west.
These works have only been in operation a few years, and already they
have demonstrated the fact that the fire brick made here are the very
best manufactured in the country, They have been thoroughly tested by
being placed in a bridge wall of a puddling furnace along with the
justly celebrated Mt. Savage fire brick, and they withstood this trying
test during a period of more than seven weeks, in a state of perfect
preservation, after which time they were no longer noticed, as the wall
appeared to be sound. The average duration of time which the best known
fire brick stand in a similar situation is nine weeks, consequently we
may expect from this deposit a fire brick which will successfully
compete with any article made in the United States.
This clay has the rare and desirable quality of drying without cracking
or warping, and with but little shrinkage. A crucial test was made in
the hottest fires possible, with a common furnace, to glaze or melt it,
but without success, which indicates that it is clear, or nearly so,
from alkali and other objectionable substances. These tests with brick
rudely made by hand were deemed so satisfactory that the proprietors
felt justified in beginning operations for manufacturing fire brick,
etc., on a large scale.
They have visited fire brick factories in the Eastern States, and
purchased machinery of the latest and best models to be found,
including a fire clay grinding mill, which has a roller that weighs
four thousand pounds, and is capable of reducing a quantity of clay
sufficient to make four thousand bricks per day. This mill and other
machinery is driven by a twenty-four horse power engine.
The great and rapidly increasing demand for these bricks is such that
the proprietors are making their arrangements to so enlarge their works
and to increase their facilities, as to be able to supply any demand
which may be made upon them. Their present facilities for manufacturing
are fourteen thousand per week. They are now increasing them to
twenty-two thousand per week, and even this, as may be seen, is only
the "beginning of the end."
The works of this establishment are even now the most conveniently
arranged of any manufacturing works of any sort we have ever seen.
Situated at the foot of the hill, within a few steps of the rail-road,
in the opening of a hollow, the material for their work is mined out
above, and is dumped down upon the floor, where it is ground, after
which it is dumped again down upon the moulding and drying floor.
There is also a fine vein of coal in the same hill, high above the
works, which is mined and dumped down to the furnace in the same manner.
The deposit of fire clay is inexhaustible. It is seven feet thick, four
feet of which is of a very superior quality, from which is made their
No. 1 brick.
The shipment of these brick is rapidly becoming a prominent commodity
of transportation from this county, and as the demand hitherto has been
greater than the supply, the prospect is that it will soon grow to be
The Terra Cotta Work, which is being manufactured at this
establishment, is a feature of artistic creation, which cannot fail to
attract very general attention. It is neat and smooth, tasteful and
beautifully ornamental, and can be made of every order, style and
purpose. The parties who own, and who are directing this establishment,
have the enterprise and ability, as well as ample means to build up a
very large business.
The indications, indeed, are that the Goddess of Art, as well as the
Vulcan of Metals, once had homes among these romantic Vermillion hills.
TERRE HAUTE AND CHICAGO RAILROAD.
Through the energetic and persevering efforts chiefly of Josephus
Collett, Jr., this important thoroughfare was completed from Terre
Haute to Danville, Illinois, in 1870. Of course there were many
obstacles to encounter in accomplishing such an enterprise, but
whatever they were they are all overcome, and the people owe to its
chief manager and friend a debt of gratitude which it will be difficult
for them to pay. Mr. Collett, however, makes no demands upon the public
gratitude, for he feels that he is fully paid for alt services rendered
when he sees the road, as he now does, in "the full tide of successful
operation," and comparing with any other in the State.
Running through as beautiful valleys of lands as any the Wabash
contains, where industry and the agricultural improvements of the age
have made almost the entire country a flower
garden of verdure and beauty, the scenery along the full length of the
road can not but feast the eye of the traveler, while the regularity
and substantial smoothness of the entire track will not fail to make
the impression that it has been well built and is well managed, and
will compare favorably with any other road in the West. Connecting
directly, as it does, at Danville, Ill., with the Danville and Chicago
Railway, it is properly a complete and immediate north and south road
from Evansville to Chicago.
As President of this road, Mr. Collett shows his capacity to manage as
well as build such a thoroughfare, and while the management remains in
the same hands its healthful interests and success need not be doubted.
George Penn and W. D. Guernsey, conductors, whom we have met on this
road, are modest, business gentlemen, who merit the confidence of their
present eminent standing.
This road has thirteen stations within the bounds of Vermillion county,
all of them at present small in population, but the enterprise of the
coming years will no doubt greatly enlarge them.
ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD.
This is a new road, of which H. B. Hammond is President, and is now
completed from Decatur, Illinois, to Montezuma, in Parke county. Its
Indiana division will pass through Parke, Hendricks and Marion
counties, to Indianapolis. This latter portion we learn will soon be
put under contract and completed to our State capital, making another
addition to its already superior railroad center.
The completion of this road will add no little to the opening up of the
mineral wealth of this county, as it passes directly through a portion
of its richest coal fields and unexplored stone quarries, and near the
inexhaustible beds of fire brick clay, thus opening the way to
industrious enterprises where fortunes will be made for thousands in
the coming years.
The agricultural products of this county, in connection with its
general wealth, furnish good evidence of its prosperity, as well as of
its industry, enterprise, and rich productive power. The farmers we
have met in the county are men of more than the ordinary culture and
intelligence; quite a number of them we found to be good scholars and
well posted in all the affairs of general business, commercial
interests, the economy of government, and with the modern developments
and improvements in agriculture. It is not,
therefore, strange that Vermillion county is in a stale of good
cultivation, and presents to the eye of an intelligent observer as much
domestic and rural comfort and beauty as any other county in the State.
It will be seen from the following exhibits, which we gather from the
Ninth Census Reports for 1870, that the agricultural interests of the
county are well sustained in every department:
|Number of acres of land improved,
|Other unimproved lands,
|Cash value of farms,
|Farming implements, etc.,
|Wages paid for,
|Estimated value of farm productions
|Value of home manufactures,
|Value of animals sold or slaughtered,
|Value of live stock,
|Number of horses,
|Number of mules,
|Number of milch cows,
|Number of sheep,
|Number of swine
|Bushels of wheat raised
|Bushels of rye,
|Bushels of Indian corn,
|Bushels of oats,
|Bushels of barley,
|Bushels of buckwheat,
|Bushels of peas and beans,
|Bushels of Irish potatoes,
|Bushels of sweet potatoes,
|Gallons of wine,
|Tons of hay,
|Maple sugar, pounds,
|Gallons of sorghum molasses,
|Gallons of maple molasses,
|Assessed value of real estate,
|Assessed value of personal property,
|Taxation for the State
|Taxation for the County,
|Taxation for the Townships,
FREIGHT EXPORTS POP. 1874.
|Other grain and seeds, bushels,
|Horses and mules,
|Hogs and sheep
|Other products, car loads;
|Total population of the county,
Of the children of the county, 3,073 have attended school; 418 can not
read ; and 827 can not write among the adults. If "ignorance is bliss,"
they have 1245 happy people in the county.
William Skidmore, of Helt township, is the oldest person living who was
born in Vermillion county.
In gathering the historical facts of a county, it is remarkable how
little many know of their own home history; and it is no less strange
to observe that many seem to care nothing about the facts of the past,
or the life struggles of the old pioneers, or even of the sacrifices
and toils of their own ancestors. Stolid and stupid as the silent
quietude of the toad by the wayside, they sit in selfish contentedness,
as if life itself was but an ignorant negation, and it is as hard to
get a historical fact out of such folks as it is to drain the nectar of
life from the body of a turnip, or the light of nature from the eyelids
of the night owl. In this county, however, we have the pleasure of
saying that we have had every facility offered and all information
given politely and satisfactorily, and the result is, as will be seen,
the historical, agricultural, statistical and personal items of the
"Guide Book" of Vermillion County excel all the other counties which
have had a Guide Book published.
To our good friends—Hon. John Collett, Isaac Porter, Esq., Hon. John
Groenendyke, and others, we are largely indebted for many of the facts
of this brief, and yet doubtless very imperfect history of Vermillion
Source: [The People's guide : a business, political and religious
directory of Vermillion Co., Ind., together with a collection of very
important documents and statistics connected with our moral, political
and scientific history : also, a historical sketch of Vermillion
County, and a brief history of each township. Indianapolis, Ind.:
Indianapolis Print. & Pub. House, 1874.