by 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 these limits.
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 discovered.
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 warfare regarded.
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 there.
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 Colletts.
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 1650.
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 1856.
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 Keystone State.
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 ever witnessed.
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 death.
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 TIMBER.
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 mark.
GRAND PRAIRIE—FRUIT, ETC.
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 VERMILLION.
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 State.
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 localities.
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 manufactories.
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.
FIRE BRICK CLAY.
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 immense.
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.
THE EVANSVILLE, 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.
INDIANA AND 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:
PRODUCTIONS OF AGRICULTURE
Number of acres of land improved, 87,558
Unimproved woodlands, 62,065
Other unimproved lands, 613
Cash value of farms, 4,148,925
Farming implements, etc., 98,358
Wages paid for, 82,935
Estimated value of farm productions 892,741
Orchard products, 13,819
Forest products, 8,756
Value of home manufactures, 3,881
Value of animals sold or slaughtered, 241,419
Value of live stock, 597,764
Number of horses, 3,551
Number of mules, 292
Number of milch cows, 2,278
Other cattle, 4,865
Number of sheep, 13,552
Number of swine 14,047
Bushels of wheat raised 261,250
Bushels of rye,
Bushels of Indian corn, 598,322
Bushels of oats, 54,257
Bushels of barley, 166
Bushels of buckwheat, 235
Wool, pounds, 44,595
Bushels of peas and beans, 289
Bushels of Irish potatoes, 33,167
Bushels of sweet potatoes, 222
Gallons of wine,
Butter, pounds. 145,253
Tons of hay, 9,659
Maple sugar, pounds, 10,485
Gallons of sorghum molasses, 10,593
Gallons of maple molasses, 1.341
Honey, pounds, 3,415
Assessed value of real estate,
Assessed value of personal property, 1,632,000
Total assessment, 4,795,000
True valuation 10,000,000
Taxation for the State 21,383
Taxation for the County, 79,435
Taxation for the Townships, 13,853
FREIGHT EXPORTS POP. 1874.
Wheat, bushels 153.000
Corn, bushels 388,000
Other grain and seeds, bushels, 164,000
Horses and mules, 1,300
Hogs and sheep 52,300
Lumber, feet, 530,000
Other products, car loads; 235
Total population of the county, 12,939—81 colored.
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 county.
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.
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