BiographiesSource: "Warrick and Its Prominent People:
A History of Warrick County, Indiana from the Time of Its Organization and Settlement,
with Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent People of the Past and Present",
By William Fortune, 1881
Hon. Ratliff Boon, ex-Governor of the State of Indiana, and for sixteen years Representative from the First Congressional District in the National House of Representatives, was born in Georgia, about the year 1780. He was a cousin of the great pioneer, Daniel Boone, and was also a son-in-law to Bailey Anderson, one of the earliest settlers of this county. His parents moved to Warren county, Kentucky, while he was very young, and at Danville, in that State, he learned the gunsmith's trade. In 1809 he came to Indiana Territory, through the influence of his kinsman, Bailey Anderson, and was probably the first to settle in what is now Boon township, this county, which was named in honor of him. The land upon which he settled and lived during his residence in Warrick county is situated about two miles west of Boonville.
Colonel Boon was one of the most prominent men in Indiana during its early days, and held some of the highest offices within the gift of the people. His education was limited, but he was a man of extraordinary tact and sagacity. He possessed great force of character and had a manner of making loyal friends and bitter enemies. For several years he was Colonel of State militia. Upon the organization of Warrick, as a territorial county, in 1813, as the law at that time required, he was appointed Treasurer, which office he held until 1820. In 1816, when Indiana was admitted into the Union, Boon was elected to represent Warrick county in the first State Legislature. This was the beginning of his career as a politician, and he afterwards held various offices, covering a period of twenty-five years. He was twice elected Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, and during his last term in this office he filled an unexpired term as Chief Executive of the State. He was elected to Congress eight different times, serving, in all, sixteen consecutive years.
In 1839 he removed to Pike county, Missouri, and while a resident of that State he was defeated by Thomas H. Benton in caucus, as a candidate for United States Senator, after which he virtually retired from public life. However, he desired to live to see Polk elected President of the United States, and a few hours after he received the news of his election, in 1846, he died.
Colonel Boon was married to Miss Deliah Anderson, of Kentucky, daughter of Bailey Anderson. The fruits of this marriage were ten children, five boys and five girls, all of whom are now dead, except a daughter, living in Pike county, Missouri.
The marked characteristics of Ratliff Boon's public life forcibly reminds one of the back-woods statesman, Davy Crockett. It was his custom always to return home in the spring and "lay out" the corn rows for his sons, and he would then go back to Congress. In the annals of Warrick county history no man figures more prominently than Ratliff Boon, and his career is one of which we may well be proud.
GENERAL JOSEPH LANE.
Few there are who have not heard of General Joe Lane, of Oregon, who, from an obscure flat-boatman, on the Ohio river, has risen to some of the most prominent positions in the land. Today he lives on the Pacific slope, far away from the scenes of his early struggles. He was born in North Carolina, in 1801, and was only six years of age when his father, John Lane, removed to Henderson county, Kentucky. What education he received was obtained, at intervals, in some log house, where a man, who knew his letters, acted as teacher. He was a sharp, quick-witted boy, more fond of hunting than books, and, withal, was very popular with the pioneers, on account of his accommodating disposition. In 1818 his father removed to Vanderburgh county, Indiana, and purchased a tract of land about nine miles above Evansville. Here Joseph was invited by Judge Grass, who kept a store near Rockport, to proceed there and act as a clerk in his establishment. He was at once regarded with favor by all who had business at the store, as he was well posted in stories of frontier life, and was kind and obliging. He next, in company with his brother Simon, bought a flat-boat, sold wood to the steamboats, as they passed; made many trips to New Orleans; carried on a farm; dealt in stock, etc., until the breaking out of the Mexican war, when he began to secure recruits in Evansville and vicinity. Soon a large number of the hardy yeomanry were mustered into the second regiment, and with our subject as their Colonel was off for the scene of the war. His regiment was placed in the division commanded by General Taylor, and his exploits immediately attracted the attention of "Old Rough and Ready," who showed his confidence in the Indiana pioneer by making Colonel Lane a Brigadier General. General Lane was not only a brave man, but he was possessed of a knowledge of the Mexican style of fighting, and was an invaluable officer in that vigorous campaign, so successfully managed by General Taylor.
fn. The land upon which Mr. Lane settled was really in Warrick county at that time, but Hon. Ratliff Boon, fearing that Joe Lane, who was a very popular youth at nineteen years of age, would seriously interfere with his political aspirations in this county, caused a strip of land to be transferred from the southeastern part of Warrick to the territory of Vanderburgh county, which included the farm that Mr. Lane had settled upon, thereby making Joe Lane ineligible to office in this county. By reference to the map, the reader will observe this apparent encroachment upon Warrick county territory by Vanderburgh . However, General Lane afterwards represented Warnck and Vanderburgh counties in the State Senate several terms in succession. — ED. W. AND ITS P. P.
After the close of hostilities the President appointed him Gov ernor of the Territory of Oregon, and upon the admission of Oregon into the Union, he was elected a Senator. General Lane was a delegate from Oregon to the Democratic Convention which nominated Franklin Pierce for President in 1852. In 1860, General Lane was nominated for Vice President on the Breckenridge-Democratic ticket and his career in that memorable campaign is a part of the records of the country. General Lane was married, while living in Vanderburgh county, to Miss Mary Hart, daughter of Matthew Hart. Ten children were the result of this union, of whom only one has died. Taking him as a representative pioneer, we have presented this brief sketch of his life. His public services are a permanent part of our national history. — Evansville and its Men of Mark.
A LETTER FROM GENERAL LANE.
The following letter, which we have slightly abridged, from General Joseph Lane, while living at Rosenburg, Oregon, to A. T. Whittlesey, Esq., Secretary of the Vanderburgh County Historical and Biographical Society, contains many interesting incidents of his own life and reminiscences of prominent men and important events in the early history of Warrick and Vanderburgh counties. From it, much information can be gained regarding the old veteran's residence in this section, which is not given in the foregoing sketch of his life:
"In 1814 my father settled on the Kentucky bank of the Ohio river, opposite the mouth of Cypress creek; the place afterwards owned by the McCormicks, and for aught I know, still belonging to some one of the family; be that as it may. We succeeded in clearing off the cane and small timber, chopping around the big trees so as to deaden them, and put in cultivation ten acres of that rich bottom land. The first year we raised a good crop of corn, a good garden, and some six hundred pounds of cotton in the seed. Then, all families, not very rich, raised cotton and flax; carded, spun, wove and made their own clothing, sheeting and other necessary cloths. When our cotton was picked out of the boll and sacked, old Mr. Vanada, who lived on the bank of the river, three miles from us, proposed to furnish a skiff and with my help take the cotton of both parties to Henderson, then called Red Banks, where a Mr. McBride had put up a gin to pick the seeds from the cotton, and also a small carding machine to make the cotton into rolls, which, by the way, was at that time of great advantage to poor people. Well, in the fall of 1815, with our cotton loaded in the skiff, the good old gentleman and myself set out for Henderson. I did the rowing."
At nightfall we had reached the mouth of Green river; a slight head-wind prevailed, and finding myself a little tired I proposed to land; but Mr. Vanada said: "No, we must reach Henderson by morning." We ate a portion of our cold ham and corn bread, and I settled down to the oars, he held the tiller and on we went, rowing as hard as I could, the wind increased; faithfully did I tug at the oars, but our progress was slow. As we commenced to turn McClain's point the wind took us fair, and the waves broke over the sides of our skiff. The old gentleman called out "Hard on the oars!" and headed our little boat quartering up the river. We made a landing not far from where Shanklin first opened his store. There we camped and slept till morning, the wind still blowing too hard for our little boat or the power that propelled it. As we could not go on, I took a ramble through the woods and brush, and for the first time looked over the land and site where now stands the beautiful and business city of Evansville, with its many churches, and school houses, and banks, and public edifices, with its daily lines of steamboats and railroads, and constant hurry and rush of business, and with its high state of civilization. Then how little did I think of the great future of the site where then, alone, I rambled; could I then have foreseen it, with my uniform good health and energy, what a large fortune could now be mine; perhaps Heaven directs! My life has been one of action, and not of speculation; directed in a different sphere, and although in that sphere I experienced much hardship, deep anxiety and severe wounds, from which I suffer much pain and inconvenience, it was necessary for the protection of our pioneers and the rapid progress of civilization that soon followed and spread all over the Pacific slope. But enough of this."
In the winter of that year, 1815, I obtained permission to go out and work for myself. Early in 1816 I obtained work in Darlington, the county seat at that time of Warrick county. It was located one mile from the Ohio river, between Pigeon and Cypress creeks, and bordered on a long pond, that in winter afforded fine duck shooting, and in summer plenty of mosquitoes, ague and bilious fever; quite as sickly as any place between Louisville and New Orleans."
Myself, and several other young men, took a contract to cut, raft and deliver several hundred saw logs at Henderson, Kentucky, to Mr. Audubon, (subsequently known as the great ornithologist). He had built and owned a very good steam saw mill, a little too soon for the times, which was one among other failures that caused him to quit business and turn his attention to that branch of science and literature in which he afterwards became famous."
It was while engaged in delivering logs and rowing back in our skiff that I got acquainted with every one who lived on the bank of the river, and especially did I get well acquainted with Col. Hugh McGary, and was rather pleased with him. He talked well on the subject of his town site and of the ultimate greatness of his prospective city. With him, I walked over a portion of the land. A portion of it I had walked over the year before, solitary and alone; I found him quite in earnest about his town. Not long after this he put up his hewed log house not far from Mitchell's corner, I think, near the spot where, some time after, James Lewis built his dwelling house. Upon this occasion we camped near his house, and he spent most of the night with us, and talked much and complained bitterly of Col. Ratliff Boon, who was, as he held, the only obstacle to his success; that he, Boon, was opposed to the formation of a new county out of Warrick, Posey and Gibson, and so arranging the boundaries as to make his town site central. I was fond of Boon and did not like to hear him abused, but said nothing until after I had obtained employment in the clerk's office; then the first time that I saw Boon, I took the liberty of saying to him that perhaps he had it in his power, or if he wished he could have a new county formed out of the counties above named, and still have them large enough, and that by so doing he would make many friends. A few months after I happened to be present at a conversation held in the clerk's office, while our circuit court was in session, between Boon, McGary, Gen. Evans and Judge Daniel Grass, all leading men, in which the whole programme of a new county was fully discussed. Boon mentioned that such chipping of Warrick county would necessitate the re-location of the county seat and the probable point would be at or near Setteedown's village, where he, a Shawnee chief, had lived with his little band until 1811, and who, before he left to join his nation had killed some white people in French Island neighborhood. He was followed and killed by a party of citizens, among whom Boon figured conspicuously.
The county seat was re-located and located as above mei [sic] or suggested; and Boon's name is, and rightly shoul [sic] [the rest of the paragraph is unreadable]
To wit: Oliver H. Smith, Gen. Milton Stapp, Bullock and Pinckney Jones; two of these became quite prominent. I suppose that it is safe to say that not a member (myself excepted) of either House of that session, is now living, or has been living within the last ten or fifteen years. On looking back, how sad one feels! The only one left!"
As many of the older members of your society know, I served at intervals in one or the other House of our State Legislature, from 1822 to 1846, when I left vacant an unexpired term in the Senate, and volunteered, in that gallant old veteran, Capt. William Walker's company. From him I took my first lessons in company drill."
At Buena Vista, sword in hand, he fell, while nobly and gallantly battling for his country's honor. A truer and braver soldier fell not upon any battlefield, before or since."
The Speakers in the several Houses, in which I served after 1822, were Isaac Howk, Harbin H. Moore and Dr. John W. Davis; and if I remember correctly, each of these gentlemen served more than one term as presiding officer.
I was twice elected to the Senate, once only beaten for the House; that was by Wm. T. T. Jones, a gallant, talented gentleman. Brown Butler run me close; I beat him by only six votes. After that Butler was my colleague in the House while I was in the Senate. As you are aware, I did my part in bringing about a compromise between the State and her creditors, or bondholders ; the adjustment saved us the disgrace of threatened repudiation, to which I was very earnestly opposed. During my whole service in the! Legislature I did all I could for the promotion of the interests and honor of our State and the district that I in part represented.
I have not, as was my intention when I commenced writing, given the names of the early business men of Evansville, the mechanics, professional men and others that ought to have a place in history. I have endeavored to give the little I knew of the influence of the men who shaped and formed boundaries of counties and location of county seats, all of which was understood, by the actors, a year or two before the great work was accomplished, all of them more or less interested, and still all they did resulted in great public good. Ratliff Boon, Daniel- Grass (the humorist) and Gen. Robert M. Evans, were more than ordinary men of their day and deserve a place in the history of Indiana."
With kind regards and best wishes for the health and success of all the Society, I am, sir, with much respect, your obdient servant, JOSEPH LANE.
The writing of this letter to the Vanderburgh Historical Society was one of the last acts of General Lane's life. He died at Rosenberg, Oregon, on April 20th, 1881, in his seventy-ninth year.
Ezekiel Perigo, one of the early settlers and a prominent citizen of Warrick county, was born in Ohio county, Kentucky, August 6th, 1802. His father, Romey Perigo, was a native of Maryland, and was born in that State during the strife with Great Britain. At eighteen years of age he settled in Ohio county, Kentucky, and in 1800, when twenty one years old, he was married to Miss Rhodia Hinman. He died about 1830.
Mrs. Perigo was a woman of extraordinary bravery. She could handle a gun or shoot a wildcat as well as a man. She died by a stroke of palsy in 1822. In April, 1819, Mr. Perigo moved to Warrick county and settled south of where Ezekiel now lives.
This was one year after Boonville had been laid out and there were not more than a half dozen houses in the place, and these were rudely built log cabins.
Ezekiel's early advantages in instruction were limited to a few days each winter for two or three years while in Kentucky, and after his father's removal to Warrick county he attended a school two weeks, taught by George Hathaway. This comprised all his schooling. However, he obtained most of his education after his marriage by pursuing a regular and systematic course of study in the chimney corner at night by the light of a "shell bark hickory" fire.
In 1822 he was married to Miss Peggy Hudson, a life long member of the Methodist church, who died June 27, 1878, at the age of seventy-three. They had one son, Romey, who was killed in the battle at Atlanta, Ga., during the late war.
Until fifty-four years of age Mr. Perigo pursued farming. He engaged in milling for about eighteen months, and then purchased a saddle and harness shop. He began mercantile business in Boonville in 1856 and continued until 1872.
He finally retired from active business life and now lives on his farm south of Boonville, where he will spend the remainder of his days.
During the late war he was a decided Union man and did much to aid the cause by helping to feed and clothe soldiers' families, and otherwise encouraging the work of fighting our battles. Politically, he was a Whig, having cast his first vote for John Quincy Adams for President, but when the Whig party was succeeded by the Republican he joined the latter. He has been a man of prominence in local politics and has held various offices. He was twice elected constable of Boon township. He has also been treasurer of Boon township four years and trustee four years. He was commissioner of the county seminary for six years and was also appointed commissioner of swamp lands, but there were no duties attached to the latter office. In 1838 he was appointed county collector of taxes and was required to ride over the county and make personal collections. In this he was far more successful than his predecessors. He counted out the silver once after the year's work was done and threw it into one of Jackson's old-fashioned tin cups, which heldabout three pints, completely filling it. This was two years' salary and consisted of about $200. He has been administrator of forty-five estates and commissioner in petition of forty others.
He has been a member of the M. E. church for a number of years, and is esteemed by all as an honorable and upright man. His admirable character appears to better advantage at his own fireside, and none know him but to like him for his sincerity and honesty. His career has been a very useful one, and, although very old, he still retains a wonderful vigor of mind. He has watched the progress of Boonville from the time it was a settlement of a half-dozen log cabins to a thriving town of two thousand population. To use the words of the venerable old gentleman himself, his highest ambition is to so live that when this life's toils are over it may be truthfully said, he was always honest and honorable."
DR. REUBEN C. MATTHEWSON.
Of the prominent men of Warrick county that have passed away none covered a longer period of usefulness than Dr. Reuben Clark Matthewson, one of the pioneer physicians of Indiana and a gentleman of rare attainments, who settled in this county at a very early day. He was born October 16, 1804, in Steuben county, New York. His parents, Oliver and Agnes Matthew son, lived to be very old. His father died very suddenly of apoplexy at the age of eighty-two, and his mother of heart dis ease at seventy-five years of age. His mother, whose maiden name was Clark, was a descendant of a highly intellectual family and was a lady of extraordinary intellect. It is thought that the subject of this sketch inherited from her much of the talent and ability which he displayed throughout his career from boyhood to old age. In 1817 the family moved from New York to Princeton, Gibson county, Indiana, where the parents ever afterwards lived and are now buried. Reuben was thirteen years old at this time and had attended school very little, but when quite young he evinced a love, if not a passion, for books and music, which he maintained till old age, although averse to the wishes of his father, who wanted him to be a carpenter, the trade which he himself followed. At about this time the son was sent to school to Dr. Ira Bostwick, a gentleman of scholastic attainments and polished manners Between the two there became a warm attachment, which continued until the death of Dr. Bostwick, many years after the manhood of his pupil. At a later period in life he received tuition in Princeton from William Chittenden, a gentleman of literary attainments, and doubtless it was here that he obtained most of his education. At this time he was twenty years old, quiet and reserved, evincing a marked passion for books, and reading much in solitude.
He expressed to his father a desire to read medicine, but Mr. Matthewson tried to discourage him, telling him that he did not possess the capacity or scholarship to engnge in such high notions. However, he was permitted to enter the office of Dr. Charles Fullerton, a practicing physician in Princeton of more than ordinary ability for that time and place. Dr. Fullerton was also a fine musician and a teacher of both vocal and instrumental music. Here the student of medicine spent some of his leisure time in learning melodies and harmonies which were of great use to him early in life. He also studied the languages, particularly Latin, French and German, and for several years he was a regular subscriber and reader of a German newspaper.
He was licensed to practice medicine at the age of twenty-one and at once located in Boonville. This was in 1825, seven years after Boonville was laid out. It was a village of about fifty inhabitants at that time, and Dr. Matthewson was the only physician, Dr. Pasco, who came first, having died in 1824.
He was married February 16, 1828, to Lorinda Baldwin, a young lady of good family and a native of New York. Her parents were among the earliest residents of Boonville. She died August 19th, 1860, a little more than forty-eight years old, after a lingering illness, greatly lamented by all her numerous friends and relatives. Their children were five in number, three sons and two daughters. Two of the sons died in 1847, before they had arrived at manhood. The surviving son is Mr. Charles Clark Matthewson, who resides at the old homestead and is engaged in the drug business in Boonville. He inherits to a large extent his father's love of music and books, and lives quietly in the enjoy ment of his favorite pastimes. Isabella Helen, the second child and eldest daughter, was married in April, 1850, to Dr. W. G. Ralston, and now resides at Evansville. Lucy Maria, the other daughter and youngest child, the fiavorite of her father, and a beautiful and highly accomplished young lady, was married to John Brackenridge in April, 1876, and died two months afterwards.
In some business speculations about 1832 or 1833 Dr. Matthewson became much involved financially. Therefore, he relinquished his practice in Boonville and went to Bardstown, Kentucky, where he was made professor of music of the college at that place. He filled the chair with entire satisfaction for several years and then returned to his home and the practice of his profession, having made enough in the meantime to pay all his liabilities and start him anew.
Dr. Matthewson was a hard student of medicine, as his books show by their marginal annotations. He was a very skillful, successful, and, consequently, popular physician. In his diagnosis and prognosis of disease he excelled most practitioners; hence, to his opinion was given great weight in critical and doubtful cases. He was not a graduate, having attended only a partial course of lectures in the Ohio Medical College, yet he knew more about the real and scientific principles and details of medical science than very many of the professors and teachers in the medical colleges of the day. He practiced his profession in Boonville with the exception of the time he was engaged in teaching music in Bardstown College, for nearly fifty years.
He was a prudent and successful business man and was always regarded as honest and upright.
He was for many years skeptical in religious matters, but later in life he often said that his former notions had undergone a change and that he now entertained the hope and belief that the soul was immortal and would live in the future.
He was entertaining in conversation, having read almost everything that he considered worthy perusal. In physical appearance he was full and erect. His complexion was florid, and he had sparkling hazel eyes and red hair when young, which became almost white before his death. His weight was about 160 pounds and his height five feet ten inches.
In politics Dr. Matthewson was a Whig and afterwards a Republican. He was never a candidate for political favor, but he held the office of postmaster of Boonville from 1841 to 1845.
During his career of active life, covering a period of fifty years, he was identified as foremost in everything tending to the business or social advancement and improvement of his town and county. He was naturally looked upon as a leading citizen, and was held in the highest esteem by all. He was of a sociable disposition and in a quiet way was very benevolent.
During the last years of his life he was in a feeble state of
health, which was doubtless a gradual softening of the brain,
and on June 22, 1876, after a brief illness, supposed to be heart
disease, the surroundings of his long, useful life,"
Saw, in death, his eyelids close.
Calmly, as to a night's repose,
Like flowers at set of sun."
William Scales, who was a pioneer of Indiana territory, and a man of conspicuousness in the early days of Warrick county, was born in North Carolina, in April, 1785. Early in the eighteenth century a family named Scales was banished from Scotland on account of their liberal ideas. They came to the United States, and it is probable that they settled in North Carolina. It is thought that William Scales was a descendant of this family.
In 1803 he was married to Mary Skelton, of Georgia, and during the same year they emigrated to Warren county, Kentucky. In 1807 he came to Indiana and settled in what is now Gibson county, near Princeton. The white men in this part of the country at that time were "few and far between." Settlers twenty miles apart were as neighbors. He constructed a hut of a right-angle triangular shape, with poles, bark and skins, the manner in which the houses of most pioneers were at that time built, and lived in it with his family for sometime, before the more substantial log cabin could be built. A tribe of Indians lived in close proximity to where Mr Scales had decided to settle and shortly after his arrival they came trotting over to his hut in single file to see him. One of the Indians approached him and said, "White man trust Indian, Indian trust white man," meaning that they would be his friend if he would trust them. They then asked that they might keep his eldest boy one day, promising to return with him when the sun went down.
Afraid to refuse lest the savages should become offended he very reluctantly consented to the proposition after a consultation with his wife, and one of the Indians, taking the boy on his shoulders, they trotted away in the same direction they had come. For the father and mother alone in the wilderness, with no friend near, and wholly at the mercy of a band of savages, it was a day of painful anxiety. Now and then they shuddered with the fear that the Indians would prove treacherous, and that they would never again see their boy alive. Night was fast drawing near, and the sun was gradually sinking beneath the horizon. The father's hope began to grow weaker, and he impatiently awaited the end of the time allotted for their return. With fixed eyes he watched the sun disappear entirely in the west and he then turned in the direction the Indians had gone, ready to face any danger, but his face lighted up with a smile of sudden delight, and his heart beat fast with joy as he saw them in the distance coming with his boy. They came trotting up in the same manner they had left and deposited the son at the father's feet. The old Indian then patted the grateful parent on the shoulder, and said, "White man trust Indian; Indian white man's friend always." Forever afterward the Indians and William Scales were good friends.
On account of the prevalence of wild animals at that time no stock could be raised, and hence, their meats consisted wholly of wild game, of which there was an abundance of all kinds. The manner of grinding or rather mashing corn for the purpose of making bread of it, was by hollowing out a stump in which it was mashed by a huge maul. Then the pioneers were introduced to the "spring-pole," which was regarded as a marvelous improvement on the maul mode of mashing corn, and afterwards came the more convenient horsemill, which was thought the limit of mechanical invention in grain grinding.
In 1811 Mr. Scales enlisted as first sergeant in Captain Har grave's company in the war of 1812, and he participated in the battle at Tippecanoe. After the close of the war he removed to what is now the northeastern part of Warrick county, settling near Selvin. His occupation was principally that of a farmer, although he taught school a great deal of the time. He was accustomed to reading, and possessed what at that time and place was a very uncommon education. Consequently, his services during the greater part of his life were of a public or official nature. He was twice assessor of Warrick county. In 1843 he was elected sheriff of the county and held the office two years.
He was elected county treasurer in 1847 and was holding this office at the time of his death. He raised a family of sixteen children, nine girls and seven boys, and has a large number of descendants still living in the county.
He was a man of fine physique and a true type of the "old Scotch gentleman." He was of a sociable, mirthful disposition, and possessed a fund of thrilling and amusing anecdotes of personal experience in his early settlement. He died in Boonville in 1848, at the place where Hon. B. S. Fuller now lives.
A. M. PHELPS.
The marriage of Cadwell Phelps and Margaret Hamilton was consummated February igth, 1775. Of this union four children were the issue, among whom was A. M. Phelps, the subject of the present sketch, who was born January 6th, 1798, in Hartford, Windsor county, Vermont, where his father, who was of English extraction, had settled some two years previous.
At that period the country was almost a wilderness, and the newness of the territory, in connection with the father's limited means, made the education of his children rather a slender affair. To make amends for this the lad, A. M. Phelps, when released by his father at the age of nineteen, worked two years at ten dollars per month, then entered the Royalton Academy, Vermont, and was a student there for about a year.
But long before this the fame of the great west had reached the green hills of Vermont, and had so gained the attention of young Phelps that at the early age of fourteen, when his father one day pointed out to him an adjacent tract of land on the south side of the farm, and which was then for sale, following it with the remark: "Abraham, we must go to work and try to make money enough to buy that farm for you to possess when you become of age." His reply was: "Father, when that day arrives I am bound for the West."
On the l0th of June, 1820, with wardrobe packed and slung over his back, and only thirty-three dollars in his pocket, he bade adieu to his New England home, and set his face westward so intensified with the idea of his land of promise that four hundred miles of foot travel was to him no dissuasion.
Cleveland, Ohio, was his objective point, and between it and his old home were many long and weary miles. His start was on Monday, and on the following Sunday he came to a church on the Mohawk river, New York, where a congregation was worshipping inside, and a large number of boys playing ball outside, which, to him, looked oddly enough, coming, as he did, from the land of steady habits.
In a few days he reached the Genesee country, New York, and saw in process of construction what was in that day sarcastically termed "Governor Clinton's Ditch," the same which is now enlarged and known as the Great Western Ship and Barge Canal, Shortly after this he reached Lake Erie at a point four miles below: Buffalo, and called Black Rock, where the steamer Walk- in-the-water, the first and only vessel of its kind then running on western waters, was to make its departure on the next day.
Steam navigation at that time was so crude and imperfect as to be akin to failure; therefore, on the appointed morning those concerned thought that to make the vessel walk in the water, a tow line from the steamer with four yoke of oxen hitched to it would make the feat more certain, and, besides, there were Niagara Falls not so far off as could be wished under the circumstances, whose current might give the boat a backward motion, notwithstanding its steam power. It would look as though the calculation was well made, for when all was ready it was found'that the combination of ox muscle and steam power made the boat advance at least two miles an hour. When the danger of the current was passed and the oxen unhitched the boat had a speed of from four to five miles an hour, which enabled Mr. Phelps, who had taken passage in it, to reach Cleveland, distant two hundred miles, in fifty-six hours. But steam power, as applied to navigation, was then in its infancy, and the novelty of calling oxen to the aid of steamers has long since become obsolete.
An uncle and aunt who lived in the little town of Newburgh, situated some six miles back of Cleveland, induced a visit of two weeks. This town will not now be found on the map, for years ago the growth of Cleveland had absorbed Newburgh.
This visit over, the young adventurer again set out with his face still westward, and his next stop was at Franklin, on the Big Miami, thirty-five miles north of Cincinnati, where he taught school in the same house two years and six months.
He then hired as a hand on a flat boat bound for New Orleans, but before starting invested all his money in the purchase of flour and chickens. His funds enabled him to lay in forty barrels of flour and thirty dozen chickens. This was in April 1823. The Miami was the river of mill-dams, and the boat had to run over twenty-four of these before the Ohio could be reached, consequently a rise in the river must be had before the boat could start.
The voyage down the Ohio was a very pleasant one, and his opportunities for examining the towns and country along the banks were quite good.
Of the many places that came under his observation on this trip, Evansville attracted his attention most, and he selected it as the place of his permanent residence.
While in Louisiana and Mississippi he had learned that the reeds used in weaving were so scarce as to command a very high price. This inspired his ingenuity, and on his return to Evansville, which was in June, he went into the manufacture of weaver's reeds, the canebrakes of Kentucky being his chief field of supply, and so assiduously did he work at this that by the middle of November he had about one hundred of these articles ready for sale.
The reeds necessitated the construction of a large skiff with a canvass covering to give shelter from the weather, and when completed, he, with a boy named Jones, whose mother's name was Abbot, made his second trip to the South, where his reeds were peddled out at from two to five dollars each, the pay being partly made in beef hides, deer skins and beeswax, which he sold in New Orleans.
While making this second trip he became acquainted with a Philadelphia merchant at Vicksburg, who bargained with him to peddle goods for one year, Florence, Alabama, being designated as the place where the merchant would supply Mr. Phelps with the goods. To carry out this project his second return to Evansville was followed by a trip to Florence, where he prepared himself self for his new undertaking, in which he was engaged something over a year.
His next movement was to sell his peddling equipage, retaining, however, the horse on which he travelled to Memphis. There he disposed of the horse, and took steamboat passage for Natchez.
In this city he came in contact with a Mr. Wade, from Boston, with whom he contracted for a supply of goods, which he agreed to peddle out in a floating trip down the river, a skiff being used for the conveyance. When a return was desired a steamer was employed to take the skiff to Memphis, when a new supply was laid in and a new trip commenced. Five trips were thus made in one season which realized him in the way of profit about one thousand dollars. This he invested in a stock of dry goods, boots and shoes, and returned to Evansville, in June, 1827.
On July 17th, 1827, he was married to Miss Frances Johnson, with whom he had formed an acquaintance about a year previous.
The following October he put all his goods in a small flatboat, employed a yellow man named Dave, who formerly belonged to Hugh McGary, one of the founders of Evansville, and again started down the river on a peddling expedition. He reached New Orleans in January, 1828, where he purchased a fresh stock of goods, and from this may be dated his permanent establishment in business, for on his return to Evansville he commenced mercantile trade, in a frame house which then stood on the present site of Marble Hall.
His first clerk was James G. Jones, the Judge, and beloved of after times, who was then about fourteen years old, and who lived with him some two years, when Mr. Phelps sold out his stock of goods. While in business he took in pork and nearly all kinds of produce, which he shipped to New Orleans in flat boats, making two or three trips a year.
In 1830, after selling out his stock of goods, and finding himself in possession of some two thousand dollars of United States paper, he resolved to visit his old home in Vermont, from which he had been absent ten years.
On his return he stopped at New York, where all his money and some credit were invested in a fresh stock of goods, which he opened in Newburgh, Indiana, he having decided to make that town his future place of residence. This occurred about the ist of October, 1830.
Since then he has travelled in the stage coach and canal boat more than forty times for the purpose of laying in goods, New York and Philadelphia being the places where he bought his heaviest stocks.
In those days the whistle of the locomotive had not echoed among the passes of the Alleghenies, and the travel worn western merchant found himself on the Atlantic seaboard for the purpose of laying in goods at an expense and fatigue that would astonish business men of the present times.
For many years after the removal of Mr. Phelps to Newburgh his competition was very slight, while his means and credit soon established for him a heavy business. Though the town was at that time only a hamlet and the country very thinly settled, yet customers from Pike, Dubois, and Spencer counties made New burgh their commercial center, and built up for Mr. Phelps a large produce business. In addition to this, of the settlers who were then living on Congress land, many of them got him to purchase their lands for them, allowing him a reasonable interest, and he giving them time to make their payments, and sometimes rendered them further assistance by taking their produce and shipping it to New Orleans. This bartering business required the employment of several Hatboats every year to take off the produce that came inio his hands, and the county records show that about one tenth of the lands in Warrick county have passed through his hands.
Of the many clerks who have been in his employ may be named his brother Cadwell Phelps, who, afier two years of service started a successful business in Boonville. There was also Neely Johnson, afterward Governor of California, Henry Williams, Albert Hazen, Union Bethell, Smith Hazen, Isa.ic Adams, John DeArmon, Tillman Bethell, D. B. Hazen and Robert Hall, the most of whom are living and doing well.
In 1855, and indeed for some years previous, the coal fields of Southern Indiana were in process of development, and about this time the first coal shaft in the vicinity of Newburgh was sunk on Mr. Phelps' land. At a subsequent date in conveying this land to his children he reserved the coal privilege, though more recently he has entailed this upon his heirs. The magnitude of this business may be somewhat appreciated when it is stated that the royalty on the coal taken from these lands amounts to over two thousand dollars per annum.
His religious career dates from 1834, and in 1837 he built the first church in the county. This house was located in Newburgh, and, after its completion and preparation for service, was donated to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, of which body Mr. Phelps was a member. It was afterwards donated to Indiana Presbytery for school purposes, and there are those now living and holding prominent positions in the church who can remember that their initiatory was taken at Newburgh, and within the walls of Delany Academy, this being the cognomen of the house after its donation to the Presbytery.
Mr. Phelps may be regarded as Newburgh's pioneer merchant, and his removal from Evansville was with the view to supply a need, in making it more convenient for the farmers of Warrick and Spencer counties to ship their produce and lay in the necessary supply of goods; and though the position was to him a lucrative one, and places him to-day among the wealthiest of his county, yet he has ever looked upon Evansville as the point for the great commercial emporium of Southern Indiana, and in consequence is to-day, as of yore, a warm advocate of railroad and other improvements that look to the enlargement of Evansville, and the growth of the surrounding country.
In this sketch we have the farm-boy, the school-teacher, the flatboatman, the peddler, and the merchant, and underlying all there is a tenacity of will, a fixedness of purpose, and a perseverance in effort that finally achieves the desired success.
The old gentleman is now in his eighty-fourth year, and though enfeebled by age, and so crippled in his lower limbs as to make locomotion slow and painful, yet his mental power remains unimpaired, thus proving, in part, that immortality to which all are hastening.
He lives with his family, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, a patriarch among his townsmen nnd friends, and, without any apprehension or regret, is daily looking for the call of the Great Master to another mode of existence.
JUDGE JOHN B. HANDY.
A careful student, a successful lawyer, an able and just judge, is John Brackenridge Handy, Judge of the Second Judicial District of Indiana. He was born at Washington, D. C., on August 27th, 1828, and is the eldest of a family of eight children, of Edward G. and Attilia A. Handy, of which he and his brother, James H., the second child, are the only survivors. He is of Irish-Scotch descent, and is a nephew of John A. Brackenridge, one of the ablest pioneer lawyers of Southern Indiana. In 1841 his father removed to Boonville; resided on a farm in Hart township for a while, and finally settled three miles west of Boonville. The monotony of farm life was not compatible with young John's nature, and, when about sixteen years old, he ran away from home, and sought more congenial employment. He hired to an old lady living on First street, in Evansville, to sell pies, cakes, pecans, oranges, fruits, etc., to the travellers on passing steamboats, and continued in that delectable business until he became even more disgusted with it than farm life, when he returned home. To imagine the now grave judge once a "peanut boy," gives one an irristable sense of the ludicrous. He afterwards accepted a position as clerk in the store of his uncle, Thomas J. Brackenridge, at Carrsville, Livingston county, Ky., which he held some time. As such things as schools were "few and far between" in that day, his education was chiefly obtained by his own efforts. However, he attended Delany Academy, at Newburgh, a short time, which was then regarded as one of the principal educational institutions in this section. He early manifested a great love of study, and determined to become a lawyer. Accordingly he read law some under his uncle, John A. Brackenridge, and in the fall of 1852 he entered the law school at Louisville, K,y. During the spring and summer of 1853 he attended a law school at Lebanon, Tenn., and in the following fall was admitted to the bar of War- rick county. He moved to Newburgh, and there commenced the practice of law. On the 28th of May, 1854, he was married to Amanda E. Muir, daughter of Dr. Muir, one of the earliest physicians of Boonville. The result of this marriage has been two children, both of whom are now living — Pinta, the eldest, is the wife of E. W. Bethell, cashier of the Boonville National Bank, and a son, Charles M. Handy. He resided at Newburgh until 1862, when, in consequence of the war breaking out, causing a general stagnation of business, he removed to the old homestead, three miles west of Boonville. In partnership with George W. Brackenridge, he commenced the practice of law in Boonville in 1862, but this partnership only lasted about one year, when it was dissolved, and the former removed to San Antonio, Texas, where he has amassed considerable wealth, and he is now President of the First National Bank of that city. In October, 1872, Mr. Handy was nominated by the Democratic party and elected Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the district comprising the counties of Warrick, Van derburgh, Gibson and Posey. In 1876 he was nominated by the Democratic party and elected Judge of the Second Judicial District, which is composed of Warrick, Spencer, Perry and Crawford counties. His present term will expire in October, 1882.
Judge Handy is passionately fond of books, and spends what time he is free from judicial duties in his library reading. His library is one of the largest and best selected in this part of the State. He is a hard student of both law and general literature.
C. L. OATLEY.
In the life of Christopher Lenhart Oatley, the subject of this brief sketch, we find a man devoted to his business, a useful citizen, and one highly esteemed. He was born at Zanesville, Mus kingum county, Ohio, November 14th, 1835. and is of German decent. His father, James Oatley, was a farmer in ordinary circumstances. It is noticable that of the prominent men of public life and leading men of business at least fifty per cent were farmer's boys and spent their boyhood days on a farm. The boyhood of C. L. Oatley was much the same as most other farmers' boys. Above all else he was industrious. His opportunities for obtaining an education were poor, but he availed himself of the advantages of the "district school," and there obtained all his schooling. When seventeen years of age he apprenticed himself at Zanesville, Ohio, to learn the miller's trade, where he remained five years in that capacity.
November 22, 1855, he was .narried to Belle C. Huston, the youngest daughter of J. C. and Patience Huston, of Zanesville. The fruits of this marriage has been three children, but the only one now living is the youngest, Miss May Oatley, a young lady of rare accomplishmens.
Mr. Oatley started out in the world as a poor boy wholly dependent upon himself. Afier his marriage he moved from Zanesville, Ohio, to Sterling, Whiteside county, Illinois, where he lived three years employed as manager of the flouring mills at that place. In August, 1859, ne moved to Boonville, obtaining employment in the flouring mill of Dial, Seigel & Co., where he worked three years. In 1863 he removed to Taylors ville, War rick county, and entered into a partnership in the milling business with Flavius P. Day. As Oatley possessed no capital at the time this partnership was one of experience vs. capital, and continued until 1868, when Mr. Oatley sold his interest and removed to Edwards county, Illinois. He purchased a mill at this place and engaged in business, but on account of ill-health disposed of his property and returned to Boonville a year afterward. Here he bought a one-half interest in the Elk Horn flouring mill, and finally became sole proprietor, but admitted Thos. J. Downs to a partnership in 1875. In July, 1881. Mr. Downs was succeeded by W. J. Hargrave. Mr. Oatley is a lover of his business and is peculiarly adapted to it. He has improved the Elk Horn mill until it is now one of the foremost flouring establishments in the country, and their grade of flour is in demand wherever known.
Milling, as carried on by Mr. Oatley, is more of a science than trade, requiring nice adjustments and complicated processes to produce a fine quality of our staple article of food. Although his establishment already seems perfect, he is continually adding new improvements of unsurpassed utility and perfection of design.
The Elk Horn mills have a capacity of one hundred and twenty- five barrels of flour per day, and frequently the press of business becomes so great that they are forced to run day and night.
This establishment is one of Warrick's most, if not the most, important business enterprises and it has been brought up to this standing principally through the efforts of Mr. Oatley.
Although he has been solicited by his party at different times to become a candidate for office, Mr. Oatley has never sought political favor, and, in fact, he has rather shunned it, his business being sufficient to content him. However, in his political belief he is what is termed a "radical Republican."
He possesses what would be regarded as a strongly marked and admirable character. He is very independent, and, withal, liberal in his ideas, and is one of the last men in the world to be victimized by an illusion. He is open to conviction, but not to persuasion. He is endowed with remarkable firmness and self- reliance; his will is indomitable and his word can always be relied on. Once a friend, he is a friend forever — in adversity as in prosperity. His benevolence is a marked trait, and in a quiet way he is very charitable. The better acquainted one becomes with Mr. Oatley, the more the noble qualities of the man are admired, and in this brief sketch the writer feels his inability to pay him a proper or just tribute. Aside from his sterling personal qualities he is a progressive citizen and an enterprising business man.
Jacob Seitz was born January 10th, 1841, three miles east of Boonville. His father, George Seitz, was born at Weisenheim, Bavaria, April 5th, 1815, and emigrated to America in 1837.
In 1838 he came to Warrick county, and settled in what was afterwards known as the "German Settlement" three miles east of Boonville. He was one of the first Germans to settle in Boonville. His father being in feeble health, and most of the time unable to work, the responsibility of the farm rested almost wholly upon our subject, and he was compelled to do the work of a man when only a small boy. The story of the' hardships which he endured, as told by his venerable parents, is one of pathos. He learned the alphabet and reading by attending Sunday-school, and after his day's work, until late at night, he would read chapter after chapter in the Bible, which was his only book. He was sent to a writing school, held at night where he learned to write, and he afterward attended one or two terms of a sixty day school during the winter, but in all he never received more than nine months schooling. The rest of his education he obtained without assistance, and by hard study.
In October, 1858, he was married to Caroline Lacer, who died in 1875. In 1859 he removed to Boonville, and obtained employment in the flouring mill, of which his father was part proprietor, as engineer, without any previous knowledge of machinery, at a salary of $15 per month, and when he quit work he was receiving $35 per month. He afterwards leased his father's interest in the flouring mill, but remained in that busi ness only one year. After engaging in several other pursuits, he was given employment in the tobacco establishment of Kerr, Clark & Co. , as buyer and receiver, but retained it only a few months. He afterwards formed a partnership with George Cromeans, and, with $800 capital, they shipped tobacco on a small scale. They were quite successful, but after remaining in partnership three years dissolved. Mr. Seitz has since continued in the business, but he now conducts it upon a much larger basis, buying grain as well as tobacco. In 1879 he paid out over $80,000 for tobacco and grain, and during 1880 purchased over 600,000 pounds of tobacco. He is one of the most extensive dealers in tobacco in Southern Indiana, and his establishment gives steady employment to several men and boys.
December 25th 1877, Mr. Seitz was married to Mary A. Grimm, of Huntingdon, Perm., a lady of rare scholastic attainments. Mr. Seitz is a man of fine physique and pleasing manners. In 1876, and also in 1880, he was nominated by the Republican party for Sheriff of Warrick county, and although defeated, he largely reduced the Democratic majority each time.
No man is better known in Warrick county than Jacob Seitz, and no man is more generally liked by the people.
William Swint, editor and publisher of the Boonville Enquirer, was born at Jasper, Dubois county, Indiana, April 16th 1844. He is the fourth child and first son of a family of seven, four of whom still survive. His parents were natives of Germany and France, and were adherents of Catholicism. His father, Conrad Swint, (Schwint) was born at Heidelburg, Germany, May 1, 1808, and was a graduate of the Heidelberg university. In 1830 he was married to Miss Adaline Lechner, and in the same year they emigrated to America. He died in April, 1859, at Troy, Perry county, Indiana. William Swint's mother was born in January, 1812, and died at Troy in January, 1869, where she lies buried beside her husband. She was the daughter ol Franz Lechner, a soldier under Napoleon for twenty-four years, who died in this State at the age of eighty-nine. William Swint attended the common schools until twelve years of age, when he apprenticed himself in the Rockport Democrat office, where he remained until the breaking out of the civil war. He enlisted in 1861 in the Twenty-Fifth Indiana Regiment, serving as a private and non-commissioned officer in the capacity of Sergeant- Major, until mustered out of the service in 1864, being engaged in all the campaigns and battles participated in by the regiment.
After his return home he was for a time employed in the clerk's office of Spencer county, where he again took up his old position in the printing office until 1868, when he removed to Louisville, Kentucky, where he was employed on the Louisville Journal until 1870. At that time he removed to Boonville, Indiana, purchasing the Boonville Enquirer, which he has continued the management of, making it a vigorous and influential journal in the county and district, and engaging actively in politics. He has never aspired to any office, but has held a number of minor offices through appointment. He was married by Rev. S. Rav enscroft, in the spring of 1868, to Katie A. Dreher, youngest of four daughters of Ezra and Catherine Dreher. She was born at Madison, Indiana, November 26th, 1849, and died of pneumonia February ulh, 1879, after an illness of one week, leaving three children, two girls and one boy. Her death was a sad stroke to her husband, and his grief has wrought a grave change in him.
Mr. Swint has been a decided factor in the current political literature, and has been recognized of decided importance to the Democratic party, of which he is one of the most prominent leaders in the First district. — From Eminent Men of Indiana.
KATIE A. SWINT.
Katie A. Swint, nee Dreher, spouse of William Swint, was born in Madison, Ind., Nov. 26, 1849, and was the youngest of four daughters of Ezra and Catherine Dreher. She removed with her parents to Rockport, Ind., at an early age, where she was married to William Swint, in 1868. The result of this union was three children — two girls and one boy. She died at her home in Boonville, on Tuesday, February 11, 1879, of pneumonia, after an illness of only one week, aged 29 years.
The following tribute to her memory by one who knew her from childhood, tells the story of her life in language far more beautiful than any within our command:
"How rare, how beautiful, in all the virtues that adorn the character of wife, mother, daughter, sister — only those may truly know who shared the sacred intimacies of her home life. How ardent and sincere it was m its friendships, how cheerful and sunny in its every-day influences, how informal and illuminated with the spirit of self-sacrifice — many, many sorrowing hearts can attest! Her affectionate loyalty to her friends was one of the most distinguishing traits of her character, and her conceptions of duty in this particular were ample and generous. No demand which the sorrow or sufferings of her friends could make upon her time or patience ever went unanswered. No night was too dark to keep her from the bedside of sickness or death; and she carried everywhere the sunlight of cheerfulness and hope. Looking always to the better side of human nature, she refused to think evil of her neighbors, and turned a deaf ear to the tongue of the slanderer. These were the qualities of mind and heart that endeared her to all with whom she came in contact. It is literally true that none knew her but to love her."
But it was in the atmosphere of her own home that was developed the perfect flower and consumation of her womanhood. Her devotion to her husband, in its tenderness, constancy, purity and trust, will never be excelled while the instinct of love abides in the human heart. He repaid it with all the affection of which a generous nature was capable. The attachment between them, indeed, was peculiarly interwoven with the whole history of their lives, for it began when they were boy and girl. Long before marriage was possible, or even contemplated, they loved one another. They loved as boy and girl, as youth and maiden, as man and woman; and their love grew and strengthened and brightened from first to last. It is the happy satisfaction of the writer that he knew of this attachment between them in their youth, and favored and encouraged it, when it was somewhat in his power to do so, because he had faith in them.
"That Katie was a most fond and devoted mother need not be said. Her love for her children was all-pervading and intense. It is one of the saddest features of this untimely death that the three orphaned ones are too young even to realize the depth of their mothers love. But they must be taught to remember that only a few moments before she died — in the midst of a deathbed scene of wonderful beauty and serenity — their mother prayed that it might be a part of her occupation in heaven to guard the earthly footsteps of her children."
Her affection for her aged father and mother was touching in its freshness and constancy. They were ever in her foremost thought, and she always spoke of them with reverential fondness. Among her last words were, "A kiss for Pa, Ma."
She is gone. Some of us who linger behind, bound to her by
a thousand ties of love and gratitude, stand appalled before a
calamity like this — home destroyed, children bereft, a life-plan
thwarted on the very threshold of success. Pondering — vainly,
perhaps — the problems of life and destiny; groping — blindly it
may be — for the life of a higher faith, we cannot understand
why it is that one so young, so good, so necessary to the happiness
of others should be thus suddenly taken away. But to her
was given that higher faith. In her .conception of the moral
government of the world, even this stroke of desolation had its
appointed place in the scheme of that all-pervading problem,
"That paints the hue upon an insect's wing,
And sets his throne uron the rolling worlds."
"In that faith she died — died breathing a prayer for her dear children, and responding with the last effort of earthly consciousness to the kiss of the broken-hearted husband."
19 October 2009