Wayne County, Indiana
OLD SETTLERS MEETINGS
Several years before the breaking out of the late war, the citizens of
this county instituted the custom of holding annual picnics. The
excitement during the progress of the war took away the interest in
those meetings; but after the return of peace they were resumed. The
meeting of 1869 was held on the fair ground at Centerville, on the 18th
of June. It was represented in the newspapers as a successful one.
Since the first meeting, held ten years previously, there had not been
so large an attendance as there was at this meeting. The following
report of its proceedings and of the remarks of the speakers, is taken
from the newspapers :
Hon. James Perry, of Richmond, was chosen
president of the meeting.
The President, on taking the chair, made an
appropriate address, in which he briefly compared the state of the
country and the county fifty years ago with their present condition.
There can not be a more beautiful contrast than that between the county
as it was in the days of the red man, and the county as it is now. Then
all was wilderness ; now we have turnpikes and railroads, cultivated
farms and splendid mansions, and the fields are decked with grain and
flowers. After a few remarks on the propriety and good results of this
association, he concluded. The organization was then completed by the
election of Oliver T. Jones and Isaac N. Beard, as Vice-Presidents, and
Dr. Samuel S. Boyd, Secretary.
On the stand were Colonel James Blake, Hon. J. S.
Newman, and Hon. Oliver P. Morton, former residents of Wayne county,
now of Indianapolis; Joseph Holman, John Peelle, Barnabas C. Hobbs,
Colonel Enoch Railsback, Jacob B. Julian, Noah W. Miner, John Green,
Dr. Mendenhall, and others.
Hon. Oliver P.
Morton was introduced by the President as the first speaker. He
said he was a native of Salisbury, the old county town which has passed
out of existence, the house of Colonel Railsback being the last and
only one. A half century ago, Indiana was called the extreme West; and
a trip from the Eastern states took as much time as it did now to go to
the Sandwich Islands, or to Japan. Indiana is not now in the West at
all. An Omaha paper claimed that that city was in the East! He spoke of
the progress of the country in wealth and population, and its moral and
intellectual improvement. He did not believe there would be another
rebellion; the country, a hundred years hence, would be bound together
by stronger ties than ever of affection, of honor, and glory.
was then introduced. He said he was the sole survivor of two events ;
of the first emigration party of eight, who came to Wayne county in
1805, and also of the body of men who framed the first constitution of
the state in 1816. When he came, Knox, Clark, and Dearborn were the
only counties in the territory. Mr. Holman read a sketch of his early
reminiscences which he had prepared. [As a large portion of the facts
alluded to in the sketch are mentioned elsewhere in this work, they are
here omitted.] While he was reading, the emigration train passed by,
with their pack horses, hominy kettle and bell, all in the order they
started sixty-four years ago. This exhibition excited a good deal of
interest. Mr. Holman was born near Versailles, Woodford county, Ky.,
and was married November 22,1810, and went to housekeeping two days
afterward in a log cabin built by himself. He served in the war of
1812, and built a block-house on his farm near Centerville.
The meeting next adjourned for dinner. A reporter of
the proceedings, alluding to the ample supply of provisions for the
occasion, wrote: "We heard of one poor family who only made way with
thirteen chickens; and from the appearance of the ground, this may be
taken as a fair average of the way the barn-yards suffered all over the
county." The first thing done by the President was to offer a set of
knives and forks made by Henry Hunter, of Richmond, to the oldest
person on the ground. The prize was carried off by William Bundy, aged
Blake, of Indianapolis. When he came to Marion county, Wayne was
called " Old Wayne," being six-teen years ahead of Marion. Between
Centerville and Indianapolis there were not a half-dozen inhabitants.
The people of Wayne and Marion were neighbors, and were familiar with
each other. The citizens of Indianapolis got their mail from the
Connersville post-office, taking two days to go and two days to get
back. In early times there were two parties in the state, the
Whitewater party and the Kentucky party, trained in all sorts of tricks
by the controversy over the removal of the county seat from Salisbury
The Whitewater party always beat the Kentucky party,
and virtually controlled the state. He remembered the first United
States mail that came to Indianapolis, in April, 1822. The news came
one day that the next the United States mail was to come; and at the
appointed time all Indianapolis gathered, to the number of thirty or
forty families, to see the mail come in. Presently, through the woods
was seen a young man riding his horse at a gallop, now and then blowing
his horn; and that was the United States mail. The saddle-bags were
opened, and there were about a dozen letters. It was a great day for
Indianapolis. The young mail carrier's name was Lewis Jones. [At this
instant, Mr. Jones, still residing in Center township, arose.] That
young man carried the mail for two years, swimming all the creeks. He
was once so far frozen, that it required two men to take him off his
horse into a store to thaw him out. In 1821, when the speaker came to
Indianapolis, there was no property held except by the government. It
was one great forest, through which they could not see the sun and sky.
Once the people got so famished to see the firmament, that they made up
a party, and rode eighteen miles to William Conner's prairie, and spent
the day roaming round. When they first saw the sun, the whole party
took off their hats and cheered for half an hour! Colonel Blake also
complimented the people of that day for being so honest, that notes for
borrowed money were never thought of. People helped each other as a
matter of course, and borrowed money without interest.
Nothing was known of usury until 1834, when the banks started up, and a
bank aristocracy was created.
John S. Newman
was introduced. He had been a long time a resident of Wayne county, and
his mind was crowded with recollections. He remembered letters
addressed to his grandfather, "Andrew Hoover, Dearborn County, Indiana
Territory." In the audience before him he recognized many old friends,
and not a few he might call "chums." He remembered many of the
incidents related by Joseph Holman; but one Mr. Holman had forgotten to
tell. At the election held in 1814 to elect members of the legislature,
James Brown received one vote more than Holman; and as they voted viva
voce, when one man came up and voted for Brown, some one said, " I
thought you intended to vote for Holman ? " " So I did," was the reply,
" but let it stand now." That vote elected Brown; but Brown died when
he was within a few miles of the capital at Corydon, and Holman was
elected at a special election to fill the vacancy. [Mr. Newman here
omits a fact. Brown had voted for himself; and had Holman voted for
himself, he would have prevented the election of his rival, which he
was unwilling to do.] There were then about six hundred votes cast in
the county. In 1818, John Sutherland got 888 votes, and it was thought
nobody would ever get so many votes again. Mr. Newman's folks landed in
Wayne county March 29, 1807. At that time the land belonged to the
Indians. The line between the red and the white men's grounds then ran
about two and a half miles west of Richmond. In 1809, a strip of land
twelve miles wide was purchased by Gen. Harrison, west of the Wayne
purchase of 1785; and the west line of the purchase ran near Cambridge
City. It was a great thing then to go to the new purchase. The price of
land was $2 per acre; but for cash down the Government made a reduction
of 37 1/2 cents.
He remembered the old path by Cox's mill, built in
the year 1807, to Richmond, down the Whitewater. When he was old enough
to sit on a horse, his uncle and himself used to go to mill; and the
pathway was so narrow that they had to push the bushes on either side
to allow their animals to pass. That is now the most thickly settled
part of Wayne county. He concurred with Gov. Morton in the belief that
the world was growing better intellectually and morally, but doubted it
a little as to muscular strength. Handling the ax, splitting logs and
rails, developed a strength of muscle superior to that enjoyed by the
men of today.
was the next speaker. He said: I have so often told you the same old
story, that you know it by heart. You know I was born in the year 1791,
near Beard's hatter shop in old North Carolina. You remember the plow
made of a forked stick, the cotton rope traces, my tanning leather, or
pretending to, and making my wife's shoes out of it, which hurt her
feet to this day. You know, for I have told you before, that after I
came to this State, I often got up from the table hungry, and sighed,
with tears in my eyes, for my mother's milk-house in North Carolina.
But we soon raised plenty of corn and squashes and pumpkins, on which
we fared sumptuously. We used to hand round a basket of turnips to
company in the place of apples. I remember once at a neighbor's house,
I did not scrape the turnip as close as the good lady of the house
thought I ought to; so she scraped it over again and ate it herself. I
believe I have seen as hard times as the next man. I made two farms
from the green. One day, going to Moffitt's on a borrowed horse, he
fell down fourteen times, but he got the bag oft" only once. Let me say
a word about my nephew, Judge Peelle. I believe he is present. Well,
whether he is or not, he was as bad a child as I ever knew. He cried
nearly all the way from North Carolina, for which I often wanted to
thrash him. Yet after all, the judge is quite a man now. Mr. Peelle
exhibited a shilling once owned by John Wesley, and a mate to the one
he paid to the 'squire who married him. Being about to leave the stand
without alluding to his pantaloons, some one reminded him of his
forgetfulness. Turning to the audience and laying his hand on his
pantaloons, he said: These are the identical " overhauls " for which I
swapped another pair at a log-rolling shortly after I came to this
country. We went into a log meeting-house close by to make the exchange.
Barnabas C. Hobbs,
Superintendent of Public Instruction, was the next speaker. He was born
in Washington county. When the emigrants started to North Carolina,
they parted company in Kentucky, a portion going to Wayne county, the
other to Washington county. He remembered the laying off of the city of
Indianapolis. When the people got home and were asked the name of the
new town, they replied, " Indian no place" He remembered Judge Parke
very well, who used to stay at his father's house when on his circuit,
which extended from Vincennes to Richmond, taking in all the
intermediate country, Lawrenceburg and all. Mr. Hobbs told a story of
the courtship of Gabriel Newby, of Washington county, who was in love
with the daughter of John Harvey, of Wayne county. It took the lover
two days to go to and from Harvey's house, requiring him to spend one
night in the woods on the journey. On one occasion, after Newby had
encamped for the night, the wolves came around him; and through the
darkness until daylight he had to fight the beasts with fire-brands.
Such was the trouble young men had then to get wives. Although Mr. H.
omitted to tell it, Miss Harvey finally became Mrs. Newby. He closed
with an interesting examination of the old constitution of 1816, and
the school laws of that time, to show that the men of that day had the
most expanded ideas of the advantages of a thorough education of the
youth of the state.
The exercises were now relieved by the band playing
the air, " Auld lang syne," after which
Railsback made a speech crowded with interesting facts. He came
to Wayne county on the 17th of March, 1807, when the land belonged to
the Shawnee and Delaware Indians. Polly Whitehead, daughter of the
Baptist preacher, was the first white woman married in the county.
[Mrs. Hunt, the lady named, was present, and came upon the
plat¬form.] She was then one of the finest women in the settlement
; and although now eighty-one years of age, she steps off as lively
to-day as almost any one can. The first Methodist Episcopal church was
established by Hugh Cull and old Mr. Meek, in 1808. The preaching
places were at John Cox's, Hugh Cull's, and at the speaker's
father's. The first mill was built November 30,1807, by old man
Hunt, on the Elkhorn. Squire Rue and Squire Cox, the first justices of
the peace, were as much revered as a judge is now-a-days. The first
doctors were Dr. David F. Sackett and Dr. Davis; but the first of a
higher order of physicians, as the people believed, were Drs. Pugh,
Warner, Pritchett, and Mendenhall. He had worn as many, if not more
leather breeches than any one else on the ground, and was just as happy
then as he was now, worth a hundred times as much. He recollected John
Green very well, a gentlemanly old Indian, who lived on Noland's Fork.
He had often seen Indians pass his father's house, sometimes fifty or
sixty, going to Hamilton, Ohio, to trade; and they were very friendly.
The last crowd of Indians he saw was when Gen. Harrison reviewed the
eight regiments of militia just south of Richmond, where he had come to
warn the people of danger. There were about fifty sitting on the fence
looking at the review. Mr. Railsback related several interesting
incidents connected with the Indians, one of which was their stealing
Lydia Thorp, a little daughter of Boaz Thorp, near Milton. The Indians
were tracked by men and dogs, but they escaped, and nothing was seen of
the girl until, about ten years after, they saw her at the forks of the
Wabash, the happy wife of an Indian. The mother and father did not dare
to speak to her, and she soon left, and was seen by them no more.
Jeptha Turner is the oldest native born inhabitant of Wayne county
living, and is about sixty-three years of age. Mrs. Railsback was the
first white child born in the county. She came into the world October
Jacob B. Julian
next addressed the meeting. He appeared for the reason that most of the
other speakers had been born away from home; and he wanted the audience
to see the advantages of being born in Wayne county. He was " native
and to the manor born " about fifty-four years ago. A portion of the
old house he carried in the shape of a walking-stick, as a sacred
memento of his father and mother. When he was born, the tax duplicate
was only about $950; now it amounted to between $350,000 and $360,000.
The Twelve Mile Purchase was then in market. Between Cambridge and the
Pacific ocean there was not a foot of land subject to entry. There were not, probably, one
thousand white men in all that country, where there are at least ten
millions today. When he was born, not a turnpike was thought of.
Railroads had not been dreamed of. There was but one church, and no
school-house, that was not made of logs. To-day there are three hundred
miles of turnpike, and $300,000 invested in churches and school-houses.
What a change in one short life! Mr. Julian then passed into a eulogium
of Wayne county, and alluded to the feeling of pride and love which
animated the breast of every native of the county.
Noah W. Miner,
the last speaker, said he couldn't attempt a speech in less than three
or four hours; but if the committee would give him that length of time
on some occasion, he would show them what could be done in the way of a
speech. He came from the Beard's hatter shop locality, being born in
the year 1800. He had seen the century in, and he knew no good
reason.why he shouldn't see it out. He had lived sixty-nine years, and
if something did n't happen to him that never had happened, he would
see the century out, sure. Mr. Miner told sundry interesting things
about his early life corroborative of the facts related by others, and
gave way about four o'clock to the museum of curious things, which was
conducted by Mr. Jones with all the impressment of a regular exhibitor
of striped reptiles or fat women.
The following is a list:
A pewter bowl, over one
hundred years old, belonging to Leah Bartlett, of Maryland, now owned
by her granddaughter.
A pair of spoon molds,
A copy of the Ulster
County Gazette, of the date of January 4,1800, with an account of the
death and funeral of General Washington. Published at Kingston, Ulster
county, N. Y.
Old plow with wooden mold
A pair of hames
accompanying the plow.
A powder horn made of
gourd used by the grandfather of Levi Warren in the Revolutionary war,
under Gen. Benedict Arnold. As the President said, "a better gourd now
than Arnold was a man."
A pocket-book one hundred
and fifty years old, made in
Germany, and brought over
with German guildern of date 1709.
A lot of German almanacs,
the oldest dated 1775.
A foot stove used by old
German ladies when riding in sleighs.
A pair of gum shoes fifty
A pewter basin from
Holland, two hundred years old.
A small tea chest, three
sides made of wood of the elm tree under which Penn made his treaty
with the Indians.
An old frying-pan from
An old gun of the
American Revolution. The grandfather of the exhibitor owned it at the
time of the battle of Mon-mouth, and, it is presumed, did service in
that engagement. A modern cock had been substituted for the old flint
After the exhibition of
these articles, the meeting closed.
Source: History of Wayne County, Indiana by Andrew W. Young 1872