Kate Milner Rabb.

A tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia online

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horticulture, and that he contemplates establishing
here a horticultural society and eventually publish-
ing a paper devoted to its interests. 3

On the subject of horticulture in Indiana, Mr.
Beecher talked at length.

"There is," said he, "no better soil and climate
for the perfection of small fruits. Our variable
springs are their only obstacle. The long summers,
the brilliantly clear atmosphere, the great warmth
and dryness during the fall ripening months give
our fruit great size, color and flavor. There are
very few gardens in Massachusetts except near large
cities which can compare with ten or twenty in this
town. ' '

He then went on to speak of the interest the peo-
ple in Indianapolis take in gardening. ' ' I hope you
have noticed, sir, as you walked about our city, the

3 He did both. In August, 1840, he established the Indianapolis
Horticultural Society, and a few years later published the Western
Farmer and Gardener. Editor.


many beautiful little flower gardens, the cleaned
walks, the trimmed borders, this, too, when, from the
rear, one can almost throw a stone into the primeval
forest. In some places you will find only an acre of
ground, but this covered with fruits and vegetables
of every kind. Ah, when I see, as I have seen, such
a little garden, the personal labor of one man, and
that man poor and advanced in years, I do believe,
sir, that this sight has delighted me more than would
the grounds of the London Horticultural Society!"

Mrs. Beecher, in our brief conversation, confided
to me that whenever Mr. Beecher goes to see one
of his parishioners or some poor person in whom he
is interested, it is his wont to carry in his hand some
choice specimen from his garden, to present it to
the person visited, telling him something of inter-
est concerning it and its growth, and then offering
him a plant of it from his garden. And almost
always, she said, he arouses sufficient interest for
the person to accept his offer and to ask for the
plant, and ere long he, too, is the proud possessor
of a garden.

Mr. Beecher deplored the cutting down of the trees
from the Court House grounds and the Circle, and
declared his intention of inducing public-spirited
gentlemen to assist in planting the streets with spec-
imens of all our best forest trees.

At Mr. Beecher 's request, I remained to tea with!
them on this evening, and accompanied him to
prayer meeting in the room in the Seminary, which,
as I have said, he is using until the completion of
the church. As we went forth to prayer meeting,


accompanied by Mr. Hubbard, two gentlemen came
out of a house directly opposite, a plain two-story
brick structure, and turned their steps our way.
These gentlemen were presented as Daniel Yandes
and his son, Simon. Daniel Yandes is a pioneer,
and a man who has hewn a fortune out of the wil-
derness by his own efforts, I am told, and he is a
most devout member of the church and most liberal
in his benevolences. The son Simon is extremely
tall and thin, with light hair and gray eyes. He is,
as I soon perceived, not given to conversation, but
as we walked together and he learned that I was a
stranger and observed my interest in Mr. Beecher,
he told me much of him. He is, says Mr. Yandes,
a man admirably adapted to Western life. From
the moment he came to town, he entered with the
greatest enthusiasm into all the social life and en-
gagements ; he has a talent for conversation, is full
of wit and fun, and already knows everybody in
the town.

I was ready to agree with this, and when I heard
him preach, as I did later, I subscribed immediately
to the words of praise from other sources that as
a preacher he is a landscape painter of Christianity;
that he has no model, is off-hand and original; that
his great power over his congregation consists
mainly in the clearness of his mental vision, the
range of his thoughts, the deep interest he imparts
to whatever he teaches.

Before the evening was over I had reason to thank
the chance which led me to Mr. Beecher and had
brought about rny invitation to the prayer meeting,


for here I met among others, Mr. Lawrence M.
Vance, a young man near my own age, a member of
the choir (Mr. Beecher is said to have introduced
choirs into this city), and to Mr. Vance I owe much
of the special pleasure I have enjoyed during my
stay in the city. I also met here some of the found-
ers of the church, Mr. John L. Ketcham, Mr. Joseph
F. Holt and wife, Mr. Sidney Bates, Mr. Alexander
Davidson and many others, whom I have encoun-
tered again at other gatherings and all of whom
have showed me attention.

Time presses and I must bring this installment
of my diary to a close. In my next I shall chronicle
the next incidents of days in this city, the ball, the
tea at Mrs. Sarah Bolton's, a poetess of the West-
ern wilderness, my meeting with a company of law-
yers, an evening at the home of Governor Wallace,
and my trip to a "pleasure garden" with a most
beautiful and accomplished young lady.



I ALREADY have mentioned young Mr. T. A.
Morris, a West Point graduate and an engi-
neer who superintended the work of construc-
tion on the State House, and who has for some years
been captain of a company of volunteer militia. It
was my good fortune to see this militia in action
one day of this week. This company, the " Marion
Guards," I was informed by my companion at the
time, was organized in 1837 by Col: Russell, who was
later succeeded in the captaincy/ and the work of
drilling by Mr. Morris. Their uniform is of gray
cloth, black-faced, with high shakos of black shiny
leather, with black cockades. Col. Russell, 'tis said,
drilled them well in the beginning, and after Mr.
Morris took them in hand they became quite pro-
ficient in their evolutions, which afforded great en-
tertainment to the town. There is another company
also, incorporated just two years ago, known as the
"Marion Rifles," under Capt. Thomas McBaker, and
these men wear an altogether different uniform
a blue-fringed hunting shirt with blue pantaloons
and caps, not nearly so soldierly, but after all more
attractive, in my eyes at least, because of this very
suggestion of the frontier.

Sometimes, I hear, the Guards are called "Gray


Backs ' ' because of their gray uniform, and the other
company, perhaps because of their less disciplined
appearance and their method of warfare, unlike the
European, or Prussian, I should say, in which the
Guards are so well drilled, are called "The Arabs."

On this day of which I speak the two companies,
by agreement, as I learned later, met for a sham
battle along Washington Street, and soon all who
were on the street or in the stores and various build-
ings were lined along the sidewalks watching the
performance. Down the street came the Guards,
marching and firing in platoons, most stately and
imposing in their tall shakos, when suddenly up-
started the Arabs, and went through their skirmish
drill, lying down in the dust, firing, loading again,
rising, retreating in a run, dropping down again
and going through the same maneuvers, much to the
delight of the spectators. It was a most interest-
ing spectacle, and I was much pleased to have this
opportunity of observing the efficiency of the militia
and the interest of the lookers-on.

Young Mr. Morris or Capt. Morris, I should say,
who is just 29 years old, is a young gentleman of
fine presence and most agreeable manners, and he
has been most gracious to me on the occasion of
our several meetings and has related to me many
most entertaining anecdotes of his experiences. He
was, he informs me, 'at Tippecanoe, at the great
meeting which I attended in company with Col.
Vawter, and he has presented me to several of the
gentlemen who were his companions on this occa-
sion. The delegation which went from this city was


of most imposing proportions and importance, and
was given the name of "The Wild Oats of Indian-
apolis," and several of these gentlemen, among
whom I remember most distinctly Elliott Patterson,
Charles Cady, John D. Morris, James E. Nowland,
Andrew Byrne, Hugh 'Neal, George Bruce, George
Drum and Vance Noel, have told me many amusing
stories of this long journey through the rain and
mud to one of the greatest political demonstrations
they had ever witnessed.

This Mr. Noel, or Vance, as he is familiarly ad-
dressed by many of his townsmen, is a Virginian by
birth, who came here in 1825 with his parents and
has been in the office of the Indiana Journal, a paper
which was first published under the name of the
Western Censor and Emigrant's Guide, established
by Harvey Gregg and Douglass Maguire, most es-
timable gentlemen, whom I have met several times.
My friend, Mr. Merrill, I learn, was an editor of
this paper for a season, and five years ago it was
purchased by Mr. Douglass and Mr. Noel. The lat-
ter tells me that he has learned the entire business
in this office, beginning as an apprentice and serving
later as journeyman, foreman, and now proprietor.

A most amusing incident narrated to me by Mr.
Noel, and one which explains jesting- remarks I have
heard exchanged frequently among various gentle-
men on the occasion of their meetings, concerns an
event known as "the Black Hawk "War." Early in
1832, I am told, a Sac Indian chief, by name Black
Hawk, by his hostile acts aroused much fear among
the northern frontier settlements of Illinois and


northwestern Indiana, and in order to reassure the
settlers and to provide for the permanence of the
settlements Governor Noble- sent two detachments
of militia to the northern frontiers of the state, or-
dering small detachments of mounted riflemen to
be stationed at different points from the skirts of
the settlements beyond the Wabash and the lake.

This same Col. Russell who organized the Marion
Guards, was commissioned by the Governor to raise
the 300 volunteer militia, and the prestige of this
gallant gentleman whose greatest delight, 'tis said,
is to ride dashingly along by his line of men, sword
flashing, plume flying in the breeze, shouting his or-
ders, induced a great number to join the body. In
a very few days the companies made up of citizens
of this and adjoining counties were full, at some
expense, too, for all were expected to arm and equip
themselves with horses, rifles and camp, equipage,
and were settled in the camp on the high ground
just beyond West Street and north of Washington,
where they employed themselves while waiting in
molding bullets and throwing tomahawks at a mark.

"I shall never forget the day of our departure,"
said Mr. Noel, as he related to me the story. "It
was a Sunday morning, and this long line of 300
mounted men marched along Washington Street,
which was lined with onlookers, mothers, fathers,
friends, many of them weeping as they thought of
the possibility of their heroes never returning. The
dreariness of this occasion was enhanced by the dol-
orous notes of a great tin horn which heralded our
movements, and each onslaught on which brought


a fresh deluge of tears from the spectators who
thought never to look on us again. As a matter of
fact, like that ancient King of Spain, we all marched
out and then marched back again. We were gone
just three weeks, all told, the greater part of this
time consumed in going and coming, for when,
guided by William Conner, we arrived at Fort Dear-
born, we found that the war was over and Black
Hawk a prisoner. We marched around the lake to
South Bend on our homeward way, a most unfortu-
nate proceeding, by the way, for the editor of the
paper in that town, John B. Defrees, enormously
amused by our very warlike appearance and our late
arrival on the field of combat, gave us the name of
'The Bloody Three Hundred.'

"The name did not reach Indianapolis for a sea-
son. We arrived at home on the 3d of July and
were given a dinner at Washington Hall on the
Fourth by our grateful fellow citizens, who wel-
comed us as returned heroes who had undoubt-
edly prevented their wholesale massacre. However,
'twas not long till the story crept out of our blood-
less and uneventful journey, and then Mr. Defrees 's
happy epithet, the Bloody Three Hundred! 'Twas
too apt a title to be forgotten, and though eight
years have elapsed since then, we are still twitted
with it."

Later I encountered some of the leading men who
were members of this company, and to all of them
was presented by Mr. Noel Stoughton A. Fletcher,
Gen. James P. Drake, Capt. John Wishard, Gen.
Robert Hanna, Capt. Alex Wiley all of whom, I


observed, still found pleasure in recounting the in-
cidents of this expedition. Col. Russell himself I
have had the pleasure of meeting; he is a stock-
holder in the inn, Washington Hall, whose impor-
tance as a center of Whig activities I am beginning
more and more to realize as the excitement incident
to the prosecution of the campaign progresses, and
I have found him a man of most ardent and enthu-
siastic temperament and one most kind and devoted
to his friends.

On the evening of the day on which I saw the mili-
tia maneuvers, I went, according to arrangement,
to Mr. Merrill's house that he might accompany me
to call on Governor Wallace. I have noted before
that the house known as the Governor's Mansion,
situated in the Circle, has never been used for a res-
idence, the situation being too public, and during
the incumbency of Governor Wallace, a house has
been purchased by the state which was built by Dr.
John Sanders, and which is said to be the finest
house in the town. It stands on the northwest cor-
ner of Market and Illinois Streets, and at not a great
distance from Mr. Merrill's home.

'Twas not yet sunset, as I strolled along Wash-
ington Street toward Mr. Merrill's, and frequently
I encountered the urchins of the town driving home
the cows. From the south they came, from the place
known as Sheets' pasture. 1

This place Mr. Fletcher in driving out has pointed
out to me. They came down Illinois Street, a cow

1 Two blocks between Georgia and South Streets and Tennessee and
Mississippi Streets. (Holloway, 1870.) Editor.


or more for every family, it would seem, from their
number, sometimes pausing to graze, anon lashed to
a gallop by their young drivers who were shouting,
fighting, singing, indulging in the thousand and one
pranks common to youth the world over. These
same urchins I had observed but the day before
while walking abroad with Mr. Vance, flocking to
Noble's Hole, 2 their favorite swimming place, he
said, because of the blue clay in the bank which,
sloping steeply, gives them a fine slide into the
water, and also affords paint with which they streak
and spot their naked bodies hideously for an Indian
play about the meadow.

Judge Miles C. Eggleston of Brookville, who was
so kind to me during my stay there, had given me
a letter to Governor Wallace, who studied law in
his office. He is very fond of his former protege,
and declared him one of the finest lawyers of the
Whitewater Valley. He told me, too, of the death
of Governor Wallace's first wife, a daughter of
Judge Test, and of his union four years ago with
Miss Zerelda Sanders, a beautiful and accomplished
young female, a daughter of Dr. John Sanders, the
same whose handsome house has been purchased for
the Governor's residence.

I soon found that so far as the cordiality of my
reception was concerned, the letter was all unnec-

3 "Noble's Hole," where Market Street bridge is, "Morris's Hole,"
where the creek passes out of the culvert under the Union Depot,
and another deep "elbow"- near the gas works and the foot of Wash-
ington Street at the old ferry landing, were favorite swimming places
for Indianapolis boys in the forties and fifties. (Holloway, 1870.)


essary. While Governor Wallace professed him-
self delighted to hear thus from his old preceptor,
he would, I am assured, have been equally gracious
to any stranger, unintroduced, within his gates, for
he is the happy possessor of most charming and dis-
tinguished manners.

I shall not soon forget the happy family scene into
which Mr. Merrill and I were welcomed the spa-
cious house with its plain, but handsome furnish-
ings, the mahogany secretary, the tall and massive
bookcase, the central table with its brass candle-
sticks, the vases of flowers, the little ornamental
articles of feminine construction, the knitted mats
and anti-macassars, the worked covers of the foot-
stools and fire screen, and, illumined by the soft
candle light, the family circle, the handsome head
of the house, his beautiful young wife, now only 23 ;
the young sons of the household, William, 15 years
old, and Lewis, a handsome and lively lad of 13. s
Nor must I forget the charming Miss Mary, sister
of our hostess, a pretty creature, whom I am sure
a nearer acquaintance will prove delightful, who sat
throughout the evening engaged in her needlework,
but blushingly regardful of our conversation.

Governor Wallace I found a man of a character
that at once attracts and holds. He is handsome,
with black hair and piercing blue eyes. His voice
is beautiful and finely modulated, and I can well
believe what Mr. Merrill told me on our way thither,
that with this modulated voice, a countenance and

Later to become General Lewis Wallace and author of "Ben-Hur."


person remarkable for beauty and symmetry, a style
of composition chaste, finished, flowing and beauti-
ful, and a style of delivery impressive, graceful, and
at times impassioned, he has, as an orator, few
equals in the nation.

In the course of the evening our talk turned on
Robert Dale Owen, and I was informed that his play,
"Pocahontas," was presented during the last winter
by a group of young actors known as * ' The Indiana-
polis Thespian Corps" and that the part of Poca-
hontas, the princess, was taken by the young Wil-
liam Wallace. 4

I had noted on entering, Governor Wallace's li-
brary, among which were prominent Gibbons 's * ' Mis-
cellaneous Works" and Goldsmith's " Citizen of the
World" and "Animated Nature," and our conver-
sation soon turned upon this topic of reading. Mrs.
Wallace joined in the talk at intervals, and 'twas
not long ere I perceived that she is deeply inter-
ested in all matters of public weal and of education
in particular, displaying therein a taste rare in a
female, so that our talk proved most edifying. We
spoke of the writings of our American authors, and
Governor Wallace declared that he considers Mr.
John Quincy Adams's eulogy on the "Life and Serv-
ices of Lafayette," the best memoirs on this cele-
brated character published in this country. He

* During the winter of 1839-40, an old foundry building called the
"hay press" was fitted up with stage and scenery and used by the
Indianapolis Thespian Cprps to present Robert Dale Owen's play of
"Pocahontas." The leading actors were James G. Jordan as Capt.
John Smith; James McCready as Powhatan; William Wallace as
Pocahontas; John T. Morrison, Davis Miller and James McVey in
other characters. (Holloway, 1870.) Editor.


spoke, too, of "The Pioneers," by Mr. J. Fenimore
Cooper, a historical novel of our country of which
I have heard but have not as yet perused, and also
he commended highly the writings of Mr. Washing-
ton Irving, whose "Sketch Book" he asserts with
some warmth to be, to his mind, as good, if
not superior to the "Sir Roger DeCoverley

"Pray, Mary, hand me that volume on the table
beside you, ' ' he requested, and turning to me, asked
if I were familiar with the effusions of that gifted
poetess, Mrs. Lydia Huntley Sigourney.

"These poems," said he, indicating the red and
gilt volume, ' ' are remarkable for their correct versi-
fication, their harmony, and their true poetry, as
well as for their straightforward common sense,
their pure and unobtrusive religion, and their vein
of natural tenderness."

"That may be true," responded Mrs. Wallace,
"but I confess that my idol is still Mrs. Hemans,
the English Sappho, as she has been styled."

Her husband shook his head. "Mrs. Hemans is
the high-souled and delicately proud poetess of an
old dominion ; her lays are full of the noble chivalry
of a state whose associations are of aristocracy ; she
is the asserter of hereditary nobility, the nobility of
thought, of action and of soul, 'tis true, no less than
of broad lands and of ancient titles. Mrs. Sigour-
ney is the Hemans of a republic; and if she rather
delights to dwell in the hamlet, to muse over the
birth of the rustic infant, or the death of the vil-
lage mother, it is that such is the genius of her


country, that the boasted associations of her land
are simplicity and freedom, and as befits the muse
of such a land, her meditations are fain to celebrate
the virtues of her country's children. If, as you say,
young sir, you are not familiar with this poetess,
permit me to read you a few lines see if you do not
agree with me as to her merits."
And, opening the book, he read.

Death found strange beauty on that polished brow,
And dashed it out. There was a tint of rose
On cheek and lip. He touched the veins with ice,
And the rose faded. Forth from those blue eyes
There spake a wistful tenderness, a doubt
Whether to grieve or sleep, which innocence
Alone may wear. "With ruthless haste he bound
The silken fringes of those curtaining lids
Forever. There had been a murmuring sound
"With which the babe would claim its mother's ear,
Charming her even to tears. The Spoiler set
His seal of silence. But there beamed a smile
So fixed, so holy, from that cherub brow
Death gazed, and left it there. He dared not steal
The signet ring of heaven.

We all sat in silence for a moment, and I noted
a tear on Miss Mary's pink cheek. I wondered not,
for, recited as it was, the poem was most affecting.
I had already heard how our host delights in read-
ing aloud, and that he frequently is persuaded to
read for company, and I was most pleased to have
this opportunity to hear him. Mrs. Wallace broke
the silence, addressing me.

"Oh, sir," said she, "if you are interested in
poetry, you must be informed, if indeed, you do not


already know it, that young as is our state, we have
already poetry writers of our own. ' '

"And that I do know," I replied, and told her of
my meeting with Mrs. Dumont of Vevay and John
Finley of Centerville, each of whom had favored
me with autograph verses.

"And they do not surpass us, for we have one
here," she replied. "Mrs. Sarah T. Bolton, and if
it is to your taste, you shall go to her home with us
to-morrow evening to an evening party."

The name fell on my ears strangely familiar, and
then presently it came to me that it was of this lady
that my friend Jesse Bright of Madison had told
me, and of how that they were schoolmates in Madi-
son, she being then Sarah Barrett.

We went the next evening to the farm, Mt. Jack-
son, 5 named by Mr. Bolton 's stepfather in honor of
Gen. Andrew Jackson.

The party consisted of Governor and Mrs. Wal-
lace and myself with Miss Mary and a young gentle-
man who, from his attentive conduct, I judge is pay-
ing her his addresses, a Mr. Robert B. Duncan. I
was told something of this interesting family. Mr.
Bolton, they say, was for a time the editor of the
Indianapolis Gazette, and having met with financial
reverses, he and his wife removed to this farm a few
years ago, in the endeavor to restore their fortunes
and to retain possession of this piece of property.
The hardships induced by the financial stringency

'On Jan. 13, 1845, Dr. John Evans, Dr. L. Dunlap and James
Blake were appointed commissioners to obtain a site not exceeding
200 acres for an insane hospital. They selected Mt. Jackson, then
the home of Nathaniel Bolton. Editor.


of the last years, the scarcity, nay, the utter absence
of money, have been greatly felt by them. They
have transformed their home into a tavern and much
of the heaviest work of the household, cooking, clean-
ing, milking many cows, making butter and cheese,

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Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 11 of 26)