Kate Milner Rabb.

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

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to say nothing of the necessary spinning, weaving
and sewing, have been done by this gifted, cour-
ageous and high-spirited woman, who, they say, with
all this, finds time for much social intercourse she
and her husband are most popular and for some
literary labors.

I was most pleasantly impressed by the atmos-
phere of this simple home. True, the furnishings
were of the plainest, but the hospitable spirit, the
evident delight in the society of her guests, furnished
an irresistible attraction, and I could easily under-
stand why Mrs. Bolton's parties are so popular and
why she is in such demand; her companions being,
so Mrs. Wallace tells me, the best in the state. I
found Mr. Bolton a man of fine character, of ex-
ceptional conversational powers, and 'tis said, too,
that he is a ready writer.

When I beheld Mrs. Bolton I perceived at once
that the reports of her charm were not exaggerated.
Slightly built, of low stature, with a face at once
interesting and intellectual, expressive eyes and
abundant and beautiful brown hair, she possesses
also the charm of vivacity, her every movement
speaks of youth and joy.

Her manner is graciousness itself, and she told
me in a most humorous fashion of her infancy in
Jennings County, of her father's moving to Madi-


son in order that she might attend school, and of
her wedding there and her journey through the
woods to this town, her trousseau in half a pair of
'saddle bags. I was emboldened presently to ask her
if she would inscribe a few lines in the album I am
taking to my mother, adding that the autograph of
one so gifted would greatly enhance its value.

"You flatter me, young sir," she replied, making
me a sweeping courtesy. "Trust a son of the Old
Dominion to understand the arts and graces of po-
lite intercourse with the fair sex ! And for that, if
you will but bring your book to Mrs. Wallace's
house to-morrow, when I shall ride into town, I'll
promise to indite a poem for your mother and one
on our state, at that. ' '

And so she did, in her delicate chirography, and
this poem, * l Indiana, ' ' she tells me was first printed
some years ago in the Indiana Democrat at the time
her husband was its editor.

"Home of my heart, thy shining sand,

Thy forests and thy streams,
Are beautiful as fairyland

Displayed in fancy's dreams.

Home of a thousand happy hearts,

Gem of the far wild "West,
Ere long thy sciences and arts

Will gild the Union's crest.

Thy skies are bright, thy airs are bland,

Thy bosom broad and free;
"We need not wave a magic wand

To know thy destiny.


Great spirits bled, and dying gave

Thy stars and stripes to thee ;
Thy sons would die that trust to save

In pristine purity."

As I parted from Governor and Mrs. Wallace on
our return from Mount Jackson, Mr. Duncan, who
had in the meantime been bidding farewell to his
pretty companion, volunteered to walk with me to-
wards my inn. He is the clerk of the county, he
told me, having held this office for six years, and as
we parted he invited me to accompany him, Miss
Mary, and several other young people of the town
on the evening of to-morrow to the "pleasure
garden. "



I WILL inscribe a few lines in my diary while
waiting for the stage which is to carry me from
Indianapolis for I was about to write, for-
ever, but why should I? Should I decide to remain
in the Western country, should I cast my lines in
these places which have proved themselves so pleas-
ant, I shall not be so remote from this city that I
can not visit it again, and again meet these new
friends who already seem like old ones, so warm-
hearted, so generous in their hospitality have they
proved themselves to be.

It would seem that most of my acquaintances have
been among the lawyers, this not altogether be-
cause of my own studies in the law, but in part from
accident. First I formed the acquaintance of Mr.
Dunn of Lawrenceburg on the steamboat, and
through letters from him made the acquaintance of
other members of his profession in other places, and
so on, one leading to another. This experience has
been repeated in Indianapolis through letters from
Mr. Bright at Madison and Judge Eggleston at
Brookville and also the kind offices of Mr. Fletcher,
who has introduced me to many of his profession
in this city. It was through him that I came to



know Judge Blackford, 1 concerning whom, his abil-
ity and his hermit-like life in his room in the Gov-
ernor's Mansion I had heard so many stories that
I formed a great desire to meet him.

It was with considerable curiosity that I ap-
proached the "Mansion," which until now I had
viewed only from afar. This location in the center
of the Circle was chosen, I was told, because it is
central, and lies away from the main business street
with its disturbing uproar and constant crowd of
passengers. The Circle is inclosed in a neat rail
fence ; the house is large and square, two full stories
high, with a low, slightly inclined roof covering an
attic story, lighted by a dormer window on each of
the four sides. On the roof is a "flat" about twelve
feet square, surrounded by a low balustrade, in-
tended for a resort in the cool of the evening, and
it is, indeed, a pleasant place to overlook the town,
since the Circle is the highest point in the plat of
the city. The floor of the first story is raised some
four feet or so above the ground, and is reached by
a broad flight of steps at each side. It is divided
off from north to south and east to west by two
wide halls crossing at right angles, making a large
room in each of the four corners, and the partitions


1 Isaac Blackford, born in New Jersey, 1786; graduate of Princeton
University; came to Indiana in 1813; clerk of territorial Legis-
lature; resigned to become judge of the First Judicial Circuit; first
located in Salem, moved later to Vincennes. Appointed by Governor
Jennings as judge of the Supreme Court, which position he held for
thirty- five years. In 1855 appointed by President Pierce as judge
of the Court of Claims at Washington, where he died in 1859. "His
reputation was at that time and still is, world wide." (Turpie.)


on this floor are made with sliding panels, so that
they can be thrown into one room on the occasion
of a ball or levee.

The State Library, as yet very small, has its home
here, and Mr. Fletcher informed me that the Sec-
retary of State is the librarian and keeps the library
in his office in this building. When he told me the
small sum allowed by the Legislature each year for
the purchase of books, I did not so much wonder at
its size. In 1825, said Mr. Fletcher, when an act of
Legislature made the Secretary of State the State
Librarian, $50 was appropriated for the purchase of
books and a continuing appropriation of $30 a year.
I noted the beginnings of an excellent library the
Federalist, Hume's "History of England," John-
son's "Lives of the Poets" and some 'few others.

The Supreme Court occupies the upper rooms as
chambers, and it was to this upper floor that we
turned our steps to meet this judge who, Mr.
Fletcher and Mr. Merrill both declared to me, is a
man who has attained great eminence in judicature
both by natural talents and unceasing industry.

We found the little room the upper rooms in
the Mansion are much smaller than those on the
floor below plainly but comfortably furnished. I
scarcely noticed the furniture, however, nothing par-
ticularly except the tables laden with books and mag-
azines, and the desk piled with papers, for my at-
tention was at once absorbed by the man himself.

Judge Blackford is not six feet tall, but carries
himself so erect that he seems taller; his head is
shapely, his face indicative both of intellectuality

Pen drawing by Willard Osier


and refinement. His movements are rapid and
graceful. He took some papers from the chairs,
urged us to seat ourselves, and when Mr. Fletcher
explained the object of our visit, that I was a
stranger from another state, and particularly when
my legal studies and my acquaintance with Judge
Eggleston were mentioned, he made minute inquiries
into my journey to the Western country and gave
me much information concerning my future prog-
ress. When I assured him, in answer to his query,
that I am going on to the Wabash country, he im-
mediately insisted on writing some letters to friends
at Vincennes, his home, for though a sojourner in
the capital, he still considers that place his actual

" Every year since coming to Indianapolis," said
he, "I have spent a part of my time in that town,
a town you must see, sir; a town most intimately
connected with the beginnings of our state. "

With that, he turned to his desk, and began writ-
ing the letters, most painstakingly and carefully.
Mr. Fletcher told me afterward of this peculiarity
of Judge Blackford that he is prudish in the man-
ner of writing his opinions. The orthography must
be perfect and the punctuation faultless before the
matter leaves his hand. 'Tis said he pays as much
attention to a comma as to a thought. He has been
known to stop the press to correct the most trivial
error, one that few would notice. Once some one,
wishing to delay an opinion, asked him the correct
spelling of a word he knew would be in the opinion.
The Judge answered, giving the usual orthography.


The other took issue with him, and argued that the
spelling was not correct. The Judge at once com-
menced an examination of the word, dug out its
roots and carefully weighed all the authorities he
could find. He spent two days at this work, and
before he got through, the court had adjourned and
the case went over to the next term.

It was not surprising then that we waited some
time while his quill was trimmed, the paper ad-
justed, the letters composed, sanded, folded and ad-
dressed in his neat, careful and interesting chirog-
raphy. Then we lingered a little for conversation
on books, on politics, on many subjects. It seems
that Judge Blackford was originally a Whig, but
supporting Van Buren in 1836, has remained a

Judge Blackford told me a story of an accident
which happened to him on one of his journeys to
Vincennes, in which he came very near to losing his
life. On horseback, equipped with overcoat, leg-
gings and saddlebags full of law books, he under-
took to ford White River near Martinsville while
the river was very much swollen by a freshet. He
and his horse were swept down the stream a great
distance, but eventually they landed on an island.
The judge was wet and cold and it was several hours
before he reached the mainland, being at last res-
cued by a farmer, who had heard his outcries. He
spent a couple of days in drying his law books and
clothing and in waiting for the waters to fall low
enough for him to cross the river with safety, and
then proceeded with his journey.

Similar experience I had heard from other law-
yers, from Judge Eggleston at Brookville, and at a
gathering which I attended at the office of a lawyer
one evening during my stay here. I had heard much
of the meetings of the lawyers of this new state, and
the good fellowship that exists among them, and it
was no other than the shy and quiet Mr. Yandes
whom I had met the evening I went to prayer meet-
ing with Mr. Beecher and with whom, despite his
reserve, I have formed a friendship based upon our
youth and similarity of tastes, who invited me to go
with him to the gathering. Mr. Yandes began the
practice of the law with Mr. Fletcher, who declares
him to be remarkably equipped, being a young man
of fine mind and a graduate of Harvard College in
Massachusetts. We have indeed spent some time
in discussing the similarities and differences be-
tween this and the University, as we Virginians al-
ways call Mr. Jefferson's great school.

This meeting to which Mr. Yandes took me was
held in the office of Mr. Lucian Barbour. 2

Mr. Barbour 's office, it turns out, is directly across
the street from my tavern, Washington Hall, and
here the lawyers of the city are wont to congregate,
exchange jests, sometimes very cutting ones at each
other's expense, play practical jokes on one another,
play cards, this custom is frowned upon in this
community, but none the less 'tis whispered that

3 Sulgrove in his history of Indianapolis expresses a doubt as to
the time of Mr. Barbour's coming to Indianapolis, but the Indian-
apolis papers for June, 1840, print his legal advertisement and this,
together with Mr. Parsons's entry, verify the statement that he was
in the city at this time. Editor.


some of these men are inveterate gamblers, and
as often engage in most serious and edifying dis-

On this same evening, I met at the inn another
one of the Supreme Court judges, Judge Dewey,
whose home is at Charlestown, in Clark County, near
the Ohio River, who was appointed a judge of this
court four years ago. When Mr. Yandes came for
me this gentleman was sitting on the recessed portico
of the inn, and when Mr. Yandes presented me to
him, he remarked that he, too, was going to the
office of Mr. Barbour, and would accompany us.
He is, I observed, large and commanding in per-
son, at least six feet tall, with black hair, dark com-
plexion, high forehead, and very expressive mouth.
I should pronounce him extremely handsome were
it not that his nose and chin are too long to be sym-
metrical, but this is more than overbalanced by the
intelligence and dignity of his expression. I found
him excellently educated, he is a native of Massa-
chusetts and a graduate of Williams College, and
a great reader. He is very fond of novels, being
conversant with those of Fielding, Sterne and Smol-
lett, I learned from our conversation, this too, in
a region where novel reading is frowned upon by
the churches, and in spite of the fact that he is him-
self a devout member of the church known as the
Disciples or Christian.

He is also, I was soon to learn, extremely fond
of joking and very quick at repartee. In this he is
no whit excelled by Oliver H. Smith, whom I met

this same evening, much to my satisfaction, as I had
heard of him through Judge Eggleston, under whom
he was licensed to practice law and with whom he
came frequently in contact during his residence in
Connersville, where he followed the practice until
last year, when he removed to Indianapolis. He
has served in the Legislature, and as circuit prose-
cuting attorney and United States senator. His
most striking feature is his dark hair, which stands
straight up from his forehead. He told me an amus-
ing incident concerning his election to the Senate,
in which his competitors were Noah Noble, William
Hendricks and Batliff Boon. On the first ballot he
fell behind both Governor Noble and Governor
Hendricks, but on the eighth took the lead, and on
the ninth was elected. On his return home, after
election, he started to Cincinnati with a drove of

"Late in the evening," said he, "I reached
Henrie's Mansion House in Cincinnati, covered with
mud. There were many inquiries about the result
of our senatorial election ; I was asked if there had
been an election.

" ' Which is elected, Hendricks or Noble?'

" ' Neither.'

" 'Who, then, can it be?'

" 'I am elected.'

" 'You! What is your name? Oliver H. Smith!
You elected a United States senator? I never heard
of you before ! ' "

Mr. Smith is an irrepressible talker, jovial and


apparently possessed of a most happy disposition,
and, I noted, of great popularity among his asso-
ciates at the bar.

Among others I met on this evening, were Wil-
liam Quarles, an excellent criminal lawyer, I am
told; Ovid Butler, a gentleman with whom I was
much impressed, a fine lawyer, so they say, in man-
ner plain, quiet, modest and gentlemanly, and a
young Hugh O'Neal, who is a native of this county
and who has been educated at the State College as
one of the two students to .which each county is
entitled, and who has just been admitted to the bar.
He is already something of an orator, and is a Whig
in politics. He is well-known among the young peo-
ple, and I have met him on more than one occasion.

Noting the pleasure these gentlemen found in each
other's company, though of various tastes, some, as
Mr. Fletcher, for instance, being most abstemious,
others, I was told, being addicted to both drinking
and gambling, I was led to marvel over what drew
and kept them together, and was told that in the
first place all were alike in being men of fine natural
endowment, liberal acquirement, sedulous occupa-
tion, integrity, dignity, courtesy, and learning, and
being thus endowed, find each other's society most

Moreover, their method of life in itself has tended
to draw them together. Their riding the circuit is
as laborious as that of the minister, who I now learn
is not the only circuit rider. A Mr. Hiram Brown,
a lawyer whom I had met on a previous occasion,
and who came to this city in 1823, a man unlike most


of these others, it would seem, in that he was born
in the "West with, therefore, poorer educational op-
portunities, and who has acquired, all say, a most
excellent command of English because of his con-
stant reading, this Mr. Brown, a man now 48 years
old, told me something of the hardships of circuit
riding, something of which I had already heard from
Judge Eggleston. The judicial circuits are large
ones, and the roads lead through the wilderness in
many cases, particularly near the capital city. It
involves weeks of absence from home, swimming
swollen rivers, sleeping in the woods. It is at all
times tedious and laborious, and in some seasons

These lawyers, meeting together at the trial
court, make the most of their stay at the country
taverns, spending their leisure time in discussions
of legal questions, in which they display the keen-
est zest and philosophic foresight. When the ses-
sion is ended, all wait to accompany the judge on
the journey to his next appointment and the end of
the session is celebrated in a session of another kind,
at the tavern. Then they may indeed be called a
convivial fraternity for those who drink, drink;
cards are played by those who do not share the re-
ligious convictions of the church-going, and the walls
ring with songs, old ballads, comic songs, while those
who abstain from such exercises as these, bandy
jokes, for almost all are veteran jokers, I am told,
and even able to enjoy jokes on themselves and my
informant concluded with the statement that while
there are many hardships to be endured in riding


the circuit, after all they can be endured while the
circuit riders continue to have good appetites, and
to find cheerful landlords and good-natured land-
ladies, and while all are banded together like

Lest it should slip my mind, I must jot down in
this entry the names of several whom I would not
forget, and yet have not time to write of in detail
Morris Morris, father of my friend, Capt. T. A. Mor-
ris, at whose home I met two Methodist ministers of
note, the Rev. Allen Wiley, and the venerable man
known as Father Havens; Mr. Nicholas McCarty,
one of the town's best business men, a man of re-
markable shrewdness and sagacity, and withal one
of the friendliest, kindest, most generous citizens
of the town ; W. H. Morrison, through whose activity
and generous assistance Christ Church, the Epis-
copal meeting house on the Circle, was built, a
frame edifice with a spire, said to be the most beau-
tiful house of worship in the state. And I must not
forget William Sheets, who was Secretary of State
in 1836, and at whose house, a beautiful brick cot-
tage at Ohio and Pennsylvania Streets, I called, on
learning that Mrs. Sheets is a Randolph, and a
cousin of my mother's several times removed. I
found her, I will add, both accomplished and charm-
ing, and she played for me on her piano, one of the
few of these instruments in the city.

I had not forgotten Mr. Duncan's mention to me
of the evening at the pleasure garden, to which I
have been looking forward since it was first men-
tioned, and particularly after my disappointment as


to the ball. Mr. Vance had suggested to me the pos-
sibility of a ball during my stay in the city, but he
was forced to tell me later that the sentiment of the
church people against this manner of entertainment
is so strong that the young people who had thought
to make my presence an excuse for holding it were
forced to give up the plan. It seems that in 1823,
when Washington Hall was first opened, a ball was
given in celebration of the event, of which my friend
Mr. Fletcher was one of the managers; and that a
few years later a ball was given at the Governor's
Mansion whose managers included Judge Blackford,
Judge Wick, Dr. John S. Bobbs, Capt. T. A. Morris
and others, but the opposition to this or any other
form of light amusement by the churches was pres-
ent even then, and has increased more and more with
each year, so that dancing now is not to be con-
sidered. Even the performance of plays is frowned
upon, and the only amusements tolerated are church
parties, evening parties, such as I had attended at
Mrs. Bolton's, invited receptions at which standing
suppers are served, and the levees occasionally held
by the Governor, at which no refreshments are
served and all the world is invited.

I was the more delighted with the prospect of
the evening excursion to the pleasure garden, be-
cause of an unexpected and most delightful meeting
with one of the most beautiful young females I
have ever seen.

I first discovered her on the portico of the inn,
one morning. This inn is an imposing three-story
brick structure, with a large and beautiful recessed


portico, most suitable for promenading, and it lias
been my custom each morning, on rising, to descend
for a turn or two in the fresh air before partaking of
my breakfast. Here she sat, bent low over some
needle work on which she was engaged, and I could
but note how much of expression was centered in
the delicate arch of her brow, which spanned eyes
whose hue I could not guess. She seemed not to
observe my intrusion on her solitude, but when pres-
ently Mr. Browning emerged from the hall and pre-
sented me to his daughter, but just returned from a
visit to some neighboring hamlet, I was allowed to
observe for a moment how soft was the melting
luster of her dark blue eyes, how surpassingly en-
ticing the sweetness of her smile. Later, I learned
from the young gentlemen, what I should have
guessed without this information, that this young
Miss Elizabeth is one of the belles of the city.

With this same Miss Elizabeth 'twas arranged
that I was to go to the pleasure garden, 3 and thither
accordingly, on the evening of this same day, we took
our way, in company with Mr. and Mrs. Vance, who
had been visiting at the home of Mrs. Vance's father,
Mr. Hervey Bates, the residence being not very far
away, on New Jersey Street. Mr. Bates, whom I
have met, is a successful business man, was the first
sheriff of the county, and is a very warm friend of
Mr. Beecher, of whose church he is a member.

Mr. and Mrs. Vance drove past for us, and as we
passed along Washington Street and down Illinois,

The "pleasure garden" was at the corner of Tennessee and
Georgia Streets, the corner now occupied by St. John's. Editor.


they pointed out various objects of interest to me,
among them the store of Mr. Pope, a " steam doc-
tor" recently come here from Baltimore, who not
only practices this system of medication, but keeps
a store stocked with vegetable remedies, prickly ash,
lobelia, pocoon, cohosh, May Apple root, and prep-
arations which go by the names of "liquid flames, "
"bread of heaven," and others, over which names
we made merry, as indeed it was easy to do, in such
pleasant weather, with such lively young company.
I had put on my best blue broadcloth, with the plated
gold buttons, a buff vest, and a high hat, and Mr.
Vance was similarly attired. Mrs. Vance wore a
blue striped silk with a lace mantle, and Miss Eliza-

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Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 12 of 26)