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

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Graduate of Hamilton College, 1831. For twenty- five years he was
without a rival in northern Indiana before a jury. Presidential
elector, 1848; Legislature, 1851-3; secretary of national convention
at Chicago, which nominated Lincoln, 1860; Congress, 1868; Senate,
1869. "Pratt is the most absolutely honest man I ever knew,"
said Wendell Phillips. Editor.



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 205

over the Wabash, its Market House, a roof on brick
pillars, much frequented by farmers I am told, its
library, a substantial log building, and a brick edi-
fice which I later learned is the Seminary.

Mr. Pratt, whom I found to be but a few years
older than myself, is a most interesting young man.
He is tall in stature, something over six feet, and
well proportioned, possessing unusual conversational
powers, and having a fluent command of the most
classic English.

Mr. Fletcher, who has taken the greatest interest
in him, had told me much concerning his life. He
was born in Maine and passed his early life in New
England, in adverse circumstances, but his father,
early perceiving his mental powers, gave him an ex-
cellent education. He taught, studied law, and came
out to Ohio, journeying part of the way on foot,
taught at Rising Sun, Indiana, and in 1836 arrived
in Indianapolis, where he went into Mr. Fletcher's
office. Later, he located in Cass County and as Mr.
Fletcher, together with many other attorneys, prac-
tice in this court, he has been able to continue their
friendship. Mr. Fletcher, so Mr. Pratt informs me,
was one of the first practitioners in the courts of
this county, and ranks as high here as he does in
his own home. Here also came James Rariden of
Wayne County, whom I met during my stay there,
and many other of the lawyers, of whose long and
tedious journeys I have spoken before.

Like the other residents of the Wabash country,
Mr. Pratt loves it, and has great hope of its future.
He told me with much enthusiasm of the town and



206 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

its people, and dwelt at length on one of its pioneers,
Gen. John Tipton. 4

This Gen. Tipton, it appears, who conferred honor
on the city by his residence here and had much to do
with the state's early history, died here only last
year. Coming to Indiana in early days, he first set-
tled on the Ohio River and joined the "Yellow Jack-
ets," a military company which played an important
part at the battle of Tippecanoe, where, because of
so many being killed, 'tis said, he rose in one day
from the rank of ensign to that of captain. Later,
serving in the Legislature, he was one of those
chosen to select the site of the state's capital, and in
1823 was made Indian agent. At this time he re-
moved to Fort Wayne, the seat of the agency, and
a little later at his instance this agency was removed
to Logansport. After this 'he served as United
States Senator for some years.

His political and military careers, it can be seen
from this, were of sufficient importance, but the citi-
zens of Logansport think even more of his life as a
civilian and a citizen. He loved the city of his adop-
tion, a mere village at the time of his coming, and
did all in his power throughout the term of his life
to make it better, to secure for it the advantages in-
cident to cultivated society and the development of
its natural resources. I have already mentioned
the building pointed out as the Seminary. It seems
that one of Gen. Tipton 's first steps on reaching

4 "Among the pioneers of Indiana, few did a grander work than
John Tipton. He was a great man in the council and in the field,
and no history of the state can be written without honorable men-
tion of his name." ( Woollen. ) Editor.



Logansport was to organize the Eel River Seminary
Society, to erect a suitable building for school pur-
poses, and to employ and support teachers. This
was accomplished in the winter of 1828 and 1829;
he used his means and never allowed his cares to
detract from his interest in it. Both courts and
church were held in this building until suitable edi-
fices could be erected for their occupancy.

One of the most interesting things Mr. Pratt nar-
rated to me concerning Gen. Tipton, however, was
the statement that he presented to the state the bat-
tle ground of Tippecanoe, that it might be preserved
as a monument to the victory over their savage foes.

It was interesting, too, to hear that Gen. Tipton
was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons.
Lodges of this fraternity, I am told, were established
at an early date in what was then Indiana Territory ;
Gen. Tipton was a member when residing at Cory-
don, and on coming to Cass County, he established
a lodge at Logansport when this town was only two
months old. The town has already a Lodge Hall,
which was dedicated four years ago. When Gen.
Tipton died last spring, most impressive funeral
services, said Mr. Pratt, were conducted by his
brother Masons. This is my first encounter with
members of this fraternity in this state.

Through Mr. Pratt I met some other lawyers of
the town, G. "W. Blakemore, S. S. Tipton, William-
son Wright, and his partner, William Z. Stuart, and
Mr. Palmer, Mr. Pratt 's partner. I met also a most
interesting physician, Dr. Graham N. Fitch. Dr.
Fitch is a man of about thirty years, who has al-



208 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

ready attained a high standing in his profession,
and is one of the most entertaining men I have met.
He is deeply interested in politics, and has read and
thought much upon the constitutional principles of
our government, and has formed his opinions of the
proper mode of their development by legislation.
He is deeply read in the writings of Mr. Jefferson,
so I found to my delight, and the hour I spent in
his society I consider one of the most pleasant of
the many hours I have spent in the Western country.
With all this, I found that Dr. Fitch cares most of
all for his profession, and when I considered his
hardships, for even more than the lawyer or the cir-
cuit rider, the country medical practitioner suffers
from bad roads and bad weather, I marveled at
once over his endurance and his enthusiasm.

With an account of an interesting meeting with
three other gentlemen of Logansport, I must close
this entry in my diary. These gentlemen were Mr.
Horace Biddle, whom I met through the kind offices
of Mr. Pratt, and Mr. John B. Dillon and Mr. George
Winter, whom I encountered in Mr. Biddle 's office.

Mr. Biddle is a young lawyer, admitted to the bar
only last year, and only last fall come to this city.
He too loves the Wabash country, and spoke most
poetically of the gentle hills that surround the city,
and of the meeting of the waters in the valley. * ' I
was pleased with it when I first saw it, and its charm
is on me yet," he said. Mr. Pratt told me that he
is a young man of brilliancy and attainments, and
has literary tastes as well, having already contrib-
uted both prose and poetic efforts to magazines and



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 209

papers. He is a great friend of a most interesting
young man, Mr. John B. Dillon, 5 editor, with Mr.
Hyacinth Lasselle, of The Logansport Telegraph.

Mr. Dillon, I was told before meeting him, is a
man of fine literary tastes, which has no doubt ce-
mented the friendship between him and Mr. Biddle.
Before coming to Logansport Mr. Dillon resided in
Cincinnati, and while there was connected with the
Cincinnati Mirror, a literary paper of high excel-
lence. As we chatted together Mr. Biddle talked at
length and with enthusiasm of this friend.

"He cares nothing for the law," said he, "but he
is an attentive reader and is well acquainted with
the general principles of jurisprudence. He has,
however, no adaptability to the business affairs of
life; all he desires is to think and to know; he has
no disposition to do and to have. He delights in
original composition and in belles lettres."

As he spoke Mr. Dillon entered in company with
Mr. Winter. In person, I found him peculiar. He
is of medium height, with a fine athletic figure, yet
his hands and feet are clumsy and quite ungainly.
His head is large, his hair dark, and, perhaps be-
cause of some affection of the eyes, he wears spec-
tacles with large, dark sideglasses, which effectually
conceal his eyes. His manner is most .serious and
he seems very shy, though Mr. Biddle assured me
that with his familiar friends over a game of chess,
or at a feast of anecdotes, or in athletic exercises,

6 John B. Dillon, born in Virginia, 1808; Logansport, 1834, studied
law and admitted to bar; editor Logansport Telegraph, 1839-43;
later went to Indianapolis; author "History of Indiana," two
volumes. Editor.



210 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

he is often mirthful and sometimes even uproarious.

"We talked at some length together, and soon, feel-
ing the comradeship of ambitious youth, spoke of our
hopes and our dreams. Mr. Biddle yearns for fame
in his chosen calling, but he intends ne'er to desert
the muse. Mr. Dillon's ambition is to preserve for-
ever the facts of our early history for the great and
wise and good of all coming generations in a history
of merit. He does not care for popular applause, he
says, but desires to be read by scholars, by states-
men, by historians, by students of the past. To such
ends, he devotes all his spare time to the general
reading of English literature and the special in-
vestigation of the history of the Northwest Terri-
tory and the states formed from it, in connection
with the history of Indiana.

The other young gentleman, is, I learned later,
about 30 years old, and is an Englishman and an
artist. When he found that I was a stranger in
the state and much interested in its history, he gave
me much information concerning his work and the
country.

It seems that he was born and educated in Eng-
land, and then came to New York. Later, he came
out to Cincinnati on account of his interest in the
Indians and their proposed migration, and at the
council held, by Col. Pepper concerning the Potta-
wotamies of which I have already written, he found
excellent material for his sketches. His painting,
"The Treaty of Kuwa-nay," so pleased Col. Pep-
per that Mr. Winter presented it to him. He has
continued to paint Indians, and the reason for his



A TOUE THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 211

residence in Logansport was its nearness to the
reservations. He told me at length of his visit to
4 'Dead Man's Village" only last year, at the request
of the Slocum family to sketch the likeness of
Frances, the "lost sister," a little girl who was
stolen from her Quaker parents in Wilkesbarre, Pa.,
and was not discovered until she was an old woman
and had become the wife of She-buck-oo-wah, an
Indian chief.

He also confided to me that he had been painting
views of the Tippecanoe battle field in the hope that
they would find a sale because of the great interest
in the election. One of these views was hanging
in Mr. Biddle 's office at this time, and I immediately
purchased it as a gift for my father, who has a
taste for historic happenings. I judge him a young
man of great talent, no doubt destined to acquire
name and fame in this new country.

I found him most genial and witty, and before we
parted we all three became on such intimate terms
that they told me of a practical joke they played on
the town this very spring.

"We were sitting together here," said Mr. Bid-
die, and I guessed that they sat much together, these
three young men, with their interest in art and belles
lettres so out of keeping, one might think, with a
rude pioneer settlement, "when all at once Mr. Dil-
lon said (the day was April 1) :

I 1 ' Let us fool somebody ! '

"We all agreed, and he took a pen and a narrow
strip of paper and wrote : * There will be exhibited
at the Court House this evening a living manthrop,



212 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

from 8 to 10 o'clock. Sir Roger DeCoverley, man-
ager. '

"He took a couple of wafers, and when we went
to the hotel where we all three board, he managed
to stick up the notice on a small billboard without
being observed.

"Much to our amusement, there was a great dis-
cussion at dinner about the strange animal. Dur-
ing the afternoon, young gentlemen of the town who
prided themselves on their learning, several of the
clergymen, and some of the lawyers, were bnsy
studying the encyclopedia, natural histories, all the
books they could find, to ascertain what the new
creature was. The word manthrop, as you no doubt
know, sir, is really a compound of two Anglo-Saxon
words meaning 'the man of the village,* and as Sir
Roger DeCoverley is Addison's amiable character,
Mr. Dillon had no expectation of the success of the
joke, indeed he was mortified at the result. For a
long time, Dillon's April fool was talked about
through the town."



CHAPTER XIII

JUNE 30, 1840.

A FEW more interesting items concerning my
stay in Logansport are to be noted before
leaving the subject.

In the office of Mr. Pratt I met a most agreeable
young gentleman, Charles B. Lasselle, 1 who is just
21 years old.

Mr. Lasselle received his early education at the
"Seminary," which I have already mentioned as
founded by General Tipton, and then went to the
State College, where he pursued his studies until
last year, when he entered Mr. Pratt 's office to en-
gage in the study of the law. His grandfather, Col.
James Lasselle, descendant of French emigrants to
Montreal, was Indian agent near the village of Fort
Wayne and his father, Gen. Hyacinth Lasselle, was
the first white child born in that locality. His
mother is also of French parentage and her father
fought in the Eevolutionary War. General and Mrs.
Lasselle came to Logansport in 1833, first settling
on a farm and later moving into the town, where

1 Charles B. Lasselle, born in Vincennes, 1819; admitted to bar,
1842; prosecuting attorney, 1847; assistant editor Logansport Tele-
graph; Legislature, 1862; State Senate, 1868-9-70; took much inter-
est in Wabash Valley history; part of his collection in State Library.
Editor.

213



one of the sons is proprietor of The Telegraph, of
which Mr. Dillon is editor.

Young Mr. Charles and I found much in common
in our brief conversation, and on learning that my
last evening in the town was unoccupied, he invited
me to supper at his father's home, where I enjoyed
a most delightful visit with this charming family and
learned much of the French occupants of the Wa-
bash, besides being given letters by them to some of
the most respectable families in Vincennes, which
city is included in my itinerary.

In the home of the Lasselles I found, together with
relics of the aborigines collected by the grandfather,
many indications of culture in books, pictures and
furniture. The only piano in the town is in this
home, and General Lasselle told me a most amusing
story of its coming to Logansport. It was pur-
chased, it seems, in Philadelphia and shipped thence
by water to New Orleans. From there, it was sent
up the Mississippi on a steamboat, and from there
by the same means up the Ohio and the Wabash,
reaching the Logansport wharf in safety. But from
carelessness on the part of the deckhands, when it
was undertook to carry it ashore, it fell into the
river and must needs lie there until the waters sub-
sided, when it was lifted out.

I discovered that young Mr. Lasselle is most in-
terested in history and belles lettres. We talked
much of books and he presently brought forth for
my perusal a publication now being issued at Bloom-
ington at the State College, a periodical entitled
The Extra Equator, devoted, so it was stated on



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 215

the cover, * * to the interests of science and literature
in the West."

I examined this periodical with great interest.
The opening article is a translation of one of the
dialogues of . Plato, especially addressed, says the
editor, "to those who are in the habit of thinking
accurately and deeply on every subject within their
mental grasp. To those who do not cultivate this
faculty it is not addressed ; for upon such its opera-
tion would be most unwelcome and even painful.

"Readers of a more serious turn," he goes on to
say, "may be pleased with the 'Notes of Sunday
School Instruction,' all the lovers of our civil insti-
tutions will admire the humor and spirit of the
'Fourth of July Address,' and the candor and fair-
ness of the review department. The 'studious of
change and pleased with novelty' will be amused
and instructed by the 'Rambles in Vacation,' and
sundry descriptive and poetic pieces interspersed
throughout the work."

The editor seemed somewhat uncertain, appar-
ently, as to the acceptance of his Greek translation,
for he continues to insist that it is worth the read-
ing for the improvement such reading will give.
"The stiffness and pomp of our style, I have often
thought," he says, "might be corrected by a more
intimate acquaintance with the manner of the an-
cients. It should be published moreover, because
it is edifying to furnish a specimen of the method
of instruction pursued by Socrates, the most cele-
brated teacher of ancient times."

The Fourth of July Address, I noted, is one given



the preceding year by Dr. Andrew Wylie, Presi-
dent of the College, he whom Miss Merrill had so
highly praised to me, and one of the poetic selec-
tions noted in the table of contents is an extract
from a poem delivered "At the Departure of the
Senior Class of Yale College in 1836V

All this was most interesting and, with Mr. Las-
selle's permission, I made note of this publication
and its contents in my pocketbook. The most in-
teresting article to me, however, in the entire book
concerned a volume published in Louisville, Ky.,
whose second edition has just appeared. This work,
it would seem, is entitled "Tannehill's History of
Literature," published by subscription. The first
edition was published some years ago. The notice
I will quote :

"This volume was published in the West and lit-
tle or no pains were taken to make it known or to
give it circulation in other sections of the Union.
The few copies, however, which were sent to the
Northern and Eastern states were well received, and
it was pronounced a work of great research and
merit ; and the New York Review seems utterly sur-
prised that a volume requiring so much and so ex-
tensive reading could have been produced in the
backwoods of the West. The work is a succinct com-
pendium of the history of literature from the earliest
period to the revival of letters in the fifteenth cen-
tury. It is written in a neat and chaste style and
while it can be perused with interest and profit to
the general reader, by literary men it will be hailed
with delight as an invaluable companion. We can



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 217

not help thinking what a God-send such a volume
would have been in our college days when themes
and compositions weekly stared us in the face. With
this ample magazine at our elbow, how learnedly
could we have descanted on the literature of Greece
and Rome, those fruitful themes for the sophomore 's
pen while in Egypt or Russia, or China or India, or
Arabia or Spain, we should have been as much at
home as Sir William Jones or the learned black-
smith of Massachusetts."

I have made a note of this valuable volume, the
title and publisher with the intent to purchase it
when next in a bookseller's shop.

The discussion of books led to the subject of pub-
lic libraries, and a regret that there was not more
money available for the purchase of books for the
Logansport Library. A gentleman, a Mr. Taber,
who had come in to spend the evening, at once
entered into an argument over the means of rais-
ing funds for the purchase of books for the
Library.

" Every citizen," said he, "will readily acknowl-
edge the importance of public libraries in promoting
the cause of general education. Well, then, let a
library company be founded and incorporated and
let the company obtain from the Legislature a
charter for the purpose of raising a library fund,
say $50,000 by lottery." He admitted that this was
not an original idea with him, but that he believed
it a most feasible one. "By this means," he went
on to say, "the town and country might become pos-
sessed of one of the best libraries in the Western



218 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 18.40

country. The plan, if properly managed, can not
fail to prove successful."

Another member of the company objected at once,
declaring that the influence of the lottery is most
pernicious.

"Not at all," declared its first advocate. "The
case is altogether different when the lotteries are
used for the purpose of promoting the cause of edu-
cation and other useful interests. In almost every
state, lotteries have been authorized by law to aid
in building colleges, academies, hospitals, asylums,
etc. They have also been authorized by law for
purposes of public improvement, such as tha mak-
ing of roads, the building of bridges, the improve-
ment of the navigation of rivers, the draining of
large tracts of wet land."

He appealed to me to know if this were not true,
and I was compelled to acknowledge that this means
of raising money for educational and other worthy
purposes was no novelty in many of the Eastern
states. The gentleman concluded by stating that he
was going this very week to issue a call for a meet-
ing to consider this subject, at the Presbyterian
Church at candlelight on Friday night.

In the course of the evening these friends gave
me much other interesting information concerning
their city and the Western country in general. It
would seem that much ginseng grew in the woods
and was an early source of income to the first set-
tlers. James Blake, whom I had known in Indian-
apolis, had soon perceived the value of this product
of the woods and had established in several places,



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 219

among them Logansport, factories in which the root
was prepared and dried for shipment to China,
where it is highly valued as a medicine. As civiliza-
tion advances and the country is cleared, 'tis said
the ginseng gradually disappears, and one of the
11 first wave" pioneers, those who make the first
clearings and then move on to the wilder places, said
that he followed the wild turkey which, when there
are no more "sang" berries (the pioneer calls the
ginseng "sang") to eat in the forest, leaves it for
wilder and more remote places.

These gentlemen, perceiving my interest in the
town's social affairs as well as its business develop-
ment, told me something of their musical societies
and of the Thespian Society, in which all are most
interested and which has been in existence for sev-
eral years and has given several notable perform-
ances. Among these, they mentioned the play of
"Douglas," acted together with the farce, "Tom
Noddy's Secret," and Kotzebue's "The Stranger,"
with the farce l i The Mummy. ' ' Another all remem-
bered with the greatest pleasure, was the "Tragedy
of Bertram," by the Rev. Mr. Mathurin, pronounced
universally one of the best and most beautiful pro-
ductions in the language, to do justice to which en-
tirely new scenery was executed by an artist, which
would have been creditable, they declared, to any
theater, and which, together with the costumes made
for the occasion, -won universal admiration and
wonderment.

My father having suggested that I occasionally
note prices of various commodities in order to com-



220 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

pare them with similar commodities in the East, I
will here set down prices as copied from a number
of the Logansport Herald for the month of June,
1840, as read out to me by Mr. Lasselle on this
evening.

Beef, 3 cents a pound ; pork, 2 cents ; lard, 5 cents ;
butter, 8 cents ; cheese, 10 cents ; ham, 6 cents ; shoul-
der, 5 cents; flour, $3 a barrel; wheat, 56 cents
per bushel ; oats, 12 cents per bushel ; coffee, 25 cents
a pound; whisky, 19 cents a gallon.

The time had now come for my departure from
this town, and with it a slight change in my plans.
As noted before, my cousin, Jonathan Parsons, had
come out to the Wabash country and it was my in-
tention to pass through Covington and pay him a
visit. On my inquiring of Mr. Hannegan, however,
on learning that this town was his home, I was in-
formed that my cousin had left this country some
months ago, having suffered greatly from the ague,
with the intention of going to Ohio. "We have
cousins there from Maryland and it is possible that
he has sought them out with the idea of settling


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Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 14 of 26)