Kate Milner Rabb.

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

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there. As Covington is a new settlement and not
unlike these other towns of the Wabash country, I
shall not now visit it, but shall continue my journey
to Lafayette and thence to Crawfordsville.

I have learned, much to my chagrin, that the Wa-
bash and Erie Canal, on which I had hoped to make
part of my journey, is not yet completed. Adver-
tisements in the Logansport papers had led me to
believe that the canal was open for some distance,
but it seems that it is only open to Georgetown,


seven miles from Logansport, although work is be-
ing done at several points along the line. This be-
ing the case, I engaged passage on the stage for

The beginning of my journey was not altogether
propitious. The stage was a dingy lumbering ve-
hicle, altogether unlike the trim Vigus coaches; the
driver, rough and profane. We started off well
enough, however, and as usual, I gathered much in-
formation concerning the country from my fellow
travelers with whom I was soon engaged in conver-
sation. The county of Carroll, in which we found
ourselves after driving a considerable distance and
crossing the river, which runs diagonally through
Cass County, Carroll and Tippecanoe, southwest of
Carroll, was named after the venerable Charles Car-
roll, at the time of its organization, the sole survivor
of those noted men who signed the Declaration.
The surface of this county is not unlike that I had
just quitted. The road could be called so only by
courtesy, 'twas simply a way made by felling the
trees, many of whose stumps remained in the road-
way, together with some of the logs. I scarcely no-
ticed the miserable jolting, however, so impressed
was I with the marvelous beauty of the country we
were traversing.

Sometimes the road ran through the forest, where
the trees rose nearly 100 feet in height, standing on
either side of the road like a protecting wall. Again
we passed over level plains, or again, through the
river bottoms and this last was a most beautiful and
novel sight to me, indicating clearly why men were


willing to endure fever and ague and other ills to
abide in the Wabash country. The river rolled its
silver current along the edge of the plain, which was
besprinkled with wild flowers of every rich and
varied tint, intermingled with tall grass that nodded
in the passing breeze. The hawthorn, wild plum
and crabapple bushes were overspread with a tangle
of vines, grape, wild hops, honeysuckle, and clam-
bering sweet brier, fantastically wreathed together,
all growing in clusters along the river bank as if
in love with its placid smiling waters.

The forest rang continually with the songs of the
birds and among them I noted particularly, because
of their strangeness, the crane and the parroquet.
These sand-hill cranes are quite different from the
common blue cranes, being much larger and of a
sandy gray color. They go in flocks, I am told, like
wild geese, but fly much higher and their croaking
can be heard distinctly when they are so high in
the air that they can not be seen. The parroquets
are beautiful birds, as I have already noted in writ-
ing of my ride along the Ohio River. In size they
are a little larger than the common quail and re-
semble small parrots. When full grown, a gentle-
man informed me, their plumage is green, except
the neck, which is yellow, and the head is red. The
heads of the young continue yellow until they are
a year old. When flying, this bird utters a shrill
but cheerful and pleasant note and the flash of its
golden and green plumage in the sunlight is inde-
scribably beautiful in its tropical suggestion.

The gentleman who gave me much of this infor-


mation and who, he confessed, is much interested
in natural history and has many times perused Gold-
smith 's "Animated Nature," said most poetically,
that on seeing these brilliant birds in the sunlight,
he "deemed for the moment that he was on the
verge of a brighter sphere, where the birds wear
richer plumage and utter a sweeter, song."

We had left Logansport at noon, and time sped
rapidly enough in gazing at the varied and delight-
ful landscape and in conversation of a sort which
ever proves edifying. Evening was coming on
when, after a crash as of the wheel striking a
log or obstruction of some sort, the stage gave
a tremendous lurch and precipitated us one against
the other as it came to a full stop, half over-

Having scrambled out as best we could, we were
informed surlily by the driver that we would have
to find lodging in a cabin in a clearing nearby the
place where our accident had fortunately occurred,
as it would be impossible to repair the damages done
to the stage before morning.

Looking about bewildered, we discovered near the
roadside, in a clearing of some fifteen or twenty
acres, a single cabin built of logs to which our driver
was already leading his horses, which he had speed-
ily unhitched from the stage. My fellow passengers
and I walked toward the door of the cabin, where
we were met by a half grown girl, rudely attired
in a coarse garment of dull blue, 'tis true, but pos-
sessed of delicate features and fresh color. All
romance was dispelled when she spoke, however!


' * May we stay here for the night, my girl ? ' ' asked
one of the gentlemen.

"I ain't your girl that I knows of," she drawled,
"but we sometimes keeps strangers, and I reckon
you kin stay here if you like."

At that we entered the cabin, which consisted of
a single room with a large fireplace at one end.
The walls had been whitewashed, and from pegs
here and there was suspended the family's extra
wearing apparel. Two large beds occupied the sides
of the room, with trundle beds beneath ; some splint-
bottomed chairs and an old bureau completed the
furniture. The kitchen was in a "lean-to" at the
back of the house.

The father came in presently, a tall, raw-boned
man, with a face bronzed by exposure, and shook
hands with us warmly and made us welcome. Soon
the children, healthy and sunburned, came strag-
gling in, and last the mother, she alas! the true
pioneer wife, broken by many hardships. How
many of these poor women have I already encoun-
tered on this Western journey, prematurely old and
broken from hard work and many privations!

She was kind, too, and welcomed us shyly, and
presently we sat down to a meal of fried pork, corn
dodgers and tea. Later, I talked with her concern-
ing a beautiful hand-woven coverlet which spread
its gorgeous colors on the rude high bed, and which
for the moment I had the thought of attempting to
purchase for my mother. She said she did not
weave it, though the other was her handiwork, point-
ing to the other bed on which one of plainer design


was spread. Perceiving that my interest was gen-
uine, she forgot herself and grew eloquent over the
subject of designs. Her " mammy" had woven
many of them, she said. In that old "chist" she
had the " Sunrise," the ''Pine Bloom" and the
" Dogwood Blossoms" folded away, all brought
from "Kyarliny," and she had a loom in the shed,
and some of "mammy's" patterns. But this one
which I admired was a "double kiver," the art of
making which is known only to the professional
weavers. The soft, fine wool for this, to whose ex-
quisite quality she called my attention, she herself
had prepared, carding, spinning, dyeing, and her
sister, who lived over in Fountain County, had taken
it to be woven to a woman, French, she reckoned,
whose name was Lattaratt. (After a while I trans-
lated her barbarous pronunciation into LaTourette. 2 )

"Frenchman's Fancy," was its name, and she
reckoned "it was the prettiest kiver in this part of
the kentry." When I saw her hungry eyes feast
themselves upon this one beautiful object in the
dreary cabin, I said no word concerning its pur-

As we sat and talked after supper, the farmer told
us something of his history. He had come with his
wife from North Carolina to Ohio, and thence to
Indiana. He owned now eighty acres of land,
twenty of them cleared, a yoke of oxen, a mule, a
cart and some farming tools. He was getting rest-
less, though; it was becoming too thickly settled

*The LaTourettes of Fountain County were famous weavers of
fine coverlets. Editor?


about here, and he might yet be moving on to a
wilder country.

Ere long bed time was announced, the trundle
beds were brought forth, pallets made on the floor,
each one 's couch assigned him, and soon we all were
sound asleep.

Next morning we performed our ablutions in a tin
basin set on a rough bench beside the door. The
water was from a spring near by, clear and cold,
and a clean towel hung from a nail by the door

After breakfast, a good one, of fried ham, eggs
and coffee, our host informed us that a little fur-
ther down the road a wedding was to be celebrated
that day, and suggested that as he and his family
were going, we join them and remain there until the
driver had finished his repairs on the coach and
came to pick us up.

Being assured that we would be welcome, and
having agreed among ourselves to make up a purse
as a gift for the bride, we accordingly joined the
family procession to the next clearing.

This house proved a much more pretentious dwell-
ing than that of our host of the preceding night.
This was a "double cabin," one room of which was
very large, the other of ordinary size, about eighteen
by twenty feet, I fancy. In the smaller room, the
floor was of dirt, and here were most ingeniously
constructed tables for the day, made by forked
sticks driven into the floor at regular intervals, upon
which were laid other sticks, and on these ranged
puncheons, upon which the cloths were spread.

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It was about 9 o 'clock when we reached the cabin,
and many of the guests were already assembled.
The elder ones came, I was informed, to assist in
the preparation of the dinner; the younger, to en-
gage in dancing, as soon as the ceremony was per-
formed, so popular is this amusement in these settle-
ments. As the two rooms were already occupied,
the bride had to make her toilet in the "lean-to,"
where she, with the friends who "stood up" with
her, received the bridegroom and his attendants on
their arrival. All this, we witnessed, as also the
coming of the squire who was to perform the cere-

This ceremony was performed in a most back-
woods fashion in the larger cabin, and immediately
afterward the bride and bridegroom, together with
the older guests, and ourselves we were treated,
I have failed to note, with great respect were in-
vited to the dining table. I perceived the necessity
now of the strong structure I had observed this
morning, for an enormous feast now stood upon the
coarse white cloths that hid the rude puncheons.
Wild turkey, roasted and steaming hot; a saddle of
venison, various vegetables, pies of all sorts, dishes
of wild honey, and a great pot of coffee, with the
"fixin's," as they called it, of rich cream and a great
pan of maple sugar, stood before us, but only for a
season, for this Brobdingnagian feast vanished all
too quickly.

When we returned to the first cabin we found the
young people already dancing, having induced the
old fiddler to take his station in one corner, where


he played in a most lugubrious fashion the old tune
of "Leather Breeches.'*

We tarried for a season watching them, and then,
our driver appearing with the coach, we presented
our gift to the buxom bride, thanked our hosts for
their hospitality, and, I'll confess it, since she was
a comely girl with sparkling, black eyes and a fine
color, availed ourselves of the permitted "salute"
on the bride's rosy cheek ! Then, assuming our seats
in the coach, we were soon bowling rapidly along
over the road to Delphi.



NOTHING of particular interest occurred to
mark our journey from the settler's cabin
where we beheld the marriage ceremony, un-
til we came to the village of Delphi. The prospect
was much the same, alternating woodland and
prairie, and I occupied my time in gazing upon the
scenery, whose natural beauty had not yet palled
upon me, and in conversation with my fellow

One elderly gentleman I learned later that his
name was Odell who took the stage for Delphi at a
hamlet at which we stopped on the morning of the
wedding, proved to be one of the pioneers of Carroll
County and told me much that was interesting con-
cerning the newness of these settlements and the
hardships of the first settlers. Looking upon the
small but thriving villages and the cultivated fields
separated from each other though they are by dense
woodlands, I found it difficult to comprehend that
only fourteen years ago when the people in the
locality that is now. Delphi, came together to assist
in raising a saw mill, there were only twenty-eight
present and those twenty-eight were all of the resi-
dents, as he put it oddly enough, "from Wild Cat to



Rock Creek" within the limits of what two years
later became Carroll County, and that now there are
in these same limits several hundred people. These
first settlers, he said, suffered many privations that
first winter. Their stock of provisions, tea, coffee,
and flour which they had brought with them was
soon exhausted and they were forced to subsist on
what substitutes were to be had potatoes and
squash for bread stuffs and a brew made from spice-
wood to take the place of tea and coffee.

The mail in these early days, he told me, was first
carried on horseback, later in what were called
''mud wagons, " and still later in "hacks." Indian
trails and deer paths were the roads, and he declared
that a settler who came into the country in 1824 said
that the face of the country was then covered with a
growth of nettles as thick as a crop of flax and
about as high, and in the river bottom as high as
a man's head when he was on horseback.

There were many frogs and snakes, he said. In-
deed, every one with whom I have talked has an
experience with these reptiles to relate, for the
rattlesnakes abounded here in such numbers that
the settlers frequently formed companies to go
forth and attack their dens. In one place, near
Deer Creek, ninety-five were once killed in one

The wolves, too, were plentiful in the early days,
and after telling me several stories of these huge
gray wolves, the old gentleman recited a poem he
had composed last winter on a bill introduced into
the Legislature asking for a bounty on wolf scalps;


"The wolf, the enemy of sheep,
Prowls about when we're asleep,
And in despite of faithful dogs,
They kill our sheep and junior hogs,
And rob us of our wool and bacon,
One by one, the imps of Satan.
Hence, I pray the Legislature
To pass a law to kill the creature;
And by a unanimous vote,
Make the scalp a treasury note."

A Methodist minister, who was also a passenger
and who until now had taken little part in the con-
versation, perceiving my interest in these stories
relating to the wildness of the country, informed
me that only last year, when going to Conference
with some of his fellow circuit riders, one of them
feeling ill, they all stopped for the night at a farm
house somewhere between Greencastle and Craw-
fordsville. During the night they were aroused by
a great commotion in the yard, the barking of the
dog and the voice of the farmer, but presently when
all became quiet again, they fell asleep and were
surprised in the morning to hear from the farmer
that a bear had climbed into his yard and en-
deavored to get away with one of his pigs. The
bear was compelled to surrender his prey but man-
aged to make his escape. The ministers were
chagrined that they had not arisen and assisted in
the capture of the bear on their way to Conference
it would have made such a good story !

I learned more, too, on the stage of my friend
James Blake of Indianapolis, of whom I have
written several times before, and whose activities


in this part of the state in the early days of the
settlement are still remembered.

In Indianapolis I had heard Mr. Blake's praises
sung on all sides as one of the most useful, energetic
and public-spirited of its citizens, always first to
help in any improvement that was to be made, al-
ways heading the list in every benevolent enterprise,
a man most noble and unselfish, to whom was due
much of the prosperity of the city in which he made
his home. It was therefore most interesting to come
upon a chapter of his early life in this country.

'Tis said that he lived several months of every
year in Carroll County at its beginning and estab-
lished a ginseng factory on Gen. Milroy's farm, pur-
chasing large quantities of this root from the
settlers, from which source alone many of them ac-
quired sufficient funds for the purchase of their land
from the government.

He attended the first sale of lots in Delphi and
was leader of the subscription for the erection of the
school house. He at once organized a Sunday
School, and as long as he remained a resident of
the county kept it under his supervision. In short,
it was evident that Mr. Blake did not become a resi-
dent of the town for purely selfish reasons. He be-
came a citizen not only to better himself but to better
the town. He set a standard of religion, morality
and virtue, and made it easier for other good men
to stand for these principles. In brief, every town
in which he has lived felt the influence of his resi-
dence there long after he had departed. To use Mr.
Odell's words, "He gave the young community a


start in the right direction, and that influence is
still felt."

As the old gentleman concluded his speech, I sat
in silence for a period, meditating on what he had
told me and on the influence for good a man may
have in a community. Here, thought I, is this man
who came out to the Western country, just as I
have now come, to carve out his fortune and to make
a place for himself. By his own efforts, he has not
only succeeded in one but in both. Here and in
Indianapolis, his present home, I have heard only
words of praise when his name is mentioned. And
here am I, come likewise to find a place for myself
in this new country. Twelve, fourteen years from
now, will some young man, such as I am now, riding
through the country on a similar voyage of dis-
covery, hear my name spoken in such terms of grati-
tude and praise f What a happy destiny could such
a thing be !

We had by this time approached Delphi where I
had planned to remain over night. I accordingly
took lodgings at the Delphi House. This hotel, I am
informed, was established in 1835 and stands at the
foot of Main Street. I was most agreeably sur-
prised to find so large and handsome a tavern-stand
in so new a town. The building is of frame, con-
tains forty-five rooms and a cellar and also pos-
sesses a most commodious stable. Its situation is a
fine one as it commands a view of the river, the
canal and the town.

Unfortunately, the town only last year suffered
from a most disastrous fire, in which an entire block


of buildings was consumed, and has not yet re-
covered from this catastrophe. However, it is a
pleasant looking village, and, while small, it is hard
to believe that so few years ago its site was an open
woods of oak, walnut, elm, plum bushes and hazel,
as I am told. The surrounding country is beautiful
beyond description, the river, the creeks, the bot-
toms overgrown with flowers, the forests, altogether
forming a scene to cast a spell over any one pos-
sessed of imagination.

The editor of the paper, The Express, R. C.
Green, to whom I had a letter from one of my
Logansport friends which I speedily presented, gave
me to understand that in spite of this calamity, Del-
phi will rally and that the day is not distant when
it will be the largest town on the Wabash River.
Mr. Green has been, until last year, the editor of the
first paper started in Delphi, but recently gave this
up to become editor of The Express, which is a
Harrison paper. He and a gentleman whom I
found in his office, a Dr. Blanchard, talked much of
the resources of the town and most bitterly regretted
that the Michigan Road did not pass through it, this,
they declared, being due to carelessness on the part
of some of the citizens who did not take time to ex-
plain the advantages of such a route to the com-
missioners, who therefore went into Cass County,
where they found men who were willing to spend
the time and gain this important thoroughfare.

They talked much of the natural advantages of
Carroll County, its fertility of soil and facilities
for water power, and pointed out to me the fact that


it is the head of steamboat navigation on the Wa-
bash, because any time that steamboats can come to
Lafayette they can come to Delphi.

Similar enthusiasm over the county's resources I
found in General Samuel Milroy, 1 one of the pioneer

Gen. Milroy was most agreeable to me and
narrated the circumstances of the naming of Delphi.
He had in mind of course the ancient shrine of
Apollo, the seat of the famous oracle, and by a
pretty fancy the first newspaper established was
named The Delphi Oracle.

Gen. Milroy assured me, as others have done, that
the first settlers of this county possessed more in-
telligence and piety than is usual in new settlements,
early establishing churches and schools, and the
moral tone of -their influence and example has left its
impress on the present inhabitants.

It was this gentleman in his talk on internal im-
provements who called to my mind again the Madi-
son and Lafayette Railroad, on which I had traveled
from Madison to Vernon, its terminus at that time,
and which if ever completed will connect the north

Samuel Milroy, born, 1780, in Pennsylvania; lineal descendant
of Robert Bruce; came to Middle West when a young man; to
Indiana in 1814; delegate to constitutional convention, 1816; mem-
ber of first Legislature; Brigadier General, commissioned by Gov.
Jennings, 1819; in Legislature for nine years in succession; moved
to what is now Carroll County in 1826; petitioned Legislature to
form county; drafted bill for same, located county seat and sug-
gested name; appointed by J. Q. Adams to inspect Illinois land
offices; same year made register of land offices at Crawfordsville;
delegate to first Democratic national convention at Baltimore, 1832;
opposed internal improvement system, 1839; agent for Miami and
Pottawotamie Indians; died, 1845. Editor.


part of the state with the south in a way now almost
unbelievable. He told me that he had aroused much
enmity in the Legislature by opposing the building
of a steamboat lock at Delphi, but he stood firm be-
cause he was determined that time and materials
should not be taken from the citizens of Carroll
County to construct something which he considered
as absolutely useless. I discovered in the course of
our conversation that he is an ardent Democrat and
a great admirer of Robert Dale Owen. On learn-
ing of my admiration for him, although I am a
Whig, he presented me with a printed pamphlet of
an address which Mr. Owen delivered before a meet-
ing last year, which he considers a most noble effort.

In answer to my inquiry as to whether the town
is sickly, he assured me that other settlements jeal-
ous of Delphi have circulated the report that it is
sickly, whereas, to the contrary, in four years only
one adult person has died in the town.

During my stay in Delphi I met several of the
physicians in addition to Dr. Blanchard, among
them Dr. Ewing and Dr. Webber and Dr. James
Stewart, also Judge Grantham, the probate judge;
John Armitage and several attorneys, including L.
B. Sims and a Mr. Graham. In company with these
friends I viewed the little city, saw the substantial
Court House, a brick building with a bell and cupola

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Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 15 of 26)