Kate Milner Rabb.

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

. (page 17 of 26)
Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 17 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Julia sang. 'Twas a little song, the words by Mrs.
Hemans, entitled "The Stranger's Heart," and
when it was received with much applause she was
besought again to favor us. She refused at first,
but when I, standing close to the piano, besought her,
telling her in low tones that this was the first music
I had heard on my journey, and that, after another
day, I should again set forth into the wilderness, she
turned the stool and sang a gay little melody, the
music by Miss Augusta Browne, Professor of the
Logierian system of music, and the piece, I noted
that I might purchase it, is to be had at Osbourn's
Music Saloon in Philadelphia. The words I jotted
down with her permission :

"Dost thou idly ask to hear

At what gentle seasons
Nymphs relent when lovers near,

Press the tenderest passions?
Ah! they join their faith too oft

To the careless wooer;
Maidens' hearts .are always soft;
. "Would that men were truer!

'It is fortunate for us that Mr. Parsons' admiration for Miss
Julia led him to record this conversation which gives so illuminating
a glimpse into the literary tastes and standards of the time. Editor.


"Woo the fair one when around,

Early birds are singing.
When o'er all the fragrant ground

Early herbs are springing;
When the brook side, bank and grove,

All with blossoms laden,
Shine with beauty, breathe of love,

Woo the timid maiden.

"Woo her when with rosy blush

Summer eve is sinking;
When o'er rills that softly gush

Stars are softly winking ;
When through boughs that weave the bower

Moonlight gleams are stealing;
Woo her till the gentle hour

Wakes a gentler feeling."

We were served after this with a most delicious
repast of floating island and pound cake made by
Mrs. Johnson from her tried New England recipe,
and the party was then over much too soon. I had
the pleasure of escorting the fair Miss Julia to her
home, or, to speak more correctly, half the pleasure,
for on the other side of her strutted a pert young
coxcomb in blue broadcloth and white beaver hat,
by name Jones, who monopolized the conversation
and had the impertinence at the gate to ask for one
of the pink roses from her garland. She suffered
his impertinence, not well being able to help it, but
as we parted I felt the slight pressure of her fingers
returning that of mine, and I, too, received one of
the pink roses, which even now reposes over my

The next day was the Fourth of July and I was


invited as a special guest to be present at a great
celebration and dinner in honor of the occasion.

I have attended many Fourth of July celebra-
tions, but never one planned on lines of such magni-
tude and carried out with such perfection of detail.
On this occasion I met some of the notable men of
the town, of whom there is a surprising number,
Mr. Sandford C. Cox, Dr. Elizur Deming, a phy-
sician of prominence ; Mr. Martin L. Pierce, who is
the present sheriff these gentlemen all from the
East, and Mr. Lawrence B. Stockton, a Virginian
like myself, who has resided here for sixteen years
and was the county's first surveyor. He drove me
out to his house that evening, a palatial residence
erected five years ago and said to be the largest and
finest in the county. I also made the acquaintance
of Mr. Henry T. Sample, who came here from Ohio,
and of Mr. Moses Fowler, a young man near my own
age, who came here only last year and has engaged
in. the mercantile business. He talked to me at some
length of the importance of this city and the busi-
ness opportunities in the way of importing goods
from Southern ports. It seems that he and his
partners have five or six steamers chartered for this
purpose, so were I minded to enter the business
world instead of engaging in the practice of the law,
I should be inclined to choose this city as my loca-

Among the lawyers who here as elsewhere I found
banded together like brothers, I remember most dis-
tinctly in addition to Mr. White, Mr. John Pettit,
who came here from New York. Mr. Pettit has


served in the Legislature and was last year ap-
pointed United States district attorney by President
Van Buren. He is, I am told, no scholar, but has a
mind of great force and an intellect which grasps
successfully great and mighty questions.

With him was his protege, a young man just my
own age whom at first sight I fancied mightily, a Mr.
Godlove S. Orth. I do not flatter myself that I dis-
played any great intuition, however, for I am told
that when he came to this state from Pennsylvania
where he was reared on a farm among the yeo-
manry, and educated at Gettysburg College, he met
Mr. Pettit at Delphi and that this gentleman was at
once so impressed with him that he gave him the
keys to his law office at Lafayette and told him to go
on and take possession as his partner. Mr. Orth
is a tall young man, already inclined to corpulency,
and extremely complaisant in manner.

This Fourth of July celebration began at daylight
with the hoisting of a superb national flag and after
this was unfurled to the breeze, a salute was fired
from some pieces of artillery. The morning was
spent in mingling with friends and acquaintances on
the streets, and at 12 o'clock a procession was
formed in front of the hotel of the highly respectable
citizens of the town and county and a few of the
venerable worthies of the Revolution yet surviving.
This procession moved to a grove in which a plat-
form had been erected under a giant tree, and here
the Declaration of Independence was read by Mr.
Orth, and an eloquent and highly appropriate ad-
dress was given by no less a personage than Mr.


Tilghman A. Howard, 3 the Democratic candidate for

I was most pleased to have the opportunity to
hear this eloquent speaker of whom I had heard so
much during my travels in the state. He presents
a most dignified appearance, and it is said is ex-
tremely sober, seldom indulging in levity. In ap-
pearance, he is most striking, being very tall, of
symmetrical form, with coal black hair and eyes,
large and most expressive features. Every gesture,
every expression of his face betokens intellect of the
highest order.

After paying tribute to the veterans of the Revolu-
tion, "the men who in the dark and portentous era
of '76 promptly stepped forth, the avengers of their
country's wrongs, and freely offered themselves a
willing sacrifice at the shrine of patriotism," he
made a most stirring appeal for the support of a
representative democracy. He quoted in conclusion
with most telling effect :

"Where barbarous hordes on Scythian mountains roam,
Truth, mercy, freedom, yet shall find a home.
Where'er degraded nature bleeds and pines,
From Guinea's coast to Siber's dreary mines,
Truth shall pervade the unfathomed darkness there
And light the dreadful features of despair.
Hark! the stern captive spurns his heavy load
And asks the image back that Heaven bestowed.
Fierce in his eye the fire of valor burns,
And as the slave departs, the man returns!"

'Tilghman A. Howard, born in South Carolina in 1797; district
attorney for Indiana, 1832; Congress, 1839. Candidate for Governor,
1840. Editor.


After the address the procession again formed
and returned to the hotel, and at 2:30 o'clock we
sat down to an elegant repast at which the utmost
harmony prevailed. Upon the removal of the cloth
the following toasts were drunk with great una-
nimity, amid the roar of artillery and the cheerings
of grateful and happy hearts. These I have copied
from the newspaper, a number of which I secured
before leaving the city: (1) "The day we celebrate
the sixty-fourth anniversary of our country's
freedom"; (2) "the memory of those illustrious
patriots who on the Fourth of July, '76, mutually
pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and
their sacred honor"; (3) "the memory of George
Washington"; (4) "the officers and soldiers of the
Revolution death has thinned their ranks, but their
fame is defended by the shield of immortality"; (5)
"the President of the United States"; (6) "the Vice-
President and heads of the departments"; (7) "the
Constitution of the United States like a root in the
rifted rock, it will withstand the storms of faction
and the tempests of party"; (8) "the People en-
lightened they can never be slaves; ignorant, they
can never be free"; (9) "our Flag may its stars
ever shine resplendent in glory until the lights of
heaven cease to burn"; (10) "the American fair."

"Oh, woman, woman, thou wast made,
Like Heaven's own pure and lovely light,

To cheer life's dark and desert shade
And guide man's erring footsteps right."

These toasts were followed by volunteer toasts,
for the first of which I was called upon. I proposed


that we drink "To the Sovereignty of the People
let it pervade the globe. ' ' The others that followed
were: "Our Farmers and Mechanics the nerves
and sinews of the commonwealth"; "The Militia of
Indiana when again called into the field of battle
may they imitate the valor of their countrymen at
Tippecanoe"; "Wisdom, Strength and Beauty our
executive, legislative and judicial departments pos-
sess the first, our army and navy the second, and our
fair countrywomen the third " ; " Gen. Lafayette, the
Companion of Washington may his virtues be ever
engraven on the hearts of Americans"; "The Love
of Country may it always prevail over personal
and party considerations"; "The People's Servants
may they never succeed in becoming the people's
masters. May a generous and enlightened competi-
tion induce them to look solely to the common pros-

With these toasts, the celebration ended, and the
next day I set forth to the town of Crawfordsville
from which I am now writing, directly south of
Lafayette and in the adjoining county of Mont-
gomery. The road runs over the beautiful Wea
Plains, called, 'tis said, for the Wea or Ouiatenon
Indians, a branch of the Miamis. These prairies,
gently rolling and absolutely treeless as far as eye
can see, gemmed with flowers of all varieties, the
brilliancy of whose coloring baffles all description,
are a most entrancing sight to the traveler. At this
season, the wild rose is in predominance and fre-
quently the entire surface of the plain appears to be
carpeted with these blossoms of ravishing beauty.


These prairies are sparsely settled, I am told, and
the solitary traveler may ride for hours without
meeting or seeing any one, directing his course by
the distant groves which look like islands in the sea
of grassy plains.

The most notable plant is the bluejoint grass, so
called from the color of its stalk and leaves, which is
dark green with a bluish tint near the ground. It
is indigenous to the prairie and grows to the height
of a man's shoulder, sometimes even high enough
to conceal a man on horseback. Cattle, sheep and
horses are all fond of it and it is said to remain
juicy and tender until late in the fall, and is an excel-
lent food when cut and dried as hay.



1 FAILED to record in my last entry in which I
told of my closing days in Lafayette, the man-
ner of my journey to Crawfordsville. I started
off, commonplace enough, in the stage coach, a man-
ner of traveling of which I had by now grown suf-
ficiently weary, when a young gentleman from
Lafayette, the same coxcomb Jones who had aroused
my indignation by his attentions to the beautiful
Julia, proposed that we vary the monotony of the
journey by changing our method of travel. We
would shortly, he said, come to the village of Con-
cord, and he proposed that here we should leave the
coach, send our baggage on by this means, and make
the remainder of the journey on horseback. In that
way we could get a much better view of the beauti-
ful country, we could travel as leisurely or as
rapidly as we pleased, and altogether we would find
this manner of travel most pleasant. A fellow pas-
senger reminded him of a story he had from Judge
Law of Vincennes of a time in 1828 when he and
Gov. James B. Eay, who was at that time a candi-
date for re-election, were traveling over the Wea
Plains, lost their way and lay out all night without
shelter or supper. My companion responded that
that was twelve years ago, when there were far



fewer settlements, and that to such men as our-
selves, the matter of going without food or lodging
was a matter of indifference, anyway.

I hailed his proposal with delight, and in a short
time we were cantering along over the plain, "the
prettiest place this side of Heaven," he declared,
which I found most entrancing in its summer gar-
ment of green, scarlet and pink. Occasionally we
could catch a glimpse of the silvery river, along
which grew clusters of hawthorn and wild plum
trees overgrown with honeysuckle. When night
fell, it was still more entrancing, for the moon was
at its full, and poured its silver light over a scene
which would have delighted the heart of a painter.

'Twas on this same night that we overtook the
" movers " encamped by the side of the road.

'Twas an interesting sight, as we approached
them the two great wagons filled with household
furniture and farm implements, standing at one side
of the road, the horses unhitched and tethered near
by. Here also were the cow, the colts and a few

They had kindled a fire and were cooking their
supper over it, the mother and two half -grown girls,
pretty, though shy creatures, while the father and
his sons were busying themselves about feeding the
cattle and disposing of them for the night. We
drew rein as we approached, and asked some ques-
tions. The family, it seems, had come two years
ago from North Carolina and had settled in the
northern part of the county. Two months ago, the
man had taken up land in the southern part of this


county, and after building his cabin and clearing a
piece of land, had returned for his family and his
household goods, and they were now all on their way
to their new home. On learning of our destination,
they invited us to share their evening meal, and sug-
gested that we pass the night at their camp. We ac-
cepted their invitation with undisguised eagerness.
I could see that my friend, for all his braggadocio
on the stage, had some fear, after all, of sharing
Governor Kay's fate and lying out all night without
shelter or food, and from the manner in which he
devoured the ham, eggs and Johnny cakes which the
girls shyly brought us, and drank the scalding hot
coffee, I perceived that food was not such a matter
of indifference after all, as he had feigned.

After supper, our new friends again insisted that
we spend the night near their camp fire where we
would be safer from snakes or any prowling animals.

" "Tis not a Wabash bedstead," said our host,
"but it will answer the purpose, and we can lend you
all a Kyarliny kiver. It gits right cold out in the

"And what, pray, is a Wabash bedstead?" I
asked, and was told that the settlers who had no
beds were wont to construct them by driving a piece
of a huge sapling upright in the floor for one leg of
the bed, and with smaller saplings fitted into holes
bored in the wall making side pieces and supports
for puncheons upon which were placed the ticks of
straw and feathers, the whole forming a very sub-
stantial and comfortable bed.

A long time we sat in the moonlight around the


dying fire, talking of the fertile prairies, now
covered with blackberries and raspberries, and of
the great range they afforded for cattle and horses ;
of the game and fish in the streams, plenty and
plenty for these men's sons and their sons after
them. 1

The talk of danger from wild animals suggested
stories of the wolf hunts which the early settlers
often found necessary, in which the inhabitants of
several neighborhoods, and sometimes of a whole
county, took part. The territory to be hunted over
was circumscribed by four lines sufficiently distant
from each other to inclose the proper area. To each
line was assigned a captain, with his subaltern
officers, whose duty it was to properly station his
men along the line and at the hour agreed upon to
cause them to advance in order toward the center
of the arena. The lines all charged simultaneously
toward the center on horseback, with dogs, guns
and clubs, thus completely investing whatever game
was within the lines and scaring it from the advanc-
ing lines toward the center, where the excitement
of the chase was greatly heightened and the greatest
carnage ensued. Often from two to ten wolves and
as many deer were taken in a day at these hunts, and
wildcats, foxes and catamounts in abundance.
Horses and dogs soon became fond of the sport and

1 Short visioned settlers. In 1860 Mr. Sandford Cox wrote of
these "boundless plains:" "For more than fifteen years past these
plains have been like so many cultivated gardens, and as for venison,
wild turkeys and fish, they are now mostly brought from the
Kankakees and the lake." Editor.


seemed to enter into it with a zest surpassing that
of their masters.

With this man was his brother-in-law, a tall,
gaunt young man who, up to this time, had kept
silence. Now he was moved to tell an adventure of
his own with the wild hogs, which, 'tis said, roam
through the woods in some places and are most
dangerous if encountered when in any way enraged.
This young man his name, I think, was Tucker,
and he, too, had lived for a season in the north-
western part of the county, said that he had had a
most exciting adventure some years ago. He had, it
seems, been the first of the family to come to the
county, having come from Carolina into Kentucky,
and now he had sold his farm and was accompany-
ing his brother-in-law to his new location.

'Twas just such a night as this, he said, bright
moonlight, and he had rambled out before going to
bed into a little valley, near his cabin. He is a shy
youth of few words, but I fancy he is at heart
poetical and that he wandered farther than he
thought under the spell of the moonlight and the
beauty of the landscape. He had climbed one of the
wooded hills that edged the valley, he said, and stood
gazing over the beautiful valley and the silvery river
in the distance, when all at once, a fox darted past
him, barking as it ran. Back it came in a few
minutes, followed by a gang of wild hogs which it
had aroused, and which came in pursuit with a
cracking of bushes, rattling of stones, and gnashing
of teeth. For a moment his heart stood still. He


could not climb the huge tree near which he stood, he
had only time to snatch a fallen limb with which to
beat them off. His only hope lay in keeping them
off until his calls could be heard at the cabin, if they
could be heard. He stood fighting the furious gang,
shouting desperately, foreseeing himself devoured
alive, w r hen, presently, his calls heard, his friends
came to the rescue. It was a narrow escape, and he
wiped his brow as he spoke, as though even yet the
very thought caused him to break into a perspira-

Presently our talk turned into lighter channels
we told jokes, we sang. The young man who told
the wolf story had a fiddle which, after some per-
suasion, he was prevailed upon to bring from the
wagon, where it hung safely up in the bows, with the
guns, and to its accompaniment we sang homely
songs, "Old Virginny Never Tire" and "Old Dan
Tucker," songs which I have heard from my cradle
up, in the darky cabins on my father's plantation.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that these
settlers knew some of the old ballads, too, and we
sang together "Barbara Allen" and others. The
young girls spoke never a word, though they listened
most attentively to our conversation in which, it
must be confessed, I took a part, for I was im-
portuned to relate the story of my journey from
Virginia to this remote part of the country, and I
felt in the gaze of their deep dark eyes and the in-
terest expressed on their innocent faces something
of the stimulus Othello must have felt when he re-
cited to Desdemona his adventures in field and flood.


At last we lay ourselves down under our home-
spun "Kyarliny kiver" and slept soundly until
dawn, when we again gathered round the fire and
partook of an excellent breakfast, corn bread baked
in a covered skillet piled over with hot coals, a most
delicious concoction, with the added relish of fresh
berries which the young girls, risen early, had
picked., and then, mounting our horses, we galloped
on, after bidding farewell and Godspeed to these
good people who had shown us such genuine hos-

I have neglected to state that this young gentle-
man, my companion, is a student of the law in the
office of Mr. Lockwood at Lafayette, and only last
year graduated from a college at Crawfordsville
known as the Wabash College, although its title was
originally ' ' The Wabash Manual Labor College and
Teachers' Seminary." He is, I judge from his
attire and his manner, in affluent circumstances', and
he is going for a visit to his Alma Mater and to at-
tend the Commencement at which a young friend is
to graduate. He is 22, of good form and feature,
and of a gay and lively disposition, and in pleasant
desultory conversation the time has passed most

After we left the "movers" and entered the
county of Montgomery of which Crawfordsville is
the seat of justice, he gave me much information
concerning the county and town, for, 'tis clearly to
be discerned, he has habits of observation, and is
well fitted by nature as well as education for what-
ever career he chooses to embark in.


The county, which was organized seventeen years
ago, was named for Col. Richard Montgomery.
'Tis marvelous, he says, in the way of natural
beauty and fertility of soil. The northern part of
the county is prairie, interspersed with groves of
timber, oak, hickory, elm and ash; its soil is rich
black loam, mixed with sand. The middle is chiefly
forest land, watered by Sugar Creek and its tribu-
taries. The southern part is gently rolling and
covered with timber, chiefly walnut, and sugar tree,
with a rich loamy soil, and is watered by a creek
called Big Raccoon. This land, he assures me, is so
fertile that the owners grow rich almost without
labor, for it has been said that at the time of the
first settlement a settler no sooner put up a cabin,
deadened fifty or a hundred acres, fenced in fifteen or
twenty, sufficiently cleared to raise a corn crop, than
he asked $800 or $1,000 for his improvements, and
what is still more astonishing, no sooner offered to
sell than he realized the amount in cash. During his
stay at the college he had explored much of the
county, being of an investigating mind, and he told
me of a most beautiful spot some miles away from
the town where two small streams run together and
where the scenery is of stupendous grandeur, with
towering cliffs, deep ravines, waterfalls altogether
a most marvelous and indeed terrifying scene.

Our ride through the northern part of the county
was uneventful though the landscape was ever of
interest to me. Before entering the town we forded
Sugar Creek, a large stream running diagonally
through the county, and soon came into the town of


Crawfordsville, named, my companion informed
me, for Col. William Crawford, Secretary of the
Treasury at the time it was laid off. The site was
chosen no doubt because of its proximity to a great
Indian trail that, crossing Ohio, Indiana and Illinois,
gave passage through the wilderness to the tide of
immigration from the East. These settlers were no
doubt also influenced by the neighborhood of several
large springs of pure and medicinal qualities of
water. The growth of the town, he told me, was as-
sured from the first, by the location of the land
office which was moved there from Terre Haute, and
of which Judge Williamson Dunn of Hanover was
the first Register.

I can not now disentangle the sensations of my
first view of this little town and my later impres-
sions; suffice it to say that I have found it, small

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 17 of 26)