Kate Milner Rabb.

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

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much merry making. And when I met mine host I
was still more pleased, for Dr. Hale is a true gentle-
man, his ruffled shirt white as the driven snow, his
broadcloth of the finest and blackest, and his dignity
of the sort that would do credit to a Virginia states-
man, tempered as it is with the proper courtesy to
the stranger. I could see at once why notables,
beauties and fashionables, once come to this inn,
would return again and again.

'Twas Dr. Hale gave me my first historical in-
formation regarding New Albany. 'Twas founded,
he said, by three brothers, Joel, Abner and Na-
thaniel Scribner, who, attracted by the site near the
Falls o'f the river, bought it in 1813, convinced that
"the world would one day revolve around New


Albany." This city, says he, now numbering 4,226
inhabitants, and only last year incorporated as a
city, with its matchless situation at the head of
navigation, will in time become the largest interior
city on the continent. Its founders were all public-
spirited men, foremost in all benevolent and liberal
enterprises for building up and bettering the com-
munity, and said he, "The enterprise, industry,
morality and public spirit which have heretofore
contributed so much to its growth will not fail to
carry it on hereafter. "

Quickly perceiving my interest in the city and its
activities, Dr. Hale told me much of its business, its
printing offices, its stores of general merchandise,
liquor stores, foundries, mills, one in particular, pro-
pelled by steam power, in which 100 barrels of flour
are manufactured in twenty-four hours ; its schools,
of which more anon; its churches, and above all, its
ship yards, for he said, "While this country is not
excelled in the state in the variety and extent of its
business, its average income from the river business
alone is more than $75,000 each year. ' '

From 1830 to 1835, he informed me, seventeen
boats were built here, of the value of $377,642.
From 1835 to this year, thirty-three vessels of the
value of $714,942, and the output is expected to rise
in the next year or two to thirty-eight boats each
year. It is this building and the fact that the city
is a headquarters for river men that give it so dif-
ferent an atmosphere from other cities I have
visited, for there is a constant stream of visitors
and of merchandise from New Orleans and in many


respects its atmosphere is that of a Southern city.
"The society of this city," says Dr. Hale, "you
will soon perceive, is most delightful. 'Twas be-
cause of these founders and the men who have suc-
ceeded them. They first shaped the city in its tastes,
its refinement and geniality and with the crowning
glories of religion, and the highest morals to bless
it, it has so continued ever since. The excellent so-
ciety at New Albany will always be its chief attrac-

'Twas Dr. Hale introduced me to the mayor of the
city, Mr. Shepard Whitman, a most estimable
gentleman, who at once invited me to a meeting of
the Lyceum to be held that same evening at 6 o 'clock.
This Lyceum, it seems, was established some years
ago, and has already a number of members and a
library of several hundred valuable books and
the necessary apparatus for illustrating different

I found the meeting of special interest because
'twas well attended, giving me thus the opportunity
to meet at once the town's most respectable citizens,
and as the constitution and by-laws were read by
the secretary, Mr. Alexander McClelland, I learned
the object and aims of the society. The object of
this a called meeting was to rouse the interest of
the members, which, I gathered, had been somewhat
lagging, and on motion of Mr. Whitman, it was ' ' re-
solved that we make all exertion possible to sustain
this institution, inasmuch as we regard it as the most
inestimable means for the advancement of the youth
of both sexes as well in morals as in education, and


that the better to effect this object, Mr. T. J. Barnett
be requested to deliver an introductory address at
the next meeting and that the public generally be in-
vited to attend and unite with us." This Mr.
Barnett, I was to learn later, is both an editor and a
lawyer, a man of splendid attainments, a superior
scholar and a fine speaker, one of the finest, indeed,
in the city.

The members present were Dr. Clapp, Mr. John
Evans, Mr. D. M. Hooper, my host, Mr. Whitman,
Mr. H. B. Shields, Mr. Charles Woodruff, Mr. David
Hedden, Mr. T. J. Barnett, Mr. Andrew Thickstun,
Mr. James Brocks and Mr. Alexander McClelland.
Of these, Dr. Clapp is the president, Mr. Hooper,
the vice-president of the Lyceum, Mr. Shields, the
treasurer, Mr. Thickstun, the librarian, Mr. Hedden,
one of the curators. Mr. Bollman, the correspond-
ing secretary, was not present, and neither was Mr.
Dwyer, the other curator.

In chatting with these gentlemen after the meet-
ing, for all proved themselves most agreeable and
tarried to converse with me, I learned that Mr.
Hedden is one of the pioneer settlers, and that the
name Shields is one indissolubly connected with the
settling of New Albany. Mr. Patrick Shields > whom
I was later to meet, 'being one of its most distin-
guished citizens, an associate of Gen. Harrison, a
member of the Constitutional Convention, the first
circuit judge of Harrison County, an associate judge
of this county, and his wife, the daughter of Clement
Nance, a Huguenot, she said to be the first white
woman to cross the Knobs.


Dr. Clapp I found to be a most agreeable gentle-
man. He, too, came here nearly thirty years ago
and married a daughter of one of the founders of
the town. He is a most prominent, influential and
respected citizen and a most successful practitioner,
and through his kindness I met many of the physi-
cians of the city, Dr. P. S. Shields, Dr. Leonard, Dr.
Cooper, Dr. Stewart, Dr. Hoover and Dr. Dowling,
also a Dr. John Sloan, who had but recently gradu-
ated from Bowdoin College and come here to engage
in the practice of medicine.

I made also the acquaintance of many of the
lawyers, this through a letter to John S. Davis, a
gentleman of prominence both in the law and in
politics, and who is in partnership with Maj. Henry
P. Thornton, who introduced me to his brothers at
the bar. Especially congenial I found Eandall
Crawford, who is a fine student and scholar and
who, with James C. Collins, has, 'tis said, three-
fourths of the law business of the city.

Other names I will set down that I may not for-
get them, some merchants, some city officials, all
men of prominence: Peter Stoy, a pioneer; Mr.
Paxton and Mr. Eastburn, James E. Shields, cashier
of the bank, a most imposing structure with great
columns at the front; Mr. Fitch, Mr. Warren, Mr.
Pattison, Preston F. Tuley and Mr. Pennington, the
merchant. I was soon to learn that a meeting with
any one of these gentlemen meant, through his kind
offices, a meeting with another and another, so that,
in an incredibly short time I had shaken the hand
of nearly every respectable citizen of the place and


had received more invitations to various gatherings
than I had the time to accept.

'Twas on my way to some meeting to which I had
been invited, stopping along High Street to gaze
into the window of Mr. Pattison, where was to be
seen a most ravishing display of hats, black beavers,
gray and white, also black and drab satin beavers,
and gentlemen's leghorn hats, which display minded
me, that as the weather here was become of such
extreme warmth, I should mayhap purchase me one
of these leghorns and don my linen suit. Suddenly,
I felt a touch on my arm, and looked around to be-
hold my old friend, Louis Hicklin.

Time permits not that I should inscribe all the
words that passed between us, for I was truly at-
tached to this good man, and I could see that time
and absence had not diminished the affection he had
so clearly demonstrated that he felt for me. His
welcome was a warm one. He has but just come to
this part of the country to preach at some camp
meetings, and as he was at this moment at leisure,
he insisted that I stroll with him about the streets
and pass the time in conversation over my travels
and experiences since we parted. We did so, and
he at the same time told me something of the his-
tory of his church in New Albany. Being an old
town, the church was founded early, and is now
strong and flourishing, there having been held last
year at the Wesley Chapel a most extensive and
powerful revival of religion. My friend the Rev.
Allen Wiley^ who took me to the camp meeting, was
stationed here a few years ago, and was most popu-


lar, a statement I did not in the least question. Mr.
Hicklin bethought himself to tell me a most excellent
story of a recent conference here, a year or two ago,
perhaps. 2

Most of the preachers from the eastern part of
the state, among them Mr. Hicklin, who was then
stationed at Vevay, came on the river and on their
return forty or fifty of them, among them Bishop
Soule, took passage on the General Pike, a steam-
boat running between Louisville and Cincinnati.
There was a large company of gamblers on board,
said Mr. Hicklin, returning from the Louisville
races, which had just closed. These men took pos-
session of the gentleman's cabin and in a short time
were engaged in gambling at cards and in consum-
ing vast quantities of liquor. Bishop Soule, a re-
markable person, tall, muscular and athletic, viewed
this scene with the utmost abhorrence, and, pres-
ently calling the ministers together, he began to
sing, joined at once by his companions :

"Jesus, the name high over all,

In hell or earth or sky ;
Angels and men before it fall,

And devils fear and fly. ' '

It did not take many such hymns, shouted forth in
such stentorian tones, said Mr. Hicklin, to cause
these " devils" to fly. Very shortly they abandoned
the cabin and fled either to the deck or to their state-
rooms, and the rest of the voyage was passed in
decent quiet.

*This conference to which Mr. Parsons refers was held in New
Albany in 1837. Editor.


Mr. Hicklin pointed out to me in the course of
our stroll the New Albany Seminary, 3 a flourishing
institution under the protection of the Methodist
Church, with about 200 scholars, male and female.

When on my return to the inn, after an appoint-
ment with Mr. Hicklin for the morrow, I spoke with
Mrs. Hale of the flourishing condition of the Meth-
odist Church, she at once declared that the Presby-
terian, the church of the Scribner family, was in an
equally flourishing condition, having held its first
meeting in 1817 in the old Scribner home. She also
told me of the female prayer meeting organized in
1823, at her home, the tavern, by herself, Mrs.
Ayres, Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Shields, and of the
organization, the next year, of the Female Bible So-
ciety at the home of Mrs. Phoebe Scribner, at which
Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Ayres, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Abner
and Mrs. Joel Scribner became members, together
with fifty-eight other ladies, and the organization is
still flourishing. The Baptist and Campbellite
Churches were also founded here at a somewhat
later date and all have flourished, so that Dr. Hale
is without doubt correct when he attributes much
of the city's flourishing condition to "the crowning
glories of religion and the highest morals."

I was told, too, a most interesting story of a
French settlement (there are two near by), whose

3 This institution, founded in 1835 and continuing for ten years,
was the predecessor of the famous DePauw Female College at New
Albany. "Although the seminary was discontinued as a conference
institution, and ceased, it nevertheless accomplished great good in its
day and showed that the Methodist was then, as now, the real friend
of Christian education." E. C. Holliday's "Indiana Methodism. "-


brick church, St. Mary's-of-the-Knobs, was built but
a few years ago and whose priest, a most interest-
ing character, Father Neyron, was a soldier under
Napoleon, a surgeon of great ability, who came to
America and became a priest. 4

My appointment for the morrow with Mr. Hicklin
promised the greatest interest. He was going over
into the adjoining county of Clark, in which lies
Jeffersonville, to a camp meeting, and he proposed
that I ride over to that city in his company, view
the surrounding country and city, and thence return
to New Albany, while he continued on the way to his
appointment. As he has trod these paths so many
times and is so familiar with the country and its
history, I hailed the opportunity with delight, find-
ing, moreover, much pleasure in his company.

On the morrow, therefore, we set forth early, each
on horseback, he having his horse and I hiring one,
a good animal, with the help of Dr. Hale, ever most

Leaving New Albany behind and pushing on over
the level country which lies between it and Jeffer-
sonville, we rode rapidly, the roads being in good
condition, and Mr. Hicklin passing the time most
pleasantly in relating to me the story of Clark's
grant. For a long time this county was spoken of,
he says, as "the Grant," for in 1783, Virginia gave
to George Rogers Clark, his officers and soldiers in

4 It is most unfortunate that Mr. Parsons did not visit these set-
tlements and give us more information concerning them. There were
two, one near Mooresville, the other on the Budd Road, both at one
time very flourishing. At the first named, a great cooperage business
was carried on for a time. Both settlements and traditions are now
almost vanished. Editor.


the Revolution the 149,000 acres of land here, to-
gether with 1,000 acres on which was to be located
the town of Clarksville, and this land is still under
the jurisdiction of Virginia. 5

He pointed out to me the town of Clarksville and
the two-story log house erected by Gen. Clark, in
which he lived for a season, beautifully situated
upon General's Point, giving a delightful view of
the Falls, and told the sad story of his life and death
which I had already heard at Vincennes. In this
county is the town of Charlestown, he informed me,
in which lived the state's first Governor, Jonathan
Jennings, and Judge Dewey, whom I had met at
Indianapolis. Governor Posey, he says, once lived
at Jeffersonville.

The situation of Jeffersonville is a beautiful one,
on a terrace a mile above the Falls, beside a deep
eddy where boats of the largest size can approach
within a cable length of the shore at all stages of
the water, and with an enchanting view of Louis-
ville and Corn Island, a historic spot on which Mr.
Hicklin told me, Gen. Clark's army encamped in
May, 1778, on their way to Kaskaskia. 6

6 This "Grant" was originally controlled by a charter given by
Virginia. In 1852 the General Assembly of Indiana annulled this
charter and gave Clarksville a charter under the laws of the state.
The old patent dated 1786 and signed by Edmund Randolph of Vir-
ginia is still preserved at Clarksville. Editor.

* This historic spot was a long, narrow strip of land about three-
fourths of a mile in length, reaching from what is now Fourth Street
to Fourteenth Street in Louisville, and very near the south side of
the river. By 1840 much of the heavy timber in which the early set-
tlers had found refuge from the Indians had been cut away and the
island had washed away to about seventy acres. It has now en-
tirely disappeared, and even its location is a subject of dispute.-


In 1825, said Mr. Hicklin, when Gen. Lafayette
paid his visit to this country, making a tour under
the supervision of the Federal government, he was
entertained most sumptuously at Jeffersonville.
As he was brought over to Jeffersonville on the
General Pike a salute of thrice twenty-four guns was
fired from cannon stationed on the river bank, where
had been erected three flag staffs twenty feet high,
with appropriate flags. A reception was tendered
him, and afterward, a great dinner, the table spread
under an arbor woven of beech boughs, in a wood
just above the Posey mansion. At the head of the
table was placed a transparency bearing the words,
"Indiana welcomes Lafayette, the champion of
liberty in both hemispheres,'* and at the foot, an-
other bearing the words, "Indiana, in 1776, a wilder-
ness; in 1825, a civilized community! Thanks to
Lafayette and the soldiers of the Revolution."

The welcome address was made by Governor
James Brown Ray, concerning whom I have written
in previous entries. There were a vast number of
guests present, among them many from Kentucky,
fine music by a band, a splendid military escort, a
great number of most eloquent toasts, altogether,
'tis said to be the greatest occasion e'er witnessed
on Indiana soil. Mr. Hicklin made merry over my
stopping him on horseback that I might note these
items in my commonplace book, but I assured him
that if I did not have it all set down with exactness,
time, place and names, it would not be credited by
my family and friends, who have no idea of the ad-
vance of civilization in the Western country.


We parted in Jeffersonville, and this time some-
what sadly, for I am soon to take my way home-
ward, and we each felt that we might never meet
again. Having given me his blessing, the good man,
spurring his horse, turned his face toward the camp
grounds, and I mine toward the tavern to which he
had directed me.

'Tis well that I have kept so exact a diary ; other-
wise, I myself might find it difficult to believe all
the experiences I have had, all the novelties I have
found in the western country. How w r as I to know
that here in Jeffersonville I was to find a resort of
beauty and fashion unexcelled in any spot I have
ever seen?

Years ago, 'twas discovered that in the outskirts
of Jeffersonville were several valuable springs
mineralized by sulphur and iron, a powerful natural
chalybeate water, and the proprietor, a Swiss, by
name Fischli, realizing their value and possible
profit to himself, erected a large and commodious
building for the reception of those who sought re-
lief either from physical indisposition, their own
thoughts, or the disagreeable atmosphere of the
cities during the summer months, and laid off the
surrounding grounds most beautifully and attrac-
tively in walks, bath houses, bowling alleys, foun-
tains, and puzzle gardens. The fame of the place
spread rapidly by the river route, and it soon be-
came a mecca for visitors from the South with their
families, who hastened here to enjoy a brilliant and
attractive society during the summer months. So
popular did the place become that two years ago the


owners Mr. Fischli is now dead erected a spa-
cious and palatial tavern on the river bank, the finest
of its kind, 'tis said, in Indiana or Kentucky, and
graded the street leading out to the springs, Broad-
way, which soon proved, I am told, a highway for
the equipage of fashion and wealth.

'Twas toward this caravansary that, following the
direction of Mr. Hicklin, I turned my steps, and who
can refuse to believe in fate? There, upon one of
the porticoes the sight of them, filled as they were
with fashionably-clad women and men, made my
heart beat faster whom should I descry but my
friend Buf ord and his lovely wife !

The recognition was instant, and the upshot of
our meeting was that I dispatched a servant to New
Albany for some of my baggage, and spent several
days in their company. I have not time nor space to
set it down, our rides, our drives, our entertainment
by Capt. Fitzgerald, an old sea captain, who dwells
in a magnificent mansion built in the Southern style
with a great columned porch presided over, he be-
ing a bachelor, by his sister, Mrs. Duane, at a lavish
repast, with rounds of beef, elegant desserts, de-
licious wines, all served in a most elegant fashion,
and many others. "0, the dalliance and the wit, the
flattery and the strife ! ' ' Quickly the days sped by
in this charmed circle, and all at once I realized that
the time had come to say good-by to this merry-
making and turn my steps homeward. I communi-
cated my thoughts to Buford, sitting one night on
the portico in the moonlight.

" To-morrow, come what may," said I firmly, "I


must set my face toward home. Early in the
morning I will return to New Albany for my
baggage and take my passage on the boat for Cin-
cinnati. ' '

"And are you going to leave us and New Albany
without once inquiring about Caroline?" he in-
quired. "My wife and I have waited and won-
dered, but she has refused, so far, to let me
speak. She said that you perhaps had forgotten

I confessed then that my stubborn tongue had re-
fused to ask the question. I had watched and
waited in New Albany, hoping that I might en-
counter her on the street, that somewhere I might
hear her name mentioned. Again and again I had
tried to question him, but for some reason I could

" 'Twas no wonder you did not hear her name;
her father was a steamboat captain and is long since
dead. She and her mother live very quietly in the
old house. You will have no trouble to find it ; they
are well known the house is a handsome old dwel-
ling. Go, and " he laughed as he rose and ex-
tended his hand in farewell, "I may not see you in
the morning if you are to depart so early go, and
God be with you ! ' '

'Twas a laughing adieu, but still I felt, at heart,
a sincere wish for my welfare and happiness. And
so to bed and on the morrow I was on my way back
to New Albany New Albany and journey's end.
And what was the couplet that ran through my head
and would not out, but repeated itself again and


again such as such foolish things have a habit of

"Trip no farther, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers' meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know."

By judicious inquiry and a little direction, I soon
found the house. 'Twas one of those old mansions
which give the place its character, situated on the
high bank of the river, with its terraced garden slop-
ing down to the water, its three-storied latticed
porches facing the stream. The grounds, to which
entrance was given through a great iron gate, were
handsomely laid off in a formal garden, with latticed
arbors and summer house, the winding walks set
with little boxwood trees between two rows of conch
shells, two huge pink shells on either side of the
front door, a sure sign, I had been told, of the river
man's home. The door, with its side lights and
beautiful fan light, recalled my own home, as did the
black girl who opened the door to me.

"Miss Caroline? She done gone to the summer
house with her work. You want me to call her?"

No, I would seek her out, and turning, I walked
slowly, with fast beating heart, toward the distant
summer house, whose doorway, I surmised, faced
the river, so that I could come upon her unaware.
Slowly I went down the graveled path, gazing
at the bordering plants, wondering what I should
say first. Then, of a sudden, a thought and
hurriedly, I stooped and plucked the flowers, mak-
ing my selection most carefully, touch-me-not, blue-
bell, columbine, heliotrope, honeysuckle, myrtle,


pansy and rosebud a most creditable nosegay. 7
The summer house, vine covered, faced the river,
and there, seated in a low chair, her needlework
fallen on her lap, the shining bands of her hair
drooping over her flushed cheek, sat the lovely
Caroline, her deep blue eyes full of dreams. My
heart leaped up as I looked at her modest as the
dove, beautiful as an angel lovelier, far lovelier
was she than I had dreamed her. I paused a mo-
ment, unseen, to gaze upon the vision; then, the
sound of the gravel under my foot aroused her from
her reverie and, turning, her eyes met mine!

I pressed the nosegay into her hands. "Read,
read," I murmured. And, reading, she turned those
glorious eyes upon me, then let the jetty lashes
sweep her blushing cheek !

"Journeys end in lovers' meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know."

7 The reader must remember that Mr. Parsons had purchased in
Richmond a copy of "The Flower Vase," the book which Miss Caro-

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Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 24 of 26)