Kate Milner Rabb.

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

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with a burst of eloquence which indicated the power
he must have over the multitude when he chooses to
"Few or no vestiges now remain of this transient


splendor and magnificence. The grandeur of this
rural spot, sequestered from the turmoil of Euro-
pean strife, rose in a few short months, exhibited
itself to our astonished view for a little time, and
then, like the evanescent phantoms of the night be-
fore the morning sun, almost as suddenly disap-
peared, resembling in its progress and termination
the effect of enchantment. ' '

As he ceased, all sat silent for a moment, under
the spell of his melodious accents and the spring
night, the air soft and rich with the perfume from
the dogwood and the wild plum borne to us on the
breeze as our vessel now and then swept near the

Miss Hunter had laid aside her bonnet and sat by
the rail, her head propped on her hand, her eyes
fixed on the island, fast disappearing from view.
The moon's rays revealed her rare features, pale as
though cut in marble. I noted a tear glistening on
her fair cheek exquisite sensibility in one so
young !

At Gallipolis, the third settlement made in Ohio,
made by French immigrants, and which contains a
meeting house, a court house, a jail and an academy,
the commander of our boat called our attention to
a very large, semi-globular mound, eighteen or
twenty rods in circumference at the base, which
stands near the academy. Similar and more elabo-
rate works were viewed at Marietta, the work, 'tis
said, of long vanished aborigines.

The aspect from the river of Portsmouth was
most pleasing, with its factories, large, substantial


and handsome stores, dwelling houses and churches.
The iron manufactured in its blast forges is now
worth $2,000,000 annually.

Maysville, Ky., formerly called Limestone, though
settled, I was told, in 1784, is not the oldest settle-
ment in the state. On the 24th and 25th of this
month there is to be a celebration of the first settle-
ment at Boonesborough, at which, no Providence
preventing, Mrs. French, a daughter of Col. Richard
Galloway, and her female servant, who were in the
fort during the siege of 1777, will be present.
Maysville, they say, is one of the most important
towns on the river between Wheeling and Cincin-
nati. It presents from the river an unbroken front
of elegant brick buildings and has a good landing.
As a place of business, it ranks second to Louisville.
I was astonished at the size of the place, its twenty-
eight or more stores of dry goods, its stoneware
manufactory, its paper mill. One of the merchants
from Louisville with whom I had become ac-
quainted, a Mr. Bulleit, assured me that the people
of Maysville, "for intelligence, industry and ster-
ling patriotism are surpassed by none in the
Union. " In spite of this it was not mentioned on
the maps I consulted, I informed him. ' ' I am aware
of this fact,'* said he, "and why the authors of
maps have neglected, as so many of them have, to
notice so important a place as this seems strange

Words fail me when I attempt a description of
Cincinnati, ' ' The Queen City of the West, ' ' as it has
been called. This thronged city, with its work


shops, its marts, its stores, its canals, its roads, its
churches and schools, its vine-clad hills, the Corin-
thian house, the distant cottage, the observatory of
science, and all that labor and art of the modern
can furnish, has made a deep impression on me.*

Nothing I have seen in the Eastern cities can com-
pare with its landing, the extensive paved area of
several acres, and the long and elegant river front.
The situation, so far as the encircling hills on which
stand many of the buildings, reminds me of Balti-
more, as does also the cleanness and neatness with
which it is kept, though I am assured that it was
laid out on the model of Philadelphia. The hills by
which it is environed intersect each other in such
a manner as to form an imperfect square through
the northeast and southwest angles of which the
Ohio River enters and passes out. The winters, I
was told, are as cold as those of northern France,
the summers as warm as southern Italy, yet it is as
healthy a place as can be found anywhere.

As a seat of commerce, I shall always remember
Cincinnati with wonder. Its whole water front was
encumbered with packages of every description,
waiting to be loaded on the numerous steam vessels
moored at its floating wharves, the foreign imports
or the domestic produce of the Miamis concentrat-
ing on this point. The hurried arrival and depar-
ture, singly and in squads, of a whole battalion of
drays ; the unremitting labors of hands loading and
unloading the vessels in port; the incessant ringing
of bells as signals to the passengers or the crews

* The population of Cincinnati at this time was 36,338. Editor.


of the boats; the brief and abrupt interchange of
business among the clerks on board and those be-
longing to the mercantile houses of the city, this
gives the stranger an idea of the marvelous busi-
ness carried on. When I add that thousands of
dollars* worth of eggs are exported to New Orleans,
that as early as 1805, 4,457 barrels of flour were ex-
ported, and that the pork packing which has made
it famous was begun as early as 1812, and that manu-
facturing is also a feature of the city, some idea of
its importance may be gained.

We were told, anent the pork packing, that in
1827, cart loads upon cart loads of spare ribs from
these packing establishments were drawn to the
water's edge and emptied into the Ohio to get rid
of them. The influx of Germans and the rapid in-
crease of inhabitants gradually opened a market for
these delicacies.

What was my delight to be informed by one of the
officers of the boat that, owing to some repairs it
had been found necessary to make, we should be
compelled to lie at the wharf over night. Buford
quickly suggested that we make up a party for a
drive about the city, a dinner at the hotel, and an
evening at the theater. One of our party was to
be a Mr. George H. Dunn of Lawrenceburg, Ind., a
gentleman to whom I had been greatly attracted be-
cause of his intelligent interest in the matter of
internal improvements. My attention had been
called by Mr. Bulleit to the Miami Canal, the
earliest and most important of the great works
connected with Cincinnati, extending beyond the




flourishing town of Dayton, and which has, for the
last two years, paid more than the interest on the
debt incurred for its construction.

Mr. Bulleit was most enthusiastic over the canals.
"That sagacious and tranquil people, the Chinese,"
he said, "have been accumulating the fruits of a
hundred generations on the subject. Canals are
with them as ancient as their history. Imagine a
Chinese woman guiding rapidly along a canal boat
of ten tons burden. She rows after the fashion of
the country, with an oar attached to each foot,
managing the sail with one hand. With the other
she holds a rudder and thus transports a load which,
when carried on land, would have required ten teams
and as many drivers to do it."

While Mr. Dunn was also heartily in favor of
canals, having in 1836 induced the General As-
sembly of his state of which he was a member to
pass an act authorizing the building of the White-
water Canal, whose beginning at his city of Law-
renceburg he promises to show me, he is most en-
thusiastic over the railroad, and is most desirous to
see one built between his town and Indianapolis, the
capital city of Indiana.

Our party, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Buford,
Miss Caroline Hunter, Mr. Dunn, Mr. Letcher, Mr.
Bulleit and myself, soon found ourselves driving
about the city, first through the business portions,
and then the region of dwelling houses and public
buildings, from Broadway to Fourth, a row of
modern palaces, bordering broad, well paved and
thoroughly ventilated streets. We admired the


number, variety and beauty of the public buildings,
the taste and spirit which leaves spaces between the
private edifices for borders and sidewalks, and
furnishes an avenue to behold the garden attractions
in the rear of the houses, the verdure of the grass
plats, the fragrance of the shrubbery, which deco-
rates the front of the house, and the exhibition of
flower vases in the windows of those who have no
space except the rear of the buildings to cultivate.
These people, think I, have taste to improve and
spirit to enjoy, as well as ability to acquire.

Much impressed were we also by the public build-
ings, schools, museums, churches, manufactories, all
triumphs of art and industry. The manufactories
were amazing, the facilities for the pursuit of
knowledge unbelievable. The city contains a Medi-
cal College, a Law School, a Mechanics' Institute,
many schools, both public and private; pork-pack-
ing houses, shipyards, where many steamers are
constructed in the course of the year, and, of
especial interest to me, eight bell factories, turning
out bells to the aggregate value of $135,000. Cin-
cinnati supplies the whole of the Ohio and Missis-
sippi valley with bells of all sizes and every use,
making the best in the country, accurately propor-
tioned in ingredients and having a hanging and
mounting peculiar to Cincinnati and an unusual
beauty and melody. While they make many church
bells, it is for their steamboat bells that there is the
greatest demand, for it seems that it is the pride of
every steamboat master to have his boat equipped
with a large, sweet-sounding bell.


Our tour of the city completed, we dined at the
Shires House. 5

The city boasts several theaters, but we agreed
upon Shires' Theater because it was adjoining
the hotel, and thither, after our dinner, we repaired.
Mr. Bulleit, a young man of somewhat pompous
manner and a good deal of commercial knowledge,
pushed himself next to Miss Caroline as we walked
toward the theater, and I am convinced would have
seated himself beside her had Mrs. Buford not
cleverly intervened, leaving the way open to me.

This theater has a commodious stage, a spacious
pit, one tier of boxes for a dress circle and an un-
commonly large balcony or second tier. The play,
of moderate interest, was called "Tortesa the
Usurer." Miss Hunter found much entertainment
in the notices printed on the play bills, among which
were the following: "It is particularly requested
that dogs will not be brought to the theater, as they
can not be admitted," and, "Peanuts are pro-
scribed. ' '

I was up betimes in the morning, and hence able
to observe the cities of Covington and Newport, op-
posite Cincinnati, both beautiful and flourishing.
The principal streets of Covington are laid off so

This was the predecessor of the historic Burnet House. When
Judge Burnet transferred his property on Third and Vine to the
Branch Bank of the United States and removed to his new building
at the corner of Seventh and Elm, Mr. Shires converted the old
building into a restaurant and hotel and later built a theater on
the remaining vacant lot. This last was a plain frame building
fifty by a hundred feet. It has beert said that "Cincinnati never
saw better playing and acting than on the boards of Shires' Theater."


as to present the appearance of a prolongation or
continuation of those of Cincinnati. It is separated
from Newport by the Licking River.

Our Quaker friend, Arnold Buffum, had left us
immediately on our arrival at Cincinnati, parting
from us, it would seem, with some regret. To me
and to the circuit rider he expressed, in bidding us
farewell, the hope that our paths might eventually
cross during my Indiana sojourn.

Soon after sunrise, our boat turned from the
wharf and began to plow its way down stream.
Twenty miles below Cincinnati, I was told, I would
see the "Log Cabin" of Gen. William Henry


MADISON, MAY 16, 1840.

HAVING just arrived in Madison, I shall pro-
ceed to jot down the incidents of my journey
from Cincinnati to this town, before retiring
for the night.

I came on deck early in the morning after our
evening at Shires' Theater in order to have one last
look at the Queen City, and that I might not miss
a sight of North Bend and the famous "Log Cabin";
and as a reward for my early rising was the witness
of several amusing and interesting incidents. Cin-
cinnati had faded from our view and we were again
gliding past wooded island, perpendicular cliffs and
happy valleys, when our steamer was hailed by two
fellows at a lonely landing, and turned in, as was
the custom, with a great puffing and churning of the
waters. As we rounded to, one of the fellows
shouted to the officer to know if the boat was bound
for Louisville and if he would take any kind of

"What do you want taken?" asked the officer.

"Not much," replied the fellow, "a grist mill, a
sawmill, two churches and a carriage and horses."

The officer, thinking the fellow a practical joker,
became infuriated, cursed him roundly, and ordered
the boat to back away from the landing. Then the



man explained that the mills piled up on the landing
did not weigh more than 400 or 500 pounds apiece,
and that the two churches were himself and his
brother, whose name was Church. At this, the
officer was propitiated and took them and their be-
longings aboard, for it appears that a rough sort of
joking is peculiar to these Western river men.

It was on this morning, too, that we saw great
rafts of logs, which I was assured come from afar
in the interior, down small streams swollen by the
spring rains, and are now on their way to the Gulf.

North Bend, the home of Gen. William Henry
Harrison, was founded by Judge Symmes, 1 to whose
daughter Harrison is married.

Here is a postoffice and a thriving circumjacent
settlement. Judge Symmes is interred on the sum-
mit of a knoll which is beautifully conspicuous to
miles of the river and country around.

The location of the famous "Log Cabin" is a
beautiful one. It is in reality a log cabin, but has
been covered with boards, has large wings added to
the original building, and the whole structure,
painted white, is quite palatial looking. It is ex-
tremely neat, and stands in a noble lawn with large
trees about it and has a fine view of the river.

The circuit rider, Mr. Hicklin, who knows Gen.
Harrison well, gave me much information concern-

1 Judge John Cleves Symmes of New Jersey in 1787 purchased of
Congress what is known as the Miami or Symmes tract of 1,000,000
acres lying between the Great and Little Miami Rivers and bordering
on the Ohio, where he started the second settlement made in Ohio.
In the great freshet of 1789 Symmes found that his town site was
under water and in 1790 began another settlement at North Bend,
first called Symmes City. Editor.


ing Mm. It seems that he is much interested in the
Methodist ministers and Mr. Hicklin has in his pos-
session a letter from Gen. Harrison to a friend
which he permitted me to read and from which I
make a few notes.

"I have been a witness," he wrote, "of their con-
duct [the circuit riders] in the Western country for
nearly forty years. They are men whom no labor
tires, no scenes disgust, no danger frightens in the
discharge of their duty. The vow of poverty is not
taken by these men, but their conduct is precisely
as it would have been had they taken one. Their
stipulated pay is barely sufficient to enable them to
perform the services assigned them."

The circuit rider narrated an incident illustrating
Gen. Harrison's kindness. A Methodist minister
traveling through southern Ohio had passed the
night at his home. In the morning, he was informed
that his horse had died during the night. Gen.
Harrison bade him farewell, expressing his con-
dolence over the loss, and the sorrowing .minister
left the house to find waiting for him at the gate,
one of the general's own horses, a parting gift, ac-
coutered with his own saddle and bridle. This is but
one of his many benevolences. Small wonder that
he is held in such high esteem!

Asking for details of his life, for I must confess
that we in the East have heard little and thought
less of this Western Indian fighter, I was told that
he' resigned his commission in 1814, that two years
after he was elected to Congress, then in 1824 state
senator in Ohio, in 1828 had been appointed min-


ister to Colombia, South America. The fact that he
had won the battle of Tippecanoe, which battle field
it is my intention to visit, as well as Vincennes, the
city which* was the capital when Gen. Harrison was
Territorial Governor, increased my interest in this
hero of the Western country.

On his return from South America, Gen. Harrison
retired to this farm, by no means rich, having never
asked nor received compensation for his services in
the Tippecanoe expedition, and here, contented with
the honors acquired by years of pathetic devotion
to his country, he has lived, employing himself in
rural occupations and at the same time gathering
from the soil his support, which others, if not more
selfish, yet more careful of their own interests, have
secured from the emoluments of office.

In person, he is tall and slender ; his eye is dark
and remarkable for its expression, his manners,
plain, easy and undemonstrative.

I listened most eagerly to this description, for I
had not been unaware on my progress westward of
the increasing enthusiasm over our Whig candidate
in every town and village, an enthusiasm which, I
am convinced, would astound both Democrats and
Whigs in our Eastern states.

As we approached Lawrenceburg, Ind., the home
of Mr. Dunn, 2 that gentleman suggested that I go
ashore with him during the period in which freight

'George H. Dunn (1797-1854), born in New York, came to Dear-
born County in 1817. Member of the Legislature in 1828-1832.
Member of Congress, 1837-1839. State treasurer from 1841 to 1844.
He and Governor Bigger revised the code of Indiana and later he
served as judge of the Circuit Court. Editor.

was being taken aboard and view the town and the
Whitewater Canal, of which the people were so
justly proud. Lawrenceburg, situated in Dearborn
County, occupies a position in a broad expanse of
most fertile bottom lands, back of which there arises
a ridge and range of hills towering perhaps 100
feet above the valley, from which is presented a
picture most grand to behold, the broad and ex-
tended bottoms coursed by the Great Miami, the
town with its graceful spires pointing heavenward,
the majestic Ohio flowing beneath the towering Ken-
tucky hills. The town was laid out in 1822, and
at one time was the seat of justice of Dearborn
County, which honor was transferred in 1836 to
Wilmington. 3

The soil of the county is a rich loam, very produc-
tive, and corn and pork are largely exported.

While the river, I was told, frequently overflows,
driving the inhabitants out of their houses or to the
upper story, this period of the flood, from ancient
custom and from the suspension of all customary
pursuits, has become a time of carnival. The floods,
instead of creating disease, wash the surface of the
earth and are supposed to be rather conducive to
health than otherwise.

At the present time the chief interest of the town
is the Whitewater Canal. In January, 1836, when
the news came that the internal improvement bill
had passed the Indiana General Assembly, a great

"Those who desired a division of Dearborn County moved the
county seat in 1836 to Wilmington. In 1843 the county was divided
and Ohio County organized, and Lawrenceburg again became the
county seat of Dearborn County. Editor.


celebration was held in Brookville, between which
town and Lawrenceburg the first construction was
to be made, with speakings, illuminations, ringing
of bells, roarings of cannon, bands of music; and
again in September, when the ceremony of "break-
ing ground" was held, with a barbecue and a speech
by Governor Noble. Mr. Dunn spoke here, he in-
formed me, and the editor of a Richmond paper
gave an original verse:

There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale where the branches of Whitewater meet;
Oh! The last picayune shall depart from my fob
Ere the east and the west forks relinquish the job.*

The first boat to reach Brookville and Lawrence-
burg was the Ben Franklin, which arrived June 8,

Mr. Dunn gave his carpet bag to a negro boy and
together we strolled about the streets.

The first brick house was erected in the city by
Dr. Jabez Percival. It is a substantial two-story
building with walls three feet thick. The Hunt
Tavern was the first three-story brick building in
the state, a matter of pride with the people of
Lawrenceburg. Of particular interest to me were
the Miami Mills, whose brand of flour has become
noted for its excellence, not only in the United
States, but in the West Indian Islands and South
American ports. It is said it will remain sweet for
months in tropical climates, while other brands sour.

Viewing these many interests and the canal pro-
viding a channel for business from the interior, I

John Finley in the Richmond Palladium. Editor.


am convinced, with Mr. Dunn, that Lawrenceburg,
with its many interests and advantageous location,
is destined to great commercial supremacy.

As we passed along the streets, Mr. Dunn fre-
quently paused to greet his fellow citizens and to
present me to them as a stranger from the East
making a tour of the state. One of them, a rather
portly gentleman, on learning that I had been in
Washington, inquired at once if I were acquainted
with John Quincy Adams. " Those who know us
both," said he, "assure me that for form, size,
features and complexion, I strongly resemble that
'old man eloquent' and children often call his por-
trait 'Judge Cotton/ 5 Another resemblance," he
added, "we both poetize readily when aroused by
any particular emotion, and if similar circumstances
had surrounded both, who knows ?"

As we passed on Mr. Dunn informed me that
this rather eccentric old gentleman had the habit of
poetizing on religious, temperance and political
topics, and also on various happenings in the
county, and when we entered his office a few mo-
ments later, he showed me some of these effusions.
One written on Andrew Jackson, in 1832, ran:

The hero of Orleans has once been, elected

To preside o'er the Union, and more than expected

Ability and skill he has clearly displayed

Yes, even to those who him President made.

"The Judge Cotton of this meeting published in 1858 a collection
of these poems with a short autobiographical sketch and a brief
history of the early settlements of Dearborn County, called "Cotton's
Keepsake," now much sought after by those interested in the state's
early history. Editor.


Let Clay and the bank against him conspire,
They can't put him down nor raise him much higher;
Let us be independent, keep our money at home,
Re-elect Andrew Jackson and let aliens roam.

Among others, I met Mr. Gregg, publisher of the
Political Beacon, a most zealous Whig; Dr. Robert
Gillespie, a Scotchman, graduate of the University
of Edinburgh and a leading physician of this
locality ; Ebenezer Dumont, a most promising young
lawyer, so Mr. Dunn informed me, "an organizing
genius," said he, "with fertility of expedient and
sleepless mental activity. ' ' This young man, learn-
ing that I was going to Vevay, gave me a letter to
his mother, Mrs. Julia L. Dumont, a well-known edu-
cator and widely famed in the East as a writer of
both prose and verse. So many did I meet that
of the remainder only a few names remain in
my memory, Tousey, Tait, Dunn, Sparks, Burk-
ham; many of them suggesting Southern antece-

The warning whistle recalled me ere I was nearly
through with my sightseeing, and bidding a hasty
farewell to Mr. Dunn, whom I had come to esteem
most highly during our too brief acquaintance, I
made haste to return to the steamboat.

There was still the usual concourse of passengers,
for while some had left the boat others had come

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 3 of 26)