Kate Milner Rabb.

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

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on board, and in changing groups we chatted on the
various subjects of the day. My attention was
called to Rising Sun, a village near Lawrenceburg
whose location, on high bottom land, is particularly
beautiful, set as it is among primeval forest trees


gigantic sycamores, wide spreading elms, and grace-
ful beeches.

The next small village to which my attention was
called was Patriot, whose principal families I was
assured by a member of the Universalist Church
whom I had encountered on the boat, a follower of
Erasmus Manford, he informed me, who at this
very time was making a tour of Indiana, were of the
liberal faith, excellent people and practical Chris-

They loved the truth, said he, loved to talk about
it, and loved to attend services at the sanctuary.
That place, he declared, was an oasis in the desert
no controversy, no denunciation, but peace, love
and harmony combined.

Though reared strictly within the tenets of the
established church I have acquired, I natter myself,
considerable broadness of view on religious matters
at the University, stamped as it is with Jefferson's
broadness of view, so that I listened at this follower
of a new faith with considerable interest, realizing,
however, with what horror such expressions would
be heard by my friend the circuit rider.

A gentleman from this town here left the boat
after bidding me farewell, a Mr. Daniel H. Howe. 6

He had been most obliging in pointing out various
interesting features of the country to me on the
voyage down, among others mentioning the Rising
Sun Insurance Company for marine, fire and flat-
boat insurance, which struck me as an interesting
novelty. He urged me at parting, should I make a

8 The father of Judge Daniel Wait Howe of Indianapolis. Editor.


return voyage up the river, to stop off at Patriot
and during my stay there make his house my

As the Universalist turned away, I observed Mrs.
Buford and Miss Hunter sitting near the rail, Mrs.
Buford idle, as usual, and Miss Hunter engaged in
a species of handiwork which, I learned, upon in-
quiry, was a "rachel," a convenient sort of head-
gear made of soft yarn, very elastic and partaking
of the various natures of cap, bonnet, and hood.
This article was of the shade of the blush rose which
tinted her rounded cheek, and will, I feel assured,
be most becoming to its wearer.

The moment seemed propitious, since their almost
constant attendants, Bulleit, Letcher and Buford,
were absent, to announce my plans. Mr. Hicklin,
the circuit rider, had suggested to me that instead
of continuing on the boat to Madison, as first
planned, that I leave it with him at Vevay, visit that
town, and proceed on horseback along the river road
to Madison, which method of travel would give me a
better idea of the country, the road now winding
through forest, now emerging into the open and
more cultivated country, and giving me my first
opportunity of seeing the manners and hearing the
idioms of the ignoble and vulgar.

Madison, he assured me, was well worth a stay of
some days, being an old town and a seat of culture,
and while there he besought me to make his house
my home.

"Oh, then, sir," cried Mrs. Buford, "if you are
to leave us so soon, you must write in our albums.


We spoke of it the other day. I'll run to bring mine
and yours, Caroline. Mr. Letcher and Mr. Bulleit
inscribed their names this morning while you were
viewing Lawrenceburg. ' '

''Affection's Gift" was the title inscribed on the
blue and gilt morocco covered volume which bore
Miss Caroline's name, and "The Laurel Wreath"
in red and gilt was Mrs. Buford's volume.

As I suspected, Mrs. Buford's volume was filled
with ardent sentiments, either original or "se-
lected," from admiring swains who had evidently
laid their hearts at the feet of Miss Jane Hunter;
Miss Caroline's with sentimental verses from young
females, her schoolmates, though an occasional
Thomas or Charles indicated the possession of ad-
mirers, who, however, addressed her in a much more
delicate and formal manner than did the admirers
of the less reserved Mrs. Buford.

Buford, who had come on deck, laughed as he
looked over my shoulder.

"Females are naturally sentimental," said he. "I
consider such a request a mere bait for flattery."

"Not at all," cried his wife. "I can not help what
they write I could not help it, I mean, but what I
want is just something to remember them by, the
handwriting, the name "

"A mental daguerreotype," said the shy Miss
Caroline, blushing as she spoke.

If this was to be my mental daguerreotype I took
though^ as I sought the cabin of the steamer where
were ink and pen. I too, though I had not confessed
it, like the old Judge Cotton, occasionally "poetize"


under stress of emotion. If this was to be my men-
tal image, what should I reveal? Slowly I dipped
quill into ink and wrote.

(To Miss Hunter)

As to the distant moon

The sea forever yearns,
As to the polar star

The earth forever turns;

So does my constant heart

Beat but for thee alone,
And o'er its far-off heaven of dreams

Thine image high enthrone.

But, ah ! the moon and sea,

The earth and star meet never ;
And space as deep and dark and wide

Divideth us forever.

I managed to put the book into her hands when
she w r as alone.

"One promise I exact," I said; "that you do not
read my lines until I have left the boat at Vevay.
You will?"

"I promise," she said, almost inaudibly and,
blushing deeply, slipped away toward her state-

Our parting was commonplace enough, taking
place as it did in broad daylight, on deck, in the
midst of the crowd.

"Our lines may cross again," said Buford cheer-
fully. "We are thinking of prolonging our stay in


the North and making several visits. Our first
stop will be with Caroline at her home in New
Albany. ' '

Miss Hunter said nothing. Her little hand quiv-
ered as I held it in mine for a moment, but I could
not see her eyes for the long lashes resting on her
cheek. New Albany! I shall visit that town.

The village of Vevay is on a beautiful site. The
river has a majestic curve, and the level plateau on
the shore corresponds to its semi-circular sweep,
while around its periphery stand, like guardian sen-
tinels, a range of noble hills. The object of the col-
ony was to find a place in the New World for rais-
ing the grape, and vineyards were soon set out in
the wilderness. The wine made from these vines,
dressed and trimmed according to the Swiss man-
ner, is said to be of the very best, and superior to
the claret of Bordeaux. The names of the inhabi-
tants indicate their Swiss origin, Dufour, More-
rod, Thiebaud, and the old Swiss customs are still
preserved. These people, I am informed, are very
energetic, and brought with them a healthy disposi-
tion to enjoy life so that their homes present a
marked difference to those of other river towns.
The houses are well built of brick or wood stoutly
finished, no log cabins or slightly built wooden
houses, they are set in acre lots with fruit trees,
grape vines on ornamental arbors, flowering shrubs,
beds of flowers, climbing rose bushes and honey-
suckles, and all displaying scrupulous cleanliness
and exquisite neatness. Some of these homes I vis-

ited, and to another, altogether different and equally
interesting I went with a letter given me by Mr.
Dunn to Mr. Joseph Gary Eggleston. 7

This was a two-story brick house in a square of
ground about an acre in extent, or perhaps a little
more, planted in fruit trees, grape vines and the like.
The office (Mr. Eggleston was a lawyer) was a small
brick structure on the grounds a little way from the
house. The house had a little porch and a beautiful
doorway leading into a hall whose graceful winding
stairway at once struck the eye. I found Mr.
Eggleston at home, and his already warm greeting
increased in cordiality when he found that I, like
himself, was a Virginian. He was the son of an
old planter family, his father a captain in Wash-
ington's army, and he had taken his degree in arts
at William and Mary College and had studied law
in Judge Tucker's school at Winchester. He had
sought the West to see what use he could make of
his natural and acquired gifts in a region then the
promised land to young men of character. He has
a fine library, among whose books I noted Gibbon's
miscellaneous works. My chat was a most enjoy-
able one; he told me much of the Wabash country,
and at parting gave me a letter to his cousin, Judge
Miles Gary Eggleston of Brookville, said to be the
most famous judge that ever held court in the

I next turned my steps toward the home of Mrs.

T Father of Edward Eggleston, author of "The Hoosier School-
master," etc., and of George Gary Eggleston, author of "A Rebel's
Recollections," "Recollections of a Varied Life," etc. Editor.

From a drawing by Wilbur Briant Shook

Julia C. Dumont, 8 bearing the letter which her son
Ebenezer had given me.

I found Mrs. Dumont at her home, rocking in a
chair, a little cape around her shoulders, talking
rapidly and enthusiastically to the group of pupils
before her on some plan for a debating society. The
hour was late and yet the pupils lingered without a
thought of tune. The affection and veneration in
which she was held by them was evident on every

She quickly dismissed them on my arrival and,
smiling as she perused her son's letter, she asked
me to tell her of my journey from the East. For-
getful of the hour, we sat in the gathering twilight,
as she told me of her early experiences in the wil-
derness, of the school she had started for the benefit
of her own children and because she loved to teach,
and of the celebrated litterateurs who had come
from Cincinnati, and even Philadelphia, to visit

Returning to the inn, I sought my couch early, and
the next morning the circuit rider and I were on
our way, on horseback, along the river road to Mad-

8 Mrs. Julia C. Dumont, the first Indiana poet whose work has
been preserved, was the daughter of Ebenezer and Martha D. Corey
of Rhode Island. She was born in 1794, and her early life was
spent in Greenfield, N. Y. In 1812 she was married to John Dumont
and removed with him to Indiana territory, where she entered upon
that heroic struggle in behalf of education and culture that has
wedded her name to the- history of the educational movement in
Indiana. Mrs. Dumont wrote with equal facility in prose and verse,
and Eastern publishers were always ready to pay her liberally for
her productions. Editor.

Space is lacking to give details of the journey, but
I do not need to set it down; it is forever imprinted
on the tablets of my memory. The air was soft and
warm and heavy with the perfume of the wild plum
and the hawthorn. The giant trees, sycamore, elm
and beech, interspersed with black walnut, hickory
and sugar maple, towered aloft, overgrown with a
tangle of wild grape vines. Willows edged the banks
of the river and the small streams that often crossed
our path. Here and there a group of tall pecans
reared their heads heavenward. The pawpaw and
the persimmon were familiar to me, and the circuit
rider, to whom the woods were as an open book, oft
perused, enumerated long lists of plants and shrubs
growing indigenously in the country, the Indian tur-
nip, the trumpet vine, Solomon's seal, horse weed,
blue flag, mandrake, ginseng, and many others. The
woods were full of birds, the robin, the red-headed
woodpecker, the black bird, the blue jay, and, most
interesting to me, the paroquet in great numbers, a
bird with a most brilliant and beautiful plumage but
a most discordant shrieking voice. Wild turkeys
and wild duck were abundant.

Enchanting glimpses of the river, full to its banks
and sparkling in the morning sun, came to us be-
tween rifts in the hills and breaks in the woods.
This road, so Mr. Hicklin informed me, was first
surveyed in 1799 by Capt. Ephraim Kinney, then
of Cincinnati.

The horses which Mr. Hicklin had hired were ex-
cellent, and we rode briskly, stopping for dinner at


a cabin, where they gave us a good dinner of fried
ham and eggs, biscuits and coffee. Everything be-
tokened a good housewife, a well-cooked meal, set
on a clean tablecloth and in order.
Then on again until we came in sight of Madison.


MADISON, IA., MAY 21, 1840.

THE day I was to spend in Madison has
stretched itself into three, four and five, and
now that my plans are made for my departure
and my bags are packed for the morrow's journey,
I regret most deeply that I must leave this pleasant
abiding place.

From many points of view, Madison is one of the
most interesting towns I have as yet viewed, in its
beauty of location and natural surroundings, its
flourishing business conditions, and its prospects for
the future, to say nothing of the wholesouled hos-
pitality and cordiality, the culture and intelligence
of its citizens.

This is accounted for, I am told, by the fact that
such a new and growing town in such a new and
growing country is especially attractive to young
men, and for this reason Madison has had an influx
of men of talent and ability.

The early Madisonians, I was informed, were
men of rugged will, sturdy pioneers whom hard-
ship and danger never daunted, with whom to
conceive an enterprise was only esteemed the



preliminary step necessary to its accomplishment.

As Mr. Hicklin still insisted that I should consider
his house my home while in Madison, and I could
see that his hospitality was sincere, I accompanied
him thither on our arrival from Vevay to meet his
wife, a plain woman, but with beautiful hair, a dark
glossy brown, disposed in the Madonna style over
a high and well-shaped forehead. After her warm
hand-clasp and a look into her clear eyes, I felt no
atom of doubt as to my welcome, and when I looked
about the plain room, its rag carpets, its plain but
snowy curtains, its homely furnishings, the walls,
whose only adornments were the portrait of John
Wesley and the minister's framed certificate of or-
dination, the few precious books, " Clark's Com-
mentaries," " Summerfield 's Sermons and Sketches
of Sermons," " Bright 's Essay," * * Doddridge 's Rise
and Progress," I felt the glow of that altar fire by
whose radiance every homely article was trans-
formed and given grace and beauty. In short I
knew myself to be in a home where dwelt goodness
and mercy, and I could now clearly understand, as I
had been dimly understanding ever since my meet-
ing with the minister, why Gen. Harrison, though
not himself of that faith, could pay so heartfelt
and sincere a tribute as he had paid in the letter
I had seen, to the circuit rider of the western

Another sect, I was soon to learn, had also es-
tablished itself here and is making itself known by
its good works, the Baptists, one of whose most


prominent members, Elder Jesse Vawter, 1 died here
just two years ago.

Another member of this family, Col. John Vaw-
ter, laid out the town of Vernon and is a resident of
that town, and pastor of the Vernon Baptist Church.
As Vernon is the terminus of the railroad on which I
leave Madison to-morrow, and my plan is to remain
there for a season, I have letters to this gentleman,
who will acquaint me, I doubt not, with much I wish
to know.

Madison, which is the seat of justice of Jefferson
County (the county and town named for two of our
Presidents), is, at this writing, the most populous of
any other in the state. It is situated on the crown
of a horseshoe bend, at an elevation above the high-
est floods. It has about 4,000 inhabitants, is
handsomely laid out, the houses are principally of
brick and substantially built, and the streets are
wide, straight, handsomely graded, paved or mac-
adamized. It contains a court house, jail, market
house, two Presbyterian Churches, one Baptist, one
Episcopal, one Methodist Episcopal, one Methodist
Reformed, a banking house, a very tasty structure,
a savings institution, an insurance office, two iron
foundries, a paper mill, and a steam engine factory,
an oil mill, a steam grist and sawmill, and a boat

1 Elder Jesse Vawter came to Indiana in 1806 and located on a
hill overlooking Madison from the north, naming his home Mount
Glad. He assisted in organizing the first Baptist Church in Jeffer-
son County. "He was without doubt one of the most pious men in
his day, and as a doctrinal, practical and experimental preacher, his
qualifications were far above mediocrity." From "History of Baptist
Denomination." Descendants of this pioneer family are scattered all
over Indiana. Editor.


yard, at which a number of boats have been built,
about fifty stores and two hotels. It is bounded on
the north by a range of cultivated hills, 250 feet
above the river, from which there is a beautiful view
commanding the river and the Kentucky shore op-
posite; but, beautiful as it is, I enjoy more looking
down upon the prospect of the city spread before me,
the pattern of the streets, delightfully shaded at this
season of the year, with umbrageous trees.

Of the citizens I met through the offices of Mr.
Hicklin, I must first record the name of Gen. Milton
A. Stapp, 2 president of the Madison Savings Institu-
tion, whom I found a most interesting man. Stapp
was a Kentuckian, and an old Indian fighter, still
bearing a scar acquired at the battle of the Thames.
While marching through Indiana in this Indian cam-
paign, he was so much impressed with its possibili-
ties that in 1816, the year in which it became a state,
he came to make Madison his home. He told me
with great pride of his drilling of the .Madison

He is a man of about 47, has served in the Legis-
lature and Senate of the state, and has been Lieuten-
ant Governor. He is a fine-looking man, easy of
access, an active member of the Baptist organiza-
tion, in politics a Whig. He is much interested in
the new railroad and has given me much valuable
information concerning it.

* Milton A. Stapp (1793-1869) argued for the building of the
Madison & Indianapolis Railrftad before several sessions of the Legis-
lature, but without success until the internal improvement act was
passed Jan. 27, 1836, and work on the road was commenced by the
state soon after. The road was completed to Vernon June 6, 1839,
just a year before our traveler's visit. Editor.


Because of Madison's location on the river, he told
me, and the fact that it is a terminus of various state
roads, commodities can easily be sent from south
and east into the interior, to the capital of the state
and every interior town in fact, much more cheaply
and easily than from any other point of supply.
Then, all state products will drift by natural law
to Madison to be sent onward to the various parts of
the world by water, thus giving the town a monopoly
of the transportation system.

At Madison, it seems, are concentrated six im-
portant roads, one of them to Vincennes, on the
Wabash River, one hundred and forty miles above
its mouth; another, through Brownstown to Bloom-
ington, in the vicinity of which is seated Indiana
College, an institution which does credit to the state
by which it was established ; this road also continues
to Terre Haute, at the intersection of the Wabash
with the great National Road, distant from Indi-
anapolis seventy-five miles; another road extends
to Columbus, forty-four miles, and thence to Indi-
anapolis, making the total distance from Madison
eighty-five miles; another extends to Versailles,
the seat of justice of the adjoining county of
Ripley; another to Mt. Sterling, besides the river
roads to Vevay and others above and villages

This being the case, Mr. Stapp has foreseen what
the railroad penetrating the interior would mean to
a city on that great highway, the river. By its
means, Madison, already of commercial importance,

From a photograph


would become one of the chief cities of the west *
a gateway of commerce for the state.

Although only twenty-two miles have been built
at this writing, it is the intention to make the other
point of termination Lafayette, on the Wabash
River, seat of justice of Tippecanoe County, thus
bisecting the state in a southeasterly and north-
westerly direction and passing through Indianapolis.
It will be, when completed, about 146 miles long,
and will traverse a country of great resources or
susceptible of being made so.

The details of the opening of the railroad I
learned through Jesse D. Bright, a young lawyer
near my own age, whom I met most pleasantly on
the occasion of an evening party given at the home
of a Mr. Creagh.

The residence of this gentleman was near the
modest dwelling of Mr. Hicklin, and I had much
admired, in passing, the fine old mansion fronting
on a well-kept lawn shaded by majestic trees, behind
which lies an extensive garden, rich in fruits and
radiant with flowers. The charming atmosphere of
the interior was enhanced by the presence of two
daughters, delightful girls. The elder, Miss Nancy,
has blue eyes and blonde hair, a face of Grecian
contour, and exquisite fairness; the younger, Miss
Mary, is a pretty creature of about 16, with hazel
eyes, a soft voice and a light step. The mother,
Mrs. Creagh, I found, to my delight, a highly edu-
cated and accomplished woman, whose conversation
is rich in anecdotes of her personal experience. She


has a clear, broad brow, stamped with intellect.

Miss Mary, I soon learned, plays charmingly, and
the two sisters sang several duets for the company,
much to our entertainment. I requested during
the evening an old song, a very old one but a
favorite with me, "The Last Link Is Broken, 7 * and
Miss Mary sang this for me deliciously and with
considerable science. These young ladies attend the
Young Ladies* Seminary, 3 an institution which had
been pointed out to me the day before

This school, I was informed, presented a most
elaborate course of instruction comprising Arithme-
tic, Algebra, Geometry, Grammar, Composition,
Rhetoric, Latin, Greek and French, Natural Phi-
losophy, Chemistry, Astronomy, Geology, Physi-
ology, Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, the
Analogy of Natural and Revealed Religion, History,
Ancient and Modern, Vocal and Instrumental Music,
and Painting by Theorem. 4

For the moment, on hearing the glib recital of this
ponderous curriculum from the rosebud lips of
Mistress Mary, "my wonder grew, that one small
head should carry all she knew,** but I was some-
what reassured after a glance at the small volumes
to which she called my attention, "Mrs. Lincoln's
Lectures on Botany,'* a thin volume entitled "Ele-
ments of History" and others not nearly so worn
by use as were the domestic tales of T. S. Arthur,

The Madison Young Ladies' Seminary was built in 1838.

4 The figure or flower was cut in stencil by the teacher, and traced
and colored by the pupil. Editor,


the popular novelist, several volumes of whose
works I had noted in the large and well-selected

It was at this party that I met, as I have said
before, Mr. Jesse D. Bright. 5

He was a tall, good looking young man of im-
perious manner, one destined, I was told by some of
his admirers, tp become a leader among men. Being
almost of an age for he is but a few years my
senior we have found much in common, and he has
been my almost constant companion during my stay
here, and has introduced me to many of the most
agreeable people, Mr. Lanier, 6 John R. Cravens, Mr.
Marshall, Michael Bright, brother of my friend, C. P.
J. Arion, John King, James McMillan, "William H.
Webb, E. J. Whitney, John Sering, and many

Among the many interesting events of which he
told me, the most interesting to me was the story of
the building of the railroad. When the first seven-
teen miles of the road were completed to a village
called Graham, arrangements were made for a great
celebration and an invitational ride for some of the
grandees of the state, followed by a banquet. The
passengers, let me note, are carried up from the

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 4 of 26)