Kate Milner Rabb.

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

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tirely destroyed, and in other places, the tops of the
white oaks were killed. All the fruit was killed that
year except a few varieties of hardy apples.

The prosperity of the region was easily explained,
he said. In the rich alluvial bottoms, corn grew in
abundance, yielding ample harvests; wheat, oats,
buckwheat, hay and potatoes flourished, and there
was ample pasture for mules, horses and cattle.'
The fruit I could judge for myself, for we passed


orchards of apple, peach and cherry trees, and the
borders of the woods were full of blackberry vines,
these berries, he said, being unusually fine and
plentiful in this locality.

A few miles along the pleasant country road, and
we came to the 200-acre farm of William Vawter,
who was a preacher as well as a farmer. The com-
fortable house had a pleasant situation on a hillside
above the road, and we spied the proprietor as we
approached, sitting on the porch. His old horse,
Farmer, the colonel called him, stood at the
hitching block they had evidently just returned

He greeted me cordially and called his wife, who,
he said, was engaged in making soap, and on my ex-
pressing an interest in the proceeding, she took me
around to the back of the house, where a young
woman was watching a bubbling mass in a great iron
kettle over a fire of chunks of wood. Nearby was
set a box of wood ashes, and she showed me how the
water draining through a hole in the bottom of this
box made the lye which, combined with the waste
fat from the kitchen, made a soft soap for house-
hold use, and also a fine hard soap of which she had
great quantities improving with age, in the garret
of the house. She pointed out to me the flourishing
orchards, the two fine springs with which the place
was blessed, and her old horse, Fanny. She was a
woman of great intelligence, I soon discovered, and,
what I imagine is unusual among the women of the
countryside, a great reader. I noted later some
books on the table, among them one of the edifying


volumes of Mrs. Sigourney, as we went into the
room to our supper.

For to supper these hospitable people insisted that
we should stay, and we did full justice to the buck-
wheat cakes fried on a griddle over the fireplace, and
eaten swimming in fresh butter and sirup made that
same spring from the sugar trees in their grove.

As we rode home slowly in the gathering twilight
Col. Vawter, who, by the way, possesses a most en-
gaging and persuasive personality, broached a new
idea to me.

"In a few days," said he, "I am going to start
on a journey, and I should like much to have you for
a traveling companion." He then proceeded to tell
me that, being a most enthusiastic Whig, he had de-
termined to attend a monster Whig meeting to be
held at the place known as the Battle Ground, the
scene of Gen. Harrison's great victory over Te-
cumseh. This is to be a meeting of unbelievable
numbers and enthusiasm, he assured me, and it
would be the greatest of misfortunes for a visitor
from another state to fail to see it.

When I demurred at the distance, and mentioned
the fact that that point was included in my itinerary
later, he waved this aside with a "Pooh! What, sir,
would the vacant Battle Ground amount to, com-
pared with a sight of it crowded with troops of men,
all followers of our candidate?" and with some of
that "stubbornness" which Dr. Peabody had as-
sured me was a characteristic of the Vawters, pro-
ceeded to arrange our plans as though I had already

"The distance is nothing, sir," he declared. "I
could ride it in a day, but, an old preacher, you
know ' ' and his eye twinkled * * inclines to stop here
and there. It may be a wedding he is wanted for,
or a funeral to be preached, or some old friends
met unexpectedly, so it will be well for us to start in
time and give ourselves two or three days at the

"Horseback will be the better way," he replied
to my next question. "I think, sir, that I am cor-
rect in asserting that travelers through the interior
of our state find that the most convenient, sure,
economical and independent mode of travel. Their
own convenience and pleasure as to time and place
can always be consulted, and were time alone to be
considered, we should probably do better on horse-
back, for the statements of stage, steamboat and
canal boat agents are notoriously uncertain. More-
over, even this late in the season, the stage coach is
like to become mired, or overturned, and, finally, 'tis
a hopeless task to undertake to convince an old
preacher against his will! And I myself can and
will provide you, my dear young sir, with a most
excellent beast. "

Col. Vawter then proceeded to tell me for how
long a time he had been a staunch "Whig and follower
of Harrison. When Gen. Harrison was nominated
for the presidency in 1835, Col. Vawter called one of
the very first meetings in the interest of his candi-
dacy at Vernon. And the reason for this is worthy
of note, for I am convinced that it is not known in
the East, that Clay never received the support of


the church people of Indiana, the Quakers, Baptists,
Presbyterians and Methodists, as they all, and
especially the preachers of these sects, were con-
tinually finding fault with his drunkenness, his
gambling, his profanity and other immoralities with
which he was charged. They charged that in every
question that arose during that quarter of a century,
Clay threw the weight of his influence against good
morals, and from him and such other characters as
Van Buren, Webster and Buchanan, these church
folk turned to look with hope to Gen. Harrison.

This, then, explained to me this old minister's en-
thusiasm. At the convention held in Indianapolis
on Dec. 14, 1835, he had called the convention to
order, giving it over then to a Mr. Clark, a relative
of the great George Rogers Clark. 3

From that time, as this convention, Col. Vawter
assured me, was really a reunion of the veterans of
Tippecanoe, the feeling waxed warmer and warmer,
several papers carrying from 1835 to 1840 as a
motto the words, "Uncompromising Hostility to the
Re-election of Martin Van Buren. ' '

By the time we reached Vernon I had decided in
my mind what he had already taken for granted,
that I would be his traveling companion on this
journey. I was, he declared, to remain in the town
several days as his guest, and then go with him to
Battle Ground, leaving my baggage behind me at
his home. I will confess that these days were in-
finitely delightful. ' At various times I rode in the
country with Col. Vawter, viewing the farm lands

"Marston G. Clark. Editor.


and inquiring as to their values, on one of these
occasions meeting Mr. Allen Campbell, who had oc-
cupied a farm near Vernon since 1817. In the town
I made the acquaintance, among others, of Thomas
J. Storey, who was in the war of 1812, and who had
come to Vernon as a house builder in 1820; Mr.
Smith Vawter, owner of one of the mercantile stores,
a peculiar and most interesting character; John
Walker, the recorder of the county; Simeon Robin-
son, who was a notary public; Mr. Baldwin, a mer-
chant, and a most interesting young man, a mem-
ber of the Christian Church, so he told me; Hick-
man New, a cabinet maker, whose father, Jethro
New, had come here from Delaware, through Ken-
tucky, in 1822. Another gentleman of the same
name, of whom I heard much, was the Rev. John B.
New, a highly esteemed minister of the Christian
Church, who had left Vernon only last year.

I spent some time roaming over the beautiful hills
about the town and along the banks of the Mus-
cattatuck, whose most picturesque spot I found to
be the Tunnel Mills, a place of great natural beauty,
where the hill is tunneled through in order to lead
water through from the Muscattatuck to provide mo-
tive power for the stone mill on the other side, a
tall and most imposing structure. This and the
graveyard, a peaceful spot on a hillside overlooking
the Muscattatuck, whose graves, overrun with
myrtle and shaded by trees, dark against the west-
ern sky, presented a picture on which I was never
tired of looking. After an excursion such as this,
.the words of the poet Horace constantly recurred



to me, when I thought of the town of Vernon, "Ille
terrarum mihi praeter omnes angulus ridet." 4

* * This little corner of the earth pleases me beyond
all others."

In this graveyard I found the graves of two
soldiers of the Revolution, born in Virginia.

I shall take neither the time nor the space to
record in detail our journey to Battle Ground, for
some of my steps I shall retrace later. Suffice it to
say that we passed through the town of Shelbyville
and Indianapolis, the capital of the state, over a
road known as the Michigan Road, on which we con-
tinued to travel for some little time after leaving the
latter city. 5

I regretted much not being able to see this city,
but, arriving there after dark, we stayed the night
at a farm house on the outskirts and left at day-
break the next morning. However, my regret was
tempered by the thought that this city was included
in my itinerary and that I had planned a stay there
of some days, later on.

I found Col. Vawter a most entertaining com-
panion, a man of great energy, of mind, very explicit
in his views, of much humor and excellent common
sense. As he prophesied, we did indeed tarry by the
wayside in the early part of our journey, for this-
and for that. We stopped at country inn and cabin,

4 Our diarist evidently had a gentleman's knowledge of Latin.

'It is a matter of regret that Mr. Parsons failed to set down
this route. He might have taken one of several. It is highly
probable that Col. Vawter chose the more often used road through
the northern part of Boone County and through Crawfordsville.


sometimes with good, sometimes with bad fare and
lodgment, and at the end of our journey, my aged
companion, inured to the hardships of backwoods'
travel, showed, to my shame, far less fatigue than
did I. As for the rain which fell, almost continu-
ously, that only gave him food for exposition on the
greater safety in horseback travel over the stage
coach, in such weather.

His spirit was shared by the multitudes who
joined us at Indianapolis and farther along the way.
Thousands of them there were, some on horseback,
some on foot, those from Indianapolis carrying a
splendid banner presented them, on leaving, by the
ladies of that city. Some who joined us were in
wagons, in huge log cabins mounted on wheels, in
long canoes painted and decorated with party em-
blems. One group was preceded by a full rigged
ship, the Constitution, drawn by six white horses.

Among the men, so Col. Vawter told me, were
revolutionary soldiers, heroes of Fort Meigs, sur-
vivors of Tippecanoe. And it was my good fortune
to hear some of these last named describe the battle
the attack, in the darkness that is greatest just be-
fore the dawn, the heavy firing, the loud voice of the
Prophet urging on his men, the charge, the repulse
of the enemy, their flight the pursuit and the burn-
ing of the Prophet's town as I heard these stories
from the lips of the heroes, my heart thrilled and I,
too, caught the fire of enthusiasm for their cherished
leader !

Arriving finally at the battle ground, we sought
the elevated point of woodland said to have been the


site of Gen. Harrison's headquarters twenty-nine
years before, and discovered the whole woods, and
the lower level of the prairie for a long distance to
be filled with tents, wagons, flags, banners and
streamers, in the midst of which lay the plat of
ground encircled by a board fence, where rest the
bodies of those who fell in the great battle.

Among the countless attractions, the barbecue had
for me the greatest interest. In one great trench
were cooking whole carcasses of shoats, sheep and
oxen, dressed and spitted, with carvers continually
cutting and serving with their long sharp knives.
In another trench, burgoo, a rich and well-seasoned
soup of many ingredients, was boiling over a slow
fire. Three tables, each 100 yards long, were
heaped with the food, and with corn and wheaten
rolls, all this bounteous supply free to all who
came, and, again and again, the table company was
changed and the supply renewed until at last all
were filled.

Then, and not until then, did my friend Col.
Vawter mount the platform, and with his great
voice, rich and full, call the multitude together and
invoke the blessings of the Lord upon them, intrust-
ing the meeting then to Gen. Jonathan McCarthy.
Col. Vawter had already told me on our journey the
story of Spier Spencer and his Yellow Jackets and
when I saw the procession of the heroes of Tippe-
canoe who, clustered together, came forward at this
moment to the speakers' stand under the tattered
banner of that fallen hero brought hither for this
purpose, the tears sprang to my eyes.


There were many speeches at this meeting, and
much singing, but more than the rounded periods of
Mr. Brooks and the other orators of the day, was
the sight of the people, from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois
and Kentucky, who had traveled through mud and
rain so long a distance to show their allegiance to
the hero of the West !

As we rode homeward, more rapidly this time,
our talk was all of the Whitewater Valley, toward
which I would next turn my steps.

PM THE B4TTI1 (.1501)11

' k E .t e r tf MI a n to his tent ! "


Do you know tliat Hie srt-atcst
Mechanics, Laborer* ;

nil in..
id all <

vrrsal salherint' of the Pi-oplc; of Farmers
i of community, who are in favor of

Are to meet upon Ihc BATTLE FIELD OF TIPPECAKOE on the


To welcome tbe Old Soldier-* once more to that scene of glory, where everlasting benefits
were wrought in blood for Indiana?

Do T* kow that hundred* of old and rono;. th* poor and poorer, fa-me can a rich BO*,) are already providing ihrir -bread and
eat, tat camp equipage." for the ca'ropfti^o? I>o you know that (kat on'. Iking wbk'h i..-w have in lhee Snb-Treaturjr tiroes, will not
to Meded t liter/ man with in* wagon ani hun.-. or ox tram, oorv back, or with hi* knapack. wilh hit week'* prorttioni, be Op
1 read/ to march to Tippecaaoe, Do TOO kadkr that extcntire preparation* are lOiLinp br the -Pioneer*" aronod the old camping
e Prepared, than the hnve toldien foond wbo fought upon thrt Wood/
act together in th tat of Indiana? Do jo not
i. their ft*g*. and their cannon, will be there to e>

Mania tto political conflict f->r the* bra te Old Hero, who never lott a battle, and who stared the IndiMi'* tomahawk upon that ground
a man/ of hi* friend, will once more enlist nndr lue-banner of him who i MpVtd b/ hi. old aoldwn, and despised bj UM
" the c-mntrr, beirne be i* liter jll' on* of as oo*of the People one, who tills hi* own land one pOMC*ed of trma
ciptea f^ual ri^bU and c-}ual jtiftice to all mf n ne who, wben about part in*; *'th tbe braie little band wbo fought
h tB OB the battle-ground of Tippecano, lotd them tbat -BOtwithsUnding ho wore th dignified, title of Genera!.' and alto -Goref-

o afford better a

n 1811 Do ^tm know that a brgcr >rtu; of n will be there tha
o form a part <** that grtl ro*w or Tovr fneodt,

s, TOO will atwanfied a pl*U,aad a knife and fork
a polled in.' Sub w tbe loan. *ocb tbc dar aad ocrufoa for whkb
itej rf boa* OB tbat daj T

i BatUe FMld. Wbo

From the original in the Indiana State Library



1WAS sufficiently weary from my long horseback
ride to welcome the information that I could go
by stage coach from Vernon to Greensburg and
thence to Brookville, even though, as Col. Vawter
warned me, the vehicle was built more for hard
usage than for comfort, and that the roads were
frequently corduroy. That term at the time, hap-
pily, meant little to me, for we have few in Virginia,
and I have traveled over them only on horseback in
this state. The " corduroy," I knew, is the settler's
way of making the mudhole passable. Ten-foot
rails are made of good timber, oak or ash, split wide
and laid close together across the grade with a little
soil thrown on the rails to level up and hold them in
place. Sometimes a full half mile of swampy road
is corduroyed, and I was soon to learn the sensation,
first of rapid travel along a comparatively smooth
stretch of level upland, a swift descent of a steep
hillside, then the indescribable bump, bump, bump
of the vehicle as the wheels leap jarringly from one
log to the next. Infinitely better than being mired,
no doubt, but I doubted many times on this journey,
whether it had not been wiser to keep to the horse,
for the roughest traveler I have ever bestrode has



never given me such a shaking and drubbing as I
received on this stage coach journey.

However, there is always some good to offset the
ill, as I long ago learned from my favorite Robinson
Crusoe, and on the stage coach I found several inter-
esting companions and learned much of the customs
of the country.

One sight that greatly astonished me, but which,
I was assured, was not an uncommon one, was a
large drove of hogs that was being driven to the
Cincinnati market. As I had already seen these
great pork-packing establishments in Cincinnati, I
was doubly interested in this, and was amazed when,
in the distance, I heard the sound of the approach-
ing army of porkers. Later, as we were drawn up
at an inn, I saw them pass by along the road. The
word "army" rightly describes them, for there were
from two to three thousand in a drove, and ten days
or two weeks are required to drive them from this
part of the country to Cincinnati, according to the
conditions of the roads.

Falling into a conversation with a gentleman of
much dignity of carriage and intelligence of conver-
sation who I learned presently was Mr. Abram T.
Hendricks, 1 a graduate of Hanover College, which
I had so lately visited, and at the present time the
principal of the Greensburg Academy, I was given
much information by him concerning this "hog

The weighing of them is a very slow and tedious

1 The next year Mr> Hendricks entered the ministry. He was a
brother of Thomas A. Hendricks, Vice-President of the United States.


process. One hog is caught at a time, and put into
a pair of harness breeching, with steelyards hooked
into the big rings, and a lever attached to the steel-
yards to hoist the hog to be weighed. This process
is so tedious that many times whole droves are
"guessed off" without weighing. A good wagon
and team are always taken with the drove to haul
such hogs as may "give out," as they say, on the
road. The drove, as I observed for myself, extends
quite a distance, the best travelers in front, which
sometimes have to be held back, and the slow trav-
elers and "heavies," as he expressed it, in the rear,
with a man at intervals, to keep them in bunches.
Some of these hogs, he said, are dangerous, wild

Much cider is made in this country, Mr. Hendricks
informed me, so there has been no scarcity for the
"Hard Cider Campaign," a campaign he inter-
jected, "in which intemperance has become the
badge of a political party." I had become very
familiar with the barrels ; now I was to have pointed
out to me the cider presses. Many of the farmers
have their own crude presses, just as we have in
Virginia, a kind of lever press, the apples being
pounded or crushed with a wooden pestle or maul,
and the cider pressed out; but at one of our stop-
ping places, a poor house, and poor fare be it said,
was a cider mill and press, to which many farmers
came with their apples, themselves doing the work,
and paying the mill owner 10 cents per barrel for
the use of the mill and the press. As cider is an
essential ingredient of the popular "apple butter,"


as the only vinegar to be procured is formed from
the hard cider, and as every one drinks sweet cider,
the cider mill is a most important institution.

While we waited, I examined this mill with some
curiosity. It has wooden rollers, about twelve inches
in diameter and eighteen inches long, with large
grooves cut in them which fit into each other like
big cog wheels. A crooked pole makes the "sweep,"
the small end of which is fastened to the horse. A
hopper to put the apples in is fastened on the front
part of the mill, so they fall into the cogs of the
rollers as they turn around. A five or six-barrel
poplar trough is placed under the rollers to catch
the pomace. The heavy beams and posts are made
of oak, and my attention was called to the fact that
in this mill there is a great wooden screw, twelve
feet long and six inches in diameter, eight feet of
which has an inch thread cut in it, made of black
gum, the first ever made in this part of the country.

After the apples have been ground, they are
placed in a hoop, lined with clean, dampened wheat
straw and these hoops, like cheeses, are put in the
press, the weight applied by means of the screw.
On hot days, said Mr. Hendricks, bees and yellow
jackets are a terror to the cider maker, as they
swarm about the press to get the cider.

I was much entertained, as we rode, by a queer
character who very soon entered into conversation
with me, choosing me, I confess, because he sat fac-
ing me, and conversation seemed a necessity with
him. He was a minister, I was soon to learn, of
the Universalist denomination, but of an altogether


different type from the gentleman I had met on
the boat, and by whose conversation I had been so
greatly edified. This gentleman was stout and
slightly bald ; his stock was awry ; his clothes in need
of brushing; he talked in a loud complaining voice,
his theme partly the merits of a Brother Moore
whom he had recently heard discourse, and partly
his disappointment over a journey he had recently
taken into Illinois. Brother Moore, he informed us,
'4s one of the brightest stars in the firmament of
our race, and will soon throw the coruscant beauties
of an intelligent mind upon the visions of listening
multitudes. He is about 21 years old," he continued
so persistently that any other conversation was im-
possible, "of wealthy and highly respectable parent-
age, and is now under the educational care of the
learned, pious, and devoted E. S. Wiley."

We had but left the miserable dinner at a more
miserable inn, when this minister burst forth upon
the fondness of many preachers for food. "What
goeth into the mouths of too many of our preach-
ers," he exclaimed, "are the things which defile the
man; for some are such huge eaters that they are
continually laboring under dyspepsias and other dis-
eases of a melancholic and hypochondriacal nature.
If they would add to their faith a little more temper-
ance, they would become healthier men, better
preachers and be less plagued with gloom and de-
spondence of mind. Show me a man who crowds
into the narrow confines of a small stomach a little
of everything (and some are in the habit of filling
themselves from the four quarters of the globe),


pork, beef, fowl, fish, potatoes, milk, tea, coffee, rice,
etc., and I will show you one whose habits will inev-
itably engender disease, becloud and obscure his
mind, and render him unfit for strong mental exer-
cises. We seldom see hearty eaters of pork rise to
eminence in anything but muscular force. "

As I had observed, at the miserable tavern at
which he had just dined, that this worthy man had
partaken largely of the fried pickled pork, the greasy
potatoes and the wretched coffee, I could not forbear
a smile, which he failed to observe because of his
self-absorption. He continued to dwell on his trou-
bles, no doubt enhanced by this time by the weight
of the pork, and to recite at length the story of his
journey into Illinois to hold a meeting, which he said
"was completely blotted out" by the appearance in
the town, on that same day, of one of the candidates
for the United States presidency. "He, with his
attendants," said he spitefully, "were so much more

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 6 of 26)