Kate Milner Rabb.

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

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popular with the people of Fairfield than Jesus
Christ and His apostles that the latter did not once
seem to be thought of by either saint or sinner ! ' '

"What manner of man was he, brother?" in-
quired a little man in a corner, a new passenger.

"He was, indeed, a very genteel looking old gen-
tleman," admitted the minister reluctantly, "appar-
ently about three score and ten, tall and slender and
plainly appareled. I made no inquiry as to his
name, but the presumption is that it was either Mar-
tin Van Buren or William Henry Harrison."

"The latter," said the little man blandly, "for
Martin Van Buren, thinks I, can not leave his golden


spoons and his silken damask long enough to come
out among us of the West. ' '

"Be that as it may,"" replied the preacher. "I
saw nothing but a man, and could not divine why
so great a stir was made because a fellow man was
passing. My meeting was completely blotted out.
I had a similar experience in Dayton, where I had
an appointment at candlelight. Forty or fifty thou-
sand people on the street, all gaping to hear political
speeches the streets filled with an almost impass-
able electioneering apparatus I did not even stop,
but returned home to remain until this madness is
over. ' '

He lapsed into silence, and presently Mr. Hen-
dricks called my attention to some of the scenes we
were passing. This county, he told me, was named
for the gallant Commodore Decatur, and was organ-
ized in 1821. There are no barrens or prairie lands
in the county ; the face of the country is mostly level
with gentle undulations, though on some of the
streams it is hilly. The bottoms are rich, though
small; the soil of the uplands is generally a rich
black loam, and the timber consists principally of
ash, poplar, walnut, sugar tree, oak and beech.

Greensburg, at which I left the coach, remaining
there over night, as the coach for Brookville was
not to depart till the morrow, is a post town and seat
of justice, situated on the Michigan Road. The
town is flourishing, and the inhabitants of both town
and country are very industrious; the dwelling
houses, I noted, are generally of brick and of con-
siderable size.


I spent some time in walking about the town with
Mr. Hendricks, who took me first to the scene of
his labors, the seminary, a large, square two-story
brick structure with a brick cupola and large grounds
surrounding it. The seminary was erected in 1834.

Mr. Hendricks introduced me to several of the
leading citizens, among them Mr. Henry T. Talbott,
a young Virginian who is filling the offices of clerk,
auditor and recorder and whose mother-in-law, Mrs.
Hendricks, had asked to have the town named as
it was after her home in Pennsylvania ; Mr. James
Morgan, at this time state senator from this county ;
Mr. Wyatt Henderson, the sheriff, and Mr. Andrew
Davison, a learned technical lawyer, so says Mr.
Hendricks, who has no superior at the bar as a
pleader. He is a Pennsylvanian by birth, and in
1825, while taking a horseback journey through the
Western country for his health, he stopped at
Greensburg perforce because his horse dropped dead
at this place, and liking it well, he has here remained,
marrying the daughter of Judge Test. I also met
Mr. Ezra Lathrop, a very successful business man;
Dr. William Amington, a native of New York, who
had first located in Switzerland County and had only
this year come to Greensburg, and many others
whose names have slipped my memory.

When bidding farewell to Mr. Hendricks, who
courteously accompanied me to the coach on my de-
parture, I discovered again my traveling companion,
the Universalist minister. He was not going on to
Brookville, but remembering that I had said I was
to depart on this day, he had come to the tavern


yard to tell me of a great religious debate which was
to be held in a grove near Brookville the next day,
lasting two days, in which one of the speakers is to
be Brother Winans, who, he assures me, always "ut-
ters a good discourse," and "Jim Johnson, a son
of Methodism, ' ' who, he said, ' * thinks that my head
ought to be amputated," the subject to be: "Was
baptism preceded by faith and repentance, appointed
by divine authority, in order to obtain the remission
of sins and induction into the Christian kingdom?'"

The debate, he assured me, would be well worth
hearing, and I agreed with him that this was doubt-
less true. I had decided, however, to attend, in-
stead, a political meeting of which Mr. Hendricks
had told me, at which the speaker is to be Robert
Dale Owen of the New Harmony settlement, an-
nounced to be one of the best of the Democratic

We were ere long over the county line, I was in-
formed by my fellow travelers, and into the county
of Franklin, a county of rolling and broken hills
watered by the beautiful Whitewater River, formed
at Brookville by the union of the east fork and the
west fork, this part of the state being known as the
Whitewater district. A gentle summer rain had
been descending since daybreak, and as we entered
the spurs of the great hills among which, I was told,
Brookville is situated, I thought mine eyes had ne'er
been privileged to rest upon a more beautiful scene.
Occasionally we passed a gentle slope set with the
graceful beech; the hills, clad in trees of varying
shades of green, towereol high, their tops veiled ill


mist. Between the rifts in the hills gushed little
streams; in every hollow a pool rested, the hue of
emerald from the o'erhanging trees. The whole
landscape was emerald veiled in silvery mist.

Then, toward noon, the clouds were swept away
by a brisk breeze, and the warm June sun shone
forth. Briskly our horses mounted the hills, tow-
ering more and more grandly toward the skies, and
we came at last upon serene Brookville, surrounded
by her amphitheater of hills, a little town of won-
drous charm, and beautiful in her robe of summer
green, plentifully besprinkled with the pink of the
wild rose.

Here I have tarried for several days, making my
headquarters at the Yellow Tavern, an inn built in
early days by James Knight. It is not, perhaps,
the best caravansary in the village, but I chose it,
I confess, for somewhat sentimental reasons. Here,
I am told, in the early days, assembled such famous
men as George Rogers Clark, Simon Kenton, and
Daniel Boone. Here has come, many times, Gen.
Harrison. 'Twas within these walls, my host as-
sured me, that this leader planned the Tippecanoe
campaign. To-day, it is a favorite meeting place
for both "Whigs and Democrats, and it is my expecta-
tion to derive much entertainment from such sources
in the few days I tarry here.

The town of Brookville, I have learned, has in its
brief life known both growth and decline. Founded
in 1808, it experienced its most flourishing period in
1820, when the lands in the interior as far north as
the Wabash River were thrown open and the Land


Office established in this town. All purchasers, of
necessity, visited the town and it consequently grew
and flourished. The men who were drawn there
made of it a seat of culture, and many of the state 's
prominent public men dwelt here. Then the Land
Office was moved to Indianapolis, a town, it was said,
set in the wilderness and " surrounded by a bound-
less contiguity of shade."

Then evil days fell upon Brookville, business
languished, houses fell vacant, and so it stood,
lapsing into decay until 1833, when with the passing
of the internal improvement act, and in 1836, the act
providing for the construction of the Whitewater
Canal, it experienced new life. I have already
recorded Mr. Dunn's story of the celebration at
Brookville on the day of the letting of the contracts.
At this time, the town being a point of shipment, and
also a receiving place for supplies, it is flourishing,
and the people are now looking forward to a canal
between Richmond and Brookville, the project hav-
ing been under way since 1837 and some excavations
for which have already been made. 2

On my visit to Joseph Eggleston at Vevay he had
given me a letter to his brother, Judge Miles C.
Eggleston of Brookville, and as soon as possible
after arriving in Brookville I hastened to present it
to that gentleman, who had been appointed presi-

* Our diarist is probably wrong here. In an article on this canal
in the. Indiana Magazine of History in 1905 James M. Miller says:
"The lettings took place as advertised, except Section 52, near Brook-
ville, which, owing to heavy excavations, was not let. I can not
learn of any work done near Brookville, but on Section 40, near
Fairfield, the contractors excavated about one and one-half miles
of the canal down the east side of the river." Editor,


dent judge of the Third Judicial District at the
organization of the state government and had held
the office for over twenty-one years. As I have
said before, he and his brother are Virginians,
liberally educated, and I was told that he is most
eminently fitted for his position. I found Judge
Eggleston a good-looking gentleman, rather below
the middle size, with a finely shaped head, and ex-
ceedingly well dressed. He received me with the
utmost cordiality, and on learning that my stay was
to be brief, immediately took me for a stroll about
the town and invited me to his house that evening
for tea. I found him excellent company and a man
who, though of great dignity, enjoys much the telling
of a good story. From him perhaps more than from
any other did I learn the story of the growth of this

One of the first places to which Judge Eggleston
took me was the brick Court House, a square build-
ing in the center of which runs up a cupola, on the
top of which is a carved eagle with spreading wings,
and within, a triangle, used for a bell, by striking
on its base with a hammer. The bar, on the ground
floor, is in two parts, the inside for the lawyers ; the
outside, paved with brick, for the people, who come
to hear the lawyers plead. The judge's bench is on
the west side, nearly to the ceiling.

As we strolled about the town, conversing on
many subjects, for he had many inquiries to make
about Virginia, and I, in turn, was anxious to know
many things about this new state, he pointed out to
me, in the center of the town, the home built by


James Brown Ray, in 1828, when he was a candidate
for Governor, a house considered at that time so
extravagant, because of its size and a red and green
glass window, that it was called ''Ray's Folly" and
was undoubtedly the cause of his being elected by the
smallest plurality ever given a Governor in spite of
his previous great popularity. A similar "folly"
had been committed, he said, by Governor Noah
Noble in ornamenting his front porch with fluted
iron columns indication that the populace is the
same the world over!

As it is possible that I may hear this James Brown
Ray 3 speak during the campaign, Judge Eggleston
has told me something of his character.

He is very egotistical, very fond of display, very
fond of sensations. Judge Eggleston told me a
most humorous story of Ray's riding, when he was
Governor, at top speed to an execution, waiting un-
til the young man stood at the gallows, then saying
to him most impressively, "Young man, do you know
in whose presence you stand! There are but two
powers known to the law that can save you from
hanging by the neck till you are dead; one is the
great God of the Universe, the other, J. Brown Ray,
Governor of Indiana. The latter stands before you.
You are pardoned."

Although he is not an old man, Judge Eggleston
says that he has recently given indication of a fail-
ing mind, for he dwells continually on a scheme he

3 James Brown Ray, born in Kentucky, 1794, moved to Brookville,
1818, to practice law. State senator, 1822; acting Governor, 1825;
Governor, 1828-1831. Editor.


lias concocted since his residence in Indianapolis of
railway concentration in that city. He foresees a
day when railways will be everywhere, and it is his
crazy idea that they should radiate like a spider's
web from the center of that city, with villages at
intervals of five miles, towns at ten miles, and cities
at twenty miles. 'Tis absurd, and laughable, and
yet, 'tis pathetic, says Judge Eggleston, to see a
noble mind, grown old before its time, and its pos-
sessor become a laughing-stock.

The present Governor of Indiana, David Wallace, 4
is also a native of Brookville, having read law in
Judge Eggleston 's office.

According to Judge Eggleston, the state never had
a better presiding officer.

The tea at Judge Eggleston 's I pass over
hurriedly, though it was a most pleasant occasion,
with some of the neighbors invited in. I walked
home with a young lady fast verging into the sere
and yellow leaf, and our conversation was not of
sufficient interest to bear recording.

On the day I walked about the streets with Judge
Eggleston we met a young Andrew Shirk, to whom
he introduced me. He lives just three miles from
the town, and at Judge Eggleston 's suggestion, he
promptly agreed to accompany me to the campaign
speaking on the next day. Early the next morning,
therefore, the young man rode into town after me,
leading another horse by the bridle, and we set forth

* David Wallace, born 1799 in Pennsylvania, admitted to the bar
in 1823. Legislature, 1828-1829; Lieutenant Governor, 1831-1834;
elected Governor in 1837; Congress, 1841. Editor.


together in high spirits. Mr. Shirk, I learned, is
24, just a year older than I; his father was born in
Kentucky of parents who had come out from
Pennsylvania and had come into Indiana in 1808.
His family had assisted in founding the Little Cedar
Baptist Church, three miles south of town and ad-
joining their farm, the oldest church hereabouts.

As it was early in the morning and the weather
fine, he suggested that we might ride out and view
it, and so we did. It is built of brick, quite substan-
tial, and the clay for these bricks, the young man
tells me, was tramped by oxen. Once they were
compelled to cease building for a long season for
lack of nails, and again to build a blockhouse, for
these first settlers were in frequent danger from the
Indians. His grandf athei helped to make the brick,
and was a deacon and singing clerk, he said.

It would have been a queer sight, said he, to see
these first settlers going to church, many of them
barefoot, others wearing moccasins, the men in buck-
skin breeches and hunting shirts and caps fashioned
of fox, possum or coon skin, with the tails hanging
down behind. As he told me, we both fell to laugh-
ing loudly, sitting on horseback there in front of the
church, to think of that procession through the
woods, and here were we, to-day, quite dandyish
young fellows, in our bell-shaped beavers, our tight
trousers, our stocks tied a la mode ! Then suddenly
sobering, I looked within at the stout seats, the
ample gallery, the little pulpit high up on the side
with a tiny window, and then at the gravestones in
the little graveyard at the side, the bees drowsing


lazily in the bushes, the gray stones showing among
the overrunning vines, graves of these men who
cleared the w r oods and built this altar to their God !

Mr. Shirk I found to be quite an interesting young
man, and as we rode back to the grove he told me
many things of interest and much of the young peo-
ple of the town. When I mentioned that I was to
stop in Greencastle later, he promised to give me a
letter to a young man from Brookville, Thomas A.
Goodwin, who will graduate this year from Asbury
College in that town, the first out-of-town student
at this college from Brookville.

The grove in which the speaking was held we
found almost filled when we arrived there, people
having driven in wagons or come on horseback,
whole families, bringing their dinners and prepared
for an all-day outing. Mr. Shirk had told me that
he is a Whig, but, like myself, willing to hear a
speech on the opposite side. I confess I felt a great
desire to see the speaker, Robert Dale Owen, con-
cerning whose settlement I had already heard much.
Mr. Owen, I learned, is a man finely educated in
Europe, with a strong, comprehensive and vigorous
mind, highly improved by education and reading.
He has been in the Legislature and is considered one
of the best of the Democratic campaign speakers.

His arguments were the same which I had heard,
advanced in Baltimore, that the Whig campaign was
not based on reason, that it made inflammatory ap-
peals to the people, that it uttered not a word of
party principle, no reason why Mr. Van Buren
should be opposed, but resorted continually to a


clatter of barrels and tincups. Mr. Owen is a man
small in stature, with a large high forehead, light
hair and eyes, and prominent features. He looks
every inch a Scot. He speaks fluently, and, I must
admit, with some show of reason, and he interested
his audience, though there were among them some
boisterous disturbers of the peace.

It was a pleasant day, and it was with a feeling
of regret that I parted from my young companion
at the Yellow Tavern that evening, expecting to
leave in the morning by coach for Centerville, on
my way to Eichmond. What was my delight to
hear from the landlord that Mr. Owen is stopping at
the Tavern and that he will be my fellow passenger
on the morrow.


RICHMOND, JUNE 11, 1840.

NO matter how long my life may be, I never
expect to spend a more delightful period of
time, nor a more edifying one than that spent
in the coach on the day I rode from Brookville to
Centerville with Robert Dale Owen. I am, I con-
fess, a hero worshiper. The man who achieves, I
admire above all others. Half the charm of the uni-
versity for me, in my residence there, was the im-
pression Mr. Jefferson had left upon it of his char-
acter, his personality, and many a pilgrimage did I
make to Monticello to admire his one-time dwelling
place and to marvel over his brilliancy and many-
sidedness. Therefore, I rejoiced from the moment
the landlord told me that Mr. Owen would be my
fellow passenger to Centerville.

The fame of his communistic settlement had long
since spread to the East, not from the place itself,
but by means of the many savants from Europe who
came to our country solely to visit New Harmony
and the group of notable men who there cultivated
the arts and sciences, remote from the world. I had
also been told that some wealthy families of New
York and Philadelphia had sent their children out to
Harmony to attend the famous school for the in-



struction of young children established there by Mr.
Owen after the plan devised by Pestalozzi.

Since I had been in Indiana I had heard much of
Mr. Owen, his education and the wealth of his ex-
perience, and after having heard him speak, I de-
sired especially to converse with him. Fate was
kind to me, for at first we were the only passengers
in the stage, and soon fell into conversation, and he
speedily proved so agreeable, particularly on learn-
ing that I was from another state and on a voyage
of discovery, that I ventured at last to inquire how
he had chanced to enter into the political arena, for
I had heard that he had been elected to the Leg-
islature in 1834 and twice reflected since that

"Well," said he, " 'Squire Zach Wade, farmer
and justice of the peace, a tall, lank, hardy, illiterate
but shrewd and plain-spoken neighbor, called on me
one morning and said, 'Mr. Owen, the neighbors
have been talking matters over, and we've concluded
to ask you to be our candidate for the Legislature
this season.'

" 'But I am a foreigner,' said I. 'It is not nine
years since I left the old country.'

" 'Anyhow, you're an American citizen.'

" 'Yes, an adopted one. But my birthplace will
be sure to be brought up against me.'

" 'Well, it oughtn't to be. A man isn't a horse,
if he was born in a stable.'

"I was very proud of my native country, Scot-
land, but I knew he meant no harm, so I promised
to consider it. I liked my neighbors, and I appre-


elated the ability concealed under an uncouth ex-
terior. I don't know what opinion you have formed
of our Westerners, sir, in your brief stay, but I
want to say to you that hidden under their eccen-
tricities are things rare and valuable. I have
sojourned among the laborers of England, the
peasantry of France, the mountaineers of Switzer-
land, but the spirit of man was not there, the spirit
that can lift up the brow with a noble confidence and
feel that while it is no man's master, neither is it
any man's slave. You will find it far otherwise in
the frontier "West. It is an equal you meet here,
an equal in political rights. Their conversation run-
ning over the great subjects of the day assures you
of it. I have heard in many a backwoods cabin
arguments on government, views of national policy,
judgments* of men and things, that, for sound sense
and practical shrewdness, would not disgrace any
legislative body uponearth. ' '

I remarked that I had noted this interest in
political discussions during my stay here.

"Very true," he replied. "On a hundred oc-
casions I have addressed and heard others address
crowds of hardworking men grouped under the
forest shade, calm, deliberate arguments, lightened
now and then, it may be, by a few homely anecdotes
in point arguments which were listened to with In-
dian quietude and courtesy, and with eyes riveted on
the speaker, with sober applause or laughter now
and then, but no sign of weariness. However much
such men may, for the time, be stirred by dema-
gogical sophistry or misled by falsehood, they can


be guided in the end by a logical appeal to reason
and common sense.

"Yes," he concluded with emphasis, "it is this
class, the agricultural masses, on whom we can de-
pend. Theirs is the law-abiding spirit; they have
the pride of ownership in their country's institu-
tions. It is 'our laws, our Constitution' with them."

Our road had by now taken us through Fairfield,
a thriving little post town of about 700 inhabitants,
which in addition to its mercantile stores, taverns,
mills of various kinds and carding machine, pos-
sessed an academy of learning, and on into the ad-
joining county of Union.

This is a small county, and when I expressed some
interest in the juxtaposition of the names of Union
for the county and Liberty for the county seat I was
told that the county was named from the hope that
it would harmonize the difficulties in Wayne and
Fayette, and that there was no special reason so far
as known for the name of Liberty. This county
much resembles Franklin on its western side, along
which our road lay, and the soil appears to be
good. The little town of Liberty, of about 500 in-
habitants, contains professors of many religious
sects, Methodists, Presbyterians, Friends, Reformed
Church, Universalists, and here for the first time I
heard the name of "New Lights." 1

1 "The Christian [Disciples] Church had its origin in Indiana
early in the Nineteenth Century. It was a result of the protest
against creeds in the church.. It gained its membership largely from
the Baptist and the Dunkard societies, though many Presbyterians
and Methodists became members. It is impossible in many instances
to tell at what point a Baptist church became a 'New Light' and
then a Disciple or Christian." Esarey. Editor.


Liberty also contains a flourishing county semi-
nary. Brownsville is another post village in this
county, and then we came to Philomath. Mr. Owen
had evidently some knowledge of this town, and bade
me take special note of it as we tarried here for our

"This town," said he, "was founded in 1833, by
the Universalists, under the leadership of Kidwell,
and a session of the convention of the Univer-
salists of the Western states was held here. Kid-
well and Manford, of whom you have no doubt
heard, were violent opponents, and Manford once
sneeringly remarked that 'it is well known that
Philomath has been for a long time the city of
refuge for outcasts of the Universalist denomina-

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 7 of 26)