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

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In politics, Mr. Julian told me, he is a Whig, and
acknowledged that in the matter of attending mass
meetings and. singing Whig songs, he is playing a
considerable part in this campaign. When I men-
tioned some of the objections that are made to
Harrison by the Democrats, he said that one reason
for his support of him is that he is a poor man and
will be a better man therefore to administer to the
poor people in poverty and hard times than Van
Buren, who is an aristocrat and has high ambitions
to gain all control in his hands by overthrowing the
liberties of the people. However, he admits that the
campaign has resolved itself into altogether too



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 127

much of a frolic, into to use his words "such
a jubilant and uproarious expression of the im-
prisoned mirth and fun of the people that anything
like calmness of judgment and real seriousness of
purpose is out of the question in the Whig camp."

As we walked about the broad streets I was intro-
duced to members of several of the intelligent
families of the town. Among these whom I met was
Mr. Perkins, editor of The Jeffersonian, in whose
columns only this morning I had found so much of
interest and entertainment, and this gentleman, I
was told and learned also from conversation with
him, is a man of sound, discriminating mind, untir-
ing energy, industry and strict integrity. Mr.
Achilles Williams I met also, who has been in the
Legislature and is now postmaster, and Dr. John
Plummer, who is a friend and correspondent of
Noah Webster, who, he tells me, is about to publish
a new edition of his great dictionary. Dr. Plummer
possesses a fine cabinet of Natural History speci-
mens over which we spent a great part of the after-
noon. He* is a man, I learn, of great benevolence,
and high moral principles, and we both delighted in
,his conversation.

Charles W. Starr was another citizen whom I met
at this time, a Philadelphian who came here in 1825,
bought a farm of more than 200 acres and laid it
off in lots. He also established a cotton factory.
We visited the State Bank, where Mr. Julian is
known, and here I made the acquaintance of its
cashier, Elijah Coffin, a friend and patron of educa-
tion and a most estimable gentleman ; Messrs. Leeds



128 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

and Jones, who own the paper mill and Jeremiah
Mansur, a substantial citizen who only last year sold
his mercantile business and retired to his farm near
Richmond.

From these gentlemen I learned of the town's
prosperity and prospects of growth. Only this year
it has been incorporated as a city, its first mayor
having been elected last month, and this gentleman,
Mr. John Sailor, I met and from him gained much
information concerning the city.

Richmond's location, I have neglected to state, is
most attractive, standing, as it does, upon an oval
crest on the east bank of the Whitewater, its few
streets are wide, and its residences well built, in the
main. Its population is estimated at 1,130. While
I was most favorably impressed with the flourishing
business of the town, its factories, mills, foundries,
manufactories, its many mercantile establishments,
drug stores, stores of general merchandise, silver
smiths, and so forth, I was still more impressed with
the plans made for its future expansion, the Rich-
mond and Brookville Canal, which I have already
mentioned, the macadamized roads which are in con-
templation in various directions, the plans for the
extension of the town and the erection of new and
more pretentious buildings. Still more interesting
and worthy of note is the attention accorded to the
cultivation of the arts and sciences in this town.
Its schools, both male and female, are numerous and
well conducted, and the orthodox Friends, I am told,
are building in the vicinity of the town a large and
beautiful seminary. The town also possesses two



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 129

literary and scientific societies, one of which has a
large collection of minerals, shells, and other
curiosities.

The contrast between this and other towns in the
matter of social life is more noticeable to the casual
visitor, perhaps, than any other one feature ; this, of
course, being due to the influence of the Society of
Friends, whose members compose the majority of
the population. This I spoke of with Mr. Julian,
whose mother is a member of this Society, though
his father was of Huguenot extraction. Over the
town, said I, I felt the mantle of quiet, of silence,
and we both agreed that to one not of their faith,
and unaccustomed to their mode of thought or man-
ner of life, there seems to be an ever-present feel-
ing of restraint and repression, both mental and
physical, a feeling sometimes irksome and uncon-
genial to a youth of high spirits.

There is little social life here as we understand the
word, according to Mr. Julian; no lectures, no con-
certs ; even music is frowned on as unbecoming and
even sinful. When written down it sounds far from
pleasing to a gay youth, at least silence whenever
possible, no ''concord of sweet sounds," the plainest
of plain costumes, all as different as possible from
the gay attire, the variety and frequency of enter-
tainment which characterize my Southern home,
and yet, I am free to confess at this very moment
and to set it down in my diary, that even to so
volatile and spirited a young person as I admit my-
self at all times to be, and one who had been talking
most volubly throughout this long-to-be-remembered



130 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

day, I fell somewhat under the spell of the quiet
dignity, the careful language, the long silences of
the Friends, and as to the attire, well, it is true that
the long sober coats and the broad-brimmed hats of
the men are not so taking as the blue and brown
broadcloths, the gay vests, the patent leather shoes,
and the bell-shaped beavers of the worldly people,
but of a certainty, the garb of the females, the
simple robe' of dove color, the plain bonnet, the
snowy kerchief crossed demurely, when the costume
of one as young and fair as Miss Lavinia Cotton, I
never have seen in the ballroom a gown which could
compare to it in becomingness !

Miss Lavinia, or Friend Lavinia, I should say,
rode with us to Newport the next morning in the
stage which carried Mr. Hicklin, Robert Morrison
and myself to the home of Levi Coffin. Mr. Hicklin
met me at the tavern, accompanied by the Methodist
minister then stationed at Richmond, with whom
he had spent the night, and to whom he now intro-
duced me. This was Joseph Tarkington. 1

He had come here from Lawrenceburg in 1839,
sending his household goods to Brookville by canal
and from there to Richmond overland. I found him
a most interesting and discursive gentleman, who
told me much of the Methodist Church in the White-
water country, in which he had been preaching the
Gospel from the time of his early ordainment into
the ministry. A few years before, he had suffered
a breaking down of health from hard work and ex-

1 Father of Mr. John S. Tarkington of Indianapolis. See "Auto-
biography of Reverend Joseph Tarkington." Editor.



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 131

posure, and had been "located," as they express it,
in Lawrenceburg, until his recovery, at which time
he was sent to the "Richmond Station," as it is de-
nominated. He spoke of the town's educational ad-
vantages and mentioned that three of his children
are attending the Poe school in the basement of the
Methodist Church. He also mentioned the fact that
the Friends had not been at the first particularly
friendly to the other denominations, but were grow-
ing more so, and he also called my attention to the
fact that their influence in the matter of dress and
amusement consciously or unconsciously has af-
fected the ministers of other denominations who de-
mand a similar sobriety in dress and amusements
from their own church members.

Mr. Morrison, who traveled with us, is one of
Richmond's foremost citizens, who came early to
this county, established himself as a merchant, and
by his frugality, prudence and business talent has
accumulated a large estate. He is, I am told, a de-
vout member of his Society and ever a friend of the
poor. Naturally, the conversation was carried on
principally by Mr. Hicklin, though Mr. Morrison
broke through his Quaker silence occasionally to ask
questions concerning the formation of anti-slavery
societies in which the circuit rider is engaged. Miss
Cotton said nothing, not even lifting her eyes after
the first glance, in which I discovered them to be
a most beautiful dark blue with eyelashes brown to
match the heavy bands of hair of which I caught a
glimpse under the prim bonnet. "Permit me," I
said once, on restoring her reticule which a lurch of



132 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

the stage had thrown to the floor. "I thank thee,
friend," she replied, and her voice was as soft and
low and sweet as her eyes had promised it should be.

The day was an interesting one, and I surprised
myself at the interest I took in the words of Arnold
Buffum, who seemed truly glad to see my face again,
although not given to any expression of emotions.
Mr. Levi Coffin, to whose home we went, has been en-
gaged for some years in the mercantile business in
this small thriving town settled by Friends, a sightly
town with many flowing wells which furnish an un-
failing supply of pure cold water. He is also en-
gaged in pork packing, and owns an oil mill for the
manufacture of linseed oil.

The early settlers of Newport 2 were, he told me,
of a positive, determined class ; believing in a right,
they would maintain and defend it.

For two principles they had stood from the begin-
ning, temperance and anti-slavery. The Newport
Temperance Society was organized in 1830. The
conviction against slavery also early found an ex-
pression here, and in 1838 Mr. Coffin established an
Anti-Slavery Library Society for the collection and
distribution among the people of books, tracts, and
other publications. "It is not a popular cause,"
said Mr. Coffin. "It tries a man's soul to take such
a. stand in these days, when brickbats, stones and
rotten eggs are some of the arguments we have to
meet, but our faces are set in that way and there
will remain."

* Newport was first called New Garden, then Newport, and is
now Fountain City. Editor,



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 133

I ofttimes thought, during that day, of the amaze-
ment, the rage, that would have found expression on
my father's face could he have seen his son hobnob-
bing with these enemies of an institution he sup-
ports ! I reflected, however, that I was not alone in
my position; the father of my cousin Jonathan who
has come out to the Wabash country, freed his
slaves before his death, and had besought his son to
come to a country free from this curse. I reflected
also that I could not listen to this talk so calmly
had I not been more influenced than I had suspected
by the fairmindedness and the friendliness of
Arnold Buffum and the really warm affection which
Mr. Hicklin had so early shown for me, to say noth-
ing of the weight of Mr. Owen's words on this
subject.

So I sat through the meeting addressed by Arnold
Buffum, who makes no attempt to organize societies,
this being the work of Mr. Hicklin, listening some-
times, though I confess that my mind and my eyes
strayed frequently to the side of the meeting house
in which sat Friend Lavinia, who had tucked into
her kerchief a sprig of the sweetbriar which grows
against the church wall, another sprig of which she
held in her slim fingers. A dove, a Quaker dove in
her soft silk, a rosebud, rather, as yet tightly folded.
What youth would not wish to be the wooing sun
and air to unfold this rose, to see, within, the hidden
heart of gold !

To my great pleasure, I learned that Mr. Hicklin
was on the morrow going on to Indianapolis, and ac-
cordingly on the next morning we took the stage at



134 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

Richmond to travel together over the National Road
to the capital city. This would have been my route
had I continued on by land from Baltimore, across
Pennsylvania and Ohio into Indiana, through Rich-
. mond straight west to Indianapolis.

Here I will note that the road presents many of
the features which marked it in the East. 'Tis true,
the country is flat, and not so picturesque because of
this, though most fertile and with many farmhouses
and villages along the entire route. 'Tis also true
that the road is still in a somewhat unfinished state,
and different in that it is cut through what is still
a new country, but the pageant of travel is much the
same here as in Pennsylvania. For some years
there has been a continual stream of movers from
the East, from Ohio, from different parts of Indiana
and from the South, into the Wabash country, and
we passed continually these families, sometimes five
or ten in a company, wagons, men, women, children
and stock. The younger women were often driving
the teams, the men and boys walking by turns to
drive and look after the stock. Sometimes there
was also, in the procession, a carriage built very
high to go over stumps and through streams, in
which were sitting the older women and the children.
Sometimes, too, one family would have two or more
of these great wagons, with their household goods,
their farming implements, behind which came extra
horses, colts, cattle, sheep, and sometimes even hogs.
There were also little Southern carts drawn by
bony little Southern horses, and now and again the
stage coach, with its bright paint, its fine teams, its



A TOUE THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 135

heralding bugle. And on this journey I had many
occasions on which to reflect on the pleasures of this
method of travel, the interesting fellow travelers,
the edifying conversations, the amusing incidents.

Our route led us back through Centerville and as
our stage halted before the Mansion House a great
number gathered for the mail and to catch sight of
travelers and visitors, and we spoke again of what
an eminent political center this town is, and to what
a future it is destined.

I had been told something of the first county seat,
Salisbury, a bit of romance, for, with much opposi-
tion from many in the county, it was made the first
seat of justice, and for a season was a flourishing
town with thirty-five houses, a log Court House and
jail, taverns, public buildings and mercantile stores,
all now vanished from the earth, since the transfer
of the seat of justice to Centerville.

'Tis said that the site of Salisbury was the tryst-
ing place of some Indian lovers who were killed by
a band of pioneers, and that the Indian mother pro-
nounced a curse upon the place, saying that it should
not live, but should disappear forever from the face
of the earth. A second curse also rested upon it, a
man hanged there, so he declared unjustly, cursed
the town. By 1826, 'tis said, Salisbury had only ten
families and ere long these dwindled until now the
town has completely disappeared, leaving, as the
bard poetically expressed it, "not a rack behind. "

After Centerville ' our next stop was Cambridge
City, and here a most interesting fact was related to
me illustrating the change occasioned by the build-



136 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

ing of the National Road. In 1824 a little village
called Vandalia was established near here and gave
promise for some years of a flourishing existence.
When the road was laid out, however, it failed to
pass through Vandalia, and the town gradually fell
into decay and was abandoned, the families going to
the beautifully situated and flourishing town of
Cambridge City, established on the road.

Here befell one of the most interesting of the
many interesting events of my journey, for 'twas
here that a gentleman entered our stage coach who
we learned later was the eminent Prof. Samuel K.
Hoshour. 3

'Twas not long till we were engaged in conversa-
tion, and he told us at length of his theories of edu-
cation. He had come to Wayne County in 1826, had
been head of the Wayne County Seminary for
several years, and had only last year come to Cam-
bridge City, to become the Principal of its Seminary,
which he described as large and tastefully con-
structed. His theories are new and, so it appears to
me, excellent. His scholars are urged always "to
give or get a reason for everything you do. ' ' He is
deeply interested in the science known as etymology,
and when the pupils seem to be wearying of their
work, he suggests investigation of various words,
their original meaning and their strange changes on
their journey down to us.

*S. K. Hoshour, born in Pennsylvania, 1803. Professor at Gettys-
burg in 1826; came to Wayne County, Indiana, 1835; head of Wayne
County Seminary, 1836; teacher of sons of Governor Wallace, Cam-
bridge City, 1839; President Northwestern Christian University,
158; Superintendent Public Instruction, 1862. Died, 1883. EditoV.




AN OLD HOUSE NEAR CENTERV1LLE

A stopping place for emigrants on their way to the West

Pen drawing by Wilbur Briant Shook



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 137

He told us of a book he had written in 1837, called
"The Altissonant Letters," which he had composed
for the purpose of impressing upon the minds of his
pupils the meaning of the unusual words of the
English language. In this, as in his other work, his
purpose was "to make amusement the hand-maiden
of instruction." Altissonant means high-sounding,
and the hero, Lorenzo Altissonant, details to his
friend Squire Pedant, the incidents of a pedestrian
journey to the West in words which are only oc-
casionally used at the present day, their meaning for
that reason being remembered with difficulty. He
recited some examples, and we made merry over our
lack of familiarity with some of the words, "the
ecclesiastic who was to colligate the parties in indis-
soluble gyves;" "he was a sexagenary;" "the
gracility of his crural organs engaged all optics. ' '

It was with regret that we parted from this inter-
esting and learned gentleman at Dublin, where he
was to make an address at the County Seminary.
This town, though quite small, is the location of the
Dublin Academy, in a fine brick building erected two
years ago, and also the Dublin Female Seminary,
expressly for young females, which is conducted in
a frame building built in 1836, and which possessed
the first bell in the county.

The landscape changed very little as we passed
from Wayne County into the adjacent county of
Henry, the land being level and uniformly fertile.
The houses are frequent along the road, many of
them of brick, and when I expressed surprise at this,
I was informed that many of the earliest houses



138 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

were built of brick because sawmills were far apart
and the use of sawed lumber meant a long haul,
while bricks could be made at any place where a
clay bank was available. The architecture of these
houses followed that of the state from which the
settler came, so that many of them suggest the
homes of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
Some of them are set among orchards and sur-
rounded by gardens, so that the landscape, though
level, is pleasing.

I was told, too, the way in which the towns grew
first a blacksmith and wagon shop for the con-
venience of travelers along the road, then a tavern
and a general store, in which the postoffice was
located. From this store peddlers' wagons went
forth to the more remote settlements.

Raysville, the next settlement on our way, though
small, is pretty and well built and is surprisingly
thriving. There are several mills (it is situated on
the Blue River) and a carding machine near the
town. The most interesting thing noted concerning
this town is an excellent spring a short distance
from the town whose waters are brought through an
aqueduct into the town, there forming a fine fountain
which supplies the whole town with water. It was
named after Governor Ray, incidents in whose life
I have elsewhere recorded. Two taverns are on
opposite sides of the road, kept respectively by
Elijah Knight and John Death, and 'tis said by
travelers "Knight is on one side of the road and
Death on the other. ' '

And now we came to Knightstown just across the



A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 139

river, a post town located after the building of the
road, which forms its main street and along which
most of its houses are located. A traveler who
entered the coach at this point found fault with it
as a village which had received little attention from
its citizens. Its streets are wide, said he, but
muddy, unpaved and unshaded, and many of the
houses are unsightly, though he admitted that im-
provement is already beginning to be seen, and other
passengers said its prospects are promising.

'Twas here we learned of a most interesting de-
bate held at this place only a few days ago between
a young Methodist minister, L. "W. Berry, and a Uni-
versalist minister named M'Cuen. This M'Cuen, it
seems, is an old theological pugilist who has held
thirty-four debates with ministers of different de-
nominations, and he challenged the young Methodist
to debate with him on the question, "Will all men
be holy and happy in the future state?" M'Cuen to
affirm, Berry to deny.

Young Mr. Berry had never engaged in a debate,
but had spent most of his time since the age of 18
in traveling large circuits as an itinerant preacher,
so his friends trembled at the thought of his meeting
this ecclesiastical gladiator. No church would hold
the crowd that gathered to hear this debate, said
our informant, so they were assembled in a large
grove where for three days the speakers discoursed
alternately. Dr. Berry's discourse, said this man
who traveled with us, was wonderful. His soul
seemed to catch inspiration from on high, his lips
and tongue were touched anew with a live coal from



140 A TOUR THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840

off God's altar and his words burned as they fell
upon the audience. Small wonder that M'Cuen and
his friends turned pale !

With such discourse we passed the time until we
came to Greenfield, a post town and the seat of jus-
tice of Hancock County. The town is small but con-
tains several mercantile stores, two taverns, one
lawyer, a physician and craftsmen of many trades.
The town is supplied with water by a very notable
spring within its limits, and has the advantage of
mills at convenient distances and on the streams
which pass through the county. The most notable
point is the rich, fertile land surrounding this town,
which is in a very prosperous and nourishing state
of improvement. Much buckwheat is raised here,
1,614 bushels I learned and set down as a matter of
interest; 39,000 pounds of maple sugar and much
hemp and flax, six and one-fourth tons during the
last year. Immense crops of flax are sown each
year by the farmers because the oil crushers buy the
seed to make oil and furnish it to the farmer, agree-
ing to purchase the crop when made. Tobacco is
another important crop, 10,304 pounds being re-
ported last year, and there is one distillery in this
county, where 10,000 gallons of whisky were made
last year.

'Twas while talking with the traveler who gave
me this agricultural information that I learned more
of the disease called "milk sickness," of which I
had heard at intervals in this state. It is contracted,
said he, either from eating beef or drinking milk
from a cow that has the disease, but no one has ever



A TOUE THROUGH INDIANA IN 1840 141

found out how the cattle get this disease. When a
person gets the milk sickness it is very hard to get
rid of; some say it will always remain in the blood,
producing what is known as "the tires." The per-
son will feel pretty well, but can stand very little
fatigue ; he fails in strength and feels always trem-
ulous.

After Greenfield, our next stop was in Cumber-
land, a small village in Marion County, just ten miles
east of Indianapolis, and night had fallen when we
reached the capital. Our stage drew up before the
tavern known as Washington Hall, a famous hos-
telry, so Mr. Hicklin informed me, which has for
years been the headquarters of the Whig party. We
found our host, Edward Browning, most agreeable,
and I am anticipating the morrow's dawning, when
I may go forth to present the many letters given
me by friends in the state and thus meet the city's
notables.



CHAPTER IX

INDIANAPOLIS, JUNE 18, 1840.

I HAVE had a great desire to view Indianapolis,
having heard so many opinions of a different



Online LibraryKate Milner RabbA tour through Indiana in 1840; the diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia → online text (page 9 of 26)