Brazil as a village, Clay County, Indiana
From: A History of Clay County, Indiana
By: William Travis (of Middlebury)
The Lewis Publishing Company
New York - Chicago 1909


At the time of the organization of Clay county, the ground on which now stands the city of Brazil was covered by the primitive forest. No habitation of civilization had then yet been planted upon the territory now comprised within its corporate limits. The population of the county was then enumerated by but three figures. The National Road had not yet been thought of by the pioneers of the county. Coal and clay, the civilizers and commercial factors which built the city, were not then known to exist here. Just when and by whom this virgin territory was first settled is not now definitely known. There is no one now living who trod this soil prior to 1835. A history of Brazil, city and township, written twenty five years ago, by A. F. Bridges, makes the statement that the first settlement here was that made by Samuel Campbell, in 1838, who built his cabin on the site of what is now the John Hendrix homestead, north side of West National avenue. But as the National Road was built and put in passable condition as early as 1835, it is reasonable to assume that this territory was inhabited at an earlier day. Preston Morgan, a pioneer who settled on the National Road, near Croy's Creek, in 1834, in giving an account of a trip he made, on horseback from Kentucky to Springfield, Illinois, at a date prior to this, said that there were then two cabins on the site of what is now Brazil.

In the year 1843, Owen Thorpe moved a house from the practically abandoned town plat of the original Harmony and placed it alongside the National Road, at a point three miles westward. In the early part of the year following (1844) he founded a town site at this point. A postoffice was also established the same year and Thorpe appointed postmaster. The proprietor took the precaution to find a name for both the town and postoffice which would not conflict nor be confounded with any other at that time known to the geographical and postal terminology of the country. He chose the name of the largest empire in the "New World," for the reason that just at that time there was much being said in the press of the country (of which Thorpe was a daily reader) about Brazil, South America, because of its being involved in war with an insurrectionary party, allied with one or more neighboring powers.

The original plat, as founded by Judge Thorpe, comprised that part of the present city bounded on the north by Church street, on the east by Walnut, on the south by Jackson, and on the west by Meridian.

Thorpe is credited with having opened the first store in the place, having been previously engaged in this business at Harmony. The first industrial enterprise was that of John Hendrix, Sr., who located here in 1845 and opened shops for general blacksmithing and the manufacture of wagons and farm implements, transporting by wagon all the iron used, from Madison, on the Ohio river. Hendrix had been previously engaged in the same industry in Wayne county, near Centerville. In the same year (1845) the promoters of the town joined in the building of a small hewn log house for church, school and general assembly purposes, on a lot appropriated by the proprietor, which was on or near what is now North Franklin street, close to the ground on which stands the present M. E. church edifice.

The number of buildings in the town of Brazil, in the fall of 1845, additional to the Hendrix residence and the temporary shops on the northwest corner of National Road and Meridian street, were but few and may be here enumerated. On the southeast corner of the crossing of these streets, or roads, was a hewn log house, which Philip Hedges, the original owner, had sold to Orlando Thorpe, brother of the founder of the town. On what is known as the Brattin corner was a frame house, which John Hendrix afterward bought and moved onto the lot on which Hezekiah Wheeler lived during the time of his residence at Brazil. On the present George A. Knight corner was a cabin occupied by a basket maker named Chase. On the Bryson (former Wagner) corner was a little frame front with kitchen in the rear, built by "Yankee Bill" Stewart, in which lived a man named Henry Katterman. On the northeast corner of Main and Meridian was a hewn log house owned and occupied by a man named De Mott, which he sold to Kyle Kirtley, who tore it away and built a frame, the first hotel of the town, known at a time as "The Delmonico," recently cleared away to make room for a modern business block to be built by Daniel H. Davis.

Just at this time Ezra Olds was building a hewn log house on the ground on which now stands the Thomas Block. This was, substantially, the Brazil of 1845. On the hill, a mile west of the town, on the north side of the National Road, was the Usher homestead, better known for more than fifty years past, as the Stough place. This house was built in 1838, by John Scott, of Terre Haute, on which Harvey D. Scott (later a member of Congress) and William Y. Stewart did the carpenter work. It was thought at that time to be the best dwelling house in all that part of the country. Between this house and the Hendrix residence, in 1845, there was but one cabin, which stood on the bluff, west side of the waterworks plant. Immediately across the road from the Usher place was Cunningham's, a hewn log tavern bought from Benjamin Hedges, which Cunningham enlarged and improved, who continued to conduct the tavern and also maintained a race track on the premises, where Terre Haute sportsmen trained their horses. The original house here was built before the Usher house. When Cunningham died his widow continued to conduct the place until the marriage of her last daughter, in 1848 or 1849, when she sold the property to Nelson Markle, who, later, sold to Charles Whippo, then, Whippo, to John Smith, and he to John Robinson. Between this place and the Thorpe property, on the south east corner of Main and Meridian streets, in 1845, were two primitive hewn log houses - the Solomon Myers' farm house, which stood a little distance west of the crossing of the C. & E. I. Railroad, at about the point of the present William Moore residence, and the George Short tavern, which stood on the site of the later Montgomery-McGuire-Weaver residence, in the locality of the later Scantelberry property.

The growth of Brazil from 1845 to 1850 was but a slow pace in population, the government census of the latter named year enumerating a total of 84.

But with the nucleus of a center of population store, postofice, blacksmith shop, church and school coupled with the coming of the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad and the discovery and development of block coal, the town began to expand numerically, industrially and commercially. In 1857, when additions were made to the town plat, a private census was taken, showing a population of 393, an increase of 358 per cent for the intervening period of seven years.

Within this interval the primitive log houses gave way to a better class of buildings and a number of new improvements were made, including several business houses. Then it was that Robert Buskirk built the two story frame hotel on the corner of Main and South Franklin streets, for which David C. Stunkard traded him sixty acres of land on Otter Creek. This was Stunkard's advent into the town, who was the most active and prominent in affairs of the pioneer business men of the place. In the year 1857 was built the first brick business house erected in the town, on the southeast corner of Main and South Meridian, opposite the First National bank corner. In the year "858, on the 28th day of August, the first M. E. church was dedicated, which was on North Franklin street, west side, near the present church. The New School Presbyterian church, on South Walnut street, was built the same year, and the Old School Presbyterian house, on South Franklin street, the succeeding year. The first public school house, which was a one story frame of one room, on North Meridian street, east side, almost directly opposite the site on which stands the present Meridian street city building, was, built in the summer of 1851, by L. R. Torbert, trustee of Dick Johnson township, which was in use nine years. The first brick residence buildings were the Conley house, west side South Meridian street, purchased and occupied by Dillon W. Bridges, on his removal from Bowling Green to Brazil, later, the Daugherty residence (1858); the Hendrix residence (1850), and the George A. Knight house, south side East Main street (1853). The dates given to indicate the time of their building are from memory only.

From the Independent, a weekly paper then published at Brazil, the business interests of the town at the time of the breaking out of the Civil war, in the spring of 1861, were represented as follows: General Merchandise-Fletcher & Stunkard, corner Main and South Meridian; Robert Conley (New York Store), south side Main street, between Meridian and Franklin; A. W. Knight, corner Main and South Walnut; Rowley & Shaffer, Olds & Brackney's old stand, south side Main street, between Walnut and Sherfey streets; Groceries Cornelius Wagner, the Bryson, or McCrea-Brown corner; Cyrus Y. Moore, and George Kress, both on south side of Main street, between Meridian and Franklin; Drugs-Jonathan Croasdale, south side Main street (Richardson corner); Wm. H. Lane, south side Main, east of Meridian street crossing; Stoves and Tinware-W. F. Summers, north side Main street, between Walnut and Franklin; Lumber, Lath, Shingles, Staves, Grain, Coal, etc.-D. C. Stunkard, mill and storage on the Vandalia Railroad, north side; Pottery, Stoneware, etc.--William R. Torbert, south Walnut street, near Vandalia railroad; Furniture and Undertaking-Albert Kelsey, north side Main street, between Washington and Forest avenue; Boot and Shoe Maker-Thomas Desart, south side west Main street; Painter and Glazier-James M. Mortimer, Depot street; Hotel (Brazil House), Alden Webster, present Brattin corner; Carpenter and Builder-James H. Allison, shops near Vandalia depot; Insurance Agents-Edward S. Hussey, James M. Oliver; Justices of the Peace-Isaac M. Compton, for Van Buren township, Fielding M. Sampson, for Dick Johnson township; Practicing Physicians-James M. Price, Isaac S. Leabo, L. S. Bemis. Among the physicians prior to these were A. W. Knight, John Potts, Dr. Morris. The only attorney, then, was George A. Knight.

The Hendrix Brothers did the smithing at that time, in the main, but Cyrus Y. Moore and Adam Storm were also resident blacksmiths, who worked on South Franklin street, as remembered. The principal carpenters and builders, then, were Gonter and Hays; but there were others, also. The plasterers were Samuel Harris, Asa Thomas, Miles Burris, Uriah Stewart, David Keeler and William Travis.

In designating locations, streets have been named as at present recognized, but from the Independent, it is seen that South Meridian was then known as "Depot," South Franklin as "Locust" and South Walnut as "Mulberry."

A census taken in the fall of 1866 with the view to the incorporation of the town showed a population of 843, a gain of 115 per cent for the preceding nine years.

History of Brazil, Indiana parts

1) General History

2) Organizations

3) Town and City officers

Also see Village of Brazil.

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