Four Hundred Remniscenes., Clay County, Indiana
From: A History of Clay County, Indiana
By: William Travis (of Middlebury)
The Lewis Publishing Company
New York - Chicago 1909
Burning of the Court House.
On Sunday night, the 30th of November, 1851, the court house at Bowling Green was wholly destroyed by fire,
consuming all the public records but those of the recorder's office. John S. Beem, then recorder, who was a tailor
by trade, kept the books and papers pertaining to this office in his shop, where they escaped the flames. The origin,
or cause, of the fire, whether accidental or incendiary, was never judicially determined. However, an investigation
was made by the board of commissioners at the December term immediately followings as to the probable cause, when
the statements of many reputable citizens were heard and all the circumstances duly considered, the board arriving
at the conclusion that "beyond a doubt, the fire originated in the hall on the second story of the building,
and that it is not in the least attributable to the officers nor those having charge of the house, but was the
work of an incendiary." The county officers then incumbent were: George Pinckley, clerk; John Osborn, auditor;
John Picard, treasurer; Lot Loving, sheriff, their offices .being on the upper floor of the building.
In the Cleveland-Harrison campaign of 1888 a strange dual fatality befell two locally prominent residents of Clay City, coincident, in a sense. In the organization of the two opposing parties in Harrison township, Casper Rader was made chairman of the Democratic committee and Joseph Wilbur of the Republican committee.
On the 18th day of September, on the occasion of a Republican campaign rally at Coal City, Chairman Rader drove
over to that place to observe the doings of the day. On the return drive, accompanied by Henry Smith, of Clay City,
Rader attempted to pass the big, long coupled campaign wagon, running onto sideling ground between the wagon and
the fence, when his vehicle was turned over, throwing out the occupants, Rader falling under the heavily loaded
wagon, a hind wheel passing directly across his head, crushing the skull, death ensuing instantaneously.
At the presidential election of 1828, when Andrew Jackson was first elected, a number of young men in Harrison township voted for him who were not then yet twenty one years of age. There was at that time an organized company of militia in the township, of which these young men were members. Before closing the polls for the day, David White, who was the inspector, appeared at the door and made' the call for all young men past eighteen years who were members of the militia to come up and vote for Jackson, all of them accepting the invitation and casting their ballots as requested. David White, who was the father of Edward White, well known at a later day, was himself an ardent Whig, but was a soldier under Jackson at New Orleans, whose election to the presidency he declared necessary to the welfare and safety of the country. The last survivor of those who responded to White's call was Elias Cooprider, who died November 6, 1901, having cast nineteen votes for president, an experience which comes to but one man in a million.
There are yet living in the county a number of people who remember Simeon Vest, the pauper maniac, who was a county charge for more than twenty years. Vest was a native of Kentucky, coming to Clay county in his boyhood days, the family locating on the old Bowling Green-Brazil road, west side, on what was later and for many years known as the Morgan Bryant place. In his youth and early manhood he was, to all appearances, normally poised, giving out no indications of any mental derangement. At the time of the building of the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad, in 1850-51, the two brothers, Simeon and George Vest, were contractors on construction of a half mile of grade on the Modesitt place, where the town of Newburg was afterward platted and built. Soon thereafter both went back to Kentucky, where they were said to have engaged jointly as contractors on both public and private works. Several yearns later Simeon returned unaccompanied by his brother, so unbalanced mentally as not to be able to give an intelligent and satisfactory account of him. A county asylum having meanwhile been established, he was committed to this institution about the year 1857, and soon thereafter, under the administration of Adam B Moon as keeper, became violent and dangerous, assaulting Moon with a heavy garden hoe, when he was being. restrained by being shackled.
When Moon retired from the keeping of the infirmary, to remove Vest from contact with other inmates of the institution,
a special contract was made between the county board and the retiring superintendent of the asylum for his keeping,
when he was taken to Moon's residence, on the hill between the Thomas and the Crafton farms, on the Bowling Green-Brazil
road, a mile and a half out from the former place, where he was lodged in a small house of one room on the south
side of the road. To confine him to his new quarters the chain clamped about his wrist was securely attached to
a staple in the floor. The chain was of sufficient length to allow him to walk about the room and have access to,
his bed. Physically, Vest was a powerful man, Mr. Moon keeping close watch over him on going into the room to serve
his meals or otherwise attend his wants.
On the first day of December, 1888, was launched the first issue of the first daily paper in the history of Clay county. Within the week on the last day of which appeared the initial number of the Times, Robert Hinkel came from Crawfordsville to Brazil to look over the field afforded by the city for the support and success of a daily, his available capital on arrival being just $1.60. As the life and success of a newspaper, daily or weekly, are largely dependent on the advertising patronage, the projector and promoter of the proposed enterprise sought to make a test of the encouragement which would be extended by the business men of the place for the first issue, and, with a sheet ruled and prepared for the purpose, started at the court house and proceeded as far west as the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad, securing orders for $s.00 worth of advertising. He then went over the same ground again and by more persistent effort in solicitation increased the amount to $29. Several cases of second hand type were then leased of the Register office and a small shed rented on South Walnut street convenient to press facilities, operated by hand power. An office force of four men who proceeded to get up the copy and composition for the advance issue, meanwhile, were boarded at the hotel. Three hundred copies of a small folio sheet were issued and carrier boys employed to distribute them, who were awarded prizes for lists of subscribers procured during the succeeding week. This edition of three hundred copies has since grown to three thousand and the printing plant, now operated at 111 South Meridian street, Brazil, is the outcome of an original investment and working capital of $1.60.
Among the earliest and best known pioneers of the northeast part of the county were George G. McKinley and John
Graves, who, on coming to the county, but a few years after its organization, squatted on government lands in the
immediate locality of what is now Harmony, and proceeded to make improvements. On going to the land office at Vincennes
and learning that Graves had not yet made entry of the tract on which he lived and was making improvements, McKinley
included this description in the entries which he made, but by some mistake or oversight failed to include his
own improvements. Soon thereafter John Stalcup, who settled about three miles north of the National road, on returning
from the land office, told Graves that the tract on which McKinley had made his improvements was still open to
entry. Graves lost no time in making ready and going to Vincennes, including in his entries the McKinley improvements.