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
Harrison township's first representatives in the state penitentiary were David Owen and ___ Dennis, both of whom were convicted and sentenced at the same term of court in 1842 Owen shot at William Dalton with intent to kill while he was riding along on the public road near New Brunswick, the discharge taking effect in Dalton's shoulder. For this offense Owen was sentenced for four years, but pardoned before the expiration of the time. Dennis was convicted and sentenced for two years for the stealing of Michael Sappenfield's overcoat. The theft was committed by Dennis entering the Sappenfield residence by daylight, in the absence of the family, and carrying away with him the coat.
Life on the frontier abounds in experiences of privations and hardships. The early pioneers of Clay county,
who braved the exposures and dangers of the wilderness, did not all live in cabins, many of them, for a time, occupying
more primitive habitations, but little removed from those of the natives. When James Yocum and Alexander Cabbage
came to the county, about the year 1831, locating within the territory of what was then Posey township, they improvised
shelter and protection for the winter by cutting down huge poplar trees, the trunks serving as a wall from the
upper surface of which poles were extended as rafters at the desired pitch, the other end resting either upon the
ground or the trunk of a small tree, on which a roof was laid of clapboards or other material, held in position
by weights laid and fastened upon the top. At the opening, or front, a log fire was maintained for cooking and
imparting warmth to the family quarters.
In the history of Clay county but one Chinaman has been committed to the tomb. The remains of Tom Yott, who died of typhoid fever at St. Anthony's hospital, Terre Haute, Monday, October 5, 1908, aged 30 years, was brought to Brazil over the interurban railroad on the succeeding day, to be laid away in Cottage Hill cemetery. As Cott was a Mason, who had attained to the Scottish Rite degree, the body and the attending services were in charge of E. Lung, the head of the Chinese Masons of the state of Indiana. The remains of the "Celestial" were deposited in the George R. Shultz & Son's vault for safety and preservation until such time as the father of the deceased shall leave America to return to his native country, when it will be taken back home for burial. Quite a number of Brazilians were attracted to Cottage Hill on the occasion, curious to witness the obsequies.
In 1844, William Townsend and Elias Cooprider, who were at that time prominent and representative citizens of
the north and of the south end of the county, respectively, were nominated as opposing candidates for the office
of county assessor, the former by the Whigs and the latter by the Democrats. Townsend won by the small majority
of three. Tne succeeding year (1845) they were nominated by their respective parties for sheriff, when Cooprider
won by the same majority of three.
On Wednesday morning, September 9, 1896, Daniel Gerber, then residing in what is known as the Duncan Corner, in the extreme southeast part of Harrison township, in passing along on the private road leading south from the public highway to the residence of his son, William Gerber, now the residence of William Morris, came upon a horse and buggy in which lay the dead body of a man unknown to him. The position in which the body was found, with a bullet hole plainly visible in the left side of the face, through the upper lip, with scarcely any blood to be seen, indicated clearly that the man had been murdered, then placed in the buggy. To account for the finding at this out-of-the-way place, the presumption was that the horse had either been driven to this point by the murderer or an accomplice, or, having been left to its own guidance, had wandered about, stopping where it was found. The body had been braced and tied in the buggy-bed so as not to fall out. In the pockets of the victim's clothing were found a gold watch, a pocket-knife, forty cents in change, a deposit check on the Bloomfield bank for $100, and a copy of the Bloomfield Democrat, on which was written the name of R. R. Taylor. The initials R. R. T. were also found stamped upon his shirt front. The body was then identified as that of Robert R. Taylor, a well-known attorney at Bloomfield, Greene county. Taylor owned a farm bordering on the Clay county line, just south of Howesville, on which was a tenant named Grief Hill, whom he called to see the day before, having driven out from Bloomfield. Hill had the reputation of being a tough character and undesirable citizen, upon whom suspicion rested of having committed the crime.
The body was removed to Clay City by Undertaker Goldbach, where an inquest was held. Two brothers of the victim,
Merritt and Calvin Taylor, residing at Worthington, in response to a telegram, came at once to Clay City and recognized
the body as that of their brother. Subsequent developments brought out the facts that when Taylor called on Hill
they had a disagreement over their affairs and that the tenant had shot his landlord in the house. On visiting
the premises officers found that part of the blood-stained floor had been taken up and removed, but there were
still plainly discernible traces. Hill was missing, thought to be in hiding in some of the marshes and swamps thereabout,
but his pursuers, with the aid of blood-hounds, failed to locate him. After the lapse of something more than two
months, in the latter part of November, a clue developed through correspondence or otherwise, which the sheriff
of Greene county followed up and located and arrested Hill at the home of a daughter in a western state, when he
was brought back and lodged in the Bloomfield jail. Hill was tried at the spring term of court, 1897, convicted
and sentenced to Michigan City prison for the term of eight years, of which lie served three years and four months.
In the harvest of 1878, Dillon W. Bridges, of Cass township, produced 2,800 grains of wheat, of the Genesee
variety, from a single grain -fifty-six ears, averaging fifty grains to the ear.
When Arthur Helton, Sr., came to Clay county, in 1836, and located on Birch creek, in Jackson township, he was the only man in that territory who had a wagon. Nine years later, in 1845, when the Hendrixes came to Brazil and began the manufacture of wagons and farm implements, the first wagon they turned out was bought by Jacob Dial, of Jackson township, a neighbor to Helton. It is said of Dial that on taking his wagon home from the shop, he drove around over the township to exhibit it to his neighbors. The first wagon seen in Harrison township was that of Joseph Holt, in 1833, who had driven through from Tennessee on a visit to his daughter, Mrs. William Edmonson, who then lived on what is now known as the Ananias Hensel place.
There is one instance and, presumably, the only one in the history of the county, of a well known citizen's getting an office and a wife on the same day. On Wednesday, the 30th day of December, 1901, Dr. Patrick H. Veach, of Staunton, made a trip to Brazil to take out his marriage license. Because of his intimate acquaintance and terms of friendship with County Auditor Mat R. Yocum, Veach called on him to accompany him to the clerk's office, to make any required statements touching his qualifications to contract and assume the marriage relationship. The license having been issued, Auditor Yocum invited Veach to accompany him back to the office, when he presented him the official notification of his appointment to the office of trustee of Posey township, made vacant by the death of Martin V. Miller on the previous Monday, the 28th day of the month. On the evening of that day (December 30), after his return to Staunton, Veach was joined in matrimony to Miss Martha Wardlaw, a daughter of Joseph J. Wardlaw.
In the early history of the county, prior to the building of bridges, and even before ferries were established, footmen crossed Eel river in the south part of the county on the big drifts. In crossing the drift which was just below the point of the Phipps ferry of a later date, James Snyder singled out a particular log which he examined closely and found to be a red cedar, thirty feet in length and twelve inches in diameter. Assisted by James Critchfield, Snyder cut this log into three pieces, put them out on the bank, and after a few days' exposure to the sun and air, sold them to Joe Griggs, a Honey Creek cooper, for $8, thinking it a lucky find. Griggs manufactured this timber into pails and marketed them. at Terre Haute. This log had drifted all the way down from the falls of Eel river, a distance of nearly two hundred miles by the course of the stream.