Four Hundred Remniscenes., Clay County, Indiana Page 2
From: A History of Clay County, Indiana
By: William Travis (of Middlebury)
The Lewis Publishing Company
New York - Chicago 1909

Pioneer Convicts.

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.

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Primitive Family Quarters.

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.

Yocum's place was afterward the B. F. Shattuck farm, now covered by the city of Brazil. The Cabbage place was several miles to the northwest, about a mile and a half north of Williamstown.

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Interment of a "Celestial."

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.

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Election Incidents at Intervening Scores of Years.

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.

At the presidential election of 1864-the Lincoln-McClellan campaign -a voter in Sugar Ridge township, a day laborer who did not want his employers to know how he voted, and being closely watched, in order to elude them, after having been presented a ticket, absented himself from the polling place until near the middle of the day, when, on returning, seeing that the coast was not yet clear for his approach, he again retired. At a late hour, just before the close of the polls in the evening, when there were but few electors upon the ground, he again appeared, with folded ballot in hand, walked hurriedly up to the window, deposited it, unmolested by his censors, who had gone to their homes.

It will be remembered by the older class of readers that the Lincoln ballots were printed on white paper and the McClellan ballots on tinted paper. The one presented to the inspector by this elector was in white. In privacy he had folded a tinted (McClellan) ticket within the white (Lincoln) ticket, first erasing with pencil all the print on the outside sheet.

When this ballot was drawn from the box and opened by the inspector the question was raised as to whether it should be counted. The board of judges decided- it valid, with no dissenting voice, on the ground that there was nothing in the statutes of Indiana prohibiting an elector from folding or enclosing his ballot inside of a blank sheet of paper, the erasures on the outside slip having made it practically a blank.

At the spring election of 1884, in Harrison township, the inspector drew from the ballot-box, while making the count, a grocery bill, or statement of account, which a voter had deposited by mistake, having, doubtless, had it in his vest pocket along with his ticket on going to the polls. These three incidents occurred at intervals of just twenty years.

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A Gruesome and Startling Find.

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.

Taylor was a bachelor, aged 63 years, who had lived in Greene county the greater part of his life, was in good financial circumstances, and generally well respected.

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Phenomenal Growths in Vegetation.

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.

In the fall of 1878, Lewis F. Ambrose, a resident of Center Point, harvested one hundred and two bushels of sweet potatoes from sixty square rods of ground-at the rate of two hundred and seventy two bushels to the acre.

Abram Gephart, a German farmer of Harrison township, placed on exhibition at the grocery store of Long & Hyatt, at Clay City, in the fall of 1878, a mammoth pumpkin measuring five feet ten inches the longer way and four feet seven inches the shorter way, and weighing eighty-seven pounds.

In the season of 1882, George W. Ellenberger produced a variety of beans in his garden at Middlebury, which grew pods twelve inches in length.

The first of September, 1882, there was placed on exhibition at the Co-operative Store, Clay City, six peaches weighing fifty-five ounces, a fraction more than an average of nine ounces, which were produced by Grandmother Bunn, on her home lot, at Middlebury.

S. A. Edmonson, a pioneer farmer in the south part of the county, produced in his crop of sweet potatoes, in the fall of 1882, a number of specimens weighing from five to seven pounds each.

In the fall of 1889, Lawrence White produced in his corner garden at Middlebury a red beet weighing something more than eleven pounds, which measured twenty-four inches in circumference, which was placed on exhibition at the Reporter office, Clay City, on the 27th day of October.

At the Clay City Industrial Fair, held the last week in September, 1882, P. G. Vanhorn exhibited a monster home-grown pumpkin measuring five feet in circumference; Dr. C. H. Wolf exhibited a potato weighing five pounds and a red beet weighing eleven pounds, both of which were produced on the Burkhart place, four miles northeast of Clay City; John W. White showed an onion sixteen and a half inches in circumference, and William Steuernagel a stalk of corn nineteen feet high, on which. neither Judge Smiley, of Green Castle, nor Joe Barnes, of Jasonville, could reach the ear. And the knottiest freak specimen in vegetation produced anywhere or at any time was a radish exhibited at this fair by Mrs. Susan Travis, grown in the family garden at Middlebury, which was less than the average size and tied in a knot just as completely and perfectly as was ever a knot tied in rope or cord by hand. This radish was from three to four inches in length, with the knot about half way between the top and the point of the root.

In the summer of 1879, John Campbell, near Bowling Green, in his first crop of Chinese sugarcane, or sorghum, found a stalk measuring seventeen feet six inches in height and six inches in circumference near the ground.

The Terre Haute Express said in the late fall of 1890 that a radish had been sent to that office produced on the Joseph Somers place, near Staunton, which weighed nineteen pounds, was two feet six inches in length and twenty-three inches in circumference.

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First Wagons in the County.

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.

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Four Saloons Preferable to One Church.
In the month of November, 1897, a theological discussion of a week's duration was held at Staunton, between Rev. F. W. Roelfing, pastor of the Lutheran church at that place, and Rev. Isaac Grandy, Universalist, of Indianapolis, who was then preaching there occasionally with the view to organizing a church. During the course of the debate Roelfing made the declaration that he would rather see two saloons come into the town than to see a Universalist church organized there. When twitted about this rash declaration on a subsequent day of the discussion, by his opponent, and asked whether he really meant it, Roelfing replied that he did and that he would not only reiterate it, but emphasize it by the declaration that he would "go it two better" and say four saloons, in approval of which a good brother orthodox minister present shouted lustily "Amen !"

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An Office and a Wife on the Same Day.

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.

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Lucky Find in a Big Drift.

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.


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