Four Hundred Remniscenes., Clay County, Indiana Page 3
From: A History of Clay County, Indiana
By: William Travis (of Middlebury)
The Lewis Publishing Company
New York - Chicago 1909

Pathetic Fatality of a Young Mother and Infant Child.

In the spring of 1862, John D. Walker moved his family from Owen county to Cloverland station, on the Vandalia Railroad, six miles west of Brazil. Walker was a carpenter and cabinet-maker, and occupied the original station building, standing immediately on the north side of the track, both as residence and shop. By an understanding between the father and the mother one had charge of their two small children during the forenoon and the other during the afternoon of each succeeding day, to protect them from the dangers attending their exposure to trains running over the road. On the afternoon of the 16th day of May, the mother on duty watching over the children, momentarily unthoughtful of her charge, startled by the shrill whistle of an approaching fast train, ran hurriedly out and seeing her younger, twenty-seven months old child sitting between the iron rails at play, rushed frantically upon the track and, while in the attitude of seizing the child, was struck by the locomotive, which instantly killed both mother and child. Before her marriage, in 1857, Mrs. Walker was Miss Mary J. Law, residing near Lancaster, Owen county, sister of ex-Treasurer Marmaduke Law, of Clay county.

A Fortieth Wedding Anniversary.

The fortieth wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Eli Cooprider was appropriately celebrated Thursday, May 24, 1906, at the family residence, at Clay City. Relatives and friends assembled with baskets well filled and dinner was served the party on the lawn, on long tables improvised for the occasion. Mr. Cooprider being a veteran of the Civil war, among the guests present were twelve fellow-soldiers, six of whom were members of the same regiment with himthe Fifty-ninth Indiana. The guests present and participating in the welcome and hospitality of the host and hostess-men, women and children-membered nearly one hundred. After dinner, Rev. C. W. Whitman, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church, delivered an interesting talk and was followed by S. A. Edmonson, the oldest surviving pioneer in the south part of the county, and lifelong associate and friend of the Cooprider family. The party was photographed by Miss Frye,

Two Atrocious Uxoricides.

In the year 1857, two most atrocious wife murders were committed on territory adjacent to Clay county-one in Owen, the other in Putnam county. On the 24th day of February, Adam Kiefaber assaulted and killed his wife with an ax at the family home, in Marion township, about a mile and a quarter southeast of Patricksburg, on what was afterward known as the Beecher place. He then committed suicide by shooting himself. This double tragedy was supposed to have been perpetrated in a desperate fit of jealousy bordering upon dementia, done in the presence of the family.

On the loth day of April, just three weeks after their marriage, Alexander Mullinix killed his wife by the use of the fire-shovel as the weapon of death, at their home, near Manhattan, for the reason that she persisted in her privilege and desire to join the church. The cause of the State of Indiana versus Alexander Mullinix, instituted in the Putnam circuit court, was vented to Clay county and the accused tried, convicted and sentenced for a term of years within the year that the crime was committed.

First Teachers and Schools in South End of the County.

In giving his recollections of primitive times' and experiences in his school boy days, S. A. Edmonson says that the three first schools in Harrison township (which then comprised all the territory of Lewis township) were taught by Zachariah Denny, Hugh Kane and Joseph Wiles. Denny taught in a cabin which stood on the west side of the sand hill, near the plesent residence of John Schlegel, formerly that of George W. Wiltse; Kane taught in one of the rooms of a double log house occupied by James White, grandfather of ex-County Treasurer John W. White, which stood by the roadside, near the old-time spring, less than half a mile south of the brick house on the Welty place, and Wiles, in a cabin built for school purposes on ground now included within Levi L. Johnson's orchard. Wiles was Robert Baber's wife's brother, and Baber's boys, though five miles away, attended this school, making the round trip every day across Eel river and through the dense forest of the bottoms. That they might not lose the trail, trees were blazed all the way through the timber to the schoolhouse. Wiles had one besetting weakness as a teacher; he would go to sleep every day, and on waking up would lay hold upon the ever ready "rod of correction" and proceed to flog all the larger pupils for their having been too noisy. At one time, however, instead of using the "birch" on young Edmonson and one of the girls about his age, he called them up to the wall, where there was a large auger hole in one of the logs, into which he bade them each stick one finger, and between them he wedged in the butt end of his rod and while thus pinned to the wall they were made to kiss each other over the rod. In the school taught by Hugh Kane there was a grown girl named Jane Griffith, to whom he became ardently attached, notwithstanding he was a married man, and as the sequence to the attachment, which was reciprocal, they eloped when the school closed. After the lapse of some time she returned without her teacher, wiser than when she left.

A Pioneer Frozen to Death.

"Uncle Ben Phipps," familiarly so known in pioneer times, the father of Sampson and William Phipps, who lived on what is now the Henry R. Edmonson place, in Harrison township, was frozen to death one night in the winter of 1840, on the present John W. Sutton place, when intoxicated and trying to find his way home from New Brunswick, a distance of a mile and a half. When found the following morning his body lay within a quarter of a mile of his home. He was known to have as much as $500 in cash on his person, while at Brunswick, none of which was found with his body. It was generally believed that he had buried or otherwise hidden it along the trail, but no part of it was ever recovered, though frequent searches were made for it. With this money Phipps intended to enter a whole section of land. If not the prevailing habit, it was no unusual thing, at that day, to bury surplus money until needed for use. There were no banks of deposit nor iron safes then. Residents in this locality still adhere to the belief that this $5oo still lies concealed somewhere alongside the old Brunswick trail named.

A Case at Law Without a Precedent.

There was tried in the Clay circuit court, in the month of October, 1907, a case without a precedent in the courts of the county, entitled Haltom versus Weber. On the 27th day of January, 1907, Willard McIntyre shot and killed William Haltom in George Weber 's saloon, at Bowling Green. The aggrieved widow filed suit against Weber for damages in the sum of $2,000, alleging defendant's responsibility for the loss of her husband's affections and support, on the ground that he had sold to McIntyre the intoxicants under the influence of which he had taken the life of her husband.

This was the first instance in the history of the county of an injured citizen's appealing to the courts for a ruling holding the seller responsible for crimes and damages perpetrated under the influence of intoxicating liquors. After deliberating several hours the jury returned a sealed verdict in favor of the defendant. The jury in the case were: James McClain, Daniel Clingerman, Wesley Shaw, Perry Zenor, Joseph Crooks, James F. Modesitt, William H. Downing, Joseph D. Hoch, John W. Winn, James Ellis, George Leachman, John Murphy.

An Occurrence Peculiar and Pathetic.

In the latter part of the month of November, 1882, a Tandalia piledriver was employed some days by the Terre Haute & Southeastern Company on construction work, the operating crew making Clay City their headquarters during the time. The engineer in charge was John Cromwell, Jr., of Indianapolis, son of John Cromwell, a farmer near Reelsville, who was a native of Clay county. The son had then been railroading several years. The father, becoming solicitous about his welfare, because of the numerous victims of wrecks and accidents, went to Indianapolis, purposely, on the first day of December, just after the young man's return from Clay City to his regular run, to persuade him to give up the hazardous work of railroading and live with him on the farm. At a later hour in the day, after the father had departed on his return home, the son was caught in a wreck in the yards at Indianapolis and scalded to death.

Mintage of Spurious Coins.

William Patton and William Stutzman were contractors on the excavation of the State ditch cut in 1854 for the drainage and reclamation of swamp lands in Eel river and Big Creek bottoms. Patton established his headquarters and base of operations on an elevation near the line of the ditch, about two miles northwest of Middlebury; Stutzman chose to locate on the uplands about a mile east of the work, on the old Joseph Griffith place, now a part of the John H. Horton lands, near the Edmonton place. They paid their employes and made their purchases, largely, with hard money, both gold and silver. During the time of their encampment and operations they repeatedly entertained callers who were known only to themselves, som.e of whom, ostensibly, at least, were buyers of furs, for which they exchanged the same kind of currency as that handled by the contractors. Later on the thinking, observant resident population became suspicious that at least a part of the cash which the contractors were distributing was made to order, either by themselves or by those with whom they maintained traffic relations. But as their money passed current in employment of home labor and increased trade in home products, no one felt aggrieved. But after the completion of their contracts and the abandonment of their encampments, convincing tangible evidence developed of their having operated spurious mints in seclusion, Patton having turned out the silver and Stutzman the gold coins. On and round about the "Patton Knoll," in later years, were found, at different times, quarters and half dollars pronounced counterfeit by detection, while on the Griffith place, where Stutzman was located, were found a number of well executed imitations of $2.50 gold coins. Subsequently, William Doak, a resident of Harrison township, accused of handling and circulating these coins, of which he was found in possession, was convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of years. There are yet a few specimens of this mintage in possession of Harrison township people as relics and reminders of events of a half century ago. Charles M. Cooprider has among his collection of curios two half-dollars of this coinage bearing date 1854. Only half-dollars seem to have been produced at this point, as no other denominations have been found. The imprint upon the spurious coins is passably good, but they are of a dull, leaden hue, lacking uniformity in thickness and the ring of the genuine metal. There are, doubtless, still others imbedded within the surface soil of the knoll, several specimens having been turned up in the cultivation of corn within the past year.

Eight Feet Nine Inches of Inventory.

John Murbarger came to Clay county from Tuscarawas county, Ohio, in 185o, and purchased land in the northwest part of Washington township, where the family lived for ten years in a log house eighteen by twenty feet, the clapboard roof weighted and held on with poles, a ladder standing in one corner of the room as the means of access to the sleeping apartment in the attic.

Though in limited circumstances on starting, with a large family dependent upon him, as Murbarger was a successful farmer, an economist and financier, he accumulated considerable property and became known throughout an extended circle of acquaintances as a man having always at hand ready means for necessities and emergencies. Following his death, which took place March 12, 1870, his eldest son, William Murbarger, was appointed administrator, whose inventory of the father's personal property, closely written, preparatory to disposing of the same, and as filed with the clerk of the court, measured eight feet and nine inches in length.

Phenomenal Accidental Death.

Among the pioneer preachers in the extreme southwest part of the county, more than half a century ago, was Richard Wright, of the Christian church, who lived on the Greene county line, on what has long been known as the Joe Barnes place, half a mile north of Jasonville, and who lost his life by a most phenomenal accident. Wright was also a farmer and neighborhood blacksmith, having a shop on the farm. His stepson, in coming in one day from a squirrel hunt, asked the father to dislodge a bullet from his gun-barrel, which he had not been able to force all the way down, After trying by various arts to move the ball, he took off the stock, unbreeched the barrel, poured water into it and laid it across the fire of his forge, and while it was heating he put his ear to the muzzle to hear whether it was "frying," when the ball was discharged, killing him instantly.

First Brick Chimney and Glass Window.

The home of Michael Luther, one of the earliest pioneers on the middle course of Eel river, was known in the primitive days of the county's history as "the house with the brick chimney and the glass window." This house, which was built as early as 1827, stood on the south side of the bend of the stream, about a mile below the Rhodes Bluff, at a point very near the south end of the new iron wagon bridge. It was then the only log house in the Eel river country, between Webster's mill, on the upper course of the river, in Putnam county, and awley's mill at the mouth of Splunge creek, a distance of twenty-five miles, which had a chimney made of brick and glass in the window. The chimney of the pioneer habitation was built of sticks split out of a cut of timber, daubed both inside and outside with mud, and the window spaces covered, or closed, with paper greased to render it partly transparent.

Michael Luther was a native of North Carolina, born in 1794, who came here very soon after the organization of the county, and he died January 27, 1851, in his fifty-seventh year.

Treating at School With Turnips.

Back in the days when it was the practice to bar the door of the primitive schoolhouse against the teacher, to exact the promise of a holiday treat; the pupils of the Washington school, in Perry township, sought by this conventional means to bring to terms their teacher, Nelson H. Wyatt, in the winter, of 1862-'63. After having been excluded from the school room for two or three days, with no indications of relenting on the part of the big boys and girls, Wyatt expressed himself ready to yield to their demand if they would open the door and let him in, which they refused to do before seeing him come to the house with a sack of apples upon his shoulder. Again he retired, leaving his pupils in possession, but an hour or, two later, with the sack on his shoulder, reappeared upon the scene, when the door was unbarred and he regained possession, placing on the floor by the side of his desk a two-bushel sack full of medium-sized round turnips.

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