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
First Burial in Brazil Cemetery.
In the traditional history of the north end of the county it is said that in 1838 there stood a log cabin on the north side of the National road, a few rods east of the present Brazil water works, at a point which is now the southeast corner of the old cemetery, in which lived at that time a blacksmith named Hempstead, with his aged mother. While alone one day Mrs. Hempstead's clothing caught fire from the old fashioned chimney hearth, burning her to death. She was buried near the cabin, which was the beginning of this cemetery, where Brazil people buried their departed for nearly half a century, up to the time of the dedication of Cottage Hill cemetery, in 1876. This brief reminiscence is given on the authority of Eli Hendrix, deceased, and is confirmed in the main by Solomon Myers, excepting as to name, which he says was Toler, and not Hempstead, and, furthermore, that the blacksmith shop stood on the north side, at corner of cemetery, and the cabin on the south side of National road, on the ground now occupied by the brewery plant.
In the early summer of 1906 the Mace mill, at Center Point, cut the first and only lumber ever made in the county from home grown pine timber. The two trees from which this lumber was cut grew on the Zeno Hinshaw farm, lying immediately to the south of the town, at an earlier day the Calvin Presnell place, where they had been planted as ornaments fifty years before. They were two feet in diameter and made a thousand feet of lumber.
Half a century ago, when there were no banks nor money safes outside of the cities and commercial centers, Esau Presnell, who was merchandising at Center Point, adopted a novel way of transmitting his cash to bank at Terre Haute. At that time Terre Haute was the, wheat market for Clay and Owen counties, much of which was hauled by way of Center Point. Presnell would fold and tie up his paper money in a piece of coarse brown wrapping paper, then watch for a farmer with a load of wheat, accost him as he came along and ask him whether he would carry with him a parcel of money, take it to McKeen's bank and bring to him the certificate of deposit on his return home. This he practiced for several years without the loss of a dollar. He acted upon the presumption that all farmers of that day were honest and trustworthy.
Lot Loving, a resident of Washington township, who was sheriff of the county from 1851 to 1855, is represented to have been a man of peculiarities, both physical and mental. Of stout, heavy build and powerful muscular development, his weight was singularly disproportionate to his height. It was a hobby with him, by way of diversion and amusement for those collected about him, that no man could turn him on the floor. As a condition imposed by the sheriff, every acceptance of his challenge meant the drinks for the party, to be paid for by the loser in the play. Then he would lie down on his back, arms folded, and offer no demonstrations of resistance to the attempt to turn him over, but stick to the floor as immovably as though he had been waxed to it for the occasion. And, it is said, no one ever did succeed in turning him.
Traditionally, a farm suburban to Clay City lies in part over a silver mine. The last of the lone Indians to visit this locality after his tribe had vacated the territory and gone farther westward, was "Long Loy," familiarly so known to the pioneer whites. On his return trips "Long Loy" always stopped with James Phipps, who then owned and occupied this land. On one of his occasional visits "Long Loy" revealed to Phipps that there were rich treasures of silver under his farm and that on his next succeeding visit he would show him the spot from which the silver could be reached at the depth of thirty feet. But soon thereafter "Long Loy" was gathered to his fathers and did not return. Impressed with what "Long Loy" had told him and believing that the white metal was to be found in paying quantities on his premises, Phipps selected a site, some years later, and made an excavation of the designated depth, but was not rewarded with the finding of the coveted treasure. This land is now the property of the Moody family, lying in the northeast corner of the crossing, one mile south of the central part of Clay City.
In the year 1855, Benjamin Adkins, residing a mile and a half northeast of Middlebury, now on the southeast border of Clay City, having a bright new copper cent of the original size and mintage, drilled a hole through the middle of it by the use of a pegging awl, through which a string was drawn and the coin suspended about the neck of his one year old son William, the cent bearing the date 1854, corresponding with the year of the child's birth. At some time during the same summer the child lost the coin while playing about the yard. Though repeated diligent searches were made by the family, it was not found. Fifty two years afterward, the son having grown up, married and gone to Arkansas, the house dog, while pursuing a mole, dug up the ground in the yard and brought to the surface the long lost cent, to the great surprise of Mr. Adkins, who was standing near by watching the dog. The coin was cleaned and burnished and with an account of the finding was sent to the son, who is now a minister in the Swedenborgian church, residing at Brentwood, Washington county, Arkansas.
In 1852 or 1853, there came to Brazil from Eastern Pennsylvania a man who gave his name as Byron Lawrence. Though on a prospecting tour to the West, Brazil was not his objective point. In fact, at that time, Brazil, and even Clay county, were unknown to the country at large. Byron Lawrence possessed no commanding nor striking exterior, and would have made no impressions on the people of the place by which to be remembered had it not been for his pretensions as a student of geology. Being attracted by the surface indications of coal and other valuable deposits, he "stopped over," and after rambling about, almost unnoticed by the Brazilians, he began talking about valuable beds of coal, fire clay, kaolin, etc., underlying their then unpretentious village and the surrounding country. He announced several public meetings at which he desired to instruct and interest his hearers in a proposed attempt at developing the vast wealth underlying their feet, but the average Brazilian and Clay countian was then too much engrossed in the prospective accumulation of fortunes out of the timber upon the surface to invest anything in reducing to a practical test the wild speculation of Byron Lawrence. In fact, he was considered crazy. Not more than a dozen or so could be induced to go out to hear him speak. But he continued prospecting and shipping to the East specimens of his discoveries. So little confidence had the business men of the place in his theories that they charged him a full round price for all the boxes lie procured from them in which to make his shipments. After a season he left to return to Philadelphia, saying that he would be back at the proper time to initiate active movements and make startling developments. But Byron Lawrence never returned to unfold to the incredulous people his scientific theory, having died soon after reaching Philadelphia.
The subsequent developments in the geological resources of Clay county, commencing at Brazil, demonstrated that Byron Lawrence was not .a fool, nor a fanatic, but that he was a third of a century in advance of the backwoodsman of Indiana. Clay county, especially Brazil, owes a debt of gratitude to the unostentatious Pennsylvanian who came unbidden, even unweleomed, to unfold and advertise to the world the inestimable and inexhaustible wealth previously unthought of and but trodden under foot. Could Byron Lawrence return his pathway would be strewn with congratulations and ovations.
On the morning of the 29th of April, 1879, the family of William H. Long, residing on the south side of the
town of Middlebury, soon after rising, noticed a pile of fresh ground thrown up under a peach tree in the northeast
corner of the yard in front of the house, which was in part planted in fruit trees. On going to the spot they found
an excavation from three and a half to four feet in depth, at the bottom of which was the imprint of an iron pot,
so perfect that the three indentations made by the legs of the vessel were plainly and unmistakably discernible.
The work had been done at some time during the night without attracting the attention of the family, excepting
that the house dog had barked more than usual. Tracks were plainly visible in the excavated soil and sand and were
traced through an adjacent pasture southward as far as Modrell & Johns' mill, on the Kress place, where the
shovels had been taken with which the work was done, afterward returned to their places, on which were found flecks
of the ground in which they had been used. At the mill the trail of the party of three men, as supposed, became
so indistinct as to be no longer traceable.