History of Rushville, Indiana (Part 1)
From: Centennian History of Rush County, Indiana
Edited by: A. L. Gary and E. B. Thomas
Historical Publishing Company
RUSHVILLE; THE COUNTY SEAT
Beautiful for location, situated in the midst of a region as fair and fertile as any in the Union, affording
to its citizens the culture and comfort that exalt and embellish civilized life, the city of Rushville has ever
been regarded as one of the particularly favored county seat towns of Indiana. Into its social, industrial and
commercial life and living the most substantial elements enter and in the community thus formed there is a wholesome,
friendly "neighborliness" that impresses all and offers unmistakable evidence of the sterling qualities
that underlie the general social structure. Near enough to the state capital to enjoy the advantage of this proximity
and yet far enough away not to suffer greatly the detraction of the larger city's "pulling power," it
also enjoys the neighborhood of attractive and interesting county seat towns roundabout, New Castle, Connersville,
Brookville, Greensburg, Shelbyville and Greenfield having from the days of the beginning of settlement in this
section of the state been neighbors above reproach, and throughout all this region there has been from the first
a sort of general community of interest that is perhaps not equalled in any similar group of cities in the country.
Settled by a sterling type of pioneers, men of the real pioneer breed, in the days when to make a town in Indiana
meant a struggle with the forest wilderness such as the present generation hardly can understand. much less appreciate,
the town has had a steady and substantial growth and bids fair to continue the same wholesome progress during the
generations yet to come. Now entering the second century of its existence, its future is promising and it faces
that future full of hope and determination.
A BIT OF MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION
The schools of Rushville are admirably equipped and are carried on in buildings of modern construction, there being five such buildings, the high school, the Graham annex, the Jackson, the Havens and the Washington, the latter a school for colored children. There is besides a parochial school, conducted by the Sisters of St. Francis, for the children of St. Mary's (Catholic) parish. The public library, which occupies excellent quarters on the ground floor of the court house, is made a subject of special mention elsewhere and more detailed mention of the schools is made in the chapter on Schools of Rush County. The Rush County Farmers' Association also has quarters in the court house and a commodious assembly room in that edifice offers ample accommodation for meetings of this association and for other public meetings There are twelve churches in the city, four Baptist - one of which is for the colored persons of that faith - a Catholic church, a Christian church, the Church of God, two Methodist Episcopal churches - one of which is for colored persons - a Presbyterian church, a United Presbyterian church, a United Brethren church and a local branch of the Salvation Army. Besides the City park and Riverside park a baseball park is maintained. The county infirmary is a mile and a half east of the city, just on beyond the cemetery. The fraternal spirit of the community is kept aflame by numerous organizations of a fraternal character, including the American Legion, the Boy Scouts, the Eagles, the Elks, the Freemasons, the Grand Army of the Republic, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Maccabees, the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America and the Red Men. There are also three colored lodges. Clubs and societies of one sort and another contribute to social diversion.
IN THE DAYS OF THE BEGINNING
Following is the official entry of the proceedings of the board of commissioners appointed by the legislative
enabling act which operated in the erection of Rush county, bearing on the location of the county seat: "At
a called meeting of the honorable board of Rush county commissioners in and for the county of Rush and state of
Indiana begun and held at the house of Wm. B. Laughlin in the aforesaid county on Monday the 17th day of June,
1822, present Amz [Amaziah] Morgan, Jehu Perkins and John Julian, the board received the report of the commissioners
appointed to locate the seat of justice in and for the county of Rush. The board appointed Conrad Sailor agent
in and for the county of Rush." Under entry as of the same date the board allowed the following bills for
services rendered by individuals in locating the seat of justice: Robert Luce, $21; Samuel Jack, $37; James Delaney,
$24. Among the entries relating to the proceedings of the board on the following day (June 18) is noted the order
of the board "that Conrad Sailor, agent in and for the county of Rush, proceed to lay off not less than 150
lots nor more than 200 in the site fixed by the state commission for the seat of justice in said county in which
he shall place the public square on or near the line dividing sections 5 and 6 in town 13 north, and range 10 east,
which he shall advertise the sale of said lots at least thirty days previous to the day of sale in the paper published
at Indianapolis and also the paper published at Brookville; sale to commence on the 29th day of July next, on the
following terms: The sum to be paid in three equal installments, one third in one year from the date, the second
in two years from the date and the third in three years; the town to be known by the name of Rushville; the plan
of said town shall be after the form of the town of Connersville, with making an additional street to pass the
THE NUCLEUS OF THE TOWN IN THE WOODS
Perhaps the determining factor in the location of the county seat on the site selected by the commissioners
was the fact that this site was in almost the exact geographical center of the county on the chief stream flowing
through this section, for in the absence of railroads or any thoughts of the same rivers controlled the tide of
immigration and fixed the centers of settlement in the new country. But there was another factor that perhaps was
equally determining and that was the fact that the host of the commissioners on the day they met to decide the
location of the county seat was the most influential individual force in the new community, the versatile William
B. Laughlin, who must always be regarded as "the father of Rushville." Mr. Laughlin had made the Government
survey of this territory and in 1820 had moved over here from Franklin county, and had entered a considerable tract
of land on the Big Flat Rock covering the present site of the city of Rushville, and had erected a little mill
on the south bank of the river, damming the stream at about the point where the south bridge now spans the river.
When it came time to locate the county seat he made an offer to the commissioners to donate seventy five acres
of his land for such location, the commissioners met at his house to consider the matter, the proposition was accepted
and the site of the city of Rushville was then and there determined and on the following day, as above set out,
Conrad Sailor was instructed to plat the town. In passing, and as a sidelight on the situation in the days of the
beginning of the community here, it must be recorded that the Laughlin mill above referred to was put out of commission
two or three years later by the excited people of the pioneer community who attributed an epidemic of "malarial
fever" in the new village to the stagnant water backed up by the mill dam, and in their fear of conditions
growing worse, destroyed the dam and for the time being rendered useless the mill that had been sparing them the
long trip to Connersville for their milling.
While on the topic of "fathers," it is interesting to note what an older chronicle has to say of another man who in his generation exerted a wholesome influence upon the pioneer community Regarding Amaziah Morgan, who has been noted above as one of the "fathers," Doctor Arnold wrote as follows: "I must notice a few of our early political leaders. Amaziah Morgan was the most distinguished and able of these. He was one of the first county commissioners, and by his energy and executive ability did much to organize and put in motion the machinery of county business. He was really a great man, fully meeting the requirements of those days, and representing the wishes, wants and feelings of his constituents. He had a strong, practical mind with all the qualities necessary for a leader in pioneer life. Brave, hospitable, generous and public spirited, he possessed a rough, earnest eloquence that produced a powerful influence on his auditors, and gave him a wonderful popularity and influence. He served as commissioner and then resigned, and was elected the first representative of Rush county. He served in this office two years and was then elected to the state senate, serving about nine or ten years. During this time he was unquestionably the most able and popular politician of our county. He was one of the leading spirits of the senate. and his influence was felt all over the state. Nature had been generous to him both physically and mentally. He was tall and erect, with well cut features, a full and clear black eye, alike capable of expressing the fiercest passion or the most tender emotion. A strong clear voice, an earnest delivery and an imposing presence gave additional force to his impassioned utterances. At home he was careless in his attire, generally wearing limey pantaloons, a buckskin hunting shirt with a belt around his waist, a soft hat or coonskin cap, no boots or shoes on his feet; with his long rifle on his shoulder, he looked the genuine backwoodsman, ever ready to help raise a house or roll the logs for his neighbors and to bear his part in the shooting matches then so popular. General Morgan was succeeded as representative by William Newell, an honorable and competent man, who earnestly attended to the duties of his office. Then came Charles H. Test, an able lawyer; then Adam Conde, a man of integrity and strong common sense; William S. Bussell, a dashing Kentuckian; William J Brown, a sharp lawyer, Marinus Willet, another lawyer, and then Jesse Morgan, a plain, quiet, honest farmer, who always did his duty to the best of his ability and possessed the full confidence of the country. Next came Samuel Bigger, afterward the governor of the state; William P. Rush, a kindhearted, reckless fellow; Dr. William Frame, Benjamin F. Reeve, Col. Alfred Posey, George B. Tingley, Joseph Lowe, Thomas Wooster, Joseph Peck, Samuel Barret, John M. Huddleson, William C Robinson, Osman Robinson, Dr. Jefferson Helm, P. A. Hackleman, Robert S. Cox, A. W. Hubbard, George C. Clark, D. M. Stewart, William S. Hall and others who represented Rush county in the legislature."
GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOWN
The publication of the order of sale of lots in the new county seat attracted a considerable number of prospective buyers to the site at Laughlin's mill on July 29, 1822. and the spirited character of the bidding for what were regarded as the choice lots surrounding the "public square" indicated the confidence the buyers had in the future of the budding metropolis in the woods. It was not long after the sale until the owners of the lots appeared stripped and accoutered for the battle with the wilderness and a clearing was quickly made in which cabins began to spring up as by magic, each settler helping his fellow in the "rollin's" and "raisin's," the new town becoming quite a settlement even in the first year of its origin. Among those who thus laid the foundations of the town are found the names of Stephen Sims, John and Samuel Alley, William Hart, Robert Thompson (whose house on the west side of Main street was used as court house, county clerk's office and school house until separate quarters had been secured for the operation of these public functions), Job and Reu Pugh, Dr. Horatio G. Sexton, Joseph Nichols, Charles Veeder, Alfred, Daniel and George Lauman, Benjamin Sailors, Joseph Chapman, Donovan Groves, Paul Randall, Daniel Boyce, Nathaniel Marks, Onias Jackson, Randolph Rutherford, Joseph Thrasher, Isaac Boblett, George W. Brann, William Clum, Jonathan Williams, William Frame, George Stretch, Isaac Garver, John McPike, Henry Beckwith, Charles H. Test and Jesse O'Neil. A widow of the name of Webb also was one of the early residents. It is said that the first store was opened by a Pittsburgher, of the name of Patterson. William Hart put up a two story log house and opened in it the first tavern, but presently sold it to Charles H. Test, later circuit judge, who used it as a residence. Reu Pugh also quite early put up a pretentious log house which he used as a tavern and as a general store, at the same time operating a tannery His brother, Job Pugh, served as county recorder from 1829 to 1847. In Deed Record Q in the office of the county recorder, under date of September 1, 1847, on page 71 in the middle of the sixth line from the bottom, a word stops with a blot, the writing having begun to waver a half dozen words back. The record is finished in the writing of Finley Bigger, who succeeded Pugh as recorder, and on the margin of the page there is this notation: "Job Pugh, recorder of Rush county, was stricken with paralysis at the blot on this page." Charles Veeder was the first postmaster of the ambitious village and Doctor Laughlin taught the first school, later opening an academy for the advanced pupils Among other early merchants the names of Major Newell, W. Cleary & Company and Thomas Wooster are mentioned in the older chronicles. Jack Irvin was the first village tailor, Thomas Pugh the hatter, Henry Beckwith the wagon maker and Joseph Thrasher and Hiram Bell the blacksmiths, the early needs of the new community thus being amply provided for along all lines. The first houses were erected on the streets surrounding the public square and up and downs Main street for a square either way, with a few facing the river between Main and Morgan streets. There was no false "boom" to stimulate a rapid growth of the town, and it was long before the extensions of the chief streets were sufficiently well populated to bear other than the names of the roads into which they merged, even as late as the '40s the extension of North Main street being known as the Knightstown road, the extension of South Main the Brookville road, the extension of Noble (First) the Shelbyville road, Ruth (Second) the Connersville road, Elizabeth (Third) the Indianapolis road, and so on. One of the "landmarks" in the town was the "white corner" (present Grand Hotel), erected by Joseph Hamilton, who became a resident about 1830 and who at different times kept store at the three corners to the south and west of the public square and was keeping tavern at the "white corner" when he died. Other merchants who got a comparatively early start in the village were George Hibben, Lowry & Hibben, Hibben & Flinn, Maddux & Havens, Hibben & Mauzy, William Mauzy & Company. The advertising columns of a copy of the Rushville Whig, date of November 15, 1844, carry business announcements of L. & T. Maddux, A F Windeler & Co., G. & J. S. Hibben, Posey & Flinn, A. S. Lakin and F. & W. Crawford; lawyers "cards" were carried by R. S. Cox & P. A. Hackleman, R. D. Logan and Finley Bigger, while H. G. & M. Sexton announced themselves as practicing physicians and druggists. The strictly agricultural character of the surrounding country was not such as to attract manufacturers and artisans, the village blacksmith, the wagon maker, the cabinet maker and the shoemaker being about all the manufacturers required in addition to the miller and the tanner. In addition to the pioneer flour mill a sawmill presently was established and frame houses began to take the places of the log houses which constituted the village's first dwellings, the old Carmichael mill at the foot of Morgan street, erected in 1840 by a company, composed of Harvey W. Carr, Joseph Nichols, Joseph McPike and Dr. William Frame being the first pretentious industrial enterprise. In 1856 Col. Alfred Posey built a distillery. There was no bank until 1857, when the Rushville branch of the old Indiana State Bank was established, the predecessor of the Rushville National Bank In 1878 a Cincinnati concern erected an artificial gas plant and laid nine miles of mains, which with gradual extension supplied the town with lighting facilities until superseded by natural gas in the early '90s. Natural gas is still supplied to the city, as it is to most parts of the county, scores of producing wells having been developed hereabout, but of recent years the pressure has been insufficient to supply the demand, during real cold weather, and coal as a fuel for healing has again come into general use, although gas for cooking and for light heating is still maintained, three companies carrying on a gas business in Rushville. In 1889 the Jenny Company, of Ft. Wayne, erected an electric light plant at Rushville and supplied current until supplanted by the present plant, which, with the water works plant, is under municipal control. The city was somewhat reluctantly dragged into the notion of municipal control of its light and water service, but the wisdom of taking over the business has long since been amply demonstrated. In 1895 an Indianapolis concern was given a contract for a water and light plant and constructed the same, but before it had been in operation a year the company found itself undergoing a receivership and in self protection the city bought the double plant in, issuing bonds for the payment of the same, and has since been operating the plant on a profitable basis. The waterworks plant is a direct pressure system, the water being secured from deep wells, which furnish an apparently inexhaustible supply of most excellent water. Prior to 1881 the town relied upon a volunteer fire department for fire protection, the leading men of the town from the very beginning of the system "doing themselves proud" by taking part in this volunteer service, the equipment of which consisted of a hook and ladder truck and a hand pump. In the year mentioned a steamer was purchased and the present headquarters building was erected, the same also giving quarters for the police department and the front section of the second story serving as a city council room and for the mayor's court. The city treasurer is given quarters at the court house. The present paid fire department consists of a force of five men and is equipped with a steamer, a motor truck and chemical engine and a reserve hose wagon. When the telephone came along in the course of civilization's development Charles H. Bailey put up a local exchange, which besides giving local service, connected Rushville and Carthage. When the Bell people began to absorb local telephone lines Bailey sold out to the big system, which operated the lines until its franchise expired and was not renewed upon its effort to increase rates, whereupon in 1892 the present Co-operative Telephone Company was organized, and has since been carrying on the business, using the automatic system and serving through its exchange villages and farms throughout the county. Long distance service is furnished by the two old companies, the Bel and the Independent. Rushville's slow but substantial growth is indicated by the following census figures: Population in 1850, 742; 1860, 1,434; 1870, 1,696; 1880, 2,515, 1890, 3,475; 1900, 4,541; 1910, 4,925; 1920, 5,498. The city is credited with a per capita wealth of $655, and a per capita surplus of 81.89 in the city treasury. According to the current Indiana "Year Book" the city has a net property valuation of $3,226,400; total receipts, $116,374; total expenditures, $81,097; gross debt, $25,990.95, of which $25,000 is bonded.
GAIN GROWS OUT OF LOSS
The most destructive fire in the history of Rushville occurred on May 4, 1892, when a big furniture factory, a planing mill and several dwellings were destroyed, entailing a loss which at first was regarded as "an irretrievable disaster." But, as in many such instances, the loss in the end proved a gain. The fire was of such magnitude that Indianapolis was appealed to for help and responded with a fire engine and crew, which were of great aid in checking the alarming progress of the flames. Threatened with the loss of these two industries - the Innis-Pearce furniture factory and the Mock & Walker planing mill - one of them the most important industry in the town, citizens co-operated in a movement to raise $50,000 to be devoted to the work of securing factories. At a cost of $23,000 a tract of 106 acres in the west side of town was bought and laid off into lots, with the city park, for which latter feature the city council appropriated the sum of $6,000. The plant was filed on July 5, 1892, and Edwin Payne, John B. Reeve and William A Allen were made trustees for the disposal of the same Lots were sold at $150 each, and were taken by all classes of citizens, sometimes, it is said, at considerable sacrifice, and were allotted to the purchasers by a public "drawing" held at Melodeon hall on August 1 following. Besides meeting the urgent need of the time and increasing the number of factories the movement developed a degree of public spirit that is reflected to this day, the co-operative feeling then aroused still existing in a large measure, a local asset of great value. However, even from the days of the beginning, Rushville has been noted for the public spirit of its citizens and for the large measure of "community of interest" here displayed. This was recognized and commented upon by the venerable Dr. John A. Arnold, who in his day knew the town and county perhaps better than any other, and who in a historical sketch printed in 1879, noted that "Rushville has at this time about 2,500 inhabitants and does more business than any town of the state the same size. Its business men are energetic and at the same time prudent men. Rush county is not excelled in the intelligence, skill and consequent success and wealth of its farming community. This constitutes an important factor in the prosperity of the town. It is growing rapidly. Last year there were some twenty five houses built. This year the number will reach thirty, among these, three fine brick business houses and a number of handsome residences. Its graded school is a first class one as good as can be had under the present school laws. Rushville has nine physicians and seventeen attorneys. It has six dry goods stores, seven grocery and provision stores, three boot and shoe stores, three butcher shops, two jewelry stores, two furniture stores, four drug stores, six saloons, three restaurants, five millinery establishments, two lumber merchants, one book store, two hardware and agricultural implement stores, four livery stables, two hotels, three planing mills, two gristmills, two newspapers, one furniture factory, four saddlery and harness makers, one sawmill, three stove and tin shops, one paint shop, two carriage shops, three blacksmith shops and a large number of mechanics of all kinds. It has eight turnpikes leading to it and two railroads passing through it, so that it has every facility for trade."