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Memoir of David Hoover

Part 2

            It will not be amiss, at this stage of our narrative, to state that when we first settled here, the now State of Indiana was called Indiana Territory, and we belonged to Dearborn county, which embraced all the territory purchased from the Indians at the treaty of Greenville, extending from the mouth of the Kentucky river to Fort Recovery.  The counties of Wayne and Franklin were afterwards formed out of the northern part of this territory. [1] Although Governor Harrison had the appointing power, he gave the people the privilege of choosing their own officers.  An election was accordingly held, when it was found that Peter Fleming, Jeremiah Meek and Aaron Martin were elected Judges, George Hunt, Clerk, and John Turner, Sheriff.  County courts were then held by three associate judges, and county business was done before them.  One of the first courts [2] held in this county, under the Territorial government, convened under the shade of a tree, on the premises then belonging to Richard Rue, Esq., Judge Park presiding and James Noble prosecutor.  In order to show the legal knowledge we backwoodsmen were then in possession of, I will relate the following case.  A boy was indicted for stealing a knife, a traverse jury was empaneled, and took their seats upon a log.  The indictment was read, and, as usual, set out that the offender, with force and arms, did feloniously steal, take, and carry away, etc.  After hearing the case, the jury retired to another log to make up their verdict.  Jeremiah Cox, [3] one of the jurors, and afterwards a member of the convention to frame a Constitution, and of the Legislature, concluded they must find the defendant guilty, but he thought the indictment “was rather too bad for so small an offense.”  I suppose he thought the words “with force and arms” uncalled for, and thought rightly enough, too.

            Some further illustration of our legal knowledge and the spirit of our legislation at this time may be interesting.  Although the Friends constituted a large portion of the inhabitants in this quarter, there were in other parts of the county men in whose craniums the military spirit was pretty strongly developed, before the war of 1812 was declared.  When that came on, this spirit manifested itself in all its rigor.  The Friends were much harassed on account of their refusal to do military duty.  Some were drafted, and had their property sacrificed, and at the next call were again drafted, and fined.  Four young men were thrown into the county jail during the most inclement cold weather; fire was denied them until they should comply; and had it not been for the humane feeling of David F. Sackett, [4] who handed them hot bricks through the grates, they must have suffered severely.  Suits were subsequently brought against the officers for false imprisonment.  The trials were had at Brookville, in Franklin county.  They all recovered damages, but I have every reason to believe that the whole of the damages and costs was paid out of the moneys extorted from others of the Friends.  To cap the climax of absurdity and outrage, the gentlemen officers arrested an old man named Jacob Elliott, and sentenced him to be shot!  But gave him a chance to run away in the dark, they firing off their guns at the same time.  It would fill a considerable volume to give a detailed history of the noble patriots of those days, and of their wisdom and valorous exploits; [5] but this must suffice.

            Connected with this subject, permit me a word respecting my own course.  I think it is well known that from first to last I stood by the Friends like a brother (as I would again do under similar circumstances), and used my influence in their favor; yet from some cause, best known to themselves, I have apparently lost the confidence and friendship of a good number of them.  The most serious charge which has yet reached me, is that I have not got “the true faith,” and not that I have done anything wrong.  Of this I do not complain; but must be permitted to say that their course towards me was rather gratuitous.  I feel confident that they can not in truth say that they have at any time received aught but disinterested friendship from me; and if some of them can reconcile their course toward me with a sense of duty, and of doing by me as I have at all times done by them, I shall therewith be content.

            In 1816 we elected delegates to the convention which formed our late Constitution, and named the State Indiana.  On the third day of February following, I was elected Clerk of Wayne Circuit Court, and by favor of the voters of the county, held the office nearly fourteen years.  I was prevented from serving out my full constitutional term of office, by a deceptive ruling of the Court, which I have no fears will ever be hunted up as a precedent in a similar or any other case.

            I was almost the first man who set foot in this part of Wayne county, and have been an actor in it for more than forty years.  It may not be out of place here for me to say, that I feel conscious I often erred through ignorance, and perhaps through willfulness.  Yet (and with gratitude be it spoken), it has fallen to the lot of few men to retain so long the standing which I think I still have among all classes of my fellow citizens.  I believe it is a privilege conceded to old men to boast of what they have been, and what they have done.  I shall therefore take the liberty of saying, that I have now seven commissions by me, for offices which I have held, besides having had a seat in the Senate of this State for six years.

            I will add, that in the employ and under the direction of John Smith and Jeremiah Cox, I laid off the city of Richmond, did all their clerking, wrote their deeds, etc.  If I recollect rightly, it was first named Smithville, after one of the proprietors; but that name did not give general satisfaction.  Thomas Robbards, James Pegg, and myself, were then chosen to select a name for the place.  Robbards proposed Waterford, Pegg, Plainfield, and I made choice of Richmond, which latter name received the preference of the lot-holders.

            I have some fears that the preceding remarks may be looked upon as betraying the vanity of an old man; but I wish it distinctly understood, that I ascribe the little favors which I have received, more to surrounding circumstances, and the partiality of my friends, than to any qualification or merits in myself.

            There are several other subjects connected with the early history of Wayne county, on which I could dwell at some length.  I could refer to the first dominant party, their arbitrary proceeding in fixing the county seat at Salisbury, the seven years’ war and contention which followed, ending with the final location of the shiretown at Centreville. [6]  But as the rival parties in that contest have mostly left the stage, and the subject is almost forgotten, I think it unnecessary to disturb it.

            A lengthy chapter might be written on the improvements which have been made within the last fifty years in Wayne county (to say nothing of the rest of the world), in the arts and sciences generally, but as I do not feel myself competent to the task, I shall not attempt it. [7]

            And now, in bringing this crude and undigested account of my experience to a close, short as it is, it gives rise to many serious reflections.  When I look back upon the number of those who set out in life with me, full of hope, and who have fallen by the way, and gone to that bourne from whence there is no returning, with not even a rude stone to mark the spot where their mortal remains are deposited, language fails me, and indeed there is no language adequate to the expression of my feelings.  I shall therefore drop the subject, leaving the reader to fill up the blank in his own way.

            In conclusion, let me say a word about my politics and religion.  In politics, I profess to belong to the Jeffersonian school.  I view Thomas Jefferson as decidedly the greatest statesman that America has yet produced.  He was the chief apostle of both Political and Religious Liberty.  My motto is taken from his first Inaugural:  “Equal and exact justice to all men” – and I will add – without calling in question their political or religious faith, country, or color.

            And here I wish it distinctly understood, and remembered, that I stood almost alone in this section of the State, in opposition to our ruinous system of internal improvements, concocted and brought about at the sessions of the Legislature in the years 1835 to 1836; which resulted in the creation of a State debt which the present generation will not see paid; and which has verified the text in the old Book to the very letter, which says that the iniquities of the fathers are visited upon their children to the third and fourth generations.

            As to religion:

                        Happy is he, the only happy man,

                        Who, from choice, does all the good he can.

            “The world is my country, and my religion is to do right.”  I am a firm believer in the Christian religion, though not as lived up to by most of its professors of the present day.  In the language of Jefferson, I look upon the “Christian philosophy as the most sublime and benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man.”  I have no use for the priesthood, nor can I abide the shackles of sectarian dogmas.  I see no necessity for confessions of faith, creeds, forms and ceremonies.  In the most comprehensive sense of the word, I am opposed to all wars, and to slavery; and trust the time is not far distant when they will be numbered among the things that were, and viewed as we now look back upon some of the doings of what we are pleased to style the dark ages.  In the language of Burns:


                        Then let us pray that come it may –

                                    As come it will for a’ that –

                        That sense and worth, o’er a’ the earth,

                                    May bear the gree, and a’ that.

                        For a’ that, and a’ that,

                                    It’s coming yet, for a’ that,

                        That man to man, the world o’er,

                                    Shall brothers be for a’ that.

[1] Wayne county was organized in November, 1810.

[2] The first Court held in Wayne county, as appears from the records, met at the house of Richard Rue, February, 1811.

[3] Many anecdotes are in circulation of the simplicity of mind and character of friend Cox; but he has left the highest character: that of having been a genuine, practical christian.

[4] For several years Recorder of Wayne county.

[6] See Appendix, II.  The county seat was finally established at Centreville in April, 1820.

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