REMINISCENCES

OF THE

HISTORY OF RICHMOND.

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To those who have been entertained by the perusal of Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia and other works of a similar kind, a reminiscence of the history of Richmond may not be without interest. It is fit, indeed, that in a publication like the present, the antecedents of our city should be made known. To gather up such of the incidents of our early history, as may yet be accessible, in order to rescue them from oblivion, by giving them a permanent record, is the chief object of these pages.

Tracing the Great Miami northward six miles from its entrance into the Ohio river, we enter the mouth of the Whitewater; and pursuing our way up this stream in a northwesterly direction for the distance of twenty miles, we arrive at a point where the river separates into two branches, which, running parallel with each other in a northerly direction, ramify into numerous branches which water the whole of Wayne County, in Indiana. It is in this county, on the eastern bank of the east fork of Whitewater that Richmond is situated; being four miles from the eastern boundary of the state, sixty-eight miles from Cincinnati, sixty-eight miles from Indianpolis, forty miles from Dayton, and 102 miles from Columbus, Ohio.

Previous to the organization of the State, the Delaware and other Indians, claimed the territory drained by the Whitewater, as a part of their hunting grounds; and these natives of the forest lingered for years under the foliage which then shaded the soil, after the white man had begun to make his home among them. We have, however, no stirring incidents of blood-shed and murder to record in our peaceful annals; and as our limits were not the site of any battle-scenes we have no occasion to stain our pages with gory pictures of tomahawks, rifles and falling heroes. The first settlers of this district were a plain people, addicted to the art of agriculture, and willing to cultivate friendly feelings with the aboriginals who remained; and I do not know that they were at any time molested by these children of the forest.

Indiana territory was separated from that of Ohio, in the great division of the northwestern cession of land, but Illinois had not been detached from Indiana, when three young men entered the wild forests of our district, in search of homes. Their names were Richard Rue, George Holman, and Joseph Woodkirk. They arrived here in the year 1805. No incidents of their lives in this new location has come to my knowledge, except one, to be presently mentioned. It is supposed, however, that they suffered all the usual privations, hardships and dangers of adventurous pioneers. Of these it will be our province to speak, in its proper place. The excepted incident just alluded to, was in the case of George Holman, who is still living. For six years after his arrival here, our present worthy friend had lived peaceably with all men, for aught the law knew; but in 1811, when men had multiplied under the shade of the forest, their interests sometimes appeared to come into conflict; and it was not an unusual thing at such times, for the parties to decide the question between themselves, by pugilistic combat. It appears that it was for some such unlawful mode of settling the point at issue, that a grand jury of the time found a bill against George for assault and battery: he was returned guilty, and fined 12½ cents! He appears to have been one of the grand jury at this very time; whether he aided in finding a bill against himself, the record does not say. The names of this jury are: William Scarce (foreman,) Samuel Woods, Thomas M’Coy [sic McCoy], J. Keslank, George Holman, J. Hodges, Samuel Walker, Richard Maxwell, Bennet Starr, Robert Bennet, John Williams, Aaron Wade, John Addington, William Meek, Isaac Harvey, Delsuan Bates, Josiah Easton, Joseph Woodkirk, and William Burk. This is said to be the first petit-jury trial on our records. The following are the names of the jury who sat on the Holman case: John Benton, John Drake, John Armstrong, Nathaniel Scire, Thomas Bulla, Samuel Hunt, Harvey Druly, David F. Sacket, Joel Furgison, Benjamin Smith, and Jesse Davenport. For the foregoing items, I am indebted to a communication in the Richmond Palladium.

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FIRST SETTLERS.

The earliest emigrants to this neighborhood were principally from Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio. I have taken some pains to collect their names and history while many of the parties were living, and have placed the facts in a tabular form for ready reference, leaving blanks where I could not fill them with certainty, that others might supply the vacancies as the necessary data are brought to light:

NAME CAME IN DIED AGE
       
Richard Rue 1805    
George Holman 1805 Still living  
Joseph Woodkirk 1805   90
Benjamin Hill 1806   70
Robert Hill 1806 1850  
John Smith 1806 1838 82
Ralph Wright 1807   94
John M'Lane 1810 1838 81
James Pegg 1814 1839 71
Thomas Moore 1815 1839 93
John Pegg 1813    
William Williams 1814 1824 61
John Wright 1821 1838 76
Jeremiah Cox 1906 1826 75
John Morrow 1808 1825 60
Andrew Hoover 1806 1834 83
Thomas Roberts   1840 81
Cornelius Ratliff, sr.     70
John Burgess 1808   70
Andrew Morrow 1809    
John Townsend   1853 90
*John Addington 1806   90
Jacob Meek 1806 1842 90
John Hawkins 1807   75
Ephraim Overman 1807   80
Thomas M'Coy 1805    
Joseph Wasson 1806 Revolutionary soldier 85
Peter Fleming 1807   75
James Alexander 1807   80
Jacob Foutz 1806   85
Valentine Pegg 1809   80
Benjamin Small 1807   80
Richard Williams 1814    
#David Hoover 1806 Still living  
Samuel Charles 1812 1840 91
John Charles 1809    
William Blunt, or Blount, 1805 A poor ignorant man, who claimed to be of the family of Blunts, of whom Gov. Blunt of Tennessee, he said, was one.

*Addington’s mother, who came with him, died at the age of 103.

†‘I was the first man who set his foot in this part of Wayne co.’ - D. H’s MS. [manuscript]

The remarkable ages to which these early settlers attained, speaks well for their habits and the healthfulness of the country.

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FIRST JUDICIARY.

We have already, incidentally, alluded to some of the early judicial proceedings in Wayne county. This county was organized on 1810. The first minute book of the court has recently been hunted up among the archives at Centreville; and consists of half a quire of old English paper, shaped into something like a school writing book, without a cover. By this simple document it appears that the first court was held “February 25th, 1811,” at the house of Richard Rue, three miles south of Richmond. The Judges were: Peter Fleming,, Aaron Martin and Jeremiah Meek; George Hunt was Clerk; John Turner, Sheriff; and James Noble, Prosecuting Attorney. The first business of the court was to divide the county into two townships and appoint overseers of the poor, constables, &c., for these districts. For the first district David Railsback and John Shaw were appointed overseers of the poor; Abraham Gaar, John Collins and Lewis Little, fence viewers. For the second township, the court appointed for overseers of the poor, David Gailbraith and George Smith; for fence viewers, William Foutz, Nathaniel M’Clure and Robert Hill. Other names of our early settlers appear on a committee, appointed by this court to adjust the accounts of the overseers of the poor; this committee was:—David Carson, Timothy Hunt, Samuel Jobe, Jacob Meek, Elijah Fisher and George Holman.

It was necessary that the court should have a Seal; and the one adopted at this time in perfect keeping with the simplicity of the day. It consisted, according to the description given, of “a wafer and a piece of paper turned over it, with the letters Wayne County written thereon.”

The first session of the court lasted but one day. At the second meeting on the 11th of the next month, a grand jury was for the first time empanneled in Wayne county. By the researches of our friend John B, Stitt, from whose communications to the Richmond Palladium in 1852, I have obtained the foregoing information, we are also furnished with the names of the members of this first grand inquest of Wane county. They are as follows: Jesse Davenport, David Foutz, Joseph Cox, Charles Wright, John Burk, Wright Lancaster, Robert Gailbraith, Isaac Williams, John Smith, Benjamin Small, John Townsend, John Burgess, William Blount, Michael Snider, Peter Weaver, Benjamin Harvey, Joshua Meek, John Beard, Benjamin Jarvis, James Gordon, Harvey Miller, Lewis Little, and William Graham,—twenty in number.

At a time, says the MS. of David Hoover, when the court was assembled in the woods near Richard Rue’s, “a boy was indicted for stealing a knife; a traverse jury was empanneled, and took their seats upon a log. The indictment was read, and as usual, set out that the boy did, with force and arms, feloneously steal, take and carry away, &c. Jeremiah Cox, afterward a member pf the Constitutional Convention and a member of the Legislature, and one of the subsequent proprietors of Richmond, was on the jury. He considered the boy guilty; but he thought that the indictment was rather too ‘bold’ for so small an offense.” We are not informed how this case terminated.

CIVIL DISTRICTS.

It is presumed that the reader of these early incidents does not contemplate Wayne county as confined to its present narrow limits of about 400 square miles; boundaries in that day had great latitude. In the year 1800, Indiana territory did not hold more than 5000 inhabitants and consisted of but three counties: Knox, Wayne and St. Clair. Knox county covered most of our present State of Indiana; Wayne county included the principal part of Michigan, and St. Clair embraced the present State of Illinois. As the population of the territory increased, the limits of the several counties were contracted; and other counties formed. At the time of the early settlement of this district, say about 1811 when the first court was held, Wayne county extended from Franklin county northward along the Ohio State boundary on the east, and line of purchase made at Fort Wayne in 1809 on the west, to Ft. Recovery.—And according to an old work published in 1817, called “The Western Gazetteer or Emigrant’s Directory,” Wayne county is said to be bounded “on the east by the State ofOhio, on the south by the county of Franklin, on the west and north by Indian lands.” In 1815, it constituted one of the thirteen counties into which Indiana was then divided. Its population at that time was 6,290, five other counties exceeding it in the number of their inhabitants. The whole population of Indiana territory in 1815 did not reach 70,000.

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FIRST VILLAGES.

By the act of the territorial legislature which organized Wayne county in 1810, “John Cox, George Holman and John Adenton, Gentlemen,” were appointed commissioners to meet and locate the county seat on or before “the first Monday of the following May,” and until this was done, and a court-house completed, the court was to meet at the house of Richard Rue, Esq. In the language of John B. Stitt: “At the June term 1811, the Commisssioners appointed by an act of the Legislature having failed to discharge their duty according to law, in selecting a seat of justice for the county, the court declared their duties ended, and appointed in their stead Samuel Walker, Richard Maxwell and Benjamin Harris. These Commissioners were ordered to proceed immediately to the discharge of their duties. On the third day of the term the Commissioners made a report: ‘That the permanent seat of Justice is and shall be on the donation of Samuel Woods, of sixty-five acres in the 13th township, range 3d, with a small reserve.’ The court after confessing the report, ordered it to be entered as received by the Clerk, ‘That the town in Wayne, or the seat of Justice, shall be called Salisbury.’ Having obtained both a location and a name, the next thing was to build a town. Smith Hunt, Samuel Woods and James Brown were appointed trustees to lay off the lots, and Andrew Woods and John Meek, sen., to superintend the buildingof a jail and estray pen—all, as a matter of course, under the direction of the court. I do not find on the minutes of the court an order for the erection of a court house, but at the October sesion of 1811, I find the following singular entry, to wit: ‘At a County Court held at the house of Richard Rue, Esq., on the 28th of October, 1811, it opened, &c., and the court having been previously informed that the court house was raised, the court therefore adjourned to sit one hour in the court house in the town of Salisbury. Accordingly the court met at the court house in the town of Salisbury in the county of Wayne on the aforesaid 28th day of October and proceeded,’ &c.” Such was the origin of Salisbury, the first town laid out in Wayne county. The high destiny anticipated for the new village may be inferred from the following inscription found on the back of the recorded plat of the town, in the handwriting of George Hunt, at that time clerk and recorder of the county: “The town of Salisbury stands on a beautiful site on the waters of Clear creek, W. C., I. T., (Indiana Territory,) in a fine neighborhood, environed by rich land, &c., &c. No better water in the world—the air salubrious; and its elevated situation commands an extensive and beautiful prospect. And we flatter ourselves that in a few years, Art, with her sister Industry, will convert it from a forest to a flourishing, inland town. Several gentlemen of property have purchased lots, both in the mercantile and mechancial line, which will greatly enhance its value.” A log, and afterward brick court house were erected, as soon as the town was laid out; and a log jail was built. Turning to the Emigrant’s Guide, by S. R. Brown, I find the following paragraph, pertaining to the year 1816: “Salisbury—Lies 30 miles north of Brookville; contains about thirty-five houses, two stores and two taverns. It is at present the seat of justice for Wayne county; but Centreville, a near village, being more central, threatens to become its competitor for that privilege.” It will be observed that not one word is said about Richmond: it was yet to appear on the arena.

The career of Salisbury was short. It attained a few hundred inhabitants. But the legislature in 1816 authorized the removal of the seat of justice to Centreville; and then commenced the downfall of Salisbury, in the midst of bitter strife between the Centreville and Salisbury parties; the one to retain, the other to procure the county seat. All that could be said on either side, was brought to bear upon the subject: the sickliness of the respective places, the convenient and inconvenient location, the population, future prospects, expenses incurred, &c., were among the points canvassed. It was the opinion of William Steele, a burly citizen of Salisbury, it chief politician, a legislator, a colonel, a “New-Light” preacher and a cabinet maker, that Salisbury was destined to become another Moscow. This declaration was received with so much jeer by the opposite party, that the term Moscow for awhile bid to supplant that of Salisbury. We will not dwell upon this controversy. Salisbury is no more; the bricks of the court house were sold and brought to Richmond, and lie quietly in the walls of the house at the south-east corner of Main and Pearl streets, and those of the building on lot No. 18, South Front street. And some of our respectable citizens are now within the logs of the old court house, which were brought to Richmond, and re-erected and weather-boarded, and constitute the building on North Pearl street, on lot No. 18.—Before the county seat could be legally removed, the trustees of Centreville were to erect, without any expense to the county, a court house, jail and estray pen in the town, on or before the “1st day of August 1817, of the same dimensions and as well finished as those of Salisbury.” On failure to do this the county seat was to remain where it was. Extremely short as the time was, to accomplish so much, the buildings were all up in due season; some of the citizens of Centreville subscribing ten to fifteen hundred dollars toward their erection.

The next spring (1818) the court was held at Centreville. But only one year afterward, the question was brought before the court whether Sailisbury or Centreville was the legal county seat. The presiding judge, John Watts, was absent. The associate judges, McLean and Davenport were of the opposite parties in this matter; their decision was “that the seat of Justice was permanently established at Salisbury, that the act of December 21st, 1816, not having a sufficient repealing clause, has not removed it; but that the act of January 28th, 1818, authorized the court to hold their protempore session in the town of Centreville, until the legislature should should otherwise direct.” And as the Legislature has never otherwise directed, the court has been held “temporarily” at Centreville ever since.

It is thus seen that both Salisbury and Centreville were established before Richmond; besides these two, I believe there are no others in the county that have a priority to this city. Centreville was laid out in the year 1814.

RICHMOND

was plotted in 1816. For nearly ten years, maize and small grain had waved over the fields patented to John Smith and Jeremiah Cox. It was thought their grounds would furnish a good foundation for a town. The suggestion was made by the former to the latter; but Jeremiah was not, at that time, prepared to engage in the scheme. “I would rather see a buck’s tail,” said he, “than a tavern sign.” He had no relish for towns at all events; although he afterward became part proprietor of one. Notwithstanding this unwillingness to co-operate on the part of one of the land owners, David Hoover, who is still living, and who was then about thirty-six years of age, proceeded to lay out the land of John Smith along Front and Pearl streets; and this was the extent of the town plat at that time. It is well that we are thus looking into the history of Richmond. For recent as the facts comparatively are, it is already said that Richmond was begun in 1818. The truth appears to be that that part of town lying south of Main street, (then a section line and dividing the lands of John Smith and Jeremiah Cox) was laid out in 1816; and as it appears, from the form of the lots, without regard to the variation of the magnetic needle. Two years afterward (1818) Jeremiah Cox made his addition on the north side of Main street.. Perhaps some of our uninitiated citizens may hereafter enquire why our present north Front street was run along the brow of the hill at an acute angle of 47° with Main street. We have it in our power to satisfy the enquiry. At that time there ran along the edge of the hill, a county road, the first perhaps laid out in Wayne county. As no splendid anticipations of future greatness were entertained for the new town by its proprietors, no provisions were made for coming necessities; but the conveniences of the present were the ruling principle. To continue south Front street directly north would run it into wet grounds, unsuitable for a street and unsuitable for building lots; besides the street would ultimately run into the river. On the hill was a road already established; no ground would again have to be relinquished for a street; forty feet was probably the width of the road, and that was sufficiently wide for the wants of the town. Lots were accordingly laid out along this road; and the corners of Main and Front streets became important points. These are the oldest streets, and for a long while were the only ones in Richmond. The writer remembers them well, as among his earliest impressions of the village.

By the industry of our friend John B. Stitt, we are enabled to present the reader with an exact copy of the original proceedings of the citizens with regard to the propriety of incorporating the town. “Agreeably,” say they, “to an Act of the Legislature of the State of Indiana, passed January 1st, 1817, the citizens of the town of Richmond convened on the 1st of the ninth month (September, 1818,) at the house of Thomas & Justice, for the purpose of ascertaining whether they wished said town incorporated, and pursuant made choice of Thomas Swain, President, and Ezra Boswell, Clerk, who after being legally qualified, entered on the discharge of their duties, and taking the state of the poles, it appeared that there were twenty-four votes in favor of incorporating and none against it. THO. SWAIN, Pres’t.

“Attest: Ezra Boswell, Clerk.”

Two weeks afterward, the record runs: “At a meeting of the town of Richmond for the election of Trustees at the house of Thomas & Justice, on the 14th of ninth month (September, 1818,) it appeared, on comparing the state of the poles, that Ezra Boswell, Thomas Swain, Robert Morrisson, John McLane, and Peter Johnson, were duly elected.

“THOMAS SWAIN, Pres’t

“Attest: Ezra Boswell, Clerk.”

Some idea of the number of inhabitants then in Richmond may be deduced from the votes taken at this meeting. In a case of this importance to the rising village, it is probable that the whole adult male population would be present.—The number present appears to have been twenty-four, all voting one way. Allowing a wife and two children only, to each, it would bring up the number to nearly one hundred citizens; allowing three children to a family, the population would be 120; and allowing four and five children to each family, the population would be respectively 144 and 168.—To say there were at that time between one and two hundred citizens would perhaps be a safe deduction. In 1849, according to an estimate in the manuscript of Dr. Carrol, already cited, the population was 350; and five years later the population was 452; and these are perhaps the earliest records of the population now to be obtained.

The “house of Thomas & Justice” thus brought into notice by the foregoing documents, was a new frame building erected at the north-east corner of Main and Front streets, (where a three story brick now stands) and was designed for a store, though then unoccupied. Thomas and Justice were carpenters. Stephen Thomas died near Richmond not many years since. William Justice is also dead. Of the five trustees named, two are still living, Robert Morrisson and Peter Johnson. Our older citizens will remember Ezra Boswel’, the brewer, with his mutilated eye; and John McLane, the blacksmith, with his ample physical frame. Thomas Swain, President of the meeting, was a dark-skinned, stooped-shouldered man, and a man of solid sense.

Such was the beginning of Richmond. From the MS. [manuscript] history of David Hoover, it appears that the town was first called Smithsville, after the name of the proprietor; “but the name not giving general satisfaction,” says the writer, “Thomas Roberts, James Pegg and myself were chosen to select another. Roberts proposed Waterford, Pegg, Plainfield, and I, Richmond.—And the last was approved by the lot holders.”

THE NATURAL ADVANTAGES

of the country were the same at that day as they are now. The county abounded in water-power; not less than ten or twelve streams coursing their way through it southward. At Richmond, not only did the main fork offer its mill-seats to the man of enterprise, but dividing into three branches just north of the town, called East, West, and Middle Forks, the amount of water-power was greatly multiplied. Notwithstanding these facilities, they availed but little to the early settlers, for want of capital to improve them. A manuscript of the present writer, penned some years ago, says, under the head of

MILLS AND PRIVATIONS.

“Until 1807, the early emigrants procured their flour at Germantown, Ohio, or at some other distant settlement in the Miami Valley; but they often crushed their corn by various mechanical means into a very coarse meal, and subsisted upon that and wild honey. In the year just named, a ‘tub-mill’ was erected by Jeremiah Cox, where the present oil-mill stands—what is now an oil-mill being built a few years afterward on the ruins of the tub-mill—and for many years ground most of the grain of the country. Wm. Bulla also erected a small mill on the Middle Fork, but it was an ephemeral structure, and not a vestige of it remains to tell its locality. A saw-mill was built by Jeremiah Cox, on the west side of the river, and south of Newman’s Creek; the second one, perhaps, where Benj. Moore now lives (1844), and another on Elkhorn. David Hoover, writing his recollections of 1807, says that, for want of a mill, they grated all the corn they used in the form of meal, for six weeks. ‘About Christmas, Charles Hunt started a corn-cracker, near the mouth of Elkhorn, which did most of our grinding until Jeremiah Cox erected one near where Richmond now stands.’

“I well remember a slender fabric, erected by Philip Harter, and called a ‘Carding machine,’ which stood like a man on long stilts in the ravine north of the soap factory. The building marked n in Dewey’s ‘Plot of the City of Richmond,’ &c., was erected in 1837, by Samuel Smith, father of [the late] Dr. Smith, for a paper-mill; his death placed this building in the hands of others who converted it to other purposes.

“A year or two after I came here,” said a settler of 1817, “there was no corn in the country, in consequence of frosts; and I raised a crop that year, by plowing a little while, then snatching up the hoe, and hoeing away fit to kill, while my horse picked grass in the fence corner; then when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I’d hitch up my horse again, and plow; and so, plowing, hoeing and feeding every hour or two, I raised a first-rate crop; but my horse got very poor, living on wild grass only.”

Among my memoranda, I find the following item of these early times, under the head of

EARLIEST CLEARINGS.

“The first opening in the forest was made by Woodkirk, on the land now owned by Charles W. Starr, near where Jeremiah Cox built his brick house. It was a very small clearing. Next year (1807), John Smith cleared several acres, bounded on the north by a fence running along the section line, where Main-street now is, and on the west by another fence running nearly parallel with what is now Front-street. In the same year (1807), ten acres were opened north of Main-street, on conditions that the laborers should have the proceeds of the land for twelve years.”

The first entry of lands within the limits of this count was made by Peter Flemming and Joseph Wasson, in the winter of 1804; the next by Andrew Endsley, in the summer of 1805, and by Peter Smith in the winter of the same year.

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