Sunday, May 31, 2015

Fairfield's economy, 19th century

Three distinct times in the 19th century can be affixed to "depression" in one form or another: 1825, when Brookville's economy collapsed; 1873, when the railroad building glut triggered a series of financial disasters; 1893, also blamed on the railroad's systematic collapse as well as bank failures linked to the value of gold and silver.

The 1893 depression was considered the second-worst in American history -- until the Great Depression of the 1930s. Depending, perhaps, it's hard to tell which was worse.

A Wikipedia entry on the 1893 depression:

"As a result of the panic, stock prices declined. 500 banks were closed, 15,000 businesses failed, and numerous farms ceased operation. The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania hit 25%, in New York 35%, and in Michigan 43%."

As in other downturns, not much of this would seem to have had a direct impact on the people of the East Fork, though money is still money and feeding a family depends on the ability to obtain resources.

What was Fairfield's economy?

First, in any given decade of the 19th century, the overall population of the valley was no more than 300 people. Alleging a quarter of that was "employable," a general male work force was probably not in excess of 40 or 50. "Employable" would also have meant boys over the age of 12, when the distinction between 'child labor' and 'helping hand' was somewhat vague.

In the years following the Civil War, one could assume something of a shortage of such male labor. The casualty rate was not incidental and some men perhaps stayed on after the war as part of an occupation force in the defeated South.

By the 1870s, that tended to stabilize. If men stayed at home rather than leave for work in the new and diverse factories in Connersville or Hamilton or Cincinnati, they'd likely have been farmers.

It is important to understand that the need for manual labor was very real in the days when machines were either not yet invented or too expensive for many rural Hoosiers.

Being a hired hand was a fairly standard profession for a single man in that era. At best, such a hired hand would be given room and board in exchange for a small wage. He might also be given a share of the crop that he could sell as his annual nest egg.

Young women were also at times employed as live-in housekeepers. Their pay could probably be considered somewhat negligible. Most women stayed at home, maybe took in sewing or ironing, perhaps sold eggs for 3 cents a dozen.

Fairfield itself had a few businesses, the main ones being attached to the Loper Carriage Company. Merchants often hired helpers for a variety of tasks. Wages were low. The cost of living was commensurate with that. Most laborers owed no money because they had no capability to obtain a loan.

Families built a room on the back when Grandma turned sick.

Some men would work the roads as employees of the county or township. A few would raise tobacco or cut lumber to be hauled to the Mullin sawmill at the edge of the Whitewater River.

There was a hotel, a dry goods-general merchandise store, a livery, a blacksmith, a druggist, a couple of doctors, a school. All needed somebody to run the place and most needed somebody to do the chores. There was also a gravedigger.

The vast majority worked the farms, raising hogs, milking cows, planting and harvesting crops.

There was probably a bum or two.

Somebody would sell fish he'd caught that day, probably for a nickel. Catfish, worth more than river suckers.

Life would change as the 20th century arrived but it would be many years before life moved out of town and onto the highway.

Once America got wheels, all bets were off.


An ancient publication entitled An Illustrated History of Indiana (1874) is one of those jumbled and hyperbole-laced books that met the standard for excellence for its time. References are vague, facts are self-imposed and ... well, it makes for great reading.

This one covers a lot of turf, including the state of manufacturing and agriculture for Indiana during that time. An excerpt:

There is no commanding position in the State at which even a fifth of the whole business will ever be concentrated. Madison, Indianapolis, Richmond, Fort Wayne, Logansport, Lafayette, Terre Haute, South Bend, Michigan City, Evansville, and many places on the Ohio, are all fast becoming great commercial centers, and the railroads and other improvements now in progress, and the facilities that shall hereafter be afforded to the enterprising businessmen of the State, point to no particular city with any assurance of its precedence.

During those days, Indiana's primary export crops were pork and wheat flour, with corn and coal somewhere on the list. But there was more, much more.

It has truthfully been said that the public convenience and the general good, not State pride, is building our cities. The numerous canals and railroads which intersect each other at many points in the State, afford great facilities for transportation, so that our producers can reach any market desired at a nominal expense.

The book goes on to discuss some of the foibles of how agriculture suffered and grew with peaks and valleys in the markets, and how farming interests grew together to stabilize the industry to the point that they had been "enabled to regulate the cost of transportation, and to prevent, in a great measure, damaging fluctuations in the markets."

Farming was in good hands. Outside the field, the 1874 analysis:

The manufacturing industry of Indiana has not prospered in the last five years more than it will in the next. There is a brilliant prospect for a great future advancement in this branch of business. Indeed, this department of enterprise cannot be regarded as more than fully begun; and from the present indications, its future growth is guaranteed.





Saturday, May 30, 2015

The original depression -- 1820s

'Scrip' was a form of currency in rural Indiana.
The first actual depression to hit the Whitewater Valley was hardly global. In fact, it was so truly local as to be a unique disaster.

The hardy had come to Brookville in quest of those dreams that make the hardy do anything.

And as the hardy grew in number, so did their quest for the remaining dreams.


The history of the valley is clear on what occurred in the 1820s.

"For many years, Brookville had been an outpost. The (Greenville) boundary line was only a mile west of town. Before the New Purchase (1818) was opened for settlement, the land office was located at Brookville, and then as now, such an institution brought not only the land officers but a host of patriots who were ready for any emergency in the line of office; the Tests, the Nobles, the Rays, and an innumerable company of self-sacrificing families came."

After that, the rules changed.

The land office was moved in 1825 to the new capital in Indianapolis, primarily as a lure to get those same patriots and land speculators to go THERE. The New Purchase, a vast area of land that had been taken from the Delaware Indians, needed settling. A land office much nearer that section of the state was necessary.

After 1825, Brookville and the Whitewater Valley fell on truly hard times. As the New Purchase was settled, the brain drain began. (It is important to note that Fayette and Union counties were also formed around this time, adding still more pull away from Brookville.)

"The bubble had burst at Brookville, whether it had elsewhere or not," writes a historian for a Franklin County Atlas of 1882. "(Men) of capital (including the Hannas of Fairfield) had gone as well as the politicians, and business languished and houses were empty."

What was lacking?

"There was an almost absolute absence of money. There had been two banks in Brookville and in addition to their circulation, every merchant and businessman who had money or credit enough to have the printing done, had a kind of personal bank. Printed pieces of paper with 'good for twenty-five cents' 'good for twelve and a half cents,' 'good for one dollar,' and so on were in general circulation, each calling for something in the line of the business of the user."

Essentially, coupons good for merchandise, a service or 'good for a dose of medicine' at Doc Murdock's office. The history says the coupons were known as 'Puke Bills' since the good physician was as likely to prescribe an enema as a cure for any real illness.

Local problems, local solutions.

The 'scrip' was worthless outside Brookville.

At times, cash-strapped citizens would rustle up "real money" from such places as ... ahem .. Mexico or South America.

"The truth is, there were hundreds of people who  very seldom saw money from one year's end to another -- the commerce of the country, such as it was, being mostly in trade."

Raising taxes was a non-starter for county government in the 1820s.

"Lawyers, doctors and preachers as well as merchants, took pay in trade, preachers and school teachers taking a very considerable portion of their pay in 'boarding round.'"

The notion of a real income was an unrealistic dream. Workers toiled in exchange for the very goods they made.

"The necessities of the times enforced a style of living and a style of traffic now quite unknown except in legends and history. Farmers produced nearly everything they used."

Times got worse.

"The general dilapidation which affected the town had affected the country somewhat, especially in he vicinity of the town. There were quite a number of abandoned farms."

Creditors from the East usually took control of the vacated property, sold at auction for taxes owed ... at inflated prices.

"A trip from Philadelphia (a chief trading connection with Cincinnati) was not easily made; hence the creditors did not know just what they had, valuing the land at cost, not at intrinsic value."

It would take many years for the actual settlers to recover the rights to their land, titles passing through the hands of speculators, sold back to land brokers who profited again from the sale, then selling to people who showed something of an original deed.

"For the first eight or 10 years after the abandonment of these farms, they were overgrown with blackberries. If there was anything which just grew by itself, it was the blackberry, as every farmer of that period who tried to keep them from his meadow could testify."

So ... where had everyone gone? Mostly, the men of influence were the first to flee. As new counties were established, the lawyer-doctor class saw new opportunities. As the influential people found new locations, they took with them their their financial connections and their offices, and their capital investments and their credit rating.

Those who remained were helpless. They did not understand the laws, the county government that managed their affairs, and they were largely illiterate. Without land, they commanded few rights. They were easy prey.

And they were broke.

"Most of those who remained were too poor to move away unless they could sell out, and there was nobody moving in to buy. And those who remained were too poor to buy of those who wanted to go."

Brookville would not begin to recover until the development of the canal system. It was a somewhat tenuous recovery but a recovery nonetheless.

The early importance of the town was indicated by the prominent men who left it. Among them were Noah Noble and David Wallace, future governors of Indiana, and many others who went to Indianapolis; John Test, a congressman, and Enoch D. John, who went to Lawrenceburg; Miles C. Eggleston, noted judge, who went to Madison; Isaac T. Blackford, lawyer and Indiana Supreme Court judge, who went to Vincennes; Alexander Moore, Edward Hudson, and Thomas C. Noble, who moved to Centerville; and Robert Breckenridge, who moved to Fort Wayne. 


The intense migration from Brookville created something of a windfall. The abandoned houses made great places for keep livestock. August Reifel, in his 1915 history, explains:

"There were scores of vacant houses in Brookville and they were not all log cabins. There were fine two-story frame dwellings which were left by their owners and a brick house or two was left as a result of this migration.

"These abandoned houses soon became the sheltering places of hogs and cattle which roamed the streets at will. In order to secure one of these houses for school purposes it was only necessary to drive the livestock out, scrub the floor and put in benches. In this way, the town had much better school facilities than it had previously enjoyed. The cost of fitting up a house for school purposes was very little. A few benches made of slabs, a wide blackboard fixed to the wall, a chair for the teacher and all the absolutely necessary equipment was provided."



Railroads and the Panic of 1873

Without delving deeply into macro-economics in a blog dedicated to a town that was inundated by a federal flood project 40 years ago, it's nonetheless curious to see that the concepts of "globalism" are really not all that new.

One can connect some dots and see that the price of eggs on the Kelley farm east of Fairfield could conceivably be related to the price of iron ore in western Pennsylvania.

Fairfield was a unique community in that it never had access to a navigable stream, a canal (almost had one ... SEE THIS BLOG PIECE or see menu at right) or a railroad. Until the 1930s, its link to anybody was a couple of gravel roads and its erstwhile covered bridge.

But owing to the reality that all business in the 1870s was local, the price of Kelley's eggs did indeed drive the local economy. Whatever those eggs were worth depended largely on what the rest of the crop in the valley was worth when it was taken to market.

Usually by wagon to Brookville or perhaps Bath.

From there, that product was marketed again, put aboard a train and taken elsewhere, probably Cincinnati. After that, somebody else bought it. And so on and so on.

It's difficult to conceive of a global financial collapse in the 1870s, given the fact that Kelley's eggs usually ended up in the Johnston fry pan on the south side of town.

Alleging the Johnstons didn't raise their own chickens.

Who didn't?

In 1873, the bottom fell out of the world financial market, such as it was in those days. Primarily driven by European investors, not much went right for about 6 years after that.

The blame?

Well, it wasn't Henny Penny, the chicken from Fairfield Township.

Most people blame the railroads in America, though the problem was different elsewhere. A Wikipedia explanation of what went wrong:

"The American Civil War was followed by a boom in railroad construction. 33,000 miles of new track were laid across the country between 1868 and 1873. Much of the craze in railroad investment was driven by government land grants and subsidies to the railroads."

The railroads, it seemed, believed there was indeed a pot of gold at the end of every mile of track they laid, connecting towns to corn cribs almost at will.

More people were employed by the railroads than any other industry in the nation at the time. Speculators borrowed heavily to invest in the railroads, leading to overbuilding in almost every aspect. Whole towns converted their economy to railroad shipping.

But the debt was enormous and a return on one's investment was terribly slow. Investors were over-stretched, placing all their capital into something that would eventually pay off ... eventually ... eventually.

There was no money for anything else.

The price of coal went up.

The cost of running a railroad went up. Railroads could not meet their debt obligations and investors had no more free money left to bail them out. Workers lost their jobs.


In Europe, a long grinding Franco-Prussian war disrupted the flow of goods and services.

And of all things, the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869 was considered a cause for the collapse in Great Britain "because goods from the Far East had been carried in sailing vessels around the Cape of Good Hope and were stored in British warehouses. As sailing vessels were not adaptable for use through the Suez Canal because the prevailing winds of the Mediterranean Sea blow from west to east, British trade suffered."


Stock exchanges shut down, banks failed, the lumber market crashed, and workers went on strike.

The ensuing years led to a rather robust wave of immigration into America, creating the so-called "melting-pot" equation that would fuel a recovery of sorts. The cheap labor was harvested to build such places as ... Chicago.

It's difficult to evaluate the impact of the 1873 depression on the lives of the people in the Whitewater Valley. It's easy to conclude that depressions typically hit harder in less economically diverse areas.

But the nature of the local economy was also an ally. Chickens laid eggs regardless of whether the railroad ran on time.

One staple of life during hard times was that of the "scrip" nature of payment. In effect, a man or woman worked for somebody in exchange for goods or useless currency that could be spent in exchange for goods. The premise dates back in Franklin County to the 1820s, when hard times in the valley were first felt, though for different reasons. That will be explored in another blog entry.

"Scrip" as a means of currency is essentially illegal but was a driving force for the manipulation of coal miners, who were compelled to use the "money" at the company store.




Friday, May 29, 2015

More about railroads

It's possible to overstate the importance of the railroad to the history of Fairfield, primarily because no railroad was ever built there.

The railroad's impact on the Whitewater Valley is enormous, and that is not an overstatement.

When we consider that virtually all business in the 19th century was local, it becomes easier to connect Fairfield and the East Fork with the commerce that linked the major cities of America.

Once the railroad was rooted, it literally became the bloodstream of the continent. Its arrogance as a result was the cause of some of the more calamitous economic downturns as well, but for the moment, that is not the topic.

The idea of a network of railroad lines took form as early as 1830, though the actual railroad was something far less impressive.

In Indiana, the government and private investors were busy plowing pathways to be used as roads, all of them leading to ... the canals.

America ran by boat. Slowly, for sure, and often unpredictably, but ... it ran.

The Indiana Magazine of History explains:

"Though railroads had their champions in the early days of Indiana, few regarded them as competitors of waterways, but at the best they could be used only as feeders for those highways (canals, rivers and lakes)."

An early railroad visionary was Gov. James Brown Ray, a Brookville native.

In 1829, he urged a railroad from Lawrenceburg up the Whitewater Valley, crossing the National Road (U.S. 40) in Wayne County, northward to Fort Wayne.

Ray was a builder. He wanted Indiana to move its agriculture and he realized that the sluggish canals were doomed, a full 20 years before the actual crash occurred.

Oddly, the business that profited Brookville the most was indeed the Whitewater Canal, a canal that ironically was the first in the state to be supplanted by a railroad.

Its topography, which made the canal system difficult to maintain, was its inevitable undoing, the IMH says.

"The Whitewater Valley possesses steep wooded hills along its sides, which give it a scenic beauty which rivals the Mohawk Valley of New York even the Moselle Valley in Europe, but which are the cause of frequent and serious floods."

A flood in 1847 wrecked the locks at Hagerstown, and repairs were excessive.

By 1865, the railroad was boss and the line through Brookville made for good business between Cincinnati and all points north and west.

The IMH quotes a Brookville man, John C. Shirk, in 1925 about the coming of the railroad:

"I was a small boy when the railroad was completed to Brookville, but I can remember some of the things that occurred at that time.

"The canal gave satisfactory service when operating, but the trouble was frequent rains and freshets carried away the dams and often washed out long distances of the canal banks, so that the expense of keeping it up was so great that it did not pay to keep it in repair. It was at this time the company sold the canal to the Big Four railroad. Brookville had for some time been without transportation facilities to Cincinnati."

There are complexities in understanding who ran the Whitewater Valley line, mergers and section selloffs being part of how the railroad did business, largely free of much government intervention. Railroad was King in America. When it moved, the nation moved with it.

Or stopped.

Railroads were inclined to build extremely short stretches of track to serve towns, largely as a result of consistent support from the Indiana legislature in the late 1840s. Towns were made or broken by the presence of a rail line. Investors played on faith, which was generally rewarded.

Sometimes not. Bankruptcies were typically complicated and investors were often at the mercy of men who had little interest in efficiency of operation. It was at times difficult to ascertain true value of equipment, stock and intangible worth.

When a railroad eventually connected Indianapolis with St. Louis, the Indiana economy began to emerge. Interestingly, the rail line went across the Mississippi River on a bridge designed by James B. Eads, son of Thomas Eads, who had once lived briefly in Fairfield.

Yeah, you can get there from here.

IMH goes on:

"The year 1869, when the road was actually started, was a notable one in railroading. The greatest railroad event of the year was driving the last spike in the first great transcontinental railroad, now the Union Pacific. However, many lesser events were transpiring. It was a time of great, almost feverish, railroad expansion; and this, as has been noticed, became over-expansion."

Meanwhile, the robust rail line from Indianapolis to St. Louis began running into financial problems. Expenses often overwhelmed income. Debt was high, interest on loans excessive ... the railroad spent most of the 1880s in court.

Finally it was reorganized and was making a profit by the end of the decade.

The complexities of how the railroads were run will overwhelm us. If your town was on a railroad line, you probably had something of a business that profited from it. The railroads themselves simply existed.

One report says that farmers who lived near proposed railroad spurs were so eager to have the rails laid that they often donated land for the right-of-way, rather than bother with selling it.

Interurban railroads began to emerge near the end of the 19th century, passenger trains that connected larger cities. Brookville was at one time part of such a spur. By about 1910, virtually every sizable community in Indiana was privy to a rail connection.

An Interurban connecting Richmond, Connersville and dozens of other towns in between was proposed in 1895 but wasn't fully operational for another decade.

Later the Interurbans saw extra profit in adding freight lines, which began to impact passenger service negatively.





Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Cory Story

One of Fairfield's most engaging families, and perhaps one of its most iconoclastic, is the Cory family, most notably Clement R. Cory, the "ringleader" of the clan.

The publication, Fairfield: Town Under the Lake, expends some time revealing the details of the family's lives and connections.

Various biographical works from the 19th century share similar insight about Clement Cory, who was described in an old atlas as "a well known citizen and a representative of one of the early families of this part of the-state."

Cory was born in 1834 in the area just north of the Franklin-Union county line. Old atlas maps from the 1880s show the Cory name on various plots of land along the East Fork, northward toward Quakertown.

Cory's family, like many settlers in that part of the valley, came to Indiana from New Jersey, most likely persuaded by Quaker leaders. Many settlers in the Bath Springs area have roots in New Jersey.

Cory's father, born in 1789, was a blacksmith, came to Indiana in 1830 with his wife and five children.

The short biography on Clement:

"He was reared a farmer. He had good educational advantages in his youth, and was for four years a student at Asbury University, and after leaving college turned his attention to teaching."

As an educator, the research says, Cory became somewhat prominent in the state, serving as the first superintendent of schools in Franklin County, a 7-year term that began in 1873. It is worth noting that manifold changes in the 1860s in how schools were run would have had an impact on Cory's role as an administrator.

Cory was also a student of law, not a surprising vocation in those days for educated men, though he apparently did not practice the profession.

He also served several terms in the Indiana General Assembly. He was listed as a Democrat early on but evidently shifted toward the Republicans later.

It's perhaps as important to identify Cory with his relations than his own family. Logans, Smolleys, Irwins, Husteds, Hubbards are all listed when discussing Clement's kin.

Cory died on April 17, 1909. Part of the obituary explained the cause of death:

"On the morning of Saturday the 17th, he started out to walk to the home of his niece, Mrs. Frank Husted. While ascending the hill in a wooded pasture, weary and his body enfeebled by the burden of years beyond the allotted three score and ten, he fell to the earth and a hemorrhage caused his death. Thus beneath the open heaven, surrounded by trees, his spirit returned to the Maker who gave it.”

Marilyn, Julie and Jim Senefeld, in Town Under the Lake, do a nice job exploring the Cory family's idiosyncrasy. For example, Clement and his wife, Mary, were evidently divorced although it was a fairly well-kept secret.

"Local marriage records show that Clement R. married Henrietta Logan on July 9, 1896. The 1900 census of Fairfield Township shows Mary Cory, age 68, as the head of house living in the same dwelling as her daughters, Maude Smolley and Noree, and daughter-in-law, Cora Cory. They also have a servant in the house by the name of Sara. The same census shows Clement R. Cory, age 66, as the head of another house living with his new wife Henrietta Logan, age 41."

Cory home on south end of town
The Cory family was also somewhat influential in the world of music in the Franklin County area. Harriet Cory is described as "a lady of much literary ability, has written several songs and other verses, and has contributed many excellent articles to the children's department of the Western Christian Advocate."

The Franklin County Historical Society has plenty on the Cory family. It's difficult to establish their true value to the community but without doubt, prominence in the late 1800s did not dictate living in larger towns. One could presume that the Cory family found Fairfield to be of substance.

They owned a sizable amount of land in the valley, including a house on Main Street.

Part of the Cory history was lost during a major fire in Fairfield in 1897.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cooking with gas -- A Hoosier frenzy

"Vesuvius," in Anderson, 1887
Indiana's economy, though largely agricultural for most of its early existence, was nonetheless modified at the end of the 19th century, though more by the luck of nature than the adroit thinking of humans.

The railroads had helped turn the state into a net exporter of agricultural products, though the growth of industry was still awaiting an epiphany of sorts.

That happened around 1886, when the state got gas.


How this affects the Whitewater Valley is as anything affects everything else. Where there is profit, those who would profit go there.

The Indiana Magazine of History explains the consequences of the discovery of natural gas in the region:

"The eruption of real estate speculation, industrial development, commercial expansion and population growth transformed a 2,500-square-mile portion of the state from a landscape of farms, forests, and agricultural villages into a territory in which cities and boom towns dominated, each teeming with factories, neighborhoods, and commercial districts."

The last 15 years of the 19th century converted 11 counties in east-central Indiana into a hotbed of heavy industry, making the region one of the leading centers of production in the United States.

The spread in the use of natural gas did actually affect Fairfield, if we are to look back at the days when George Loper attempted to compete for business in the carriage industry. Connersville industrialist John McFarlan had secured control of natural gas distribution (out of Rush County) for his industries that created an overwhelming advantage to transform Connersville into an industrial center.

That blog item is HERE (or you may refer to the topics menu on the right).

Factories lured thousands of workers to such towns as Muncie, Anderson, Kokomo and Marion.

Go where the dough grows.

The gas supply did eventually run out around 1900 but the communities that had grown because of it found themselves with a ready supply of labor, a strong infrastructure and the capability of luring 20th century industry.

Foundries for building rail cars, automobiles, canneries, agricultural supply centers, a whole shelf of options.

As well, the farmland was still real darned good, so that business never suffered, but simply got stronger as industry brought new choices to Indiana.

Muncie's Ball Brothers dumped a ton of money into a teachers college.

Gas to waste: Indiana actually banned this display in 1891
Men got wealthy.

IMH continues:

"There were four major railroad lines that crossed the region in 1886. Most of the county seats had managed to persuade at least one major railroad to run through their communities by the mid-1880s. Large towns, such as Muncie, Anderson, Marion and Kokomo, boasted three or more railroads. Some smaller towns in each county were also located on rail lines. The railroads connected the area with markets for agricultural and forest products."

The gas supply had actually been first discovered in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania and had been instrumental in helping build Pittsburgh's steel industry in the 1880s.

Gas was first struck at Portland (Jay County) in March 1886. The first well to produce enough gas to make a profit was sunk at Eaton, a town north of Muncie, in October 1886.

Evidently the gas fountain was enough to fuel an immense building boom in Madison County, where Anderson developers found nothing but profit.

There, the discovery of gas in 1887 sparked a frenzy of real estate speculation.

In Anderson, competing gas companies lured investors to see a well called "Vesuvius," the big well gushing lighted gas, a testament to the abundance of gas for industry.

In Marion, real estate values literally exploded.

"Soon after gas was discovered in 1887, two industrialists from Findlay, Ohio, named Gray and Dodds purchased land north of the Mississenewa River, which was then the northern border of the town. Gray and Dodds called their suburb North Marion and within two years had attracted the Window Glass Company, Marion Flint Glass Company, Western Glass Company, Marion Handle Works, and the Marion Paper Company to sites located on rail spurs running to the three major railroads that intersected in Marion."

Ever heard of the town of Gas City?

Research concludes that the gas boom continued to sustain existing industrial plants and to stimulate construction of additional plants in nearly every town and city of the gas belt until 1900. That year Indiana was producing the most natural gas in the United States, with $7,254,539 worth of gas produced and $5,412,307 consumed in Indiana.

Rural communities in central Indiana also began to grow. The American Window Glass Company, a large trust of window-glass manufacturers formed in the late 1890s, operated 36 factories in both large cities and small towns in the Indiana gas belt by 1900.

The glut of gas created gluttony and, by the end of the century, the industry was running on fumes.

The gas boom came to a dramatic end. Most of the small boom towns in the gas belt experienced an economic bust after 1901. A few of their factories hung on, hoping for new gas supplies or converting to other fuels. By the 1920s, most of these had closed.

Most of Indiana's bigger towns did manage to ward off complete disaster since their factories remained in advantageous locations near the railroads, and community infrastructure. They generally re-tooled and built the same things with alternate sources of fuel, though the tradeoff was cost and pollution.

Electricity helped save the day.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Schools and how they suffered

One-room schools: Once common
If anything was confounding about Indiana's development in the years surrounding the Civil War, it was its approach toward the common education.

The General Assembly approved a measure providing for free education in the state, though the notion was far from a mandate. In Franklin County, barely 51 percent of the voters saw free public education as necessary. Those who opposed it did so largely on religious grounds.

But the law stood. What came next was probably both amusing and confusing. And the court system didn't do much to improve matters.

Logan Esarey, who produced a history of Indiana in 1918, takes a look at how the school system functioned.

"The actual management of the schools was with the board of township trustees. It was essentially a township system. Each civil township was incorporated as a school township, taking the place of the old congressional township which disappeared as a corporation."

Township taxes, Esarey says, paid for the schools, as well as teacher salaries. The idea was considered significant reform over how schools had been managed prior to 1848.

As a result, with a form of financing in hand, schools were built somewhat regularly in what was still almost totally a rural environment.

Then the modifications began. In 1852, the state legislature decided to fine-tune the taxing system, hoping to see "a schoolhouse in every neighborhood."

Schools weren't in very good shape and as time went on, hundreds of replacement school houses were constructed. "These were the little "red bricks" of literature, though as a matter of fact nine out of 10  were log or frame."

With so many new schools, education became convenient -- by the standards of the 1850s. Most students had to walk less than a mile to class, and tuition was free. (Prior to 1848, students paid tuition to go to school.)

 The improved taxation methods had allowed for libraries to be constructed in most townships as an attempt to place good literature at the disposal of all.

A uniform guideline on textbooks was in the works.

"Finally it was hoped that by a judicious selection of teachers and by training in teachers' institutes the reign of brute force in the school room might be brought to an end."

Women were finding their way into the system, though they worked for less than male teachers, many of them proved to be durable, valuable and loyal to the process.

Indiana's education was on the way up.

So, what went wrong?

Opponents to the process were not in a distinct minority. Again,  only about 51 percent of the voting public (all white males over 21) at the time approved of free education. By 1855, those challenges would matter.

The court system didn't do education any favors, Esarey concludes.

"The enthusiasm of the friends of education was equaled by the determination of its enemies. There was opposition everywhere, not only to the necessary taxation, but also to the administration and conduct of the schools."

Township trustees, at times beholden to special interests, frequently made bad hires for teachers or school officers. Taxes were levied irregularly, sometimes without much concern about who paid what, to whom and how much.

Schools were being beaten up by the ineptitude of the people who had been chosen to run them.  "The courts were resorted to continually to prevent the collection of the school taxes."

By 1854, the Supreme Court ruled that a local tax assessment was unconstitutional.

And as the mess bubbled over, even more parts of the state school law were tossed out as illegal. As a result, many schools received no tax money at all, partly because some taxpayers believed the court had ruled they didn't need to pay school taxes.

Oddly, one of the more important decisions came as a result of lawsuit filed in Franklin County, in Springfield Township. The school law of 1852 had merged two school funds  -- a Congressional and a Common -- into one.

Esarey explains:

Springfield Township, which had a large Congressional fund, brought suit to prevent the state from merging this and distributing it equally. In a decision by the Supreme Court, Dec. 28, 1854, it was held that the Congressional Township fund by the terms of the grant in 1816 was limited to the use of the people living in the congressional township."

School funding was thrown into chaos.

The state spent the next several legislative sessions looking for solutions to its school funding dilemma, and the laws were rewritten frequently. Not much seemed to work.

The confusion that emerged from the Springfield Township ruling basically ended with the creation a tax equalization process.

"It was provided that no money arising from the Congressional fund should be diverted from the township in which it originated. Thus the decision of the Supreme Court was avoided."

School control was constantly under attack. Most rural communities wanted to manage their own affairs and local attempts to dictate policy were broadsided in 1855.

Writes Esarey:

"This backward step of the Assembly was almost as disastrous as the adverse decisions of the Supreme Court. Under this provision the township trustees were required to number the school districts in their township and then each patron attached himself to whatever district he chose. On the first Saturday of October each year the patrons met at the schoolhouse, elected a director of the school, chose a teacher and began those interminable district quarrels which never ended until the old directorate system wore itself out about 1900."

Springfield Township rose to the fray again, "just as loath to see their direct taxes distributed abroad as the income from their Congressional Township fund. They immediately enjoined the county auditor and treasurer from distributing the Common School fund under the law."

This time, Springfield lost.

As time rolled on, new and diverse challenges to the way Indiana ran it schools emerged, and once most townships had obtained a decent school building, some folks decided that they didn't need to spend any more money on school buildings.

So they all decided to challenge the taxation process. Again.

Some opponents sued, claiming the taxing system had created better schools in the cities and towns, where there was more money to be raised, than in the more rural common schools.

The Supreme Court disagreed with that. The common schools took another smash to the face, it seemed.

The court's ruling of 1857 almost destroyed the school system, Esarey concludes.

In 1861, the legislature rewrote the school law again, modifying the selection process for trustees and refining their duties. There was more clarity, it appeared, and helped stabilize the system, if only to reduce the incessant challenges to its legality.

The township management process was extremely popular. Libraries were expanding in stability and in the number of volumes available. "The books were selected with great care."

Still, education at the time was largely a disconnect between the educators and the public. Illiteracy was still quite common and those who entered the teaching profession were miles ahead of the people they had been trained to reach.

Esarey reveals:

"The reports of the early state superintendents are flowery with visions of a millenium produced by universal free education. The writers indulged in language which common people of Indiana did not then understand and never have greatly appreciated. "

In a phrase, any education at all was certain to confound the average Hoosier farmer.

But as the schools evolved, so did the requirements for teachers and what was expected of them upon receiving a teaching certificate, usually obtained in no more than 2 years.

The school term was established. No longer was it uniquely tied to the fall harvest or the spring planting.

By 1859,  the General Assembly reorganized the township government, placing it in the hands of one trustee, elected annually, and abolishing the township secretary and treasurer. The trustee gained major control over school affairs, though hiring of teachers was left in the hands of the public. As well, the school building was effectively deemed public property.

The Assembly of 1865 rewrote most of the laws concerning common schools and simplified the taxation process.

Around that time, the university system began to grow. Purdue University was founded, and a state "Normal" college for training teachers was set up.

Schools remained segregated.

In 1873, the legislature scrapped the whole thing and started over again, repealing all the other school laws.

It's probably changed that many times since that day and it's not likely to remain static for long.

Esarey's 1918 analysis:

"At its best, the district school turned out the self-made, common school-educated men whose biographies are met with now so frequently. The best of these schools have not been surpassed, the poorest were indescribable. The best were a happy combination of community and teacher for which the system can take little credit. The individuality of the teacher, now largely lost in our organization, then was the chief force in the school."


In 1854 there were 938 townships, 82 cities and towns, or a total of 1,020 school corporations. The first enumeration, 1853, gave 430,929 children, and 2,491 licensed teachers, but there was no report of the number of schools or of the actual attendance.

In 1854 there were reports from 2,622 schools and it was estimated that there were about 5,937, while it would require 8,915 schools to accommodate the children.

It was thought as late as 1857 that not less than 3,500 districts were without schoolhouses of any kind. In 1854 there were 666 female teachers and 2,432 male teachers.

The total cost of the schools for a year was about $500,000. The average term in 1854 was 2 1/2 months. The average wages for male teachers was $23.01 per month, for women $15.62.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ida Husted Harper -- Part 2

The notion that women could conceive of having the power of the ballot was not dismissed as a social joke in the 1880s, though most never believed it would actually occur. Women like Susan B. Anthony and her associates remained undaunted, however.

Ida Husted Harper had been writing about women's rights issues for decades. She was not unknown to Anthony. Harper was serving as the managing editor of the Terre Haute News-Gazette, an impressive title to be sure for a woman in 1878. But the position had given her some insight into regional and national politics.

That year, Anthony was appearing with Eugene B. Debs, the leading Socialist of his time, in a strategy that was designed to improve workers' rights by incorporating women into leadership positions. Debs was not especially popular among the men who owned the factories and businesses in Indiana. Debs saw Anthony as an asset. Anthony took all the help she could get.

Ida Husted Harper and Susan B. Anthony became friends of convenience at first, then became closer when Anthony agreed to let the Fairfield girl compile three volumes about what life was like trying to get women the right to vote. Harper thus became Anthony's official biographer.

The Indiana Magazine of History describes Harper's writing:

"Although she wrote with wit and humor, Harper did not consider the women's rights issue a joke. She discussed it in her column so frequently that she received requests, especially from men, that she cease."

She did not concede on the topic.

"Besides, she wrote, men were responsible for the unequal status of women. Men made the laws and established the customs which barred women from true equality. Only through the consent of men could women enter colleges, speak in public, and choose careers. And it would be only by men's favor that women would someday be allowed to vote. Truly, the "opposing force" was men, who considered "the greatest favor they could confer was to marry [a woman] and allow her the privilege of keeping house for them.

"If Heaven is anything like this world we do not care to be an angel or carry a palm or play on a harp but only to be a man and take our chances."

Harper tended to waffle a lot on her perspectives, realizing perhaps that the only way to win the fight was to play by the rules until the rules were allowed to change. It led to a confusing biography.

But Harper remained strong in her support of Anthony's quest to have the 19th Amendment introduced and accepted. It would be many years before that happened.

In 1888, she wrote of the need for complete equality in marriage and vilified any idea that a wife should obey her husband. "The very idea seems ridiculous," she wrote."To obey another means to be ruled by this person. In a true marriage there will be no question as to which shall govern the other but it will be an equal partnership in every respect."

One can assume that her hardened stance on the marriage matter came as a result of being bolstered inside the suffrage movement. A conjoined objective was much easier to posit.

Then she added:

"The surprising part of it is that many honest, conscientious, God-fearing wives are so influenced by a sickly religious sentiment as to believe that the Lord intended the husband should be the master. They have been taught this doctrine by men-preachers from a Bible prepared by men-translators."

She may have come up with that without the aid of a Quaker friend's communication.

Harper eventually left Terre Haute and began branding herself as a voice in suffrage movements in Washington, and along the campaign trail, generally attaching herself to Democratic Party ideals. Soon after that, she spread her campaign to California.

She had become something of a notable, and had proven skillful in organizing and managing women's rights groups, many of which were nationwide.

Nancy Baker Jones writes about Harper's successes:

"By the time the suffrage amendment was passed in 1919, Harper was one of the few early fighters alive to celebrate the victory: Lucy Stone had died in 1893, Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1902, and Anthony in 1906. Harper herself lived long enough to see that her predictions for great moral changes from women's suffrage did not materialize. Women voted, certainly, but they voted largely as men did, along party lines and not in large blocs or for sweeping social reform. They did not win political power."

The truth was, women and the vote made little difference in those early years. Women were reluctant to express public support for candidates, fearing reprisal. They voted without substance. Candidates did not pay much attention to women's rights, which were virtually non-existent anyhow.

"In general, discriminatory legislation remained, treating women differently from men in such areas as labor, marriage, divorce, juror qualification, property, and inheritance. Nor were women allowed self governance in child bearing and child rearing."

The women's movement basically died on the vine after 1920 and did not re-emerge until the 1960s. The ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment failed in the 1970s after being first introduced in 1923. It has still never become law.

Harper wrote 1894:
"The evolution of women from the position of chattle to that of an independent individual has been in progress for centuries and is not yet accomplished."

Baker Jones concludes that Harper's writing reveals a woman who believed in social equality but had no grounds on which to base it. She had been raised in a world that subjugated women and she believed that women were probably unqualified to lead on their own. In a sense, Harper perhaps believed in true equality.

We are still debating that one.




Susan B. Anthony interlude

Susan B. Anthony
It is a phew phantasies from Phairfield to Philadelphia, but in 2016, the Democratic National Convention did indeed nominate Hillary Clinton as its candidate for U.S. President.

A stretch? Perhaps.

A woman named Susan Brownell Anthony emerged in the 1860s as a prime activist in search of the right of women to vote. Voting? Women? You must be mad!

Anthony was a Quaker, and Quakers were opposed to almost everything. Among them: Slavery, drinking, war. They were also in favor of giving women some rights that the men they adored had taken from them.

In other words, Susan B. could have been called a "lobbyist bitch" by most men of her time, that being the time just before the Civil War. And afterward too, but that's probably being kind to her.

But she aligned herself with strong support from intelligent, affluent women and by the 1860s, she had established enough clout to organize a number of groups committed to equality, at least in some form.

In 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and convicted in a widely publicized trial. Although she refused to pay the fine, the authorities declined to take further action. The trial was, by all standards, a mockery designed to ridicule uppity women (aka "lobbyist bitches").

A few years later, Anthony and a prime associate, Elizabeth Stanton, approached Congress with an amendment to the Constitution seeking the women's suffrage.

Stanton had been a fixture in Anthony's other fight: temperance. Cut back on the booze, boys!

Elizabeth C. Stanton
Needless to say, Susan and Elizabeth were not particularly popular among the white male society that typically dominated white female society.

Anthony's biggest bullet in her fight to get suffrage came inside the Fourteenth (14th) Amendment, which effectively ended slavery.

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Nope, that didn't work either.

The Supreme Court in 1875 (Minor v. Happersatt) ruled that the Constitution does not give anybody the right to vote.

After that, Anthony decided that the only recourse was to seek national approval of an amendment to the Constitution that did, indeed, give people the right to vote.

Later, as her notes, letters, clippings, essays and treatises began to pile up, she decided to put it into a useful form. Easier said than done, with about 5,700 pages in front of her. Anthony was overwhelmed at what she had accomplished in her work for women's suffrage. Yet, she had still failed.

"Miss Anthony, say hello to Mrs. Ida Husted Harper. This woman from a small town in Indiana will be more than happy to assist you in organizing your work so that women may soon get the right to vote."

That was in 1920, a century after her birth and a half century after she had been arrested for trying to vote in the presidential election.




President Carter signed the Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin Act into law in October 1978, authorizing the creation of the new dollar coin series. It was hoped this coin would displace the paper dollar bill in commerce, but "Anthonys" were generally ignored by the public.

The main reasons:

+ The coin was similar in size and color to the quarter.

+ Dollar bills remained in circulation so there was no incentive to change.

+ Vending machines were not immediately programmed to take the new coins.

After several failed promotional attempts by various entities to get the public to accept the coin, production stopped in 1981, except for a one-year final issue in 1999.

The original design, in 1977, proposed having Martha Washington on one side and Miss Liberty on the back. But women's rights activists pushed for a more notable woman's image on the coin. Martha Washington did not, sadly, cut down any cherry trees or lead any troops at Valley Forge. Her husband ended up doing that and landed on the paper dollar and the quarter as a result.

Various designs for the new dollar coin were proposed. Finally in 1978, Anthony was chosen.

What are they worth today? Oh, about a buck.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ida Husted Harper -- Part I

To get a sense of Ida Husted Harper, one needs to review the state of women's affairs in Indiana in the 19th century.

According to the Indiana Magazine of History:

"Divorce laws specified that husbands bear the expenses of court action and alimony; remarried women could not sell or give away their property with or without their husbands' consent; and possession of all birth control devices was illegal. In addition, widowers received all of their deceased wives' property, while widows were required to divide their husbands' property with their children."

What makes Ida Husted Harper unique is that she was considered one of the most prominent female voices in the search for equality among genders.

What makes her an enigma is that she walks both sides of the line. Still, her thoughts and beliefs resonate in a very unusual way in the 21st century.

Who was she?

She was born in Fairfield in 1851, the eldest of three children. Interested in obtaining good educations for their children, her parents later moved the family to Muncie.

In 1868, Ida entered Indiana University but left after one year to become -- at age 18 -- the high school principal at Peru, Ind. Three years later she married Thomas W. Harper and moved with him to Terre Haute where he later became city attorney and chief legal counsel for Eugene B. Debs' Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and where she began her career as a feminist.

Debs himself was an interesting bird, having established himself as the leading proponent of socialism through workers rights. He also ran for president in 1912 -- while in prison.

Ida Husted's foray into women's rights came in the form of her writing, which gathered a robust following in the 1880s. Her columns in the Terre Haute newspapers eventually caught the eye of leading national suffrage groups. Her writings were so popular that they appeared on the front page of the paper. Her early work, however, appeared without a byline.

As time went on, her prestige grew and she eventually helped establish a voice for reform candidates in national politics.

Quite a resume for a woman from Fairfield.

Nancy Baker Jones, writing for the IMH in 1977, claimed "Ida challenged the dominant view of women and women's place in late 19th century society. But Harper herself was deeply affected by that society, as her views on women's rights clearly show. Not willing to accept the role assigned to 19th century women, she also was unable or unwilling to argue consistently for full equality between the sexes."

Perhaps she sought to define "a better yet socially acceptable position for women, a position between submissiveness and full equality."

Baker Jones continues:

"The philosophy of the feminine ideal made its mark on Harper, for throughout her writings ran one constant assumption —that a woman would marry and have a family. She also believed that women were the moral superiors of men and that women's participation in activities traditionally proscribed to men would raise the quality of those activities. Often she stereotyped women as gossiping, flirtatious, jealous, and unreliable. Yet she could also write of their strength, suffering, and sisterhood."

In a sense, Ida believed women were nearly perfect. Equal, certainly, to men, but superior in so many ways that they rarely needed to prove it.

"Harper believed many men feared the results if women were given equal rights. Men were afraid that when women became independent that their charm would disappear and that their spiritual influence would disappear."

As she matured, she apparently became obsessed with the climbing divorce rate -- only to find herself divorced in 1890. She worked for stronger divorce laws as a way of keeping marriages intact, since she believed marriage was a proper position for women. Equality defined, one would assume.

Baker Jones writes:

"Ambivalence was evident again in Harper's attitude toward working women, especially working wives. She wrote in November 1882 that working women in general never surpassed mediocrity because they brought a divided energy to every business pursuit. Their energies were split between work and home in every case."

Work was great so long as it didn't break up the happy home, but breaking up the happy home was as likely as not and Ida detested that reality.

But it was the suffrage issue that she took to heart. She equated it with the temperance movement and believed the two issues were too powerful to ignore. She was not vague in her beliefs on these matters.

In January, 1883, she went so far as to say that temperance was "undoubtedly the most important issue before the country, for women are not suffering half so badly from being deprived of the franchise as they are from the evils caused by intemperance. And yet, if they do not vote 'til the temperance question is disposed of, I am afraid Gabriel will have blown his horn and ordered the polls closed."

Men didn't stop drinking, but the polls didn't close on Ida Husted Harper.




Saturday, May 16, 2015

19th century prices

The cost of living has always fascinated history seekers.

Had there been cable television in the 1850s, a subscription would probably have been something around 40 cents a day. An automobile? Are we talking one with air conditioning?

The products that people in the Whitewater valley purchased in 1850 largely depended on what they could sell. Agriculture was the only flourishing industry in much of rural Indiana, unless a man worked at building the railroads or the roads.

The merchant class was considered affluent. Producers sold locally and consumers bought locally.

As should be expected, the Cincinnati market was where it was at, cat. Prices there dictated values elsewhere. A farmer sold his hogs when he could, hopefully during a time when prices were high.

Inflation was relative. The cost of transportation varied little from year to year, though seasonally, river shipping could be affected by high water or ice.

So, if you were a consumer in ... say, 1851, what would you pay for necessities?

August Reifel, in his 1915 history, has provided a few numbers:

In Cincinnati, you'd likely hear that butter was 16 cents a pound; tobacco, 12 to 15 cents a pound; salt, $8 for a barrel, at 22 cents a pound.

Upstream, in Brookville, flour was $3.25 a barrel; coffee, 12 cents per pound; sugar, 7 cents a pound; eggs, 6 cents a dozen; lard, 7 cents a pound; nails, by the keg, 3 or 4 cents a pound. A smithie could get bar iron for around 3 cents a pound to make horseshoes.

Fast forward to April 1869, when corn and oats were selling for 63 cents a bushel; wheat was $1.45; sugar, 11 cents a pound.

And if you bought the Brookville American, the grandest newspaper of all, you paid $2.50 a year, in advance.

In December of 1869, the price of wheat tumbled to $1.12.

But people needed other things too, namely, cloth.

Reifel writes:

"The Laurel Woolen Mills of this county in May, 1850, advertised the products of their looms as follows in prices current; "E. Macy & Co., Carding, Fulling and Spinning Wool--mae an offer for sale Jeans, blue mixed, 37 1/2 per yard; Jeans, steel, 32 cents; Satinet, 37 to 56 according to color; Cassimere, 62 to 75; White Flannel, 15 to 25; Blankets, per pair, $2.50."

The numbers probably don't mean much because it's hard to tell whether consumers actually bought products from established mills, or if they simply made their own clothes.

One could assume that the Laurel numbers were more directed at bigger purchasers, who turned the wool into larger quantities.

By 1915, the last year Reifel could evaluate prices, a gallon of coal oil (turpentine) was selling for 15 cents for best grades; iron bars and rods were going for 3 cents.

Corn was 72 cents a bushel, or about a dime more than it had been in 1869. Hogs were selling for $6 a hundred; and cattle were around $8 per hundred-weight. Sugar was a nickel a pound and coffee was about a quarter.

An International Harvester cost $150.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pilfered biographies of Fairfielders

The Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin Counties was published in 1899.

It's a bizarre work to say the least. It's filled with names of people who lived in those areas over the 19th century, and it's ripe with biography, story lines, family trees and the usual pomp and praise.

A search of the monster document reveals a number of people who either lived in Fairfield Township or had businesses or family members there. Many were associated with various fraternal organizations, or the churches of the day.

Here are two that I found interesting for reasons that only matter if you think they are interesting. These are verbatim from the book, so officially ... I am stealing this material. So sue me.

One of the able medical practitioners of Dublin, Wayne County, William P. Best, is a native of Fairfield, born Aug. 3, 1864.

He is of English-German descent, his ancestors having emigrated to North Carolina, while his mother's people settled in Virginia. William is the eldest of the three sons of Frank (Francis) P. and Mary V. (Ogden) Best, the others being Frank M. and Henry T.

Francis (Frank) Best is buried in Sims-Brier.
For several years Frank P. Best owned and operated a gristmill in Fairfield and for a number of terms he served in the capacity of township trustee. He was a patriotic citizen, as were all his near relatives, and his brother, Milton, a Union soldier, was wounded while fighting for the preservation of his country at Chickamauga, and died from the injuries received on the battlefield.

Dr. Best and his two brothers received excellent educational advantages in the common schools of Fairfield, and all have since taken degrees, the latter two being Doctors of Philosophy. William P. Best was but 17 years of age when he took charge of a school, and his winters for several years were passed in teaching.

During this period he commenced the study of medicine, and in the fall of 1886 he matriculated in the Eclectic Medical Institute, at Cincinnati. Being graduated with honor in that institution, in 1888 he established himself in practice at Mount Carmel, Ind., and in the spring of 1893 he removed to Indianapolis.

A few months later he came to Dublin, where he opened an office, and soon had won the confidence of the public. He was admitted to membership in the Indiana State Eclectic Medical Association the same year, is a permanent member of the National Eclectic Association of the United States, and of the Eclectic Alumni Association.

He has pursued special courses of study at his alma mater and at the Pulte Medical College, in Cincinnati, and keeps thoroughly abreast of the times in everything pertaining to his profession.

Fraternally Dr. Best belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Improved Order of Red Men and the Knights of Pythias.

It is worth noting that the Best family carried considerable clout in the Whitewater valley. A Nancy Best and Samuel Best show up in searches. Born in 1811, I don't know her connection. (This blog is not about genealogy.)


(This could also be Yocom)
John Yocum was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, March 26, 1808, and was one of a numerous family, having five brothers and the same number of sisters who reached years of maturity, besides several who died in childhood.

In 1835, Yocum came with his brother Levi to Franklin County and for two years they were residents of the village of Fairfield, where he worked at the carpenter's and cabinetmaker's trades, while the brother followed wagon-making.

At the end of that time they returned to Pennsylvania, but soon afterward made a permanent home here. Levi Yocom was killed by the running away of his team on the 11th of August, 1843.

In March, 1840, Yocum was united in marriage to Joanna Hays, who was born in Cumberland County. New Jersey, March 27, 1816, and when a child of 2, she was brought to Franklin County by her parents who settled in Fairfield Township.

Not long after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Yocum located on a farm in that township where their children now reside, and there they passed the remainder of their lives, the wife and mother dying May 2, 1883, the father September 25, 1891.

He was a very industrious and enterprising man, who cleared and improved a fine farm, and was also a good mechanic. It is said that he assisted in laying the rails on the first line of railroad built in the United States, this being a short line running to a coal mine in Pennsylvania.

Sincere and consistent Christians, he and his wife were for many years faithful members of the Methodist church and were among its most liberal supporters. They had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances and were held in high regard by all who knew them.

The Yocum clan was mostly buried in Brier cemetery and their graves moved to the New Fairfield plot.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Agricultural organizations

In what appears to be the origin of the county fair in Franklin County, an Agricultural Society was formed in 1844. Samuel Goodwin, George Kimble, Jeremiah Woods and John Matson were its early leaders, according to Reifel's history.

The organization may have gotten off to a rousing start but was in no hurry to redeem its excitement.

Reifel says "the society appears to have vanished for some reason not known."

In any event, attempts to revive the society met with some success in 1852 and an early fair was held in October that year in Laurel. C.F. Clarkson, M.V. Simonson, J.H. Farquhar are among the named officials.

I can't find any names in the reorganized board of directors who have obvious ties to Fairfield though a reference in Town Under the Lake lists the following:

J. H. Tatman
J. H. Tatman, the celebrated Daguerrean artist, informs the citizens of Fairfield and vicinity that he is now prepared to take pictures (Daguerreotypes) in the most approved style of the art. Mr. Tatman received the premium at the first Annual Fair of the Franklin County Agricultural Society, with several competitors, which is good testimony that his pictures are of the superior kind. He will remain but a short time. (November 19, 1852, Franklin Democrat)

Reifel describes the organization in a rather disinterested way. "Monthly meetings were held by the society and topics discussed and papers read which were of interest to the members."

Farming otherwise was just hard work.

As such, the organization ran its business for 20 years before evolving into a Joint-Stock Agricultural Association in 1872. It's about then that the concept of the county fair took root. "This latter body held fairs and expended some means in filling up their grounds, and otherwise attempted to build up an interest in comparative exhibition but all to no profitable purpose."

Reifel's explanation as to when the fairgrounds existed and where is somewhat confusing. He does say that the first fairgrounds used by the association in 1872 was located on the river, west of town.

Other agricultural societies included the Franklin County Pomona Grange, organized in 1877 at Whitcomb with John Applegate, John Kiefer and Jacob Bower as leading officials.

The organization had a specific set of principles:

"United by the strong and faithful tie of agriculture, we mutually resolve to labor for the good of our order, our country and mankind. We shall endeavor to advance or cause by attempting to accomplish the following objects:

  • To develop a better and higher manhood and womanhood among ourselves.
  • To enhance the comforts and attractions of our homes and strengthen our attachment to our pursuits.
  • To wage no aggressive warfare against another human whatsoever."

Other goals were to avoid discussion of political or religious questions, promote child welfare ... and strengthen the credit system. At the state level inside the hierarchy, that political principle changed to make Granges much more influential. The objective at the local level was to foster unity of purpose.

One interesting part is the so-called "last but not least" addendum. "We proclaim it among our purposes to inculcate a proper appreciation for the abilities and sphere of women, as is indicated by admitting her to membership and position in our order."

Grange has been irrelevant for many years.



Years after the Civil War -- Part 2

What they wrote about the leaders of the 19th century:

I've snapped a few tidbits from an 1882 Franklin County Atlas of the biographies of some of the men who were considered prominent in the county in the period just after the Civil War.

These tidbits are of no particular value other than simply being representative of how the more affluent people either described themselves or were described by somebody who did the essay for them. There is some evidence that part of this process was either contrived or embellished beyond believable. No matter, it's in the book.

"Robert Stoops was born in Brookville Township, Mary 12, 1842, the son of Robert and Catharine Stoops (nee Carter). He was accorded the usual educational facilities granted to the young men of the day and took care to utilize them as much as possible. He has a very fine farm, about one mile from the town of Brookville and is considered as one of the progressive farmers of Franklin County."

Stoops also had a distinguished record of service in the Civil War.

John Shafer of Springfield Township is more revealing. "Among the pioneers who are living witnesses of the rapid growth and prosperity of Franklin County, who have spent the most part of a century in contributing their work and energy in connection with the early settlement of the county, and who have the satisfaction of living to see the grand results of their labor, ranks Mr. John Shafer." (Short sentences just don't work for this man!)

Shafer was a cooper in the 1830s and was siring children all through the 1850s. "He is a well-known and highly respected pioneer of Franklin County, and has, through a long and successful life, always conducted himself as behooves a Christian and a gentleman."


Joseph Schmidt's clothing business in Brookville impressed somebody. "Mr. Schmidt's long experience in the clothing trade, and his extensive facilities for buying, enables him to offer for inspection to the people of Franklin County a stock of clothing that cannot be excelled in the county."

Schmidt was born in Germany and came to America in 1867 and learned the clothing business while in the employment of a man named L.P. Strauss and Brother in Cincinnati. A year later he came to Brookville and bought a store that the Strauss brothers owned but wanted managed better.


Old John Goff was deceased by the time the Atlas got around to applauding his life.  "He lived with his parents (in Hamilton, Ohio) until his 20th year and then undertook what would be to the young men of our day (1880s) an almost impossible feat."

He visited his birthplace in New Jersey. On foot. Walked the entire distance there and back. That was in about 1816, so it was probably hard to hitch a ride to Little Egg Harbor.

Goff was a Democrat, father of 12 and a distiller. He made booze for a living. It appears Goff saw the light about the liquor and gave it up sometime around 1822. He was living in Bath Township. "He was one of those old pioneers who have passed away after a life of toil and hardship, incumbent upon all who undertake to settle and clear up a new country."

Chilon Gordon of Metamora was described as having "sterling integrity, good business qualifications achieved in ample competence, and is esteemed and respected by everyone with whom his business brings him in contact."

Gordon raised and sold hogs, cattle and sheep. He was described as a Methodist, unabashed in spending his wealth in support of that denomination.

Zachary Hutchinson was lauded for having "risen entirely from his own effort to the present gratifying position he now holds among the citizens of Brookville."

Hutchinson was named in 1880 as the Unted States Storekeeper. That job was later given to Sam Walton.

The late great John Wright (deceased at the time his biography was published) came to Franklin County in 1825 by way of the Dayton, Ohio, originally from England.

Wright was married to Cecelia Glidewell, a name prominent in the Fairfield area along where S.R. 101 now goes. Cecelia's dad was Thomas Glidewell.

Wright was evidently crippled but still strong enough to accumulate some real estate in Grant County as well as the Brookville area. "He was well known and highly respected for his honest, upright life and noble traits of character which it was his fortune to possess.

I will pull out some biographies of some more influential people with Fairfield roots. Those will come later.

Meanwhile ...

Well done, sirs. Your stories are refreshing, even if slightly full of Chilon Gordon's most famous product.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Years after the Civil War -- Part 1

Railroads changed Indiana in the 1870s.
The fun of finding anecdotes about the history of the Whitewater valley is sometimes more in the way it's written than what it actually reveals.

Fairfield and thousands of little towns like it, became less and less relevant as Indiana began to mature following the Civil War.

By 1873, all 92 counties had been established, which effectively ended most power grabs for local control. The smart people had all begun to cluster around the major cities where industry and economics promised the greater future.

With a couple of exceptions, not much is written in the histories of Fairfield that is readily available. Prominent names from the earlier part of the century remained prominent in the 1860s and 1870s.

We have already discussed at length the antics of George Loper and his family, who fought overwhelming odds in an effort to build a carriage industry that would have been doomed in another four decades anyway.

Other names, we will get too later on. Those include the Cory family.

Unlike today's team, this 1869 outfit was undefeated.
Oddly some names that show up throughout the history of the valley, even into today, were stalwart families who simply didn't generate enough political or economic impact to be prominent. I found that process somewhat amusing, looking at Reifel and a few other documents, including a couple of old county atlas books.

Those atlases were profit-makers. They thrived on paid subscribers and advertising. Glorious books as they were, they are as historical as the publishers cared for them to be, within reason. (They are quite valuable, however.) In some cases, the biographical sketches of some of the more "outstanding" people of the valley were almost succulent in their praise. One presumes these "biographies" were ghost-written to make the subjects more appealing.  No skeletons in old Dad's closet!

Reifel's history is less so, but it contains some of the same material, though written 30-some years later.

A lot of what passed for history in the 1870s and 1880s is glorified government. Another term for that is "bureaucracy."

But to be fair, Indiana and most of the nation had been at peace. Foreign threats were all but eliminated for the time. Only the Franco-Prussian War in Europe was anything of a menace. (That would prove to be a real menace, but it's hardly connected to Fairfield, at least for the moment.)

The federal government had gone West with Horace Greeley, shoving the native Indians farther and farther away from their origins. The last great confrontations were on the hills at Little Big Horn.

Ma got a box in the mail!
The country actually had become more "sane" inasmuch as the political system had finally gone national. The two-party snake's tongue was firmly entrenched and fairly easy to identify. The highways would begin to take shape and the Railroad was Almost God.

Meanwhile, in Franklin County, the farmers who could build big houses built big houses. The folks who worked in the sawmills and the slaughter houses and on the roads ... all did so for less than a dollar a day.

It is likely that a farm worker actually did better than a non-farm laborer, though the work was more seasonal.

Child labor was common and cruel in urban areas.

Families began to grow and spread out.

Fairfield didn't change much in the later years of the 19th century, moving forward to the end. Photographs of the time tend to prove that, though several rather robust fires in prior years would have removed some of the original structure.

I will take a swing at patching a few people and their lives together in the next few weeks.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The militia

I had intended to do a blog item about some of the men and women who have served in the military over the years.

Having taken a look through a Julie Schlesselman book at the library, I realized that's probably far more daunting than practical. But if you do want to see who served in the various branches of the military, the book is for sale and naturally is available in the reference department (genealogy) at your library.

Julie's work was produced for the 2011 bicentennial celebration of Franklin County. It is a hardcover book and loaded with pictures, information and anecdotes about the county's veterans.

Ranging as far back as there was an Indiana, Hoosiers were called to serve in militia regiments, primarily as a defense against the native tribes who were not particularly happy that the white people had come to build roads, courthouses and whiskey saloons.

Mistreatment of the native Indians also contributed to the friction.

Some of that came during the War of 1812, when the British had allied themselves with the Shawnee and other tribes to fight the Americans in Indiana. In those days, "mustering" for service was not only common, but necessary.

Reifel's history of Franklin County describes one person's viewpoint.

"No recollections of early Franklin would be worth a cent which did not recollect general muster day. The period was near the close of the war, and patriotism was at a premium, and to hate the British was the bounden duty of everybody, and the statesmen of those days were sure we would have to fight them again at a very remote period; hence the laws required everybody between the ages of 18 and 45 to muster at least once a year."

It is worth mentioning that militia in those days recognized their leadership protocol. Soldiers were not managed by a bureaucracy in the Pentagon. Their commanding officers were their neighbors.

As a result, the functional militias were generally pretty well trained and knew their geography and overall notions about how to fight.

Reifel's report continues: "... and as there were men enough of military aspirations in every neighborhood to complain on the delinquents, it is easy to see that the crowd on muster day was immense, because everybody brought the whole family."

The muster was a big deal, but the picnic was even more fun.

It is also worth noting that not EVERY-one who mustered was of muster quality.

"The infantry and the other uniformed companies led in the march; then followed the great unwashed, the flat-foots, which constituted the finest possible burlesque on military movements."

Most everyone else just brought canes or cornstalks and pretended to march, "occasionally with fence rails ten feet long, sometimes four abreast and sometimes ten, some sober, but already many drunk before noon -- and thus they marched."

But it was a muster and it met the letter of the territorial law, designed to run the Indians away and keep the British on their side of the pond.

Most of these rag-tag volunteers were "dismissed soon after reaching the parade grounds, much to the relief of the uniformed companies which spent an hour or so drilling."

After that, talk turned to gingerbread, a favorite staple for the must-muster crowd.

After Indiana was granted statehood, the militia organization was improved, divided into divisions and brigades. Robert Hanna of Fairfield was one of the earliest leaders.

Reifel continues.

"From 1816 to 1830, the old militia system was very popular throughout the state. In 1828, there were 65 regiments organized into 18 brigades and seven divisions."

About 40,000 men were affected.

After the 1830s, the promise of peace across the valley had evidently taken root and it was not until the American war against Mexico in 1846 did the troops get called again.

After that, Congressional attempts to organize volunteer militias were largely a farce. "These laws provided nothing and required nothing. Many commissions were issued as complimentary to those who received them, but with the exception of a few companies of half-organized militiamen, scattered here and there throughout the state, the system was worse than useless."

That would be the standing matter until April, 1861.

Indiana got ready for war in a hurry.