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.

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