Monday, June 29, 2015

Tile factory magnates

Occasionally, I stumble over some names of people who have vague Fairfield connections with even more intriguing histories, not because of who they were but what they almost accomplished.

Or did accomplish without anybody paying much attention.

Two of them are from the same family.

David D. Bassett and Charles V. Wilson.

Bassett, according to an old biographies book of pomp and praise, was "a representative of an honored pioneer family, long identified with the growth and development of this section of Indiana, and with the promotion of its farming interests."

Wilson, meanwhile, was Bassett's son-in-law. His history is even more strident, according to August Reifel's history. There's not much difference in the content of these biographies. They are propped up by the families and are long on geneaology and short on substance.

But in the case of Bassett and Wilson, it's what they almost achieved that makes them interesting. And to some extent, a stretch of imagination ties them closely to Fairfield. It's likely both were instrumental in the building of a Methodist church congregation in Fairfield and were likely involved in the construction of the church itself, which was one of the largest in Franklin County at the time.

Bassett was born in Fairfield Township in 1832, his family origins being New Jersey, as was pretty typical of people who settled in the northern edge of Franklin County.

Bassett's father was a brick mason and David learned the craft in Cincinnati, brought his talents to Fairfield and bought some land east of town, in the Farm Hill area.

The biography says Bassett "erected some of the best buildings of that day in the surrounding country."

Bassett and his wife "were both consistent members of the Methodist church and were leading advocates of the temperance cause, the father ever admonishing his sons never to take the first drink."

The hyperbole continues about Bassett, who apparently was somewhat of a land speculator and would-be entrepreneur. Eventually, he bought property in Bath Township in Colter's Corner (aka Old Bath) and set up a tile manufacturing business. He then went into meatpacking.

He is also credited with having turned a log cabin into "his present commodious two-story residence. He has also cleared the land, placed many rods of tiling upon it and now has his farm under a high state of cultivation."

All that before 1867, when he died.

Bassett was married to Matilda Fry, daughter of Henry Fry, a somewhat influential landowner who ran a farm and grist mill on Templeton's creek in Fairfield Township.

Fry was lauded as a central character in United Brethren church affairs.

Meanwhile, Charles V. Wilson, son-in-law of David Bassett, evidently saw future in tile manufacturing as well and ran such a business with his uncle Robert in Colter's Corner toward the end of the 19th century. An 1882 Atlas shows a "B. Wilson" tile factory. It's difficult to pin down dates. They weren't always written to be authentic. One can assume the businesses were in a state of flux. Open for awhile, then closed.

Tile-making wasn't particularly lucrative for any of the family but it did suggest that enterprise was not lacking, even in rustic old Bath.

Wilson was described by Reifel as "one of the best citizens of this community and is ever ready and willing to do anything in his power to advance the interests of his friends and neighbors along social, moral, educational or material lines."

Wilson was a staunch supporter of the Methodist church, the biography reveals.

Bassett and his wife are buried in Old Franklin cemetery east of New Fairfield. Wilson's name shows up in a cursory search in Union County (died, 1952).

Source: Lewis Publishing Company. Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin counties, Indiana (Volume 2).

Pauper children ... life in the 1880s

This is one of those 'I wish I knew more' yarns that makes the history of Fairfield Township so endearing.

One could scrounge through the archives of all the records in all the offices and caves and dugouts in a million ratholes and not learn how the lives of so many were altered by the acts of so few ... or the intervention of Providence.

In 1882, Franklin County's leadership came upon the notion that something needed to be done with the children of the very poor. Presumably, these were children of the paupers who had taken up residence at the county's poor farm.

Kids needed something else, like school ... um, the necessities, as such as one could identify them in the latter part of the 19th century.

I presume some of these kids were orphans, though that isn't clear. The essay doesn't name them.

They were Pauper children.

August Reifel's history from 1915 provides a comparatively sensitive look at the matter.

"It was not until the year 1882 that Franklin County had a children's home, although there had been much agitation toward providing a suitable home for the children of the poor asylum." (A poor farm had been in place since the 1850s.)

Taking a step back from that, the apparent approach to the poor in those days was how to treat them as a commodity. Just put them someplace and do what was necessary to see that they didn't just ... die.

Being poor was a matter of user definition, I suppose.

In any event, the state legislature in 1881 had set up some guidelines on how county governments could approach the matter. In those years, county and township government was the basic premise for most decisions. The state simply oversaw the process.

Enter Missouri Hanna.

In June, 1882, the Franklin County Commissioners appointed Miss Hanna as matron of the asylum and paid her 30 cents a day per child. She was to provide a home on her farm in Fairfield Township. The Hanna farm was about two miles south of town along the river.

"At this time, the commissioners directed Superintendent Shaw, of the poor asylum (south of Brookville), to deliver to Miss Hanna all the children under his charge between the ages of 1 and 16 and on July 10 of the same year, he turned over to her 11 children."

Basically, the kids were cut out of the herd and sent elsewhere while their parents remained at the poor farm. Presumably this was considered a sensible idea. I've found nothing that suggests it met with much resistance. One-year-olds?

By December, the number had grown to 16, eight of whom were attending school in Fairfield, though it does not say which of the three schools they might have attended. They may have gone to school at Farm Hill, which was closer. Saltwell might have been an option. One-room schools, both.

A visiting committee "reported that the children were being given the best of attention and to the best of their knowledge were being cared for in a very satisfactory manner."

Reifel says Missouri and her sister, Sarah A. Hanna (the author of 'House of Hanna'), managed the affairs of the pauper children for 7 years. "Each quarterly report of the visiting committee to the home indicated that the children were given every possible attention."

A report in June 1884:

"The home is unquestionably an honor to the county and the Misses Hanna have certainly shown a capability for the work which challenges all comparison."

Curiously, Sarah Hanna does not mention Missouri or the children's home in her 'House of Hanna' book. In that respect, it's quite disappointing.

The children were moved in 1889 to a new home in Brookville after the county decided it would be more economical to run its own facility than to pay rent in Fairfield.

The new children's home was located on 32 acres adjoining the county poor farm, which made sense inside the apparent bureaucratic cruelty of the process. Landowners who sold were the Wright and Lewis families. That facility was still in use when Reifel's history was published. By that time, the process of finding foster homes for the children had taken hold

"Something of this work in Franklin County may be seen when it is known that in 1910 four children were placed in good homes, one in 1911, five in 1912, 16 in 1913 and seven in 1914."

The final county assessment of the Hannas' work.

"Well done, good and faithful servants."

The history of those whose value was measured on what they cost the county seems lost to a story never to be told. We can only imagine.

The county children's home, from Reifel's history ... around 1876.

Friday, June 26, 2015

James Buckley

As a continuation of an intriguing search for unique characters in Fairfield's history, I happened upon a somewhat complex family tree of James Buckley, who August Reifel calls "a worthy scion of one of the oldest families of the county."

It was for that reason that Reifel was grateful to be able to include Buckley's profile in his 1915 tome on Franklin County.

As usual, the biography is short on zing and long on tedium, but it does illustrate how families of substance and depth could end up in such places as Fairfield.

It also proves that Fairfield did, in its time, have a particular appeal.

The Buckley name is also connected to the Harrell and Irwin families.

According to Reifel's history, James Buckley was born in 1847 in Fairfield Township on the family farm. His father had come from Connecticut, his mother (Jane Harrell) from the then-rustic area of Fayette County.

It's to be noted that Reifel says the family name was originally spelled "Bulkley," so if you are inclined to search, try that as an option.

It helps trace the family back to England -- the days of Queen Elizabeth (the original) -- to 1583. I suppose all families go back that far, but that the Buckleys were able to prove it made them compelling as a study. Their Connecticut roots are as far back as the 1630s, or just a few years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

James Buckley, the story goes, helped build up a furniture manufacturing company and established his prominence as a result of that.

"Mr. Buckley has always given his hearty support to the Republican party, although he has never been inclined to take an active part in political affairs. He is a director of the Brookville Telephone Company and is a director and treasuer of the Indiana Hardwood Lumber Association."

That made him a "worthy scion."

The Buckley family lived in Fairfield at the end. Methodist Church services were enhanced by the organ playing of Stella Buckley, whose son Wright was a businessman.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Spanish-American-Filipino wars

Remember the Maine? Once, everyone did.
Indiana's last war of the 19th century was one that produced the most results for the least effort, which is to greatly simplify the cause and cost of any conflict.

The three-month Spanish American war, fought in 1898, had marginal effect on Franklin County and Fairfield Township.

A bit about the war:

The Cubans, fed up with being controlled by Spanish rule, had been in a longstanding rebellion in quest of independence. The United States, imperialists at the time, were all in favor of that, sensing greater influence on the island.

Somewhere along the way, the American battleship Maine, which had been anchored in Havana harbor, blew up, killing 260 U.S. sailors.

War ensued, Teddy Roosevelt attacked San Juan Hill, and later, the Philippines became American property, as well as Cuba and Puerto Rico, and a few other islands in the Pacific, including Guam.

All within 90 days.

The war itself was historically important in that it effectively ended almost all European influence in the Western Hemisphere. concludes:

"The victorious United States, on the other hand, emerged from the war a world power with far-flung overseas possessions and a new stake in international politics that would soon lead it to play a determining role in the affairs of Europe."

For the men of Franklin County, it's unlikely any of them saw global conquest as a practical agenda, but there was perhaps some impact in Fairfield Township.

August Reifel's 1915 history lists the raw data on the county's military might in 1898.

Fairfield Township's census revealed 105 men of military age, though 24 were considered unfit for duty, leaving 81 of draft age.

The county didn't furnish a unique company for service in the Spanish-American war, that being a strategy that had fallen out of favor with the U.S. government. Most who had volunteered were simply members of the regular army who happened to be in service when the war began.

Reifel, in relating details of Franklin County participation in the war, relies on personal stories for most of his information.

"As far as is known, there were only six volunteers from Franklin County in the war. Three of these, John S. Francis, Alden Murray and William Woessner, were from Metamora."

The war itself was curious on a number of levels and proved that the power of the national news media could enrage the public sufficiently. William Randolph Heart, publisher of several giant newspapers, is credited with stirring public sentiment against the Spanish.

Spain was ill-equipped to engage in hostilities. Its only useful possession was Cuba and an American blockade of Havana rendered the island irrelevant for Spanish defenses.

For its own part, the American military perhaps underestimated the need for a fighting force. The Navy had been superior to Spain's, and the number of ground soldiers required to win the conflict proved sufficient, even in small numbers.

Two decades later, those notions would come four-square with a new set of rules.

For what it's worth, the "false flags" about the sinking of the Maine have endured, though an analysis of the explosion suggests a boiler blew up inside the vessel. Convenient? Perhaps.

After the U.S. was given control of the Philippines, American attempts to govern the islands met with resistance. It took several years for the Americans to subdue the rebels who wanted independence for the islands. U.S. control of the Philippines lasted until 1946.

U.S. losses (7,100 killed or wounded over about 15 years) in trying to manage the Philippines far exceeded their losses in acquiring access to the islands in the first place. The toll among the natives was enormous and war atrocities were considered commonplace.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fisher's grand plan

Carl G. Fisher
If you were to compile a list of the five most important people in the 20th century, you'd not include a guy from Greensburg.

If you were to compile a list of the five most important events in Indiana in any given year, you'd probably put the Indianapolis 500 auto race at or near the top.

Carl G. Fisher, the guy from Greensburg, is responsible for that.

I stumbled over one of those puffed-up biographies about Fisher, one that suggested he was a great guy, chronologically and without accentuation.

As it turns out, Fisher's history is laced with 'holy cow!' moments, starting around 1904, about the time Indiana was settling in for a full-bore attempt to become relevant as a state. Mostly agricultural, the natural gas boom of the 1880s gave Indiana an anchor into industry and as the automobile began to emerge, boastful notions took root.

According to a history in a book called Yesterday's Indiana by Byron Troyer (1975), Fisher, born in 1874, was a grade-school dropout who began selling bicycles as a teenager in Indianapolis. He eventually drifted into the new and exciting world of automobiles.

By 1904, Fisher and business partner James Allison (of Allison engine fame) managed to perfect an acetylene lamp that could be used as automobile headlights. A Frenchman had invented the device and had no interested buyers.

That's the simplified version of Fisher's early life. One can surmise that he had something of a genius point of view. He caught on to the process and after 1904, was promoting the auto as the deal of the decade -- and he set up the first automobile dealership in Indiana.

The more complicated parts follow. Fisher had some pretty big ideas. In 1909, he bought some land in a rural area northwest of Indianapolis and did what all people who make things do -- he decided to race it.

Trial runs at the 500 race course
By 1909, Fisher's massive Indianapolis Motor Speedway was ready to roar, though the first races were tragic and disastrous. In 1911, the first complete '500' was run on the brick track. More than 3.2 million bricks were used to pave the course.

Why? Fisher wanted to see if he could make cars go faster and better. The race was simply an endurance test. Auto builders from all over the country were interested.

Why stop there? Fisher, a couple of years later, promoted and sold the idea that a transcontinental highway should be built. It's known today as U.S. 30, cutting across the northern part of Indiana. In those days, it was called the Lincoln Highway. Private money spurred the highway's development but Fisher, in close with President Theodore Roosevelt, got a little government help for the 3,500-mile road.

A Wikipedia entry claims the Lincoln Highway was a major influence on President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he proposed and oversaw the beginning of the interstate highway system.

Three years later, Fisher advocated and sold the idea for the Dixie Highway, a road that linked Chicago to Florida, where Fisher owned real estate he hoped to sell. It worked. Miami Beach is the result of Fisher's entrepreneurial spirit.

Not all of Fisher's grand schemes worked and he eventually went broke during the Depression while expanding his transcontinental ideas in Long Island, N.Y.




Elwood Haynes of Kokomo (above) was a 19th century metallurgist who perfected a number of steel alloys that helped fabricate the first American automobiles. He is recognized for having created in 1894 the earliest American design that was feasible for mass production. 

At the end of 1894, Haynes joined with Elmer and Edgar Apperson to create an automobile company and began producing cars that year. Their company is recognized as being the first viable automotive company in the United States, and the second company to produce autos commercially.

The early cars weren't particularly popular since they didn't haul anything and required maintenance that nobody understood. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Oliver -- genius behind the plow

James Oliver, plowmaster
“I was classed with the fools who pursue the fallacy of perpetual motion,” James Oliver reportedly once said.

If that's the case, Oliver proved to have the last laugh. He's one of several industrial giants of the 19th century whose perseverance and forward thinking go somewhat unnoticed.

Well, only if you aren't paying attention.

Oliver was not unlike most early Hoosiers, having come from somewhere else. In his case, Scotland, where he was born in 1823.

He showed up in South Bend like many immigrants and set about learning the ironworking business in a hot foundry. And as the story is required to go, he invested in a little firm of his own and started making things with iron.

As in, plows.

Those early days, plows were mostly wooden with iron blades. They frequently broke or got stuck in the mud.

By 1856, Oliver had stumbled onto a process of making a better iron plow, this time with a "chilled" effect that somehow turned molten metal into cooler plows, improving the temper of the metal and making it more durable.

A few years of toil eventually paid off and Oliver, in 1868, had perfected his process.

Why does that matter? Well, it does.

The development of the chilled plow was extremely important in a world that was largely still agricultural. By 1868, Oliver and his business associates had hooked up with wagonmaker Clement Studebaker, an industrial giant in his own right, to incorporate the South Bend Iron Works, makers of the Oliver Chilled Plow.

After that, the business began to grow rapidly.

By 1874, South Bend Iron Works turned exclusively to the manufacture of plows and other farm implements, opening sales and distribution centers from New York City to San Francisco, although chiefly in the Midwest and the South.

The Indiana Historical Society tells us more:

"By the turn of the century, Oliver employed more than 1,000 workers. In prosperous years, it could turn out as many as 300,000 plows, with specialized models for every purpose from breaking the thick prairie sod of Nebraska to cultivating the cotton fields of Alabama or the sugar plantations of Cuba. There was even a model for use in the steep hillside vineyards of the Rhineland, designed to throw the earth to the uphill side whichever direction the plow was moving."

Oliver farm equipment continued to appeal to farmers well into the middle of the 20th century but it's been merged into other companies in recent decades. It is part of AGCO at present.

Curiously, the success of the plow was also its worst enemy. Plowing praireland would inevitably prove tragic, leading to enormous amounts of soil erosion that helped produce the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Virgil Davis's history

A trip down memory lane in quest of Fairfield anecdotes would not be complete without some of what the late Virgil Davis compiled.

Davis, who was born in Bath and taught school for many years in Brookville, was somewhat of an icon during the late 1950s and compiled his own snippets for a book he prepared for the Brookville Sesquicentennial in 1958. He's also a contributor in a lot of other historical documents.

A lot of what I found about Fairfield is a compilation of facts and stories that are documented in other places. It's a fancy way of saying that once a story gets told, play hell-or-high-water getting it modified.

If it's true, all the better.

Davis was all over the place with his yarns but he spent some time discussing the politics of the years prior to the Civil War:

"Abolition and the slavery question would become a political issue of great importance in the later 1850s and the opposition to the Democrats in state and county would crystallize in the formation of the Republican Party."

Davis reveals some rather interesting political activity during the years prior to the war, referring to a "Colonization Society" that formed in Springfield Township. The society's local aims are not revealed but it apparently had negligible influence. In general, the group advocated returning freed slaves to their African roots.

The report turns dicey.

"Even after G. V. Edrington, the popular colored barber, was arrested on September 21st, 1840, as a fugitive slave from Kentucky and lodged in jail, C.F. Clarkson in the Indiana American asserted that 'we have not, we believe, an abolitionist in the place, and we are proud of it.' "

Clarkson was the editor of the Brookville paper who had been so terribly upset in later years with Gov. James Whitcomb over blunders surrounding the Mexican War. BLOG ITEM HERE 

As it turned out, Edrington possessed his "free papers" and eventually regained his freedom if not his dignity.

Clarkson evidently shifted gears after his political point of view became less popular. Later on, he professed to be against slavery.



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Millin' with Mullin

Various maps of Fairfield Township during the 1800s show that the Mullin family owned rather large parcels of land.

Ranging from the north edge of the county into the Bath Springs area, to land adjoining the town on the west ... and in an area where S.R. 101 now runs, the Mullin footprint is substantial.

Most curious is from an 1882 plat map that shows "A. Mullin" ran a mill near the river. Presumably, that is Amos Mullin, who was the son of Lewis Mullin, who owned much land around Fairfield.

Most of the Mullins are buried in Bath Springs cemetery, just off old S.R. 101 in Union County. SEE BLOG ITEM HERE.

The Mullins were among a number of families who migrated to Harmony Township from New Jersey in the very early 1800s. The clan master was Mark Mullin, who owned land just south and east of Old Franklin.

The begettings and begattings included some rather recognizeable names -- Ezekiel Rose and William Colson, considered Union County's original settlers.

I've run into a stump about the Mullin mill south of Fairfield. I can't find any other "A. Mullin" ... so I presume the business was run by Amos, who doesn't leave much legacy for the biographers to share.

What we do know about the mill business in those days comes partly from a book entitled "The Indiana Way," an Indiana University publication compiled by James H. Madison:

"The village store's only rival in the formation of public opinion was the neighborhood mill. Only rarely was the mill located at the village, the forces determining their location being entirely different."

So, yeah ... lucky we had a river, one that would ultimately conspire to doom the town.

Madison explains:

"Early Indiana was rich in water power. There was not a county in the state but had several good mill streams. The water mills reached their climax in the decade of the 1850s. The farmers were producing enormous crops of wheat and corn and the railroads had not yet begun to carry them to the larger mills or elevators. This surplus grain was ground at the water mills, of which there were usually a dozen in each county."

I can't find evidence of many mills along the East Fork, though an 1870s map of Dunlapsville shows a mill along the river, but it also indicates that it was no longer being used.

Presumably there were mills along both forks of the river in Brookville and south. Flour milling was a profitable business along the Whitewater Canal at Metamora and Laurel.

At Fairfield, we have the "A. Mullin" operation.

Old maps show a mill race that had been cut on the east bank of the river, one that ran under the road to the mill just to the south of the bridge. Old photographs from the early 1900s show a bridge across the mill race.

Later, the mill race and the mill were completely wiped away. Speculation: A PIECE ON THE FAIRFIELD WEBSITE EXPLORES IT. 

"The Indiana Way" shares more insight as to what might have transpired at the Mullin mill:

"These millers frequently added a saw mill, a tannery and a carding mill to their plant, rounding out their business by putting up a large store where all the neighborhood produce was bought and shipped by this pioneer merchant prince to New Orleans by flatboat."

What economy?

"The flour and meal ground in Indiana in 1860 was valued at $11,200,000, an increase over 1850 of 104 percent. The lumber sawed was valued at $3,169,000.

A fairly standard grist mill
"One can easily infer that the men who gathered at these industrial centers were far different from those who congregated at the village. If one was the forerunner of our literary and country clubs and other places of amusement and recreation, the other was the predecessor of the commercial clubs."

So what ended the run of prosperity for A. Mullin?

Flooding on the rivers did enormous damage to the infrastructure, though there's no evidence that occurred at Fairfield. It's conceivable that high water may have damaged the mill race.

Like everything else, the mills just wore out, the owners gave way to people who chose to do their commerce in different ways. The railroads moved goods farther and more efficiently.

Bigger just became better. The old grist mills were built for function only. They rarely qualified as "Taj Mahal" in scope.

One day, somebody filled in the Mullin mill race, tore down the bridge and wiped the mill off the map.


Mill and mill race were in the white circled area. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A little on the Logans

Among the more interesting names in the origins of Fairfield Township is that of Logan.

The family name has endured for centuries in the valley.

Much of this is from House of Hanna. August Reifel's history takes a somewhat blase stab at adding some zest to the Logan name, but it fails generally, focusing on a great-grandson, William J. Logan.

Brothers John and William Logan were among the first members of the Carolina Settlement to claim land in 1804-05. Sarah Hanna, in her history, identifies the locations of the Logan claims but it's hardly relevant now ... it's under water, mostly. William's cabin, on display at Treaty Line Museum, was just south of Fairfield.

For what it's worth, John Ewing, another original settler, and George Leviston, built cabins in an area that would be closer to Dunlapsville or Quakertown.

It seems the original Logans were less ambitious politically than some of the other original settlers.

They were farmers in South Carolina before migrating northward with the Templetons, the Levistons, the Swans and the Hannas. William had served in the American Revolution in the Light Horse Brigade "as a private and was a soldier of some military distinction," the Reifel biography reads. One wonders how a private earned distinction, but it's his story.

The Logans were born in Ireland, John in 1758, William in 1762. Sarah Hanna reveals that they spoke with heavy Irish accents.

Sarah writes that the Logans were deeply religious.

"For a time the Hannas, Templetons and Ewings were engaged in the judicial and governmental affairs of the colony, while the Logans, Levistons and Swans were concerned more deeply in looking after the spiritual welfare of the people and never missed an opportunity (which was rarely given) of having divine services in their houses when an itinerant minister chanced along, no matter of what ecclesiastical faith he was an exponent."

Generally, the settlers favored the Presbyterian faith.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Kanawha Trace

If you type the words "Kanawha Trace" into your search bar, you may come up with a series of links to some long-distance running clubs. Apparently the race in the hills of West Virginia is universally popular.

Around 215 years ago, nobody was in a rush. But the Kanawha Trace was busy enough.

It was a link that allowed Quakers and Dunkers to travel westward from Virginia across southern Ohio and, in some cases, to the Whitewater Valley.

It began in north central North Carolina, according to an essay on, where the Moravian Brethren, Friends (or Quakers) and German Baptist Brethren (Dunkers, Church of the Brethren) had major settlements.

In fact, the origin was at a place called New Garden Friends Church in Greensboro. (It doesn't say which side of the building, however!)

At the trail's end, in Fountain City (once called Newport, Ind.) , a church with an identical name was eventually established. It's still there.

Before that, pioneers crossed Virginia toward the Ohio River, following a Shawnee path near the New (aka Kanawha) River. In those years, West Virginia was still a part of Virginia.

At a point where the New flowed into the Ohio at Gallipolis, the settlers crossed into Ohio.

The document, written in 1998 by Merle C. Rummel, is based on information recorded by Argus Ogborn, a Quaker historian in Richmond. It is quite detailed in following the Kanawha Trace westward across Ohio.

What makes Kanawha interesting is that it isn't well known to students of the westward migration.

Roads going north through the Shenandoah Valley and into Pennsylvania and then west to Ohio or west into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap and then north to Ohio were well known, but very much out of the way for the area of southwestern Virginia.

This appears to be a segment of society that just loved to migrate. Many of them were first- or second-generation immigrants from Europe, particularly Germany. They'd settled in Pennsylvania first, then moved downward into the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge areas of Virginia.

By the middle of the 18th century, they had their eye on the land west of the Appalachian Mountains, which formed a barrier to easy travel, and Indian hostility prevented settlement in that direction. Later, British rule made settlement west of the mountains illegal.

After that, the Americans declared their independence.

By 1800, the Quakers were itchy to move again. So they followed the New River (which is actually very old) across what became West Virginia ... and a few of them ended up in the Whitewater Valley.

The trace was used until around 1812. It largely follows alongside the course of the New River to Gallia County, Ohio, and cuts through such places as Rio Grande and Chillicothe on its way across to Indiana.

A compelling 1981 novel "Follow the River," by Alexander Thom, explores this area in an historical adaptation of two women who must traverse the valley to escape their Indian captors.

The German Baptist Brethren apparently did not endeavor to settle in the Whitewater Valley but farther south in Clark, Washington and Lawrence counties. A 1980 research document in the Indiana Magazine of History explores their history in some detail.

"As was the case with many religious groups, Brethren were quick to move west with the frontier following the American Revolution. Dunker families had crossed the Allegheny Mountains into Kentucky shortly before 1790. Ohio had organized congregations by 1802, Indiana by 1809, and Illinois by 1815."

Many of their congregations disappeared during the 1820s during what was known as a "Restoration" of primitive Christian principles. That eventually evolved into the Disciples of Christ movement.

The German Baptists are probably more closely aligned to the Mennonite Church.

The Brethren were distinguished from other religious groups by several important characteristics, perhaps the most significant of which was their form of baptism. The Brethren insisted on trine (i.e., thrice repeated) immersion, with face forward, in flowing water.


NEW RIVER (Wikipedia) 



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fires in Fairfield

Sadly, we don't have much detail surrounding some of the more notable businesses of the 19th century, but we do have various accounts about a series of significant fires.

That would be no surprise. One would assume that more than just Chicago burned during those days. There's a Mrs. O'Leary's cow in every town.

The August Reifel history of 1915, which parrots some information from other more detailed accounts, tells of a blaze in April 1859 that took out "the block from where Miller & Tyner's store is now located to the Odd Fellows' hall."

Assuming our own snapshots of the downtown area, that would be essentially from Main Cross northward. "This fire swept away the old hotel, Doctor Babb's drug store, Wash Adams' tailor shop, a shoe shop, harness shop and furniture store."

If that's the case, a lot of businesses were packed into a small area, perhaps one reason for the extent of devastation.

An article in Town Under the Lake explores this fire in greater detail, based on a report in the Brookville newspaper:

"The corner building was owned by Mr. David Dubois, and was occupied by three families, viz: John Loper, T. Ray and R. Nelson. It was a frame building and burned so very fast on account of high wind, that the families did not get but very little of their property saved. The next building was also owned by David Dubois, and was occupied by E.J. Cheney, as a shoe shop, and Mr. Babb's Drug Store, the next building adjoining the property of Mrs. Hall and occupied by J.L. Carl, as a cabinet shop, the next was the Masonic Hall, the best house in the block, and the basement story of it was occupied by J. Husted, Esq., as a saddler shop and G. W. Adams' clothing store and tailor shop, the next was Dr. Hodgskin's office, and the last on that block that was occupied was Mr. I. Adams' shoe shop."

And apparently it was almost worse than that. But, the report continues ... a year later ...

"(The town lost) a large portion of the business part of the town, but it is being rebuilt again, with small, but neat and substantial buildings. Most of the citizens are well-to-do and industrious, and the noise of the anvil, the hammer and the plane, is to be heard in all directions."

Another big fire occurred in 1897 when, "on Saturday afternoon, October 30, the cry of 'fire' was heard in the village, and an hour later, five families were homeless.

"Twelve thousand dollars' worth of property was destroyed. Among the losses were those sustained at the Cushman home, the Mary P. Cory place, the Logan house, and the Tyner and Loper places.

"Loper & Sons carriage factory was on fire twice, but finally was saved by heroic efforts."

Town Under the Lake does a great job covering the details of these fires, and their time-captured descriptions. Check it out at the library.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Speedy Miller -- Major Leaguer

Superbas from 1900
This has been updated. 

A somewhat memorable point occurred in the movie Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are seen stopping along the highway to pick up a ragtag kid.

The boy identifies himself as Archie Graham and says he's on his way into town to see if he can "play some ball."

Archie is, of course, "Moonlight" Graham.

Graham existed. In the movie, he was Burt Lancaster. In real life, he was a right fielder who played in one big-league game in 1905 before becoming a doctor.

In other baseball news a year later, Fred Miller, a big strapping lefthander from Indiana, found his way to Paducah, where he signed a professional contract to pitch in the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee (Kitty) League.

The Kitty was the Class D minors -- if you went lower than that, you weren't a professional. The pay was probably by the game and contingent upon the crowd. They passed the hat.

Fred Miller won 17 games, lost 14, and was as wild as a March hare.

But he threw hard. A lefthander in those days who threw hard probably had a chance to make the majors.

They called him Speedy.

Fred (Speedy) Miller was born in 1886 on a farm just south of Fairfield. He died in 1953 and was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Brookville.

Along the way, Speedy did what no other Fairfielder ever did -- he pitched in the major leagues.

Briefly, although he stuck around a hair longer than Moonlight Graham did.

After a couple more years in the minors, Miller apparently caught the attention of a scout who signed him for Brooklyn.

In 1910, Speedy got his chance to pitch for the Superbas, which was what the team was called long before it became the Dodgers.

I'm unable to determine how Speedy found his way into the professional ranks, though it stands to reason that he played high school baseball at Brookville and was probably seen at a tryout camp in the late 1890s. He was 20 when he signed with Paducah.

Brooklyn bought his contract after 1909, where Speedy pitched with Columbia, S.C., in the "Sally" League.

At 6-feet-2 and 190 pounds, Speedy lacked none of the physical tools to make it big in the majors, although his record suggests he was a bit too wild to be reliable.

He pitched in 6 games in 1910, winning one, losing one, walking 13, striking out 2 and hitting three batters with errant pitches. His earned run average was 4.71.

He made his first appearance on July 8, 1910, against Pittsburgh in a game the Superbas won 6-5. The following day, the Superbas went to Cincinnati for a series. He did not pitch in that series, but did appear on July 13 as a reliever in a loss at S. Louis.

Speedy didn't stick with the Superbas, who weren't very good that year, and he pitched one more season in the minors.

Speedy showed up in 1911 pitching for Sioux City briefly before being released. He then signed with an independent team in Mitchell, SD, and wasn't too effective. The stats are not available for those teams.

In 1937, he was listed as the manager of the Tarboro Serpents of the Coastal Plains League. My later research in 2019 shows that Fred "Snake" Henry, not Fred Miller, was the manager. That's an honest mistake but it's important. Henry was a story unto himself and is known for attacking an umpire in 1939 while managing a different team.  

It does mean I can't find Speedy unless I go to Maple Grove. He'd probably throw one up around my noggin.


'SHOELESS JOE' the novel

The 1937 Tarboro team

Studebaker, best in the West

Some of the more intriguing people in Indiana had little to do with the Whitewater Valley, though their footprint was difficult to ignore.

Take, for example, the Studebaker brothers. It isn't a stretch to believe that George Loper knew the Studebakers, so we have that to work with.

In a nutshell, the erstwhile Studebaker autos and trucks were built in South Bend, and their vehicles were considered a staple in Europe during World War II.

Otherwise, they made the Lark.

Studebakers were still being produced into the 1960s though they had been leveraged out of competition. The most familiar 'Studey' is the one with the airplane propeller front.

Now to the more ancient parts of the Studebaker story.

The family came to America from Germany in the early 1800s and old John Studebaker was building high-quality wagons in Pennsylvania by 1818. Blacksmithing at that time was a highly lucrative business. Apparently he was also adroit at making something else that was particularly useful -- wheelbarrows.

Soon his son Clement took up the business but eventually grew antsy for the newly opened Indiana frontier. He landed in South Bend, home of various native tribes and a few hundred French fur trappers.

Clement began teaching school.

As the book, "Biography of Indiana" describes it, South Bend "was even then a progressive place."

Fair enough.

It's not clear how this happened, but somehow Clement and older brother Henry decided to set up a wagon-blacksmith shop in South Bend in 1852.

"From this humble beginning, the present extensive works of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company originated."

The brothers, according to the biography, had 68 dollars in investment capital, or about a tankful of gasoline for some of our SUVs.

John M.
The business was slow-going, and they built two wagons the first year. But the future was bright for the diligent, hardworking Studebaker brothers.

The biography is clear about what happened next. "Events were occurring in the history of the country at this time which tended to open up a wide field for American enterprise in the great northwest, and which proved an auspicious turning point in the history of the Studebakers."

Actually, it was unconnected events that would probably have happened with or without them.

California coughed up gold. The railroad replaced the canal system. States were being admitted to the union and Chicago became a central trading location along the Great Lakes.

And the native Indians were being booted out of Indiana.

As the West grew and needed populating and taming, wagons were needed to tote the pioneers and soldiers westward. Studebaker just happened to be making those things.

In 1857, "the firm of H. & C. Studebaker was fortunate enough to secure a contract for building a large number of wagons and equally fortunate in being able to execute it to the satisfaction of the government."

They built 100 units within three months, which evidently was a remarkable feat given the need for labor and timber as well as black-smithing.

Eventually other Studebaker kinfolk joined the business -- Peter, George and Jacob.

In 1887, the company offered stock and anchored itself as a leading Indiana business. "Each succeeding year showed a marked and substantial growth, until the company ultimately became what is at the present day (1895), the largest establishment in the world for the manufacture of wagons and carriages."

The 1895 biography describes in glowing terms the size and scope of the Studebaker manufacturing operation and its South Bend offices. "The South Bend factories alone afford employment for an army of men, including skilled mechanics in all the departments.

"The factories are themselves a miniature world. Here are found every device and machine necessary for shaping wood and iron in the construction of wagons and carriages."

Sometime prior to 1895, the company shifted some of its factory work to Chicago as a way of tapping that market and profiting from the abundant railroad lines that had sprung up all over America and connected in Chicago.

Studebaker followed its work there and built a large office building to handle those affairs before gradually shifting all its corporate offices to Chicago.

As well, they had offices in New York, San Francisco, Kansas City and Portland, Oregon.

The biography describes a few tough times, including a fire at South Bend in 1872 and another two years later that destroyed large sections of their factories.

George Studebaker, who oversaw most of the growth after 1886, was a global icon, serving as U.S. representative at the 1878 Paris world's fair. He ran with the big dogs.

His own home was destroyed and his wife badly injured by a fire in 1890.

The story of the family is compelling and tends to intertwine with the events of the day. Each brother seemed to feed off each other's success and skill.

In summary, despite all the naysayers who believed they would fail in their 1857 contract with the Army:

"They at once acquired distinction as manufacturers, and from that day to the present, the name of Studebaker has been foremost in connection with this branch of American industry."

See how easy it is?

The 1951 Studebaker was unforgettable.
Studebaker went to war. The Soviets even drove Studebaker trucks.

Here Comes The Judge

NOT the Quaker Oats guy!
I came across an archaic tome not long ago that really spills the sap over some of the Whitewater Valley's leading citizens of the 19th century.

Which is not to say that it's inaccurate. I think we can say that some of the biographies are slightly embellished. But to be fair, in those days, a person was either hated or respected. If hated, he was probably not likely to be too successful.

This book, aptly called "American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men of the State of Indiana," was produced in 1880. It does have worth.

One family which had an enormous impact on the valley was that of Judge John Quick, whose name appears in a lot of documents and legal decision over a long period of time.

Quick was born in Maryland in 1780, or just before the end of the American Revolution.

The biography scoots right along to his marriage to Mary Eads, whose name is connected to Brookville in other ways. She was described by the biographer (unidentified) as "a lady whose charitable heart and bountiful hand, in after-years, became a blessing to many unfortunate pioneers of Franklin County."

The judge was not only sage, but he had good taste.

Quick came to Brookville from Kentucky through Butler County, Ohio, in 1805. He died in 1852.

Why he's important to Fairfield should be apparent since he served as associate judge for the county and was a leading figure in Baptist Church activities.

As well, the judge's son, John H. Quick, was an esteemed physician in the county. Doc Quick was also fairly snappy when it came to choosing a wife, having married (1841) "Miss Sarah J. Cleaver, daughter of Doctor John Cleaver, who was one of the first and most prominent physicians of Franklin County."

Evidently one of Dr. Quick's sons, Emmett, also established a somewhat prominent practice in the 1860s, "taking the situation of house physician at the Good Samaritan Hospital of Cincinnati, where he bravely gave his life in combating the cholera epidemic in that city in 1873."

It bears noting that people of leading families in those days were uncommon and they tended to pursue hobbies and vocations that necessarily allowed them to climb the social ladder. In other words, they had money.

These biographies are generous in their praise because that sort of conversation was expected of polite company. Rarely did anybody mention that somebody's son had become a "dismal failure."

The Quicks were thus considered "of high standing in the community and enjoy every comfort of a pleasant home."

The family history says Edgar Quick, "though occupied in farming, devotes a great portion of his time to scientific research." He was aligned with other archaeology experts of his day, including Dr. George Homsher and T.L. Dickerson.

The book itself is probably available in your library or in the state library in Indianapolis. It's worth a look. It's probably hard to find otherwise.



Friday, June 5, 2015

T. L. Dickerson

It's probable that most people who became famous were born somewhere. It's unlikely that anyone who becomes famous in the future can say they were born in Fairfield.

There's still time, I suppose. If you were born there, you are in a distinct minority.

Here and there, a nugget -- literally.

One is Theophilus L. Dickerson, who became one of Indiana's leading archaeologists in the 19th century.

A biographical sketch of T. L. Dickerson appeared in the 1915 Franklin County history, compiled by August Reifel.

The sketch, probably produced by somebody besides Reifel, tells of Dickerson's achievements:

He was born in 1841 on a farm near Fairfield and "received his education in the (Egypt Hollow, Saltwell) school, Brookville College, the state Normal School at Terre Haute and Ingleside Institute at Peoria, Indiana."

That would be Peoria, Indiana. The one in Springfield Township.

"He began teaching when a mere youth and taught for some years in Franklin, Union and Fayette counties."

A mere youth. Teaching at Saltwell school.

In any case, Dickerson got the itch to travel in 1864 and joined a number of Franklin County adventure-seekers on an overland "prairie schooner" to the hills of Montana (not yet a state).

The quest: Gold.

Apparently they didn't find much and it would appear that, broke and homeless, T.L. Dickerson decided to stay on in the Bozeman area, were he organized and taught school for all the gold he could carry.

About a hundred bucks worth for a month's work.

The year in Bozeman was enough to fuel his ability to move on.

"In the spring of 1865, Mr. Dickerson went to Helena, Montana, and entered the employ of the St. Louis Gold, Silver and Copper Mining Company."

It was there that he became intensely interested in mineralogy and its allied branches ... "and this has been his consuming interest ever since."

The biography asserts that Dickerson had been fascinated by the prehistoric past and ... "for more than half a century has been an indefatigable collector of archaeological relics of all kinds."

Certainly the Whitewater Valley was not berift of such relics, since the ancient Mounds people were clearly identified in numerous places.  See our HOMSHER link.

At one point, Dickerson established a museum in Brookville to display "thousands of speciments which he has gathered from all parts of the United States, as well as from many foreign countries." In 1884, he received some valuable prehistoric relics from the kings of Sweden and Norway -- daggers, knives, all made of pure flint.

Not everybody can make that claim.

Reifel's biography lauds the museum as "one of the finest, not only in Indiana, but in the Middle West as well."

Dickerson was also dabbling in theories on the origins of the human species, so it's possible he was influenced by Charles Darwin.

Or was it the other way around?

"Artisans and Artifacts of Vanished Races" is Dickerson's claim to fame as an author.

As if that weren't enough, he was also the circulation manager and editor at those famous publications -- the Laurel Review and the Brookville Democrat. He produced pioneer-based content for a number of other Indiana newspapers of the time.

Jim Senefeld, who contributed great amounts of amazing information for the book Town Under the Lake, reveals quite a lot more about Dickerson.

He was a cousin to Sarah A. Hanna. Her blog item is HERE.

Writes Senefeld:

"According to Reifel, Dickerson was one of the leading archaeologists of Indiana. Yet we are still not sure where his fabulous museum was permanently displayed and located, or what happened to it upon his death. In 1908 during the centennial celebration of Brookville, an advertisement appeared in the Sept. 3 Democrat and said “This Museum of the Curious is now open to Brookville people and all other sections and communities who come to see something you may not ever see again, and will remain until September 10th, 1908, and no longer, as after that date they will be boxed and packed.” This display was at the Schneider Building, South Main Street."

Dickerson died in 1920 and was buried in Brier Cemetery.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mexican War, 1846-47

In 1836, Texas decided it wanted to be an independent country and broke free from Mexico. Nine years later, Texas decided it wanted to be part of the United States.

A war ensued.

It lasted a couple of years, provided fodder for a few movies about the Alamo, and was effectively stashed away in American history. It's doubtful it gets much attention in American history studies.

Gov. James Whitcomb
As wars go, it couldn't have been run more inefficiently than it was in Indiana, where on at least three occasions, Gov. James Whitcomb issued a call for troops.

He called for three regiments in May, 1846, and a committee was set up in Brookville to establish a plan for outfitting and paying any who volunteered. Eight bucks a month for a private, who was to supply his own clothing and gear.

By the end of June, the county fully expected to raise two companies for the war along the Rio Grande, where Texas was holding off Santa Ana and his evil Mexican army.

Everyone was ready to fight.

Writes August Reifel in his 1915 county history, "C.F. Clarkson, editor of the American, seemed to be a bellicose individual himself. An editorial in his paper of June 6th, said, 'We believe two companies will be easily raised in this county. The American office is contributing to the rank and file of our gallant army; two or three of our journeymen have already left for the seat of war and two or three more want to go. The editor has enrolled his name and will soon be on his way to Mexico, full of war and cabbage."

Soon, the Franklin Guards were established and were ready to depart a few days later for New Albany. They traveled by canal boat.

How-ev-er ... Indiana as a state was only required to furnish 30 companies for the conflict. The Franklin Guards were No. 31 ... and were essentially told that they would not be dispatched to the war unless another company failed to show up.

Clarkson, the angry editor, blamed the governor in the harshest terms. "We have no doubt that our company was outrageously treated by the Governor. We have been told by a distinguished Democrat of this congressional district that he was in the secretary of state's office when the offer of the Franklin Guards arrived at that office -- and that it was the 28th company. But it was pushed over to make way for some favorite."

Anecdotal evidence supports Clarkson's complaint, Reifel concludes.

In any event, Whitcomb was called "the damnest rogue of all ... and so universally despised is he here that each soldier thinks it is his duty to insult him."

Most of the Franklin Guards hooked up with other outfits.

As time went on, Whitcomb issued more challenges to raise troops for the war and met with some success, though it seems that most Hoosiers who volunteered to fight in the Mexican War did so on their own, with some of them joining the Texas Rangers.

Reifel says no logical records of the Indiana roster exist because Whitcomb's blunders prevented the establishment of true Indiana companies or regiments.

Several Franklin County doctors served in the war.

The war itself came to a close in July 1847.

"It seems appropriate to close the discussion of the war with a picnic--or an account of one at least. On July 13, an all-day picnic and big dinner was given in Butler's Grove adjoining Brookville in honor of the veterans who had just returned to their homes.

"Unfortunately the issues of the local papers for that week are missing, but to the soldiers of this county, those from adjoining counties had been asked to attend.

"As far as is known, Alfred Stoops is the only Franklin County volunteer who lost his life on Mexican soil."