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Title: The Beginning of Attica
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In December, 1824, when the land sale was made at Crawfordsville, George Hollingsworth and David and J. Stump attended the sale and purchased the river from for a half a mile where Attica is now located. The Stumps and Hollingsworths had come down the river in a canoe and stopped at the Sycamore ford, just above where the Wabash railroad bridge now is, and noticed what a splendid landing there was for boats. Here the banks were high at the river front and the hill sloped gradually back. At that time there was but one person living in this locality and that was Casey Emmons. His cabin was just in front of Mrs. Amanda Reed's house, east of the city. Hollingsworth and the Stumps followed the road back from the ford to Casey Emmons' home and saw that the prairie came almost to the river here, and when they saw his ford, the splended boat landing below it and Shawnee Prairie coming almost to the river here with easy access to the prairie, they considered it a good location for a town, so they bought the land next to the river for that purpose.

Attica was laid out in 1825, the first plat being filed by David Stump. Soon afterwatds an addition was platted by Hollingsworth. The original plat and this addition extended from the corner of Brady and Washinton streets west on Washington street to the river front, thence north to Ferry street, thence east to the alley running west of the Hotel Attica. The first store was built and kept by Wm. Crumpton, first in a log house near the river, and afterwards in a one story frame house near the corner of Mill and Perry streets. Mr. Crumpton was postmaster and the mail was carried on horse-back from Indianapolis to Covington and from Covington to Attica, Attica having but one mail a week. The first tavern was kept by Harmon Webb in a log house, facing the river, at the western terminus of Main street. The house had additions built to it and remained standing until after the Civil War. At the close of 1825 Attica had four general stores, three saloons, and one hotel. In 1826 a combined still house and grist-mill was erected in "the ravine," now Ravine Park, just above where the high bridge is located. The burrs were large nigger-head stones. A cabinet shop and a tan-yard were added in 1826, and in 1827 Orin Arms manufactured fanning mills at his place, east of town, which he had bought of Casey Emmons. Joseph Peacock operated a blacksmith shop.

Soon after Attica was laid out Lafayette, Covington, Portland (now Fountain) Maysville, Independence, Williamsport, and Rob Roy were platted, and there was quite a rilvary as to which would become the trading post of this section. As told in the sketch preceding this, Maysville and Cicott's Landing grew up as squatter towns before the land was surveyed.

In 1830 another hotel, known as the Indiana House, was built on Main street. This was larger and more comodious than the log cabin and for five years was the only hotel, all the stage lines making it their headquarters. In 1835 Delavan Bratt put up a two-story frame hotel where the Hotel Attica now stands and called it the Attica House. It was run by William Farmer first and afterward by Avey Tuttle. It finally came into the possession of a man named Thornburg and was destroyed by fire in 1846. The Indiana House stood until 1915, when it was razed to make way for an addition to the Thornton Garage.

Attica moved along slowly until about 1844, when John and Dan Yount, two brothers, (cousins of the late Newlin H. Yount), built a water race for mill power. They were men of large means and understood the woolen business fully. Their mill race caught all the water from the creek that runs thru Stone Cut and brought it to Attica. With the industries that were already here this mill race and the woolen mill which they erected and operated determined the race between Maysville, Independence, Williamsport and Rob Roy in favor of Attica. In the boom that followed several of the pork-packing and other industries of these rival towns moved to Attica. Ed Hemphill, the father of Thomas Hemphill, who was in the dry goods business here for many years, built the stone house, now Moran's blacksmith shop, for a dry goods store about this time. The mill race ran right in front of this house. Tom Hemphill told me that it was so near that a boy he sat in the doorway and caught sunfish in the mill race. These Younts sold their woolen mills here and later went to Montgomery county where they founded the town of Yountsville and erected the famous Yountsvilles Woolen Mills, which have been in operation ever since.

In 1846 the Wabash & Erie Canal was constructed to Attica and stopt here for almost two years on account of the water wasting thru the gravel beds below town. The steamboats could come up the Wabash when the river was high and with the splendid landing here, this being at the time the end of navigation on the canal, Attica became a boom town, forging ahead so fast that she threw dust in the faces of Maysville, Rob Roy, Independence and Williamsport. In a few years most of the industries of these places had moved to Attica. Their hotels lost their guests; their store rooms were stript of their merchandise; their manufactories of machinery; and their streets grew green with grass and weeds. Williamsport, with green-eyed envy, constructed at large expense the "side cut" across the river bottoms just below Attica, to connect them with the canal and open a watery highway to the outside world. When this "side cut" was finished there was great rejoicing over that enterprise in Williamsport. A big stallfed ox was roasted whole and the residents of the county for miles around were invited to partake of the feast and listen to the congratulatory speeches on that occasion. The "side cut" gave Williamsport shipping facilities but the superior advantages of Attica, being on the main lone of the old canal, still continued to draw the trade. Then too, the water wasted so at the river and in the gravel deposits below the "Wide-water,) where the "side cut" entered the canal, that the "side cut" could not carry boats. The citizens of Williamsport brought suit in the Fountain circuit against the canal company to force it to furnish water enough for floating boats in the "side cut." For answer the canal compnay showed that the supply of water for the canal itself was not sufficient and that they could not maintain the water for the "side cut." The canal company won the suit, the "side cut" got out of repair, the locks rotted down and were not rebuilt and it looked as tho the star of destiny was dropping below the horizon for Williamsport.

When the canal was completed to Attica, in 1847, ware-houses, docks, and landings were built along it,a nd the hum of traffic was heard. All the news came by packet boat and when a boat pulled up the landing, it was greeted by a large percent of the inhabitants. The landing was at the foot of Main street, where there was a stone stairway leading to the wharf. Inasmuch as the boats could not get beyond Attica, competition soon began to arise with the people of Covington who got the idea into their heads that Attica wanted to keep the water from reaching that place. They could not understand the leakage of water int he gravel beds below Attica. Perhaps Williamsport encouraged them some and they took counsel from Maysville, Independence and Rob Roy. Anyway, after nursing their wrath for some time, they concluded that in the love of God and the kindness of their hearts they would visit Attica, take matters into their own hands, destroy the locks which were located here, and let the water flow down the big ditch to the town that had been blest with the county seat.

Like Austria, they demanded an investigation of the records and secret archives of the Athenians. To this investigation the noble Greeks of the north objected. Some diplomatic relations were carried on between the two contending towns. Covington sent her last note. The answer was not satisfactory and Covington declared war on Attica. Then, as now, Covington was Democratic. She stood not upon the order of going to war, neither did she parley as Mr. Wilson with Mexico, but called at once for volunteers. Three hundred mighty men of valor answered the call. They started up the tow-path under the leadership of Edward Hannigan- the eloquent "Ned" Hannigan who was afterward United States senator and later minister to the court of Prussia. Word reached Attica that her territory was being invaded by this hostile army form the south. Jehu Wamsley lived on the bluff across the river and from his elevated position and splended view of the canal was the first person to see the invading forces. He hastily grabbed a couple of shot guns and one or two pistols, jumped on his horse, rode as fast as his horse could run right into and across the river, yelling like and Indian to alarm the town. A crowd soon gathered about Jehu Wamsley- Attica soon learned the value of Preparedness and hastily gathered an army of defense. Ezekiel McDonald took command and the Athenians started out to do battle for their homes and their water-way. The Covington army besides being armed to the teeth with rifles, shot-guns and pistols, has an old cannon. The Atticans were well armed but had no artillery. The battle started at once. Ezekiel McDonald was knocked into the canal, and tradition says "General" Hannigan also measured its depths. Henry Schlosser, John Leslie and others were slightly injured. A few of the persons from Covington had black eyes. The cannon was spiked early in the early; the boatmen, hearing the racket, came down the canal, well armed and swearing liek pirates, to take a hand in the scramble. But the superior numbers of the invading army prevented them from shutting the gates of the lock and they were compelled to resort to strategy. Several of them slipped away and commenced hauling straw and pitching it into the canal above the locks. This soon had the effect of choking up the gates of the locks and the water ceased to flow. The canal war was carried on in threats for some time afterward but no open hostilities occurred. For a few years afterward there would be an occasional scrap between participants int he battle and even tho that scrap took place in 1847, the feeling still crops out in political contests, regardless of party affiliation. The two cities have ever since gotten along without physical collision, altho many red-hot controversies might be related.

But the growth of Attica was not permanent. The boom lasten only six or seven years and then things came to a standstill. Ten years later, in 1857, the Wabash railroad was built from the Ft. Wayne to State Line. Its promoters proposed going to Covington and crossing the river. They wanted a bonus of $5,000 to aid in the construction of a bridge across the Wabash at that place. Covington proposed to charge them $5,000 for the right-of-way thru the town but a small appropriation was raised at Attica and they crossed the river here. The Wabash railroad soon began to affect the traffic on the canal, altho there was an occasional boat plied locally along the canal until about 1875. I can remember very well when the Wabash railroad had no gravel ballast and the ties were very wide apart. The rails were light and the road had little striped engines and it was very hard for them to pull a load of any size up-grade. These engines burned wood. My father owned a canal boat and I was born and raised right near the canal.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001125
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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