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Title: Taking Up the Homesteads
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While it is pretty well settled that Peter Weaver and his son, Patrick Henry, were the first white men to come into this locality for the purpose of making their permanent home and that Peter Weaver raised the first crip of oats and the first crop of wheat that was raised in this vicinity, within a short time after his arrival other settlers began coming in to take up land and build cabins and make their permanent homes. Those settlers came very close together and located in pretty nearly every township in the county. Among them was William Forbes and James Graham, who settled in Wabash township. A little later came James Carlyle and Louis Phebus. Some of the descendents of these families are still living in that part of the county. Andrew Lop settled on Lopp's Prairie and Jesse Osborn settled at Osborn's Prairie. Lucas Nebeker and George Steeley settled in Troy township near Covington, and the Duncans, Hemphills, Roberts, Chisums and Browns came into Davis township the Milfords, Hintons, Stephensons, Campbells, Turmans and Peacocks settled in the early twenties. I am of the opinion that Casey Emmons was the first white man to make a permanent home in Logan township. In Van Buren township, the Cochrans, Colverts, and Burchs were among the first settlers in the county, while in Wabash township was William White. He was a captain in the war of 1812, and the first meeting for the organization of the county was held at his home. He was born in Tennessee and was a miller by trade. He built the Union Mills. This mill was sort of a combination. It had an up-and-down saw which sawed lumber for many miles around and also a set of millstones that ground the grain for the early residents of that locality. It was built on Coal creek, was know as the Union Mills and afterwards owned by one Bishop, afterwards by Vandorn and still later by Samuel Cade. Abong the first settlers in Cain township were McBrooms, Mendenhalls, Petros, and Campbells. It is not my purpose to write the history of any af these townships at this time and there were many old settloers whose names I have not mentioned. I have not left them out by any design but of necessity. I am writing these articlies in my own way, and I have nto made the selections with the care perhaps that I should. And if Fountain coutny should make an effort to preserve its early history of the township, giving vredit where credit belongs as to who was the actual first settler of the township and where he settled. Outside of Peter Weaver I have not tried to determine the exact time of the settlement of any one individual. I hope that the rivalry of the school children in each township as to which township was entitled to first place will lead them this year to make investigations for themselves and find who was the first settler in each township and when the settlement was made. By this means we might be able to secure a good history of the settlement of every township in the county. Believing it to be the duty of each township to preserve its own history for posterity, I shall leave this work to others.

When the first settler came into Fountain county there were no highways and until 1830 all the roads of the county that were traveled to any great extent run to some good ford on the river. Most of these roads ran east and west because the Wabash river was the only means of transportaion for their products and their furs. The first steamboat made its appearance on the Mississippi, as I have stated in a previous article, in 1811, just in time to get caught in the earthquake that did so m;uch damage in Arkansas and Tennessee.

Soon after 1812 other steamboats were built for navigation on the Mississippi and Ohio and the Wabash river as far as Terre Haute. From 1824 to about 1826 there were some products of this locality taken down the river on flatboats to New Orleans. About 1828 a few small steamboats came beyond Terre Haute and if the river was high went as far north as Maysville or Lafayette. The early settlers of this locality continued to ship their produce on flatboats until the construction of the Wabash and Erie Canal. Form 1828until about 1845 aknist every spring the water was high enough in the Wabash river that small steamboats would come as far north as Lafayette and carry the produce of this locality south to New Orleans. But the early settlers did not always wait for the steamboat, several of them would quite often join together, build a flat-boat and take their produce down the river, so wherever there was a good ford and a good landing place for a flatboat roads would lead them frojm both sides of the river to the ford. They have been deserted long ago but the loads hauled over the soft ground cut so deep that the marks of these highways still remain.

After the Wabash & Erie Canal was built the main roads of our county began to be marked out north and south, but from the early settlement of the county until 1845 there were very few north and south roads in Fountain county. In fact, there were no roads in the county anywhere that we would consider of any value today. They simply follow the highest and driest ground to a ford or boat landing on the Wabash river. And the steamboats which piled upon the Wabash did not only carry away the products of the locality and bring in some of the necessities of life but there was on board almost every boat that came up the river some pioneer with his wife and family in search of a home in the Wabash valley. Not only did the Wabash river furnish a means of transportation but it was full of fish and in the winter the wild game came to its sheltering hills and for this reason many of the first settlers in our county located in the hills along the Wabash river.

Sanford C. Cox, who was the first schoolmaster to come to this part of Indiana, left to posterity some of the most intimate sketches of the incidents of those early days. At the time Fountain county was opened for settlement he was teaching school in Crawfordsville and with an appreciation of the fact that history was then in the making he observed with great interest the things going on about him. These impressions he wrote in his diary and years later-in 1859- expanded them into a series of articles such as these I am writing, which were published serially in the Lafayette Courier. They aroused so much interest that he was persuaded to issue them in book form the next year, and one of these books is a prized volume in my library. Mr. Cox came to Crawfordsville while it was a small village, in 1824, and in the book he reproduces from his diary the following description of the land sales at Crawfordsville, soon after his arrival there. Hundreds of acres of Fountain county land were bought in this sale and for that reason this account is of special interest:

Dec. 24, 1824.
Crawfordsville is the only town between Terre Haute and Ft. Wayne. The land office is here. Major Whitlock is receiver and Judge Dunn register. Major Ristine keeps a tavern in a two-story log house and Jonathan Powers has a little grocery. There are two stores- Smith's near the land office, and Isaac C. Elston's near the tavern.

The land sales commenced here today, and the town is full of strangers. The eastern and southern portions of the state are strongly represented, as well as Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pensylvania.

There is but little bidding against each other. The settlers, or "squatters" as they are called by speculators, have arranged matter among themselves to their general satisfaction. If, upon comparing numbers, it appears that two are after the same tract of land, one asks the other what he will take not to bid against him. If neither will consent to be bought off, they then retire and cast lots, and the lucky one enters the tract at Congress price- $1.25 per acre- and the other enters the second choice on his list.

If a speculator makes a bid, or shows a disposition to take a settler's claim from him, he soon sees a score of white eyes snapping at him, and at the first opportunity he crawfishes out of the crowd.

The settlers tell foreign capitalists to hold on till they enter the tracts of land they have settled upon, and that they may then pitch in- that there will be land enough- more thn enough, for them all.

The land is sold in tiers of townships beginning at the southern part of the district and continuing north until all has been offered at public sale. Then private entries can be made at $1.25 per acre, of any that has been thus publicly offered. This rule, adopted by the officers, insures great regularity is the sale; but it will keep many here for several days, who desire to purchase land in the northern part of the district.

A few days of public sale have sufficed to relieve hundred of their cash, but they secured their land, which will serve as a basis for their future wealth and prosperity, if they and their families use proper industry and economy, sure as "time's gentle progress make a calf an ox."

Peter Weaver, Isaac Shelby and Jehu Stanley stopped with us two or three nights during the sale. We were glad to see and entertain these old White Water neighbors, altho we live in a cabin twelve by sixteen, and there are seven of us in the family, yet we made room for them by covering the floor with beds- no uncommon occurence in backwoods life. They all succeeded in getting the land they wanted without opposition. Weaver purchased at the lower end of the Wea prairie, Shelby west of the river opposite, Stanley on the north side of the Wabash, my father on the north side of the Wea prairie.

It is stirring, crowding time here, truly and men are busy hunting up cousins and old acquaintances whom they have not seen for many long years. If men have ever been to the same mill, or voted at the same election precinct, tho at different times, it is sufficient for them to scrape an acquaintance upon. But after all, there is a genuine backwoods, log-cabin hospitality, which is free from the effected cant and polished deception of conventional life.

Society here at present seems almost entirely free from the taint of aristocracy- the only premonitory symptoms of that disease, most prevalent generally in old settled communities, were manifested last week, when John I. Foster bough a new pair of silver plated spurs, and T.N. Catterlin was seen walking up the street with a pair of curiously embroidered gloves on his hands.

After the public sales, the accessions to the population of Crawfordsville and the surrounding country were constant and rapid.

Fresh arrivals of movers were the chief topic oc conversation. New log cabins widened the limits of the town, and spread jover the circumjacent country.

We read of a lnad of "corn and wine," and another "flowing with mild and honey;" but I rather think, in a temporal point of view taking into account the richness of soil, timber, stone, wild game and other advantages, that the Sugar creek country would come up to, if not surpass, any of them.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001131
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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