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Title: Independence
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This interesting place was laid out by that enterprising trader and wonderful adventurer, Zachariah Cicott, who was also the first white settler in the county. The date of this town platting was October, 1832, when ninety-one town lots were surveyed off by Perren Kent, on the "Cicott Reserve," in township 22, range 7 west. It is doubtful whether there were any others there when the platting was made than Cicott, but it has been claimed by some that a few had lived there before the date of town platting. Probably the first settler after Cicott was Abraham Howery, who came in 1832 and opened a liquor establishment, paying five dollars' county license. Then came Doctor Lyon, and immediately afterwards David Moffitt appeared, and he built the first frame house in Independence and at once commenced the manufacture of hats for men's wear. From that time on the village grew rapidly. Moffit was also a great hunter and trapper and while he never neglected his business for it, yet he was able to take his gun and traps and secure the lion's share of game and pelts. He made his hats from wool which he purchased from the few pioneers who raised sheep. He generally carried two or three hundred hats in stock, mostly of the backwoods styles. In a few years Independence grew to be a town of much promise in the Wabash valley district. Towns along large water courses had a decided advantage in those early days and almost all commercial transactions were had there. In 1833 Jacob Hanes commenced to sell both wet and dry groceries and Joseph Hanes soon became a partner with him. James Hemphill began merchandising in 1835. The first brick house was built in 1834-35 by William Farmer, who made his own brick. Soon after this, Shoup & Tate began packing hogs. They bought many hundred during the winter months, packed them in barrels that were made at the town, or near by, and shipped them down the Wabash in flatboats, usually as far as New Orleans, where the boats and cargo were sold, after which the boatmen returned by steamboat. Other later and more extensive dealers in pork and grain were James Hemphill and Newton Morgan. The latter, in the forties, packed two thousand hogs, and others as many, making more than 52,000 hogs bought and packed into barrel pork. There being no railroads, the river was a scene of rafts, flat-boats and steamers day in and day out. From 1835 to 1845 Independence was one of the best trading points along the Wabash river. From twenty to sixty thousand bushels of grain were shipped annually. The population in 1840 was about 350; in 1842, about 400, and the town today (1912) has about 300 population. A carding mill was added to the industries of the village late in the thirties. This was the work of Isaac Bunnell, who also had a corn cracker. Farmers carried their wool there to be carded into rolls and their corn to be made into meal. Henderson & Boxley erected a distillery a half mile below town, and there commenced to make the best brands of rectified spirits in 1835. After the first year or two they consumed two hundred bushels of corn daily in their distillery. On the opposite side of the river, in Fountain county, there were three more distilleries and one consumed five hundred bushels of corn daily. It was estimated at that time that within a radius of a few miles of Independence there were consumed daily one thousand bushels of grain equal to three hundred and sixty-five thousand annually. Everybody drank whisky in those days, it being thought necessary to insure good health; it stood on every mantel and side-board and drove the heat out in summer and the cold out in winter. That was, however, pure, unadulterated whisky, which produced less bad effects than the vile decoctions of later years. Not a hotel or tavern opened its doors without its bar. This immense demand for liquor made the distilling business one of much importance and suited the farmer well. Fred Rittenour built a large flouring mill in 1846, but it was burned soon after its completion. He did a large business for about three years. The coopering trade was also, along with the distilling and pork-packing industries, a very important one.

Independence has the distinction of having the first newspaper in Warren county; it was started in 1844 (see newspaper chapter). With the shifting scenes of time, the building up of other towns, Independence lost her former grip on trade and commerce, generally, and settled down in the quietude it enjoys at present. It has a small retail trade, which is the sum and substance of its presnet activity, aside from its schools and churches, which are mentioned in separate chapters.


[Page 319-320.]

Date: 1/1/1913
Origin: Past and Present of Fountain and Warren Counties Indiana
Author: Thomas A. Clifton, Editor
Record ID: 00001233
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Collection: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Entered By: Leslie J. Rice

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