June 29, 1966 from the Mt. Vernon Democrat - Sesquicentennial Edition
McFadden's Quest for Game and the Inviting Bluffs of the Ohio -- Two Factors for Mt. Vernon's Birth
It was the hunting season, and Andrew McFadden had left his family in Bowling Green, KY, to follow the Ohio River west in search of game. The days were warm and clear as he made his way along the fast moving river. Game was plentiful, and the pioneer hunter and trapper felt that his move from North Carolina to the wilderness of the great fertile plains of Kentucky and regions along the Ohio River had been a good one.
As he rounded a bend in the river he came to an island known as Diamond Island. From this point he could see great regions of high dry land to the north, and so he moved to the north bank of the river, pulling his boat into a sheltered cove. He had noticed in his travels that several families had settled along the banks of the river, and here he found that families were living above and below the river. The land appeared rich and fertile and game abounded in the area.
Andrew finished his hunting expedition and went home as quickly as possible to tell his wife and family that he had discovered a new place for them to live. A place richer and better than their present home. It wasn't long -- less than a year -- before the McFaddens moved to the place where Andrew had moored his boat. And it wasn't long after they came that the area became known as McFadden's Bluff, high and dry above the waters of the Ohio.
Mt. Vernon's origin, fictionalized somewhat above, reads like a chapter out of the explorations of Daniel Boone or Kit Carson. It is the story of the founding of a town by people who possessed almost an obsession for growth and stability, an ideal which is still evident in the people of Mt. Vernon. Andrew McFadden was an adventurer, a seeker of things unknown, a person who wanted to see the frontiers of America become a part of a great nation. It is to this heritage that Mt. Vernon turns now as it celebrates its 150th year.
McFadden founded the site of Mt. Vernon around 1806, having discovered the place about a year before. His cousins, William and Andrew came also, and ten years later, in 1816, the name Mt. Vernon was chosen for the bustling settlement on the Ohio.
The McFadden family settled on what later became the Hagemann farm near what is still known as Hagemann's rock. The land at the time was owned by Jesse Oatmann. It wasn't long until McFadden moved closer into what we now know as Mt. Vernon. The first house built in the town was built by its founder at the end of Store Street, known now as College.
Boats landed at Hagemann's rock until 1810, when the wharf was built, and it was seen that the main source of income and travel would be by river. The principal portion of the town was built on the river wharf, with the necessities of commerce being already in operation. Thomas Givens is credited with building the first tavern and law came to Mt. Vernon when Nathan Ashworth was elected justice-of-the-peace around 1817.
Land was plentiful in the area although problems were evident from the beginning when it was found that General William Henry Harrison had been granted all of fractional section 8-7s-13w or 371.82 acres of prime land by President James Madison. Harrison, however, saw that the area would grow, and land was sold to various new owners for reasonable prices. Some of the first Harrison land sold was at the junction of Mill Creek and the Ohio, east of the creek. The property was sold to a man named Aaron Williams and amounted to 185 acres. Williams paid $500 for it, and even today the section is known by Williams name.
The soil was rich and game was plentiful. Even as late as 1824 deer were slain where Second Street crosses Main, and the portion of the town bounded by Fourth, Fifth, Main and Store (College) Streets was a pond where hunters could bring down caches of ducks and geese. In November, 1832 the citizens of Mt. Vernon voted to incorporate. (some text was missing here) given to Jesse Y. Welborn and formally accepted by vote. The first trustees were E. R. James, Moses Welborn, Ebon D. Edson, and Aaron Baker. Mt. Vernon at last was recognized as a part of the territory of Indiana. And it was along in that same year that Indiana itself became a state with its first capital in Corydon. (This is off as far as the date is concerned. The whole sesquicentennial in 1966 was to celebrate 150 years of statehood)
The river was still the main source of all income. Corn and pork were the most important commodities shipped from the wharf and even as early as 1820 North and Robinson, one of the first business enterprises in Mt. Vernon shipped hogs and corn to Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The first steam saw mill was built in 1831, adding a grinding mill later. A grist mill was put in sometime after, which afforded the town flour and a distillery. At one time the mill produced 225 barrels of flour and 1300 gallons of whiskey a day. The mill, the really first big industry of the town, burned in 1838, but was rebuilt by DeWitt.
One of the familiar land marks in the town was the old market which was located on the north east corner of the court house square. The origin of the old market, which stood until the court house was built 1874, is one of the interesting anecdotes concerning the people of Mt. Vernon and a famous clown named Dan Rice.
It seemed that Rice owned a circus which was the favorite of circuses which came to Mt. Vernon during the mid-1800s. During one season, Rice came to town to find a rival company already set up and ready to entertain the people. That day the clown went throughout Mt. Vernon telling the citizens that he would give his afternoon's receipts to the town for a worthy project if the would come to his show. He suggested a market place.
That afternoon Rice played to an overflow audience and was true to his promise. However, he said to the crowd that the night's receipts would have to go to him. That evening, his tents were again bulging -- a tent side in the main tent had to be removed to accommodate all the people -- and, as in the afternoon, the rival company played to empty seats.
The market was built as Rice had suggested and stood until 1874 when the present court house was built. The market served Mt. Vernon as a place where farmers' commodities could be sold, including fresh (missing text) in the 1850's, and in 1861 it served as an armory for new enlistees of the Union Army.
Another land mark with a story is Sherburne Park at the foot of Main Street on the river. That land was donated at great expense by Jacob Cranbach, a prominent early citizen, and was dedicated to his son, Sherburne, who died before. The park has served Mt. Vernon as a prime recreational site since its dedication in 1913.
Text copied from Mt. Vernon Democrat - June 29, 1966 Edition