Ray's Ramblings - Volume 9
Ray Kessler is a lifelong Mt. Vernon resident who has played a lot of ball, written about others playing a lot of ball and loves to wax eloquently about Mt. Vernon. We are fortunate to have access to many of his short stories and observations to show here.
We have organized the articles by the period of time Ray is referencing. This volume started in November, 2014.
Come back often, because Ray just keeps finding items to add. This is Volume 9.
Former Doane Property Behind St. Matthews School.....2014
Hotel owner of the Nelson House,a Georgian structure on corner of Water and Store Streets. It was the place to stay for steamboat passengers. A long history that even includes the cholera epidemic of 1873. Turner was county clerk from 1835-1867. His son, James Matt Nelson was a commander of a Union gunboat and he lived at that corner home of Mulberry and East Fourth street.
Former MV Columnist and Posey Judge and Attorney Levco Funny In Courier Sunday.....Oct, 2014
Still reading last week's Evansville Courier and Press and in the Life section was attorney Stan Levco. I am familiar with his book, "The Best of Stan Levco" and I would read him back in the 1970's in the Mt. Vernon Democrat. He would tell about his love of the Beatles and his humor was always up front. This time I was reading of him getting an invitation to see President Obama when he spoke in Princeton honoring the manufacturing plant there. So he goes to the event and he has to be seated at least one hour before the President arrives for security purposes. Everything was normal and quiet until the last few moments before the President entered. Levco out of nowhere started to hear music which was not supposed to happen. It wasn't loud but it was loud enough for Stan and others around him to hear. He looked around for the offending party expecting the Secret Service to at any minute swoop down on them. Realizing suddenly that it was his own I phone, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the phone. It was playing..."Play That Funky Music White Boy!" He fumbles around with it having trouble turning it off, seemingly like an eternity, but he got it off just moments before the President of the United States of America entered the room. Facing 250 people, Obama praised the workers of the plant and extolled the virtues of capitalism and small business. Then he took questions. People had to be coaxed at first to stand. Levco debated with himself whether to ask a question himself. First he had to think of one in case he was called upon. A once in a lifetime chance to interact with the most powerful man in the world. Levco's mind raced and finally came up with a generic question. Not a great question, but a fair question. He would not be embarrassed to ask it. As his hand was up, several others were called upon. After about fifteen minutes he began to question if he should really ask a question. He felt he would regret his decision either way. For you see Levco said he had always looked upon people who ask questions in similar circumstances as people looking for attention on themselves more than information. Stan pondered whether he wanted to be "that guy." Here was a historic memorable time in his life and he was indecisive. If he didn't ask the question would he regret that? It went back and forth , but finally he put his hand down and decided not to ask a question at all. If the President would have continued much longer, Levco was sure he would have changed his mind again. Two weeks have gone by now or so and he thinks if he had to do it all over again he would ask the question. "I suppose that means I'm condemned to regret it the rest of my life....or at least until the next time." I thought it was a delightful funny story of human nature.
"On Second Thought," Dorothy Challman Reflects On Modern Libraries.....1999
Mrs. Challman ran several columns in the Democrat over the years. Here is an example: "Libraries are changing so fast, it's hard to recognize them from old timey ones with which a lot of us grew up. As a child and later on as a high school student, I remember especially how the librarian's sturdy desk stood guard over the small rectangular building that Andrew Carnegie, wealthy U.S. industrialist of Scottish birth, had thankfully bestowed upon our little town and others in America. Shelves full of books were everywhere and big heavy reading tables, placed in orderly fashion, filled the remaining space. And there was a certain austerity, a special silence, almost a sacredness to the place as readers walked softly down aisles of books. If you spoke to a friend, you whispered. But now, a new virtual library is at hand, a no walls library accessible by individual computers scattered throughout a community. This has also begun to happen in workplaces and a few schools with entertainment thrown in.....an alarming intrusion! Now, suddenly, the library seems more and more something to be used at a distance, a place you don't have to go to. And even those libraries you still can go to don't have a single quiet reading room. Does this wholesale shift to electronics with chirping screens give us the best form of gaining information and ideas? Are books becoming an archaic concept in mainstream American culture? Oh, the future is coming at us so fast!"
Remember Country Fried Steak at Main Street Diner?.....1991-1999
That was the diner in the old Rosenbaum building owned by Paula and Bill Sparling. It was a place where the clubs would meet....Kiwanis, Lions, Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, and others. They would fill up on chicken and dumplings, dressing, and homemade biscuits.
Remember Clinton's Dog "Buddy?" Mt. Vernon Woman Named Him.....1997
Martha Byrd was watching CNN in late 1997 when she saw Bill Clinton and his new pet, yet to be named. She sent in her name choice and in February 1998 she received a letter from the White House. "My dog, Buddy, has been a lively addition to our household, and I want to thank you for your recent suggestion regarding his name. Like so many families with a new pet, we considered a number of possibilities and then settled on a name that had a special meaning for us, and would also be easy for the dog to learn. Buddy is named after a beloved uncle of mine who died last year. He trained dogs for over 50 years and, as a child, I talked with him often about raising dogs. Because my uncle was so important in my life, his name was a perfect choice. Buddy is adjusting well to his new surroundings and we are having a wonderful time adjusting to Buddy. I thank you for your interest and for sharing your thoughts with me. Sincerely, Bill Clinton." Martha graduated from MVHS in 1955.
Houston Post Tribute to oil heiress Jane Blaffer Owen who invested much of her fortune in New Harmony....1987
Her father was the founder of Humble Oil and her grandfather Texas Oil which became Texaco. Her husband was Kenneth Dale Owen a geologist turned oil man, rancher, and cattle breeder.
"This Ain't 'Gonna Look Good Back at the Office!'.....1985
Mt. Vernon got them a brand new street sweeper....cost $61,000; nice one. First day out let's go give it a spin. Whoops!....swept away by a train, yep, right down there at Second Street when it crossed the tracks at Nettleton. The driver you know he must have been concentrating on the job at hand when he heard the whistle. Too late....the train spun the sweeper around and dragged it fifteen feet. No body hurt...maybe in the pocketbook. Probably put a sticker in the cab....stop at all railroad crossings.
Hawk's Bar & Restaurant on Main....1982
With Rock Music Blaring Over A Speaker, College Kids Push Keg from New Orleans to Milwaukee for Charity.....1982
There they were heading down Fourth Street in Mt. Vernon five college students taking turns pushing a barrel in three mile shifts 2000 miles raising awareness for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity urged on by head banging long hair music pushed on while raising over $250,000 in pledges too. They average about 50 miles a day they said and denied that they empty the keg each night and fill it back up each morning. Rock On boys! "You got to fight for your right.....to party."
Danny Burgess Stamps Prices at Lutterman's.....1978
Reuse and Recycle....1969
In June of 1969 the Mt. Vernon armory was converted into a skating rink. Pledges were taken from individuals and businesses for a new suitable floor. Some of those boards of the floor are now utilized in the home Bernie Moll is restoring on Walnut street behind the coliseum.
Third Party Presidential Candidate and Segregationist George Wallace got 1204 votes in Posey County in 1968
Oh Georgie....I can still see you on the steps opposing integration saying, "Segregation now segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." He held onto those beliefs until an assassin put him in the wheel chair the rest of his life and when facing his maker he renounced his previous statements. In 1968 he won five southern states, getting 10 million popular votes and 46 electoral votes. He like Nixon ran on law and order in a chaotic time. He did have a plank I liked....."If the Vietnam War is found to be unwinnable in my first 90 days of taking office, I pledge an immediate withdrawal of United States troops." Of course his running mate was Curtis "Mad Bomber" LeMay of WWII fame or blame. LeMay made a statement during the campaign that we should consider using nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Wallace's first choice for Vice President was former baseball commissioner "Happy" Chandler but he withdrew the offer when people brought up that he was the commissioner when Jackie Robinson was let into and desegregated baseball. His second choice believe it or not was Col. Sanders....."A chicken in every pot." Wallace and hippies didn't get along either. Wallace said only two four letter words hippies do not know are W.O.R.K. and S.O.A.P." He said the first long haired anarchist that lies down in front of my limo will be the last one he sees.
Dennis Mercer working at Mt. Vernon Drive-In .....1968
Heavy Hitting Double I League Action.....1967
The Frank Moll Indians defeated Princeton 17-11 in the night cap of a double header with 20 hits. RBI leaders that game were 6 by Jim Howard and 4 by Gerry Allyn. Howard and Jerry Rutledge homered. The record for runs in a game was in 1959 when St. Phillip defeated Union Township 28-1. That was the last year that Mt. Vernon won the pennant.
Blankets Passed for Charities.....1960's
I do not attend as many local basketball games as I once did, much to my shame. I was looking over my first book, "From Brownies to Wildcats" when I recalled our cheerleaders...Patty Moll, Cathy Ozinga, Brenda Villines, Debra Hartmann, Carolyn Russell and Marie Weintraut holding up a blanket to the crowd and people would throw in coins for the March of Dimes or some other great charity. Always some coins would roll around across the hardwood and the reserve cheerleaders would pick them up. I told you I was big on cheerleaders didn't I? I'm sure I did. Matter of fact, I can't remember seeing any of those March of Dimes coin collector fold outs in businesses anymore. I think that was started during the FDR administration. Oh well, memories....support your charities, your teams and your cheerleaders.
Mt. Vernon Students See Watts Rioting in August of 1965
Fourteen Mt. Vernon High School students, who were Latin students and members of the local Junior Classical League attended the National JCL convention on the campus of UCLA and had a firsthand look of the riots on their way home. The pupils were with their sponsor, Mrs. Florence Kouts. The riots spread to the campus and all the girls were locked in one dormitory and all the boys in another building. From windows they watched the burning of cars and buildings. When they left that next day by bus at 4:30 a.m. they learned later when they arrived in Phoenix, Arizona that rioting was bad an hour later on campus. The next day the students saw Carlsbad Caverns and then headed for Juarez, Mexico. The Mt. Vernon group included: Phyllis Rohlman, Amy Vollmer, Nina Marie Kelley, Joe Moll, Beverly Imsande, Evelyn Scherer, Deborah Hatch, Mary Lou Dick, Susan Cox, John Russell, Steve Dick, Larry Gregg, Ann Atkins, Charles Scherer and Mrs. Kouts.
A new idea to beautify city streets was conceived by Ralph Staple's Foundry of 711 West Second Street. He invented an apparatus to hang flowers above parking meters to put "color and sweetness" into our daily lives. They were used sparsely on the east side of Main between Fourth and Fifth streets. Two were located in front of People's Bank and Trust and another was perched atop the meter at Norton's Key Market......It was the 60's you know. No statistics on if it cut down on parking violations or if the idea expanded.
99 Year Old Republican Votes for Democrat for First Time.....1964
The father of Helen Elliott of New Harmony was born in 1865. He had voted Republican in every election he had been eligible to vote for and he had only missed one in his long life. In the primary of 1964, his limited vision resulted in his daughter helping him with the ballot. As the general election approached he decided he would for the first time ask for an absent voters ballot. When it arrived he told his daughter....."Now you do this exactly as I tell you, Helen." He said he could not support Barry Goldwater the Republican for his stand on Civil Rights. So he said, "Vote for Lyndon Johnson for President and the rest of the ticket Republican." Here he was nearing the century mark breaking from the party he had always supported with his traditional views. His explanation was "the Civil War has been over a hundred years. It's time the Negroes had their rights!" He told his daughter that as a small boy right after the war he would see the Negroes here on steamboats and on the river bank loading and unloading sacks of grain. They would be dressed in a single garment, made of a gunny sack ending at the knees; they were barefoot in the cold weather. An overseer stood nearby with a whip and would use it on any who lagged behind in his load....after the Civil War mine you! Even as a small boy this was terrible to him. He remembered racist talks of citizens. He recalled someone asking him whether he would have his children go to New Harmony or Mt. Vernon schools. A man said if they went to Mt. Vernon he might have to sit with a n*****. Mr. Elliott said, "well I sat in a double seat about 90 years ago with a little Negro boy right here in New Harmony and I never thought it hurt me any."
A Story of Registering to Vote in Mt. Vernon.....Early 1960's
This story was given to me awhile back and after watching the movie Selma yesterday, I feel now is the time to tell it. I will not use the names...some people are still alive. I wish not to embarrass them who may have changed their attitudes. It seems it was Election Day and General Electric was a new plant in Mt. Vernon. One of the supervisors let his people off early to vote. A black lady stayed behind. When asked if she was going to leave to vote, she said she was not registered. Soon it was found that she had not been allowed to do so. The supervisor was upset. He checked with other minority workers and found none were registered. He got on the phone and called the Mayor, school officials and city council members and said meet them at the court house. "These people WILL be registered!" He told them that one of the reasons GE had moved here was the work force and they had made a commitment to minority hiring and if the community was not behind them it was not too late for the company to find a new site for their money. The men and women were registered.
Dancing at the Mt. Vernon Drive-In.....1964
On Friday nights starting in May of 1964, owner Paul Love announced that there would be dances preceding the screen programs. The first one had the band "Wanderers" playing a rock n roll combo composed of the Chaffin and Gibbs brothers. The movie that night was Elvis Presley in "Kid Galahad."
Police Cruiser Keys Taken.....February 1963
This is the city...Mt. Vernon, Indiana. He works there, he carries a badge.. .his name? Patrolman Kenneth Terrell. It was cold, rainy, dreary morning about 3 a.m. and the patrolman stopped in to Helen & Totties's Cafe...100 block of West Fourth for a cup of coffee. It's tough being a cop, all at once you lose your first name. You're a cop, a flatfoot, the heat, the fuzz and when you walk somewhere the temperature and conversation goes down 20 degrees. While finishing the warming coffee the copper finds that his cruiser keys have been taken. You work all night on stakeouts and this is what you get. You go back in, use the telephone, call the chief and say you have been robbed. Anxiety and frustration builds as you get help to push the car to the Police Station. Oh the humiliation! And paperwork? Oh, you'll file a report when you are right and when you are wrong and when you aren't sure. Not an easy life being a cop.....but I am damn glad to be one.
Mt. Vernon American Legion Baseball Strikeout Record is 22 by Carl "Windy" Wade with 22 vs Ferdinand in 1963 and second best is Eddie Howard's 21 vs Vincennes, a one hitter in 1965. Earlier that same season Eddie threw a no-hitter and struck out 20 vs Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Wade threw three no hitters in high school, two in a row. Ed I believe only lost one game in four years of pitching for Mt, Vernon and that was a one run loss to Princeton in extra innings in his freshman year. He "could bring it!"
"Me and my Shadow...".....1963
My father worked at the Farm Bureau river dock from the early 1950's until 1981. This 1963 photo by John Doane.
Mt. Vernon Democrat sportswriter Bill Causey in the 1950's and 60's was quite a poet. He published some works and incorporated them in his sports writing, usually around the holidays. He wrote one poem during an argument of a Double I League baseball game. He almost single handedly started the Mt. Vernon Little League program buying equipment and supported it in the paper with write ups of games from the youngest to the men. He had batting averages weekly, photos and produced nicknames for the kids. His eyes got really bad in the end and he didn't drive. From what I heard, he wrote most of his columns at the Heidelberg Cafe.
Woman Stayed Inside Home for 25 Years.....1960
A story was told by Walter Neal who interviewed a lady who had stayed in her house for twenty five years. There were some eccentric siblings in Mt. Vernon it seems and the brother was the only one who ever left the house. He also only went out to buy dog food and pick through trash. After the brother had not been seen for days, people started looking for him and found him very ill. Authorities took the brother to a veteran's hospital and the sister to a state hospital. She was in awe of the world outside and was very interested in such things as light switches and refrigeration.
Advance Drillers Little League All-Stars.....1950's and 60's
I was talking to Jim "Smokey" Rainey about the early years of Little League in Mt. Vernon and specifically the Advance Drillers All-Star team. Started probably in the early to mid-1950's and coached early on by Mt. Vernon Democrat sportswriter Bill Causey. Later the coaches were Jackson Higgins and Ron Bennett. What an honor it was to play on this team. If you survived the tryouts at Athletic Park you got to wear your Driller cap during your regular season Little League games. The truth is we wore it everywhere. The team played other county teams....I especially remember St. Wendell, Poseyville, Wadesville and Cynthiana. We were promised that if we won the league we got to go to Sportsman's Park on Grand Avenue in St. Louis. That was a big deal back then. Some boys had been no farther than Evansville. I can recall seeing a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. During batting practice we were down the left field line and the closest player to us was former Cardinal Wally Moon, a past Rookie of the Year. We kept hollering to him to throw a ball the entire time and when the bell rang ending batting practice he did so. "Smokey," who lived nearby the ballpark said he played I believe 5 years with the Drillers. Most of us only got to play one or two years. He said in the beginning they had a yellow shirt, with an oil derrick on the back, blue striping and sleeves. I believe I got that right. "Heavy" Vance was the sponsor. After that season they went to the Mt. Vernon Creamery ran by Holger Anderson and they had all the ice cream they could eat. They thought they were going to have to turn in their shirts, but they made an announcement that they could keep them and that the following year they would purchase full uniforms. I wore those uniforms...wool, heavy, with the oil derrick on the back. My first year on the team we had red caps, white AD lettering and a grey bill. First time I ever had a hat like that. We took great care in folding the front just right making the AD stand out just so. The next year the hats were solid red with white AD lettering. I remember we lost only one game....it was at St. Wendell and it was rumored the umpire was intoxicated. Jeff Hartman, as I recall hit an inside the park homerun to either tie or put us ahead late in the game, but they called him out for missing third base, which we disputed. Anyway, we won the league again and it was a happy bunch in St. Louis watching Stan Musial, Kenny Boyer, Joe Cunningham, Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel and Vinegar Bend Mizell.
Advance Drillers Close Out Championship Season; Head to St. Louis.....1959
The mighty Drillers took down Cynthiana 11-6 to win the county title again. Mark Nix hit the first pitch he saw from Ray Moltz for a home run. Then Ed Howard followed with another round tripper over the center fielder's head. Howard had two other singles, Jim Estes a double with Nix, and Gary Burns having two hits each, Gary Coon got the win, Bob Estes presented the winner's trophy and individual medals and Mr. Vance said they would head to St. Louis Sunday to see the Cardinal-Dodger game. Howard led the team in hitting at .511 for the second year in a row. He also led the team in runs scored with 21. He also won all three games he pitched and his three years as a Driller he hit .462, .482 and .511. Mark Nix was second in hitting at .444 and led the team with 3 home runs. Team ended their season 11-2 with one of the losses 2-0 to a non-county rival the West Salem, Illinois nine.
Booker T Wins 2 from Eville.....1958
For the first time ever, Booker T, Washington defeated the Evansville Lincoln Lions twice in one season in 1945. In recognition of the double victory, First Sergeant Lales Waller, an alumnus of the school sent $25 for awards. Waller was the son of Ulysses S. Waller of Mt. Vernon and he was stationed somewhere in the European theatre. Mt. Vernon High School will duplicate the two victories against Lincoln with our great team of 1958
Traditional Rural Dogtown, Illinois Christmas.....Late 1950's
When I was a young boy, my sister and I would get up early Christmas morning to open our presents and have the proverbial ritual breakfast of orange juice, sausage and pancakes. Later we would pile into the family Chevy and head across the new Wabash Memorial Bridge to a little community we called, "Dogtown." It had other names like Marshall Ferry and Rising Sun. Wasn't nothing there but a long street of houses and a well-kept country Baptist church. The ruins of the old country school lay at the foot of the Dogtown Cemetery, which looked like a mountain. The "old home place" is where we gathered, a home going back to the 1860's where all of mom's 12 siblings I believe were born. Back then Uncle Leonard lived there, a single man, a man of the world to them, who had a job with the railroad and in the winters lived in Florida. He took pictures of Miami and trains and boats and put them on slides. We would marvel at the sights he saw. He had exotic souvenirs of his trips like painted coconuts and palm weaved hats and colorful stones. When he died early in 1961, the place for the next 40 years lay vacant for a resident pretty much, but it was where all the family gathered for large events. The home was said to be a refuge for any of our family members in need. Aunt Myrtle kept it up. She was the ace cook and she was like another mom to her brothers and sisters. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were like huge feasts with dozens of people in attendance. The Christmas tree was small, but beautiful. It had those old fashioned bubble lights of which I never grew tired watching. The small children got handmade gifts and treats and Uncle Leonard always gave us one silver dollar. I wish I had kept all of those! Candy was in amazing quantities, some homemade like fudge and divinity. They were displayed in bowls, tins, baskets, plates and I gorged myself with gluttony sweets....always my downfall. I would sit with the men around a large pot belly stove in the living room. On the walls were photos of relatives during World War II. My Uncle Sam would tell me about his and Uncle Walter's baseball playing career in semi-pro leagues then he would fall asleep in his rocker. He was a lot like Uncle Joe on that television show, "Petticoat Junction." My dad would be trying on shoes that Uncle George sold part time. He worked somewhere, probably Carmi repairing bicycles. He was a thin man with wild greasy hair and behind his back some in the family called him "Barney." He did have that resemblance, but Dad never did. Dad always bought a pair of shoes every year to help his family....my pop was always helping out and positive about people. My Uncle Gib lived across the street and they usually had their own dinner, but they would come over and visit when we were around. Gib was different. He was the only Democrat in the family it seems and he liked to talk politics and stir things up. He was tolerated but I found him interesting...talking about FDR and the party of the working class. Gib had his faults like making me pull his finger and crude jokes, but I liked him because he had an edge to him that was wild and different. He had lost a finger in a accident and he kept it pickled in a jar for us to look at. The women of the family tried to help Myrtle, but she would run them off if they got in the way. She had a army of hungry mouths to feed and she was going to get it done on time and perfect. She always did. She was a great lady who never cut her hair in 86 years. Wore it in a bun, but I once saw it long after she took a shower at our home and the white hair was below her waist. A blessing was always given and sometimes we would go over to the little church, ring the bell and sing some carols. "The Little Brown Church in the Vale" was usually sung. Yes, a visit to Dogtown was an interesting experience anytime of the year, but Christmas was special and lives in memories.
Mackey Ferry Makes Last Crossing......July 10, 1956
The century old avenue of traffic across the Wabash River west of Mt. Vernon made its last run. At the end it had three owner/operators, James Kenneth, and Lincoln Rowe, all brothers. They decided they could not compete with the Wabash Memorial Bridge. For maybe a hundred years, the date was not found of its beginning it carried passengers, horse and buggy and vehicles across the river. It was located about a mile downstream from the new bridge, and was connected by dirt roads between Mt. Vernon and New Haven, Illinois. Business was good right up to the end, making its five minute trip across the river on an average of 100 times a day. It was once called the Ashworth Ferry before it was called Mackey Ferry and before modern gasoline motors it was a steamboat.
Landmark Razed.....June 1955
A spacious brick building belonging to Holger Anderson located on College Avenue across the alley from the Mt. Vernon Creamery plant was torn down to provide space for a used car lot for Brite Motor Sales. The building was erected shortly before the Civil War for the occupancy of a girl's seminary. When the war started the project ceased. Rufus Larkin, a bookkeeper for many years at the defunct First National Bank and his wife Annie Duckworth Larkin lived there for more than 60 years.
Actor Fess Parker a Few Miles Below Mt. Vernon Filming Davy Crockett.....June 1955
Hedges Central Basketball.....1955
Charlie Brauser went on to Oakland City College to play basketball. He is in our athletic hall of fame as well as his college's. Was an outstanding basketball coach for the Oakland City Acorns. In 1967 his Acorns went into the Evansville Regional undefeated before losing. We almost got them in the Sectional finals taking them to overtime.
Raccoon Causes Man to Get a Ticket.....May 1953
"Come on Rocky Boy"....A raccoon perched atop a utility pole at Walnut and Water Streets all day caused a scene. Mt. Vernon Police were interviewed and they thought that it may have been run up a pole by a dog. Anyways, it caused much concern....women came out of their homes in their aprons and pointed, and talked with neighbors about it. Motorist stopped to see what was going on. Somebody threw a rock at the critter until someone said, "Don't do that, you might hit young Rocky in the eye." Ideas finally came to Louis Roberts, 20, who said, "Rocky you met your match," who tried to bump the pole with his vehicle to persuade it to come down.....The law didn't like that and wrote a ticket to Louis for $5 and costs on a charge of reckless driving. ....and Rocky? Well, he took the attitude..."I'll be along soon enough as soon as I am able...d'do d'do d'do do."
Kuhn Truck & Koal Fire of August 1952
Weisinger Funeral Home was saved from the fire explosions of gasoline tanks from Kuhn's.
Davis "Slick" Johnson is a hell of a nice man. I visited their home last year and learned many things about that period of time in Mt. Vernon. He is the brother of Johnny Johnson, the first great black athlete at MVHS. Jeannie LaDuke is a cheerleader here as she will be at the high school. She was in the 1949 Hollywood movie, "The Green Promise" with Natalie Wood. She became a great academic, was at the White House and she is an author too. Bill Higgins is in the MVHS sports Hall of Fame as is Art Hall and Gary Stewart.
1948-49 Hedges Basketball
Mayor Higgins is in the photo as is Hall of Famer coach Jim Baxter.
Mt. Vernon Selected as "Test City" for New Mild Cigarette.....1949
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company announced arrangements for the distribution of the Cavalier cigarette to the area, the first new one brought to market by the company in 36 years. During this time the company had been producing the Camel brand. The brand went on the market the first week of March. The cigarette was soon eclipsed by a new brand a filter tip Winston. Cavalier never really caught on, even though it was the sponsor of the TV show..."I Got a Secret." I hear it was big in Ecuador.
In 1948 Henry Wallace, former VP under FDR Campaigned in Evansville
In 1948 Henry Wallace, former VP under FDR campaigned in Evansville as the Progressive Candidate for President and was protested because of his support for unions. April 6, 1948, the man who was replaced as vice president for Harry Truman came to town. If he would have stayed VP he would have become President when Roosevelt died in office. Henry was a thinking new dealer, utopian visionary. Some said he was the best Secretary of Agriculture ever! He was also Secretary of Commerce. Server in Evansville made refrigerators and they wanted to do it with low wages and a union was organized. Server fought it hard and jobs were jobs so veterans of the Second World War were recruited to walk the picket lines in favor of the company. Wallace came in he was a man of vision. He was for an end to segregation, put blacks in his campaign and said he would have them in his cabinet when elected. He backed as Teddy had for universal healthcare. He preached full rights for all Americans. He went through the South had eggs and tomatoes thrown at him preaching against second class citizenship. People called him a Communist, way ahead of Joseph McCarthy. Born into the Presbyterian faith, he eventually explored other religions including spiritualism. He wrote on Buddhism and was always lobbying to protect monuments of religion from war. He hung out with Einstein, H G Wells and George Bernard Shaw. He was a man of action, sometimes he was found wrong and gullible. He acknowledged as much with a book in 1952 called, "Where I was Wrong." He supported Eisenhower and even Nixon, yet JFK invited him to his inauguration of which he was very touched. A complicated, intelligent, flawed man with good intentions. That's not so bad to be known for by this liberal.
Before Welcome Wagon.....1948
MV Greeting Service in 1948. Here Mrs. James Noland presents to new resident Mrs. Floyd Hall gifts from MV business firms....."Welcome!"
The Peerless Moves To New Location - "Come Party".....December 1946
The Peerless Cafe, owned then by Mr. and Mrs. Raymond L. Schenk and formerly located at 209 Main, opened appropriately on a Saturday at its new location at 101 Main Street. It was a place that was once the old Krug Saloon, so it was used to a good time. The inside was rebuilt and re-arranged. The walls were done in Mulberry color "harmonizing with the mahogany woodwork trim." The tile was linoleum for easy clean ups I guess. They had then two clean, modern rest rooms built under a real balcony "which adds much to the appearance of the floor plan!" A modern bar, ten booths and serving tables. They served sandwiches along with beers, wines, and liquors. A hot air furnace was new and so is fluorescent lighting. Personnel were Harold Gwin, Otto Pfeffer, Mrs. Agnes Beirman and Miss Ivtol York with Clint Cornelius and John Henry Bryant as porters.
Graduation Party for Seniors of Booker T. Washington and Reception by Juniors....May of 1945
"Palm Gardens" was the theme of the Junior-Senior Reception at the Booker T. Washington School. The Home Economics room was decorated with palm trees, fresh flowers and a painted tropical moon. The guests seated at beautifully decorated tables and the music opened with "Always," played by the "Jive Juniors." A tribute to the Class of 45 was given by Birdie Jane Glass. A comedy routine was put on by Herbert Kirk and Posey Bishop and was well received. Alvin Martin did sleight of hand card tricks as "The Great Enchanter." The highlight of the evening was the closing number by the orchestra with the tune of Auld Lang Syne and sung by Birdie Glass. The program came to an end as the lighted tapers, gracing the tables were extinguished one by one. On the last refrain, a quiet hush descended upon the guests as the last candle was dimmed and the tropical moon was illuminated. Parents gave short talks praising their appreciation to the school and administrators; thereafter, refreshments were served and dancing was enjoyed by the young guests.
So "Largest GOP House Numbers since the End of WWII"....What Happened then ~Wavy?
Oh reckon back to the 80th Congress when one Republican said, "A vast amount of New Deal rubbish will have to be removed before even the outline of our free institutions will become visible." Sound familiar? Here they were the majority, dominating the upper house on domestic issues. Their agenda? They did pass a few anti-union measures, but Truman took much of the sting out of the Republican bills with vetoes. Republicans assumed they had a mandate to repeal the New Deal. That did not prove all that popular come next voting cycle. In that time the Republicans gained 13 Senate seats and 57 House seats. What are they known for today? "The Do Nothing" Congress! At least they were until the Obama era. What were some of the bills taken and what were their interests? Well, they approved citations of contempt of Congress against Hollywood with communism witch hunts, they were upset with Truman by executive order ending racial segregation in the Armed Forces, they hosted the House of Un-American Activities Committee, we got Nixon going after Hess and in the next cycle....the Democrats came back strong winning back control of the Senate and House of Representatives. So, while some of you jump all over the place ~Wavy maintains the course. If you want to see more silly acts like Attorney General John Ashcroft covering the breast of a statue in the Great Hall....stay tuned, the circus is coming to town in January.
Christmas Highlights Of the Black Community.....1944
Mrs. Jennie Bishop, wife of BTW principal Guy Bishop use to have a column in the Mt. Vernon Democrat called, "COLORED NEWS." As Christmas came close in 1944 she wrote of the Booker T. Washington Blue Devils defeating Evansville Lincoln Lions in basketball. In celebration, Santa Claus delivered to each child a "Lincoln Victory" pencil in appreciation of bringing honor to their school. In the school gym the BTW put on a play called, "Mother Goose Christmas," for the younger ones and a cantata for the intermediate grades. Afterwards the teachers treated the children with small gifts. The Lesser Lights club held a Christmas party at the home of the Bishops and they sang Christmas carols and listened to a talk on how the holiday is celebrated in other lands. At the close, gifts were exchanged and ice cream and cake were served.
Old Stop Signs.....1941
"Yaller" is the color. Yes, yellow was the paint color used for lane divisions on the downtown Main Street in 1941. Stop signs were often yellow also. This was so because yellow shown up better at night before reflectors. As a matter of fact we use to have some white Stop signs with black lettering and writing on the back like "watch your step" in the 1920's.
Seeing Double - Two Queens.....1947
In 1947 the Football Homecoming had something never seen in Mt. Vernon before....two queens. Nancy Huffman and Jo Ann Bishop reigned that evening with the queens elected by votes cast in conjunction with season ticket sales. A colorful pageant was held that night in the non-conference game between Mt. Vernon and Grayville, Illinois at Athletic Park. The captain of the team was Bob Dausman....I wonder if he got to kiss them both? WWWD?.....What Would ~Wavy Do?
New Years Eve Club Parties In 1939....
The social clubs of Mt. Vernon extended a warm welcome to the new year of 1939 with parties and dances. There were 55 couples at the New Year's Eve dinner dance at the Elks for members and wives and lady friends. Music was furnished by Wee Willie Web and his "colored" entertainers from Mt. Vernon, Illinois. At the Eagles, 50 couples also had a dinner/dance and the music was furnished by Jean Kohler and his orchestra. As midnight approached guests walked outside to hear the steam whistles and gaze at the starlit sky over the Ohio River.
New Ferryman, Studied for His Captain's License by Studying at Arrow Cafe.....1939
A Western Star reporter entered the Arrow Cafe, operated by Dave Ashworth and found him curled up in one of the booths reading a book, which was a huge book. When asked what he was doing, he finally informed him that is was a book of questions and answers on securing a pilot's and river captain's license. "It's necessary that I memorize all of them," he sighed. Dave was so confident that he already owned a little craft that plied the Ohio River and the Kentucky shore buying the ferry along with Joe Vail. He successfully passed the examination and now......"It's Captain Ashworth, if you please."
For Me, It Was Only Around Girls.....1938
Stuttering..... I don't want to make light of it too much or seem insensitive, but this Doctor, a Robert Millsen, a director of Speech Correction of Indiana University made a study of all Indiana counties using samples of the population. He concluded that there were 180 persons in Posey who were stutterers and 540 persons who lisp or have other articulation defects. Finding my voice was also a problem, getting it out from my heart to the world wasn't easy growing up. Probably around blondes my stuttering jumped more than 10 words per 100. Fear and anxiety can cause it to worsen I hear. I had lots of that, but really I just didn't say much around girls.....I seemed to have got over that.
Antique Quilt from 1804, Had Unique Story, Displayed at MV Fall Festival.....1937
An antique quilt was displayed and entered under the name of Mrs. Georgiana Stevens at the Fall Festival quilt show that was a part of early Mt. Vernon history. Mrs. Mary Shyrock, aunt of Mrs. Stevens, spun the material used in the quilt. It was completely handmade and spun from raw materials by hand. Mrs. Stevens said she got it when she was nine years old and Mrs. Shyrock was very old then. Shyrock was the wife of Valentine Shyrock, owner of the ground later sold to Godfrey Weisinger who in turn sold it to a committee for the establishment of German cemetery, today being Bellefontaine. Her remains were the first of the female sex to be interred in the cemetery.
On February 17, 1937 Martial Law was lifted in Posey County by Governor Clifford Townsend and civil government resumed its rule of the Posey County flood area. The order to lift military rule was announced by Lieutenant Beauford Alldredge, commander of Battery E. Alldredge thanked the community for their co-operation. Liquor bans are now lifted and where the carrying of firearms by persons other than police or guardsmen was concerned, it went back to as it had been.
Dump Open Burning Times Changed.....1937
A discussion was held within the fire department in Mt. Vernon about the controlled burning of brush at our different city dumps. It was decided to burn them at night instead of Sunday afternoons in the thought that the pollutants would be safer for residents in their homes.
Vernon Theater Draws Large Friday Night Crowds.....1935
In May of 1935, two fireman were sent to the Vernon on Friday nights to investigate the seating of large crowds they were having from a safety point of view. By order of the Chief the fire marshal was contacted in 1937 to ask for instructions on controlling immense crowds blocking entrances. I never saw anything in the papers of any changes. This story comes from the Fire Department log book. Don't ask me how I get such things.
Challenging Assumptions...Putting One's Self On the Line.....1930's
Recently Sharon Rowe Barbarette relayed this story of her father Norman about life in the mid to late 1930's. I found it moving, compassionate and yes brave. Norman owned a school bus and was contracted by the school district to transport students to school from Point and Black townships. Schools were small and many only open for the younger grades in the rural area as the older ones had to take off for farm work. My dad was one of those children in that area at that time. Sharon tells us that the black students were not provided transportation and had to walk to the one or two schools available to them. I never have heard a name of a black school in Point, but I know black children lived there. Maybe, he brought them all the way to Booker T. Mr. Rowe thought it was wrong to not give these students a ride, so he picked them up. When word got to the school administration they were not pleased, and "he was soundly reprimanded." He was unmoved and responded that he owned the bus and he was not asking for pay to transport the black children and basically, "didn't see how it was any of their business who was on the bus." The administration backed down and he continued bringing the children to the school. Sometimes a heart seeing oppression and a tortuous injustice moves in wonderful ways that seem small maybe at the time that changes attitudes in the future that leads to better humankind for us all. Thanks Norman Rowe and Sharon for sharing this story!
Major Varsity Letter Winners....1930-1937
Mt. Vernon High School records show that during this period it was a difficult time. Girl's basketball, of which we excelled was stopped state wide in 1930. The depression hit and costs were curtailed. Following a winless football season in 1930 we stopped playing until the Pocket Athletic Conference was organized in 1938. Even then, during the war there were seasons when only four games were scheduled. At best there was only football, basketball, track, and baseball. Baseball, another sport we were good at was sometimes thought as minor and few letters were given out. For two seasons, 1932-33 and 1933-34 the cage sport was the only one for which major monograms were awarded. In the 1935 year, there was but one letter given in baseball, and that going to the hurler Alfred "Dutch" Wehr who pitched the only game of the season a win vs Evansville Reitz. From the fall of 1929 through the spring of 1937, according to Honor Day records, two athletes won four major "M's" in one sport. Paul Moeller and Oliver Willis accomplished this feat on the hardwood. Moeller earned the most letters in all sports during this period, eight, including two each in baseball and track, plus his quartet in basketball. Willis had six, one each in baseball and track plus four in basketball. Stafford Abell won six, three in basketball, two in football and one in baseball. Arthur Woods had five on two each in football and basketball and one in baseball. Six other Wildcats won four letters.....Malcolm Fuhrer, Dwight Roberts, Elsby Goffinet, Wesley Waterhouse, "Dutch" Wehr, and Mark Kost.
Nonnie Robison Speaks of Biff Carr.....1930's
Biff Carr was a Mt. Vernon High School graduate from 1913. From an early age he was a promoter it seems. He was talented in acting, in music and comfortable on stage. He hosted these musical follies shows across the Midwest that included vaudeville and minstrels. Nonnie tells me that during the depression they fell on hard times and Carr for a spell came back to his hometown. He may have even stayed at the Carr Hotel on East Second Street where his sister Mary lived. Biff's wife had bleached her hair like Jean Harlow, the movie star and she gave tap lessons supplementing their income during this hard time. Eventually, Biff left again. I have found however that in 1963, the Class of 1913 had their 50th class reunion and they toured the brand new high school on Harriet Street and that Biff was the Master of Ceremonies keeping his classmates laughing at old memories and routines.
Parachutes Dropped On City In Strange Promotion...One for Case of Beer Not Found.....1933
In recognition of the construction of a new Sky-Highway marker as a guide to aviation a number of out of town business firms extended their thanks with gifts dropped by parachute from a plane piloted by Dave Alldredge who winged his way over the city. Not all were found days later. The Sterling Company of Evansville sent an aerial guide attached for a complimentary case of Sterling beer. It was supposed to be delivered to Mayor E.F. Bamberger. There were shirt coupons from the Vogue in Evansville too and car tune ups from a place called Weidenhoff's in Evansville. Coca Cola Bottling Works just sent over a case of real coke over to City Hall by delivery truck. A.E. Fretageot of New Harmony sent congratulations with a round trip ferry ticket. The Baby Shop sent a doll and well the list goes on and on. I am sure many of the gifts intended for the Mayor fell in "enemy hands."
Mt Idy Po Po Force Down to Two.....August, 1932
In August of 1932 the Mt. Vernon Police force was reduced to two men...two! Chief of Police William D. Lawrence was on duty during the daytime, after all he was the boss, and at night patrolman Robert Randolph looked out for trouble. Must have kept the extra badges in the desk.
Severe Windstorm Tears Through Mt. Vernon .....August 1932
The peace and tranquility of our city was disturbed as on a Friday afternoon a storm of near tornado force demolished small buildings and left city streets strewn with tree debris. A torrential rail accompanied the raging wind flooding the streets. The only injury reported was Arnold Lewis, an employee of the Overall Corporation on North Main Street who sustained a terribly mashed hand when a window fell at the factory.
New Restaurant in Town.....July, 1932
In July of 1932, Herman Bray and son Charles opened a restaurant and ice cream parlor at 111 West Second Street. Everything served was a nickel except for barbecue and it was a dime.
Reuse and Recyle - Early Days.....July, 1932
In July of 1932, Posey County's last covered bridge, the Wolflin Street bridge of Mt. Vernon was dismantled and was to be re-erected over Gresham Creek, north of New Harmony.
"Retired Rube," AKA, John S. Williams Tells of Posey Relative.....1932
John Williams, a retired school teacher, use to write in the Western Star paper from time to time telling Posey stories....Here is one: "My great-grandfather George Row, came to the Indiana territory from Hardin County, Ky., in 1809. He built a one room log cabin, with a stick chimney, about two hundred yards southeast of where Prairie School house number 9 was later built. About 300 yards from his forest home was a one acre glade. Formerly a swamp, this glade was covered with swamp grass and was used as a cow pasture. They called this grazing land amid the surrounding forest. "The Prairie" well this gave the name later to a neighborhood settlement, church and school which were built around the spot."
Christmas 1931....the Elks Lodge treated 262 "unfortunate" children with a Christmas Party at the Elk's Home. All were greeted by Santa. A fine tradition that continues today. Times were called hard....the economy was bad, business was slack, money was tight, spending was less.....but love still existed.
Fatal Fire.....April, 1930
On April 30, 1930, John Reinhardt died at his home on Mann Street from burns he received in the Graham Valve Plant fire. Reinhardt, had his auto stored in the rear portion of the building and tried to remove his car from the blazing structure suffering the fatal injuries.
Walnut Street Before Post Office...Pre 1932
You can see the Elks, St. Matthews, Fogas residence, Masonic Temple (now Hovey House), Dr. Robert Hardwick residence and then the old Court Hotel which will be the site of the new federal building.
A Gold Ring for a Quarter.....c 1927
Yesterday I had a delightful conversation of four hours with Nonnie Dewart Robison. We talked about many topics, her family history going back to the early days of Mt. Vernon with the Ellis family to her childhood and her teaching career. It was during that later part she became emotional with her love of children. I could tell she was a wonderful elementary teacher. Those sweet memories of good children and those that somehow had troubles in life, she recalled their youth. I found that very touching. I have homework to do as she loaned me a book to read filled as mine are with underlines, asterisks, and yellow highlighters. I have several stories and footnotes for characters, but this one is about Nonnie as a three year old child. She was looking in the Ike Rosenbaum display window on Main Street admiring the jewelry. Her grandpa then ran a shoe repair store and she asked him for some money. He gave her a quarter. She went into the jewelry store and Mr. Rosenbaum waited on her. She told him she would like to buy a ring full of diamonds. Ike said, "You do? How much money do you have?" Nonnie opened her fist and said, "this much." Mr. Rosenbaum saw the quarter and said, "Let's see what we can do." He found her a little gold ring....no diamonds, but a real gold ring. Nonnie says that her children all had turns wearing that gold ring when she became a mother.
Fire inspectors were giving the town the "once over," looking for hazards. Besides the usual rubbish, old sheds, coal oil drums and bad flues the most striking one was explosives in the warehouse of E.B. Schenk Hardware. On Wood and Sycamore they found hay stacks. Rohlman's store was called, "a fire trap."
"Billboard" Reproduces Western Star Artist's Cartoon.....1922
The issue of Billboard magazine on January 7, 1922 reproduced the Chautauqua scene in Mt. Vernon of August 1921. The artist was Mt. Vernon Western Star cartoonist, Martin Smith. The performers of the Chautauqua saw the paper and made several great comments about it and it found its way to the national news. The reproduction showed the same cartoon with the words: "Mt. Vernon Chautauqua, August 14 to 18, 1921." and below the cartoon are the words: "Bigger and better than ever before. Original cartoon drawn for the Western Star by Martin W. Smith." Chautauquas in Mt. Vernon were held at Black's Grove until around 1910 until they were moved to the Central school grounds after that school was built and a large storm caused flooding at Black's Grove causing loss of revenue. They were filled with political speeches, religion, local patriotic themes for children, and then national and regional acts of music, juggling, animals, comedy, etc.
Ferry Runs to Kentucky Sandbar for Sun Bathers.....July 1921
The Flesher Towboat and Barge Line Service Company of Mt. Vernon made special arrangements for the utilization of the beach across from Sherburne Park for local sun worshipers. I can remember boating over there in the 1960's and camping out. Was told just this week that there was once a telescope on top of Fuhrer-Ford Milling that kept a keen eye on the bathing beauties.
This was that terrible winter of 1917-1918.....the year the Cotton Blossom was destroyed by ice at our riverfront. Over 40 snow days that winter.
Louis Wassem and World War I Letters.....1918
Two surviving letters sent home to family and friends from the front of World War I have survived from August and September of 1918. It seems Louis' job was an ambulance driver. He writes home of receiving letters and the Western Star infrequently through delays. He writes several times of being gassed. Once he said, "slightly gassed, but the effect has gone now. Gas shells fall from 11 p.m. until day break." Many times he drove his ambulance with a mask on. Once he took refuge in a farm house from the gas and covered underneath the doors with blankets to keep out the gas. When he drove, he dodged great shell holes, trenches, dead horses and bridges tumbled into the rivers. He also was shot at by an airplane. He mentioned hundreds of German POW's, but their will to fight still in them. Born in Bavaria in 1849 he came to America at age 16 and even then the trip over was eventful....it caught on fire, but was brought under control after a few hours. Here in Mt. Vernon he had a grocery business and died in 1936.
"I Was Older Then; I Am Much Younger Than That Now".....1918
The Western Star newspaper ran a story on Francis Hancock, known to his classmates as "Fossie." He had just put in 80 acres of corn, of which they bragged on because you see he was well over 75 years of age. Well, "Fossie" being a widower, was offended by that article because he was having quite a bit of luck with the ladies and when the paper told he was an old man...Well, "You guys spoiled it all!" All his lady friends he had "the caps for" would not give him the time of day...would not even wave as he rode past their homes. The Western Star apologized, but did not print a retraction. By the way, I (Wavy) am only 41.
"Baby the Wind Must Blow".....Summer of 1917
Posey County was going to have an excellent crop of corn that season, that is until a storm came in with winds reaching almost 100 mph. Trees and large limbs were blown down including a wall on lower Main Street. Barns were destroyed; ears of corn were broken off and would rot. The electric and telephone companies sustained heavy damage and the city was without power. It hit early in the evening of a large shopping Saturday in Mt Vernon. On West Second Street 172 dead sparrows were picked up by small boys and on East Second another bucket full. It was a bad day and yet going forward we had the great winter of 1917-1918.
John S Hopkins in Evansville ... 1915
The John S. Hopkins was an excursion ship who docked at Mt. Vernon many times. This is 1915 in Evansville.
New Harmony Centennial Booklet.....1914
This cover of a little pamphlet I discovered in a paper file at Willard Library. I had seen one of the festivities of the New Harmony Centennial before, but this one was quite different.
19th Century Love Affair Remembered .... Tombstone Erected to Lost Love in 1913
In youth Clem Weiss was in love with Anna Liza Ham until one day they had a quarrel. It ended their romance and he headed west to California and became a physician in the late 1860's or early 1870's. Around 1913 he came back for a visit and asked about Anna. Only the oldest citizens remembered her and they could not confirm if she ever married. Clem was told she was buried in the Old North Cemetery, an unkempt burial ground behind what would one day be Mt. Vernon High School. He employed a man to locate her grave....there were no markers. He found the location or close to it and Dr. Weiss, in a last gesture for the woman he had loved in his youth, ordered two stones erected. They were ordinary stones, bearing no name or inscription. By 1938 when this photo was taken they had become ragged and flaking. They no longer exist sadly. The stones were placed on the crest of the hill, nearby are the graves of the old Leonard family, a family burial ground, not part of the old North. The old stones of over 500 people are now mostly gone...the Juliet North who died in 1834, the Hector Craig of 1836, the Welborn's of the 1830's and 1850's, the Mexican War veteran, the grandmother of a Secretary of State, the original stone of Judge Pitcher (replaced), the relatives of Governor Hovey. Long gone too are the names of Thomas Newman, Aaron Baker and Jesse Baker. Dust to dust including the hanged murderers of 1884 Anderson and Snyder. There were maybe as many as 50 Union soldiers buried here and victims of the cholera epidemic of 1873. What's done is done sadly.
Buster Brown Advertising.....June, 1910
In June 1910 a midget dressed as Buster Brown and a pit bull playing Tige were put in a store window at Stinson Bros. to draw a crowd into the store. Buster Brown Shoe Company had hundreds of these traveling midgets with their little dogs too traveling the country for advertising.
That's is when the best team of horses would be harnessed with their tails and manes braided in red, white, and blue ribbons attached to the head piece of the bridles. They would be sent down to Sy Kirk's shed where the cannon was stored and hitched to the caisson it would take its place in the parade just behind Major Kimball, astride Dolly his favorite saddle horse. Behind that would be Civil War veterans, Spanish American war vets, the Ladies Harrow Relief Corps, patriotic organizations and small children carrying flags. The parade started at the L&N depot and marched down Main Street to the river. There the caisson would be positioned to fire across the river in front of the speaker's stand decorated in red, white, and blue bunting. The band would take its place and the dignitaries behind the stand. A few patriotic songs were sung, then the ladies of the relief corps would be on a barge anchored up river and on a signal would release a small float with a wreath of flowers on it. As it drifted by the riverfront, one of the cannoniers would light the fuse and the cannon blast in a tremendous roar. They fired 21 salutes followed by more music, lesser speeches than the known public speaker. On this particular holiday, sixth grader Sherman Carr was picked to read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Involuntary Baptizing.....May 1910
Andrew Alldredge around noon went down to John Doyle's fish dock, south of Moeller's stave factory, and while watching them clean fish on the slippery dock, his feet slipped out from under him and he plunged into the 20 feet of water and disappeared. Doyle kept his eye on the spot Andy made and when he surfaced, he pulled him out and "hung him to dry." At this point the current was swift, and he was lucky someone saw him fall.
Chas. A. Greathouse Elected As Superintendent of Public Instruction on State Ticket.....1910
Greathouse, formerly from Mt. Vernon was elected by the state democratic committee on August 25th in Indianapolis to take the place of Robert Aley, as superintendent of public instruction. Greathouse spent the greater part of his early adult life in Posey County in the cause of education. He was a country teacher, and principal of Mt. Vernon High School and county superintendent of Posey County for ten years. In business he aided in the organizing of People's Bank and Trust Company at Mt. Vernon and served as its president. At the time of his election he was 40 years old and a graduate of Danville, Indiana, normal school. He studied at Indiana University and lettered in football in 1891, 1892, and 1893. This short biography was provided by the Evansville Advocate, a union newspaper in 1910.
Mt Vernon Brownies.....1909
My earlier book, "From Brownies to Wildcats" published in 1983 did not have that we played Interscholastic basketball until 1911-12....A Evansville High School (Central) annual says something different. According to the 1909 Evansville yearbook we played three games against them one each in the months of December 1908, January 1909 and February 1909. E.H.S., then the only high school in Evansville defeated us 30-15 in Evansville and then they came to Mt. Vernon where they got us again 28-22. The last contest, again in Mt. Vernon, we defeated our Evansville rivals 29-21.
Black Local Civil War Vet Had Hard Life.....Dies 1909
"Uncle" Si Johnson, one of oldest of his race in Mt. Vernon and for years peddled kindling throughout the city with an old broken down horse died at his home in the eastern part of Mt. Vernon from the effects of a recent paralytic stroke. He was 69 years old, a veteran of the Civil War, and was survived by a wife, son and an adopted daughter.
Soldiers and Sailors Monument.....1908
The idea of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the courthouse and dedicated in 1908 came from a local man, Christian Dannheiser, who was born in Bavaria, Germany and worked at the Keck-Gonnerman foundry. Major G.V. Menzies and Leroy Wade became interested and a petition drive was created. Taxes were raised for the monument of which it cost about $14,000.
Steamers Joe Fowler & John S. Hopkins were frequent visitors to Mt. Vernon. Here they are shown at Elizabethtown.....1908
Flesher....A Name of Posey Rivermen......1907
Around 1907 a man named Millard Flesher and his younger brother Isaac Newton Flesher came to Mt, Vernon and were owners of the Flesher Towboat Company. They came here from Ohio, Their father was Andrew Jackson Flesher (1827-1898) and he was in the ship building business for 55 years owning his own sawmill and soon was one of the foremost boat builders in the Ohio Valley. He once owned over 30 boats himself and was said to have built over 150 for others. The great flood of 1884 took much of his wealth, but the Christian man just sort of shrugged his shoulders and said it was God's will. The boys came here and Isaac N. and his wife Belle were well known. The Belle V. Flesher was the party barge that ran excursions from our wharf. As steam engines gave way to diesel fuel the Flesher's influence waned. Millard moved on to Arkansas where he is buried, a son, William Jackson Flesher hung for a while working on river boats on the Ohio River.
John William "Jack" Frost....Prominent Artist and Cartoonist's Parents Lived in Mt. Vernon early in the 20th Century.....
In 2010 Frost at age 90 passed away in North Carolina. He had been born in Evansville Indiana in 1919 to Oscar and Jenny Edson Frost former Mt. Vernon citizens. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago then went to work at the art studio of Johnstone and Cushing of New York city. He also had eighteen years as a magazine cartoonist with the Charleton Pubishing Company of Derby, Ct., a leading comic book producer. In addition he did several nationally syndicated comic strips and editorial cartoons for Connecticut and North Carolina newspapers. In 1946, the Evansville Courier had a write up about him in Karl Kae Knecht's column saying in that particular year he had done cartoons for Pepsi-Cola in Red Book and American; True Stories and Liberty and even a Ex-Lax cartoon for New York and Boston newspapers. His art work that year was seen in Pic, Seventeen, Calling All Girls, and the Detroit Athletic Club Journal among others. By 1946, Mrs. Frost was working for the War Department in the Pentagon.
Alexandrian Carnegie Library Cornerstone Laid.....July 28, 1904
With 46 brothers present the lodge was called in special communication as a Grand Lodge for the purpose of laying the cornerstone for the Carnegie Library building at Main Street. Deputy Grand Master A. W. Emery received commission from the Grand Master Grimes to act as Grand Master on the occasion appointed Bro. Barker as Deputy Grand Master, Bro. S.G. Howard as Grand Marshall, Bros. C. Buchanon and J.J. Jones as Grand Stewards. The Grand Marshall then formed a Grand Precession and the Lodge marched to the Carnegie building headed by the Mt. Vernon Police over Second Street to Main, to Fifth. The cornerstone was laid in Due and Ancient Form with an address made by Rev. Lithesland. The procession was again formed and returned to the Lodge Room. I am sure a "Grand" time was had by all.
Evansville Journal as Teddy Stumps for McKinley...a Year Later McKinley would be Shot Down and Roosevelt would be President.....October 1900
William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt would lose in Posey County with the Democrats William Jennings Bryan and Adlai Stevenson winning 55% of the vote. Roosevelt would lose again in Posey in 1904 to Democrat Alton Parker. Roosevelt was the youngest President ever and except for his militaristic ways he was a good progressive....immigration was booming, he pushed universal health care, old age pensions, federal employment insurance, food and drug protection, dined in the White House with African American leader Booker T. Washington. Put big business in their place, protected the environment, ended trusts and came out for a "square deal." A square deal he said, "refutes the popular idea that the Republican party always legislates to aid the rich and oppress the poor." READ THAT AGAIN! What would be the percentage of chance that such a candidate ....the improbability of the degree of success that such a candidate could win the Republican candidacy today? Zilch!
Lightning Deaths.....August, 1899
James Barnett and William Pitcher were killed by lightning while wheat thrashing in August of 1899. Pitcher's straw hat had its brim burned off.
"When a black man hates a white man he narrows and degrades himself. When a white man hates a black man he narrows and degrades himself....If for no other reason each should love one another."....MV black activist....Fred Carr....1896 I wrote several stories in earlier "Ramblings" about Mr. Carr, an educated columnist for the Mt. Vernon Republican late in the 19th century. He wrote church news, community news, and advice to the unemployed and to young people. He took steamboat trips on the Ohio River and reported back on how to get along. He said "for reasons of environment and early parental teachings, one may have disliked the Negro and may have refrained from making contact with him. Maybe you have always degraded and thought of him as a unworthy creature. Maybe you should resolve to make a change, experiment, show effort and pray about it. Think about your fellow man. Mind you, my plea is not for the sake of the negro alone, but for the white man. A man is not free when he is compelled for any reason to hate this man and hate that one simply because of some differences in the tincture of the skin, or peculiar shape of the nose, or curl of the hair. Thousands need to be set free....white and black....free to love the world. Show me a man that dislikes another human being on account of race or color or religion and I will show you a weak man, holding back his own growth, his own development. Let the soul loose."
Mason Cornerstone of "The Castle".....June 24, 1895
The old high school that once stood at the corner of Store (College) and West Fifth had a cornerstone that the Masons presented that cost $4 and had a copper box time capsule valued then of $1.25. Again the lodge marched up Second Street to Main and down Main to 8th Street, down 8th to Store, down Store to the building. After the ceremony and two eloquent speeches I am sure they returned back to their lodge. In that year the lodge paid their first ever funeral for Brother Campbell. The cost was $25 to H. Weisinger for embalming and burial and $7 to same for grave and lot. Henry Weisinger 1835-1905 was also a member of their lodge.
This was the first time I ever saw a column written by and for the black community in Mt. Vernon. I have written about Fred Carr in my previous volumes. This lasted a few years and it would be decades before we would see them again in the Western Star newspaper. This column mentioned black churches in Point township and Brewer Hills also. One speaks of a basket meeting in Point where several people were baptized. We can't give the paper too much credit because the newspaper at that time continued to describe African Americans in the worst derogatory terms. Even the obituaries of black men that white people liked were full at times with racism.
National W.C.T.U. Leader Speaks at Methodist Episcopal Church on Temperance.....1894
Mrs. E.L. Calkins, then of Indianapolis and Vice President of the Women's Christian Temperance Union delivered an address at the local M.E. Church. Later she would move to Michigan and become President of that organization for twenty-one years, retiring from that position in 1926. In Mt. Vernon she said: "Young man, dost thou go abroad in the land at night and rush the growler, and perambulate the streets at an unreasonable hour? Dost thou whoop 'em with the boys and finger for subsistence in the jackpot and back thy sheckles against the ever slippery tiger? Art thou a guzzler of beer and player of cards? Dost thou suck the pernicious cigar root and hast thou lost thy grip on the ways that are rigid and wisdom which is good in the world? Verily, verily, I say unto you, if so, thou art in a bad row of stumps, and thy name is pants with a big P. Thy heels will fly up ere long, and thou will find thyself floating in the soup. Keep thy lips from the jug that contains the intoxication juice, and steer widely of the aces, and in the ripening years of thy life thy pocketbook will be full."
Play "Cracker Jack" Portraying a Live Hanging Seen at Masonic Hall.....1894
A play called "Cracker Jack" had a lynching scene which was almost too real, especially to the actor who plays the part of the victim. The troupe that came into Mt. Vernon was the same one that played Toronto, Canada earlier the past year. At that time, the actor was strung to a set tree by a mob and cut down at the climax. Great care was always exercised and the man in charge of the hanging was once a deputy sheriff out west and had actively participated in more than one genuine tragedies of the sort. In Toronto, however, the noose slipped, and as ten men were pulling upon the rope, the unfortunate actor would have been hanged in earnest if the westerner's practiced eye had not observed that the victim's struggles and motions were real and not assumed. He jumped in just in time to cut the rope sooner rather than later. The actor's neck was severely wrenched, but he appeared as usual in the next act. In Mt. Vernon when asked more about it, he only said he had no lasting effects from it and would rather not talk about it.
Man Charged for Carrying Concealed Weapons Scaring Kids.....August 1893
George Edwards, a "tough mug" was sent before police court and charged with carrying concealed weapons. Geo had been out drunk, and while on the northern end of Mt. Vernon he succeeded in frightening a crowd of children "at his pleasure." Found guilty he was fined $20 in costs. Squire Jones said of him: "Seems as though some people won't learn to leave their guns at home." ......must have been one of those "activist judges." In a related item (because I said so) the Presbyterian Church had a "Children's Day" and spoke to them and their parents of the old dogma, "Everlasting Punishment of the Wicked."
Chicago World's Fair.....1893
By August of 1893 it was estimated that over 200 people from Mt. Vernon had visited the Chicago World's Fair by train. Matilda Alexander wrote home a column each day, published in the newspaper of the sights witnessed.
Railroad Argument Leads to Fight - Fortunately, they are Separated.....January 1893
Gus Laugel, engineer of the Evansville and Terre Haute railroad and his fireman Al Culley engaged in quite a quarrel when they arrived in Mt. Vernon at the depot. Al took out after Gus with a pickaxe, while Gus pulled his revolver and snapped it twice, but it failed to fire. Separated they were summoned to appear before Evansville officials but the end result was nothing much, told to behave neither lost their jobs despite ill feelings for over a year.
Giant Skeleton Found in Griffin - 13 Feet Tall.....June 1892
The Grayville, Illinois Mercury said that a J. McClure and John Harris dug into a mound on the Heady farm a couple of miles north of Griffin, and unearthed a human skeleton of remarkable size. The bone from hip to knee measured 3 1/2 feet, and from knee to ankle of 3 feet. The backbone and ribs crumbled as soon as exposed to the air, but enough of the skull was saved to show that it was at least 12 inches through. The lower jaw would easily slip over one's head, and the teeth were in sections, three to nine in a group. The skeleton was in a sitting position and was said to be a man fully 12 to 13 feet in height.
Death Inquest.....January 1892
Frank Taylor who lived in a old boat just west of the Mt. Vernon fairgrounds on the Ohio River was found frozen to death. He was a widower, had a hard life and the coroner ruled.....he got cold.
New Years Celebration Burns Down Livery Stable.....1892
A livery barn on Store Street (College Avenue today), between Water and Second streets was totally consumed by fire from fire crackers and Roman candles. Marshal Maier and Pres Loveland were first upon the scene and released the horses, about 25 and also pulled out a few buggies.
The Alvin Peterson Hovey Monument Described.....1892
The late lawyer, General, diplomat and governor died and was buried at Bellefontaine cemetery north of Mt. Vernon. The foundation of the monument was set for over a year to settle sufficiently to withstand the immense weight of the monument which contained nearly 10,000 brick some four feet into the ground. The first base is marble, twenty inches high and weighs 15 tons. The second base is sixteen inches high and weighs four tons. The die stands on top of the second base and is of dark granite, highly polished. It stands ten feet four inches high and weighs seventeen tons. The total weight of the monument is forty four tons or 88,000 pounds and the total height is thirteen feet and four inches. On the western surface of the monument, near the top is a large bronze medallion bust in base relief of Governor Hovey looking north. The model for this bust cost $500. Underneath this is the inscription, "Alvin P. Hovey, Twenty-Fourth Indiana Volunteer Infantry." Near the base of the monument is the name "Hovey," in large bronze letters. The total cost of the monument is $6000. John Walsh, of Montgomery, Indiana was the designer and builder of the monument, and was assisted with finishing touches by Ira Nye, of C.P. Hiskey's marble works. A strike prevented the monuments delivery until after Decoration Day. The expense of the monument was borne entirely by Mrs. Menzies, a daughter, and the wife of Maj. G.V. Menzies, and C.J. Hovey, a son of General Hovey.
Late Spring Indeed.....May, 1889
In May of 1889 we had a very cold spring and it was the last of May when farmers planted their corn in overcoats to keep warm. On the 25th of the month, a very destructive hail and wind storm blew into the county. As much as 12 inches of hail fell and the next day at least 6 inches of hail still remained on the ground.
Hovey's Parade into the State House.....January 23, 1889
Mt. Vernon's own Alvin P. Hovey was moved into the governorship of Indiana. The Weekly Sun said: "Although the locals didn't vote for him our favorite son has traveled from log cabin to the governor's mansion. Celebrations reached a climax at Tomlinson Hall, Indianapolis, where couples twirled in mystic mazes of dance." It was described as a grand affair...never seen outside of Washington city. "What could keep the heart of a Posey County citizen from swelling with pride and joy as he is remembered that all that pomp and glory was done in honor to a once poor lad who grew into manhood in our beloved Posey County?"
Heat Wave Weather.....1887
During a prolonged heat wave of July, Mt. Vernon temperatures reached 104 degrees two straight days on July 22nd and 23rd, 1887.
Despite Violence, Mt. Vernon Sleeps Unprotected On Hot Sultry Night.....July 1886
Despite a decade of unprecedented violence, a local reporter made his rounds in quest of news and noticed many families were in the habit of sleeping with their doors and windows wide open. It was particularly noticeable among the "medium" class of people. They seemed to fear no danger, despite lynchings, and hangings and murders in our city in past years. "Their whole thoughts seem to be for comfort." On one street every house was thrown wide open, the occupants sleeping as sweetly as though they were guarded of all danger.
Firecrackers Cause Injuries, Chaos, and Corporal Punishment.....December 1885
Little Mollie Henrich was gathering kindling in the woodshed when her younger brother couldn't resist throwing a firecracker under her skirt. By the time Mollie returned to the kitchen of their home her clothing was ablaze and she ran out of the house into her father's barber shop on Main Street and he rolled her on the floor and beat out the flames with his bare hands suffering burns on both hands. Mollie received several bad burns also and then little Arthur in time received a sore bottom.
Relief Steamer Halpin with Governor Porter (R) Arrives in Mt. Vernon.....March 1883
Albert Porter dressed in overalls and a straw hat and with a boatload of state notables made a brief stop in Mt. Vernon looking over what was then the worse flood in recorded Indiana history. He continued down river distributing the remainder of aid for flood sufferers. He made the observation that Mt. Vernon was "high and dry." I wonder if that is where our motto came from? He was a weak governor, but a good man. The Democrats had thrown him virtually out of their party by 1856 because he was anti-slavery and after he got in the governor's mansion they blocked him at every turn. He was pro women's suffrage and pro-labor. He worked hard for improved working conditions for miners, orphans and hospitals. He gave a speech at the 1888 Republican Convention and nominated his old law partner Benjamin Harrison as President. In tribute, Harrison made him Minister to Italy in 1889.
Snow Brings Out the Kids.....December 21, 1882
Four more inches of fresh snow on top of what we already had brought sleighs out into the streets. The little sleds going down the hills and the big sled pulled by horses. Small children were out throwing snowballs at each other and delivery men on Main Street. "It looks...it feels....it smells like Christmas....May every Mount Vernonite have a merry one.".....Western Star newspaper.
Unbelievable Hot Wedding Night.....October 1882
A devastating fire consumed the barn and harvest of John Junker of Marrs Township. The incident followed a wedding spree on the premise and it was surmised that sparks from the young men smoking incinerated the hay, wheat and structure. "For better or worse...."
Another Fight ....Photographer and One Handed Man Ward Off Kentuckians....July 1882
It was a hot steaming day and sweltering night when all crap broke loose. First there was a man arrested aboard the steamer, "Silver Cloud" when a man fractured another's skull with a club, then at Ike Kahn's saloon two Kentuckians came for trouble. While one of them was sampling the spirits inside, the other one had his fun abusing a "crippled" fellow outside the doors of the drinking emporium. Photographer Jones, the same Jones that took photos of the lynching at the court house, just happened to be coming by and saw the mistreatment and stopped it with a well-placed fist to the ruffian's eye who quickly ran into the bar. Must have been a tag team because out comes the other fella and he jumped on the nearest bystander which happened to be the "cripple." He seems to have had enough abuse and although having only one good hand, soon finished off the Henderson man and they were delivered to Marshal Paul and lodged in the pokey.
Nine Pages of Murders in William P. Leonard's History of Posey County.....1882
One of the earlier Posey County historians, Wm. Leonard captured the murders in Posey County from the earliest to the latest in his book printed in 1882. Many of the murderers never were caught. One of these was Jonathan Combs who on June 4, 1850 during the construction of the Old Plank Road between New Harmony and Mt. Vernon stabbed and murdered Noal Nesler. Combs made his escape and was never brought to trial.
Slippery Crooked Broker Swindles MV Capitalist, Arrested in Nashville.....1882
Ike Kahn, of Mt, Vernon arrived in Nashville to meet with the arrested swindler Geo. Perry and a compromise was agreed on. Perry returned about $200 to Kahn. It was discovered that Perry had a large amount of money sewed in the lining of his clothes. The arresting officer and Justice Galdwell said he would hold Perry no longer and withdrew the warrant when he returned the money and paid all costs. Perry had obtained the money from Kahn representing himself as having a fine bunch of hogs that he would sell cheap. Perry had made purchases for Kahn before, and Kahn not doubting him, handed him the necessary sum for purchase. The next day however, Kahn met the man with whom Perry was to trade, and asking him about his hogs, was astonished to learn that he had no hogs for him. This opened Kahn's eyes that he had been had and he sat out to look Perry up. He was traced to Evansville and then to Nashville where he was detained.
New tall buildings were starting to grow along Main Street with the boom of new business and residential dwellings growing for several years. Big merchant stores were still rather sparse. We had plenty of groceries, blacksmiths, coopers, barbers, tailors and shoemakers...but there would come a need for more manufactured goods. Remember clothes were usually made at home from sewing machines. There was a store ran by Charles Quick who sold those. Furniture was bought at Charles Schiela's who must have been pretty wealthy. His crypt looks pretty nice at the cemetery. Lots of people made their gifts like in the old country with their own hands. Dolls were made of heavy cloth and stuffed with saw dust. Christmas trees were cut from the woods and decorated with popcorn strings and candles. Toys were made of wood or iron. A corn cob pipe or a pocket knife were good gifts. Stockings were nuts, and fruits. If you got a top or a doll you were pretty happy. Children worked hard too in those days. A pair of skates, a piece of fishing gear were cherished, especially by the rural and working classes.
New Harmony Fairgrounds Burn.....January 1881
Around three in the morning on January 10, fire was discovered on the fairgrounds and it was found that the large amphitheater was on fire and in a short time it was entirely consumed. There was no insurance. The amphitheater was 310 feet long and 24 feet wide and capable of holding between three and four thousand people and was built of a cost of $2000. It was thought the fire was started by an incendiary. Profits had been exhausted from the treasury prior to the fire and it was some time before an adequate replacement was built. A $50 reward was offered for the arrest and conviction of the arsonist.
"General Welfare Clause" of Mt. Vernon Enacted.....1881
After the "Great Fire of 1880" destroyed a good portion of Main Street, the city got busy making changes. To get insurance for the new building boom, Mt. Vernon had to have a fire department of which they organized. Later came an ordinance which prevented the erection of wooden structures within the city limits as maybe determined by the city, The city could compel the removal of wooden buildings erected if they were in violation of said ordinance an present building could be destroyed if the building was seen to be a nuisance to fire. Those "valuable" buildings had the right to repair them to bring them to code if the cost was more than $300.
Poor Marksmanship Critiqued by Western Star Newspaper.....1879
Geo. Daniels and James Lay had been quarreling in Ike Kahn's saloon around 5 P.M., resulting in one punch being thrown. Around 7 P.M. they met in front of Pap" Burtis store on Main and Lay fired at Daniels in the middle of the street with his Smith and Wesson pistol. Lay missed him totally and the Star said: "Lay is a bad shot and should be fined for not knowing how to use a firearm better. Geo. escaped without a scratch to drink and fight another day."
Coroner's Inquest of Cyrus O. Thomas....Killed October 1878 Prior to Lynching
"Be it known, that on this day an inquest was held by the undersigned, (William Hendricks), Coroner of Posey Count, at the residence of George Washington Thomas, in the city of Mt. Vernon, Black Township, Posey County, Indiana, upon the dead body of Cyrus O. Thomas. The deceased was about 39 years old, dark complexion, black hair, and mustache, spare build, about five feet seven inches high; was dressed in a striped cassimere coat, black cassimere pants, white cotton shirt, knit undershirt, white cotton socks, calf skin shoes and black hat. Had on his person two dollars and ten cents in silver, one memorandum book and a bunch of keys. Verdict of the jury: Came to his death by a shot from a gun in the hands of Daniel Harrison, while attempting to make an arrest at the house of the said Harrison.'
Coroner's Inquest of James Good - Lynched at Court house....October 1878
"On the 12th day of October, 1878, an Inquest was held in the city of Mt.Vernon, Black Township, Posey County, Indiana, by the undersigned coroner (William Hendricks) of said county, upon the dead body of James Good, found dead upon the Public Square of said city. The deceased at the time of his death was about 30 years old, about 5 feet 10 inches high, slim build, black complexion, black kinky hair, and black mustache. Was dressed in light colored cassimere coat, striped cotton shirt, cotton undershirt, black tweed pants, white cotton drawers, white cotton socks, and brogan shoes. Had on his person one pocket book, two nickels, one pipe, and one white cotton handkerchief. Verdict of the jury: Came to his death by hanging, at the hands of person to the jury unknown."
Coroner's Inquest of William Chambers - Lynched at the Court House....1878
On the 12th day of October 1878, an inquest was held in the city of Mt. Vernon, Black Township, Posey County, Indiana, by the undersigned (Wm. Hendricks), Coroner of said county, upon the dead body of William Chambers, found dead upon the Public Square of said city. The deceased at the time of his death was about 35 years old, about 6 feet high, heavy build, black complexion, black kinky hair, black mustache, black cassinet coat, light colored cotton undershirt, gray jeans pants, with cotton socks, white cotton drawers and brogan shoes. Had on his person one counterfeit Mexican dollar, and twenty-five cents in silver. Verdict of the jury: Came to his death by hanging at the hand of persons unknown."
Horrible Fate of Former Posey County Family in Nez Perce War.....1877
A few years before the Posey County family of James Chamberlain left Posey County and followed the Oregon Trail settling in the Willemette Valley in Oregon. In the spring of 1877, Chief Joseph was urged to move off his property of which he refused. The Indians had a treaty going back to 1855 allowing them to fish and hunt on their ancestral lands in the pacific northwest. The United States broke that treaty and war started in June into October. Local relatives received word that James Chamberlain was shot dead and his body badly mutilated and his five year old son, Jonathan was also killed. The wife was shot and left for dead, and the tongue of her infant child was cut out. The mother and child recovered. Joseph was tracked up into Montana and survived tremendous hardship trying to get to Canada. He finally gave up and the tribe was sent to a reservation in Idaho. This was after a massacre from the soldiers at the Battle of Big Hole of mostly unarmed women and children. Chief Joseph later made a speech called, "I will never fight again, forever."
Editor note: Emily Allyn has added the following information James Chamberlain (1825-1892) married Mary Ann Nesler (1829-1848) in Posey County on 20 JOuly 1846. They had one son, Jonathan (1847-1877). James remarried to Angelitha Jones after the death of Mary Ann. James and Angelitha had about eight more children. Sometime in the 1860's, this family headed west to Oregon, then back east towards Idaho. On 15 Sep 1872, Jonathan married Emma McLaughlin, in Oregon. On 14 Jun 1877, Jonathan was killed by the Nez Perce. His three year old daughter, Hattie, was also killed. Their infant daughter, Effie Dora, sustained a stab wound to her throat and mouth that permanently damaged (but did not completely cut out) her tongue. Emma and Effie Dora survived the attack, though. In 1880, in Washington State, Emma remarried to James Lonzo Tow and had six more children. Effie Dora first (in 1896) married Charles P. Smith. He died, and she remarried to Max C. Poindexter (allegedly related to Senator Miles Poindexter) in 1908. I think she had four children with each husband. Some of her children by her first marriage later used the Poindexter surname. Max C. Poindexter was found shot to death in a Chicago hotel room in 1920, and there was debate about whether it was suicide or homicide. Several members of this family ended up in Nevada but others went to South Haven, MI, which is where Max and Effie are buried.
And now the weather.....1876
In January of 1876 the weather turned cold and clear. Temperatures that month were in the twenties much of the month and river traffic slowed. The river was also falling and as temps raised above freezing, mud was left behind on the landing and any approach to the river was hazardous.
Watching Pigs - A Lazy Day.....December 1875
Our material wealth was captured in a ledger in 1877 and I guess I can work it into this little ditty of a story. Auditor Owen completed statistics that year and found we had 23,849 hogs in the county but only 84 pianos. Anyway, back to the pig story. A few locals went hunting one winter, amongst the panorama of nature, even in its naked glory. In a piece of woods not far from Mt. Vernon, the hunters, (they called it sportsmen, yeah right), had little luck and became tired of walking, depressed so they seated themselves upon a fallen tree for a rest. One man directed their attention of a sight transpiring not far away. What they saw was both strange and comical, a dance of pigs! Pigs were still in a position when with a shrill squeal from one pig, this gentleman pig took on an elegant graceful demeanor. His dance was all the riot as the men watched. The pig strived to jump higher and squeal louder, than any of his companions. There were fifteen small pigs, not much bigger than a house cat. Nearby stood the mother, watching with interest and a critical eye. The men were quiet as the little pigs played. A ratty looking little fellow, with a pair of spotted legs, waltzed into the center of the ring they formed, stood for a moment in meditation, then advanced dancing in a "French style," politely offering his nose to no doubt, in his estimation, the best looking female in the assembly. The beauty gave her rump a little twist and placed her nose close to her partner's, and the couple whirled through a dance for a few minutes and then paused. Instantly, the whole ring, rose quickly upon their hind legs, and dropped back again. Then, placing their forefeet together, they whirled around twice, and upon ceasing, formed in a line and moved around in a circle, hopping and skipping like an old country gentleman dancing with a young beautiful woman in a barn dance. How much longer the dance would have lasted, will forever be left in oblivion as the mom moved. Instantly, the dancing ceased and the pigs scampered off through the woods. The men that evening laughed over the strange freak show they had witnessed as they ate their fried coon and cornbread. None had ever seen such a sight and one supposition put forward was that the happy family had witnessed some gentleman giving dancing lessons in the country and they learned the dance thereupon......nah...hey, Fred....pour me some more whiskey in my cup, will ya?
On Christmas Eve storms arrived around midnight and wind was howling as dense clouds gathered. It was growing colder, but still unseasonably warm and it would stay that way into early January. It was for the most part I guess as happy a Christmas as most are....our own mirth and joy reflected in the happiness of others we love. A holiday for the children and adults as pleasure watching them engage in opening presents. We paused too for charity remembering others here and abroad...on the other side of the earth who need things that we might even cast away. People gathered on Main Street that Friday Christmas eve in front of the just completed new court house. What a scene that must have been! Churches held suppers that night, gathered, sang carols, and passed out presents to children. Stockings were hung full of nuts, fruits and candy. It was a day for the faithful, set apart to commemorate the birth of their redeemer and deliverer. Jews and Gentiles alike in town celebrated the holiday according to their faiths. Others...."stupid urchins" in town celebrated too much, "polluted by gross indulgence" profaned the holiday. There were two or three large fights resulting in bloody noses, black eyes, and bruised faces. A few men took to pistols, thinking it their duty to discharge them in close proximity to people's legs "making them dance" to their devilish entertainment. But overall, most followed the traditions and as always hoped for "Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards Men."
"Down with the Old...Up with the New!".....November 1875
"And now we have a new court house, what about the old jail? Some prisoners recently cut their way out of it and made their escape, others may do likewise. When will it be condemned? Where will the new jail be built? And shall we have a residence for the sheriff? We shall see.".....Mt. Vernon Democrat. As fate would have it the new jail on Mill Street did not happen until after the mob lynching of 1878.
Evansville Poet, Newspaperman, Philosopher Dies of Morphine Drug.....1875
Tom McAvoy at first glance had everything going for him. Born in Liverpool England around 1830, he had a great education and as a resident of Evansville he at one time held many jobs of great respect. He was county assessor and was gifted with the pen. He possessed a fine analytical mind and his style was one of politeness. He was editor of the Evansville Enquirer for many years and did good work. After a time in politics he developed a strong appetite for alcohol and for years he fell farther and farther into decline. It became so bad that the man who once wrote of the inconsistencies of the human disposition fell victim to his own philosophies. His wife left him and soon his travel to ruin had nothing to restrain him. All self-respect was dead and all his fine attributes were wasted. People avoided him and he gathered little sympathy for his weak human nature. At the end, on a Saturday night he went to the Bridwell drug store looking for morphine. It was refused of him and he went off. Later in the evening, he returned and was intoxicated, as usual, and staggered to a seat in the store. Here after groaning awhile, he fell to the floor insensible. Taken to the station house it was discovered that he had taken a large portion of morphine. The physicians worked all night with the hope of restoring him, but without success, and he died at 4:45 A.M. The remains were sent to the shop of Robert Smith and coffined. He was interred that same day.
Historian and Novelist Edward Eggleston Makes Fun of Posey County.....1871
Eggleston wrote dozens of books and his first, "Hoosier Schoolmaster," published in 1871 made fun of our schools. Born in Vevay, Indiana in 1837 he is supposed to have taught school in Posey in Center Township. In his book he used the fictional name of Hoop Pole Township and called us the "epitome of educational retardation." He portrayed our schools of that time as rectangular "frame buildings, usually on stilts to accommodate the dogs and hogs of the neighborhood." He also said, it is in the southwest corner of Indiana, between the Ohio and the Wabash is Posey County. Nearly ten years since I taught a winter school in the center of Posey. I remember it used to be said just north of where I was taught, people run down their children with dogs once a month to put clean clothes on them and in the maps we used to draw lines of Posey County and divide it into "Civilized, Tribes, and X-plored." His depictions of us were not kindly and for a long time they stuck. There was a comic strip of Posey County and even at the Chicago World's Fair a caricature of a man in Posey.
America's Centennial Fourth Celebrated Locally.....1876
The morning of July 4, 1876 was bright and beautifully clear. Our day in Mt. Vernon started with the firing of cannon, the ringing of church bells, and the firing of Chinese fireworks. The night before the streets were filled with the republic's flag in windows, lamp posts, signs and rooms decorated with patriotism. The decorations at Chas Wasem's and Andrew Wasem's business were especially "tasty." Arches were swung across Main Street in wreathes of evergreens, flowers and bearing gold and silver letters. Our city had taken a holiday, donned its freshest dress and put its best foot forward in festive form. At Black's Grove people enjoyed the pleasures of the day, clothed in their newest garments, and came pouring in from every road, on foot, on horseback, in buggies, carts and wagons. A parade during the day was headed by the Mt. Vernon Brass Band, wagons carrying thirteen young misses representing the thirteen colonies, and a wagon containing 37 misses representing the thirty seven states. The crowd at Black's Grove was a hungry group, said to have been six or seven thousand in number. A program was strictly followed after the reading of the Declaration of Independence by William Owen. Mother Nature took a hand in the matter, and a furious, blinding rain came driving all the people away....wet, dirty, and still famished. That evening a make shift exercise began anew as General Hovey and Judge Edson spoke at the court house with balls at the Masonic and Bischoff's Halls. They said the Boston Dip was the dance of the day. Dinner was served of barbecued meats, three large beefs, 31 sheep, 15 hogs and all was eaten.
Holiday Greetings ...1868
"From the hands of our enterprising merchants and now with almost breathless anxiety people wait with the coming of Santa Claus to distribute them tastefully arraigned under the tree. Can you forget the happiness experienced as years ago in the old homestead you rose early Christmas morning, to find a well filled stocking of toys and sweet meats? This year should be a happy one. Peace is in our country, great public improvements are being pushed forward. Providence blesses our city with health and bright prospects are before us. Then with thankful hearts let us welcome the holidays, let us enjoy them and while partaking of the bounties bestowed upon us by the giver of all good, let us not forget those who are less pleasantly situated. Then welcome to Merry Christmas; welcome to the holidays; welcome to 1869 and may we each renew our determination to be useful citizens, true to principle and strive manfully for the right. "....Editor Thomas Collins, Mt. Vernon Democrat
Bigotry in Paper.....1868
In 1868, they said we had a white man from Evansville teaching the formally freed slaves in our town to read and write. The newspaper made light of it with Sambo poems. Also the editor was mad about "brazen harlots" in town perambulating the streets day and night, uttering language that would blush the cheek of a heathen and no effort is made to stop them.
Wounded Civil War Returnee Improvises With Corporal Punishment.....Late 1860's
Gottfried Jourdan was born in Germany in 1830 and was married at the Zion Church in 1859. His wife Elizabeth was pregnant when Gottfried was sent off to war and she just about went crazy while he was gone. One of the family members said he paid a substitute in Mt. Vernon $400 to go to war for him, but Gottfried didn't have that kind of money so he went. He was 34 years old and 4'10" tall and was drafted in 1864 for one year, but he was only in for about seven months because he was shot in the hip. Because he was not able to run after his children to discipline them he often used his cane on them when they were helping him put on his shoes. He was also very good with the hook of the cane to bring them near. His will, dated 1895, was copied in German and is in the Posey County Clerk's office.
The First Central School.....1867
Where Hedges Central is today once was Central built in 1910 and destroyed by fire in1945. Before that, there was another Central erected in 1867. Before that there were three small schools in Mt. Vernon spread out through town. One was called the Foster school house, a four room, one story brick building started by Foster as a academy on the east side of College Avenue (Store Street) between Second and Third. Another was called "The Little Brick" a one story brick building of two rooms on the northeast corner of Main and Sixth Street. The third was called the seminary. It was built by money appropriated by the legislature of Indiana for the erection of school buildings. It stood on the west side of Main Street almost opposite the intersection of East Tenth Street. It was a two story building, containing two rooms, one over the other. There was once a women's seminary too, but closed down around the Civil War. My information here comes from a 1933 Western Star by James F. Davis who was seven years old when Central was built. According to Davis arrangements were made for the erection of a larger school on a tract of land purchased in the northeast part of the city. The trustees at that time were the Hon. Elijah Spencer, president; William C. Fuhrer, secretary-treasurer; and John Pfeffer Sr. Edward Brown was the contractor, like he was for so many buildings in Mt. Vernon. Work started in the spring of1867. He sublet the brick work to Thomas Allen of Mt. Vernon. The building was completed for $17,000 and was in the form of a Greek cross, the center section extending north and south with an ell on both the east and west sides. The building contained eight large rooms, four on the first floor, and four on the second. It had four large hallways with two on each floor. When they laid the cornerstone all business interests in the city closed down, the New Harmony Brass Band attended, a parade was formed, the Masons laid the stone in front of a large assembled crowd. A large platform was erected, large enough to hold a chorus choir, speakers, attorneys, and pastors. The ceremony was very elaborate with songs and speeches galore. The main address was by the Hon. Milton Pearce. The bar had lots of speakers including our big hitters like the Hon. James Laird, Hon. John Brownlee, Hon. Wm P. Edson, Hon. H.E. Pitcher, Hon. G.V. Menzies, General Alvin P. Hovey, and Judge John Pitcher. Three women sang solos....Mrs. S.H. Pearce, Miss Olive Sullivan and Miss Hattie Spencer. Near the conclusion came a drenching shower putting an end to the program. The people made a rush to the nearly completed janitor's building, but it would not hold all so the men let the women go in and the men stood in the rain. The building was ready for use in late 1868. Prof. Mitchell was the head teacher, but in 1869 a new superintendent, Prof. A.J. Snoke became the head master. Davis who published this information said that he started school in the "Little Brick" and from there went to the seminary. When at seven years of age he attended Central he studied McGuffey's third reader. His teacher was Miss Victoria Larkin.
Hanging in Posey.....1867
It was the week of Christmas 1867 when a well-dressed man rode into Mt. Vernon and tried to sell two fine horses within a livery store. Suspicion arose and no sale was forthcoming. Shortly afterwards two men, who owned the horses they said, convened in town and inquired about the fancy dude thief. Gathering information as to the direction he went, they took off in hot pursuit. The two men were later found hanging from a limb six miles from Mt. Vernon. The story does not say which direction they went, but I have heard rumors of a "dead man's tree" in Point Township.
Tie Up at the Stand Pipe.....1860's
Outside north of town was a stand pipe in the same place as it is now, between Sherman and Grant streets. One or two regiments were stationed there at times they say and it was known as First and Second Groves. Not sure if this is the same place referred to as Camp Link. Camp Link always seems to elude me. I have heard of it there, around Grant Street and also north of the railroad tracks around Brown Street.
Home Guard Cannon....1860's
The brass cannon at the America Legion was used by the Home Guard during the rebellion. Made in 1844 by N.P. Ames, a cannon founder at Springfield, Illinois, it was one of five that once stood at Haws Hill, which would have been behind the old Mt. Vernon Lumber Company. It was acquired by Alvin Peterson Hovey, who was in Mt. Vernon awaiting further orders from the War Department. At the end of the war the cannons were returned, but this one was hidden away in a barn. It was used in parades, paraded around by Captain Henry Baldwin who claimed ownership of it. In 1900 the Harrow Post stole it back. Sylvester Kirk became the next caretaker and he decorated it and himself and showed up at every patriotic gathering. He died in 1927. In 1928 the cannon was put in the new armory watched over by the American Legion. In 1935 it was presented to Bellefontaine Cemetery on Memorial Day. Our last survivor of the Home Guard, Major G.W. Kimball made the presentation. The cannon was vandalized at the cemetery which stood near soldier's row so it was moved back to town....to stand guard at Owen Dunn Post #5. The cannon we have may or may not be the cannon, Charles Hovey (the uncle of Charles J. Hovey, the son of the Governor) was killed as he rammed down the powder and with the ramrod still in the cannon was killed at an Andrew Jackson celebration at the riverfront.
Knights of The Golden Circle Identities Once Were Known Locally.....1860's
I have written about the "Copperheads" in earlier volumes, even about a school house where books were left. I have found another reference for this story. During the Civil War and maybe a decade later the Knights operated rather openly in Posey County. Many were southern sympathizers and some opposed the war altogether. Smith school was said to be a location where an assembly was held to buy your way out of the draft into the Union army. It was legal then to buy a substitute to go in your place. Many Negro men joined the military as replacements for a fee, usually in the hundreds of dollars. A man named "Uncle Clark Frence was in charge of collecting the money for the substitutes locally. All that day he sat at the teacher's desk and placed the money collected under the lid of the desk. One of the early Posey soldiers killed was Captain John Highman, in a battle in Missouri. The procession was four miles long to Maple Hill Cemetery in New Harmony. He left a widow and several children, the youngest just an infant. The G.A.R. post there was named after him. It was one of the largest funerals ever in New Harmony and was covered by The Evansville Journal newspaper. Locally, the anti-north sentiment was fairly strong, much to the concern of the loyal Unionists. Remember, neither Lincoln nor Grant ever won Posey in an election. One night some Unionists got word ahead of time that the Knights were going to have a meeting at a local county school house. The loyalists dug under the school house and listened to the discussions in the meetings. They identified the voices and their identities were soon made known in the communities they lived. Soon afterwards, "the effectiveness of the Knights was broken up."
Cavalry Drills at the Commons.....1860's
During the Civil war a cavalry company would often drill on the commons. This was a place down where Farm Bureau Co-op is today. It was used later for bicycle races and athletic events. Anyway, this group of cavalry men and their horses did not learn readily it seems. The Captain's command would be, "gentleman will you please oblique?" I guess in those days they were nicer. At least they were until all the horses got all jumbled, heads where their tails should be and tails where their heads should be. And then the officer would storm and yell, more like what I was used to..."God damn you, gentleman won't you please oblique."
Civil War Should be Called..."Uncivilized."
The word comes from Latin..."civilis," I mean all them Romans fighting back in that time, but nobody ever described their wars as civil...not Caesar, nor Anthony, nor Pompey, nor Augustus. We get so much of our democracy from the Greeks too, but I never heard of them using the term, but I could be wrong. It seems the first usage of the term of the War Between the States as Civil was in 1862 when the Supreme Court used the terms, "the present civil war between the United States and the so called Confederate States," in a judgement; thus it has become enduring through time meaning within a country. Sort of like Orwellian doublespeak calling something as bad as war an expression used for politeness.
General Sits On New Harmony Man's Drum...Orders the Officer to Get Off!.....1861
On July 21, 1861 the Josiah or George Warren Band of New Harmony was resting. (I am not sure whether this was the father or the son's band) I don't know the location. In a bundle of letters by William Baldwin of the Civil War, stored away at the Workingman's Institute he mentions that Brigadier General Newton Schleich sat on Baldwin's large drum. The Ohio, two-term state senator turned General was drunk. Baldwin told him to get off of his drum. Later Baldwin was ordered to apologize to the General, but refused. The band leader Warren later made the apology. Five days later the General was relieved of his command by General Reynolds after being a General only three months. Schleich was described by John Betty of "The Citizen Soldier," as "a rampant demagogue. He is what we call a tremendous little man, swears terribly and imagines that he therefore should show some snap. Snap in his opinion, is indispensable to a military man. It is the only thing he needs along with profanity. Schleich is a second Napoleon in his eyes." The little General was a lawyer and state senator from Ohio for two terms. He started out as a newspaper editor of the Ohio Eagle in the 1850's. After relieved of his command he went back to Ohio for a while and became a recruiter and commander of the 61st Ohio Regiment and soon after being sent into battle poor health required his resignation. He is buried in Fairfield County, Ohio. Josiah Warren was not only a musician but an inventor. In Boston he invented a lamp for burning lard and it was the only artificial light then used beside the tallow candle. The patent was signed by the President himself, John Quincy Adams. He also invented some things for the printing press in the 1830's signed by Andrew Jackson. Warren was interested in the Robert Owen Harmonie movement and he sold out his lamp factory and moved there. He found refined people but the lack of individual ownership of property and personal individual liberty soon discouraged him. The Warren Band was an important band of long tradition of New Harmony. In 1843 the band loaded up in two wagons to play in Evansville at a hotel run by a man named George L. White who lived in New Harmony. The Warren band was made up of all Democrats and earlier was hired to play during the presidential campaign of Democrat Martin Van Buren vs. Whig William H. Harrison.
Poseyville Speaker Rants at "Know-Nothing Conservative Party"....April 1855
Col. Drew made a speech in front of maybe 30 men assembled, berating the "Know Nothing Party" for a number of reasons including a Temperance Act, that the people of Indiana had not wanted or asked for. This party of the early 1850's wanted to "purify American politics limiting the vote especially to the Irish, German and Catholics. They wanted only Protestants to vote and an immigrant must have 21 years of residency. The name came from their need of secrecy. When asked who forms your party or the members they were coaxed to say: "We know nothing." Their high point was around 1854 when they had 43 representatives in Congress. The next election they had 12. Their real name was the American Party. These conservatives soon fell out of favor with both the left and the right. In Poseyville that day, Drew with passion and finger pointing called out those of their persuasion who were trying to destroy the liberties of the country and those who had died for them. At the end of his speech he was said to have trembled with passion as he lashed out against them. He said, "Let's recess for a spell," then he passed around his own private jug of whiskey and the drinking carousal began without further speakers.
Famed Daguerreotype Photographer Back In Evansville.....December 1854
Edward Z. Webster was from the east coast originally having a studio in Connecticut, later in Evansville for a couple of years and Louisville. He started in photography around 1845. He is known for having taken early photos of General Taylor, General Johnston and the home of Benedict Arnold. In 1851-1852 when he lived in Evansville, he and his brother Israel had a studio above a confectionery store on Main Street. When a permanent store was put in Louisville, Edward would travel about, extending the business and showing the marvels of the new age. His photos on glass were sometimes put to paper and colored by the artist. He eventually went back to Connecticut to live out his life.
Evansville Journal Holiday Greetings......1854
Thanksgiving..."God will be worshiped in hundreds of churches in this happy republic for the multitude of blessings bestowed upon us."
Christmas...."For the rest of mankind a Merry Christmas. Have this day with joy, let not our seats be vacant in our sanctuaries."
Young Poet Buried at North-McFaddin Cemetery....His Fallen Stone Hidden Forever from his Fellow-Man....1853
"How cold to us this world appears, when no sweet voice is heard. To claim our triumphs and to speak a kind approving word. But Oh! When all we have below, Stern Death in ruin lays, We'll hear once more, as soft as yore, the voice of other days.".....That is just a part of a poem of the author born in Mt. Vernon on April 29, 1827, the son of Jesse Y. and Elizabeth Welborn. He was born in the Welborn home on the south side of West Second Street remembered as the "Farmer's Hotel." The home was shadowed by ancient trees of a long ago forest with spacious grounds. Here George York Welborn studied for a future he would never see. At age 19, he was a law student in the office of future Governor Alvin P. Hovey. In 1849 he was in the freshman class of Ashbury University and died January 25, 1853. It was said in college that he was a favorite, a man of high ideals, cheerful, with winning manners. Greencastle loved him. A professor there said he was all that was manly and good, a good prose writer and learning poet. He wrote many manuscripts dated in 1852. That was the year his mother passed and it was said a year that a love affair went by the wayside. He was said to have had premonitions of an early death.....A man of promise that we can't bring him back; but a part of him, "a voice of other days" ....we can.
Elisha Ellis Gets Gold Fever.....1849
Elisha, son of John Ellis was born in 1805 and when a youth of thirteen he went with his uncle Elisha Phillips to Posey County from Niles, New York. They came down the Ohio to this wild country and settled. When he reached manhood in 1828 he married Hannah Bradley and purchased a farm in Farmerville, north of Mt. Vernon. He said that when he first saw Mt. Vernon in 1818 it had but a few log huts. In his youth he was a carpenter and a cooper. He went back to Niles when he was 21 for the last time to visit his parents. In 1849 he headed for California, by way of the Mississippi River, Isthmus of Panama, which he latter crossed by foot, and sailed on a vessel to San Francisco. The vessel 90 days from port was reduced to exceedingly low rations and water. He stayed about a year before returning home and lived a long life into his 80's.
After "Honest Abe" Spoke, Future Mt. Vernon Judge Takes the Podium.....November 1844
Mr. Lincoln, of Springfield, Illinois addressed a large audience in Rockport, Indiana at the court house and spoke on Whig policy. His main argument was in support of the advantages of a protective tariff. Few details in the paper were outlined, except that he addressed all subjects "in plain argumentative Whig style that brought honor upon him and his party." When he closed, Mr. John Pitcher arose and delivered a speech in his forcible and powerful manner. "He exhibited the democratic policies in an unenviable light at least we thought so." From here the campaign would be coming to a close and on the following Monday the question of who would be President would be decided, either Henry Clay or James Polk. Indiana voted for the Democrat Polk by a 50.07% to 48.42%. In Posey the margin was far larger.
John Pitcher Must Have Been One Great Lawyer and Judge.....1830's or 1840's
John Pitcher friend of Abe Lincoln and many other prominent men knew his law books. Hesitant to loan them, he yet did so to Lincoln and to Alvin Hovey. In Hovey's case he tried to push him aside giving him a worn legal book of the most difficult material to understand. Hovey cherished it and became knowledgeable in it so much that he showed Pitcher he was sincere. When Pitcher came from Spencer County to Posey in 1835 our pioneer courts weren't much to look at, but were filled with many good men. A story of Pitcher was told by Robert Dale Owen in 1877 of a case of Pitcher's. The local Circuit Judge was aided by two Associate Judges, who judicial services were paid at the rate of three dollars for each day of session, no mileage or other expenses being allowed. The judge for some reason temporarily vacated his seat this one day and the elder of the two associates presided. The temporary judge sort of lean in stature and fat in temper. In such occasions it was a good bet a collision might occur. Pitcher who would later be Judge of the Court of Common Pleas was then council in a case. Somewhere along the line, these two men had met before and Pitcher had offended the judge presiding who bore him a grudge. It was a case for damages and Mr. Pitcher, returned for the defense, turned to the jury and made part of his remarks in Latin. "There is a legend maxim, applicable to this case to which I invite your attention...de minims non curat lex." Here he paused, intending to add the translation, but the judge broke in. "Come Pitcher, none of your Pottowattamie! Give us plain English!!" Pitcher, without turning his eyes from the jury, or using a gesture that he had heard the remark proceeded quietly in his speech for more than thirty minutes when the judge broke in again. "Come Pitcher, hurry up, none of your Pottowattamie gibberish!" Pitcher summed up saying, "gentleman of the jury, this case, at last rests on the well known legal axiom of some, which I on a earlier occasion brought to your notice....de minims non curat lex, which I will minimize and reduce for the head of this court to recognize in his limited capacity means law does not care for trifling things and turning sharply towards the diminutive figure of the judge, showing no manner of judicial dignity towards him....said, "neither do I...this case is ridiculous!" I can just hear the gavel coming down hard, the jury laughing and the judge red in the face. "ORDER. ORDER....WE WILL HAVE ORDER!"
Yankee Girl Heads to New Harmony and School.....1830's
After a long tiresome journey from New England to Princeton, Indiana, a young lady, still in her teens arrived at Princeton at nightfall. She went to her hotel and found to her dismay that she would have to stay two nights and a day as the stage coach only made the trip to New Harmony every other day. Asking the driver how much it cost from the depot to the hotel the driver told her, "two bits." She didn't know what that was. "The driver smiled and said, "Reckon you are a stranger here." Trying to find something to do, the young Miss went for a walk, but was frightened at the hogs that were on the street and hearing residents laughing at her, she returned to the hotel and spent the rest of her wait indoors. A couple of mornings later the stage finally headed for New Harmony. She was the only passenger, but the driver was talkative and named several interesting tidbits about the town and its people. The log cabins came into view with cattle and hogs roaming at will across the road and she was amused and thought what she had got into. She had been hired as a teacher, a private one with a school room on the second floor of the old Rappite church. Desks were built against the wall and benches were used for seats. The pupils faced the windows with their backs to the teacher. A b c's were the first things taught. One little boy was bad and had to be punished. As the day ended one little boy went to her and said, "You better not go by that boy's house or his mom will whip you for punishing her boy." (The Owenities did not believe in corporal punishment.) This was a surprise to the young teacher, but she took the boy's advice and went around another way home. It all worked out and years later, some of her first pupils became teachers themselves.
What Led Up to the Hoop Pole Fight in the 1830"s .....
We longtime residents have grown up with the story of the Hoop Pole Fight of the Coopers and the Rivermen. A found something that says that when river traffic started to increase at our riverfront, cooperage shops sprung up to make the hoops for the barrels that were shipped all along the river to distant points. During the busy season we stacked up the barrels all along the shore to be ready for shipment. Some were stacked several high. It was said our village itself was nothing but barrels, at least that is the way it looked from the boats. When the boats would come in the long boat poles would sometimes swing their poles wildly knocking over mountains of barrels and they would fall into the river and drift away. Below town there was a subculture of people who would make a livelihood just retrieving the barrels for a fee. They say the drunken riverboat people sometimes would burn our barrels in large bonfires so there may have been even more than one bloody hoop pole fight in this here "Hoop Pole" township.
New Harmony Gabriel.....1829
A story found at the Workingman's Institute in New Harmony speaks of a Mr. Hornbrook who in 1829 was having trouble with wolves coming around his cabin during the night. He would get up and blow a horn frightening them away. Aw yes, a nonviolent resister making personal choices with his political vision.....well, that's how I hoped it was....Utopians are a special breed.
Francis Wright Gives Address in New Harmony....July 4, 1828
The main speaker of the New Harmony Independence Day festivities was a woman...think of that. That didn't happen much way back then, but this Scottish educated lady who came to America with General Lafayette was no ordinary lady. She had met Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and she was going to be heard, bold or illegal she would not be silenced. She was known as "Fanny" and was great admirer of the Rappities and the Owen utopian experiments. She too had a place near Memphis, Tennessee called, "Nashoba" where she had slaves educated and prepared to send them back to Africa if they were willing to do so. Wright was so controversial for her time as most visionaries are....she was for free public education, labor unions, the emancipation of slaves, equal rights for women, sexual freedom and agnosticism. She pointed in her speech to the Negro slavery and degradation of their citizens as one evil not touched by the founding father's constitution. She feared that because of it we were bound to one day have a violent revolution. She condemned blind nationalism disguised as patriotism. "Be loyal only to the principles that lead to human happiness," she said. "Favor human improvement."
Two Killed by Indians Near Mt. Vernon.....1828
It is said Julia Fairchild Monro or Monroe was killed by Indians close to the Ohio River along with the wife of Andrew "Tweedle Dum" McFadden. The McFadden's were parents of Miranda, a future wife of Edwin Monroe. She had been with the two women and was half scalped and bore the scars until she died and was buried at Bellefontaine in July of 1884.
Barnabas Annable of Mt. Vernon writes to Eastern Relatives of Impression of Owen Community.....October 1825
Barnabas wrote that a big topic of conversation was Robert Owen in New Harmony and his "Social System." He asked his relatives if they had heard of the man and his speeches to Congress the previous March. "There is a flocking to his standard of rich and poor from all parts of the United States and many from Europe. I have been to see them, went through their schools, of about 150 scholars, and looked at the laboriousness of teachers who are not allowed to chastise them. I have made a rather favorable estimate of their community to which is enlightened part of the western world or States." ......"Should you or anyone else be converted, please direct them to Posey County, As for religion, his worship house doors are open for all denominations, Brahamms, Mohammedians and even Deists not excepted. He urges the necessity of charity and thus shames the Christian world. His love of mankind is apparently great. There is much more to present." The next year he wrote: "Mr. Owen professes love for the poor of mankind, but is prudent with his own money or fortune. With me it is a paradox as I read the scriptures. Owen says as much of Jesus Christ as Mohomed (sic) had, but applies those which the prophets wrote of Christ to himself. His papers are quite entertaining, and there is something appertaining to his system to be found in almost all his newspapers. I think his system will revolutionize Europe before it will America, therefore, it will be a long time before I may expect to see you here on a pilgrimage to him as to Mecca or Medina."
The Ghost of Blackford.....1820's
In October of 1816, the first session of court was held in the town of Blackford, in Posey County. It wasn't long before people became dissatisfied with the location of the county seat there and pushed for a more centrally located place. In May of 1817 a new town and new county seat were approved....a town called Springfield and lots were sold by Frederick Rapp. Soon a tavern went up and on the day of sale whiskey was furnished. Blackford became a ghost town and its few inhabitants left leaving the grounds with few buildings falling into ruin. Honeysuckle took over in the summer covering the desolation and in the winter...snow. One of the buildings was a small jail, the first county jail of Posey, constructed of double logs which survived almost to the 20th century. Over time legends and stories came pertaining to a spirit there. It was said on Halloween night the spirit would form among the logs in the still of the night when all you would hear would be the cry of a whippoorwill or the rustling of leaves. It was usually midnight or slightly after when the lonely vigil would come...a strange phenomenon of another time. The story goes that living in nearby Blackford was a pretty miss who had two suitors for her hand who were sworn enemies of each other. One October a new family came and the covered wagon they had proved to be too uncomfortable as living quarters. As was the tradition of the times, a house raising was held with neighbors, the pretty miss and the two rivals in attendance. The men went to the woods to cut down trees; and doing so, one of the men was killed when a tree fell upon him. Never proven, but it was generally thought that the one rival handling a guy-rope purposely swung the tree so that it would land on his competition for the young lady. The girl who was close by ran to the spot where the boy lay dead, lifted him in her arms and fell into tears and sorrow with great emotion. Here too her heart was broken and she left it there. This sweet cute country miss never recovered from the shock she received that day and became senseless and she would go to the little abandoned jail and cry bringing on an early death. So on Halloween night, in the ruins, her ghostly spirit can be heard crying and sometimes her form would go floating through the woods to the very spot she was separated by her true love.
The "Cry" of the Rappite Night Watchman.....1823
"Come unto me, all ye people. Midnight sounds from the steeple. Ten gates hath the city of gold, so gather we now to the fold. It's one step nearer the end, another day passed. The sands of time are running low....It's one step nearer to the end." ......The Rappites believed that Christ was coming back immediately within their lifetime and they mostly practiced celibacy.
Excerpts of the Ellis Family Letters in Posey County to New York Relatives.....1820
One of the pleasant surprises with my interview with 90 year old Mrs. Robison was a book she had on the Ellis and Annable families who traveled down the Ohio River to Black Township. Elisha Ellis and Enos and Bromley Annable came first to Indiana going down the Allegany and Ohio rivers on boats and rafts. Samual Annable followed soon afterwards from New York and became an early Posey school teacher. Families started and the Annables married into the Phillips family, for one living in the Farmersville area. It gets confusing to me so lets get to some of the letters that survived. Ruth Annable, wife of Barnabus wrote to Dr. Annable in New York that traveling to Indiana with 19 people was very dramatic. Once they hit a root and landed with a thud on a sandbar. They were very frightened, especially the children. "We thought we were gone for it." Her stomach became weak and could not eat for a 24 hour period from all the shocks of the journey. Her children were sick too and fatigue was suffered by all. "I held my children on my lap till I could hardly stand on my own feet." They traveled the Ohio day and night and they were always afraid they would run onto fallen trees. They stopped in Cincinnati where they met old friends. About a hundred miles south of that they dropped off a "disagreeable" family of which they were extremely glad. Ruth said they had been robbed on the trip of stocking, yarn, pillows and a gown. They landed in Mt. Vernon on the 22nd of April 1820 in good health, except for herself who was weakly for a month afterwards. At first they had to do without meat. They bought two cows, but never got more than three quarts of milk from them. She said the people of Posey care for nothing but corn and hogs. "They use a few beans, which they call snaps." She knew men who had lived in the area for twelve years and there was a meadow that she saw that had a tremendous about of hay on it.....more than she had ever seen. Potatoes could be raised by the acre, sweet potatoes in abundance...."the best I have ever ate." They raised some cabbage, small turnips, 300 pumpkins and 350 bushels of corn. They sowed 13 acres of wheat and had two cows and four calves, a one year old mare, seven yearling hogs and eight shoats. All this after one year...."We fared hard this year, but have no reason to complain, for my family was never so healthy as they have been here." As far as neighbors were concerned she wrote: "I am not discouraged about getting a living, but the people do not seem natural. We have not received a visit from any woman since we have been here, excepting two of our own country people." Her farm must have been a nice one as she said it was handsome, well watered with two springs on it and plenty of fencing timber. They built a house with a cellar under it, with a corn house 17 feet square on blocks. She said she had not seen a stove yet in the county. "The people are very ignorant of house wifery and a different way of cooking. We have a brick oven and hearth. I make the best pies." She went on to say, "The wheat here grows better than New York state and the bread is excellent. The fruit is better too.....blackberries are plenty, and the peaches are great. We have muskmelons and watermelons in abundance, and we have a nursery of 2000 apple trees growing. It has been very healthy in this place and have had no need for a doctor all summer." She mentioned that salt was scarce as was sugar...corn whiskey was 75 cents a gallon, and wheat whiskey a dollar.
River Pirates on Ohio at Cave-In-Rock, Illinois....circa 1800
Early in the 19th century or late 18th century a man named Wilson brought his family to the cave and made it a dwelling and a tavern. He placed a sign at the water's edge that said: "Wilson's Liquor Vault and House of Entertainment." River traffic coming from as far north as Pittsburgh on their way to New Orleans stopped, drank, visited with the women and were robbed. Many times their boats were taken with a new crew and their cargo sold in New Orleans for the outlaws. Wilson was said to have had over 45 men at his disposal and when he was killed, 60 skeletal remains of victims were found at the site. Later Samuel Mason took over the cave, who had been a captain in Washington's army. He ran into trouble after the war trying to make a fast buck and was thought to have committed three murders at Red Banks (Henderson, KY). He moved on to Diamond Island and then to Cave-In-Rock. Again women and whiskey were the draws. He also placed people on different islands that acted like they were stranded or shipwrecked and they wanted to be taken to Cave-In-Rock. When done so, the crews fell in the jaws of the trap. These were just a few of the known robbers and bad men who preyed on travelers. There were many others like counterfeiters, Billy Potts, and the Harpe brothers one of which had his head stuck on a stake as a warning to new outlaws.