Mr. McCarty was a native Virginian, born Sept. 26, 1795, at Moorefield, Hardy county, in the Alleghany mountains, in that part of the Old Dominion now included in West Virginia. He was reared, however, in Pittsburg, Pa., whither his mother moved soon after the death of his father, which occurred when he was very young. This circumstance threw him upon his own resources at a tender age, and he not only supported himself, but with characteristic filial devotion found delight in being able to provide his mother with every comfort. He had few advantages in his youth, even for ordinary schooling. Before he was twenty he left Pittsburg, going to Newark, Ohio, where he soon entered the employ of Mr. Buckingham, one of the foremost merchants of that State, with whom he continued for several years. He at once displayed the traits which marked his career, and Mr. Buckingham soon intrusted him with the superintendence of one of his branch stores, near Newark. This increased responsibility was met by increased industry and more strict attention to his duties, and the fidelity with which he served his employer laid the foundation of a friendship which lasted as long as they lived. Mr. McCarty did so well that within a few years he felt competent to begin business on his own account, having saved enough to justify a modest venture.
The emigration fever then pervading the country had seized him, and he started toward the setting sun. When in the vicinity of Indianapolis he became impressed with the fertility of the soil, and with Indianapolis as a geographical center, and in the fall of 1823, then a young man of twenty eight, Mr. McCarty settled in Indianapolis, of which city he was a resident thereafter until his death. He established himself at what was popularly known for over thirty years as "McCarty’s Corner," in a building at the southwest corner of Washington and Pennsylvania streets. The first merchant of importance to settle in this city, and the first to open on so liberal a scale, his store attracted an unusual share of attention and his success was out of the ordinary. With a degree of confidence little understood in his day, he soon branched out extensively by establishing stores at various points in the State—Laporte, Greenfield, Covington, Cumberland and Waverly. To conduct these branches profitably without neglecting his central establishment he employed many young men in whom he took great interest, and several of whom attained success in later life. He not only aimed to give them adequate commercial experience, but endeavored to instill into them those sterling principles which made him so respected as a man, aside from any reputation he may have xvon in business life. Mr. McCarty was one of the greatest merchants of his time central Indiana had known. He continued to carry on his first place in Indianapolis for many years, and erected a substantial brick residence south of the store, which was the home of his family. The ground on which the Century building now stands was his barnyard in connection with his house and store.
Mr. McCarty’s enterprise and progressive methods were proverbial in the early days, and the stories of his original and ingenious expedients for overcoming the obstacles that blocked the path of the pioneer merchant warrant the belief that he would have been a leading spirit in any day or under any conditions. But though he maintained his aggressive energy to the last, Mr. McCarty never lowered the high standard of honor with which he set out in life. He never promoted his own interests at the expense of another’s, a characteristic so generally recognized by all who knew him that, in spite of the fact that he was notably successful, he never excited any but the friendliest feelings among his associates. He shared his prosperity with the communities in which it was won and was ever a generous and public spirited citizen. But even better than his public benefactions were the various enterprises he set on foot which gave profitable employment to many, and advanced the welfare of the localities in which they were carried on. One of the early industries in Indiana which for many years was a source of revenue that added substantially to the incomes of the pioneer residents was the collection of ginseng and its preparation for shipment. As early as 1821, following the advice of Philadelphia friends, Mr. James Blake came to Indianapolis to investigate the possibilities of this business. At that time ginseng grew abundantly in the woods all about the settlement, and as the demand from China was on the increase he arranged to ship it from Philadelphia. In a little house south of the creek known as Pogue’s run, on what is now South Delaware street, where the depot of the Big Four railroad is now located, he installed a drying and purifying apparatus, where Mr. McCarty collected the roots sent in by the farmers to his place at Indianapolis and his various branch stores. May a farmer helped out a short corn crop by the profits from his "sang," as it was called. There was a little hoe made especially for gathering the roots, called a "sang hoe," an implement that has been obsolete for many years. This business was one adjunct to Mr. McCarty’s merchandising, barter being common in the early days. Another venture somewhat out of the ordinary was his contracting to supply the Indians, and in the course of this business he became quite familiar with the dialects of two or three of the tribes on the Miami Reservation.
Mr. McCarty’s alert intelligence was displayed in his efforts to introduce or discover new sources of revenue for his locality, and thus he became identified with the attempt to introduce the silk growing industry in about 1835. Again about 1840 he began one of the most important undertakings of his career, the cultivation and manufacture of hemp, though the financial condition of the country prevented the full development of its possibilities. He conducted this industry on his bayou farm, and in other localities. The part of this farm now in the city of Indianapolis was formerly incorporated and named West Indianapolis, with a population now of about seven thousand, where the Stock Yards, Car Works, Nordyke & Harmon Company and the Parry Manufacturing Company, as well as other establishments, are located. The fiber was rotted, broken and cleaned in vats and mills on the bluff bank of the creek, between Morris and Wilkins streets, near Carlos street. The venture proved unprofitable and was abandoned in two or three years.
In company with James M. Ray and James Blake, Mr. McCarty built the first steam flour mill in the vicinity of Indianapolis; this was situated on the north side of Washington street, at the end of the National Bridge. Though several of his enterprises were unsuccessful, Mr. McCarty never lost faith in the future of the city. He owned large tracts of land, which he bought at an early day, in the immediate vicinity of Indianapolis, as well as lands in different parts of the State. Those in the vicinity of Indianapolis became exceedingly valuable, his descendants reaping the benefit of his judgment and foresight.
Mr. McCarty was eminently a business man and had no aspirations for public honors though he had a taste for politics which, if cultivated, would have brought him into much greater prominence. He gave the benefit of his great personal popularity to the success of the Whig party during its last years. As commissioner of the Canal Fund he effected the first loan ever made to Indiana. His action in this matter was such as to commend him to those in authority, as well as to the people at large, and no man ever acquitted himself in a fiducial capacity with more conscientiousness and fidelity than he. But he eventually resigned the position, and an article which appeared in the Indiana Democrat of June 13, 1840, under the heading "Trembling in the Whig Camp," explains his position in the matter:
"We are not so blinded by party as to be unwilling to award justice to real merit, let it be found in what ranks it may. It is a fact highly creditable to Indiana that the early negotiations of loans by our Fund Commissioners were eminently successful. Previous to the passage of the Internal Improvement Bill of 1836 Nicholas McCarty, the leading merchant of this place, and we believe of the State, stood at the head of that commission. Mr. McCarty has always been a bitter opponent of General Jackson and a warm advocate of the United States Bank. We consider him a well meaning politician, although differing with us in political matters. When the Internal Improvement Bill of 1834 was becoming a law Mr. McCarty, as a Fund Commissioner, plainly told the members of the Legislature that it would be a ruinous policy for the State not to provide means at that time to pay interest on the loans to be effected—that if they did not our bonds would soon depreciate. He sent to the Democrat office a short time previous to the passage of the bill an extract from the message of Governor Marcy of New York, showing the ruinous policy of not providing the means to pay interest previous to making loans. We then stopped the press, took out other matter and placed this extract in type, printed it, and circulated additional copies, containing this extract, amongst the members of the Legislature. But the Whig members, such as Stapp, Evans and others, would then hear no arguments and passed Mr. McCarty’s suggestions by as the idle wind, regarding them as a clog to the bill. They were afraid the people would open their eyes if they would see the amount of taxes and then go for classification. Well, what was the result? The result was Nicholas McCarty soon after resigned the station of Fund Commissioner. He was unwilling further to risk his high character as a financier in the ruinous policy the State was about pursuing. * * * Mr. McCarty as a friend of the United States Bank now warmly supports General Harrison, but he has become alarmed at the prospects of his party in this State, and even in our own county of Marion. He says truly the Democracy is aroused, and at a meeting of the Tippecanoe Club, on Wednesday evening last, declared that unless they could make the Whigs in the country organize this county would go for VanBuren — nothing else would save them. We can assure the Whigs that nothing can save them in this county — their fate is sealed — their doom is fixed — Marion county is Democratic. We have heard that at the Tippecanoe Club in this town Mr. McCarty made the statement above alluded to. If he did not we shall contradict it when apprised of the fact. Few men in this State have more foresight than he. As an instance we refer to a remarkable fact. Knowing as he well did the embarrassment this State was running into, he resigned his office as Fund Commissioner long before the pressure commenced. Possessed of that keen foresight which every real merchant should have, he would not jeopard his character as a merchant to continue connected as an officer with a ruinous system of internal improvement. His proverbial discretion in business and his foresight in financial operations entitle his opinion to much weight (where interest of course is excluded) and we believe with him that this county is Democratic. Can the Whigs hope to succeed in this State when one of the principal men abandons all official connection with their system of extravagance? This ‘Hoosier Girard’ knew too well that his character would be at stake if long connected with such a system. As a friend of the United States Bank he supports Judge Bigger for governor and is anxious for his election, knowing, as he does, that Judge Bigger in our State Legislature opposed the State Bank of Indiana because he believed it would do away with the necessity of a United States Bank so far as Indiana is concerned."
From 1843 the Whig party had been blamed for the financial distress which prevailed in the country and was greatly in the minority in Indiana, but the party leaders hoped they could gain in Congress by putting up a candidate whose personality could overcome the objection of the party. Mr. McCarty was emphatically a man of the people and had the faculty of endearing himself to all classes, but he preferred a private business to public employment, and was seldom a candidate for office, though he could have had almost any office in the gift of his party for the asking. In 1847 he was the Whig candidate for Congress in his district, and though defeated by Judge Wick by a small majority was much stronger in the district than his party, the Democratic party being greatly in the ascendance at this time. Mr. McCarty made no show of oratory and knew none of the wiles of the politician, but he had executive ability, strong common sense and a clear understanding of the needs of the situation, and his addresses were exceedingly effective and did him great credit as against an opponent who was trained to the conduct of campaigns and accustomed to public duties. A few years afterward Mr. McCarty was a candidate for the State Senate and was elected and served three years — the last three under the old constitution. He was made chairman of the Committee on Corporations, and as such jealously guarded the interests of the people.
In 1852 the Whig State Convention nominated Mr. McCarty for governor, for the first gubernatorial term under the new constitution. He did not desire the nomination, and strenuously opposed its being made. However, it was believed that because of his honest, upright character and business connections and large agricultural interests he was stronger than any other man, and when the convention met it was apparent he would be nominated if he would accept. But it was so generally understood that he would not stand that the convention hesitated to make the nomination, and after appointing a committee to see him and solicit his consent it adjourned until the following day. That evening the committee met Mr. McCarty for a conference and found him firmly fixed in his determination not to make the race. It labored with him long and earnestly, but he continued obdurate. At last George G. Dunn, one of the most gifted Indianians of that or any other day, arose and, in the name of the Whigs of Indiana, demanded that Mr. McCarty cast behind him his personal wishes and accept the standard his party wished to place in his hands. This touched him deeply, and, asking until the next morning for consideration, he left the room. It was felt at once that Mr. Dunn’s shot had hit the mark. Next morning the committee notified the convention that Mr. McCarty would make the race, and he was nominated by acclamation. After this the convention was addressed by several distinguished speakers, among them James T. Suitt and George G. Dunn.
W.W. Woollen, in his Biographical and Historical Sketches of Early Indiana, in his sketch of George G. Dunn, says: "Mr. Dunn in his speech drew a dark picture of the condition of the Whig party until Mr. McCarty consented to be a candidate, and then rising on tip toe and bending his body forward and pointing his finger at the nominee he exclaimed with the power of a Booth:
"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lowered upon our house,
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried."
"It is a great pity that this speech was not taken down at the time and preserved. It embodied the wit and drollery of Corwin, the invective and sarcasm of Randolph, and the eloquence of Clay, in one symmetrical whole. It lives only in the recollection of those who heard it, and, happily for the author, he was one. These men will be gone after a while, and then this great forensic effort will be forgotten, or remembered only as it is handed down from father to son." There are but very few living who heard this great speech, among them Gen. John Coburn, who says it was one of the greatest speeches of the kind ever delivered of that time or any other time.
Though defeated, Mr. McCarty’s campaign against Governor Wright was a notable one, for the Governor was an educated man, one of the best "stumpers" in the United States, and a man whose long familiarity with public life had made him a master of campaign tactics and a ready speaker who could command attention wherever he went. Mr. McCarty and Governor Wright made the canvass with the utmost good feeling. They went from place to place together, often riding in the same carriage. They had no petty bickerings nor angry words, their intercourse being more like members of the same family, than of leaders of hostile parties. On the stump there was great difference between them. The Governor, was a good talker and a good reasoner; Mr. McCarty was also a good talker, but not so good a reasoner. He dealt in repartee and anecdotes and was particularly happy in the application of the latter. But the year 1852 was a bad one for Whig candidates, and Mr. McCarty was defeated by the Democratic nominee. Having resigned his seat in the Senate when he accepted the gubernatorial nomination, he was now a private citizen, and he remained one as long as he lived.
One or two other incidents of Mr. McCarty’s career, though well known, will bear narrating here as showing his readiness in meeting emergencies, his executive capacity, his business instinct, and his intuitive honor. Early in 1829 a cold snap froze the Ohio, just as his goods reached Pittsburg from Philadelphia in order to take steam passage down to Madison. It was his entire season’s stock, requiring sixteen six horse Conestoga Wagons, but he could not take any chances on an indefinite delay and he had the wagons continue the hauling the rest of the way. In order not to lose by this great expense, he used the wagons to haul his consignment of ginseng to Philadelphia — a management which enabled him to have his spring goods on hand at the proper time without loss. Mr. McCarty’s action, when the result of the panic of 1837 made his great resources — largely in real estate — unavailable, involving him to an embarrassing extent, was equally characteristic, though in another way. He made a settlement with his creditors upon such terms that they realized more than the principal and interest of his obligations.
Practical and great souled, the interests of the community were his, and while he was ambitious to acquire influence and independence he was wise, broad and humane enough to desire the success of all good people. By force of early circumstances he had but little opportunity for learning, but he made the best use of what he acquired. He had a ready and comprehensive vocabulary and a simplicity in statement characteristic of great men in the various business and professional walks of life! Realizing his own deficiencies as a scholar he did what he could, in private life and public station, to secure to others what he had been denied himself. When a candidate for the State Senate he visited a neighborhood where opposition to public schools was active and strong, but he boldly said that, if elected, he would vote money to make tuition free. His courage and frankness won him friends, and many who went to hear him speak, opposed to free schools, went home their advocates. When Mr. McCarty was nominated for governor, so well was his reputation for frankness established that the Indianapolis Sentinel had this to say of him: "Like Henry Clay, everybody who knows Nicholas McCarty knows his politics. The same yesterday, today and forever."
Mr. McCarty was an intelligent and influential man, and his influence was always for the good. Although not a church member, he had a great reverence for Deity, and was an example of Christian purity, integrity and character. He was generous as the day, tolerant of offences that affected only himself, peaceable and honorable. No man that ever lived in the city was more sincerely or generally loved and honored, and certainly none ever deserved it better. He was prompt in his aid of benevolent efforts and one of the most active in the organization of the "Orphans Home." He took particular delight in serving others, and would go out of his way to do a favor, being always too glad to make others happy.
On July 27, 1828, Mr. McCarty was married, in Boone county, Ky., to Margaret Hawkins, daughter of Rev. Jameson Hawkins, one of the earliest Baptist preachers of that county, and several times a member of the Kentucky Legislature. Their four children were Susanna, Margaret R., Nicholas and Frances J. Mrs. McCarty died Feb. 18, 1873. Susanna McCarty became the wife of Rev. Henry Day, for many years pastor of the First Baptist Church of Indianapolis, and she died Aug. 30, 1873. Mr. Day died Aug. 1, 1897. Their children are Henry McCarty Day and Margaret McCarty Day, of Indianapolis.
Margaret R. McCarty married John C. S. Harrison, grandson of William Henry Harrison, and for many years a partner of Harrisons' Bank. They had four children: Margaret McCarty Harrison, Nicholas McCarty Harrison, John Cleves Short Harrison and Cleves Harrison. The two living are Nicholas McCarty Harrison, whose residence is in Indianapolis, Ind., and Cleves Harrison, whose residence is in Los Angeles, Cal. Mr. Harrison died at Los Angeles April 6, 1904.
The four children of Nicholas and Margaret McCarty were born in Indianapolis — worthy representatives of parents of the highest character. The three living are Mrs. Harrison, Miss Frances J. McCarty and Nicholas McCarty, the only son, all of whom reside in Indianapolis.
Mr. McCarty died May 17, 1854, and is buried in Crown Hill cemetery. At a meeting of the citizens, a committee consisting of James M. Ray, Robert Hanna, Bethuel F. Morris, Calvin Fletcher, John D. Defrees, John A. Talbott, and Nathan A. Palmer, prepared the following resolutions:
"Resolved, that in the departure of our fellow citizen, Nicholas McCarty, Esq., we realize the loss of one who since the early clays of the city has deservedly ranked as a most worthy, generous and valuable man, and who by his affectionate heart, clearness of mind and strict integrity of purpose had warmly endeared himself to all who knew him. In the important public trusts committed to him — as commissioner of the Canal Fund, effecting the first loan of the State, as senator of this county and in other engagements — he manifested remarkable judiciousness and ability. It was with reluctance he was drawn into the pursuit of official station, and with decided preference enjoyed the happiness of an attached circle of family and friends. His hand and heart were ever at command for the need of the afflicted, and his counsel and sympathies were extended where they could he useful with unaffected simplicity and modesty."
In the preparation of this biography of Mr. Nicholas McCarty, Sr., we have made extracts from sketches by J. C. Fletcher, Berry Sulgrove and W. W. Woollen; we have also consulted old citizens of Indianapolis, including Dr. William H. Wishard and Gen. John Coburn, who knew Mr. McCarty well, all of whom bear the same testimony to his high character and great usefulness.
JOHN L. McCORMICK, late of Indianapolis, was widely known as a carpenter, contractor and builder of many years standing in that city. He was born in Rush county, four miles south of Rushville, at Perkins Corners, March 24, 1825, son of James and Patsy (Perkins) McCormick, who are fully mentioned in the sketch of Lycurgus P. McCormick.
Mr. McCormick was a year old when his parents moved to Shelby county, and seven years old when they returned to Indianapolis, in 1832. He had his home in Marion county and in Indianapolis until 1855, when he moved to Hendricks county, living there until 1860. After that, until his death, he made his home in Indianapolis, residing for forty years in the home at No. 1402 North Capitol avenue, now occupied by his widow. He owned that place and other city property. His first schooling was secured in an old-fashioned subscription school. When about eighteen years old he began learning the millwright and carpenter trades, which he followed from 1849. Mr. McCormick was independent in political matters, although he had Republican tendencies.
Mr. McCormick was married Aug. 9, 1848, to Julia Ann Pitts, who was born March 2, 1826, near Pendleton, Ind., daughter of Stephen and Rachel (Hendricks) Pitts. To them were born three children: (1) Rachel R. married John H. Koontz, and they had two sons, Ora L. and Harry L. (deceased), both of whom married and lived in Illinois. The mother is now deceased. (2) Mary E. married Matthias Garver (deceased), and now lives on Capitol avenue, Indianapolis. They had five daughters, but none are living. A granddaughter, Alta Garver Gladdon, lives with Mrs. Garver. (3) Fannie, who married Charles J. Miller (now deceased), of Chicago, now resides with her mother. Mr. and Mrs. Miller had no children.
Stephen Pitts, father of Mrs. McCormick, was born near Nashville, Tenn., and passed his early life in that state. His father died when the family, Stephen, James and several sisters — Elizabeth, Margaret and others, were young, and Stephen was bound out to a strict Presbyterian family. When sixteen years old he enlisted in the war of 1812, after which he settled in Hamilton county, Ohio, where he learned the tailor’s trade, becoming an usually skilled workman. He always made the clothing he and his sons wore. Stephen Pitts was married in Ohio to Rachel Hendricks, a native of that state, daughter of David and Rose Hendricks. David Hendricks was a Revolutionary soldier and an early settler of Ohio, made his home in Eaton, that State, and died in Ohio. After his marriage Stephen Pitts came to Indiana, settling in Richmond, where he worked for old Mr. Mansur, whose son, William Mansur, married a daughter of David V. Culley. David and George, the first two children of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Pitts, were born in Richmond, whence in 1821 or 1822 the family moved to Indianapolis,
where Mr. Pitts owned, the ground now occupied by the Soldiers’ Monument. They remained there, however, only a short time, removing to Pendleton, where he took a claim. His wife always said her happiest days were spent on that place. The following children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Pitts: David never married: George W., of Indianapolis, married Mary Ann Beechart; Julia Ann was the wife of John L. McCormick; Eliza Ann died in infancy; Cynthia married Joseph Butsch, of Indianapolis; Mary E. married Truman French, of Indianapolis; Martha married Granville Mathews, of Indianapolis, and died nine months afterward; Frank M. married Fredonia Morrell; Rachel died in infancy; Hiram died at the age of sixteen. Only three of this family are now living, Mrs. Julia A. McCormick, Mrs. Cynthia Butsch and Mrs. Martha Mathews. Mrs. Pitts died at the age of fifty-nine years, and Mr. Pitts survived her a year, reaching the age of sixty-one. He drew a pension for his services in the war of 1812. In his early days he was a great hunter, and killed many deer and bear.