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History of Terre Haute, Vigo Co., IN - 1880 - page five


[The following item was designed for another page, but it illustrates so well one of the early methods of immigration to this country that we deem this its most appropriate place.--Ed.]

Among the earliest comers to this new world was one who for more than fifty years has been a noted man in this community. Judge SAMUEL B. GOOKINS came to Terre Haute a mere lad, and without means or influence, yet by his own energy and talent he has wrought out for himself a niche in the temple of fame that may well command the respect and admiration of his fellow men. Judge GOOKINS has very recently passed away, and the record for his life will appear in another part of this work [here]. We are treating now of the times when he first landed on the banks of the Wabash, and in giving the history of that period desire to show the great contrast between then and now.

He has left a record of his experiences in seeking a new home, which we give to the reader in his own words. "It is only a little more than fifty-two years (now 1877) since I landed from a canoe at Modesitt's ferry. Indiana had then made quite a start in the world. She was seven years old. Until near the time of my emigration (in 1828) the general route from the east to the west was by land to the upper tributaries of the Ohio. On May 5, 1823, I set out from the home of my boyhood, in the town of Rodman, Jefferson county, New York, to reach the west by the new route. Our company consisted of my mother, a brother of twenty-three and myself, not quite fourteen. We traveled by wagon fifteen miles to Sacket's Harbor, where we took passage on the Ontario, the second steamer, I believe, that navigated the lake whose name she bore. The lake was unusually rough, and the steamer, a heavily laden and slow going craft, propelled by a low-pressure engine, made slow headway. After contending with contrary winds for a night and a day we "put about for Sacket's." The next trial was more successful, and though encountering a heavy gale, we reached the mouth of the Genesee. We ascended that river to Carthage. The famous warrior who captured Rome was not there, but something else quite as wonderful to my boyish mind was, and that was a railroad; in other words a tramway running from the wharf to the storehouses on the top of the bluff. It was a double track with a windlass at the top, and the motive power was dead weight; the descending car drew the other up with extra weights to adjust the "balance of trade." After discharging and receiving freight, we went to sea, bound for the mouth of the Niagra, which we found very hard to reach, for the winds were contrary. More than once we were in danger of shipwreck, but finally succeeded in making a harbor, Johnston, a little way up the Niagra. The same day we reached Lewiston, seven miles below the falls, having consumed eight days in making the trip. Here we took a wagon and came to a landing called Fort Slosher, a few miles above the falls, thence by open boat to Buffalo. Here we met with a disappointment in our plans. We had intended to go from Buffalo to the mouth of the Miami of the Lakes, but no lake craft of any kind could be found to make the trip. We waited several days in Buffalo for the Superior, the only steamer then on Lake Erie, but waited in vain, and finally were obliged to take a schooner for Detroit. We left Buffalo harbor late one afternoon with about forty passengers on board, mostly bound for Michigan Territory. At Detroit we shipped on board a small coasting schooner for Fort Meigs, at the head of Miami bay. We beat our way against a head-wind to the mouth of the Detroit river, where we lay for a day under the lee of an island waiting for the winds to subside, but the cabin boy and I, having obtained leave, lowered the boat, and, going over to the Canada shore, made the acquaintance of the white bass, whose reckless and voracious bite is enough to wake up the dullest fisherman. The next morning the wind let us out, and in due time we reached Fort Meigs.

The next feat to be accomplished was the ascent of the Miami, or Maumee, as it is called. We there found an old French trader with a canoe constructed in a style much superior to the common pirogue, but his price, $20, we considered quite too high. We finally found a canoe well made and new that had never been afloat, which we purchased from Mr. HALLISTER, the principal merchant of the place; but on loading we found it much too small. It cost us $7. This was swapped with the old Frenchman for his fancy craft, paying him $5 to boot, and so we got his $20 water-craft for $12.

We had two Frenchmen to help us up the rapids, about eighteen miles, and retained the services of one of them all the way to Fort Wayne. We made a short trip at Fort Defiance and reached Fort Wayne in five days, camping on shore at night with an impoverished tent made of bedding sheets stretched upon our setting poles. At Fort Wayne we procured an ox-team from "Billy" HOOD and so much of a wagon as is furnished by tongue, axle and two wheels, on which we mounted our canoe and dragged it across the portage, a distance of about ten miles, to the head-waters of the Little river, a tributary of the Wabash. We set our canoe afloat in a marsh covered with pond lilies, and had quite a hard work pushing through them as we had in pushing up the Miami. We reached the Wabash, however, after a vigorous effort, and set out upon its downward current.

June had arrived and the water in the river was low. We had no pilot, and, not being acquainted with the currents, the navigation of the stream was attended with much difficulty. One day we only made about five miles. When we found the water too shallow to float our craft we went ashore, cut a hickory sapling, split it, pulled off the bark, and, laying the flat side downward, mounted the canoe upon it and shoved it over into deeper water. This accomplished, we were in a swift current, and my place was at the bow, with a setting pole, to keep her from striking upon the rocks, of which the river was full, while the other brother officiated as pilot at the stern. One afternoon late we were caught aground, and lay out in the middle of the stream all night. The next night we landed early, not far from where Logansport now is. While there we made some new acquaintances; they were rattlesnakes. If Eve had been as shy of the serpent as we were of those I think she never would have tasted of the fobidden fruit. The Indians still occupied all the country. Indeed, they were its only occupants except a few traders. Our trading post was about where Huntington now is; another at the mouth of the Mississinewa. The first settler we found as we descended was on the north side of the river, nearly opposite the mouth of the Wild-Cat, not far from the present crossing of the New Albany and Salem railroad. The next settler on the river was FILSON, some two or three miles above the present site of Montezuma.

We went ashore near where the flourishing city of Lafayette now is. The Indians were friendly, often hailing us from the shore and wanting to trade, offering to exchange their wild game for cornmeal, an article always in demand by them.

On the 18th of June, 1823, we landed at Fort Harrison, and, after having reconnoitered the post to our satisfaction, we again took water, and an hour later landed at Terre Haute, having made the trip in six weeks and two days. So far as I have been able to learn, ours was the second family that came to the Wabash valley by the northern route.

WILLIAM NAYLOR was one of the oldest citizens of Terre Haute. He was born in Virginia, in 1792. He was of a hardy pioneer stock, and had a hereditary dislike of the red men, and when the government called for troops to protect the frontier settlements he was among the first to enlist. At this time he was nineteen years old. He served as a soldier in Gen. HARRISON's army. He helped to build Fort Harrison, and fought gallantly at the battle of Tippecanoe. As far back as 1811 he stood upon the site where the beautiful city of Terre Haute now stands, and saw no sign of habitation, but occasionally, in the far distance, the "wigwam's smoke curling in peace." Then this beautiful prairie was the home of the red man, the wolf, the panther, the bear and the deer. A boundless forest surrounded him, and no sound broke the stillness of the scene but the occasional whoop of the savage, the growl of wild beasts, and the lullaby of the Wabash. Mr. NAYLOR died September 18, 1858. He was much respected, and died as he had lived, an upright and conscientious christian man.

What a change has been wrought in this country since his rememberance! As if by the enchantments of the magician's wand, a city has sprung into existence and a refined civilization fills up the solitary forests; the war-whoop has passed away and naught is now heard save the peaceful hum of industry and the breathings of social and domestic intercourse.

The "Western Register and Terre Haute Advertiser" was the first paper printed in Terre Haute. The paper was "printed and published every Saturday, in Terre Haute, Vigo county, Indiana, by JOHN W. OSBORN, at two dollars per annum." The terms of advertising are given, and then follows this statement: "Letters on business addressed to the editor must be post-paid." It must be borne in mind that letter postage in that day was no trifle--ranging as high as twenty-five cents a single letter, one-eighth of the annual subscription of the paper.

The first number was issued July 21, 1823, and was a four-column paper, about twelve by fourteen inches in size. After the first ten numbers had been issued a larger size paper was obtained, making the sheet about four inches longer. The first edition consisted of about two hundred copies; many were sent to parties who never paid. Mr. OSBORN felt that the education of the masses was of vital moment, and fully believed in the civilizing and enlightening influence of the newspaper, and the fact that a subscriber could not pay did not prevent his receiving the paper. For this reason the paper did not prove, in any eminent degree, a pecuniary success. Great difficulty was experienced in obtaining suitable printing paper. The supply must usually be obtained from Louisville, and the quantity ordered sometimes did not make its appearance for weeks together; bad roads and low water were the obstacles to be overcome in transportation. At such times various expedients were resorted to in order to continue the regular issue; sometimes a half sheet was sent out. Then again the stores and shops were ransacked for ordinary wrapping paper, and sometimes no paper could be issued at all. The difficulties attending the obtaining, transporting and setting up the press were such as would have discouraged a less determined man than Mr. OSBORN, and have effectually defeated the enterprise. The wagon in which the "office" and paper for first issue were transported from Vincennes to Terre Haute was overturned in attempting to ford one of the many streams to be crossed, and the entire establishment buried under the waters. These streams were very much swollen at the time by the abundant rain-fall, and in attempting to cross the driver had mistaken his way. The material was finally recovered after great effort. These were the "circumstances beyond the control of the editor" that delayed the first issue, as explained in the editorial of that number.

The first number contained an account of the celebration held on the Fourth of July of that year. The oration was delivered by Thos. H. BLAKE. Among the communications, we notice that "Mr. REED, a Presbyterian minister, will preach at the court-house on the 24th inst." Its foreign news summary contains the declaration of war between France and Spain; also certain military movements of French and Spanish troops, and captures of Spanish vessels. Sheriff CLARK advertises sales of land, and James LOVE advertises "a regular line of keel-boats, to ply between Terre Haute and Shawneetown; freight taken on the most accommodating terms." John M. COLMAN advertises a list of letters,--perhaps a half dozen--remaining in the post-office at Terre Haute, Ezekiel BENJAMIN in charge. Dr. MODESITT's ferry is "ready to accommodate all who may favor him with their patronage."

We find that Nathaniel HUNTINGTON "is a candidate to represent the counties of Vigo and Parke in the next general assembly."

The political questions of the day are discussed, and party feeling runs very bitter. The question whether slaves should be held in Indiana was agitating the minds of men. Mr. OSBORN was of course on the negative side, and many of the early difficulties he encountered in getting out his paper were believed to grow out of this fact; the upsetting of his material before mentioned was thought to be done designedly as an expedient to defeat his plans. At the celebration on the Fourth spoken of, the following toast was offered by a volunteer; "The unlawful wheels of the machinery of our last legislature for a new convention, to bring slavery into our state; may every band and spoke be broken at our next election."

In the second number appears a new advertisement of John F. CRUFT. The number of the "ads." was seventeen, including four legal ones by Sheriff CLARK. In the eleventh number appears this motto, which becomes henceforth the motto of the paper:

No "dupe to party,--tool of power,"
Nor "slave to minions of an hour."

Under the date of October 22, 1823, we find this notice; "The Wabash Greens will meet at the house of Capt. N. HUNTINGTON, November 1, thence to proceed in martial order to the battle-ground of Tippecanoe, and collect the bones of the American heroes who fell in that engagement, in as decent a manner as possible inter them, and erect some temporary preservation around their grave.

Signed,Elisha M. HUNTINGTON--
Company Judge Advocate."

The paper was ably conducted by Mr. OSBORN, and its issues were filled with interesting matter, much attention being given to foreign news. The "Niles Register" was largely quoted from. In politics Mr. OSBORN was a whig, and while he was not an abolitionist, was anti-slavery in his sentiments. He was also a strong advocate of temperance. On these subjects he was an able and original thinker. His kindness of heart was proverbial; he could not bear to wound another's feelings, nor would he allow his paper to become a vehicle for gossip. He was also a man of great personal courage, and while he always sought "the things that made for peace," he never permitted his desire to avoid strife to stand in the way of a bold a free avowal of his sentiments, or to prevent his always standing by his actions. Judge KINNEY, a strong personal friend of Mr. OSBORN's, at one time, while living in Vincennes, instituted several suits against certain parties for kidnapping blacks. In consequence of this, he (KINNEY) was assaulted and badly wounded. The threat was also freely made that OSBORN would be served in the same way. This was reported to OSBORN, who at that time lived on a farm a short distance from Vincennes. He at once rode into town, arriving at near the dinner hour, and stopping at the hotel, threw his bridle rein to a hostler and ascended the steps of the portico where several persons were sitting, among them some of those who had threatened him. He remained until about four o'clock, when he mounted his horse and rode home. Mr. OSBORN was well armed. His cool, firm bearing caused those who hated him for his principles, and had proposed to attack him, to desist from their purpose. His great kindness to others was made manifest in many ways. On one occasion, some persons who had come on horseback to get their papers were too drunk to return safely home. Mr. OSBORN cared for them during the night, and after having given them a good breakfast, sent them home sober. His influence over others has often been testified to by those who have experienced it.

Mr. OSBORN was very much interested in everything pertaining to the advancement of educational interests, and spent both time and money in labors of that kind. He was undoubtedly the prime mover in the efforts made that finally resulted in the establishment of Asbury University, at Greencastle.

Among other advertisements is one for the sale of an ox mill, i.e. a pair of stones for grinding, run by ox power.

The last number, issued in 1823, contains the message of President MONROE to the eighteenth congress.

Let those who are disposed to grumble at a delay of one or two hours at the present day read this, under date of January 24, 1824. After speaking of the non-arrival of the mail (once in two weeks), the editor says: "Another disappointment, still more unpleasant, has occurred, which is also to be attributed to the present freshet; it precludes the possibility of our receiving the expected supply of paper from Louisville, and it renders it out of our power to issue more than a half sheet weekly until the roads become passable for wagons and our supply arrives."

From March 25 to May 19, 1824, the paper was printed on a quarter sheet, about 10 by 14 inches in size.

The second steamboat to visit Terre Haute was the Ploughboy, Capt. C.P. BACON. She arrived on the morning of April 1, and the entire country assembled to witness her arrival, which was welcomed with the "thunder of cannon."

It seems that a library had been established in Terre Haute. At an election held September 3, 1824, the following officers were elected: president, Wm. C. LINTON; trustees, James FARRINGTON, Curtis GILBERT, Wm. CLARK, Nathaniel HUNTINGTON, D.H. JOHNSON, D.F. DURKEE, and George HUSSEY; librarian, John BRITTON. The library was open on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

In the early issue of the "Register" we find a list of four marriages, headed "Bright Prospects in the Northwest."

The first fire mentioned is the distillery of John F. KING. It occurred February 5, 1825.

Major ABRAHAM MARKLE died March 26, 1826, aged fifty-seven years. The paper speaks of him thus: "Mr. MARKLE was born in Ulster county, New York, in 1769, and was one of the first and most enterprising settlers of Cayuga county, New York. From thence he emigrated to Upper Canada, and acquired a handsome fortune. He bore a conspicuous part in the opposition to the corruption and oppression practiced upon the people of the province by English rulers. He was a member of the provincial parliament for some time, and gave evidence of being animated by the spirit of those who laid the foundations of American freedom. When war was declared between England and the United States, in 1812, he returned to his native country, accepted the appointment of major in her army, and distinguished himself in many hard-fought battles. As soon as the war was over he removed to this country, and the improvements he has made here are proofs of his indefatigable energy and public spirit."

To this we will here add: Maj. MARKLE was, in personal appearance, of commanding presence. Physically he was a very large and powerful man, and would be noticed anywhere. He possessed great energy of character, was generous and warm-hearted, of an impulsive and fiery temper, and always ready to meet friend or foe. He loved to "run horses," and never declined a "social glass." A man of such decided traits of character could not but have his faults; but perhaps no man was more respected and esteemed than Maj. MARKLE. In consequence of his active participation in the war of 1812-15, all his property in Canada was confiscated by the English government. At the close of the war, congress, in order to compensate him and others similarly situated, granted him a large quantity of scrip, or land warrants, and extra pay, which he proceeded to locate on Wabash lands as soon as the first sale occurred. He thus became possessed of several sections of land in and about Terre Haute and Fort Harrison. Among these tracts was the land where the union depot now stands, afterward bought by Chauncey ROSE, and the identical spot upon which the fort stood.

In a deed conveying one of these tracts occurs the following clause: "September 20, 1817. William MARKLE deeds to Joseph WALKER a certain tract of land, which said tract was confirmed to MARKLE by a patent from the General land Office, pursuant to an act of congress, entitled an act granting bounties in land and extra pay to certain Canadian volunteers, passed March 5, 1816."

Maj. MARKLE was very prominent in local matters, and was very much of a party leader. He and Col. HAMILTON were usually opposed to each other, as each was of too pronounced views to be under the influence or dictation of the other. But it may be said that local questions constituted the lines upon which they divided. Maj. MARKLE had a large family of seven sons and two daughters. The sons, like their father, were stalwart men; two of them, William and Abraham, served in their father�s command. The elder of the daughters married Col. Nathaniel HUNTINGTON. Of Col. HUNTINGTON we may say, in passing, he was the first lawyer who opened an office in Terre Haute. He was a man of fine abilities, and took high rank in the legal fraternity of the state. His early death was deeply regretted, as no doubt, had he lived, he would have risen to high legal honors. He had the elements of a great man and statesman.

The Colonel was fond of military affairs and was at one time in command of a regiment of state militia. He used to drill his men on an open ground near the Terre Haute House. But to return to the "Register."

As early as 1825 we find a notice of the existence of the "Auxiliary Bible Society of Terre Haute," Jonas W. BAKER secretary.

In May, 1826, proposals to build a jail in Terre Haute were advertised of the following specifications: "The jail to be twenty-three feet square on the outside, two stories high; the height of the first to be ten feet, and of the upper to be nine feet in the clear, and a double row of square timbers as high as the second story; the room below to be eighteen feet square and covered with one and three-fourths inch oak plank; three grates in each room."

We find that party spirit ran high then as now. The great question that began to agitate the minds of the people was that of internal improvements, especially the improvement of the navigation of the Wabash river, and the building of the Erie and Wabash canal.

Mr. Geo. BOON was member of the legislature from Sullivan county in 1826, and is said not to have opened his mouth during the entire session. Party spirit ran high, and it was considered the "proper thing" for each member to make at least one speech during the session. The fact above stated was thus humorously set forth in the "Register" of July 8, 1826:

"For the Register.
The speech of Mr. George Boon, in the House of Representatives
of Indiana, 1825-1826.
(Inserted by request and paid for.)"

The entire column is a blank space.

It is related that Mr. BOON called on the editor, saying that he understood that Mr. OSBORN had published a speech of his, and he wanted to see it, as he had not made any speech at all. Mr. OSBORN showed him the file containing the speech, saying, "Here it is, Mr. BOON; tell me what part you object to and I will have it erased."

In December, 1826, Terre Haute had advanced to the dignity of a weekly mail, and arrivals and departures were duly chronicled.

At the beginning of the year 1827 the number of advertisements had increased, showing a gradual increase both in population and business.

In one number of the paper we find the remarkable statement made that a member of the Indiana legislature refused to receive a certain part of his compensation allowed by the law increasing the pay of members, for the reason that he considered such increase unconstitutional, and therefore could not conscientiously retain it.

The card of E.M. HUNTINGTON, as a practicing attorney, appears in May, 1827.

For about four weeks in December, 1828, and January, 1829, no eastern mails were received, and consequently no eastern news.

Early in February, 1828, John M. COLMAN resigned the office of postmaster, and John F. CRUFT was appointed.

With the beginning of the fourth volume, March 24, 1827, the paper was enlarged to a five-column sheet.

In April, 1828, Mr. OSBORN retired from the paper and was succeeded in the editorial chair by Mr. A. KINNEY.

In June, 1829, the paper was still further enlarged to a six-column paper, and styled the "Western Register."

It might not be uninteresting to state that at the time when the �Register� was established at Terre Haute, in 1823, there was no paper published to the northwest of this place; it was then a frontier town.

April 24, 1830, J.W. OSBORN again assumed editorial charge of the "Register."

The population of Vigo county in 1830 was, according to the United States census, 5,737. Of these 5,606 were white and 131 colored. Of the whites nearly one-fourth, or 1,238, were under five years of age.

As late as 1831 most of the produce of this country was transported down the Wabash in flat-boats. About this time shipments began more generally to be made in steamboats. On the subject of increase in population and business, the "Register" of June 18, 1831, says:

"So rapid have been the improvements upon this noble stream that they are hardly realized by those who have been the most active in producing them, and must appear incredible to those who have not seen this fertile region. Sixteen years ago the entire population of the counties bordering on this river was about 10,000; and including that on its tributaries, not more than 20,000. This district now contains more than 250,000 enterprising people. Eight years ago the first steamboat ascended the river; since the first of December last we have had thirty-six arrivals from below this place, and twenty-seven from above � in all sixty-three. From the best information within our reach, we believe that about 1,700 flat-boats have descended the Wabash this spring. The boats without cargoes, valued at $100 each, would amount to $170,000. Estimating cargoes at $500 each, the total amount of value that descends this stream will be $1,200,000, taking no account of the downward freight of steamboats."

In the summer of 1830 a steam saw-mill was erected by Maj. MILLER.

In December, 1831, the name of Samuel B. GOOKINS appears as editor of the "Register."

The visit of Henry CLAY to Terre Haute in October, 1831, was an event of great local interest. He was met several miles from town by a large number of citizens and escorted to his lodgings. His approach was announced by the roar of artillery. He stopped at the famous Eagle and Lion tavern. An address and reply were among the proceedings of that occasion. A public entertainment was tendered and declined.

Among the preachers who occasionally preached at the court-house were Rev. Thomas BURNETT, Edwin RAY, Moses PIERSON, _____ SPROL, Dr. WILEY, David MONTFORT, and Rev. Mr. WHITE.

Among the earlier school teachers were Chas. T. NOBLE, Miss RIDDLE, Rev. Edwin RAY, Addison SMITH and James GARDNER.

The town slowly improved from 1827 to 1832, at which time the National Road was surveyed. This event gave a new impetus to the place, and business seemed to take a fresh start.

To be continued...


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HISTORY OF VIGO AND PARKE COUNTIES, Together With Historic Notes on the Wabash Valley
H.W. Beckwith - 1880
Terre Haute, pp. 75-85

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Additional sketches: Page 2; Page 3; Page 4; Page 5; Page 6; Page 7; Page 8; Page 9; Page 10; Page 11; Page 12; Page 13; Page 14; Page 15; Page 16; Page 17; Page 18; Page 19
Terre Haute & Harrison Twp. biographies.

Submitted by Charles Lewis
Data entry by Kim Holly & Elsie Simpson - used with permission.

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