Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Almost High Noon at Madison

It is more an accident than anything else that Madison did not go down in history for the second most high-profile duel in American history. The first, of course, was the duel in which vice president Aaron Burr killed former secretary of treasury Alexander Hamilton.

The planned faceoff between then-Senator Jesse Bright and prominent Madison lawyer Joseph G. Marshall would have been almost as noteworthy and the antagonists tried hard to make sure it happened. It was only through the intervention of their friends, which included some of the nation's most prominent men, that it was averted at the last minute.

Bright and Marshall had clashed repeatedly. Bright owned slaves while Marshall, who inherited slaves and set them free, was a champion of abolition. Marshall, a Whig and later a Republican, would have become United States senator from Indiana, except that Bright, a Democrat, outmaneuvered the Republicans in the Indiana legislature.

They had one thing in common besides ambitions--both were hotheads. Once, at a trial in Charlestown when a
Judge Otto called him a liar, Marshall “knocked him down. Judge Otto arose, and, coming at Mr. Marshall" in a belligerent manner, was knocked down again." Marshall later apologized. And in another episode, he got angry and broke down a door.

On the other side, Bright reportedly knocked down the doorkeeper of the House of Representatives for what was termed "an inconsiderable offense." Bright also used invective freely. On April 27, 1857, he wrote to R.M. T. Hunter, chairman of a House committee, demanding the Hunter fire the committee's clerk named Henrick, for a letter the latter had published in the New York Herald. "He is a liar, slanderer, and within a few days past, has proven himself a coward" and a few words later dismissed him as a "lying slandering coward" Bright said. The charge of cowardice suggests Bright had challenged Henrick, who had declined, although it may have been Bright was simply liberal with his epithets.

The personal animosity led Marshall to plan killing Bright. In what sounded like a Wild West showdown in the streets, Marshall once purchased a bowie knife, which he put in his pocket. He walked Madison’s Second Street between the post office and West Street from 10 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., knowing that Bright customarily picked up his mail at 10 a.m. Bright, however, changed his routine that day. Marshall was quoted as saying: “Had he come I should have attacked him and killed him, if I could. I knew he was always armed, so I would not be taking him at a disadvantage.”

The dispute spiraled into a duel challenge. The two agreed to meet on an island in the Ohio River, placing it in Kentucky, probably because the Indiana constitution prohibited dueling. Their entourage included leading Madison merchants and prominent public officials and future leaders. One of them, Madison’s William McKee Dunn, a Congressman and later Judge Advocate General, provided many of the details.

The weapons of choice were rifles at 50 paces. Bright and his group stayed at the Gault House while Marshall and his contingent at the Louisville Hotel. Marshall was so determined to shoot it out with Bright that when police came to arrest him, Marshall said his brother, the Rev. Samuel Marshall, who came to stop the duel, was Joseph Marshall and the police led the minister away. The attorney was later corralled and their friends negotiated a settlement.

Bright never got that close to a shoot-out again. But Jesse wasn't through. He got into a fight in a courtroom in 1853 and was fined along with others; an incident reported by author Francis Lieber an article entitled “The Character of a Gentleman.” And on Sept. 16, 1853, Bright wrote to his friend and financial backer W.W. Corcoran, apparently preparing for trouble.

"I am unwilling to trouble you about my domestic affairs," Bright wrote "for I have already been the reception of favors of your hands that must necessarily go unrequited through life; yet I will venture to enquire whether you know of a Duelling [pistol] that I can get and suitable for a humble disciple of the immortal 'Franklin Pierce.' I hope you may have one to suit me, but if not, pardon me for asking you to engage one for me. I must have one now."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Phone Company on Every Corner

For many people, the breakup of the American Telegraph and Telephone Co. left a confusing array of telephone companies, even if Jefferson County hadn’t been served by the old Bell System.

But anyone who found the state of telephony competition confusing in the after 1984, would have been baffled by the state of the art in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

It was simpler at the beginning when the first telephone was reportedly installed between the starch works and the railroad depot in 1879. It’ likely that private systems were the only ones operating until a public exchange was opened in Madison. The Madison Courier of Feb. 29, 188 listed subscribers to a proposed system, including City Hall, including City Hall, four fire departments, the city water works, and at least three residences. The exchange, erected by the Laporte and Madison Telephone Co., was scheduled to go into operation on May

In February 1882, the Courier reported work had begun to link Madison with exchanges in Carrollton, Milton, Warsaw and Ghent with Hanover connected sometime later that year. Service also reached Brooksburg and Vevay for the Daily Courier of Sept.13, 1883 noted that, “The Brooksburg Band has celebrated Vevay by telephone.”

By the time the 1887/88 Madison city directory was published, the Central Union Telephone Co., apparently part of the Bell system, had the area’s business.

But things got interesting. The Daily Courier of Nov. 27, 1894 reported local businessmen formed the Madison Telephone Co. because of Central’s rates and at this point, the Central company had 150 subscribers while Madison had 165.

While the Bell companies quashed most competition, things were different in Madison and the Courier of Jan. 17, 1896 reported the city had ordered “that the Bell Telephone Company be directed to remove all phones from the City Building, Light Station, the four engine houses, and Springdale Cemetery.” For several years the companies operated side by side. The Vail Funeral Home, for exampled, advertised its number as 88 for both the Madison and Bell systems.

Meanwhile, service moved into the country with a company owned by the Green Brothers installing the first telephone in Canaan in Lochard and Means’s store on Nov. 1, 1899.

In the fall of 1903, the Madison company extended a line from China to Canaan and other rural changes, probably initiated by the same organization, operated in Hanover and Rykers’ Ridge.

The number of independent companies quickly reached the hundreds for Indiana and thousands across the nation. The Independent Telephone Company of Lancaster and Monroe incorporated on May 23, 1905. In 1907, the Green Brothers sold their operation to Canaan residents, who extended the lines in February. 1908. The Farmers Mutual Telephone Central of Belleview incorporated on March 30, 1912; and the Canaan Mutual Telephone Company on Aug. 25, 1915 (Apparently replacing the Farmers company.).

At one point, there were two systems operating in Canaan, a town whose Main Street is less than a mile long. The Madison company, which eventually discontinued service, was situated in the Banta home and the Farmer’s system in its own headquarters.

This wasn’t area with double service. The San Jacinto and Dupont Telephone Co. incorporated on Feb. 7, 1907 while the New Marion and Dupont Telephone Co. organized on May 2, 1908. Just outside of Madison, the Jefferson Telephone Co. operated from at least 1907 until its merger with Madison Telephone in 1912 because the two were so interconnected.

State reports in 1914 showed seven systems operating in Jefferson County. Madison Telephone had 688 miles of wire while Central Union had 66.43; Lancaster & Monroe 21, and Farmers Mutual, 2. Ohio River Telephone, with only 2 miles in the county, had 523 in neighboring Switzerland County. On the other side, Scott County Telephone had 4.5 miles of line in Jefferson and 242 in Scott while the Madison company owned 12 miles in Clark County.

Other lines edged into the county. The Paris Crossing company had 8 miles and the New Washington Co., 15 in Jefferson County while the Ohio River and Scott County businesses were no longer listed. There were probably others 1930 records showed the Moorefield Farmers Mutual Telephone Co. was headquartered in Brooksburg.

But by this time, small companies were disappearing. The June 28, 1919 Courier reported the Ryker’s Ridge exchange had just closed. The Madison company operated until Sept. 12, 1923 when it was purchased by Southern Indiana Telephone and Telegraph Co. The latter, a Bell operation, petitioned to close the China and Volga exchanges on July 18, 1928.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mixed Bloods and Half Breeds

How “Indian” were Southeastern Indiana’s Indians? Or, on the other side, how often did settler inter-marry with the native inhabitants?

It’s a story that’s difficult to document. But the indications are that the native Americans encountered by settlers were a mixture of tribes, escaped slaves along with a mixture of European blood from white captives and willing marriages.

Some captives, like Heathcoat Pickett and George Ash, lived among the Indians for years. Little has been written about Pickett, before he settled in what became Switzerland County as early as 1790s.

Whether he intermarried with his captors or not, Pickett lived long enough with the tribes to have his ears multilated for adornment . The same is true of the better-known Ash who had the septum of his nose perforated while his left ear was also perforated for the placement of jewlry. Ash also had an Indian wife known as she bear. What is not known is whether the couple had children before Ash returned to white settlements and remarried.

A strong hint of interbreeding was given by James Jackson, who settled in the Kent area Jefferson County, in 1814. In an account published in the Madison Courier in 1874, Jackson gave a description of White Eyes, the best-known area Indian, along with Johnnie Wea, who was traveling with him.

“Old Wea was a black, nasty, mottled color, not a white man, nor a nigger. Old White Eyes was a yeller Indian and so was his son.”

While Jackson didn’t link Johnnie Wea to the Wea tribe, the Weas were Miami Indians who were living apart from the main tribe, while the description of Wea suggests a mixture of Indian, white and black ancestry. The description of White Eyes also doesn’t state explicitly that the man was a mixed breed. But the phrase “Yeller Indian” uses a term that commonly described those who had Indian and black ancestry.

Another account printed in the Courier was from Hiram Prather, who lived in Jennings County. Prather described White Eyes and Big John as Captins under Bill Killbuck. According to this account Bill Kilbuck “was half white, could read and write, and was the son of old Kilbuck, who was killed by Captain Collins near the Pigeon Roost Settlement the evening before the massacre.”

There was a lot of opportunity for commingling.

Two Indians with European names, Wilson and John Guinn, were reported to be living in the house of Gershom Lee in 1812. (Lee lived just downstream from Manville in 1816 and was probably there in 1812) Sometime before the Pigeon Roost Massacre, the two were hunting at the headwaters of Indian-Kentuck Creek when they were shot and killed. Two settlers, William Hall and a Lockridge, heard the gunfire and found them dead on the ground. (These is the account that probably gave rise to the story of the killing of White Eyes. Evidence suggests that White Eyes was not murdered.) This account was given in a letter dated Sept. 9, 1812, which was written by adjutant general Percival Butler.

It is known how long the Indians lived in Lee’s house or why they were there, although stories about White Eyes suggest the natives frequently visited settlers homes for meals.

Some mixing took place before settlers arrived in Indiana. These reports are especially prevalent regarding families who lived in the area of Tennessee inhabited by Cherokees. The Storms family, which moved to Shelby Township, reportedly had Cherokee blood.

There were white-Indian marriages in the Jefferson County. But most are known only through family oral traditions that weren’t put down in writing until well after the event.

George Miller, who wrote a column for the Madison Courier for decades in the late 1900s, often described how his ancestor Jacob Miller was buried next to the wall of the Manville cemetery because Jacob had married an Indian. Not far upstream in Madison Township, Samuel Brown, who was born about 1799 in Pennsylvania, is supposed to have married a woman named Half Moon, although the presume wife shown in the household in the 1850 census was Matilda, aged 45.

The censuses aren’t any help. The 1840 census asks only for a number of free blacks in Hoosier households while the 1850 and 1860 censuses asked only if residents were white, black or mulatto. And it’s easy to think those who were Indian, didn’t spread that information easily or often.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Madison's First Burials--the Springdale Myth

There’s a large stone at the entrance to Madison’s Springdale Cemetery bearing the date 1810. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the date the cemetery was established.

Because, even if there may have been some burials in the plain before Springdale was established in 1839, the person who was supposedly buried there in 1810 wasn’t even born until 1824.

The claim is that Fanny Sullivan who died in 1810 was the first known burial. However, this Fanny’s identity is well known—she was the teenage daughter of noted Madison lawyer Jeremiah Sullivan. In fact, when the DAR published in Jefferson County Cemetery transcriptions in 1941 it showed the following: “Sullivan, Francis E., May 2, 1824 - Oct 7, 1839, d/o Jer. & C.R. Sullivan”

In a letter published in the Courier of April 21, 1879, Richard C. Meldrum, a former Madison, gave a string of reminiscences in which he mentioned “the first burial in Springdale Cemetery (Fanny Sullivan), a sweet young girl… “ (Meldrum was born about 1821/)

Former Madisonian Ruth Hoggatt put together a solid list of facts about the land’s history. These included a deeded dated Nov. 28, 1848, between Milton Stapp and wife Elizabeth and the city of Madison which noted the city had completed payment under a bond dated 1838 and that the east side of a tract set off to Stapp had been conveyed to the City.

Certainly, the 1839 date was recognized local. In the Madison Courier of June 2, 1859, a paragraph transcribed by Ms. Hoggatt noted: "Springdale Cemetery was purchased and located in 1839, almost twenty years ago. Mr. Grayson, the sexton, informs us that there have been buried in the twenty years in Springdale three thousand three hundred and thirty-two bodies — about one-third of the present number of the inhabitants of the city."

The date was again reported later in the 1800s. One of the more interesting accounts in the newspapers attributed to Fanny the statement that she believed she would be the first period buried there.

There certainly is a possibility there were burials on the Springdale side of Crooked Creek before the cemetery was formally organized. Many church cemeteries in Jefferson County, for example, grew out of family cemeteries that preceded the founded of the religious bodies.

The DAR transcription of Springdale burials, published in 1941, shows a Jozebad Lodge (1767-1830), buried there. But the transcription shows no other death date inscriptions from the 1820s and only a handful in the 1830s earlier than 1839.

Where was the first burial in Madison? In an account published in the Madison Courier in 1874, James Lewis said that before the Third Street Cemetery (now the site of John Paul Park) was established in 1817, "the burying ground was up in Fulton, above Greiner's Brewery." Fulton, which was briefly an separate town bordering Madison on the East at Ferry Street, was also cited by an author identified as "The Wanderer" in a series of reminiscences published in 1889. He cited the first burial as a Mrs. Slack who was buried, "in the pioneer graveyard on the bank of the town near the corner of Ferry Street in what is now Madison.”