The Caseys, the Maxeys, the Johnsons,
the Watsons, the Paces, Baughs and Others
"Life's more than breath,
and the quick round of blood;
'Tis a great spirit and a busy heart,
We live in deeds, not years,
In thoughts, not breaths,
In feelings, not in ligures on the dial,
We should count time by heart-throbs.
He most lives who thinks most,
Feels the noblest, acts the best;
It matters not how long we live, but how."
In speaking of the first citizens of Jefferson
county as being men and women of stalwart character for honesty and integrity,
we do not mean to convey the idea that they were without their faults,
for by tracing their history we find that they had "weak spots," like the
rest of mankind. Neither would we lionize them because they lived to a
"ripe old age," but because they had for their motto: "What's brave, what's
noble, let's do it." And because, as one of them expresses it:
"It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there, that's disgrace."
And this is the class of people we are writing about in this chapter-such as
the Caseys, the Maxeys, the Johnsons, the Watsons, the Paces, the Baughs, etc.
Mr. Johnson alludes to a general fight that took place in New Mount Vernon in
1820, in which nearly everybody took part. It seemed that somebody said that
the Caseys and Maxeys were going to rule the county. John Abbott wanted to
refute that idea and threatened to thrash the first Casey or Maxey he met-which
happened to be Elihu Maxey. At it they went and soon the entire population was
interested, excited and even "Uncle" Jimmy Johnson threw his straw hat high in
the air and invited any other man who wanted to fight to come forward. Jim Abbott
said, "'Anyone that whips John Abbott will have to thrash me. The whole outfit
had their coats off, ready for the fray; but in a few minutes the storm
blew over and "peace reigned in Warsaw --or rather, where they "war saw"
a short time before. It was no unusual thing for part of the population
to settle their differences by fist-i-cuffs, but this was the first outbreak
among the better citizens.
Aunt Suky Johnson in her memoirs fifteen years
later, also gives Mount Vernon a black eye, when in her account of her
new home she says: "We found Mount Vernon a 'hard place.' There were only
five professors of religion in town-two Baptists and three Methodists,
and the same number of groceries-five. There was no church; two blacksmith
shops, three stores and a half a dozen log houses; not a fence in town
except crooked rail fences, and these were buried under a luxurious growth
of elder, polk and jimson weeds. Saturday was always a lively day. The
Moores, Jordans, the Long Prairie and Horse Creek gangs, came to town,
and from two to six fights took place, and that A had his nose bitten off,
or B had his jaw-bone broken, or C had his eyes blackened etc., etc., were
the items that went to make up the gossip of the day. Races and shooting
matches, open groceries on Sunday and the fence corners full of drunken
men, were part of the exercises."
But all this was the "other side" of the story
of our first settlers. The Christianity of the Caseys, Maxeys and Johnsons
and others soon began to tell on the town and county, and has progressed
through the succeeding generations until now we find the entire county
equal in civilization and refinement to any part of the country, and as
to Mount Vernon, it may very appropriately be termed the Athens of Southern
SOURCE: Walls History of Jefferson County 1909
SUBMITTED BY: Misty Flannigan