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Recollection of James A. Richardson

 


COMMUNICATION FROM JAMES A. RICHARDSON.

I was born in Owen County, Indiana, on March 17, 1827. My father moved to Boone County on the 31st of February, 1837, and this county has been my home since that time. There has been a great change in the county since that time. There were but two roads laid out in the eastern part of the county, viz.: the Michigan and the Lebanon and Noblesville road. The few settlers that lived in this neighborhood lived in log cabins, in the woods with a small patch of ground partially cleared. The manner of clearing in those days was to grub the small bushes and chop the small trees and logs with axes. Piling them up in large heaps they would be left to dry until they could be burned. After deadening the remainder of the trees the fields then looked more like woods than cornfields. This, however, was the best we could do, as to have chopped all the trees in this thick forest with its unditched and overshaded land would have been an impossibility. We had no implements but the maul, wedge, Carey plow and the old-fashioned single shovel plow. The Carey plow was very scarce then, not being more than one to every half-dozen settlers. Such a thing as a carriage or buggy was never heard of. We lived on corn bread, hog, hominy, potatoes, pumpkins and wild game. There was an abundance of small game, such as deer, wild turkey, pheasants, quails, raccoons, opossums, grey squirrels and rabbits. There was an old water mill on Eagle Creek that ground a little corn meal in the rainy part of the year, but it being very slow was not to be depended upon. A hungry hound could have eaten the meal as fast as it was ground. We carried our corn on horseback to Dye’s and Sheets’ mills. The distance was eight and eleven miles. In a few years we raised a little wheat which we had to take to Indianapolis to get ground for flour. As for market, what wheat and hogs we raised we took to Lafayette, on the Wabash, or to the Ohio River. The price of wheat in those days was from forty to fifty cents per bushel. The hogs were sold to hog merchants, who bought as large droves as they could buy. The price the settlers received was from $1.50 to $2.50 per 100 pounds. We had to have some things, such as salt, leather and spun cotton for chain for jeans and linsey. Those articles were indispensable, and if they could not be had any other way the deer and raccoon skins were resorted to to supply the want. The women spun the wool, wove the jeans and made by hand all the clothing the men wore in the winter, and spun flax and tow and wove into linen, which they made into shirts and pants for their summer wear. There was but little dress goods bought in those days. All this work the fair ones had to do without the aid of machines save the big and little wheels and hand looms. There was not a cook-stove, sewing machine nor washing machine for ten or fifteen years after the first settling of what is known as the Big Spring neighborhood. The women had to do their cooking by the fireplace, and one room was parlor, sitting-room, bedroom, dining-room and kitchen. I am of the opinion that if the women of to-day had to go back and endure the privations of that time there would be some bloody snoots and black shins. We had to cut our wheat with the sickle and threshed it with the flail or tramped it off on a dirt floor with a horse in the field on the ground. To separate the wheat from the chaff, we made wind with a sheet in the hands of men, one at each end to riddle the downs to them. We cut our meadows with the poorest kind of scythes; I think they were all of iron with a crooked stick fastened to them. We had no steel pitch-forks in those days, but had to go to the woods, hunt out forked bushes and peel them to handle our hay with. We did not raise a great amount of hay. Our stock cows lived most of the winter without hay. Cattle and sheep were very unhealthy at that time. The cattle died with what was called bloody murain or dry murain; but it is now thought to have been leeches that were in the sloughs and ponds. The sheep died from eating wild parsnips which grew abundantly in the low, wet land. Hogs did well, living almost the year round without corn. Just enough was given them to keep them from growing wild. There were a great many wild hogs in the woods at that time. We had no school houses and no churches. The first school house in this neighborhood was built on the land of Jonathan Scott, on the east bank of Eagle Creek, one quarter of a mile west of the little village of Big Spring. This house was built about the year 1838. The first church organization was a class of the M. E. Church about the year 1837. In the summer or fall of that year the class was organized at Caleb Richardson’s, and for a few years most of their meetings were held there and at John Parr’s. Finally their society grew strong enough to build, which they did about the year 1840. They gave it the name of Big Spring. This name was given it because of its nearness to a very large spring of water. This church was a large and commodious hewed log building and served a good purpose as a church until the year 1866, when it was superceded [sic] by a neat frame building, which stands there to-day. But where are the old pioneers who broke the first sod, cleared the brush, felled the large oaks and built the first school houses and churches? They are all gone except two that I know of, and those are old Uncle Johnny Parr and old Aunt Anna Richardson.


Source Citation: Boone County History [database online] Boone County INGenWeb. 2007. <http://www.rootsweb.com/~inboone> Original data: Harden & Spahr. "Early life and times in Boone County, Indiana." Lebanon, Indiana. May, 1887, pp. 98-101.

Transcribed by: Julie S. Townsend - July 8, 2007