LEOTA, Scott Co., IN
In the early 1800's, when settlers were beginning to occupy the hillsand valleys of what became Scott County, there was a place where two historicroads crossed - The Cincinnati -Vincennes Road and the Brownstown- Charlestown Road. The crossroads became known as the Finley Crossroads named for an early settler of the area, John Finley. Finley was a Revolutionary War soldier.
Another early settler of the Ox Creek area was Dr. John Richey. He was the first doctor in Scott County. He and his wife, Sichey Collings, were suvivors of the massacre at Pigeon Roost. They settled in the Ox Creek area and reared a family of 15 children. John Richey, son of John Richey of VA who was a Revolutionary War veteran, was known as a "botanical" doctor and he cultivated a large garden of medicinal plants, some of which grew locally and some of which he imported from other places.
According to some Richey descendents, around 1822* Dr. John built a large brick home up on a windy knoll. No one in the settlement knew how to lay brick so he went to Louisville and got men to lay the brick. They demanded one gallon of whiskey each day. There was a still at Liberty, 2 1/2 miles away and son Richard, who was about 10 years old at the time, was promised a new pair of "britches" if he would fetch the whiskey every day. The finished house was two story with the two front rooms measuring about 20 x 40 including the walls. A winding stair led from those rooms to the second floor. A cellar under the two front rooms was walled with large blocks of limestone. Dr. John used the cellar for storing his dried herbs and plants. All the finishing lumber was whipsawed black walnut. The house was torn down about 1900 because it had become unsafe. * John Richey transferred, by letter, his membership in the Pigeon Roost Baptist Church to the Old Ox Regular Baptist Church on 24 Mar 1827.
Dr. John Richey was born, probably in VA, 18 Dec 1790. He died in Scott Co., IN on 16 Apr 1865. He married Sichy Collings, daughter of William Elston Collings of Pigeon Roost Fame on 1 Oct 18ll. Family tradition is that this was the first marriage in what became Scott County. Sichy was born in KY on 9 Nov 1793 and died in Scott Co, IN 27 Aug 1875. They are buried in the John Richey Cemetery on Taylor Road.
A short distance up the road from Leota center is the site of the Old Ox Baptist Church. The 1978 Scott County Cemetery records report that the first notice of the Old Ox Baptist Chuch is in the minutes of the meeting of August 23, 1823 of the Silver Creek Baptist Association. Those minutes state: "Received into the Association the Church at Oxe's Fork, and the bretheren invited to seats." Two of the earliest members of Old Ox were John Mount and his wife Nancy Applegate Mount.
John Mount was born in Shelbyville, KY 15 Jan 1802 son of Matthias Mount and Elizabeth Stephenson. His father later moved to Washington Co., IN and entered land in Scott Co. as early as 1816. John married in Scott Co., IN 9 Mar 1822, Nancy Applegate, born 23 Feb 1802, the daughter of Hezekiah Applegate and Susan Brittain.
We know that the John Mount family was in the general area of Leota in the 1820's. Their youngest son, Matthias Maston was born in 1839 in Scott County and John died in 1840 when he drowned in the Muscatatuck River outside of Little York. John and Nancy Applegate Mount are buried in the cemetery at Old Ox Baptist Church.(Shown left is Matthias M. Mount).
Exactly when Matthias Maston settled in Leota is unknown but he was granted a license to teach in Scott County in 1865 and in 1871 he married Ruth Crowe, daughter of James Crowe and Susan T. Hornaday Crowe. He owned property at the south-west corner of Finley Crossroads and ran a small grocery store. About 1890, the Leota Christian Church was built on the Mount property north of the store and post office, nearer to the crossroads. The church lasted only a few years and the building that housed the congregation was later sold.
When anyone went into Vienna, they would pick up the mail for everyone in the general area and leave it at Mount's store to be picked up. Becoming concerned about this procedure, Mount made an application to become postmaster. Officials informed him that a post office couldn't be established unless the town had an official name. He named the town after his daughter, Leota, who had died of diptheria in 1876 at the age of two. On August 8, 1884 the post office was established with that name. The post office was moved to the county seat of Scottsburg in 1901.
The usual businesses, such as a cobbler, blacksmith shop and grist mill were located at Leota and at various times there was a sugar camp, apple orchard, a fruit drying business and a large sawmill. Tradition has it that much of the lumber at the sawmill was destroyed during the disastrous ride of Morgan's Raiders. The biggest industry, opened on 1 August 1903, was The Leota Canning Factory which was operated by William Stout, Roy Miner, George Gardner and S.C. Wolff among others. The factory, which canned kraut and tomatoes, was sold to Morgan Packing Company in 1909.
According to Helen Richey Trueblood, wagons loaded with tomatoes were taken to the scale house to be weighed and then to a metal building where women would peel them and put them in buckets. They were then packed in metal cans and the cans placed in metal crates and cooked. The crates were then placed on the floor to cool. Those cooling crates left a permanent pattern on the concrete floor. Trueblood estimates that approximately 100 people were employed by the factory at one time and many of them lived in the rooming house that existed in town.
NOTES: The preceding information was extracted from a variety of sources including but not limited to: Notes of Ethel Mount (deceased) of Noblesville, IN, The Collings, Richeys and The Pigeon Roost Massacre by Constance Hackman, Leona Lawson and Kenneth Scott - used with permission, several old newspaper articles on the Leota Frolic, Mount family history, personal conversation with Mrs. Trueblood and personal observation.