History of Greene County, Indiana

Chapter 17

Eel River Township

Richard Wall, of Eel River Township, is now eighty-four years old. He was born in North Hampton county, North Carolina. His father and mother were poor and made their living on a small farm, about thirty miles from Halifax Court House. Mr. Will is the youngest of twelve children, sex boys and sex girls. His parents died when he was a boy, only thirteen years old, and at that early age he was cast out into the world an honest orphan boy. He merged to keep one eye open to shun all bad company, and the other open to see the plainest way to make a man of himself. When he was twenty-one years old he came to Indiana and worked for a good honest Quaker farmer named David Lindley, near Paoli, Indiana. He remained there two summers, as a farm boy and chicken peddler.

Edmon Jean, Samuel Dyer and Richard Wall than came to White River and built the first log cabin in Eel River Township.

The first settlers in this locality were Edmon Jean, Richard Wall, George Griffith, Caleb Jessup, Samuel and Edward Dyer, Jonathan Osborn, Thomas Clark, and William Dunnegan -" who never went to a house but what he come again." John Sanders, Alexander Craig, Benjamin Huey and a few others.

The first land purchase was at the first land sale at Evansville, by David and Jonathan Lindley, embracing all that good bottom land on the north side of White River from Watson's Station down to Israel Glover's line. Old Uncle Ira Danely bought of David Lindley one hundred and sixty-six acres of that land and has made a good farm and has lived at that place for forty years.

The first log cabin was built by Uncle Edmon Jean, on the farm where Jesse Griffith now lives.

The first land entered was the farm where Israel Glover now lives, by old John Sanders. The next entry was made by Payton and Samuel Dyer, and Payton Owen sold that land to Richland Wall, who planted the first apple seed, and raised the first crop of wheat. Mr. Wall brought about a quart of apple seeds in an old-fashioned pair of saddlebags, all the way from Stokes County. North Carolina, and the apple seeds were planted on the old Wall farm, now owned by Henry Newsom. We can yet see fair samples of these little apple trees, which were divided out among the old settlers, and were planted in the old orchards of the Sanders', Jessups', Arney's, Wall's, Newsom's, Clarks', Dryer's and many other's.

The first crop of wheat was raised by Richard Wall and Sam Dyer, on the farm where Garey Workman now lives, and the first sample of that crop of wheat was beat out with flail and cleaned up by the wind, while emptying the half bushel of wheat on a quilt in the door yard, spread on the ground. Part of that wheat was taken to Craig's new mill on White River and ground into flour, but not bolted for want of a bolting-cloth. But Mrs. Mary Wall sieved the flour with a sieve made of a wooden hoop and a dressed buckskin bottom, with holes made by punching through the bottom with a hot iron fork.

The remainder of that little crop of wheat was taken to Ketcham's mill, near Bloomfield, in Monroe County, and made into flour and was brought home and divided between the families of Richard Wall, Samuel Dyer and Robert Baber - Mr. Baber doing the milling for part of the flour.

William Dyer is now seventy-four tears old, and was one among the first new comers on White River, in the year 1818. William Dyer is the youngest of his family father, having three brothers and four sisters. He was born in Washington county, Virginia, in August, 1801. He came to Indiana in the year 1814, and stopped among the first settlers on the Lost River, near Paoli, Indiana. He then came to Greene county, in the year 1818, with his older brother and Mr. Wall.

About fifty-seven years ago Old Uncle Billy Dyer was a mill boy, and he rode on horse back and brought the first bag of seed wheat to Greene county from Warner Davis, on Indian Creek, in the southern part of Monroe county, Indiana. This wheat was sowed and cut by Mr. Wall and the Dyer boys, and was the first crop county. This family also raised the first corn crop that was grown in this township.

Mr. Dyer and wife raised eight children- four boys and four girls.

The first peach orchards were grown from peach seeds brought by the farmers who went to the Shaker prairie to that old mill on Busron.

Among the first white children born in the neighborhood were John Archer, Rachel Wall, William Wall, Anna and Jot. Osborn and some of the Sanders, Jessup and Clark children.

The first weddings in the township were Mr. Payton Owen and Miss Racheal Griffith, Richard Wall and Miss Mary Dyer as waiters. The net lucky couple was Mr. Wall and Miss Mary Dyer. Harbert Sanders and Miss Jensie Jessup; John Fires and Martha Craig; Edward Dyer and Katy Danely; Henry Jackson and Nancy Dyer; William Parsley and Anna Osborn; Isaac Jackson and Elizabeth Griffith; Samuel Dyer and Celia Arney; Acquilla Walker and Elizabeth Dyer; William Foley and Jane Osborn; Ira Danley and Miss Olive Jessup. And, by the way the young folks had fun at those early weddings; and when old Uncle Tommy Clark was elected Justice of the Peace, a party of about half a dozen young people went there after bedtime, wishing to see the Justice marry a couple for the first time, etc. They called the 'Squire up, and asked them to come in; and they were in a hurry, and wanted to see a wedding in the dooryard by moonlight. The old bee hunter just stepped back, lighted a candle, picked up the book, and while he stood in the presence of the witnesses said the ceremony "in his shirt-tail!" All the party left for home, fully enjoying a Hossier wedding.

Old Caleb Jessup had the largest family, having had three wives and nineteen children-eight boys and eleven girls. Alexander Craig and wife raised ten children-five boys and five girls. They all lived to be men and women. James Newsom and wife raised eight boys and five girls. Uncle Richard Wall and wife had six children, and raised five of them to men and women. George Griffith and wife raised two boys and four girls. Uncle Ira Danley and wife had thirteen children, and raised six boys and six girls; all married all except for one, and he wants a mate. Ira Danley was born in Surry county, North Carolina, and was an orphan boy, raised among the friendly Quaker farmers, by William Dunnegan. He was married February 20, 1828, at the age of twenty-two years.

We have had two distill houses built by Richard Wall, who made a pure article when he made whiskey and brandy. It was not the kind that kills two hundred yards, off hand.

Our first mills were hand mills and hominy mortars. Old Alexander Craig built the first water mill, at Point Commerce bluff, on White river. He also built a cotton gin to pick out cottonseed, in that mill. Squire Tommy Clark built a little tub mill on Clark's creek, and ground corn into meal for the first settlers on that creek. James Jessup and Daniel Ingersoll built the Junction Mills on Eel river at the Rock Ford at Point Commerce. Ira Danely Amos Owen and Orren Talley built the old White River Mills, just above the mouth of Clark's Creek, about thirty years ago; and White River changed its channel there, and left the mill site and mill pond in a patch of willows on the sand-bar.

The first school was taught by George Baber, in a log cabin at Caleb Jessup's. Among the pupils were James, Frank and Verlin Jessup, Harbert, John and Charles Sanders, Ira Danely, and Jenise and Mary Jessup, besides some of the Griffith children. The next the school was taught by Amos Roark , with several small pupils. Among them were William and Ellen Wall, N. Watson, Elizabeth Watson, John, Frank and Amey Clark, Clara Sanders, Caleb Jessup's children and others.

Our pioneer preachers were Elder Hugh Barnes, Elder James Armstrong, Rev. Eli P. Farmer, Rev. Abraham Kearns, Rev. Obediah Winters, and a few traveling Shakers, who preached at Alexanders Craig's, at the mouth of Eel river. We had our first Methodist camp meeting by moonlight, in the woods just north of Fairplay, more than fifty years ago. Our ministers, in those days, did not preach for the salary but traveled and preached for the good of the people and the church.

Among our oldest people now living here, we will name Richard Wall, aged 84 years, James Newsom, aged 83 years; Aunt Lydia Baber, aged 80 years; Richard Haxton and wife, aged 70 years; William Griffith, aged 70 years; William Dyer, aged 74 years; Mary Sanders, Elizabeth Griffith, J.M.H. Alisson and a few others.

One of the most remarkable wedding parties that ever assembled in the western part of Indiana, met at the mouth of Eel river, when John Fires and Martha Craig were married at Alexander Craig's, on Sunday September 30th, 1819. On that day about noon, while the young people of this neighborhood were enjoying themselves and having a god time generally, a tribe of Indians numbering about two hundred strong, floating down the White river, from near Indianapolis, and landed their bark canoes at the mouth of Eel river, camped over night, and all the wedding party and many of the neighbors went to see the Indians, and the Indians passed through and took a curious look at the many workings of Mr. Craig's new mill. One young brave who had recently married a young Indian squaw, offered to make a wager with Mr. Fires, and leave it to the crowd to say which ha the best and prettiest squaw, but it has been said that John Fires crawfished. Within a few days after that time, about three hundred Indian warriors and their chief passed down the old Indian trail and crossed Eel River, at the old gravel ford, on horseback. The old ford and Indian camps, where they made sugar, is on the east banks of Eel River, just west of Henry Newsom's. Those were the last Indians that camped in this locality.

The old Indian tea table, located in the bluff of rock on the west side of White River, just above the mouth of Eel River, on Mr. Marcus Hays' land, half mile east of Point Commerce, is perhaps the most notable rock in the western part of Indiana. This table rock towers up in the bluff nearly a hundred feet high, above the level of White River. We notice many names, scratches, dates and marks, made on the top of this old rock table by old pioneer trappers and hunters , seeking public notice from all visitors passing that way. All our young people should go and see this old Indian tea table.

Where Point Commerce now stands was a heavy forest of beech timber, when the first white people came to the mouth of Eel River, about fifty-seven years ago, and the first settlers on that hill were Alexander Craig, Jehu Inman, Charles Inman, Benjamin Huey, James Smith, Henry Littlejohn, James Banyan, Mr. Nickles and a few others.

Old Uncle Alexander Craig built the first log cabin there, and he also built the first water mill and the first cotton gin to pick cottonseed.

There were about half as many families living at the Craig Mill fifty years ago, as there are living at Point Commerce now, and more people have died on that hill that now live there.

Mr. James Banyan was the first white person that died in Eel River Township, and there being no saw mill with which to make plank within fifty miles of that place, old Henry Littlejohn, Jehu Inman and John Craig went to the woods and dug out a poplar trough for a coffin, and Mr. Banyan was put in the trough and buried on the hill, among the forest trees, just east of where the old brick chapel now stands.

The first flat-boat ever sent to New Orleans from any place in Greene County was built at Point Commerce, by the Craigs', and was loaded with staves and hoop-poles. Afterwards, several boats were sent down the river, loaded with corn and pork; and we have a sad history of the fate of four of the neighbor boys or young men - Caleb Jessup's two sons, and James Smith's two sons - who were coming up the river on the steamer, "Car of Commerce." The boiler exploded and many passengers were scalded to death.