of the North Manchester Historical Society, Inc.
Volume V, Number 3 (August 1988)
The Rock & Hospital
on the Wabash
Excerpts from Indiana Historical Bulletin Research by Mary O’Hara, Wabash
Condensed by Orpha Weimer
Mrs. O’Hara was a friend of mine and we shared many interests through the work we both did. She was the curator of the County Museum and I was a N. Manchester school teacher. The museum was an available and worthwhile place to take school children, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Sunday school classes for extra learning experiences.
I doubt if Mrs. O’Hara or I made historians of many of our charges. I did require respect and a degree of attention. Mrs. O’Hara had answers for any and all questions. She was a well-informed hostess and could nearly always bring from her restricted little corner office, a series of “freebies” –pictures, maps, pamphlets, brochures and other goodies as take-home gifts, as well as a delightful host of historic tales.
When she gave me this copy of the Indiana History Bulletin as a personal gift from her dwindling file, I felt much honored. It contained the account of her work beyond the four walls of the museum for which she had received state recognition, that of the researching and locating of an early voyager’s resting place when needed.
We were both trying in our own humble way to preserve, instill respect, and admiration for, as well as impart knowledge regarding our historical forefathers, their lives, the land, the times and our hopes of handing on authentic roots for future generations.
In the years from 1787-1790 the Northwest Territory was overrun by squatters, renegades and other unsavory characters over whom our young government seemed to have very little control. Arthur St. Clair, the Governor of the territory, was the only one with any official authority, But due to the vast size, poor travel conditions, as well as the general lawlessness in the area, he could accomplish very little.
In 1784, Congress did request 700 recruits from the bordering states of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to be used in protection of the troubled frontier. Pennsylvania having furnished the most men, was given the honor of choosing a leader. Charles J. Harmar, a retired Revolutionary War officer, was selected and then commissioned by Congress to command the forces. Men were slow as well as reluctant in arriving for such service. Finally a year later, a troop of 250 men was organized as the first American Regiment.
Henry Knox had been named by President Washington as Secretary of War in 1785. He had a command of 600 men in the entire American military establishment.
Colonel Harmar began, expeditiously, to establish a line of forts along the frontier from Fort Pitt to Fort Harmar, his headquarters on the Muskingum River. However along such an extended supply line and with the migration increasing so rapidly, the force was much too small and his chances for success seemed nearly impossible.
[Report to General Knox June 15, 1788: “Ohio traffic: Period 12/9/1787 to 6/16/1788 – 300 boats, 2,824 horses, 600 sheep, 9 hogs, 6,340 souls, 515 cows, 150 wagons. River closed by ice until 3/10/1788. Traffic nigh impossible.”]
As a relief, John Francis Hamtramck, another ex-Revolutionary officer, had joined Harmar in 1786. His immediate assignment was ousting the tough squatter group from Mingo Bottom near Steubenville. At Port Vincennes on the Wabash, local government was non-existent. The possibility of an Indian attack and the question of a U. S., Britain and Spanish understanding, made for a desperate situation. An undesireable frontiersmen element of American, French and Indians, together corrupted the land with both bad whiskey and lawlessness. The Indians along the Wabash, as well as the more peaceful Miami, reciprocated with cunning savagery. Kentucky, across the Ohio River to the south, with their more numerous settlers, already were clamoring to withdraw to statehood.
The problems grew so terrible that President Washington wrote to General St. Clair on October 6, 1789:”It is of high importance that we learn more accurate knowledge concerning the several waters which empty into the Ohio from the northwest and those that discharge themselves into Lakes Erie and Michigan—the lengths of portages between and nature of ground. Early and pointed attention thereto is earnestly recommended.”
Thus it was that President Washington was indirectly responsible for a documentary reference to the “Rock and the Hospital” on the Wabash at this early date.
The work of determining distances and other data on
northern Indiana was handed to General Hamtramck and his voyagers.
[Post to General Hamtramck, 1/13/1790:
“Acertain the precise distance of the Wabash, viz. how far it is from Fort Vincennes to Miami Village (Fort Wayne). What sort of a navigation does the Wabash afford? How far from there to the communication with the Lakes, etc.? Transmit to me the results precisely.”]
[Hamtramck to Harmar, 3/17/1790 in part: “From the Eel River to the great rapid, one league. This rapid is 15 acres in length. In some places not over 8 inches of water. Above the rapid is a flat of ½ league with 6 inches of water. From Grand Rapid to Calument River (Pipe River) south side, 4 leagues. Here is a rapid of 10 acres in length but good water. From Calument River to an island is 1 league. Passage is on left. Above the island is a flat for 1 acre with only 6 inches of water. From island to Rapid St. Sire (?) is three leagues. Rapid is ½ league long but good water. From Rapid St. Sire to Massissinoue River, south side is 2 leagues. Here is a rapid of 12 acres long. Sometimes water not more than 1 foot.
From Massissinoue River to Hospital, 7 leagues. These 7 leagues are in very low country and very little water. At Hospital is 1 league, uncommonly low, so much so, that perriogues are oblidged to lighten to ascend it. This place is remarkable for a big rock on the north side. From river Salamonie is 3 leagues. Here is an island, passage on south side. There is a rapid of 3 acres with good water. From Salamonie River to bended maple, 1 league. There terminates navigation.”]
It is not known if the English league or the French one was used. The countries varied as did the voyagers. Accurate distances are impossible to tell today. However, the distance of 3 leagues between the Hospital and the mouth of the Salamonie is the pertinent one. If the English measure of, 3 leagues = 3 miles, was used, then the rock and hospital would be about 9 miles down river from the mouth of the Salamonie.
Prior to 1871, Professor J. Collett, Assistant Indiana State Geologist, surveyed several counties including Wabash, in his report he tells about a great boulder.
“Returning to town we noticed on T. Craft’s farm, 2 miles west of Wabash, an unusually large Pudding Stone, 12 feet wide and 5 feet high above the surface. It is the largest I have ever seen in Indiana. It shows the marvelous power of the iceberg flow down the northern shore of old Lake Superior. Smaller conglomerates and trap rock lay near by.
The early voyagers used these streams for transportation as they traversed the northwest and often marked places by such rocks as these. This marked a place of refuge or rest stop which they called the “hospital.” When this rock, described by Professor Collett, was located, it did not seem much of a refuge or hospital, but judging from its size and location, it could fit into General Hamtramck’s report to President Washington about portages and nature of the ground.
Mrs. O”Hara’s investigation went farther. Driving on Highway 24 to a place in line with the rock, checking her speedometer from here to the left turn on Mill Street, she drove the same distance, checking this point as being directly south of the rock, then driving along Canal and out E. Hill Street (this route seemed to follow the meandering river) she went to the center of Lagro.
It was exactly 2 miles. The distance from the rock to River Bridge in Lagro checked as 8-1/2 miles. (Hamtramck’s report gave it as 9 miles.) The mouth of the Salamonie, which was slightly to the east of the bridge, could help account for the ½ mile difference. Apparently, the English measure had been used.
On a field, east and south of the American Rock Wool plant and easily seen from the highway, although partly obscured by small brush, was a large stone which seemed to be slowly sinking into the ground. Mr. William Klare (owner in 1958) said he had removed several ton of smaller stones from the field but this one was too big. Here Professor Collegg’s report checked out.
To pin down the “hospital” was even a more difficult task. Using the same outdated meager bits of direction and careful measurements, Mrs. O’Hara was able to locate it.
In addition to the Hamtramck report, she had uncovered an old typed manuscript in the museum files about a “secret cave.” This was located just north of the Friends Cemetery on the Mill Creek Road, near Shanty Falls in Shanty Creek. She suspected there was some connection.
About a mile downstream from the Carroll Street Bridge, the river bluff veers away from the stream to the south. The face of the bluff is cut by 3 ravines and from the last one, near the Pressly Brown home, the bottom lands can be reached by an old wagon trail. Walking out on the low river bottom land, Mrs. O”Hara noticed a scene described in an old geological survey published in 1891.
“--- the bluff forms the south wall of the first terrace for about ¼ mile. ----the massive outcrop rises 40 feet high by 1,000 feet long. The dark, frowning, gray front is covered by lichens. Looks as if eternity could not reduce it to dust.” It looked just like that 69 years later, declared Mrs. O”Hara, only a few pits and holes showed where rocks had fallen away. The secret cave was possible 10 feet up from the bottom edge and about 20 feet below the upper outcropping. The opening of nearly 3 feet was partly shut off by a ledge jutting out in front along the bluff for 6 to 7 feet.
An investigation of the cave proved it to have a floor and depth large enough to permit about 4 men to lie across it and remain unseen. There was some evidence of weathering so that it could have been larger in the voyager’s day. The cave was not even noted in the Elrod-Benedict Geological Report of 1891.
Going back to the Hamtramck Report of 1790: “----from the Mississinoue to Hospital, 7 leagues in very low country. Very little water at Hospital, so much so perriogues are obliged to lighten to ascend it.” There is now (1958) ample proof that the river had changed its course somewhat in recent times. Pottref’s Island had been cut, with the main stream now on the far side.
A local tradition concerning a wounded Indian who had been
cared for there gave rise to the name “secret cave”
However, careful measurements, manuscripts and geology, plus Hamtramck’s
report as well as the wounded Indian’s recovery, all verify this was the
It is from such reports as this that much of our history today must be made. Careful authentic bits are then put together to build a true picture of events and places in times long ago for our understanding today.
The Plank Road and the $500 Bull
Transportation was the one cry of the people in the days when John Comstock was battling to make Liberty Mills the trading center of the Northern Indiana universe. It was anything for a way to get some place and back, or to get produce to market and purchased supplies home. John Comstock felt the need of better roads and realized that to amount to anything, Liberty Mills must have a way for people to get there. In the later thirties or early forties he was one of the men who worked in opening what has been known as the Mail Trace road from Lagro north to Liberty Mills. This got its name from the fact that a track had been blazed through the woods along which mail was carried from Lagro north to Liberty Mills, and probably farther, though there is no definite information. It was only the trace of a road and as the mail was carried over it, the name Mail Trace seemed to apply. But the blazed trail was not sufficient and the work of clearing a roadway and bridging the streams was undertaken. Noah Lindsay, father of Edward Lindsay, was a sort of a foreman for the men who had the contract for this road, Mr. Comstock either having the contract, or being interested in the work. It was a dry season and workmen had difficulty most of the year in getting water to drink, but when the road was finished the dry spell was broken and a celebration was had at Lagro that equaled that of the arrival of the first canal boat at Wabash. The best of Liberty Mills whiskey flowed freely or would have flowed freely had it not been drunk quickly.
But the cleared road with its corduroy bridges did not answer the needs and a plank road was proposed. Just how this happened to be slated for North Manchester instead of Liberty Mills does not appear, but it is known that Comstock was tireless in his efforts to at least get an extension north to Liberty Mills from where this road turned west to go to North Manchester. But for some reason he was not able to get this extension and he at once announced that Lagro was to be marked off the map so far as Liberty Mills was concerned, and Huntington was to be the shipping point from his town. He promoted, built, owned and soon had in operation a plank road from Huntington to Liberty Mills, which like other roads of its kind, was of comparatively short life. J. A. Browne of this city remembers when as he would walk from Huntington in an early day, he would try to keep out of the muddiest places on the road by jumping from one old plank to another. The road entered Liberty Mills at an angle from the southeast, coming there from Claysville. Most of the old line of this road was abandoned at an early date and later more of it has been closed and the traffic diverted to the section lines. It was this change that put the road at the back of the Horace Rockwell house, between the house and the barn, when in an early day the road went past the front of the house, as any self respecting road should do. The line of this old road is still open through a part of Section 36, the buildings on the Frank Bowen and H. T. Tilman farms being on this road.
But John Comstock was not a quitter. He did not quit the cattle business when a few of his high priced animals died, nor did he quit his efforts to get transportation to and from Liberty Mills when the plank road rotted to pieces. He was ready to do his part when the first railroad was suggested and took extensive stock in the company, being elected as vice president of the Eel River Valley Railroad Company. That was in 1852, but that first company seems to have gone a great deal like the interurban companies that in the memory of living man were organized by Mr. Drayer and Mr. Barry. In getting out from under this deal, Mr. Comstock was glad to trade his railroad stock to a New Yorker for a stock of merchandise that his Liberty Mills store could use, at the same time sending the worthless railway stock like chickens, home to roost. Later in 1872 he again became interested in the railway as it was really being built and leads to a bull story.
Mr. Comstock owned a great deal of land through which this road, which was known as the Detroit, Eel River & Illinois, would have to pass. The matter of a right of way through this land was one that gave the promoters some concern, for they knew of Mr. Comstock’s unsatisfactory experiences with the other railroad venture. So it was not the ordinary right of way agent who visited Mr. Comstock. Instead it was D. L. Quirck, really the head man in authority of the company, who came. He did not talk railroad but let Mr. Comstock talk cattle, finally getting so much interested in cattle that he bought a $500 bull from the Comstock herd, and incidentally went away with a deed for the desired right of way and a gravel pit at about $1000 less than he had expected to pay. But $500 was not a high price for Comstock cattle, for older men remember him selling a bull at one of this sales for $3000 that was shipped to Iowa, while he on one occasion at a sale sold a cow for $175 that was so badly crippled she could hardly walk, but was bought by a fancier because of the calves she might raise.
We talk about how busy we are today, but one cannot but wonder, as he looks back into history of those early days and considering the time killing difficulties to be encountered, how men were able to accomplish as much as they did—that is, the ones who got any place. And it seems that then as now it was really only the busy man who had time to do things, either for the public or for himself. Before coming to Indiana, John Comstock was elected as justice of peace in New York, and the title Judge stuck to him as he came west. That with his fitness for the office soon made him probate judge of Wabash county, a judge who had to do with the settlement of all estates. He was elected in 1848 and held until 1852, when the office of probate judge was abolished by an act of the legislature. Before a court day, Mr. Comstock would put in extra time at home getting things in readiness for his absence and would often work until nine or ten at night. Then mounting his favorite saddle horse he would ride to Wabash, a trip through the woods and the darkness that would then often take many hours. It was frequently nearing daylighjt when mud bespattered he would arrive at a hotel. Wabash then having three, known as the McKibben house, the Center house, and the Indiana house, and after an hour or two of sleep he would appear in the court room. If there was any possibility of finishing the work by a night session, court would be continued until late at night. Then Judge Comstock would mount his horse and be back at home ready to go to work with the strongest of his hands the next day.
In those days everybody was not as smart as they are today. It is said that young men even sometimes were willing to listen to the talk of their elders in hope of learning something, rather than doing the talking as the cigarette smoking youth of today is likely to want to do. Men there are who say that it was a pleasure and almost a liberal education for them to listen to John Comstock and Dr. Lent, the leading physician of his day in Liberty Mills, when they would talk together. The doctor was a highly educated man in a day when education meant more than a college yell and half of a mustache. He was recognized as one of the most skilled physicians of his day in the whole of Northern Indiana. John Comstock, too, was educated in books far beyond the average of his generation, and coupled with that was a knowledge of the world and of men that he had gained by a life full of business and activity. When these men met and talked there is little wonder that the young men, who possibly had never seen the other side of the county, would stop and listen, and listening learn things that have helped them all along their lives. Dr. Cyrus V. N. Lent—can’t you imagine his appearance from his name? Tall, precise, silkhatted, and exact in every detail of his life and appearance. He was an early secretary of the Masonic lodge and the precision of his records are today the wonder and admiration of the secretaries of these later days, if indeed they have ever taken the time to look back and see them.
Were You Born prior to 1936 The Way We Were in 1936 by Bob
We were before television. Before penicillin, the pill, polio shots, antibiotics and Frisbees. Before frozen food, nylon, Dacron, Xerox, Kinsey. We were before Radar, fluorescent lights, credit cards and ball point pens. For us, timesharing meant togetherness, not computers; a chip meat a piece of wood; hardware meant hardware; and software wasn’t even a word. In those days, bunnies were small rabbits and rabbits were not Volkswagens.
We were before Batman, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer and Snoopy. Before DDT and vitamin pills, vodka (in the United States) and the white wine craze, disposable diapers, jeeps and the Jefferson Nickel. Before Scotch tape, M & M’s, the automatic shift and Lincoln Continentals.
When we were in school, pizzas, Cheerios, frozen orange juice, instant coffee and McDonald’s were unheard of. We thought fast food was what you ate during Lent.
We were before FM radio, tape recorders, electric typewriters, word processors, Muzak, electronic music and disco dancing. We were before panty hose and drip dry clothes. Before icemakers and dishwashers, clothes dryers, freezers and electric blankets. Before men wore long hair and earrings and women wore tuxedos. We got married first and then lived together. How quaint can you be?
In our day, cigarette smoking was fashionable, grass was mowed, coke was something you drank and pot was something you cooked in.
We were before coin vending machines, jet planes, helicopters and inter-state highways. In 1936 “Made in Japan” meant junk, and the term “making out” referred to how well you did on an exam.
In our time, there were five-and-ten cent stores where you could buy things for five and ten cents. For just one nickel you could ride the streetcar, make a phone call, buy a Coke or buy enough stanps to mail one letter and two postcards. Hot dogs were five cents a piece or six for a quarter; hamburgers were ten cents each or three for a quarter. You could buy a new Chevy coupe for $600.00, but who could afford that in 1936? Nobody! A pity, too, because gas was only eleven cents a gallon.
in One Year! By Orpha Weimer
When you come right down to it, perhaps America should take two days to celebrate and thank the Lord for His many blessings. But, personally, I’m not sure if our present day observation exactly matches the original intent. And how about the poor turkey? Could the flock stand such a massacre!
Leave it to a Roosevelt to stir up public opinion and still come out on top in a lively debate. You see, in 1939 some of us did have two Thanksgivings, in spite of a lot of unhappy and angry Americans. For those of you who weren’t around in 1939, what happened was that Frandklin D. Roosevelt threw his weight around and, by presidential decree, changed Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday.
I recall very vividly that my family, for once, didn’t have the problem of deciding with which branch of the family to spend Thanksgiving. There was enough time, with two celebrations, to get around to everyone. The College and public schools, of course, had to observe the new government edict, even if this was a Republican stronghold. It was the churches in each community that bore most of the problems. In spite of the bitter turmoil in many communities, I don’t think that N. Manchester objected too strongly.
Roosevelt held firm to his decision. He argues: (1) Thanksgiving date had not been set by any law, (2) Thanksgiving had been held on various dates in past years, and (3) the generally accepted last Thursday of November had been accepted during Civil War days so that Army furloughs could be divided between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was nothing sacred about it.
Roosevelt’s Press Secretary, Steven Early, in a memo to the President, told him, “the Protestants will raise hell!” The Protestants had more or less monopolized the Thanksgiving celebration as rooted in the Pilgrim Fathers’ observation and thinking, while the Catholic people celebrated it as Lord’s Day, but did not feature it in their church services.
Many good politicians insisted it was a Roosevelt perk to
push aside the Depression miasma and boost Christmas sales.
It did help a little. Sales
in 1939 went up 20% in New England, but only 12% in other parts of the United
Congress, which was firmly in the presidential fold, did by law, set Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, in 1941. So what? Maybe it was good sense and just something to be thankful for.
Good Times of Young Pioneers
Fun At Home
Pioneer cabins were full of boys and girls. Ten or twelve children in one family were not unusual in the early days. There was work for all of them, but they had their fun, too.
Their few simple toys were homemade. A dried gourd, its seeds loose inside, made a good rattle for the baby. An ear of corn became an amusing doll. The yellow cornsilk made pretty hair, and the husks were shaped into clothes. Sometimes a rag doll was made by cutting a doll out of cloth and stuffing it with rags or sawdust. Scraps of yarn and cloth were used for doll clothes. The doll’s cradle was carved from wood.
A top was easily whittled out of wood with a good sharp jackknife. Wood sleds and carts were homemade, too. The boys made whistles of pawpaw wood or willow. Hard balls were made by wrapping a stone with yarn and then sewing deerskin around it.
Girls strung seeds and berries for necklaces. Young girls learned to sew and knit as soon as they could hold the needles. The children played “house” as little girls will do. Broken china and stoneware, acorns, and shells were dishes. Potatoes and turnips, with sticks for legs, made funny animals.
Pioneer children often had live pets. Every family owned a dog. The men took him hunting with them and the children claimed him for a lively playmate. The children tamed squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and even crows. Sometimes they kept a fawn or a bear cub for a pet until it grew big.
On winter evenings around the fire, young and old were busy at some task. While they worked, the children told riddles, old rhymes and tongue-twisters. They sang hymns and ballads and said verses from the Bible. Corn was popped in the fireplace, and apples were roasted in the hot ashes. No one minded the long winter evenings.
Sometimes a traveler stopped at the cabin to rest, or the preacher who came every few weeks was a guest over night. Then the children sat wide eyed, listening to tales of the world beyong their cabin door. They heard about their distant neighbors in the next clearing, about raids and dangerous wild animals in the forest. They liked to hear about far-away cities and great men in Washington, D.C., and the East. Visitors were always welcome in the pioneer homes of Indiana.
Fun At School
After harvest and before the winter snow, school was held, or “kept” in one of the cabin homes or in a one-room log schoolhouse. At recess the children marched, sang and played games. The games they played were often hundreds of years old. The first settlers who came to America from lands across the sea had brought these games with them. Some of the games are still played today. “London Bridge,” “The Farmer in the Dell,” and “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” were among the games they liked best.
The big boys ran races and wrestled. They pitched horseshoes, played ball, and had high jumping contests. Anything to prove that they were strong and nimble! If a wild grapevine grew near the school, it made a fine swing for the younger children. Boys and girls joined in games of Crack the Whipl, Prisoner’s Base, and Hide-and-seek, Fox and Geese was played in the snow. At Christmas the pupils expected the schoolmaster to provide a “treat” of some kind—apples, stick candy, or an orange. If he did not, the big boys played tricks on him. Sometimes there were “spelling bees” in which pupils and their parents took part. It was a proud child who was able to “spell down” men and women three times his age.
In winter the children enjoyed coasting down hill on their homemade sleds, just as you do. When the rivers and lakes froze over they skated on the ice. Very lucky was the boy or girl who owned a pair of homemade wooden skates.
Boys took pride in catching mink, muskrats, beavers, rabbits, and other small animals in traps. They earned money by selling the furs. The boys went hunting with their fathers to get meat for the table. They knew how to shoot pigeons, quail, wild turkeys, deer, and rabbits.
Sometimes a boy’s best friend was an Indian lad. The Indian boy taught his white friend how to set a trap, how to imitate the calls of birds, and how to recognize the tracks of animals in the snow. He taught him the secrets of the forest.
On fall and winter nights the older boys went on coon and possum hunts. They carried lanterns or blazing knots of wood. Their hunting dog found the animals and chased the coons and possums until they ran up the trees. The boys followed and killed the animals.
In early spring boys and girls had fun helping in the sugar camp. The maple trees were tapped for their sugar water, or sap. A spout was fastened in the tree and a pail hung on a nail to catch the sap. Fires burned under big kettles night and day, while the sap was boiled down into maple syrup. Delicious candy was made for the children by pouring syrup on the snow to harden, or into pans to be stirred into creamy sugar.
Spring time was planting time. Flocks of greedy crows flew down into the clearings to eat the corn as fast as the men planted it. The younger children had to play in the fields with noise-makers to scare away the crows. They shouted and blew horns and whistles. They beat pans and rang bells to frighten the crows and black birds away.
Summer was the time for fishing and swimming. Any boy could cut a fishing pole and dig some worms for bait. There were all kinds of wild fruits and berries to gather in the woods. With the cabin door and window open, the family seemed to live out-of-doors. The long summer days made it possible to visit the neighbors, the small towns with picnics, speeches, and the shooting of guns.
In autumn the grain was harvested. Potatoes and onions were dug. Vegetables from the garden and fruit from the orchard were stored away for winter. Boys and girls gathered walnuts, beech, hickory and hazel nuts. Wild geese started flying south in such great numbers that they were easy marks for young Hoosier hunters. Flocks of passenger pigeons stopped to feed upon the fallen nuts in beech and oak groves. They were easily shot or knocked off their roosts at night.
A trip of any kind was exciting to pioneer children. Even a trip to the mill to have corn or wheat ground into flour seemed important. In later days they went to the crossroads store or blacksmith shop. Sometimes a boy and his father went in a wagon or on a flatboat to one of the Ohio River towns, taking along some crops and animals to sell. They brought back cloth, tools, salt, coffee, tobacco, pins, and needles. The boy told his sisters and brothers stories of the wonderful sights he had seen in the busy river town.
Fun With Grownups
When a rider trotted up to a cabin door to invite the family to a party at the neighbors, the children jumped up and down and clapped their hands. Everyone for miles around, from grandparents to babies, drove across the prairies or through the woods to attend the party. In the best room of a large cabin the young men and women played singing games. There was a gay whirling of skirts and thumping of heavy boots as they sang and acted out musical games like “Weevily Wheat” and “The Miller Boy.” The children looked on from the kitchen. They kept time by clapping their hands, and tapping their feet, and imitating the dancers. After the games were played, a late supper was served.
Husking corn was turned into a party. Young people were invited to a neighbor’s barn. They sat in a circle and pulled the husks from the ears of corn. When a young man uncovered an ear of red corn he could kiss every girl in the circle. When a young woman found a red ear, she could be kissed by every boy. The party always ended with a supper of roasted chicken, baked ham, pies, pickles, preserves, hot bread, and two or three kinds of cake.
The grownups made parties of their quilting bees and log rollings. The women of a neighborhood gathered to help sew and tie a quilt. The children went along and played together. The men helped roll logs for a pioneer who was clearing a field of trees. The neighbors formed teams and made a game of chopping down the trees, cutting them into logs, and then rolling them into piles for burning. The team that cut and rolled the most logs won a prize. The children were on hand to cheer and dance around the bonfires. A big picnic feast out doors ended the day.
Taken from the Indiana Historical Leaflets No. 5. Published by the Indiana Historical Bureau, State Library and Historical Building, Indianapolis 4. Compiled by Mabel Leigh Hunt, edited by Professor Joy M. Lacey, Indiana State Teachers College, and illustrated by Clotilde Embree Funk.