Editor’s Note: In the early 1880’s Samuel Bowman Harrod wrote an article entitled “A Little Sketch of Pioneer Life in Scott County, Indiana,” which was published in the Scottsburg Chronicle on December 13, 1883. This sketch, and another somewhat differently composed, faded old manuscript, which is now in the possession of his granddaughters, Fern Harrod Morgan and Mabel Harrod Coons, of Austin, were used in preparing the following highly interesting and very informative article on pioneer life in Scott County, Indiana:
ORAL HISTORY, OBIT & TALL TALES--BY SAMUEL BOWMAN HARROD (1817 – 1902)--On the 17th day of May, 1816, my father, William Harrod, came from Gallatin County, Kentucky, to Scott County, Indiana. Then it was Jefferson County, and laid a claim in Jennings Township (Austin) on 320 acres, and in 1821 entered 160 acres of said claim, and in 1829 entered the remainder of the claim, it yet being vacant, as Congress sold land in payments, but did not sell less than 160 acres, but shortly after allowed the purchaser to relinquish a portion and place the payment on the remainder.
Under these circumstances my father obtained a home in the then wild forest of Scott County. While he was cutting logs to build a cabin, a little body of men, forty-three in all, met in convention in the little town of Corydon on the tenth day of June, 1816, to frame a Constitution for the new State of Indiana.
I must not forget to tell you how he got his cabin raised. During the summer he hauled the logs together and in the fall by getting a few neighbors, as a few was all, and a few men from Lexington, he raised his cabin and accomplished the work in a very rough manner. During the late fall he worked and prepared it for his little family consisting of a wife and three children, to which he brought them early in the spring on pack horses, as was the custom in those days. There my mother remained for six months without seeing the face of another woman, or but few persons save her own family.
The fall my father was working on his house there were two Indians who killed 100 deer in four days in hearing of where he was at work, so near that he could hear the report of every shot. My father became suspicious of the game being killed off so fast and determined to find out who it was that was doing so much shooting. So one evening he quit work and took his rifle and followed the sound of the guns about three miles up Quick’s Creek (but at that time the creek had no name) to where Josephus Deberry now lives.
There on the bank of the creek by a spring now used by the family, he came upon them cooking their supper. His first thought was to shoot them and he took a sight on them as they both sat on a log talking; but taking a second thought, and having never before shed human blood, he concluded to risk their friendship. He took down his gun and walked up to them and shook hands with them as a friend. My father asked them if they knew of the Pigeon Roost Defeat.
They replied that they did. He then told them that if the Collings family found them there they would kill them. He ate supper with them and afterward talked to them and persuaded them to leave, which they did the next day. That was the last of the Indians in this neighborhood.
The name of one of the Indians was Quick, so now you know why the creek is called Quick’s Creek. The source of this little stream is in Jefferson County and its mouth just above the Slate Ford, where it empties into the Muscatatuck River.
As I am spreading my story out too wide, I will close in a little and commence with the 20th of September, 1817, when the writer was born. So, you see, there is little more than a year’s difference between the birth of the state and myself. Time has made great changes in us both. The state has become great and wealthy and that is where I got behind. But as I still have a good memory, I will try to relate some of the facts of pioneer life that are in my memory yet.
The first road that was laid out to the new capital at Indianapolis ran from Bethlehem, on the Ohio River, through my father’s farm, crossed the Muscatatuck at Slate Ford, white River at Rockford and Driftwood at Columbus. Although the road is now changed, there are some parts yet on the same survey. When the viewers came through they were all on horseback and had guns on their shoulders and tomahawks in their belts, with which they blazed the trees along the route. It is no wonder they took their guns as wild animals were then more plentiful that the tame ones are now.
I have seen wild turkeys in flocks numbering hundreds, deer in herds of over 20 and have heard wolves in packs of a dozen or more howling during the night so as to make the hair stand straight on my head. I have seen wild cats in the woods in the daytime. They were very troublesome about catching our pigs and lambs. I have seen the doors of our cabin closed and barred because of the nearby screams of panthers. The claw marks made by one panther can still be seen on the door of the old log house.
Oftentimes bears would kill and carry off our fat hogs. One of our neighbors killed a bear about a mile from our house that measured 12 feet from tip to tip. Once I saw my father shoot a very large bear from the cabin door while it was in the hog lot. I well remember eating the bear meat, but it was so fat that I did not like it.
Now I will give you the names of our neighbors and the distance and course from my father’s cabin. Jacob Ulmer, a soldier of the Revolutionary War, one-half mile east; Joel Cunningham, one and one-half miles east; Parker Trulock, two miles east; John Bridges, four miles north; John Nolin, four miles north; Thomas Hughbanks, four miles south; William Pittman, one mile west; Thomas Meranda, one mile south; and old man Wilburn, who used to make counterfeit money. There were a few others whose names I cannot remember. These were in the bounds of four miles from where we lived when I was about eight years old.
The neighbors met in the woods and built a little log schoolhouse about 100 yards west of where Esq. Thomas Casey now lives, and a man by the name of John Trulock taught there the first school that was taught in this township. This was in the year of 1824. The scholars came from three or four miles without any road - their only guide was the blazes made on the trees by their parents. Now within the same bounds there are eight schoolhouses numbering from forty to eighty scholars each and six churches are now in sight of my old house which is on the same old farm. I can count forty-two houses occupied by different families. The old house that my father and mother lived and died in still stands as a monument of my boyhood.
I will continue with my story by going back to gone by days and tell you how we used to get our bread-stuff ground. We often would go ten or 15 miles to a horse mill. We would start long before daylight with two horses with gears on and two and one-half bushels of corn on each horse. When we got to the mill we would join teams with some neighbor that had the same amount and would hitch both teams to the sweep and with a boy to each team to drive them.
They would walk around after the horses from noon until dark in order to grind ten bushels. If we got hungry we parched some corn in the ashes and filled our pockets and ate while we drove. Sometimes we would take some dried venison and johnnycake with us to the mill. The parched corn and ashes was healthy in those days – only the ashes were hard on the lips. I have had my lips chapped so badly that I could not laugh or cry or even kiss the girls, though that was a luxury that was seldom indulged in by us horse-mill boys.
When we had wheat ground, which was seldom, we bolted it in a hand bolt turned by a crank. In those times cooking stoves were one of the things that had not yet been thought of, but the old-fashioned skillet used to do justice to us boys in the way of corn-dodger. While the old dinner pot that hung on the crane in the fireplace used to “bile” many a good dinner.
When there was any riding done it was done on horseback- we hardly knew what a buggy was. If the buggy subject had been mentioned all the old ladies in the neighborhood would have commenced scalding the next morning, as they had a hatred for any furniture that was buggy, especially bedsteads. I am a little like the Israelites were – I wish we were back there again where we could have our venison, hams, turkey, bacon, squirrel pie and pheasant pudding. In my memory now I can almost smell them cooking.
I have told you about the grist mills – I must now tell you about our saw mills. Well, we dug a ditch in the ground and laid two poles across the ditch. Then we rolled the log to be sawed across the poles over the ditch. Then we lined the log top and bottom the thickness we wanted the lumber to be. Then we took a whip-saw and one man got in the pit and the other on the top and they sawed to the lines. That was the kind of sawmills we had – we called them saw-pits. The lumber in the house that I was raised in was all sawed by hand and yet stands as a witness to show for itself.
I must now go back and speak of some of the customs and implements in common use in those days. The pioneers tanned their own leather in troughs hewed out of a tree trunk with oak bark and made their own shoes and buckskin pants. Horse collars were made of leather and stuffed with corn shucks. I well remember the old flax brake and swingling board, the flax hackle, the spinning wheel and winding blades, hand cars for carding wool and hand flail for threshing wheat. I also remember that the first wedding in this township was that of Jesse Parks and Dorcas Baker, and the second was that of William Trulock and Juda Stafford.
We had preaching once in a while in the woods by itinerant preachers, when often some of the men would take their guns with them and stand them by a tree until after the preaching. When I was twelve years old I walked eight miles to a meeting and then sat on a log until the preaching was over, and then walked back home without any dinner.
I must now speak of the amusements we boys had when we were not at work on the farm. It was our custom as soon as we got our corn planted to go fishing or to take a big squirrel hunt. We used to watch the dogwood blossoms, for when they were in full bloom we went gigging as the fish were on the riffles then and we could gig more, and bigger one, than we could catch with hook and line. Sometimes we would go bee-tree hunting. We often found the bees watering along the shores of the Muscatatuck or Quick’s Creek, and sometimes in the branches. We watched the course they flew and would hunt in that direction. They were not hard to find as they always watered at the nearest water.
When we cut a bee-tree we often got a good deal of honey, and often saved the bees, which was great for us boys. Tracking raccoons in the snow was another pastime for us, and when we had a good ‘coon dog we often went after night when there was no snow. When we treed them up a tree that we could not cut we would tie our coats around the tree to keep the ‘coons there until the next day when we would go back and shoot them.
I think we enjoyed life in those days better than the young people do nowadays. One reason was that they were not jealous of each other’s fine clothes like they are now. Their fine clothes depended on their own hard labor. A young lady’s fine dress went through her own hands from the cotton pod and flax plant to the wedding dress which was commonly made by the bride herself. It did not take as much goods then for a dress as it does now – six yards was a dress pattern for a grown lady, and with large sleeves at that.
Young men were married in home-made jeans- winter or summer. They did not break up their parents with laziness and fine dressing, as it common nowadays, though I must not go too fast as there are a good many boys and girls yet that have got good sound sense, though I don’t know how they would do if they had to make their own wedding-suit and their shoes, as I did when I got married in the year 1841.
Obituary of Sarah Jane Cox Harrod
Mrs. J.R. Harrod Called By Death
Old Resident of St. Augustine Answers Summons After Several Years’ Illness
Our people were shocked when word came Wednesday of the death of Mrs. J.R. Harrod at the home of her son Dr. S.G. Harrod of Eureka, Ill. For several years the deceased had been in ill health, but as she bore her suffering with a Christian fortitude, none but intimate relatives and friends knew of the serious nature of her ailment until within the last few months. Her disease was termed pernicious anaemia, and, as yet, the medical fraternity has been unable to combat it with any degree of success.
Sarah Jane Cox, daughter of James and Eleanor Cox, was born October 30, 1845, on the old homestead southeast of St. Augustine, where she spent her entire life. Few indeed can lay claim to this distinction of living for more than 70 years at the place of their birth. This being true of the deceased, it is but natural that she enjoyed the acquaintance of a very large circle of friends, each of whom bears testimony of the high moral character of her. On December 19, 1871, she was united in marriage to Jeptha R. Harrod of Scottsburg, Ind. To this union were born two children, Eleanor Regina, who died in infancy, and Dr. S.G. Harrod, who now holds the position of professor of Latin and Greek at the Eureka college.
Early in life the deceased became a member of the Christian church, and throughout her whole life, the interests of the church were very close to her heart. The welfare of the congregation in St. Augustine was in her mind during the last weeks of her life, even when in great pain, and that death was near. She was a faithful wife, a loving mother, and loyal friend, and withal a sincere Christian.
Her funeral was held from the home church on Saturday, conducted by Rev. F.L. Davis, pastor, assisted by Rev. J.W. Hiett, a former pastor, and intimate friend of the family. The following quartet of Abingdon sang: Mesdames James Cox, Grace Jameson, Messrs. W.A. Norris and E.H Dennis, accompanied by Miss Marie Lyman on the piano. The pallbearers were George W. Davis, G.L. Smith, W.T. Fitch, R M. Snapp, A. J. Hobbs and S. Gray. Interment was in the Babbitt cemetery at Old Town.
Among those from out of town attending the funeral were Prof. and Mrs. Jones of Eureka, John Page and wife of Iowa, Dr. and Mrs. P. Harrod, Dr. Wilbur Harrod, Mary Dustman of Avon, Mrs. Mattie Babbitt and son Harry, Morton Harrod of Galesburg, T.H. Roe, Taylor Babbitt, A.R. Clements, wife and son Julian, L.A. Babbitt and wife, Miss Viola Babbitt, J.W. Ogden of Abingdon, Isaac Babbitt and wife of Huron, So. Dak., and Glen Aiken and wife of Galesburg.
The deceased is survived by her husband, J.R. Harrod, and son Dr. S.G. Harrod
The following collection of four stores of the pioneering period of our country were told by Samuel Bowman Harrod (1817-1902), son of William Harrod (1779-1835) and Elizabeth New (1786-1875), of Scott County, Indiana, to his son, Charles Fremont Harrod (1856-1924), and were recorded by him for posterity. The original longhand manuscripts are in the possession of Mrs. Fern Harrod Morgan, of Austin, Scott County. We reproduce them here as written:
GRANDFATHER HARROD AND THE BEAR
Grandfather [William Harrod] was out hunting one afternoon and came upon a large black bear. He fired and the bear fell as if it were dead. He laid aside his gun, powder horn and bullet pouch and proceeded to skin bruin. His dog began to worry with the bear, jumping at it and barking. The bear was unhurt by the bullet and jumped to its feet and started for Grandfather. Unarmed he sought safety in flight, and were it not for his dog he might have been killed or seriously injured. The dog attacked the infuriated animal and made it turn at bay. Then Grandfather ran to his gun and put an end to the fight. He soon had another fine bearskin to add to his bed, for the robe made of a bearskin cannot be surpassed for warmth and beauty by that of any other of our American animals.
A STORY OF EARLY DAYS
My Great Grandfather, Jethro New, was born in North Carolina about the year 1758. He was born near Guilford Court House. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. He enlisted when he was not quite seventeen and served at Valley Forge and was present at the execution of Major Andre.
At one time he was captured by the British under the butcher, Tarleton, and was tied to a horse’s tail and forced to keep up with the Cavalry for sixteen miles over stony ground, he being barefoot.
After the war was over he emigrated to Kentucky about the year 1785 with his wife, Sarah Bowman, and his entire family. He walked at the head of his caravan with his trusty rifle, the family riding on the packs or walking and riving a few cattle the whole of the way.
He located in Gallatin County, on Eagle Creek. After living there several years he moved to Jennings County, Indiana, where he died. He reared a family of twelve children, of whom three were preachers and one, Robert New, was Secretary of State of Indiana. Of his descendants there are several doctors, lawyers, one U. S. Treasurer, one U. S. Senator, two Judges of the Appellate Court, Two Circuit Judges and one Consul General. And there is a host of honorable citizens who are proud to trace their genealogy back to the soldier boy who gave his youth to help free our beloved land from the domination of George the Third.
AUNT POLLY AND THE BEAR
When Aunt Polly (Mary) New* [1782 – 1830, daughter of Jethro New, wife of Nathan Baker, 1783 – 1839] was about twelve years old she went one evening into the forest near the log cabin which stood near the bank of Eagle Creek, in search of the cows which were permitted to pasture in the forest. While searching for them her attention was attracted toward a clump of bushes by the barking of a couple of young hounds which had gone with her. On looking around she saw two bear cubs on the branches of the small trees and while admiring them and wishing to secure them for pets she hears a cracking of brush behind her. On looking around she saw the mother bear standing on its hind feet in the act of springing on her. Fear lent wings to her feet and flying through the forest went Aunt Polly and the hound pups. Throwing off her apron and bonnet and kicking off her shoes, she outran the bear, the bear stopping to tear them up. She escaped and also forgot her desire for the pets she wanted to make of the cubs.
*Aunt Polly was the Aunt of John C. New, and was the writer’s Great Aunt. She lived to be 85 years old.
A PANTHER FIGHT
William Anderson, my Grandfather [William] Harrod’s cousin, was a hunter in the hills of Eastern Kentucky and Virginia. He had many thrilling experiences, one of which I will relate for my grandchildren.
He was hunting one time and saw two large panthers fighting. One of which had apparently killed the other. Thinking to bag two dangerous animals with only one shot he fired at the panther which seemed to be unharmed in the fight and killed it instantly. But the other was unhurt, for the two great beasts were only playing. As if to avenge its dead mate the living panther sprang toward William Anderson, who fired again, but only wounded and enraged the animal more. Not having time to reload he clubbed his rifle and then a fight for life ensued. Anderson’s clothing, which as of buckskin, was soon torn completely off him, but his agility and heavy blows subdued the beast for it slunk away and crawled into a pool of water formed by an uprooted tree. Anderson tried to get the animal out, but could not.
Leaving the panther he started for home and met some hunters who returned and killed the panther. Anderson was laid up for six months. In after years he visited my father [Samuel Bowman Harrod], and showed him some of the scars made by the claws of the tawny cat. Some of the scars on Anderson’s breast were six inches long. Anderson said that he ate the panther’s heart, and that while fighting he lost all fear of the beast and only had the animal desire to kill. That shows how near we are to the beasts of the forest.