This Essay written in 1931
New Ross High School
Montgomery Co. Indiana
Won a prize of $1.50
for Jessie V. Scott
Many of the most vital things of Montgomery County
have not been recorded, or if they were the records have been lost.
Our County was originally a part of the northwest Territory wrested from the British by George Rogers Clark. Over it has floated four flags, the Spanish, then of the French and later the British and last of all the American flag which was raised over it in 1783.
This County was surveyed in 1820 by Heaton and Wade, they drew us papers describing their work. Their surveying was done before any white man had residence in the County.
In the spring of 1821 William Offield built his little cabin on the banks of Sugar Creek, or what is now known as the Henry Weir farm. A marker has been placed to show the location of the cabin. Our first settler had a wife and child, but having no title to the ground on which his cabin was built, he became uneasy, and in three years left the County.
July 3, 1822 is the first date listed to show the purchase of land. It was executed through a Terre Haute land office to David Henry. This land was not far from Ladoga. The list grew rapidly.
Clark was the last township to be surveyed, 1824.
There is a legend that at one time the garden of Eden was on earth, and when God started to move it to heaven a portion broke from the main part and fell on the earth and they called it Montgomery County.
Our county was named for Colonel Richard Montgomery.
It is interesting to note the names of places, villages, and streams. Of the eleven townships, seven were named for noted men, our own for a forest tree, two for Creeks, and the central one Union, is said to be the largest township in the United States. Backville was once known as Sacranal, New Ross was once Valley City, Mace was Fredericksburg.
This is the origin of the name Balhinch, the first settle of that place was Mr. Ball. He built his cabin on a rocky ledge, which in Dutch is known as "hench" or "hinch", hence Balhinch. Everything has a history if we only knew it.
Records of facts may not be well kept, nevertheless there are many stories remembered which stand out as beautiful, pathetic, or romantic as the stories that are recorded and it is of some of these that I wish to write.
They were handed down to me by a great-grandmother whose parents had come from Virginia to our County in 1828.
When a little girl, this woman had attended school a few weeks each fall, there was no school in the winter or summer, in a small log school-house called Hopewell, later changed to Eden, which was northwest of Ladoga.
With her brother and a sister she walked two miles to school following a path blazed by her father. There was much danger of being lost in the dense woods. One evening she saw a large wolf slink across the path. But what scared the children most, one fall, was a large white bull which had strayed from Putnam County and came roaming into the forests around Hopewell School, eating up the small acreage of unfenced corn, frightening the children with his deep bellowing and charging upon any human he met. The animal was finally killed and the meat divided among the settlers whose corn he had devoured.
In this school house all sizes of children sat on rough hewed benches, without backs, facing a large fire place. Graded work was unknown. Each pupil seemed to have a different kind of book. Some used year old newspaper as readers. All had slates.
Some of the early teachers were very cruel. The little brother, arriving at school one cold morning slipped into the space in the fire-place, in order to warm his little frostbitten feet clad in home-made, cold cow-hide boots. To hurry up the warming process he struck his feet together. The teacher, a large man, took a hickory switch from his desk and at each heavy blow upon the little fellow's back, exclaimed, "Now jump."
But one teacher, a Miss Harrison, was much loved for her strength of character, kindness, and wisdom.
One teacher lived in the school house, cooking, eating, and sleeping there. By way of the scuttle hole, in the ceiling, which led to the belfry, some mischievous boys contrived to place a sheep in the attic. The next day the "befuddled" Professor calmly asked the boys to remove the sheep by the same route they had placed it there. That was punishment enough.
The Indians around this home and school were a small band known as Potowatamas, their chief was Peter Cornstalk, the creek bearing that name is in honor of him. The Indians near New Ross and upper Cornstalk were known as Wevs. These Indians were peace loving and never objected to the surveying of the land and the control of it by the white man. The small tribe led by Peter Cornstalk started with their ponies, squaws, blankets and children to the Indian reservations in Jay and Wells counties. They stopped at a pioneer home to trade for things needed on their journey. A squaw placed her small papoose, fastened on a board, at the side of the fire place. The baby did not murmur but its little snappy eyes seemed to take in everything. They were given stuffed or linked sausage, which delighted them, in exchange for an Indian blanket.
In the neighborhood was an Indian burial place and after the Indians had left, the white settlers, which were increasing in number all the time, and being in great need at times, had sought for blankets, beads and other things which might be found in these dead Indians' graves. Years afterward and Peter Cornstalk came back to visit his old hunting ground. Bitter was his sorrow when he saw how the white settlers had pilfered the graves of those he had left. And with tears in his eyes, and his head bowed with grief, said that he or his tribe had never mistreated the whites in any way and above all had never disturbed their graves and he thought it very wrong that the whites should show such disrespect to them. Yet he had only pity, no malice, for those who would stoop so low as to commit such wrongs.
The Indians burial ground became the victim of the plow, and having no markers, today is a field.
The little mounds in Charles Ewen's pasture near New Ross and also in other unplowed lands, I feel sure are Indian graves.
There was two main Indian trails through our County. A few years ago these could still be traced. They were Tecumath's trail passing from Terre Haute to Lafayette through Clark, Scott and Union Townships. Then there was a fork trail following Cornstalk Creek connecting Thorntown with Terre Haute crossing Clark and Walnut townships.
Tecumseh was a powerful chief. He was fair in his dealings and expected everyone to be fair to him. He made trips over these trails every spring and fall, spending the winter in one place and the summer in another. It is said that on one of these journeys he stopped at the home of a woman who lived alone and asked for something to eat. She had nothing but a little bread and meat but she divided it with him. On his return trip he brought her much Venison.
Before the Civil War, our County had many stations as a part of the "Underground Railroad" system - which helped escaping slaves from the Southern states to reach Canada. One of these was known to be at Alamo, another where the Elston Bank of Crawfordsville now stands.
Here are a few recorded facts; The first white child brought to Crawfordsville was Mary Ristine Sloan.
Wabash College was founded in 1833.
The first gravel road was built in 1846.
Our first railroad, the Monsn, was completed in 1859.
The first electric lights were used in Crawfordsville in 1889.
Near Alamo is the highest land in our County.
The Lafayette Pike was the first road built. Over this road the farmers would drive their hogs and cattle to Lafayette, their only market, followed by their young sons or wives, perhaps both, in wagons loaded with cured hams, bacon and barrels of home-made soap. This trip, which took almost a week, was a thrilling experience to the pioneers.
And the beauty of Montgomery County! No spot on earth is lovelier than the Sleades.
And the greatness of her! What other County has produced a Lew Wallace? A Mavrire Thompson? A Mary Hanncek Krout?
How fast changes do come! A little over one hundred years has taken us from the primitive cabin, which was not only home, but factory, school, church, doctor's and dentist's offices, - everything, to the highest pinnacle of civilization where all activities are sought outside the home.