Fountain History - various articles - Fountain County INGenWeb Project

Go to content

Fountain History - various articles

Lafayette Daily Courier,   Friday, November 18, 1859
"Fountain County   was organized in 1825, and soon afterwards the town of Covington, situated on   or near the Wabash river, was adopted as the county seat.  Shortly   afterwards Portland was laid off at the mouth of Bear Creek, and Attica near   the mouth of Pine Creek on the east bank of the Wabash.
  Terre Haute was the only river town of any considerable importance above old   Post Vincennes, and it was clearly evident from the vast body of rich lands,   lying on both sides of the Wabash river recently purchased of the Indians,   and brought into the market by the general Government, that there must be at   no very distant day, at least one large Commercial town on the river above   Terre Haute.
  As yet Montezuma, Covington, Portland, Attica, Williamsport, LaGrange, and   Lafayette were in the chrysalis state, but were ambitious to enter the list   as rivals to become the great Emporium of trade on the Upper Wabash.
  All of them being river towns, and possessing equal, or nearly equal, natural   and commercial advantages, it was hard to divine which of them would get and   keep the start in the race.
  Keel Boats and Picrogues touched at all those points, and the same pioneer   steamboats-- Victory, Paul Pry, Daniel Boone, William Tell, Facility, Fairy   Queen, Fidelity, Science, Republican and others, stopped at the wharf of each   of those towns, whenever the business of the place required it - and it was   some time before the friends of either town could say their favorite was a   "head and neck" ahead of the rest.
  The rapid growth of Crawfordsville which thus far out-stripped all other   towns in western Indiana, inspired a hope that inland towns might enter the   list of competitors, even against river towns, and forthwith sprung up Rob   Roy and Newtown, so near Attica that they cramped her energies and held her   back from making an early and fair start with the rest.
  Indeed they so cut off her trade, and hopes of success, that in the spring of   1830, poor little dwarfed Attica well nigh give up the ghost.
  Her enfeebled and dying condition excited the pity of her sister,   Williamsport, across the river, who brought her over several bowls of   porridge to keep her from kicking the bucket.
  Whether Williamsport acted from pure motives of disinterested benevolence, or   on the principal of the boy, who when fighting cried, "help Jack, fer   "help again" tradition does not inform us.  My opinion is that   she acted from the prompting of a noble and generous philanthropy.  Her   subsequent conduct and character justifies this conclusion.  I believe   that Williamsport can this day (although not as large as many other towns),   say with a clear conscience, "That mercy I to others show, that mercy   show to me."
   It may not be amiss here to mention that KEEP's store at Portland,   and SLOAN's store at Covington, furnished the most of the goods used   by the people for one hundred miles up and down the river.  Powder,   lead, salt, iron, whisky and leather, were the staples of the trade of those   days, and were exchanged for the productions of the country, such as beeswax,   tallow, feathers, ginseng, furs, deer skins, wild hops, &c.
  After a while Lafayette dashed ahead of all the rest, throwing dust in their   faces until she got so far ahead that the dust ceased to annoy them.    Portland and Lagrange being distanced, were ruled off the track. The rest   continued the race.  Montezuma and Covington kept side by side several   lengths behind Attica and Lafayette which led from the scratch. Attica in   running spread herself so that she threw so much dirt in Williamsport's eyes,   (who was so close to her) that Williamsport was compelled to fall behind, and   just kept from being distanced.
  The last round found only Lafayette and Attica on the track.  The prize   was a glittering one - bewitching and dazzling.  Attica felt her   inability to win it.  She yielded the conquest in favor of Lafayette;   nay more, she took the sparkling diadem and placed it on the brow of   Lafayette, and crowned her the STAR CITY of the West, then modestly stepped   back, like a bride's maid, blushing in her beauty, she felt that she was   second best, at any rate, and is now everywhere hailed as the brightest jewel   on the brow of Old Fountain."   INCOG
Lafayette Daily Courier, Saturday, November 19, 1859
"Having concluded my last number at Attica, I will next cross the river to Williamsport, the county seat of Warren county, and draw a daguerreotype of that town, and some of the old settlers of Warren as far back as 1829-30.
 The reader may wish to know why my peregrinations over Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Fountain and Warren counties, were so extensive in those early times?  The question is easily answered.  Being a school master, I was, of course, abroad in the land, looking up the most densely settled neighborhoods in the country, and it often took two or three of the largest neighborhoods to furnish "scholars" enough for one good school.
I ought, perhaps, at an earlier stage of my chronicles, given the reader a description of our schools in this region of country in those early times.  I now propose, with the reader's consent, to make amends for the omission by giving a brief description of backwoods schools, school houses, &c., before drawing my picture of Warren county and her pioneer settlers.
The school house, which was generally a log cabin with puncheon floor, cat-an-clay chimney, and a part of two logs chopped away on each side of the house for windows, over which greased newspapers or foolscap was pasted to admit the light, and keep out the cold.  The house was generally furnished with one split bottomed chair for the teacher, and rude benches made out of slabs or puncheons for the pupils to sit upon, so arranged as to get the benefit of the huge log fire
in the Winter time and the light from the windows.  To these add a  broom, water bucket and tin cup or gourd, and the furniture list will be complete.
The books then in general use were: Webster's Elementary Spelling Book, the Bible, English Reader and supplement to the same.  Dillworth's and Pike's Arithmetics, Murray's English, Grammar and any history of the United States or geography that could be procured by the parents or guardians of those who attended school.  Maps, Charts, Atlases and Geographies were much more scarce than at the present day.  Parents and guardians then did not have to run the gauntlet every quarter or two, to buy a new atlas, grammar or arithmetic, to suit the taste of every new teacher that successively swayed the birch in the district, at no little pecuniary sacrifice, as well as at the destruction of all symmetry and uniformity in the intellectual training of their children.
"Baker" was then spelled and pronounced the same way in all the books.  And the multiplication and enumeration tables were set down in figures and diagrams just as they are now, nor have they changed a whit since I was a boy.  The nine digits and the three R's (toasted by an American Tittlebat Titmouse as the initial letters for Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic), were then great institutions in the land as well as now.  The appropriate and classic lessons contained in the text books used in those schools were indelibly impressed upon the memories of the learners, and lasted during life.  Who does not remember the fable of the "old man who found a rude boy upon one of his apple trees, stealing apples?"  Of the fox, that was entangled in the bramble, by the bank of the river, and came near being destroyed by flies, and when assistance was offered it, declined it for the reason that a "more hungry swarm" might pounce upon him, and suck away all his blood.  And the story and picture of poor dog Tray, who got "severely whipped for being caught in bad company," and other like useful and instructive lessons, containing the best of morals, which loom like mile posts along the pathway of the past.
In my humble opinion, there was more system and uniformity in the education of the youth of those days than there is at the present time. The young man educated in any portion of our government, knew the elementary course of reading and studies pursued by any other, and all other students in the Union, from Maine to Louisiana, and from the shores of the Atlantic to the most remote log school house in the West, thus the better-enabling the citizens of our widespread and common country to understand and appreciate each other; drawing lessons, and sentiments, and household words, from the same books.
There were then no one hundred and one different spelling books, grammars and geographies to bewilder and discourage the young mind with varieties, resembling Hubiras' description of conglomeration: "An ill-baked mass of heterogeneous matter, to form which all the devils spewed the batter."
That great improvements have been made in the art of teaching, as well as in the arts and sciences taught, within the last quarter of a century, none will deny.  Mental arithmetic, the outline maps, the introduction of the of the black-board, and mathematical and philosophical apparatus into the schools has greatly facilitated the acquisition of learning--rendering it easier for both teacher and student, and enabling a larger class to look upon the demonstrations exhibited in figures and diagrams than could be otherwise be made to understand the truth or fact sought to be illustrated.
But the fact is equally clear, and to be regretted, that this easy and ready mode of imparting knowledge, often fails to make any very deep or lasting impression on the memory of the learner, who feels that he has been galloped through a multiplicity of studies, deemed necessary in the course laid down by the school or institution to which he belongs, and he finally graduated and obtains his diploma--feeling, however, that the has threaded a labyrinth through which he could not have passed without the help and side lifts of experienced tutors--who, had they kept him
much longer at this spelling and copy book, would have done him and his country far more service.
Bad spelling and chicken track chirography, is far from being creditable to a graduate of a popular college, like Dartmouth or Yale, yet we sometimes have the mortification to witness such scholastic specimens.
It was not so with those who graduated at our log school houses in the country.  They were generally all good spellers and could write a legible hand."   INCOG

Source: Nappanee Advance-News, 4 March 1971 p 11

Fountain County – In 1823, a man named Forbes ventured in to what became Fountain County and became its first permanent white settler. Other pioneers of that area were named Birch, Cocran, Patton, Cade, Graham, Nebeker and Ristine. The northeast third of Fountain was prairie land and the rest in forest when white men went in.
The county was formed December 30, 1825, effective April 1, 1825, the 54th county of Indiana. It was named for a Boone County Kentuckian, Major James Fontaine, killed by Indians in the Harmar Campaign, at the Maumee Ford in October 1790.  

Three months later county officers first met at the home of Robert Hetfield on July 14, 1826 and organized the county. They chose the site of Covington as the site of a seat of just and named the place. Daniel VandeVenter was appointed county agent, ordered to plat Covington and sell lots beginning in October 1826. The first court was also held at Hetfield’s house on the same day commissioners met. Presiding judge of the first circuit court was John R Porter and his associate judges were Evan Henton and Lucas Nebeker. County population at the time was thought to be about a thousand.  

Fountain’s first court house was built of brick in 1831 and served until 1850 when a $65,000 building was erected. The 1850 building was famous because of appearances of such lawyers as Stephen A. Douglas, Lewis Wallace and Abraham Lincoln.

Beginning around 1828, Norton Thomas and Ervin Wallace operated salt mines along the Wabash in the southern part of the county and had extensive operations for years until the Wabash and Erie Canal brought cheaper salt from the east.  

John Richardson was publicly executed by the sheriff when found guilty of murdering his wife, the hanging being done on Miller’s Branch east of Covington.

Much flatboating originated in Fountain County and many early steamboats went form the lower Mississippi up the Ohio and Wabash to Covington and other Wabash River ports.

By 1830 Fountain County’s population had grown to 7,644.  In 1832 Attica had six log houses, two of which were used as trading posts and taverns. The town blossomed with the coming of the Wabash & Erie Canal (1846-47) and several large warehouses were built. It became an important packing center and was called “Gem City of the Wabash!”

In 1836, the first newspaper, the Western Constellation was begun.  1840 population was 11,218 and growing.  In 1850 there were still 2,500 acres of public lands unsold by the federal government. The county had 10 flouring mills, 20 saw Mills, 1 woolen factory, 2 printing offices and 55 stores and groceries. There were 10 lawyers, 26 doctors and 15 preachers.

Covington in 1850 was on the main road between Indianapolis and Springfield, Ill and had 250 houses with 1,000 residents. Attica was a little larger with 300 houses and about 1200 inhabitants – and it had a bakery something few towns that size could boast of.

Sometime around Civil War days a drilling rig working 10 ½ miles below Covington hit an artesian well about 1,000’ down and got itself blown to bits by a heavy flow of mineral water and gas. For years the well blew water in a height of 15’ above the ground.  Many mineral springs were found in the county.

The first railroad was the Toledo, Wabash & Western from Attica north and east toward Lafayette. Other roads were the Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western from Vermillion County to Covington and east to Veedersburg, thence north to Stone Bluff, Rob Roy, Attica, Maysville and Riverside.  

Other communities of a century ago were Newton, Chambersburgh, Sterling, Hillsboro, Harveysburgh, Jacksonville (Wallace Post Office) and Portland.

The big Wabash & Erie Canal went through – entirely through – the county by way of Riverside, Fountain City, Attica, Portland, Covington and Vicksburg, along the south bank of the Wabash River. It was abandoned about 1873 after more than a quarter of a century of operation.
Back to content