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March 7, 1772 - September 28, 1855
Picture from the collection of Geneva (Ayers) Stewart owned in 2018 by Sheila Kell

    Rebecca Hammond was b. 7 March 1772 "near New Bedford, Massachusetts" and baptized at Mattapoisett, Rochester, Massachusetts on 12 April 1772 ("Records of the Second Church of Rochester (Mattapoisett)", Vital Records of Rochester, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Vol. 1, p. 54). She was the daughter of Jabez and Priscilla (Delano) Hammond. She died near Paris, Jennings County, Indiana on 28 September 1855. She was married to Samuel Lard 12 February 1801 at Woodstock, VT. (State of VT, certified copy from Woodstock Town Records, Marriages and Births).

    Samuel Lard came to Jennings Co. in 1813, when Samuel decided to migrate to Indiana, Rebecca declined to join him. Instead, she took her children back to Vermont to be with her own family. Samuel filed land entry papers in 1815 for 160 acres in Montgomery Township, Jennings County, Indiana. Their son, Samuel Jr., joined his father in 1817. They made their home there in the NW quarter of Section 27, on Graham Creek. In 1819, Samuel Jr. returned to Vermont and convinced his mother to bring the family west; their journey was one familiar to many early western migrants, down the Allegheny River by flatboat to Pittsburg, and on west by way of the Ohio River.

    Rebecca Lard left Montgomery Township in 1823 to become a school teacher in Vernon, Indiana. A cabin was built there by John Vawter to serve as the area's schoolhouse and to board Mrs. Lard as a means of payment. She was one of the first women school teachers in Jennings County and taught some of the best minds in the state.

    In 1826, Samuel started divorce proceedings against Rebecca Lard for not returning after leaving him to teach. He was granted a divorce on March 4, 1828 in the Jennings County court. Rebecca later left the Vernon area and moved to the southern end of the county. She started teaching at the school called Solomon's Temple by Coffee Creek. Among her students were Squire Billy Deputy's children.

    Rebecca Lard died on September 28, 1855 and is buried at the Coffee Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Paris Crossing. The epitaph on her tombstone reads: "she has done what she could".

    Rebecca Lard's poems, although quite old, are interesting. She writes about nature, not only the nature of environment, but also the nature of humans. She discusses beauty, death, and feelings by comparing them to natural phenomena. Lard's poems are an invaluable source of information on the life and setting of early people in the state of Indiana. It is important to learn how settlers felt about not only the land, but also about the people who were there. Lard's works are an expression of the settlers and are an important part of the literature of Indiana.

    Lard's first collection of 143 pages of poetry, Miscellaneous Poems by a Lady, was first published by David Watson of Woodstock in 1820 as Miscellaneous Poems on Moral and Religious Subjects by a Lady. She dedicated this work to her brother, Jabez Delano Hammond. In these poems, Lard talks about beauty, death, and feeling by comparing them to phenomena in nature.

    Lard's twelve-page poem, On the Banks of the Ohio, was published in 1823 as a booklet and was featured widely by many magazines and papers. This is recorded as Indiana's first published poetry by a woman. In it, she describes the landscape of the area and the beauty of the untouched nature. She talks about the native people and how dangerous they were to the survival of herself and the people with whom she lived and traveled.

....The power that form'd the hills and spread the plain,
And bade the rivers roll towards the main,
By the same fiat gave this clime to rise,
And bloom in splendour 'neath the western skies;
Crown'd with his richest gifts this favour'd land,
And pour'd his bounties with unsparing hand…
Then beasts of prey here found a resting place,
And savage men delighted in the chase.
No cultering hand improv'd the fertile soil,
But herbs and flowers in wild confusion lay,
And trees umbrageous veil'd the noontide ray…
The lofty mountains, gloomy deserts pass'd,
Ohio's blooming banks apear'd at last;
Like a new Eden opening in the wild,
Boundless to view the flowery region smil'd.
Here joyous Seasons danc'd around the year,
The vernal plains seem'd wide as nature's sphere,
And numerous rivers here meandering stray
Through fertile and then their tribute pay
To great Ohio, whose majestick stream
Rolls on to meet the sun's far-setting beam.

    In the last passage, Lard compares the area to Eden, which she references several times throughout the poem. She continues to talk about the natives and the immigrants who have settled among them. She states that the Ohio River was a very important port and means of transportation for the people of this time. She describes the villages and towns that pop up along the river, and how the people depend on this natural resource for survival.

The river's self is a stupendous port,
Where every country, every clime resort;
The great highway, by nature's high behest,
To fertile climes extensive in the West.

In the following passage, Lard evokes a muse, much like the Greek poets of centuries ago. She asks the muse to guide her and allow her to tell of the beauty of the region.

Ye gentle Muses, now inspire the lay,
While on the blooming banks I raptur'd stray;
Lead me propitious through the laureate vales,
Shew me the rosy bowers and flowery dales,
Lo! What a pleasing prospect spreads around
The woodland scenes, that with wild notes resound;
The gay luxuriant upland; while below
In deeper green th' enameled meadows glow,
Where lowing herds and bleating flocks are seen,
Sporting in richest pastures, fresh and green.
Wide are the fields and rich the teeming soil,
Unsparing bounty well rewards the toil;
And fills the hand of each industrious swain,
That turns the glebe along the furrow'd plain.

    An old edition of Lard's five-page volume of verse is maintained in the collection of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, Cincinnati and an undated clipping of the Cincinnati Gazette identifies the work as that of Mrs. Lard, "a lady of Indiana".

[Much of the above and Rebecca's gravestone reading was compiled by Sharon Seaver of Wildwood, Missouri, in 1980 as was an obituary in - Notes from Old Newspapers, Madison, Indiana, p. 119 which had been published on November 7, 1855 in the Madison Weekly Courier.]

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