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This is a series of articles written for the North Vernon Sun, beginning on April 22, 1920.

     I became a citizen of North Vernon in May, 1866. It was a crude town twelve years of age, containing several hundred houses and a few streets which differed little in appearance from the commons of which they then were a part. With few exceptions the residences were cheap frame buildings, one story, some with and some without yards. About half the business houses were built of brick. Pavements were of scrap stone, except in front of two new business buildings belonging to Colonel Hagerman Tripp, now occupied by Rheinhart Gauthier, which were of undressed flagging, smooth on top and each stone reaching from the building to the gutter, making an excellent walk.
    In 1867 John Wrape and Abe Morgan built the three story brick now occupied by C. F. Schierling, and laid a cutstone pavement on both Fifth street and O. & M. Avenue. Fifth street did not extend south of O.& M. avenue, but a large three story furniture factory belonging to Thomas C. Jones and W. D. Evans was standing where one corner would now be in South Fifth street and fronting on Madison avenue, extending a considerable distance down. Where Central Block Conner's restaurant, North Vernon National Bank and South Fifth street now are was a log yard, and where the Iron Clad and others have put up buildings was the frame of what had been a saw mill, the machinery removed but the tall brick smoke stack still standing. John Bernard has a small frame restaurant on ground now occupied by Conner's restaurant. John Hemberger kept a hotel where the Metropole now is, but the building has been enlarged and another story added. David Shreve conducted a livery stable on ground now covered by Stein's building. George Helmick made stylish boots in a small frame building on the corner where now is Tech's store, and his honorable competitor at the craft, John A. Adams, was on the ground upon which the Central Garage is now building an addition to their plant. Next east of Adams, Edward S. Whitcomb was then erecting Whitcomb's Hall which when completed was the best hall in the county. A. S. Conner published the Plain Dealer in the room above the one in which it is published today. I became his partner. Hoosier street from Fourth to Sixth was much the best graded and finished street in town, which is saying little for it. Six months of the year there was mud everywhere. The Louisville and Big Four railroads had not been built.
    North Vernon was incorporated as a town in 1867 with the same boundaries as now, except that slight additions have been made to the second ward, mostly of additions platted. The two days road work was mostly depended upon, to improve the streets, at first wholly, but later a few improvements were made to grade and taxed to abutting property. The grades adopted were poor ones, and afterward the city regraded all of them, but they were important then, and marked the beginning of the town shaping itself up. In 1869 the Louisville branch of the O. & M. R. R. (now B. & O. S. W.) was built, and the right of way through Main and other streets granted by the town board. Except for this railroad Main street would undoubtedly have become one of the principal business streets, Jennings would also be more important than it is. The company purchased the lots for the use of the_____________ and erected the bridge on Poplar street, first getting consent of the town board. I think it was in 1873 while I was postmaster of North Vernon, the postoffice being in a small frame building on ground leased from Henry Meyer, now occupied by the west room of Tech Brothers department store. The mud was deep in every part of town and there was not a street crossing anywhere. Henry Wrape was owing a considerable amount of delinquent taxes. He and I boarded at the same hotel, the Snodgrass House, and I asked him whether he would not lay a crossing over Fifth street, north side of O. & M. avenue, and allow the cost to apply on his taxes, as there was little money in the town treasury. He said he would gladly do so. He was in the stone business. To my question as to the cost he said he would lay stepping stones at a dollar and sixty cents each. I went before the town board at their next regular meeting, stated what Wrape would do, and called their attention to the fact that the crossing in question was covered with three or four inches of thin mud and was every day used by a large number of people. They all laughed heartily, got off numerous jokes at my expense and guyed me in various ways. Finally Alanson Andrews, one of the board, quieted down and said it would suit him as he crossed through that mud every morning to get his mail, and he again laughed. As I seemed to have entirely failed to interest any one of the board I turned to leave the room which was in the Robinson building, now the Big Four passenger station, when Colonel Hagerman Tripp, another member of the board, asked me to file a petition asking for the crossing. They granted the petition and the stepping stones were laid. This was North Vernon's first street crossing.
    In 1873 many citizens of North Vernon believed that the safety of the people demanded a government stronger than that of a town. Tramps had become numerous and were increasing. They were frequently aggressive and impudent. Many women fed them because afraid to refuse. The streets were not lighted and robberies at night were frequent. Accordingly the preliminary steps were taken to change to a city. The question was submitted to a vote of the people on April 10, 1874, and defeated by a majority of 63. But life and property became more unsafe, increasing as time passed. Robberies and burglaries became more bold and numerous. On dark evenings men were held up by footpads on the streets and their money taken from them. One man was murdered and his body placed upon the track of the Louisville railroad between Jackson and Walnut streets. Again a vote to incorporate as a city was taken on March 6, 1876, and carried 204 to 95. An election held a month later resulted in choice of J. C. Cope, mayor; Henry T. Vawter, marshal, James McCauley, clerk, Abraham Doll, treasurer, A. H. Herod, assessor; councilmen, Jonathan M. Jones, David Overmyer, David Bay, Frank Riehl, Henry Knoll and Riley Elliott. The council met May 8 in Meyers Hall and organized by electing J. M. Jones president pro tem, A. G. Smith was appointed city attorney. Later he declined to serve and Alanson Andrews was chosen to fill the vacancy. Joseph Pietzuch was made city engineer. A resolution was adopted fixing the second and fourth evenings of each month for regular meetings, Mr. Overmyer offered a resolution to reserve Bids at the next meeting from the Plain Dealer and Sun for the county advertising for the next year. At next meeting it was awarded to the Plain Dealer as the low bidder. The work now before the council was to as rapidly as possible make the new city slightly, safe and comfortable. It was a large task and the difficulties were many. About 3200 was turned into the treasury by the late town. A million was needed, as half that sum is needed today. An ordinance was passed levying a tax of 70 cents for expenses and interest on bonds, and $1 on each dog. The dog tax was unpopular and petitions for its repeal were presented and refused. Liquor licenses were increased from $25 under the town to $100. This caused much ill feeling on the part of some, but was enforced.
    A city hall was necessary. It was agreed to vacate 6th street south of Buckeye and J. M. Jones appointed to arrange matters satisfactorily with Mrs. Gaughan. Joseph Pietzuch was architect, and the contract let to Caleb Whitmore, the lowest bidder, $3000. Bonds were issued to pay for it. These were sold to V. C. Meloy at par. At the time of the city organization O. & M. avenue north of the railroad followed the middle section landline to the north and south highway on the west side of the Penniston farm and separating it from the Tate farm, now owned by J. D. Cone crossing the railroad near the eastern end, making it necessary to recross to get to the Butlerville road. Colonel Alanson Andrews consented to donate the land necessary to remove the street to the north side of the railroad, eliminating both crossings. The city set back his fence and graded and macadamized the roadway. It now separated the railroad from Jared L. Thompson's land.
    After serving on the council three months Mr. Overmyer resigned and W. D. Evans was elected by the first ward to fill the vacancy. Up to this time Mr. Overmyer had written all ordinances, afterwards he wrote them as long as I was mayor. The city had not yet reached the point of paying the city attorney a salary and requiring him to write all ordinances. He received only the fees of his office, $2 for each conviction.
    A culvert was built on Jackson street, the grading of the streets ordered by the town board was completed, a sidewalk on Hoosier street in front of W. H. Siddell's property. Street crossings put down on Second, College, State, Jennings, Chestnut, Hoosier and Fourth, Second and Fifth and Fifth across Kellar. Streets were graded; Main to Louisville railroad, north side of O. & M. avenue its entire length, Walnut southwest of State to Cook and Conner's addition, Hoosier was sidewalked, graded and macadamized. Sidewalks were laid on part of Walnut, city hall to J. M. & I. railway, State from Main to Louisville railroad, Jackson, Jennings, numerous repairs on Walnut, south side of Hoosier to Washington. A culvert was laid under Walnut on the southwest side of State to a storm sewer which the railroad company had built to protect their tracks from the waters which were thrown upon it from the sides. This carried the water off the surface until Walnut street roadway was recently paved when the floods were again thrown upon the tracks of the railroad. Fifty cents a yard was fixed as the price of gravel delivered upon the streets.
    I prepared an ordinance for the planting of shade trees on all graded streets and those of natural or nearly natural grade, the cost to be taxed to the property, which would have been about a dollar a lot. It would have become a law but Mr. Jones and Mr. Evans differed as to where shade trees should be planted. One would not vote for it one way and the other would not the other way. So it received only two votes, Bay and Jones. Another vote and the casting vote of the mayor would have almost covered the town with shade trees.
    At the time of the organization of the city government the railroad street crossings were of plank about eighteen feet wide, with water running under bridges which spanned the ditches and formed a part of the crossing. I notified Mr. Hazlett, who was agent of both roads, the J. M. I. & O. and M., that they must all be extended to the width of the street including sidewalks. He promised to inform his companies, and afterward told me he had done so. On the southwest side of the J. M. I. now Penn. A deep ditch had been torn out of the slate, bottom and sides, by the rush of waters thrown into it. It was afterwards converted into a storm sewer, and is now covered by the streets, the park, and the Pennsylvania station. Getting no results Hazlett again notified his companies. Again he got no results. I then wrote headquarters at Indianapolis and Cincinnati. They instructed their agent to tell me they would look after it. This was repeated. Many months had now passed and we were still where we started so I decided to do something more effective. I wrote an ordinance requiring railroads to be planked the full width of the streets at all crossing, and that if they did not do so they should be fined five dollars for each day such crossing had been in that condition. The companies were notified, but again did nothing. The ordinance had been adopted by an unanimous vote. Judgment was taken, and I gave marshal Vawter an execution with instruction to levy at once, which he did.
    Two days later after the Madison train had passed south Horace Scott, Vice-president of the J. M. & I. called at the mayors office. He demanded to know why we had taken judgment against them because of the street crossings. I told him that we had made every effort to get them to make proper crossing, but without success, and had adopted what appeared to be the easiest and surest way of getting them. He said the city should have put them down and sent the company the bill. I told him probably so, but that we preferred the course taken. I took him to the Hoosier street crossing, which he informed me was much better than average railroad crossings on a street of the same importance. We were unable to agree. I then took him to the WalnutFifth street crossing. I called to his attention that it was eighteen feet wide with no railing at either end and a ditch four feet deep under it, being unsafe for teams or even pedestrians. He assured me that they had many crossings not as good as this, over which a 100 teams passed to where one passed here. I admitted the truth of this but informed him that we wanted to get our town in better, more slightly and more comfortable condition all over, the railroad crossings with the rest, that we were giving attention to streets, alleys and all other things and the J. M. & I. must join in and help. He was not convinced. I then called his attention to the tool house of the section men which stood where the city scales now are.
    I asked him to have it removed further from the center of town as it was unsightly where located. But to him it looked as well as anything in that part of the city, and he saw no reason for changing its location.
    I took him to look at the new city hall, nearly completed, but he was not interested. After dinner I found him again and he was still wearing his fighting clothes, which continued until about three o'clock, when suddenly he changed wholly. His train north would come at four. He asked that we cancel the judgment, when, he said, that they would make the crossings entirely satisfactory. This I agreed to do. He mentioned that we had a very creditable city hall and he was not surprised that we wanted the tool house removed to another locality, and said he would see that it was done. The crossings were made vary much as they are now and the tool house was removed to its present location.
    The O. and M. now B. and O. had two men they sent to settle troubles along their line. If they wanted to quarrel they sent Theodore Gazlay, a Cincinnati lawyer. If they wanted to adjust matters they sent Mr. Beecher, an attorney of Fairfield, Illinois and their solicitor. They sent Mr. Beecher here. He promised that they would do all the ordinance required. And they did. Right of way to V. G. and R. railroad, now Big Four was granted in 1879.
    Before the May election, 1877, much complaint was made that improvements were being made too rapidly because of the expense. Mark Robinson led making this objection and became a candidate in the second ward for councilman and was elected, succeeding Frank Riehl. In the first ward P. C. McGannon was chosen as successor to J. M. Jones. Improvements went forward, however, faster than before, the city being in better condition to improve. The city treasurer's repost showed $3503.62 collected from all sources the first year, with a balance of $304.88. Bonded indebtedness $5,500, $2,500 bridge bonds, inheritated from the town and $3,000 city hall bonds, all of which were paid off as rapidly as they matured.
    In the May, 1878 election J. C. Cope was reelected mayor and H. T. Vawter, marshall; Dr. J. S. Ewan, clerk; W. F. Wilkerson, treasurer; Henry A. Willman, assessor. J. B. Miller succeeded Henry Knoll on the council, other two being reelected. Mark Robinson was made president pro tem of the council and Chapin F. Green, city attorney. City advertising was awarded to W. G. Norris for $36 per year. Pumps were ordered put in all wells on city property and on streets. A fire ordinance was passed, providing in what parts of the city frame buildings might not be erected. Cotton & Reed of Vernon were given a contract to make a fire truck for $76. $1500 of bridge bonds nearly due were ordered paid, and the $1,000 at maturity.
    At the May, 1879, election Mark Robinson was succeeded by Hugh Dorsey, the only change. P. C. McGannon was made president pro tem. The city advertising was awarded to C. D. Shank at $25 per year. J. L. Yater was chosen city attorney. A petition of Catherine McGee and others for vacation of five feet on each side of Chestnut street was refused. $1,000 of city hall bonds were paid.
    In 1880 Charles D. Shank was elected mayor, Henry Knoll, marshal; Abraham Doll, treasurer, and Henry Miller, clerk; Councilmen J. C. Cope, Hugh Dorsey, Riley Elliott, Chris Maus, P. C. McGannon and V. C. Meloy. W. D. Evans was made fire chief, Dr. J. W. Kyle, health officer and David H. Hahn, city engineer. C. D. Shank, the only bidder, was awarded city advertising. All streets in Tripp's outlots were vacated, that the fair grounds might located where they now are. An ordinance was passed providing for the opening of High street to the bridge which was done later.
    In 1882 J. H. Passmore was made mayor, Willis N. Mitchell, marshal, D. B. Reeder, clerk, A. S. Conner, treasurer. On the council McGannon was succeeded by A. A. Tripp, Cope by B. F. Hargrove, and Maus by Dr. J. W. Kyle. A year later Meloy was succeeded by N. A. Piper and Dorsey by David Bay. $2000 stock was taken by the city in the North Vernon and Hardenburg (Hayden) pike and bonds issued. Washington Park was sold. Few improvements were made during that or succeeding administrations.
    In 1884 B. F. Hargrove was elected mayor, Louis Reichle, marshal, D. B. Reeder, clerk.
    In 1879 my last year as mayor, I was anxious to open a road to the city cemetery, a desire in which all members of the council shared. The road used from the opening of the cemetery to this time was to follow Fifth street north near German, turn up the ravine a distance, then wind up the hillside to the gate, which was near where it is now. Gallus Krichner was originally the owner, but in 1879 the title was in John Niklaus, of Madison. I wrote Mr. Niklaus and soon afterwards he called at the mayor's office to talk about it. I took him in a buggy over the usual route. He admitted that there ought to be a better road, and said we were at liberty to make it where we pleased and he would make no charge. To my request that he show where he would prefer to have the road located he told me to put it wherever the council wanted it and it would be satisfactory to him. No man could have talked better. The council had a survey of the route made and a plat sent to Mr. Niklaus with a donation of right of way for him to sign. This he returned in person but would not sign, evading saying what he would do. The council wanted to get along peacibly and postponed action. Then followed letters and conversations. He answered letters by coming to North Vernon as his business called him here frequently. Months passed, and finally late in the fall he refused to do anything. In council we agreed that if we had to force a way we would extend Fourth street, as the easiest and best, but it was now so late in the year that the whole matter was postponed till spring when the council opened it as it now is.
    They also graded Madison street to Hoosier, Scott street to the Fair grounds. Pierce street was graded, Walnut street was regarded, to its present grade; Sixth to Kellar. The contractors claimed Sixth completed and the civil engineer so reported. It was resisted in the council and Miller and Cope appointed a special committee to examine and report. They reported that the wall on the west side should be taken down and rebuilt and street at German and north thereof cut to grade, which was done, and the street received. O. and M. avenue was regarded from Fourth to Fifth. Madison street on southwest side was graded from Washington street to north corporation line. A continuous sidewalk was laid from the fair grounds to the business part of town. The city was now pretty well sidewalked, State street, except between Main and the Louisville railroad, being the most neglected important street. All sidewalks laid by the city, up to 1882, were of flagging undressed, but fairly smooth, and usually four and a half feet wide. Portland cement had not yet appeared, but when it did it immediately superseded all other material for that purpose. Many flagging walks have been taken up and relaid with cement.
    Soon after the city government was established an effort was made and finally was successful to lay a walk to the school house, which was the old building north of Miller's factory and lumber yards. Four-fifths of the children followed the J. M. & I. railway tracks to a point opposite the school house, descended to the foot of the railroad bank and crossed the commons to the school building. From the railroad was often through soft mud several inches deep, shockingly unfit for children to wade through. Yet the movement met with much opposition, even on the council, mainly because of the cost. Finally a board walk was laid between Miller's factory and the railroad and across the marsh to the school grounds. From the beginning in laying walks the aim was to get them to schools and churches, because many women and children attended them.
    In 1877 there was a general strike of the employees of the O. & M. railroad which lasted five days and was a complete tieup, while it continued except of mail trains which were allowed to run on regular schedule. The men had just cause for their extreme action, for they had had no pay for three months and were without money, without credit and hungry. There was no violence or disorder in North Vernon, nor did the men gather in groups about town, but mostly remained at their homes. The company attempted to run two freight trains through from Cincinnati to St. Louis, one following the other. The first train came into the city at high speed intending to cross the J. M. & I. without slowing down. Some person having a switch key said to be Omer Boone, who was not then an employee of the road, though he was afterwards, and I think had been before, turned the switch and ran the trains onto the Louisville track. Necessarily the attempt failed. Marshal Vawter arrested the engineer and brought him to the mayor's office. When some one asserted that he was running at speed of 40 miles an hour the engineer answered that the speed of his train badly beat any forty miles an hour. The company complained that they had less protection at North Vernon than any other station, but I suspect that they said the same at other points. In 1879 there was much talk of the V. G. & R. railroad
    _______________now the Big 4, Col. H. Tripp, Col. H. Prather, David Shreve and myself drove to Greensburg to assist in its organization, stopping over night near Letts with a farmer named Robbins, who was quite friendly to the enterprise. The company was organized and the road built and April 14, 1881, one train a day each way, a mixed train was put on regular time. It was built by the Big 4 road, and eventually turned over to them.
    This being the last of my series of articles giving incidents of the city while still young, I will begin by referring to two things regarding which I have no personal knowledge. Colonel Hagerman Tripp informed me that the crossing here of the B. & O. and Pennsylvania railroads is 620 feet above the ocean level. At the same time he stated that the highest point on the Pennsylvania between Madison and Indianapolis is at the top of the grade near the north corporation line of North Vernon, and of the B. & O. S. W. at the top of the grade this side of Pierceville. Also, when H. W. Miller put in the sewer along Walnut street fifteen or twenty years ago, when opposite the lots owned by Clifford Eckstein he found the entire depth of the sewer, about ten feet, to be in made earth. I found no person who could give any information as to when or by whom it was put there. A few months ago Albert Kaltenback told me that in 1859 when the first attempt was made to build the Louisville railroad, an attempt which failed, in making the cut south of State street the workmen threw the earth into Walnut street, filling a deep ravine part of which still remains in the rear of the Presbyterian church. Until in the early 90's, when J. B. Miller, David Bay and others were members of the council, all stock and fowls ran at large, pasturing on the commons. Cows and hogs were most in evidence, finding their living mostly on vacant lots and little used streets, sometimes going out a considerable distance on the highways. The music of the cowbells was heard from dawn until all good animals had retired for the night.
    In the beginning, and until the city had sidewalks and street crossings, the railroads were much used by pedestrians as sidewalks, being usually free from mud and if muddy the crossties were utilized. They were preferred wherever available.
    In the 60's and 70's the stone quarries were quite important, giving employment to many men and teams. Gallus Kirchner was the early important contractor and shipped out thousands of carloads of stone to many towns and cities. George A. Smith, with Louis Schwauke in charge of the work sent out many cars loaded with stone and lime. Later John Droitcour and Henry Wrape did business in this line extensively. Rev. J. M. Missi, pastor of the Catholic church, would stand for hours on almost every pleasant day and watch the men at work with their drills. He took much interest in all activities.
    When I came here in 1866 the postoffice was in the room now occupied by the Plain Dealer office, in the drug store then owned by Dr. M. H. Andrews, then postmaster, with Ernest Evans as his assistant. Dr. Andrews was succeeded by Richard A. Connor. I was told that the first postmaster was a man named Huckleberry, who kept a store where the German Hotel now is.
    The first fire engine was purchased during the term of George F. Lawrence as mayor, in the latter part of the 80's The streets were first lighted in the summer of 1888, with vapor lights, with James Davis, father of Don Davis in charge. The electric lights were installed during the administration of F. W. Verbarg, and their light first turned on the streets August 29, 1897. The water works were constructed during the term of W. S. Prather, and water turned on in 1892. Mr. Prather was given much credit, as the council was hostile to the movement, but finally submitted the proposition to a vote of the people and it was carried by a majority of seven. The telephone came in G. F. Lawrence's second term as mayor, I think in 1898. Paved streets were comparatively recent, during the administration of Mayor J. D. Cone.

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