Whitlock - Ambrose - Montgomery InGenWeb Project

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Whitlock - Ambrose

Source:  Montgomery County, Indiana H. W. Beckwith, 1881 History of Montgomery County, Indiana (Chicago: Beers) p 162

Ambrose WHITLOCK, Esq, of Crawfordsville, Montgomery County, Indiana, whose portrait appears in this work, departed this life June 26, 1873 at the advanced age of 96 years, having been identified with IN before its organization as a territory and ever since it became a state. He had been gradually wearing away for months; yet such was the tenacity of his iron constitution, hardened by habitual temperance, and exercise in the open air, that on the eve of his departure he appeared as though he might survive many days longer, even weeks and months. On the morning of his death he requested to be carried out in his chair that he might once more enjoy his favorite seat in summer under the shade of a tree on the lawn which had been planted by his own hand, and had become in size one of the monarchs of the forest. He had been seated only a few minutes when he was observed by the attendants to have closed his eyes, as if in a doze, and on approaching him they found the vital spark extinct. Maj. Whitlock was born in the then colony of Virginia in May 1767. He entered the army of the US in 1788 as a private soldier, and by his merits soon rose from the ranks and was commissioned an officer in one of the regiments of infantry. He assited in the erection of Ft. Washington, now the city of Cincinnati, at which time the only dwellings in the Western commercial emporium were a few log cabins. In 1790, he served as a soldier in the army commanded by Gen Harmar, in an expedition against the Indians on the Maumee, in which, as he emphatically asserted to the present writer, "Harmar was not defeated," as the books relate, for he with the bulk of the army, including the regulars, was not with 30 mi. of the place of his reputed defeat; yet the purpose of his campaign was frustrated by the rashness of 2 militia regiments of mounted riflemen, who could not be restrained, and were massacred almost to a man near what is now the city of Ft. Wayne. He served under Gen. Wayne in his expedition against the Indians in 1794, which resulted in their overwhelming defeat, on the Maumee, near what is now Toledo, and led to the treaty of Greenville in 1795. It was during this campaign that he assisted in the building of Ft. Wayne, where he was stationed for some time. Having risen to the rank of captain he was stationed at Ft. Massac, ILL on the lower Ohio, and at other places in the southwest, and served with that part of the army which constructed to great military road from Tenn through the Choctaw and Cherokee countries to Louisianna. Underthe admin. of Pres. Jefferson he was appointed paymaster, with the rank of major of the US Army, in the Western and SoutH. W. estersn departments. While officiating in this capacity he carried his funds in keel-boats to the military stations on the Mississippi, Ohio and Wabash rivers, amid the dark domains of savage life, the boats being propelled by soldiers, who also acted as a guard; and on horseback over the vast prairies of Illinois, and through the forests of Indiana. In this hazardous employment hundreds of thousands of dollars passed through his hands to the soldiers without the loss or the misapplication of a cent. At the memorable interview between Gen. Harrison and Tecumseh at Vincennes, in 1811, Maj. Whitlock was present and his account of that affair puts a very different face upon the transaction than what has been usually delineated. After the termination of the War of 1812, somewhere about 1817, Maj. Whitlock retired from the army to Civil life, and in 1822 was appointed receiver of public money in the land office, which, by the direction of the Hon. William H. Crawford, the sec. of the treasury, he located at the place which he called Crawfordsville, after the name of the disginguished secretary, who was his personal and political friend. In this office he continued discharging its duties with his wonted strict integrity until 1829, when, under pretense of some defalcation, which, however, proved to be false, and the government shown to be largely indebted to him (a debt which has never been paid), he was removed. While he officiated as receiver a portion only of hte paper currency of the country, for several years, was receivable at the land office, and sometimes those who went to enter land would be deficient a few dollars in land office money to pay for the land selected; in such instances, Maj. Whitlock would give them receipts in full, and trust them for the amount of the then current money. If they offered to give their notes he refused to receive them, saying, "If you are honest you will pay me without giving your notes, and if you are dishonest, you will not pay if you do give your notes." This is one of the many instances of his kindness of heart, and of his well known reputation and character as the poor man's friend. Maj. Whitlock was, in all his relations and doings, a man of unbeding integrity. He was so from an innate sense of right and justice, as he was in subsequent life from Christian principle. He never knowingly wronged any man, and he was scrupulously just and upright in his dealings with the government as in his private business transactions. "An honest man, the noblest work of God," would indeed be his appropriate and truthful epitaph. An instance of this, and at the same time of his outspoken western manner, occurred in Washington City under the administration of Pres. Monroe. He went to the proper office in the treas. dept. to have his accounts audited. In the settlement he discovered an error in the accounts as kept by the clerks of some $50,000 against the US and in his favor. He knew it to be an error, and so told the clerks, adding: "You don't know how to keep books here." The clerks felt themselves insulted and ordered him out of the office. "Yes, said he, "I will go and bring your master to look into the matter." He went to the sec. of the treas., his friend, Mr. Crawford, who accompanied him to the auditing office, and upon exam. found the major was right and the clerks utterly wrong, and that there was in truth $50,000 due the government, which the upright soldier, honest even to sternness in his demeanor, instantly paid, and his account were closed. This act carries with it its own comment. Maj. Whitlock was a sincere, unostentatious Christian, and exemplified his faith by a consistent life and conversation. He was a liberal contributor to the parish of St. John's Church, Crawfordsville, of which for many years he was the Sr. Church warden, donating the commodious lot on which the Church stands, and gave, it is believed, the larger part of the money expended in its erection and subsequent renovation. He was a devout attendant on the services of the Church as long as his failing strength and increasing infirmities would allow. He died in full communion, departing in "a reasonable, religious and holy hope of ressurection unto eternal life," through the atoning merit of the Saviour, in whom he put all his trust and confidence, and whom for many long years he had endeavored to serve, "with a pure heart, fervently," striving in all things to maintain, "a conscience void of offense toward God and man."

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