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BRIEF HISTORY of SWITZERLAND COUNTY, IND.
quaint houses built of hewn logs and roofed with clapboards, standing like monuments to commemorate the pioneer times.
When a house was being built all the settlers would help in the "house raising" and the builder to show his gratitude, helped his neighbors in the vicinity in return.
The household and kitchen furniture at that time was very crude. The gourd, the wooden bucket, heavy copper kettles and pewter knives and forks composed the kitchen utensils. The beds were made by stretching skins over poles. The chairs and tables were made by sawing blocks off of logs and putting legs on them.
In some instances when the family was "well off" the heavy walnut furniture was brought from the mother country. They cooked over a large fire place which was kept ever burning by the roaring back logs.
Their dress was made from tanned skins sewed together by the sinews of animals. The pioneer in this odd looking suit was just as happy as the society man in his full dress suit.
The pioneer planted and harvested his crops of corn, wheat, potatoes and flax in the summer time and extended his clearings in the winter. There was a great rivalry in the raising of crops between the settlers. The story is told of the contest between Hiram Ogle and Mr. Dickason in the raising of corn. It seems that Mr. Dickason had been growing more corn than Mr. Ogle and the agreement was made that neither was to shave until he had harvested more corn than the other. One autumn day Ogle was in town and was asked: "Mr. Ogle, who raised the most corn this season? "I did," Ogle replied. "Don't you see I have shaved?"
The women were equally brave and self-sacrificing. They became so accustomed to being exposed to the dangers of wild beasts and Indians that the sense of security would almot [sic] have made them lonesome. They not only performed their own household duties, but spun the wool and flax, wove the cloth and did the family sewing, tailoring and knitting. The food consisted of potato cake, cornbread and wild game. Coffee was a rare article indeed. The story is told in the notes of Perret Dufour, that coffee was used only on Sundays. On other days the family was only permitted to smell the sack, because of the cost.
Our forefathers had many prevailing forms of recreation, such as house raisings, dances, quiltings, sleigh and hay rides, corn cuttings and apple peelings. All of these forms of diversion are more or less kept up by the descendants of the early settlers. Edward Eggleston in his books describing the traits of the Hoosiers, gives to the natives of Switzerland county many fond pictures of early sports, such as "Three Hole Cat," "Black Man" and "Hat Ball."
The first school taught was by Lucien Gex, the only study being French. Nathan Peak was the next, teaching on the farm owned by Wm. R. Protsman. James Rouse taught school in a log cabin on Ferry street near where the Russell homestead stood. A great many children of the early settlers of New Switzerland went to school in the house on lower Main street. This building is of brick and is still standing. In the early schools the furnture [sic] was equally as crude as that of the household. The benches were made by splitting a log in half and fastening legs on it. The teacher was well versed in the art of using the rod and the three R's -- "Readin', Ritin' and Rithmetic." The pupils generally commenced school
after finishing the "fall work" and quit at the beginning of the "spring ploughing."
The churches were made on the same principle as the schools. In some localities the buildings answered the same purpose. The preacher generally had a number of appointments to make. He usually rode horseback and was a very welcome guest on account of the news he brought from neighboring places
(Irene Dufour.)The people of Switzerland county have had many strange customs. Among them is the reading of the ninetieth Psalm at the death of any member of the Dufour family or their descendants, and the Mardi Gras on New Years eve.
When the first band of Swiss started for this country the father of the Dufour family being unable to come with them on account of his extreme age, read the ninetieth Psalm and asked them to read this at the death of any of the family if a preacher could not be procured. This custom is still practiced by those living of the Dufour family.
Switzerland has one custom which we are proud to say is not practiced by any other country, and that is the "Mardi Gras." On New Years eve the inhabitants meet on the streets of Vevay and parade, dressed in all kinds of grotesque costumes. We are unable to find where we got this peculiar form of amusement.
In speaking of the queer things connected with the history of the county, one must not forget the first wills recorded in the Court House. Among these is the will of Jean Daniel Morerod. This will is very unique on account of his belief in burial. He requests that he be "buried in a pine box the cost of which is not to exceed one dollar and a half." The difference between the cost of the modern burial and his was to be invested in the best wine to be served out to those who found it to their benefit to attend his funeral. It is needless to say that there was a large attendance. If one could shut his eyes and imagine he was back in those good old pioneer days, he would be astonished at the change that has taken place between 1813 and 1913.
Instead of the modern house of today he would see the quaint old log cabin with its rock chimneys and clapboard roof. The ox cart would look like a relic of barbarism when placed beside the large six-cylinder autos of today. The deer-skin clothing is now replaced by the fine clothes of the modern tailor. Instead of the farmer using the hand-rake, scythe and cradle to harvest his grain and hay, he has the modern binder, mowing machine riding rake and plough. The old fashioned corduroy roads have given way to the splendid "metal pikes" for which Switzerland county is noted.
Judging from the progress made from 1813 to 1913 one can hardly predict what will be the conditions of life in another hundred years.
Switzerland county is better adapted to agricultural pursuits than to any other industry. She was the leading hay county of the union at the time when the farmer labored with his hands only. The future prospects are bright because the people have ceased to depend on hard work alone, but have combined it with science to save labor and insure better results.
Modes of Travel.
The early inhabitants had many more difficulties to overcome in their traveling than we do today. Although
our modes of travel and transportation are none too good, they far excel those of that time.
The Indians traveled on foot and in canoes and dugouts. As birch bark for making canoes could not be obtained here, they sent either East or North for it, or else made them of hickory bark or elm bark, turned inside out. The dug-outs were made from trunks of large trees hollowed out by burning or chopping.
The white settlers upon their arrival brought with them horses and introduced the flat-boat. They used about the same overland trails as the aborigines. Along these the produce was carried on horseback to the creeks or the Ohio river, where it was loaded on flat-boats and taken to New Orleans. These boats, as the name implies, were large and flat and were shaped like scows, sometimes having a shed over the center. They were propelled by side oars and guided by a long steering oar at the stern. The boats could not be made to move very swiftly and it has often been said that they managed to keep up with the current going down stream. Upon the arrival at New Orleans, the product was sold and supplies for the neighborhood were bought. These were either taken back in the flat-boat which was cordelled up the river or the flat-boat was sold and they were taken up in row boats. When no provisions were to be bought the boat was sold and the merchant walked back.
It took about eight or ten weeks to make the trip. On the down trip the load consisted of corn, cattle, horses, pork, venison, hickory nuts, and walnuts and required almost a month to make it. The return trip took about four weeks. The load consisted of sugar, tobacco, rice and dry goods.
After while, lines of flat boats were established by companies which made regular trips up and down the river. They carried not only produce, but also passengers.
The coming of the steamboat was a great event. The first one that passed down the river was in 1811. It was built at Pittsburg by a relative of ex-President Roosevelt and made the trip in fourteen days. Another early steamboat was the "Orleans" which passed along in 1812. This was built at Pittsburg by Fulton and Livingston. It was furnished with two masts and a stern propelling wheel. Her capacity was one hundred tons. Some of the other boats were the "Comet" a vessel rated at twenty-five tons which passed in 1812, the "Vesuvius" in 1814 and the "Enterprise" a vessel of seventy-five tons in the same year.
In "1816 the "Washington" a boat of a different type passed. She had two decks where the others had only one and her boilers were placed on deck instead of in the hold. The "Washington" was the first steamboat to make the return trip. With her return trip historians date the beginning of steam navigation in the West.
Although the steamboat was the fastest way of traveling and much safer from the attacks of the Indians, it had its own perils. Probably one of the worst accidents which happened along the Ohio river was the burning of the "America" and the "United States." The "America" was making an excursion trip down the river; on board were many passengers, mostly women and children. They were dancing and the pilot, who enjoyed this pastime, had left the boat in charge of a young man who was an
inexperienced pilot, but in whom he had great confidence. Between eleven and twelve o'clock at night when but a short distance above Florence, Switzerland county, the United States steamed around the bend. The pilot on the America became excited and getting his signals mixed, held to the right instead of the left as he had signalled. A collision could not be avoided and the crash came.
On board the United States was about six hundred barrels of kerosene and gasoline. In some way this caught fire and before the boats could be separated both were in flames. The people ran to the back end of the America and as the fire came closer they jumped into the river. Many were drowned, and those who reached the shore were taken to the home of Mr. Rayl where they were cared for until their friends or relatives came for them. This accident caused laws to be passed which secured better pilots and made it unlawful to carry certain explosives on a passenger boat.
While improvements were going on in regard to traveling by water, the improvement of land routes was not neglected. The trails were widened so oxcarts and stage coaches could pass through. The oxcart took the place of horses to a great extent in the transportation of produce or merchandise.
The lawyers, doctors, preachers and other men who were compelled to travel about a great deal, rode on horseback. The invariable outfit of such a traveller was a pair of saddle bags used for carrying his wardrobe and papers. He wore a pair of heavy leggings made of green baize cloth and in wintry weather a buffalo overcoat.
Horses gradually took the place of oxen for hauling produce and doing all other kinds of work and the road wagon replaced the oxcart.
At this time the roads were owned by companies and as they charged toll for the use of them, were known as toll roads.
The road wagon as a means of traveling was much better than riding on horseback. Perhaps Mr. Riley, our "Hoosier" poet best represents the people's appreciation of the road wagon in the following lines:
"Of the times when first we settled here, and travel was so bad,
When we had to go on horseback and sometimes on Shank's mare;
And "blaze" a road fer them behind that had to travel there.
And now we go a trotten long a level gravel pike,
In a big two-horse road-wagon, jest as easy as yo like:
Two of us on the front seat, and our wimmen folks behind,
A settin in theyr Winsor churs in perfect peace of mind."
The toll house with its 'pole and sweep" has disappeared, all the roads being owned by the county.
The spring wagon which largely re-placed the "two-hoss road wagon" with its jolly crowd, is almost a thing of the past and we now have the buggy and the automobile as our chief means of traveling.
Our county, we regret to say is a little behind our sister counties in her mode of inland travel as we have neither the steam railroad nor interurban lines. Our nearest approach is the present auto bus lines which connect with the nearest railroad points.
We have now traced the modes of traveling through the many years since the settlement of our county, beginning with the canoe, dugout and ox-
cart and ending with the modern steamboat and automobile. We feel glad that we live at the present time with all its modern improvements instead of in that early period when Indian and beast were to be contended with.
Famous Men and Women of Switzerland County.
No history of Switzerland county would be complete without mentioning some of her distinguished sons and daughters. Since it would be an endless task to mention all of her worthy men and women, we will take only the deserving ones who have passed away into the home of everlasting tribute.
(Notes of Hon. B. S. Barker.)Mrs. Julia L. Dumount ranks among the first of Indiana's early educators because of her never failing ability as a schoolmistress. While yet in her youth she established the first school in Vevay, and this proving a success, she found time to wield a graceful pen, and her poems and essays were widely published at the time. "She is entitled to be called the mother of Indiana's educational advance as well as of Indiana's literature," says Mr. Parker. Her first home and schoolhouse are still standing and may be seen by sightseers who visit our little city. One of the most prominent literary clubs in Vevay has honored this "Mother of Literature" by naming their society the "Julia L. Dumont Club."
(Jane E. Zimmerman, a sister of Edward Eggleston.)Perhaps Vevay's most boasted writer is Edward Eggleston, whose Main street home still remains a place of interest to visitors. His "Hoosier Schoolboy," "The Circuit Rider" and others of his works are well known all over the country, and although some of the characters have passed away, a number of them live in and near Vevay. His first school days were not creditable but after he reached the age of ten years he was unexcelled in his studies. He spent some time in Minnesota where he was obliged to go for his health and was much benefitted [sic] by "roughing it."
(Reveille 1893 -- Notes of Vevay.)Upon his return he traveled in Indiana as a junior preacher. He was a great Sunday School worker and never lost interest in his church -- the Methodist. Besides his Indiana stories he published a "History of the United States," The Transit of Civilization," Tales of his life in New York, and others of interest.
(Home Monthly '98 Waldo F. Brown)"Aunt Lucy Detraz," [photo faces page 3] as she was called by our townspeople, was one of the earliest inhabitants of Vevay, and perhaps the longest lived. She obtained the best of her education in Louisville, Ky., where she attended school for a period of eight months. She was interesting and cheerful, a great worker in the Presbyterian church of which she was a devoted member. The author can remember her telling of how she and her parents were obliged to hide from the Indians many times, and how, when the red-skins found that the family could speak French, they pledged themselves to be lifelong friends. "Aunt Lucy" figures prominently in Eggleston's "Roxy" and nowhere else is her character so truly depicted.
She lived to be ninety years old and retained all of her faculties to the
last, although her hearing was slightly defective.
Space does not permit even the slightest reference to the many men and women who have gone out from our peaceful little city and made some valuable contribution to society. We shall have to satisfy ourselves in bringing this chapter to a close with the thought that Switzerland County is yearly turning over to society at large men and women who are helping to solve the great problems of the day in all fields of endeavor.
CITY OF VEVAY
The history of the County Seat of Switzerland County is connected with many legends and stories concerning the beauty of its environment. Situated as it is among the vine clad hills on the banks of the beautiful Ohio, whose waters flow serenely from the Allegheny mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, it has a location envied by many towns and cities in the United States. Its scenery is excelled by only a few places in this country. To us it is common; we who live here do not appreciate its beauties, while the visitors are struck by the picturesqueness of the country surrounding us.
One hundred years ago the pioneers from Switzerland, that sturdy little republic across the sea, came here and founded what was to be a new Vevay in a new Switzerland. This year we celebrate the anniversary of this founding, and remember with pride swelling our hearts, the hardships these people endured that they might find a home beneath the clear heavens where they could cultivate their vineyards and make from the grapes the wine for which they are justly famous.
When the question of a county seat for Switzerland County came up, there were four applicants; namely, Vevay, Little York (Florence), Troy (Patriot), and Center Square. The last named being nearer the center of the county, was seriously considered for a time, the people of that place going so far as to lay it out as such and to get the ground in shape. Finally, it was decided to make Vevay the capitol of the County. As we do not know the minds of our forefathers, we cannot say why Vevay was selected, but if we were to hazard a guess we would say because of the geographical location and consequently better facilities for transportation and better opportunities for people to come and go. So much for the beginning of Vevay. Now let us look for a short time upon her progress, both material and social.
About the first public buildings erected here were the taverns, kept by Thomas Armstrong, Phillip Averil, William Cooper, Samuel Fallis and others. Under the law of the time anyone desiring to sell liquor in small quantities had to sign a contract guaranteeing to have so much stable room and so many beds -- a queer law judged by present standards.
In 1814 Bazilla Clark came to Vevay and established a nail factory at the northwest corner of Main and Walnut Streets. The machinery was run by the then modern method of horse power. The nails when made sold for 25 cents per pound.
The first brick building put up in Vevay was the Court House. Begun in 1815 and finished for the October term of court in 1816.
The present Court House was completed in October, 1864. The bids for its construction were as follows: Temperly and Woodfield, $31,000; Haw-