Monday, January 19, 2015

I received a link to a great web site from Brenda Sefton Bauer who knew of my penchant for historic restoration.  It is a Chateau in the south of France which is being restored.  It is not Decatur County history, but very beautiful and interesting for a bright winter day in Indiana.  Check it out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Oscar Miller tombstone in South Park Cemetery

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Excerpts from the Memoirs of Oscar Miller written in the 1950's

Excerpts from the memoirs of Oscar Miller as told in the 1950’s
compiled by Marc Haston
The Courthouse and Its Famous Tree
The Courthouse was built in the year 1854, and at the time the large courtroom was on the ground floor and occupied the whole central portion of the building with county offices on each end. The clerk’s and recorder’s offices were in the east end of the building, and the treasurer’s and auditor’s offices in the west end as at present. In going back and forth from and to these offices it was necessary to pass through the big court room. There is a large, round stone inserted and built into the west wall, on which it is shown that Caleb Starke, William Magnus and Andra McCoy were the county commissioners at the time this courthouse was built; and it also shows that Edwin May was the architect.
The Architecture of this old building is very pleasing. Although it has stood the ravaging storms of over one hundred years, it shows but little effect of time or age. This handsome structure will today stand a very favorable comparison in grace and beauty with any of the new courthouses of the state. When it was first built the large courtroom, which occupied most of the ground floor of the building, was exceedingly ornate and beautiful. The ceiling extended to a considerable height with a vaulted ornamentation much after the fashion of a cathedral. The majestic height of the walls and ceiling of this room was very impressive. From the apex of the courtroom swung three large and elaborate chandeliers with three rows of lamps, one above the other, to each chandelier.
The judge’s desk, from which he presided, was a high elaborate affair with a good sized counter suitable for books and papers. The approaches to the judge’s platform were entered by possibly five steps on each side. This gave the judge considerable elevation above the lawyers and jury. There was a nicely ornamented fence separating the court and lawyers from the audience room, which had a seating capacity of probably two hundred people. Above the dais where his honor, the presiding judge, sat was a very large painting which represented the goddess of justice. The exterior walls of this building were constructed or red brick, but of recent years the outside walls have been coated to represent stone.
The upper part of the clock tower was actually built out of stone. About seventy-five years ago a small tree made its appearance on the south side of this stone tower. Great efforts were made by the city to destroy it by shooting it off, and they even got out the fire engine and attempted to blow the tree off, but the stream of water was not strong enough. Mr. Ripley in his “Believe It Or Not” notes proclaimed it to be one of his unbelievable wonders. This tree on the tower has now become a wonder of the world. Today it stands up there in all its majesty on the tower over two hundred fifty feet from the ground. People from all countries of the world have looked at this famous tree with wonder and astonishment. As the years have gone by, the people of Greensburg have become fully reconciled to the existence of this lofty visitor, and have done much to extend its life and perpetuate its existence.
Now, while speaking of this courthouse, I find by county commissioners’ records that my father, Augustus Miller, was a commissioner for a period of six years, from 1889 to 1893 inclusive. He had been county commissioner in Rush County, Indiana for two terms before he came to Greensburg in 1881. By serving in that office he naturally became acquainted and proficient in handling county business. I never did regard my father as a politician, but he seemed to impress the public mind very favorably. As a farmer and businessman he could be counted as a conservative. He had voted for Abraham Lincoln; and, of course, he was a Republican. I think he must have cast his first vote for John C. Freemont, who was nominated as the first man to be chosen as a candidate for president of the newly organized Republican Party. This new party was made up of the old Wig party, the Freesoil and Know Nothing parties, together with a number of Democrats who had become dissatisfied with the VanBuren-Polk administration, and the cheap and unsatisfactory money conditions under Jackson.
In speaking of my father Augustus Miller, I may have to hazard a repetition of saying something I have already said in these memoirs. My father was a man of good, sound judgment. His education was obtained from common schools of Rush County, Indiana, where he was born. He was never swept away by any isms and fly-up-the-creek schemes that might have been floating about the country to catch the unwary. He attended to his own business and did not muss around into other people’s affairs. However, he was very generous and helpful to any of his neighbors who might be in trouble or in need of assistance.
As to my father’s nationality, I think he was mostly of German blood; however, his mother may have been of English extraction.
The Commissioners Buy the Toll Roads
When my father assumed the office of county commissioner in December, 1889 there existed a large number of gravel and stone toll roads in various parts of the county. These roads were owned and operated by toll companies. Toll gates were erected and maintained by toll gate keepers, and a charge of something like two or three cents could be collected for each mile traveled. To facilitate the collection of tolls, Large poles were erected extending across the road which could be raised or lowered as occasions might be necessary to compel the traveler to pay. In effect these toll companies owned these roads, and were supposed to keep them in repair. (These roads were owned and operated similarly to the large automobile turnpikes that are at present being built in various parts of the United States.)
My father, along with other members of the board, came to the conclusion that these toll roads in Decatur County were a sort of nuisance and for all practical purposes had outlived their days of public usefulness. My father had come from a county where all roads were free. He talked with many of his constituents who had elected him, and tried to create a sentiment for the county to buy the toll roads throughout the county and make all roads free. This idea met with a happy response from the people. The commissioners then proceeded to take legal steps for the appraisement of the roads and the proper appropriations for the money were made and all toll roads in the county were transferred by assignment of ownership to the county. There was but very little opposition to the buying of these toll roads and doing away with the nuisance which had been an eyesore maintained as a back number and hinderance to the freedom of the traveling public. The businessmen of Greensburg gave great praise for the action my father had taken in buying these roads, as a barrier had been removed which hindered people from freely coming to the city to trade with the merchants. The buying of these roads was a movement in the direction of real and beneficial progress, and was such a popular movement that when it came for the election of my father for a second term, he had but little or no opposition.
Many Stone Arch Bridges Were Built
During the time that my father was a member of the Board of Commissioners the question of bridges came up. The members of the Board went together and made a thorough examination of the bridges over the entire county. It was discovered that many of the small bridges over the creeks and streams were in bad condition. Many of them had been built out of wood that had to be repaired of rebuilt from time to time, which was a constant expense to the county. My father thought this was bad economy. There was an abundance of fine stone in all parts of the county. Why not build the bridges and culverts out of stone, constructed in the form of arches, thus having no wood whatever to decay and rot out? To this suggestion the other members of the Board fully agreed; and the building of stone arch bridges was a good and economical idea, as it would not cost much more to build out of stone than wood.
At the next regular monthly meeting of the Board it was agreed that from then on all small bridges and even some of the larger bridges should be of arch construction out of Decatur County limestone wherever it was at all feasible. The other two members of the Board agreed that as Mr. Miller had had considerable experience in such matters, he be chosen personally to look over and superintend the building and repair of all bridges in the county. My father set to work to build a number if one arch bridges over the small streams where the old wooden bridges were in a state of decay and unfit for public travel. He did these small jobs with a gang of men consisting of good stone cutters and stone masons who were well adapted and proficient in this class of work. In all cases plans and specifications were drawn by a competent engineer; and it was my father’s business to see that these plans were carried out. However, where the creek was so large that a bridge of more than one arch would be required, he would be advertised and let to the lowest bidder. But father would always stick to stone construction, and would never advise that bridges be built of wood or iron, for all the creeks and streams in the county. His old Dutch or German ideas were to build to build out of stone which would last for untold ages. He contended that iron and wood are both perishable, while stone arch bridges are beautiful and will last for many generations yet unborn. He has long since passed away, but many arch bridges still stand as monuments to his good judgment and unselfish labor while he was among the living.
The building of stone bridges became so popular on account of their durability and moderate cost of construction that scarcely any other material is now used in Decatur County. The large stone bridge that crosses Big Flatrock River on the entrance into the town of St. Paul was built completely out of stone with high stone parapets to protect the traveling public. This bridge has a series of five arches, all built out of beautiful blur limestone; and the foundation of each arch is securely imbedded in the solid rock that extends under the bottom of the river. This bridge is wide and commodious for automobile travel. I think it was constructed after my fathers term of office had expired; however, it is a fair example of many of the arch bridges that were built while he was a member of the Board of Commissioners. The New York Central Railroad bridge that crosses the river parallel with this bridge is built out of iron.

Monday, November 10, 2014

We are searching for any information on this fire truck.  This picture was donated and we have no information.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Eusebia Craven Stimson

While researching Eusebia Craven Stimson I finally discovered a picture to put with her story. Below you will find a picture of her and the source.
Eusebia Craven Stimson and her husband Rev. S. M. Stimson

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Eusebia Craven Stimson continued...

Although her memoir sounds happy, the Craven family story is a sad one. Eusebia Craven was born in Decatur County in 1846.  Her father was Hermon James Craven born in Indiana in 1816. Her mother Nancy Miller was born in Ohio in 1820, and was living in Hamilton County, Ohio in December 24, 1841 when they were married.   Eusebia’s parents lost one baby, Thomas J. Craven at 8 months of age in 1849. The cause of death is listed as flux (diarrhea). Mr. Craven died in January 1856 when Eusebia was just 10 years old.  Seven months later in August her brother Hermon James, Jr. died at the age of 1 month. Nancy Craven had been barely pregnant when her husband died. 
Gravestone of Hermon Craven at Sandcreek Cemetery
The baby boys deaths are marked on the second side of the Craven stone.

Eusebia had another brother, Martin who died at age 11. His gravestone states he drowned.  In fact, it may be that she describes his drowning in her story.  His death date is listed as December 19, 1864. It would be easy to see that he could have been the boy carried away by the “ice flood” in her memoir. Eusebia was educated at the Baptist Institute at Indianapolis, graduating in 1866 at the age of twenty.  She may not have actually been there the day her brother drowned.

After the death of her father, Eusebia’s mother Nancy was married again in July 1864, to a man from Shelby County who had lost his wife.  James W. B.  Tisdale was a Baptist minister and had a daughter named Susan who was just the right age for the Craven girls.  One can imagine that the girls attended the same school and that they met the Tisdales in that way. Rev. and Nancy Tisdale continued to live in Decatur County on the Craven farm located adjacent to the Sand Creek Cemetery.  The 1870 census lists James- age 60, Nancy age- 48, Eusebia Craven- age 23, Susan Tisdale- age 21, and Elizabeth Craven- age 18.  Lizzie died in the fall after the census was taken.  
The third side of the Craven stone lists Martin and Lizzie. Note that drowned is shown on the stone.
The census of 1880 shows Nancy Tisdale and Eusebia Craven living together with two boarders, James Young and George Young from Scotland.  These fellows probably helped on the farm. Reverend Tisdale had evidently died. Nancy Tisdale lists herself as widowed in 1880. I can find no trace of Susan Tisdale after 1870.

Happiness seems to have visited Eusebia in 1890 at the age of 54 years when she married Reverend Samuel Stimson, a well-known Baptist minister.  She was his third wife. They lived at the "pleasant, old fashioned home near Greensburg, surrounded by tall and stately trees" which her husband  her husband named “Cravinia Lodge”.

Rev. Stimson was twenty years older than Eusebia. They were only married for four years when the Reverend died of “neuralgia of the heart”.  Newspaper articles stated he was mourned by many.
In 1898, Eusebia’s mother died at the age of 78 years, leaving her as the only surviving member of her family.
Nancy Craven Tisdale's name is incorrect on the fourth side of the Craven stone

Eusebia Craven Stimson died in 1935 at age 89.  Her memoir published in this blog had been written when she was aged 87.
Reverend Stimson has a nice commemorative stone probably provided by his church

Here is another piece of information about the Craven ancestry from this source -
The parents of Mrs. Stimson were prominent citizens of Greensburg, and a brief sketch of their lives will be of interest to the readers of this volume. Herman James Craven was born in Oxford, Ohio, December 10, 1815, his family being of English and Irish descent. Thomas Craven, the paternal grandfather, lived near Philadelphia in colonial days, and with his two sons took an active part in the Revolutionary war. Thomas Craven, one of his sons, was born near Philadelphia, found his way west and from Pittsburg floated down the Ohio river on a flatboat, landing at Cincinnati, then a small village. From there he went to Franklin county, Indiana, where he remained a short time, after which he entered and settled upon a farm near Oxford, Ohio. He had been for many years a teacher and preacher, and when forty-five years of age entered Miami University, completing the course of study five years later. Dr. Scott, the father-in-law of ex-President Benjamin Harrison, was at that time a professor in the university. In his early life Mr. Craven adhered to the faith of the Presbyterian church, but afterward united with the Baptist denomination, and to that church he devoted his earnest efforts for many years. He led a busy, useful life, being constantly engaged in doing good. He was an old-line Whig, with strong anti-slavery convictions, and the crowning act of his life was the founding of the Eleutherian College, in Jefferson county, Indiana, where students, without regard to race or color, could be educated together. He died at that place in 1860, when sixty-eight years of age. His wife was Rebecca Selfridge, and they had ten children.
Herman J. Craven, father of Mrs. Stimson, was reared upon his father's farm, near Oxford, Ohio, and when thirty years of age removed to Decatur county, Indiana, and purchased a farm of more than two hundred acres, one mile southeast of Greensburg, on the old historic pike. This land had few or no improvements, but with the thrift and industry which characterized his entire life Mr. Craven began the task of clearing and cultivating the place and continued his efforts until it became a productive and valuable farm. He began life without capital, but acquired a handsome fortune and became an influential and honored citizen. In those days the labor that devolved upon the farmer was much greater than it is at present, from the fact that there were no railroads and all products of the soil had to be hauled by teams to market; and the nearest market to Mr. Craven was Cincinnati.
Mr. Craven was very active in church work, both at Sand Creek and in Greensburg, where he served for many years as deacon and in other official positions. He was a leader in and liberal supporter of all religious and philanthropic movements in the neighborhood. Like his father, and indeed all the members of his family, he was a pronounced anti-slavery man and was one of the most willing workers on the "underground railroad," a term scarcely understood by the present generation. By this arrangement slaves who escaped from their masters and were successful in reaching a free state were passed along at night from the home of one anti-slavery man to another until they could enter Canada, after which they were safe. It required a bold and courageous spirit to thus defy the law of the land and render oneself liable to its penalties by aiding the poor blacks; but Mr. Craven was fearless where right and duty to his fellow men were concerned, and many a poor, trembling fugitive had cause to bless him for his chance to become a free man. He did not live to see the downfall of slavery, his death occurring in 1856; but it was the never ceasing protest of such men as he that bore fruit in the Emancipation Proclamation.
Mr. Craven was married to Nancy Martin, who was born in Hamilton county, Ohio, near Cincinnati, and they became the parents of five children, but all died before reaching maturity with the exception of Mrs. Stimson.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Nancy Tisdale was Eusebia Cravens' mother.  This 1870's map shows the area as it was in Eusebia's time.