George Richardson

#2237, b. circa 1828
Father*Caleb Richardson b. 1799, d. 28 Sep 1870
Mother*Celia Humphries b. 8 Mar 1802, d. 28 Jul 1893
     George Richardson was born circa 1828 Indiana. He was the son of Caleb Richardson and Celia Humphries.
      COMMUNICATION FROM GEO. B. RICHARDSON.
The subject of this sketch was born August 24, 1828, in Decatur County, Indiana, eight or nine miles north of Greensburg, consequently a Hoosier by birth. At the age of nine years my father moved to the State of Boone, being the fall of 1837. This carries us back half a century, when this country was almost an unbroken wilderness, and to the time when there were but few residents in Marion Township, and from the best information that I can gather, the man that my father bought out was probably the first white man that ever settled in Marion Township. His name was Isaac Srite. He moved on north where it was not so thickly settled. There were but few families, to my knowledge. I will name the most of them. They were Jacob Parr, Sr., John Parr, Wm. Parr, John Hollingback, Caleb Richardson, Moody Gilliam, T. J. Linsy, John F. Johnson, Jonathan Scott and my father Jonathan Richardson, and James Richardson. This, so far as I know, was about the number of citizens in Marion Township. This may suffice for the names of the early pioneers. Probably it would be more interesting to refer to the condition that things were in fifty years ago. Then our county was almost an unbroken wilderness. Game was abundant, such as deer, turkey, wolves, wild cats, and there was said to be some bear and panthers, though I never saw any of the last two named; and as to small game, such as squirrels, pheasants, coon and opossum, I suppose Boone could have taken in as many to the square mile as any county in the state. And then there were some bad snakes, such as the black rattlesnake, the red belly, the water moccasin, the chicken or cow snake, and a number of other different kinds. Some were said to be very poisonous. One thing I know, I was always a little afraid of a big snake; I did not like his looks, especially when he was reaching for fight. But about the most dangerous thing we had to contend with were the wild hogs. Some of them, old he fellows, with tusks four or five inches long, were formidable foes, and the best way you could manage was to shoot them down or to keep entirely away from them. They could kill a dog too quick. There were but few dogs that had any business to tackle him in those days. They were troublesome in leading the tame ones off. Some had their hogs belled so they could find them in the woods. I have known hogs to live out all winter without a grain of corn, and it was no uncommon thing for us to kill our meat off the most fat and nice without feeding them one ear of corn, which was a good thing for most of he [sic] early settlers. It it [sic] had to have been fattened on corn we would have had some very thin meat. And as to all the hardships and privations through which my father and all the early settlers had to pass, I am perfectly familiar with. Our houses were generally built of round logs, about 18 x 20 feet, pole joists, clapboard loft and roof, with the boards held on the house with poles called weight poles, and a puncheon floor, a fire-place in one end of the house, six or seven feet long, back and jam made of dirt, the chimney was sticks and clay, the door or doors were made of long boards and hung on wooden hinges, a wooden tack or a pin to hold it shut. The windows were generally one or two logs cut out and paper pasted over it and greased, so as to let the light shine through the paper. Now, when you get the house chinked and daubed, you have the house ready to move into. You move into your new house with six or seven children, and this has to serve as parlor, bed room and kitchen, and sometimes as shoe shop and cooper shop. Then comes your cooking vessels, which were about this: a skillet and lead teakettle, stewkettle and a frying pan. Your water shelf was made by boring two holes in the house and driving pins in them, and then putting a load on the pins. Your cupboard, or dresser for your dishes, was gotten up much on the same style. Your table was either made of split boards or a slab split out of a big log and holes bored in each corner and legs drove in them. I have not yet said anything about the bed and bedstead. Some few had bedsteads with turned posts, or fancy post bedsteads, as they were called in those days. The most of them were made by splitting out the posts and dressing them up with a draw knife and boring holes for the rails. But then there was a cheaper class of bed than this, which was constructed on this plan, by putting two poles in the cracks of the house and one leg with holes bored in it to fasten the other end of the poles in. This was called a one-legged bedstead. I have had many a good night’s rest on the last kind spoken of that I know of.

If a man had a good axe, an auger, draw-knife and handsaw he could make anything he wanted. The tools above named he had to buy, but when he got them he then had a complete outfit. The next thing was to knock the brush away, fence in your yard and clear up a garden patch. Then came the heavier work; then all our clearing had to be done in the green; the grubbing was no small item, but when it came to taking the green timber down, trimming and peeling the brush, chopping the logs so they could be rolled, and rolling and burning them, was something that the present generation knows nothing about. And then the next thing is to get your little patch broke. The roots and stumps are so thick that you can hardly get your plow into the ground until it would strike a root or stump. The fact is, it took a mighty good Christian man to plow in those days. We raised a little corn, but we had to watch it mighty close, both spring and fall. The squirrels would dig it up in the spring if you did not keep them out or feed them; we have caught hundreds of them. Then they were ready for the corn just as soon as it was in roasting ear, and then there were black birds by the thousand; so you see we had a great many things to contend with. I have even seen the gnats and mosquitos [sic] so bad that you would have to build up a fire, to make smoke, to milk the cows. They would almost blind a person; and, as I said, we raised but little corn and no wheat for a few years, so our biscuits were all corn dodger or Johnny cake.

It will not do to narrate or detail hardly anything that comes up in my mind; but to return to the subject. In those days we had no roads except paths blazed or hacked out from house to house; and when you started to go to your neighbors living some distance away, you would take the path that would lead to one neighbor’s house, and then take the path from his house to the next, and so on until you would reach the desired point; and you would hardly ever see a man going from place to place without his gun on his shoulder. It was no uncommon thing for a man to take in a deer or a turkey; as to squirrels and pheasants, they would not waste their ammunition for. I might say something more about our roads, if there had been any to speak of. The next thing I shall notice is the schools and the school houses. It was some time after we came to Boone County before I heard anything said about a school district. The citizens generally lived in settlements, so they would select some central point to erect a school house; then they would set a day to meet, clear off the ground, cut the logs, haul them in, and probably the next day they would rear the structure. Now it would just do you good to see one of those model colleges. I will give you a description of the first school house that was erected in this section of the country. It was about eighteen by twenty or twenty-two feet, of round logs and very rough at that, and each log about from eight to sixteen inches too long, leaving very rough and ragged corners; cabined off and covered with clapboards, which were held on the house with poles. The door was cut out in one corner; the shutter was made out of long boards and hung on wooden hinges, the fireplace was cut out in the end, and it came very near taking the whole end of the house out, some six or seven feet at least. The fireplace was made of dirt, the chimney of sticks and clay, with a good bunch of mud on the top piece on each corner of the chimney to hold them from blowing off. The floor was puncheons split and hewed and laid down green, and when they seasoned there were some fearful cracks. The seats, or benches, were made by splitting slabs twelve or fourteen feet long, then boring four holes in them and driving legs in. The writing tables were made by boring holes in the logs, driving pins in and plank or slabs on them. The windows were constructed in this wise: by cutting and taking out the half of two logs, one above the other, then pasting paper over the space and greasing it so as to let the light shine through. There was not a pane of glass nor a pound of nails about the whole house.

Well, the next thing was to get some one to teach a school, as the house was built and furnished and ready for business. They would go at it in this wise: They found some one that could spell, read, write a pretty good hand, and if he was good in arithmetic and would lick the scholars if they did not keep order, were all the qualifications necessary for a teacher. They would draw up an article of agreement something like this: I, George B. Richardson, propose to teach – naming the branches, generally spelling, reading, writing, and arithmetic. That was as far as they would go. We had no use for grammar in those days; and they would teach so many days for so much per scholar, to be paid at the expiration of said school. So this was the way we got our education in those days, and this was the way it generally turned out: when you started to school if you was large enough to do much work in the clearing would go to school all the bad days and stay home and work all the nice weather. I have given you a description of our school house; it was not only a school house, but a church also. I have seen as great revivals carried on in that old log house as I have ever seen since, and I have always believed that those old men and women knew just what they were talking about, and I don’t think the preachers then preached for the money alone, for there was not much money in it fifty years ago. It would do some of the folks good to hear some of the old-time preachers; but the most of our upstarts would call them old fogies and likely make sport of them. Well, I might say something of the markets: In the first place, we had very little to sell, but what little we had, must be hauled to the river – Madison, Lawrenceburg or Cincinnati. I have known my father to haul wheat from her to Lawrenceburg, and be gone nine or ten days, and then could get only forty cents cash or forty-five cents in goods per bushel; not only him, but all the neighbors. Sometimes four or five would go together, take their provisions and horse feed, and camp out every night, and would have a happy, good time of it. Some years thereafter a wheat market opened up at Lafayette. Then they thought that we had a market right at home and could go there and back in four or five days. My mind has been somewhat drawn out in thinking of the past, and to the youths of the present day I have no doubt that what I have written will seem incredible, but those of my age can testify whether the things I have written are correct or not. I will now compare the present with the past, or speak of a few of the changes that have taken place within my recollection, which will carry me through a period of about fifty-six years, as I am now near sixty.

Fifty years ago this was a wilderness or a dense forest with scarcely any inhabitants. I doubt whether there were over three or four towns in the county, and I do not suppose there were a dozen houses in the city of Lebanon, and it was well enough, for it was hard to get there and a harder matter to find the place when you got there. And if it should be at a wet and gloomy season of the year, you would conclude of all the places on earth Lebanon was the most disagreeable, especially in the spring of the year, for about six weeks you could hear nothing day or night but about ten thousand frogs all yelping at once. This was music to the sinner’s ear, but not much joy or peace about it. There were no roads, either to the city or away from it. Now Lebanon is a desirable place to live in, with her hundreds of nice, comfortable dwellings, and it is nicely situated. If it could have been so that a person could have foreseen fifty years ago and pictured out what it is to-day, he would have been thought to be a fit subject for the insane asylum, if there had been any such place. Then gravel roads were not thought of in this country, let alone the idea or thought of railroads running all through the country, bringing our markets right to our doors. The former we needed fifty years ago; but you could not have broken a man or company up quicker than to have given him a railroad and compelled him to run it with what money he would have gotten out of it. In the first place there was no travel to amount to anything; the pioneers had neither time nor money to spend in that way; and as to freight, there would not have been more than six or eight carloads in the whole county outside of what few hogs that could be gathered up, and they were generally in good shape for traveling. As to our improvements, we just simply had none to amount to anything; true, what little we did have was highly prized. Our mills were very unhandy, and such mills as they were at that, all water mills, and too much water would wash out the dam, and of a dry time you could not grind, or perchance it might be frozen up in the winter season. Our nearest mill, about four miles distant, belonged to a man by the name of John Koontz, and if the mill was in good running order it would grind from two to four bushels per hour, and as there were but few wagons in the country milling was done on horseback. A wagon-load would almost have been a week’s work. When the water began to fail they would grind an hour or two in morning and shut down and gather a head, and so on.

Time has worked wonders since my recollection, in the milling business as well as in every thing that you can think of. There were no sawmills in the country to amount to anything, and to undertake to put up a frame building was an awful undertaking in this section of the country. When the first frame house was built in this community the logs were hauled about nine miles to get them sawed; the studding and rafters were all hewn and the shingles were split and dressed down with the draw-knife, and good carpenters were hard to find; all other material was scarce and hard to get, and money was very scarce, so the improvements of this kind progressed very slowly for fifteen or twenty years. I might say something about our tools and farm implements. Well, the ax, the maul and wedge and the grubbing-hoe are pretty much as they were fifty years ago, though considerable improvement has been made on our ax. Our plows were the old Cary, or bull plow, as they were called, with iron shares and wooden mouldboard, and, by the way, I have seen some mighty good results brought about by the use of this old pioneer, and then there were three or four two-horse harrows to my knowledge. We generally sowed our wheat and plowed it in with the shovel-plow. The next thing I might mention is our implements to take care of our harvest. To cut our wheat we used the side or reaphook, as they were called, and if a farmer had six or eight acres of wheat he had his hands full during harvest time.

After they would get their wheat cut they would stack it, and at some leisure time clean off a tramping floor and lay their wheat down, and then get all the horses and boys they had to ride them around over the straw till the wheat was all shelled out, then take off the straw and put down another floor full, and so on. This I thought was fun when I was a boy. Then they would get a fanmill and clean it up. Sometimes you would have a load to haul off, and sometimes you would not have more than enough for seed and bread. As to grass, we cut that down with a mowing scythe, then scattered it to cure, then raked it with forks, shocked it, and then hauled it in and stacked it out. We had no barns to mow our hay away – nothing but long stables, and the mow would not hold more than two or three loads. Our pitchforks were all wood, and a good one was thought to be worth taking care of. I have not said anything about the way we generally spent our time from the time winter broke till crop time. The first was to go into the sugar business, which was no little business if properly carried on. We used to open from three to five hundred trees and make from three to six hundred pounds of sugar and a lot of molasses, which did not go bad with pancakes. Then the next thing was to take the dead timber down and get our logs burned down and the trash piled so that the logs could be rolled. It was no uncommon thing for a man to put in from ten to twenty days rolling logs, and go as far as three or four miles to a log rolling or house raising. In short, there have been no changes in this county for forty-nine years but have been under my observation, but it has been so slow and gradual that it is hard to tell when or how it was all accomplished. It has been like planting a small tree; you will not perceive the one year’s growth, but let it stand and cultivate it for fifty years and you have a large tree, and it don’t seem possible that it was the same tree you planted fifty years ago. So has been the growth of our county since I first came into it. There was not a hay rake, hay fork to unload hay in the barn, threshing machine of any kind, reaper, binder, mower, wheat drill, corn planter, double shovel plow, riding break plow, sprint tooth harrow, hay loader nor anything of the kind in the county, I don’t suppose, nor for a good many years after, let alone what is carried on by steam power, and I do not think that there were but few steam engines in the state fifty years ago, let alone Boone County, and now there is scarcely anything done but what is done by horse or steam power. Now we can thresh from six hundred to one thousand bushels per day, although I can recollect when my father beat it out with a flail and cleaned it up with a sheet. This may seem strange to the young people of the present day, but what I have written is not overdrawn. I don’t know but that I ought to say something concerning the manner that parents trained their children in those days. There were but few drones and loafers lounging around and doing nothing.

The training of children was very strict. They were not allowed to swear or make use of any profane or unbecoming language, and one decisive answer would settle any question that might be asked. The boys were generally in the clearing from Monday morning until Saturday night, week in and week out, grubbing, chopping, splitting, hauling and laying up rails. This was their daily business; and the girls’ tuition was in the kitchen. The girl that did not know how to cook, wash, iron, spin, weave, dress flax, cut and make any garment that the family had to wear, was not the girl that the young men were looking after. You would hear them talk that this or that girl could spin so many cuts a day, or weave so many yards of cloth, or dress so many pounds of flax per day, after doing up their morning’s work. Such girls were said to be worth their weight in gold to any man that wanted a wife. It was the grit and get-up that was looked at, and not the old man’s pocket-book, which I fear is the cause of so many unhappy marriages at the present day. You must not infer from the above that the old folks were idle. The old women would sit at their spinning wheels from morning till bed-time, spinning flax or tow to weave into cloth for our every-day and Sunday wear; and the old men would have to break out and dress the flax and get it ready for the hackle. I doubt whether there is one young man in twenty that would know a flax break if they were to meet one of them in the road, let alone knowing how to use one, and but few that would have any desire to do so if they could, and but few girls that would know how to rig up a spinning wheel, or could spin one skein of sewing thread in six months. I would like some one of them to try their hand and bring it to the county fair and make a public exhibit of it. Probably I had better say no more, for fear you may get tired of my scribbling, though I have only hinted at a few things.

I have not said anything as to myself. I stayed at home with my father till I was twenty-one years old, and helped him clear a large farm where the village of Big Spring is situated. Then I began to think it was not best to start out in the world alone, so I concluded I would get some one to make the trip with me, and my affections had been set on one Margaret L. Parr, daughter of William Parr, who was then living in the neighborhood and one of the early settlers. She was born in Tennessee, in 1831, and moved to this county in 1833. So we agreed to cast our lots together through life, and were married on March 7, 1850, and have been living together thirty-seven years, raising a family of twelve children. There are eleven living; our oldest son died when twenty-eight years old. We have seventeen grandchildren living and six are dead. My political and religious views might not suit everybody, but they are the best that I know anything about, according to the way I have looked at things for the last forty-five years. I suppose I was a Democrat when I was born, as my father and mother were. The first presidential canvass that I can recollect was between Jackson and Clay, in 1832, and I was a Jackson man when I was but four years old, and I have not yet seen any good reasons for changing my opinion. My religious views are those of the old Regular Baptists. This, I know, don’t suit everybody, but I can not help that. At it is of no use to add any more to this, as everybody can not see alike. I served four years as justice of the peace, have lived in Marion Township for forty years. I shall add no more.1
Last Edited=24 Feb 2014

Citations

  1. [S343] Compiled by Harden and Spahr, Early Life and Times in Boone County, Indiana (Lebanon, Indiana: Harden & Spahr, May 1887), accessed through http://books.google.com