Morocco Indiana in 1853

As this history was prepared for the members of my family and my more intimate friends, I hope I will be permitted to touch upon matters that might seem out of place in a book addressed to the general public.

I was married to Adaline W. Bush at Cheviot, Ohio, then a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 20, 1851, by Thomas Wells, Esq., a personal friend of both my wife and myself.

Until the early part of 1853, I lived at and kept the old toll-gate between Cheviot and Cincinnati. At that time I received a request from Ayres and Company, of Bunkum, Illinois — old acquaintances of mine— to move out and take charge of a branch store which they had established at Morocco, Jasper county, Indiana. Accepting their offer, I left Cincinnati on March 10, 1853, going by steamboat to Madison, Indiana. At that time there was no railroad from Cincinnati to Indianapolis.

Arriving at Madison early the next morning, we took the train on the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad and arrived at Indianapolis about noon. We went to the Wright House, a large frame hotel on Washington street, standing where the New York Store is now located. There we got our dinner and then took a train for Lafayette on the Indianapolis & Lafayette Railroad, which had just been opened up for travel and extended to the top of the hill about two miles east of Lafayette. We remained in Lafayette two days and then started for Bunkum, Illinois, in a two-horse carriage.

We were met at Lafayette by Mark Ayres, who accompanied us on the remainder of the trip. Leaving Lafayette early in the morning, we made the first twelve miles in fine shape, our route that far being over a new plank road just completed by the Ellsworth Land Company. At the end of the plank road we started to go through a lane about a mile long, before reaching the open prairie. We soon found the same impassable, so we let down the fence and drove through the fields.

We reached Oxford, then the county seat of Benton county, about two o’clock. There we fed our team and had dinner. We then started for Parish Grove, which point we reached after dark and in a heavy rain. In fact, when we got to the grove the only way by which we were able to follow the road was for one of us to go ahead on foot and keep calling out, thus enabling the driver to find his way by sound instead of by sight. The Boswell family was then living in the grove and at first said they could not take care of us, but Mr. Ayres, who was somewhat acquainted with them, said it did not make any difference what they said, that we were there to stay, and stay we did, as it was eight miles to the next house.

In the morning we started for Sumner’s Grove. When we came to Mud Creek we found it was very deep, but we started to ford it. When nearly across, one of the single-trees floated off. We had to get out in the water, waist-deep, and tie the traces to the double-tree before we could pull out. In the meantime, Adaline, holding the baby in her lap, had tried to keep her feet on the seat but made a slip and she was wet nearly to her knees. After making the shore, we drove on to the Sumner home, where we dried our clothes and got our dinner. During our stay at Sumner’s, Mr. Sumner got into conversation with us and found out where we were going. He said he was glad to hear it, that he had been acquainted with Bunkum for fifteen years, and that during that time people had been continuously moving in, and but few moved out, and that it was just about the same size then that it had been fifteen years before. In fact, he did not even recollect of ever being there when there was not a corpse in the town. After he left, however, Mrs. Sumner, who noticed that Adaline was badly worried over his statement, told her to pay no attention to his stories, as it was not nearly so bad as he had attempted to make it.

After dinner we started for Bunkum. Mr. Sumner went part of the way, piloting us across Sugar Creek. Late that afternoon we reached the famous city of “Bunkum.” It may be well to state here that Bunkum was not the name of the town at all, but the name used by every one at that time for two different towns, the Iroquois river forming the dividing line between the two — the one on the south side of the river was Montgomery, and the one on the north side was Concord.

After we left Parish Grove in the morning, until we reached the timber on the Iroquois river, we passed but two houses, no others being in sight on either side of the road. The first was the Sumner house and the other was a small house standing on what is now the east end of Sheldon, Illinois. There was not a bridge across any of the streams between the end of the plank road and the Iroquois river.

We remained in Bunkum six weeks, during which time I made six trips to Lafayette, hauling goods for the store one way and produce, largely eggs, the other way. Eggs were then five cents a dozen. One load, I remember, was packed in walnut sawdust which colored the eggs so badly that we had hard work to dispose of them at any price.

Bunkum, at that time, was a great business town. It had four large stores, drawing trade from the surrounding country as far away as thirty or forty miles. The firms doing business were Ayres and Company, Fowler and Smith, Charles Sherman, and John Donovan, nearly all of whom afterward moved to Watseka, when the railroad was built. John Donovan is the only one of the number now living.

We moved to Morocco, Indiana, about April 25, 1853. At that time the town was about two years old and had some six or seven houses. On the road from Bunkum to Morocco, after passing the Dunning farm, about half a mile from Bunkum, until we reached the Robert Archibald farm, a distance of ten miles, all was open prairie, with the exception of an improvement just commenced by William Plummer, which was about half way between these two points. Of those living in Morocco at that time, David Pulver and A. W. Bebout are the only ones left among the living. Mrs. Pulver passed away since I began writing these recollections.

At that time Morocco was the only town in the territory now comprising Newton county. The nearest post-office was Bunkum on the west, twelve miles, and Rensselaer on the east, eighteen miles. There was a post-office at the residence of Amos Clark, called White’s Grove, established September 27, 1853. This house stood about a half-mile southeast of what is now known as the Pleasant Grove meeting-house, near the Iroquois river, in Jefferson township. On April 27, 1854, it was moved to the residence of Zechariah Spider, and again on June 20, 1861, to the residence of Elijah Kenoyer, where it remained until October 13, 1861, when it was discontinued.

There was also a post-office called Brook, several miles farther up the river, both supplied by mail carried on horseback once a week. The first office was about two miles southwest of the present town of the same name. The several postmasters of the Brook post-office, and the dates of their appointment, are as follows:

George W. Spider
John Montgomery
Samuel H. Benjamin
Alfred D. Tale
James E. Stacey
S. A. Chaffee
Aaron Lyons
Albert S. Warren
F. E. Ross
John G. Perry
W. F. DeHaven
Hiram C. Dryer
J. L. Hess
David E. Lowe
Manez A. Pendergrass
Joseph Merchant
William J. Corbin
Morris A. Jones

August 23, 1837
April 22, 1840
August 18, 1853
February 28, 1856
October 24, 1856
December 27, 1859
June 23, 1860
May 22, 1866
May 17, 1867
May 4, 1868
August 16, 1872
July 28, 1874
October ii, 1877
February 17, 1879
December 8, 1882
July 23, 1889
October 13, 1893
September 14, 1897

The Brook post-office was by far the oldest in the county. Morocco had no mail connections with Brook or White’s Grove. We communicated with the outside world through Bunkum, Illinois (the post-office was Concord), and Rensselaer, Indiana.

In 1854 we succeeded in getting a post-office at Morocco, on condition that the citizens would agree to carry the mail once a week to Rensselaer and back, also keep the post-office for the proceeds of the office, so that it should be no expense to the government.

As this was the best arrangement that could be made, the conditions were accepted. John Ade was appointed postmaster and David Pulver appointed mail carrier. A few months later an office was established in Jackson township, called Pilot Grove, and Stephen Elliott was appointed postmaster. This condition of things existed for some three years, when John Ade was removed for offensive partisanship. There was no civil service in those days but, as a prominent state politician put the case, “The times now require that every government official must be a firm supporter of the administration.”

At the time above spoken of, envelopes and postage stamps were unknown. When a letter was written, it was folded and fastened either with a wafer or sealing-wax. The rate of postage depended upon the distance the letter had to be carried, and the money could be received from the sender or collected at the destination. This necessitated making out a waybill with each package of letters sent to the different offices, showing the amount paid and the amount to be collected on each package. Few of our institutions have shown a more decided change than the mail service.

In 1851 a new constitution was adopted by the state of Indiana; and the next legislature, which met during the winter of 1852-1853, enacted many laws to put in force the changes made necessary by the new constitution. One of the most important of these enactments was the adoption of an entirely new school system. After the new school law had been passed, it took considerable time to make it effective, as taxes had to be levied and collected, and new officers elected.

In the early part of 1853 there was not a single public school building in the district now forming the county of Newton. There were several buildings used for school and meeting-house purposes, but they were all built by private enterprise. Some of them were built by single individuals, and all were log buildings. There was one at Morocco; one about a mile and a half west, known as the Kessler school house; one on the river, built by the Myers and Kenoyer families; one in Jackson township, near the Jabez Wright residence. There may have been one southeast of the present town of Brook. In most of these, school was taught for a short term in each year, persons in the neighborhood uniting to employ a teacher, he boarding around among the pupils, in many cases, as part pay for the services rendered. These buildings did not have a nail or any other article of iron in their composition. The floors, benches and doors were made of puncheons; wooden hinges for the doors, and for a light, a log would be sawed out of the side of the building, and when they did not have glass, greased paper was used in place of it. The roof was made by using clapboards about three feet long, split out of logs and held down in place by logs called “weight poles.” When meetings were held at night, and spelling schools, it was expected that each family would bring a candle or a saucer of grease with a rag in it to furnish light for the occasion. Rude and unsatisfactory as these conditions may seem to have been, many of our prominent men got their first elements of an education in these very schools.

Prior to 1834, at which time the lands in this part of the state were surveyed and placed on the market through the land-office at Winamac (price one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, payable in gold or silver) , no one had actual title. Some of it was settled by squatters. Others filed claims and proved them up and purchased the lands after they were thrown open for entry.

Settlements were made exclusively either in the timber or along the edges of it. No one thought of getting out on the open prairie. In fact, the surveyor, making his notes to the government in his report of the survey of the prairie in the south part of the county said: “Land is good; covered with fine grass, but owing to the scarcity of timber can never support anything but a very sparse population.”

Along the edge of the Beaver timber some of the earliest settlers along this line of timber were :

John Murphy, who was one of the first, settling there in 1838. He laid out the town of Morocco on a part of his farm in 1851.

Dempsey Johnson in 1849, Daniel Dearduff in 1844, Josiah Dunn in 1832, and John Elliott in 1832. John Lyons built a house on the Iroquois river in 1832 and started what was afterward known as the Brook settlement. A son, Aaron Lyons, born that same year, is conceded to be the first white child born in the territory of Newton county. Samuel Benjamin also settled there about the same time. Samuel Lyons came in 1840; Philip Earl in 1837.

A few miles farther down the river was what was known as the Kenoyer settlement. In 1836 Jacob Kenoyer settled near Spider’s Creek, and in 1845 erected the first sawmill in the county. It was a watermill and run by throwing a dam across the creek, a short distance east of the farm now owned by George Spitler. Samuel and Frederick Kenoyer, brothers of Jacob Kenoyer, also settled in the same neighborhood in 1836; and John Myers, the same year, followed a short time after by Amos Clark, Amos White and Charles Anderson on the south side of the river.

Settling right in the heavy timber were John Montgomery, father-in-law of Morris Lyons, and John Roberts, who were both early settlers, John Roberts in 1843 and Morris Lyons about the same time. A little farther down the river was the residence of Bassett Timmons, father of Joshua Timmons, who settled near what was known as the Timmons ford in 1835. Down toward the state line was the Whiteman settlement, consisting of five brothers: Jacob, Joshua, Amos, Ezekiel and Henry, who settled there in 1835, possibly a little earlier. On the south side of the river, right on the state line, lived Samuel M. Dunn, who was acting, sheriff in Iroquois county, Illinois, in 1835, at the time Joseph L. Morris was hung in the town of Bunkum.

Source: Ade, John. Newton County: a collection of historical facts and personal recollections concerning Newton County, Indiana, from 1853 to 1911. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., c1911.

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