His Account of the Early Pioneer Life in Henry County
Spoken Before the Old Settlers' Meeting, August 10, 1871
I am 77 years and 9 months old this day. I was born in Laurence District, South Carolina, November 10, 1793, but brought up in Ohio. My father moved from the south in the fall of 1801 (if my memory is right). We stopped at Waynesville, Warren County, Ohio, and finally bought land and settled near that village. We commenced in the forest just as nature had formed it.
Our supplies for the first year or two were farfetched and hard to get. But we soon attained to comparative independence. We lived on the products of our little farm, and made our own clothing. I can remember when I thought a boy with a pair of buckskin pants and a nice linsey hunting shirt, with a fringed cape, was a dress good enough for any company. But my father, who was naturally inclined to pioneer life, having heard of Indiana Territory, comprising a beautiful, rich country, called the White Water Valley, sold and moved to the creek now bearing his name, in the fall of 1811, raised his cabin on the 12th day of October of the same year. The land, timber and water were all of the best quality. We went to work in good spirits; and during the fall and winter we had some 8 or 10 acres cleared for a crop in the spring.
But how often are our prospects blasted? Harrison's battle at Tippecanoe, in November, and the general cry of war with England in the spring, turned things generally upside down. The neighbors, after some consultation, decided to build a small fort, enclosing our house. Several moved in; a few soldiers were sent to help protect us; but after some months of experience in this way of living, my parents decided to leave this den of wickedness. Intemperance, blasphemy and obscenity prevailed to such a degree that no person of moral feeling, to say nothing of religion, could enjoy life among them.
We moved back to Ohio, to await the end of the war. There were two tribes of Indians, the Delaware and the Potawatomies, who were at that time, the owners of he land we were now on. They claimed to be friends, while the savages farther west and north joined the British. These pet Indians, as they were called, were very annoying to us while we remained in the fort. They would come in large droves to beg and pilfer a support, while camping amongst us.
We had a man in our fort that was always on bad terms with the Indians. His name was Charles Morgan. I was out one day with him hunting. Some two miles north of the fort, we struck a fresh trail, of some fifty Indians on horseback. After examining the trail, we found they were aiming for the fort. "Now," said Morgan, "we will soon come up with them, I will shoot one and if you don't shoot one, I will run and leave you." I suppose I treated the proposal with the contempt it merited.
Well; we followed the trail to the fort, where the Indians had stopped, dismounted, and were trying to sell moccasins or some kinds of skins to get provisions.
Among them was John Green, a very vicious savage. In early times he had a camp on the creek that still bears his name. Morgan and Green were on bad terms before, but just then I saw a little incident, that showed they both had murder in their hearts. Green's knife and deer bleat were close together in his belt. Morgan stepped up to Green, held out his hand to examine the bleat. That instant Green seized his knife, held it in its scabbard, his hand trembled, Morgan cursed him and walked off.
This personal enmity ended in the murder of Morgan, and two half brothers named Beesly. They were attacked, killed and scalped at their sugar camp, at night.
John Shortridge, a young man of merit, was waylaid and shot near Drewry's Fort, in Lower Walnut Level. But it was thought it was another man that this John Green had spite at that the Indians aimed to kill.
Thirty years after Morgan and the Beesly boys, his half brothers were buried, Dr. Bunnel of Washington, Greensfork, who helped to bury them, was present and helped to exhume their bones and rebury them in the cemetery, near the Baptist church, on Martindale's Creek.
On October 12, 1815, I took the responsibility of a married life, marrying Miss Elizabeth Boyd, daughter of Samuel and Isabella Boyd of Wayne County. In the spring of 1832 I moved to Henry County, settling on Flat Rock, just a few miles east of New Castle. But, before I moved, I had to build a cabin. So I got some friends to cut and haul some round logs to a suitable site. I was told that the common custom was to have whiskey at house raisings. I told my friend Robert Boyd, who had lived in the county for some time, that I could not conform to the liquor custom. Now, had I better explain as I went around that I was a teetotaler, or, had I better say nothing, but invite the hands? He advised that I should take the latter course. I took his advice, but repented it afterwards.
The hands turned out well and went to work in good style, but pretty soon the flouts and jeers began to fly thick and fast. One hallooed "Cold water and good wishes boys." I called attention until I made a short speech, and when all was still, I said, "I am a partial stranger among you. I wish to confirm to your wishes, to confirm to your rules of neighbor-ship as far as I can conscientiously." I then stated the advice I had accepted from my friend Boyd. Now, if they thought I had deceived them, just quit and go home. I would not say hard things of any of them, and I would get my house up as best I could.
Some one hallooed out "put up the man's house, and say no more about the bottle." But a few could not bear to miss a dram, so they made up a purse and sent a boy for a jug of whiskey. When it came there was but a few that would drink, seeing that it was an insult to me, and a few temperance men that were present. Some of them got quite drunk and let a log fall that came very near killing Peter Laboyteaux. From that very day the practice of having strong drink at work gatherings has been on the wane, for a few men now among us would be ashamed to bring out his bottle, at work gatherings.
There has been much done to stop the use of ardent spirits as a beverage since I was a boy, much yet remains to be accomplished before all of our fellow men will be saved from a drunkard's grave.
Now, permit me to say a few words to the Old Settlers of this morning. In the gracious providence of God we have been spared on this earth these many years. We have come down from a former generation. Few of our youthful associates are now living. We have lived to see great changes in our country, once we had to drag through the mud to do all of our marketing and visiting, yes… Cincinnati was our depot, and bad roads at that. We have seen the wild forest change to beautiful fields of waving grain. The roads are graveled, the iron horse, snorting and hissing, stands ready to convey us or our produce from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We have seen news carried at the speed of lighting.
But more than all, we have lived to see the prison doors broken down, and the oppressed go free. Besides all these and better still we have seen the Bible, that waybill to Heaven, being sent to almost every nation on earth. Time was that a bible would cost more than a common laborer could pay, now 50 cents will buy the whole volume of God's revelations to man, 10 cents for a testament.
May God hasten the happy day when our Savior will set judgment in the earth, and the isles shall wait for His law.
NOTE: Elder Elijah Martindale died on July 21, 1874, his wife, Elizabeth Boyd Martindale, died on June 3, 1884. Both are buried in the Southmound cemetery, New Castle, IN.