On Saturday March 31, 1833, fifty-five years ago, just as the sun was setting, along with my first wife and three little boys, arrived in New Castle. We stopped at Evan Hobson's hotel, on the corner of Main and Broad Streets, where the Citizens State Bank is now located. Our landlord long since passed to his final rest, but his widow, who afterward became the wife of James Peed, deceased, he yet living and makes her home with her son Evan H. Peed, two miles southeast of New Castle. Mrs. Peed and Mrs. Elizabeth Murphey, widow of the late Col. Miles Murphey, are the only persons now living, so far as I can ascertain, who were keeping house in New Castle at that early date. We were kindly received and comfortably entertained by our hospitable host. After a refreshing night's sleep and a good breakfast the next morning, my wife and I took a walk about the town to see if we could find a place to locate. I told Mrs. Rogers if she saw a place that struck her fancy, to say so and I would buy it if I could. On the lot now owned by Thomas W. Philips, and on which his large brick residence stands, there was a hewed log house, a story and a half high, a fairly good house. Mrs. Rogers said that she would like to stop there. We returned to the hotel. I asked Mr. Hobson who owned the property. He said a Mr. Slazel and that he was across the street in the carpenter's shop. I called on the gentleman, told him who I was and what I wanted, and asked if he owned the house. He said he did. Would he sell it? He would. How much ground? Six lots. What price? After some hesitation he said he would not take less than $150 for the property. Was the title good? It was. When could he give possession? In two weeks. What terms? One half down and balance in one year. I told him to make a deed and I would pay $100 down, the balance the next spring. He made the deed and I paid him $100, and he took my word for the balance. People were not so afraid to trust each other then as now.
The purchase completed I took my family to visit my father, then living on the farm now owned by James L. Walters. In two weeks we returned. Mr. Slagel had moved out and we moved in. We had six lots, a good house, a corncrib, a well, but no furniture. Of household goods we had two feather beds, some bedclothes, a few cooking utensils and dishes, knives and forks that we had used on the boat while floating down the river from Morgantown to Cincinnati. There were no stores or shops in town where we could buy bedsteads, tables or chairs. But we had to go to housekeeping. A large goods box that our bedding and clothing had come packed in, we utilized as a table. With a two inch auger I bored holes in the logs and fixed up a sort of scaffold, got a tick of straw from Asahel Woodward, and that night we enjoyed a sweet rest. We had a good big fireplace and did not need a cook stove. Being a chair-maker by trade and having my tools, I cleaned the corncrib out, went to work and had soon had chairs, tables and bedsteads enough.
We soon became acquainted with our neighbors and formed strong social attachments that were broken only by death as the years went by. As I look back in memory to those days it seems that they were the kindest and most social I have ever met, more like brothers and sisters than strangers. There were only about 150 residents in the town then and tree stumps were much more numerous than houses. We were in a fine country, among kind friends who were anxious to accommodate each other, and everything moved along nicely, no one dreaming of the dreadful scourge so near at hand, which in a few short months would take from our ranks one in every ten, victims of the cholera epidemic of 1833.
Some of my first acquaintances in and around New Castle were Judge Abraham Elliot, the father of the late Jehu T. Elliot. He lived two miles southwest of New Castle, on what is yet known as the Elliot farm, but had his office in New Castle. John Powell, a tanner, was one of the leading citizens. Isaac Bedsaul and Col. Miles Murphey were the principal merchants. Dr. Joel Reed, father of M. L. Reed, was one of the most popular men in Henry County; Dr. John Elliot, a practicing physician and clerk of the court; Dr. Penn, Major Asahel Woodward, Jacob Thornburg, L. D. Meek, Samuel Hawn, Father Colburn and his son John, John Ross, blacksmith, Father Jamison, George Hobson and others I would like to name but space forbids.
There was then but one church building in New Castle - the M. E. Church, a denomination that is usually the first to come and the last to leave. The edifice stood about where the present structure stands. There was no courthouse. A large log house that had been built for a courthouse was in a dilapidated condition, and I bought it for a shop. So the M. E. church was used for prayer and class meetings, preaching, court, political meetings and entertainments. We had no protracted meetings then, only quarterly meetings, and sometimes a two-day meeting, beginning on a Saturday and closing on Sunday night. Our great religious feasts were the camp meetings. At a convenient season of the year the woods were cleared out near some good spring of water, tents and shanties were put up, and then the people came in wagons with their furniture and provisions. It always reminded me of the time when the Jews came from the east, west, north and south to worship at Jerusalem. Those were happy days. During the first year of our residence in New Castle preparations were made to hold such a meeting at a place then and yet known as Mcdaniel's church about three and one half mile southwest of New Castle, and all was in readiness for a grand time, but alas! How uncertain are human calculations. The grim messenger, cholera, came with relentless miens, and in a few days the wives of Judge Abraham Elliot and Samuel Hawn, the wife and five children of John Ross, Dr. Penn, wife and one child, Dr. John Elliot, the Atchison baby, Samuel Batson, Jane Colburn Webster, were numbered with the dead. As I was fifty-five years younger then, and strong, my brother John and I were selected to dig the graves and bury the dead. There were heroes and heroines with us who went from house to house administering to the wants of the sick and caring for the dying and dead. When the storm had passed bonds of sympathy drew closer together the survivors. But few of us remain to tell the sorrow of that period, and we will soon join those who have gone before about the Great White Throne.
Rev. George B. Rogers
New Castle Democrat