History  of  Rush  County,  Indiana

Old  Settlers  Meetings

          As years rolled on, and one after another of the gray haired pioneers, the fathers and the mothers of the present prosperous people, went to their rest and their voices, that had so often thrilled our hearts with their stirring narratives of early times, became hushed forever, an earnest desire and determination arose to perpetuate the memory of these noble pioneers and their Herculean labors, which have transformed the wilderness into the present happy, prosperous and beautiful County of Rush.  To carry out this pious determination Old Settlers' Meetings were instituted, where the veterans of the past could meet and enjoy a reunion with their old comrades, who had stood shoulder to shoulder with them in their days of labor, of hardship, and privation, where they could recount their experiences, adventures and the incidents that make up the history of our county.  In 1869, after one or two preliminary meetings, the Old Settlers' Association was organized, with the Rev. D. M. Stewart as President, and the first regular meeting was held the third Thursday and 19th day of August, at the fair grounds.   The committees, who had charge of it, had done well their part; a very large crowd of the Rush County citizens were there, with well filled baskets prepared to spend one day in the enjoyment of social intercourse with their friends and neighbors, and in listing to the tales of other days as told by the grand old patriarchs, who yet remained among us.
          A number of distinguished men from a distance came in response to invitations. Among these were Governor Baker, Col. Blake,  James M. Ray, and Dr. Ryland T. Brown, from Indianapolis.  The president, Rev. D. M. Stewart, called the meeting to order t 10 A.M., and Elder John P. Thompson invoked the divine blessing and guidance on the exercises of the day. Letters from Elijah Hackleman and John Tyner were read expressing their regret at not being able to be present on this joyful occasion.  The president invited the old settlers to come forward and give some of the incidents and reminiscences of the early days of our county. Col. Joseph Nichols,  J. P. Thompson, and Col. Blake entertained and instructed the audience by relating their personal experiences in frontier life.  The meeting now adjourned until 2 P. M., and a dinner such as Rush County maids and matrons always get up, was heartily enjoyed by all, in the free open air, beneath the grateful shade of the beautiful grove.  The meeting having again been called to order, Harmony Laughlin, and Peter Looney exhibited a number of interesting relics of olden times.  J. M. Ray gave a sketch of the settlement of the county between White Water and White River.  Dr. R. T. Brown then addressed the meeting, and among other things if interest relating to our county, said that he had taken the first census of Rush County.  Isaac Pattison,  George Davis,  Wm. Williams, and A. M. Kennedy then made remarks suitable to the occasion.  On motion of Rev. D. M. Stewart, the third Thursday in August was adopted and consecrated to the memory of the brave pioneers of Rush County.  Since then this has been a sacred day to our citizens.  Perhaps a full account of one of these meetings of later date, would give a better idea of their general tenor, and the spirit pervading the proceedings than any general description.  I here present the report of the eighth annual reunion of the Old Settlers', held on the third Thursday of August 1876.  "The audience was large and appreciative, the speeches very interesting being the narratives of personal experiences and recollections.  The statistical mortuary record read by the Rev. D. M. Stewart, showed that since the last meeting in August 1875, some forty of the old settlers have departed this life and have gone to try the realities of the unseen world.  This shows how rapidly they are passing away.  The result of the election for officers was, Dr. John Arnold, President; Dr. W. H. Smith, Secretary; T. N. Link, Treasurer; and Rev. D. M. Stewart Statistician.  The Rev. Samuel Houshour gave a graphic and very amusing description of his failures in various financial speculations, but referred with just pride to his success as a teacher, and wound up by a few most forcible and appropriate remarks addressed to the youth present, reminding them of their frat obligations to their parents, who by industry and economy had started their children's on the journey of life under circumstances so much more favorable than they themselves enjoyed.  Mr. A.M. Kennedy, Mr. Jesse Thomas, Uncle Peter Looney and several others gave interesting life experiences of early days, house raising and log rolling from eighteen to twenty-five days during one season, besides doing their homework.  The amount and severity of the labor necessary for clearing off the forest was clearly shown.
          Mr. Charles Loehner, of Indianapolis made a speech amusing and instructive a combination of humor and good sense.  Dr. John Arnold, upon taking the chair as President, delivered the following address:  Ladies and gentleman, with unfeigned gratitude I thank you for the honor conferred in choosing me to preside over the meeting of the Old Settlers of Rush county for the ensuing year. I appreciate the honor, for the subject matters there discussed are consonant with my fondest feelings and deepest sympathies, relating as they do the reminiscences and experiences of the brave pioneers of this county. It is meet and proper that we should do as we have done to day, assemble occasionally and review our recollections of the interesting incidents, the bitter privations and incessant labors of those who have preceded us, by listening to the true, the unadorned, and the deeply touching tales of the venerable survivors.  It is a grateful privilege to listen to the words of these brave men and women, who more than half a century ago entered the then unbroken wilderness, animated by the hope and determination to make for themselves and their children a home in this rich and pleasant land.  Nerved by this heroic motive, they were undismayed by toil or hardship, and by their energy and perseverance laid broad and firm the foundation of our present moral and social prosperity.
History of Rush County, Indiana, Chicago: Brant & Fuller, 1888, pgs 340-341.

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