By Charlene Shields
Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."
Copyright ©2002 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."
This is the fourth column quoting a speech made by the Rev. Braxton
Parrish in Benton in 1874. Last week, we left the Rev. Mr. Parrish and
his bride in their newly-built log cabin, settling in near Benton. "We
had plenty of everything to eat," he said, "but how to get money was the
problem, we had none." Continuing:
"Notes were given, not for money, but for raccoon skins or articles
personal property. I remember that I once went down to Dorris store at
Old Frankfort, to get some domestic for my wife, who was sick. I told
Dorris our condition; that we had been sick and got bare of clothing,
and asked him how much I could pay him for the cloth we needed so much.
"He asked me, 'Are you a hunter?' I said, 'No sir.' Says he, 'Will you
hunt?' I said, 'Why do you want to know that?' 'Well,' says he, 'If you
will hunt and let me have all the skins and deer hams you get, you can
have what you want.' I agreed to his proposition and bought 24 yards of
cotton domestic at 50 cents a yard. When I took it home I told my wife
how I got it. She shed tears and said we were in debt, that we could
never get out. This affected me somewhat, but I told her that we did not
get the goods before we needed them, and I thought there would be some
way provided to pay for them.
"This was in the winter and weather was very severe. The next morning
was up before daylight to go hunting. When I reached Middle Fork Creek
it was frozen over hard, but I found an air hole, an open space in the
ice, and while looking at it, I spied an otter stick his head up. Before
I could shoot, it dodged under the ice. The water was clear and I could
see it swimming under the ice. I followed it down the creek until I saw
it go into a hole in the bank under the water. I then went back home
and got some tools and my dogs and went digging, and soon unearthed and
captured three large otters. The skins were worth $4 apiece. So that you
see I paid for the cloth I had bought by one hunt before breakfast. I
took the skins to my wife and told her we would now get out of debt. She
said she would never distrust providence again.
"At this time I could not read or write intelligently, nor cipher any,
but by the light of the fireplace at night, after working hard all day,
I tried to improve myself in reading, writing and arithmetic, and by
perseverance in this way, I got a fair knowledge of these branches.
"I cleared my own farm, cut and split the rails and carried them on
shoulder and made a fence, as I had no wagon to haul them. There were no
plows to be had nearer than Shawneetown, 50 miles away, and I had no
money to buy one if they had been nearer. I borrowed a 'bull-tongue'
plow of my father-in-law--stocked it myself. It had no iron about it
except the plow and bolt--had a wooden clevise, wooden single-tree, etc.
For harness I had a shuck collar, hickory bark lines. With this rigging
I broke up my ground, and covered my corn with a cooper's adze, having
no better tool for the purpose. One night a trifling dog had eaten up
my deer-skin backband. I went into the house and got my gun to shoot him
to get his hide to make another backband, but the dog got away...With
these implements we made corn in abundance.
"The nearest mill in the country was on the Wabash River where Carmi
is. I once took a load of corn to that mill and had it ground. We had no
wheat in those days. On our return we upset in a small creek which was
swollen by a freshet and lost most of our meal. We then concluded we
would go back there no more and had to resort to other means to make
(To be continued)
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