CHAPTER VII
TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATION-THE RIVER TRADE BY FLATBOAT AND STEAMBOAT-DAYS OF THE STAGE COACH AND ROAD WAGON.

The subject of means of communication and transportation recurs again and again in the history of the county. Ever since men began to live on the earth, the matter of going from place to place and carrying things from place to place has been of vital importance; and the higher the development of society the more perfected become the methods of such communication.

It would be impossible to conceive of our country in its present state of civilization without the facilities for movement and transportation which men have devised and improved during the last hundred years. The problems now presented in the moving of material and persons from place to place are among the most serious and perplexing which engage the attention of communities, states and the nation.

Cities and towns grow in population accordingly as they are conveniently situated with respect to transportation facilities, or as these facilities are supplied when needed. An agricultural district, however fertile, will be improved to the point of profitable production only when means are at hand or are provided by which the products may be readily and economically taken away to the markets.

These economic principles find many illustrations in the history of Sullivan county. The county has had its Indian trails, its paths blazed through the woods, its primitive state and local highways, its water routes, its graveled pikes, its railroads, and its electric lines, each accompanying a new degree of development and marking a new era in the welfare of the people.

During the pioneer era of Sullivan county, the Wabash river was the great artery of transportation. From the records of the pioneers it will be found that many of the early settlers used the river route for at least a part of their migration. Some came up the river in canoes or other light craft. Vincennes was at the time the intermediate station for settlers, who usually stopped there before making their final selection of land. The journey to Vincennes was often made by water, and from that point the emigrants struck inland to their new homes on the prairies.

But the Wabash river was of less importance to the actual settlement of this county than as a commercial highway after the people were permanently located and had begun to produce the crops of the soil in quantities greater than the demands of local consumption. The problem of sending produce to the markets and of bringing home the commodities which supplied the wants of a pioneer community was largely solved, in this county, by the transportation facilities of the Wabash river.

It was only a few years after the organization of the county that the inhabitants of the Wabash valley witnessed the unusual spectacle of a craft propelled by steam against the current of the river. The first steamboat passed up the river as far as Terre Haute in May, 1823, and that event signalized the beginning of an important commerce both up and down the river, which continued until the railroad era. Previous to that time the only boats that could make progress up the river were light hand- propelled craft, hardly serviceable for regular commerce.

Flat Boats.

The magnitude of the Wabash commerce in 1832 is described in a quotation from "The Emigrants and Travelers' Guide," published in that year. "Hundreds of flat-boats annually descend the Wabash and White rivers . . . . The trade of the Wabash river is becoming immense. In 1831, during the period between March 5th and April 16th, fifty-four steamboats arrived and departed from Vincennes. It is also estimated that at least one thousand flat-boats entered the Ohio from the Wabash in the same time. In February, March and April of this year there were sixty arrivals of steamboats at Lafayette." This writer tells us that one-tenth of the flat-boats, according to estimate, were "loaded with pork at the rate of 300 barrels to the boat,"-another tenth said to be loaded with lard, cattle, horses, oats, cornmeal, etc., and the remainder with corn on the ear. The value of produce and stock sent annually to market from the valley of the Wabash was estimated by one authority at nearly $1,000,000.

The flat-boat was an ideal craft for the times and purpose for the Indiana rivers, from its light draft, its capacity and cheapness. The flat- boats were made in the fall and winter, ready for the spring waters. Trunks of poplars, sometimes 90 to 100 feet long, without a splice, were used for the gunwales. The tree was squared by hewing, and then mounted on "bucks" so that two men could whip-saw it from end to end. The two timbers were then about eight inches thick and from two to three feet wide. These formed the two sides or gunwales. Near the lower edge of each gunwale, a groove was cut a depth of two or three inches to allow the flooring to be set on, and the planks were bolted by wooden pins. The pins were made by the barrel. Spikes were not used because of expense and scarcity of iron. The seams were calked with hemp or flax. Uprights were set at intervals along the gunwales, and the sides were boarded up to the required height, depending upon the draft of the vessel. A thousand bushels of corn were often the contents of one cargo.

The boats were built bottom-side up, and when finished were turned over by block and tackle. Sometimes they were built on a slope at the water's edge so that turning was easier. Another method was to turn the boat right side up in the water, sand being piled on one side until the weight was sufficient to careen the other side, and a little skilful maneuvering put the craft upright.

Corn was shipped in the ear. The southern planters preferred it so to being shelled and sacked, since it was less liable to spoil. One of the staples brought back from the south was New Orleans sugar. Of course, sugar was a luxury, and until the steamboat era reduced the cost of transportation the pioneers generally depended on maple sugar and other homemade substitutes. Even after the steamboat traffic became general, a large proportion of the imported merchandise used in Sullivan county was brought in overland from Louisville and Evansville. For a number of years a man named Webb, of Merom, carried on an extensive business in hauling goods overland. He had several fine teams in which be took much pride.

Busseron creek was also considered a navigable stream during the flat-boat era. Owing to the presence of forest growth and lack of drainage, the waters of this and similar tributaries were greater in volume and less fluctuating than in later years, and during the spring freshets it was possible to float boats loaded with produce down the current of Busseron. Caledonia was once a center for the flat-boat traffic, and boats were also loaded at Carlisle and other points.

Mails and Stage Roads.

For the transportation of mails and passengers, the pioneer epoch had few regular facilities. Mails were carried overland from Vincennes to Merom and to Terre Haute usually by horseback. Travel was usually by the same means, and the individual traveler depended on his own horse and followed such roads as he found through the wilderness. When steamboats began running up and down the river, mail and passengers were conveyed on the boats, and about the same time the state road was constructed from Vincennes north through Merom to Terre Haute. For many years this road was the principal thoroughfare for all kinds of traffic up and down the Wabash valley. The river was not navigable at all times of the year, and consequently the stage road was more to be depended upon for transportation the year around. A line of stage coaches ran over this route even for a year or more after the building of the railroad north and south. Merom was a regular station on the line, which passed on through Graysville and Fairbanks into Vigo county.

The state road was so called because it was laid out in accordance with the provisions of a special act of the state legislature. Still other highways were confined to the county itself, although generally connecting with other thoroughfares at the boundaries. Such highways were under the sole jurisdiction of the county commissioners and known as county roads. A large part of the time of every session of the county board during the early period of the history of the county was taken up with hearing petitions for these county roads, appointing viewers to lay them out, hearing and approving the reports of the viewers and establishing the roads, or in listening to remonstrances and appointing reviewers. In time, however, all the necessary roads have been laid out, and it is not often now that petitions for new roads are presented to the commissioners.

Modern Road Building.

The attention of the county board and of the township road authorities is now, and has been for years, chiefly given to bridging, draining, grading, graveling and otherwise improving the highways already laid out. Although when first laid out and improved, the various highways were for a time distinguished as national, state, county and even township roads: yet now, and for a long time, all roads are improved and cared for under the countv and township road authorities, and the laws in relation to highways apply uniformly to all public roads, no matter by what authority they were originally established.

It is said that the United States postal authorities in charge of the free delivery mail routes have recently pronounced the highways of Indiana the best in the Union. In Sullivan county the process of permanent road improvement is not more than twenty years old. At the present time there are about 400 miles of "improved" roads in the county, that is, roads that have been graded and surfaced with rock or gravel, so that their condition is comparatively speaking one of permanent improvement.

Certain portions of highway in the county, especially what have been known as "Busseron bottom roads," became subjects of special work and expense some forty years ago. There is record of a meeting at the court house in 1867 of those interested in the improvement of the Linton road across the Busseron bottom. J. C. Brodie was chairman. The sum of $800 was subscribed for the repair of this highway.

Aside from these special efforts to make passable roads, the good roads movement in this county began during the latter decade of the '80s. In 1886 it was estimated that the total amount of taxes for roads collected during the preceding ten years was $57,373.39, this being the net amount after deducting expenses of collection. The amount expended on roads in 1876 was $2,665; 1878, $3,393.64; in 1879, $2,608.72, while during the last four years of this decade the annual expenditure had reached over nine thousand dollars per year. And yet a very small part of this sum had been expended with a view to permanent results, and the roads were considered as bad if not worse than before.

About 1890 a new law was enacted providing for the construction of gravel roads, to be paid for by township taxation. In Sullivan county the building of gravel roads met strong opposition. The newly organized F. M. B. A. directed its power against this form of community undertaking, and when these lodges began to oppose it the public agitation in behalf of the movement was partly nullified. The Democrat had little to say in its columns except to call attention to the depth of mud on the various roads and the consequent loss of business to Sullivan.

But the good roads movement made an appeal to business interests that made its ultimate success inevitable. In January, 1892, a meeting at the court house resolved unanimously in favor of building a road from Sullivan to the gravel beds in Turman township. The executive committee appointed by this meeting consisted of Claude Crowder, Robert Dudley, John H. Welling, Jacob Billman and J. L. Higbee, while a committee to furnish estimates of cost was composed of P. H. Blue, Harry Pittman, C. L. Davis and T. J. Wolfe. About the same time a session of the farmers' institute devoted an entire afternoon to the road question.

A resume of the road situation was published in February, 1892, in which it was shown that from 1875 to 1890 the sum of $90,805.84 was paid out for roads, an average of six thousand dollars a year, exclusive of salaries to trustees and supervisors and the sums paid for road scrapers, graders and plows; also it did not include the sums paid out of township funds nor work done by road hands who were warned out by the road supervisors and required to work a certain number of days. All this money was declared to have been wasted so far as any permanent improvement in the condition of the county's highways was concerned.

About the middle of that decade, however, the construction of grave! roads became general in different parts of the county. An item in March. 1896, states that in nearly all the townships petitions for improved roads were circulating, and that the surveyor and viewers had been at work in Haddon, petitions having been circulated for the grading of roads in almost all directions from Carlisle.

In July, 1897, a contract was awarded by the county commissioners for the construction of 77 miles of road in the county, for a total sum of $137,000. Other contracts followed each year, until within ten years the county had about four hundred miles of road. While many of these roads have been surfaced with gravel, in recent years the commissioners have awarded large contracts for crushed stone roads. There are no large gravel deposits available in the county, and it has been found to be more economical to bring in crushed stone for road making. The cost per mile of a stone road is between four and five thousand dollars.

The building of these roads has been a heavy drain upon the resources of the county and townships. Several years ago it was found that some of the townships had reached the limit of their indebtedness, and were unable to contract further improvements. In May, 1906, it was announced that the county commissioners would entertain no petitions for graveling roads until the different townships became able to assume their share of the financial burdens. Every township was then bonded to its legal limit, and 110 funds would be available for road making during the next two years. It was charged that this condition was largely the result of the abuse of the privilege of building short roads. Every resident had interested himself in the construction of a road past his farm, but this did not promote a thorough system of roads, laid out for the best welfare of all concerned.

Bridges.

The building of bridges has been one of the important functions of the board of county commissioners from the time of the settlement of the county. At the present time it would be difficult to find in the county a highway crossing over a stream that is not bridged. Along the principal roads, especially those traversed by the stage and mail lines, bridges were built at an early date, though until within the memory of the present generation a customary method of getting over a stream was to ford it, and the roads often turned aside from the straight line in order to strike the stream at a fordable point. Likewise a great change has occurred in the type of bridges used. Formerly the wooden bridge was altogether in use. the superstructure resting often on wooden pillars, but sometimes on stone columns. Most of the larger bridges erected within the last twenty-five years have been of iron or steel construction, though the cement arch and the reinforced concrete type has rapidly come into favor during the past ten years.

One of the early iron bridges of which there is record was a bridge built over Buck creek in 1883, the King's Iron Bridge Company of Cleveland having the contract. The supports for this bridge were four iron columns about twenty inches in diameter, filled with rock and cement, and the fifty-foot span was of iron. In 1886 the county commissioners contracted for the building of two iron bridges, one over the Busseron at Paxton and one at Carlisle.

The commissioners reported, in November, 1894, that 31 iron bridges had been put up in the county as a result of orders from their office. Each year a considerable part of the county expenditures have been devoted to the construction of bridges, the sum expended in 1901 being nearly eleven thousand dollars.




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