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Reminiscences of a Jefferson County Pioneer
Published in the Madison Courier – May 27, 1874
Abner Bare, an old pioneer, now living on Pleasant Ridge, was born in Owen County Kentucky, April 5th, 1804, making him over 70 years old. His father and an older brother came to the wilds of Indiana in the year 1812, with a view of moving to this State, which was at that time a dense wilderness. Having selected a location near the waters of Indian Kentucky Creek, about two miles from its mouth, they were soon busy building a cabin. After having finished it they returned to Kentucky, intending to return speedily. But to their sorrow and disappointment, the Indians broke out and they were obliged to remain in Kentucky for two years longer.
Peace being proclaimed and the war-whoop of the Indians having subsided, they were able to return to Indiana’s soil about the year 1814. As it was nothing but a dense wilderness at that time, the neighbors were few and far between. The howl of wolves and the hooting of the owls made music during the night and woe to the poor sheep that chanced to be neglected. On one occasion, Mr. Bare built a pen in the rear of the house in order to save the sheep, but to his utter surprise the wolves climbed in and slaughtered them all.
Here he lived for ten years, and coming to the conclusion that it was easier for two to keep house then one, he formed the acquaintance of Miss Orpha Lewis, daughter of Mr. Oliver Lewis, formerly Deputy Sheriff of Jefferson County. They were married April 21, 1825. Neither possessing a fortune, and nothing but their hands with which to carve out a fortune, they at once set to work at the task. The first step toward it was chopping cord-wood at 25 cents per cord and taking groceries for pay at enormous prices. Mr. Bare also cultivated some corn and raised some wheat; the balance of the time he worked in the slaughter or pork-house, in the winters from 1830 up to the year 1839, under the supervision of Mr. Wm. Bowman, now living in the city.
Having become tired of the murmur of the waters of Indian Kentucky creek, Mr. Bare determined he would have a home and fireside he could call his own. But as it required money as well as friends, he was at a loss to know what to do. Being determined, however, he sold everything he could possibly do without. Beginning on his scanty crib of corn, he sold the lot at 75cents per barrel; he also sold some oats at 8c. per dozen bundles; sold the only cow he had for $7; sacrificed his horse for the small sum of $25 – a horse which at the present time would bring $150. Thus you see he secured money enough money enough to enter 40 acres of Government land.
One thing I must speak of: Mr. Bare had just money enough to buy the 40 acres, and not a cent to pay his expenses to the Land Office. Here he was again at a loss to know what to do. He determined to call on some of his friends for assistance, and as the old saying and a true one is, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Mr. Bare marched boldly up to Mr. Caleb Schmidlapp, told him his business, and requested him to loan him $3, to which that gentleman kindly responded, and our hero was soon on his way toward the Land Office, where he gladly gave his hard-earned money in exchange for the 40 acres.
The next thing in order was a cabin to live in, and as he had paid out all the money he had and was in debt $3 to Mr. Schmidlapp, of course he felt an embarrassment. However, in the spring of 1834, he set his foot on the new soil with his ax in hand. He was soon busy chopping the trees down and clearing away, making an opening in the dense forest. In the course of a few weeks, instead of the tall trees that had bid defiance to the blasts of many winters and the storms of summer, there arose the settler’s cabin. The floor was made of logs hewn down to the shape of boards. The chimney was composed of logs, sticks, straw, mud, &c. No king on his stately throne was ever so happy as the pioneer and his companion when the first meal was spread.
Their table was simply a ladder, laid on two logs, with some boards across. The what-cake, coffee and maple molasses never was better than on that memorable evening at supper. The ladder is still in the possession of the family.
JEFFERSON COUNTY PIONEERS
This was a series of articles that appeared in the Madison Courier. Some were first hand accounts by the early settlers and others were taken from autobiographies from other sources. They are reproduced in their entirety by the Jefferson County Historical Society and with their permission we offer them on our website.
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