Buzzards' Roost


by Lucie Gerber

When Major Otis E. Saalman was in the Pacific during World War II, he often thought of his home in Indiana and the dream house he would build when he returned. it would be in the neighborhood of Buzzards' Roost, within two miles of where he was born. He knew the history and the beauty of the place.

Sunday he was a speaker for the Perry County Historical Society at Buzzards' Roost in the U. S. National Forest. His talk was on the geography, the geology and topography of the region.

Geography, the nature of the land, is what causes history to happen, he said. History is a record of life, he continued, and when we're young, we don't get interested but when we reach maturity we wonder about our country and what our ancestors were like. Sometimes we wait too long.

When we listen to our grandparents they sow the seed but it might be too late. Each of us, he said, have four grandparents and all these generations before us had the same number and in 600 years we accumulate a sizable number of ancestors and he declared our forebearers are either something special or the greatest accident.

The geology of the area was caused in part by the warm salt water which produced limestone 100 feet deep. Ice once covered the country, but missed these few counties, he said. The glacial period produced the rivers and lakes, hills, mountains and plains. The Ohio River is the great highway by which both famous and infamous came to Perry County from Kentucky and Virginia. Some of the first settlers in that part of Perry County were the Walkers, Ewings, Esareys and others.

As the boats were loaded with produce, they took on wood for their steam boilers. Most of the river towns were important including Rono (now Magnet), Derby and father down the river, Rome.

There was once a large vineyard on the present site of the picnic grounds. It was owned by a Kentucky man who brought his slaves across the river to work there. Major Saalman said this is probably the only place there were slaves in Indiana.

Galey's Landing on the Ohio River near Buzzards' Roost was an important shipping port for many years. It is non-existent today. In the early 1800's farmers floated their produce down the river to New Orleans via raft or flatboat and walked back. Some bought horses and rode back.

They were paid an average of $600 in gold coins for their produce. Highwaymen robbed and sometimes murdered them as they made their way north. Those who reached home with their gold buried it since there were no banks.

Later at Galey's Landing, farmers shipped their goods to Louisville. They stayed overnight returning the next day.

In 1858 there lived a man by the name of Prater who had for sons. They were horse thieves. The sons went out to nearby states and stole fine horses. They would bring the the animals to their crippled father, who sat in the breezeway of their home and judged the horses. Everybody said old man Prater was a good judge of horse flesh. They kept the animals at Penitentiary Rock until ready to sell them.

Eventually, the law caught up with them. They were tried in the Perry Circuit Court, convicted and taken to the penitentiary at Jeffersonville. All died in prison except one son, who, when released, came back and dug up the gold and left it in a skiff at Galey's Landing.

It is hard to visualize Indians and pioneers living together in that area 150 years ago. The Indians promised to tell some of their white friends the location of a lead mine, but they never got around to it.

Major Saalman said he does not know how Buzzards' Roost received its name.

A brief business session was conducted by president James J. Groves. One matter settled was that Major Saalman will deliver the society's Bicentennial address at the Sept. 14 meeting in the city park at Cannelton.