History of Perry County

History of Perry County
From its organization to the present day
by Miss Josie Drumb

From The Cannelton Enquirer
Saturday, August 17, 1872

Perry County was organized in the year 1814, two years before the State of Indiana was admitted to the Union. It was named in honor of the Gallant Commodore Oliver H. Perry, whose fame is known to every school boy in the state.

It contains about four hundred square miles of territory; and is bounded on the North by Dubois and Crawford Counties; East by Crawford County and the Ohio River; South by the Ohio River; and West by Spencer and Dubois Counties.

It formerly had eight civil townships, viz, Troy, Deer Creek, Tobin, Union, Oil, Clark, Leopold and Anderson, but Deer Creek Township has been dropped, leaving but seven.

With the exception of about 20,000 acres of bottom land along the Ohio and Anderson valleys, and some wet lands at the heads of the various streams the balance of the county is very hilly. In the bottoms the soil is rich, but much the largest part is what is usually termed poor land, though there is but a small part of it which may not with careful farming be made productive. The timber is excellent the best of Oak and Poplars are found in the hills, while Sugar, Beech, Ash and Walnut are found in the low bottoms.

The various articles exported from the county are Corn, Pork, Tobacco, Potatoes and the various kinds of marketing such as Poultry, Butter, Eggs, Feathers, Wool, etc.

In 1844 there were in the county fifteen mills, either running by water or horse power; now there are about fifty (nearly all steam) including the mills of Tell City, Troy and Cannelton. There were also at that time five lawyers, ten physicians, fifteen ministers and two hundred mechanics, also, about eighteen school houses with as many teachers, nine churches: three Baptist, two Methodist, three Catholic and one Unitarian.

About 1833 the Legislature set apart a certain fund called the "Seminary Fund" and the Seminary in this County was located at Rome with Joshua Huckeby, Samuel Frisbie, John Shoemaker, Geo. Ewing, Arad Simonds and Barney Royster as Trustees. The Seminary was conducted under their management for several years, but was finally sold for $114. The schools in the county at that time were very poorly organized, being taught in log cabins with little or no furniture excepting some benches hewn from small trees, etc.

But to return to the organization of the county, Solomon Lamb was the first Clerk, Harvy McCoy the first Auditor and Samuel Connor the first Sheriff. James Wheeler was elected Treasurer, but refused to serve, wherefore no less than ten persons were tendered the appointment each of whom refused to serve and the Board was compelled to adjourn without making an appointment. Mr. Lamb was, also, Recorder at the same time by virtue of his first office as Clerk and the first deed recorded by him was from David Groves to John Cassidy on the 18th day of March 1815 and conveyed one hundred acres of fractional section 28, township 6 south range 1 west, consideration paid was $300. The Recorder's office was not made a separate office till after the new constitution was adopted in 1852, Henry Groves being the first Recorder.

The first Court held in this county was held at the residence of Jas. McDaniels on the 3rd day of July 1815. The court was held by Isaac Blackford presiding Judge, Thomas Martin and James McDaniel's associates.

The first Grand Jury was composed of Peter Barbre, David Groves, Andrew Collins, Jonathan Esary, Abraham Murphy, Jacob Davis, Elias Hedden, Jesse Grew, Jesse Morgan, Ezra Lamb, Abraham Hiley, Wm. Taylor, Joseph Wright, Thomas Polk, Jacob Weatherholdt, Edward Erskin, Wm. Stark, Joseph Shields, James Kellums, Berriman Lamar, and Burnett Dewitt, twenty-two good and lawful men.

The first commissioners of which we have record are David Edwards, Uriah Lamar and Benjamin Clark; they were sworn into office on the 10th day of February 1817. David Floyd was appointed and discharged the duties of Prosecuting Attorney for the first court, for which services he received $20. The first criminal case tried in the county was United States against John Cooper for assault and battery on Daniel Weathers, trial before Jury and verdict "not guilty."

Among the indictments found in the first term of the circuit court were several for "profane swearing," each of whom were fined $.50, being the first who paid a fine in the new county. The first marriage in this county was Berriman Richardson to Polly Reed on the 16th day of February, 1815. The first divorce granted, any record of which is preserved, was granted to Joseph Melson from Bettie Melson on the 11th day of November, 1815, for abandonment; Isaac Blackford presiding Judge.

The first Printing Office was at Cannelton on Front St. The paper called "The Economist" was edited by C. H. Mason.

In 1840 the total amount of expenditures of Perry county was $442.55. In 1850 the county contained one thousand two hundred and thirty dwellings, one thousand two hundred and fifty families, seven thousand two hundred and sixty-eight inhabitants, five hundred and forty farms, and fourteen productive establishments. Owing to the incorrect returns of the U. S. Marshall for 1870 it is impossible to give the correct number of dwellings, farms, etc. at that time.

In the settlement of Perry county, the business of hunting engaged the attention of many of the people to procure even their necessary food and on certain occasions the women were not less fearless and efficient than the other sex. One incident which occurred in the early history of the county is the following: John Archibald and wife having succeeded in treeing a bear, cut down the tree which unfortunately fell upon the husband, broke his leg, and held him fast to the ground; in the hurry of the moment the wife did not notice the accident but she and the dogs pursued the bear for a mile or two, when he was brought to bay, and she and the dogs came up and killed him. For the first time she missed her husband and hastily returning, relieved him from his unpleasant situation. Mr. Archibald was still living in the year 1850.

The first vest that President Lincoln wore was spun, woven and made by Mrs. Scissel who lives on Anderson River in this county.

The Towns of Perry County

Troy was settled in the year by the Indiana Pottery Co. It has at present a large saw and grist mill, also a hub and spoke factory, several good stores and a very good brick schoolhouse. Population is 1870 was 480.

Rome was settled 1811 and was the County seat until the year 1859 when it was removed in Cannelton.

Cannelton was first laid out in 1835 and was settled by Colliers under the supervision of Messrs. Rhodes and McLane. Cannelton is now the largest town in the county, and has a court house, five churches, several elegant residences, and a large cotton factory which is called the Indiana Cotton Mills. It was built by C. F. James. There are at present about 11,000 spindles in operation in this mill; it employs several hundred hands mostly women and produces forty thousand yards of sheeting per week. This establishment which is 300 feet long and four stories high, is built of variegated sandstone, presents a splendid appearance from the river. Cannelton also contains an excellent public school building, an extensive Pottery owned by Clark & Bro., a large flour mill and in a few weeks a paper mill will be in operation.

Some of the greatest improvements of Cannelton own their origin to General S. Hunt of New Hampshire, and Messrs. Hobart, William and Russell of Boston, Mass. who formed the American Cannel Coal Co. in the year 1837. The population of Cannelton in 1870 was 2,419.

Leopold in the center of the county was settled by French emigrants in 1843 under the supervision of the Rev. Augustus Bessoniss.

Tell City two miles below Cannelton was settled in 1858 by the Swiss Colonization Society which was organized at Cincinnati December 1856, under the supervision of J. Christine, president, J. C. Appenzeller, Vice President; Charles Steinaur, Peter Ludwig, P. Luthy, and J. Schoettlin, Secretaries; J. Goldenberg, Treasurer, and Chas. Tufflin, P. Constance and M. Goeppa, Trustees. Tell City is one of the most flourishing towns on the lower Ohio, having at present five large Furniture and Chair factories, two wagon factories, and extensive flour mill, several large saw mills, one Brewery and an Iron Foundry.

The owners of the manufacturies there have recently purchased a steamboat for the purpose of transporting their goods to the different markets at as little expense as possible, and also by this means they can ship all times independent of outside boats. Tell City has two fine public school buildings employing three English and four German teachers. The population of Tell City in 1870 was 1,650. The other towns of Perry County are Derby which is a short distance below the mouth of Oil Creek. Rono which is seven miles above Derby and is the shipping point for the merchants of Leopold.

This is all the information I can give on this subject at present.