History of Parke Co.





This section is dedicated to the four sons of Keith and Betty Spencer who perished on Valentines Day, February 14, 1977 during the Hollandsburg Massacre.  Their story and pictures are located below.



Acquired by Great Britain from France following the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the Ohio Country had been closed to white settlement by the Proclamation of 1763. The United States claimed the region after the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War, but was subject to overlapping and conflicting claims of the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Virginia, as well as a lingering British presence that was not settled until the War of 1812.

The region had long been desired for expansion by colonists, however, and urgency of the settlement of the claims of the individual states was prompted in large measure by the de facto opening of the area to settlement following the loss of British control.

In 1784, Thomas Jefferson proposed that the indivdual states should relinquish their particular claims to all the territory west of the Appalachians, and the area should be divided into new states of the Union. Thomas Jefferson's proposal of creating a national domain through state cessions of western lands came from earlier proposals dating back to 1776 debates about the Articles of Confederation.[1] Jefferson proposed creating seventeen roughly rectangular states from the territory, and even suggested names for the new states, including Chersonesus, Sylvania, Assenisipia, Metropotamia, Polypotamia, Pelisipia, Saratoga, Washington, Michigania and Illinoia. The proposal was adopted in a modified form, and without Jefferson's invented names, as the Northwest Ordinance of 1784. This ordinance established the example that would become the basis for the Northwest Ordinance three years later. Michigan, Illinois, and Washington would eventually be used as state names.

The 1784 ordinance was criticized by George Washington in 1785 and James Monroe in 1786. Monroe convinced Congress to reconsider the proposed state boundaries and a committee was formed which recommended repealing that part of the ordinance. Other politicians questioned the 1784 ordinance's plan for organizing governments in new states, and worried that the new states' relatively small size would undermine the original states' power in Congress. Other events such as the reluctance of states south of the Ohio River to cede their western claims resulted in a narrowed geographic focus.[1]

The Northwest Ordinance (formally An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio, and also known as the Freedom Ordinance) was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States. The primary effect of the ordinance was the creation of the Northwest Territory as the first organized territory of the United States out of the region south of the Great Lakes, north and west of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River. On August 7, 1789, the U.S. Congress affirmed the Ordinance with slight modifications under the Constitution.

Arguably the single most important piece of legislation passed by members of the earlier Continental Congresses other than the Declaration of Independence, it established the precedent by which the United States would expand westward across North America by the admission of new states, rather than by the expansion of existing states.

Further, the banning of slavery in the territory had the effect of establishing the Ohio River as the boundary between free and slave territory in the region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. This division helped set the stage for the balancing act between free and slave states that was the basis of a critical political question in American politics in the 19th century until the Civil War.




Judge Benjamin Parke

Benjamin Parke was born in New Jersey on Sep. 2, 1777 where he grew up and received only a limited education. He later moved to Lexington, Kentucky in 1797, where he studied law in the office of James Brown. In 1799 he was admitted to the bar. The same year Parke moved to Vincennes in the Indiana Territory where he began practicing law.

Parke was appointed by Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison to serve as Attorney General of the Indiana Territory from 1804 to 1808.

In 1805, Parke was elected to the lower house of first territorial legislature. Parke was a member of the majority party and was in support of the pro-slavery and indenturing laws being debated at the time. After only a brief time in the legislature he was selected as the territory's first representative in Congress. While serving in Congress, responding to requests from his constituents, Parke asked that body to amend the Northwest Ordinance to pass legislation permitting slavery in Indiana. This effort was unsuccessful. Parke served in Congress from December 12, 1805, until March 1, 1808 when he resigned to accept a position on the staff of Gov. Harrison. From 1808–1817 Parke was appointed by Harrison to serve as a judge of the Indiana Territory.

Parke was involved in the founding of the Vincennes public library and Vincennes University during his early years in Vincennes. And near the end of his life he was the first president of the Indiana State Historical Society.

During Tecumseh's War and the War of 1812 Parke served in the military as part of the army commanded by General & Governor Harrison. Captain Benjamin Parke commanded a troop of Indiana Light Dragoons at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. He was promoted to major, and took command of all mounted forces after Major Joseph Hamilton Daviess was killed. After the war, Parke returned to his public position as Judge.

During the move towards statehood Parke served as a delegate from Knox County, Indiana at the state constitutional convention in 1816. He was one of signatories when the constitution was agreed upon that July. After statehood he became the first U.S. District Judge for Indiana in 1817 and served until 1835 when he died.

Parke died on July 12, 1835 in Salem, Indiana. He is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.



 Reverend Isaac McCoy began as a Baptist missionary in 1817 among the Indians at the mouth of Racoon creek near Armiesburg north east of Clinton and south east of Montezuma in present Parke County, Indiana. where he established his first mission school.  (Armiesburg is north on the road at the bottom of Daily Hill on U.S. 41  as you drive toward Clinton.)  He officiated at the Christian marriage of Mary Ann Isaacs and Christmas (Noel) Dagenet on February 16, 1819, a year before the county was "organizied".

She was the daughter of Thomas and Eliza Isaacs (sic) who emigrated to Parke County in early 1819. Christmas Dagenet was a half-breed Wea Indian born on December 25, 1799, near present Terre Haute, Indiana, the son of French fur trader Ambrose Dagenet and Mary Godfroy, sister of Wea Chief Jacco Godfroy. Mary Ann Issacs was an English-speaking Christian and Christmas Dagenet was educated by the Catholics.  In May 1820 Reverend McCoy moved the McCoy Mission School north to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a brief time before proceeding on up to southwest Michigan and establishing the Carey Mission School in 1822.
Jemima Issacs, another daughter of Thomas and Eliza, enrolled in McCoy's Mission School  in Parke County near Armiesburg on December 10, 1819, at the age of eight and remained on the only known Carey Mission School roster in 1827.
Condensed from my research paper dated 2006.
Charles W. Clawson


 PARKE County was organized in 1821, and was named in honor of Benjamin Parke, the first member of Congress from the Indiana Territory. The county contains about four hundred and forty square miles, with a population of nearly 25,000.

When Parke County was first organized in 1821, it's western boundry line was the Illinois state line, and what is now Vermilllion County was the western most township of Parke County.  Three years later in 1824, Vermillion Township organized into Vermillion County and the Wabash River became the new western boundry of Parke County. (Parke Place Magazine, May 1985, Vol. 5, No. 5)


The county was first settled in 1818, by John M. Doty, who located on Henry's prairie. Pioneer John Doty setted here in 1817 as the very first resident of the original hub of Parke County. He named it Dotyville. The town was later named for resident philanthropist, Chauncy Rose, who offered to pay for the incorporation if they named it after him as Rosedale. A post office was established in 1860 as well as the Terre Haute & Logansport Railroad in the area. During the height of the coal mining and railroad era in the 1800s, Rosedale grew as large as 1500 residents. The town was made recognizable across the country in the 1930's and 40's pre-television days when WGN radio in Chicago, Illinois syndicated its National Barn Dance program nationwide. Uncle Ezra, the show's host, claimed to broadcast from a small station in Rosedale. His sponsor, makers of, then new, Alka-Seltzer, immortalized the town through the song, "Rosedale, Everybody's home town."

Judge Joseph Walker settled near where Numa now is, in Florida township (southwest Parke Co.) north of Terre Haute and south of Lyford, in 1819. Judge Seybold settled on Big Raccoon, not far from Bridgeton (Raccoon Township), in the same year. The mills at Roseville (now Coxville) in Florida township, were erected by Chauncey Rose, Moses Robbins and Andrew Brooks, as early as 1820. When the county was organized in 1821, an Indian reservation was made north of Montezuma, running up and down the east side of the  Wabash River, from the mouth of Sugar creek to the mouth of Big Raccoon, and about seven miles in width. Most of this territory was afterwards included in Reserve township north of Montezuma (northwest Parke Co). The last Indian representative who lived on these lands was a half-breed named Christmas Dozney/Dagenet.




John Adams settled in 1820, at the forks of the two Raccoon creeks, just north of Rosedale, and Judge Steele, now a prominent resident of Terre Haute, settled at Portland Mills, northeast of Hollandsburg (at the north end of what is now Raccoon Lake built in the 1950's) in 1821. Moses Hart settled at the same place about one year before. Judge Strange and Tobias Miller settled in Raccoon valley, in 1820, as also George and Alexander Kirkpatrick. James Kelsey and Francis Dickson built Dickson's Mills (now Mansfield Mills), in 1821, the year Parke county was organized.



James Kelsey and Francis Dickson built the original mill on the sandstone beside Raccoon

Creek in 1819. The original mill was a one story building that used stones to grind flour and

cornmeal. Eventually a commercial center developed around the Dickson’s mills and the

community changed its name to Mansfield.

In 1875, Jacob Rohm built a new dam and a two story mill on the foundation of the original mill.

Two water turbines, which still exist, were installed. Later a third story was added to the mill.

Competition from large flour mills forced the conversion of the Mansfield Roller Mill into a local

feed mill around 1929.

The mill was successfully listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 and

donated to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in 1995 (Mansfield Roller Mill State

Historic Site).



Thomas White and James Allen were also among the early settlers. Daniel Buchanan settled in the county in 1822, and Capt. Selman Lusk settled at the narrows of Sugar creek in 1821 north of Marshall at the north end of Parke County, where he built a mill and had a post office. (See The Lusk Estate/Turkey Run State Park below).    John Beard built mills near the mouth of Sugar creek near the Wabash River in northwestern Parke county north of Montezuma, in 1822. In 1821, Perley Mitchell settled in Penn Township in the north central of Parke County.  

In the year 1825, the friends settled in Penn Township in north central Parke county. Prominent among them may be mentioned Peyton Wilson, , James Morrison, Solomon Allen, James Pickard and Jeremiah Siler. The Friends added much to the settlement, in the way of industry and thrift. They have now an excellent church and high school at Bloomingdale. The latter is under the supervision of Prof. B. C. Hobbs, who has made it a superior school for the education of boys. Dr. E. Allen was one of the first settlers in Reserve township (northwest Parke county). His associate pioneers were William Cook and Joseph and Daniel Wolfe. Mr. Cook was the father-in-law to Governor Joseph A. Wright.

The first settlers of Wabash Township (western Parke County bordered on the west by the Wabash river) were James and John Laverty, Samuel Hill, Dr. Taylor, Colonel Hays and A. Punteny. Quite a number of the old log cabins of pioneer days are still standing-some that were erected in 1820.  The school was called the Laverty School.

The first county court was held in 1821, at Roseville in Florida township (now Coxville), and was removed permanently to Rockville, in Adams township in 1824, three years after the county was organized.

 With regard to the soil and productions, we will remark that Parke is a county of timbered land. Although situated on the very margin of the great western prairie region, it has, with but the exception of a few acres, or bottom prairie along the Wabash river, nothing deserving the name of prairie in the county. Nearly every other variety of soil found in the northwest is represented in the county. However, for agricultural purposes, the soil is excellent, and most of the farmers have become wealthy.

The available coal in Parke county belongs to the lower members of the great western coal field. Measuring from the base of the coal measures upward, the seams number one and two are the only reliable coal beds in the county; but these are productive, and sufficient for all practical purposes.


There are 13 townships in Parke county.    The townships basically stack 4 high and 3 wide (with the exception of 4 wide at the 3rd row high.)  Making up the southern townships are (west to east), Florida (Rosedale), Raccoon (Bridgeton), Jackson (Mansfield). Highway 36 runs thru the northern quarter of the 2nd row townships of ,(west to east), Wabash (Mecca), Adams (Rockville),  and Union (Bellmore).  The 3rd row west to east, Reserve(Montezuma), Penn (Bloomingdale), Washington (Marshall), and Greene(Guion & Milligan).  The  4th and top row (west to east), Liberty (Tangier), Sugar Creek(Turkey Run State Parke), and;Howard (Byron).


At one time there were over 100 one room schools in Parke County.

Rockville in Adams township, the county seat of Parke county, was laid out in the fall of 1823, and became the permanent county seat in the following year. Previous to the latter date, the county courts had been held in Roseville ( now Coxville) and Armiesburg. " The donors of the land on which Rockville is situated, were the first settlers of the town," viz. : Arthur Patterson, Andrew Ray, Aaron Hand and James B. McCall. Andrew Ray built the first house, which was a log cabin, situated on the public square.


It was the place of entertainment for all land " prospectors " in that section of the country for many years. He also built and conducted the first hotel in Rockville, which was opened first in 1824. Mr. Ray was a careful pioneer, lived economically, practiced industry, and died in 1872, a wealthy and respectable citizen of Parke county. The first white child born in Rockville, was James B. Ray, son of Andrew Ray, in 1824. 

This marker stands along the road between the Sanatorium and Nyesville at the bottom of the hill below the old Adams Farms home driveway.

Rockville being situated some distance from the Wabash River, and only accessible over almost impassable roads, it was for many years backward in its growth and improvements. The first house built expressly for school purposes, was a small brick structure, north of the old Baptist church location on N. Erie Street at Howard St., and the first teacher was a Mr. Patterson. The church and the school are no longer standing.  The school building below was built  in 1839 on W. Ohio (U.S. 36) and served as an Armory during the civil war.  It now serves as the Parke County Historical Society.

The celebrated Lorenzo Dow preached in Rockville in 1832, in the woods, on a lot south of the public square. That was a great day for the infant town. The settlers gathered from far and near to see and hear the  eccentric preacher. "A man came into the meeting with a cigar in his mouth, and was peremptorily challenged and ordered to throw it away." There were some other interesting incidents connected with the meeting. 

The first church organized in Rockville was by the Baptists.  (see below)  They held their first meeting in the old county court house.

During the last ten or fifteen years Rockville, and, indeed, the whole of Parke county, has improved rapidly. The manufacturing and commercial interest of the former are now full of promise, while the agricultural prospects of the latter are a source of material comfort to the farmers. The railroad facilities of Rockville have done considerable to promote its commercial enterprise, and have been largely instrumental in placing it on a solid footing. 

The educational facilities of Rockville are second to no other town of equal population in the State. A new public school house was begun in the fall of 1872, and finished in January , 1874, at a cost, including grounds, of $36,000 at Elm and Beadle (Shadeland) where the Grade School and Gym now stands.  It was the first all-grades school building.   

It is a fine three story brick, containing ten rooms, besides the large chapel, or lecture room, and is arranged to accommodate five hundred pupils. Rockville is a pleasant place to reside. The people are intelligent, sociable, and sensible; and the same remark holds good wherever you go in Parke county. (See Grade School History section).


Church and Family History Research Assistance
for Parke County, Indiana\




The first Predestinarian Baptist Church in Parke County was organized at Rockville in 1825. Meetings were held at the homes of members and at the log courthouse until 1834, when a brick house was built on lot 44 of the original plat of the town. This was the only church that this denomination built in a town of Parke County. Early members were Samuel and Matthew Noel, Austin Puett, Mrs. John G. Davis, and Mrs. Patsey (Noel) Puett. The church united with the Eel River Association. The society proceeded quietly with its activities until doctrinal controversies arose causing a division of the membership. The majority held meetings in Washington Township (north of Adams township), the minority soon ceased holding services, and the house was torn down. A part of the seceding members continued the organization, and in 1852 John Overman deeded to trustees a lot bounded on the west by the Rockville-Marshall gravel road, near the southeast corner of section 20, Washington Township. Here a substantial frame house was constructed, the name of the church was changed from Rockville to Pleasant Grove, and the organization was transferred to the Danville Association. Some of the members here were the Burfords, Overmans, Elders, and McCords. The average membership during the last fifty years of the church's existence was about twenty-seven. James Burford, Isaac W. Denman, and Joseph Skeeters were among the ministers. The clerks of the church were Lewis Noel from 1825 to 1840, David Elder from 1840 to 1872, Henry Burford from 1872 to 1884, and M. M. Canine, 1884 and thereafter. The society was dissolved on November 18, 1899. The property reverted to the Overman estate; the house was sold at public auction and removed to a farm where it is used as an implement house. The Overman Cemetery is located a half mile east of the church. The Elder Cemetery is a small lot in the northwest corner of section 20. Mr. Overman came from North Carolina in 1832, and died October 13, 1899, aged eighty-nine years. He was clerk of the Danville Association about forty years.


Providence Church was organized on May 3, 1828, with sixteen members. Benjamin Lambert presided as moderator, and Aaron Harlan, clerk. At this meeting it was decided to build a hewed log house at the southeast corner of the east half of the northeast quarter of section 5, Union Township (east side of Parke county). Meetings were held at the homes of members until the house was completed in 1831. On February 22, 1834 the church was renamed Mount Moriah. A graveyard was started near the house, and about a dozen persons were buried here, but it was soon abandoned. In 1837 it was decided to change the location of the church to a site about a mile northeast of the first location. This was on the Nathan Plunkett farm in section 33, Greene Township (northeast Parke county). Here a frame house was completed in 1844 at a cost of $500. In 1875 this house was removed and a larger one erected at a cost of $1,700.

James Bristow and Jesse McClain were ordained ministers in 1833. The latter continued his services here almost forty years. He died in 1874. Joseph Skeeters, a regular minister here for a number of years, was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, on February 14, 1820, and died May 20, 1906. The membership of this church was composed mainly of the McClains, Collingses, Peytons, and Doggetts. The oldest member was James Straughn who died at the age of ninety-seven years. The church at one time had about sixty members.
(The four Spencer brothers and their mother from the Feb. 14, 1977 Hollandsburg Murders are buried in the Mt. Moriah Cemetary.  The story of the Hollandsburg Murder is printed below.) 


The Wabash Church was located about a mile and a half north of Howard. Elder David Shirk donated the lot for church purposes and built the house, a log structure. The date of organization was in 1833 or earlier. Some of the members were Daniel, Lazarus, and Joseph Shirk, and James Marks. Elder David Shirk was their minister for a number of years. Wabash Church was a member of Vermilion Association.


Wolf Creek Church was organized in 1833. In 1835 a log house was erected in the northeast corner of section 1, Sugar Creek Township (far north Parke county). This house was served the church until 1917, when a frame house was constructed. A partial list of the early members discloses the names of John Summers, first clerk, J. B. Barker, Isaac Summers, and Elder Swearinger, trustees. The Allen, Myers, Roach, and Thomas families, and others were faithful members. The pioneer ministers, David Shirk and Lee, were succeeded by Jonathan and Mathias Vancleave, of Montgomery County, and Elder Joseph Skeeters and David Dodimeade, of Parke County. Still later, Elder C. L. Airhart served as pastor. The church belonged to the Sugar Creek Association.


Big Raccoon Church, generally known as the Denman Church, was organized by Elder I. W. Denman and a score of members in about 1835. Their first building was a hewed log house located near the northeast corner of the Denman farm in section 32, Raccoon Township (Bridgeton). This was abandoned and a frame house was built near it in 1858, at a cost of $500, Mr. Denman paying one-half of the sum. Elder Denman preached for the church almost forty years. He was killed on August 28, 1875, by the cars at Lodi Station in Vigo County. He was buried in the Denman Cemetery, located about one-fourth of a mile southwest of the church house. After his death Elder Silas Moffet was the regular minister for a number of years. Elder Mosteller was the minister when the society disbanded in 1910. A few of the members were William R. and Louisa Irwin, William and Elizabeth Kilburn, W. W. and Elizabeth Modesitt. Jesse Archer, Rachel Cottrell, Anna Miller, and Alice Irwin were the only members living in 1925. The house was converted into a dwelling, and became the property of the owners of the land on which it stood.


Reserve Church was located near the West Union Cemetery in section 7, Reserve Township in northwest Parke county, about 1836. The log house was used for many years, but finally disappeared. The society continued its meetings for several years at the homes of Walter Harris, Lawson Linton, and James Marks, until a frame building was erected a half-mile south of the first site. Here Elder Joseph Skeeters was the regular minister, and services were conducted until the Indiana Coal Railroad bought the right of way and located a depot here. Then the society procured a house at Montezuma, where it continued its services under the leadership of Minor T. Davis. After his death, the society was dissolved. The membership in 1877 was twenty-five.


On August 4, 1843 Aaron M. Wade deeded his farm, "except six acres off the northeast corner sold for a meeting house," to Dennis Ball. This church lot is in the northeast corner of the southeast quarter of section 17, Greene Township (eastern Parke county). The lot was conveyed in fee simple to trustees and their successors, who have controlled the property to the present time. The only house built by the society was a frame building. A few of the members were Absalom Doggett and daughters, Ransom and Mary Reddish, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Reddish, Mr. and Mrs. William Ware, and James and Anna Seybold. Some of the regular and visiting ministers were James Burford, Jesse McClain, and J. J. Dalby. This church was a member of the Danville Association, sometimes called "Little Danville" to distinguish it from the organization from which it seceded many years ago. In 1858 the membership was thirty, in 1865 it was eight, and in 1866 the council dissolved the society. It did not survive the political dissensions of its members during the Civil War. In 1875 the house was sold and moved to a farm where it was converted into a barn.


Rocky Fork Church was organized on July 2, 1836, at the home of Brother Branson, with eleven charter members, viz., Joseph Combs, Rachel Combs, George Branson, Lemuel P. Coleman, Rosannah Coleman, Levi Moore, Elizabeth Moore, Richard Moreland, Ailey Moore, Michael Pruett, and Elizabeth Pruett. The presbytery was composed of Aaron Harlan, John Seybold, John T. Crooks (from Little Raccoon Church), William Christy, William Ringo, Zachariah McClure (from Mount Zion Church); Stephen Sale, Squire Thompson, Thomas Johnson, Isaac W. Denman (from Big Raccoon Church); and Evan Harris, Allen Jones, Nathan Jones, Silas Mullinix, and John Reel (from Mt. Pleasant Church).
The society's first and only house was a hewed log structure about twenty by twenty-eight feet, with a clapboard roof, a batten door midway in one side of the house, and a high pulpit opposite the door. It was warmed by a wood-burner stove in the center of the room. Mrs. Mary A. Hunt, aged eighty-six years, says the first church services and first school that she attended were at this house, which was located in section 9, Jackson Township (southeast Parke county).

Some of their ministers were George Branson, from Virginia, Isaac W. Denman, John Leatherman, and Joseph Skeeters, the last regular pastor, whose service ended in 1863. In 1864 and '65 the church sent no letters and messengers to the Danville Association. The council then dissolved the society, which, like some of the others, did not survive the controversies incident to the Civil War. A cemetery was located on the hill near-by, probably before the house was built. Here are twenty-five graves marked by shapeless pieces of sandstone; very few of them can be identified. This cemetery was abandoned many years ago, but a half mile north of it is the Moore Cemetery. Between these is a private burial lot on the George Hansel farm. Mr. Hansel, a soldier of the War of 1812, is buried here. He was drowned in 1840 while rafting logs.

The following information was submitted by Greg Branson from Lake County on February 12, 2012. 

My Branson lineage is:  Lemuel & Jane (Watson) Branson.   Lemuel Branson died in Parke County and is probably buried in the Branson Cemetery near where the Rocky Fork Baptist Church was located.  Lemuel P. Branson & Elizabeth "Cena" Branson (They were second cousins, so both were Branson's.) This is the Lemuel that purchased property near Mansfield & built the church. They were married in Parke County in 1834. They had ten children, all were born in Parke County. Three of the sons served in the Indiana Regiment during the civil war.  The oldest son of Lemuel P. & Elizabeth was George Washington Branson. He was a blacksmith and enlisted as a private in the 21st Indiana Regiment, Co. E  in 1861. This unit was later designated as 1st Indiana Heavy Artillery. George W. Branson worked his way through the ranks to Captain. He was wounded at the Battle of Batton Rouge, Louisianna, and he returned to Parke County after the war. His mother Elizabeth Branson died in 1861 & his father, Lemuel Branson died 6 years later in 1867. The property in Mansfield was sold to cover debts. George gathered up the remenants of the family (his brothers & sisters & Erastus's wife and children) and moved them a little north to Bellmore to a place called the "Messic House".   One year later in 1868 George W. Branson married Hettie Catlin, of Catlin, Parke County. George died in 1890 & is buried at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery.  According to the diary of my Great Grandfather, William Newton Branson, the G.A.R. was in charge of George W. Branson's funeral, and it states that the G.A.R. Post #1 in Marshall was named in honor of him.

Another son of my Great Great Great Grandparents Lemuel P. and Elizabeth Branson was Erastus Denman Branson & his wife, Margaret E. (Singleton) Branson.  Erastus and Margaret were farmers and my Great Great Grandparents.  (Margaret was the daughter of James Singleton).  Erastus served with the 137th Indiana Infantry (100 days men ) He returned home, was drafted, and was sent to join the 57th Indiana Infantry- in the field in Tennessee. He was captured at the Battle of Franklin, sent to Andersonville & died there.   Erastus & Margaret had three children. Margaret re-married & died during child birth.  William Newton Branson Sr. ( first child of Erastus & Margaret and my Great Grandfather) was born near Mansfield on Sept. 23,1861.  After his Father & Mother, Erastus & Margaret,  died, William was taken in by a Thomas Overpeck from Catlin.  Mr. Overpeck moved to Winimac, Indiana in 1888.   My Great Grandfather, William Newton Branson Sr. made the move with Thomas Overpeck.  William  bought some property and had started farming there.  William Sr. married Ida May Gellinger in October of 1890. He lost the property due to construction of large ditches there.  My Great Grandfather, William Newton Branson Sr.  then moved from Winimac to Hammond, Lake County, Indiana. He found work with the Monon Railroad for a while, and then as a watchman for the Nickel Plate Railroad for the rest of his days.  He died Sept. 27 1917 at the  age of 56.          When my grandfather, William Oscar Branson Jr. , born June 2, 1893,  passed away on April 25, 1973, we found the diaries, (or "memorandum" )  in his attic that his father, William Newton Branson Sr. had written for most of his adult life, starting in 1883 at the age of 22.  William Oscar Branson Jr. married Catherine Elizabeth Payne on on August 31, 1917, one month before his father died.

My Grandparents,William Oscar Jr. and Catherine gave birth to my father, James E. Branson on January 6,  1929 in Hammond, Lake County, one of six children.   He married my mother, Shirley R. Crowe on Sept. 11, 1948.  They had eight children.  He died July 1, 2007.  My mother is still living as of this date, Feb. 27, 2012.   I was born on Jan. 1, 1951 and my  name is Gregory J. Branson. 


Branson, Cabbage, Coleman, Coombs, Cox, Deweese, Frank, Hall, Hammock, Hasty, Herrin, Hood, Hunter, Idle, Irwin, Kemp, Kemper, Lewis, Loy, Mains, Moore, Morelan, Moreland, Pruett, Smiley, Stark, Stevens, Tomlison, Watson, Weeks, Winkler, Wright.


Otter Creek Church was organized on December 10, 1853, at the residence of Robert Watson. A membership of twenty-six constituted the organization by subscribing to the articles of faith as presented to them by the committee of the organizers. Elder John Leatherman was the first minister, and John Frank, the first clerk. At the meeting in January, 1854, it was decided to build a log house, located in the central part of section 26, Jackson Township( southwestern parke county). About 1889 the society decided to build a frame house just across the Parke county line to the east in Putnam County. On December 7, 1889 a majority of the membership held its first meeting in the new house. The minority abandoned the old log house, moved to Union, took over the Wolverton house, and named their society Providence. Elder William Skelton continued his services with both branches of the church. He died at his home in Reelsville, Indiana south of Parke county, about March 1, 1920, at the age of seventy-four years. The cemetery nearest to Otter Creek Church was the Vinzant Graveyard.

Parke County Sheriffs

Thanks to Alberta Butler, Randy Wright  and Karen Zach for this data

Early Sheriffs

  The first official appointed by the Governor in Jan 1821 when the county was organized was the sheriff -- Andrew Brooks.  He held office until August when Henry Anderson was elected the 1st Sheriff of the County (according to the Parke Co IN Atlas. Chicago: Andreas, 1874).  Up to 1840, the sheriff was the Assessor and Collector of the taxes of the county, as well.

Written by: Randy Wright -- "A Brief History of Parke Co. Indiana Sheriffs, 1821-1997" (Randy said he got the information from several old newspaper articles).

Captain Andrew Brooks was Parke County's first sheriff.  He was appointed sheriff of Parke and Vermillion Counties on Jan 9, 1821, to serve until an election could be held.  On the first Monday in August, 1821, Henry Anderson was elected sheriff.  He served four years.  Including Capt. Brooks, there have been at least 46 men serve as Sheriff.  This includes those who were elected or appointed.  The first sheriff who died in office was John Davis.  He was commissioned on March 12, 1833.  He served one month and ten days.  Austin Puett then served from April 22, 1833 until August 18, 1833 when William Kilgore was commissioned.  Sheriff Kilgore served two terms.  The term of office changed from two years to four year sin 1950.  Earl Dowd, Jr. was the first sheriff to be elected to the new four year term, in 1950.  He served two terms, and later was elected Prosecutor and then Circuit Court Judge in Parke Co.  Some of the closest elections for Sheriff include those of Jacob P. Smith (Dem) who won in 1926 by 16 votes.  Also, Fred Botts (Rep) who gained office by 122 votes in 1948.  William D. Mull was the first sheriff killed in the line of duty.  He and Deputy William Sweem were shot by Alfred "Pete" Egbert.  Egbert had evidently become "insane" and he also killed a woman and two children.  He then committed suicide.  The Sheriff and deputy died in front of the national Bank Building on the Square in Rockville, April 25, 1896.  


1821 - 1821 -- Andrew Brooks 

1821 - 1825 -- Henry Anderson 

1825 - 1827 -- Isaac J. Sillman 

1827 - 1829 -- William C. Noel 

1830 - 1833 -- Austin M. Puett

1833 - 1837 -- William Kilgore

1837 - 1841 -- Aaron Hart

1841 - 1845 -- Jesse R. Youmans 

1845 - 1849 -- Gabriel Houghman 

1849 - 1853 -- James W. Beadle 

1853 - 1857 -- David Kirkpatrick 

1857 - 1861 -- Abram Darroch 

1861 - 1865 -- George B. Inge 

1865 - 1867 -- James Phelon (died in office, Feb 1867)

1867 - 1867 -- Jesse Bartlow (served after Phelon died for a few weeks)

1867 - 1872 -- Norval W. Cummings

1872 - 1874 -- Christian Steinbaugh 

1874 - 1876 -- George B. Chapman

1878 - 1882 -- Zimri D. Maris 

1882 - 1886 -- John R. Musser

1886 - 1890 -- Edward Nicholas 

1890 - 1894 -- George S. Jones 

1894 - 1896 -- William D. Mull (killed in office along side Deputy William Sween, succeeded by Hiram E. Newlin, Coroner)

1896 - 1898 -- Cornelius R. Hanger

1898 - 1901 -- Perry Benson (sources vary on when he served)

Nov 6, 1900 -- Perry B. Benson, served two terms (R)

Nov 4, 1902 -- T.E. Aydelotte, served one term (R)

Nov 8, 1904 -- Edwin M. Carter, two terms (R)

Nov 6, 1906 -- Edwin M. Carter

Nov 3, 1908 -- Robert J. Finney, two terms (R)

Nov 8, 1910 -- Robert J. Finney

Nov. 5, 1912 --Edward R. Nicholas, two terms (R)

Nov 3, 1914 -- Edward R. Nicholas

Nov 7, 1916 -- Charles A. Thompson, two terms (R)

Nov 5, 1918 -- Charles A. Thompson

Nov. 2, 1920 -- William J. Peare, served one term (R)

Nov. 7, 1922 -- Jacob P. Smith, served one term (D)

Nov 4, 1924 -- Homer Mitchell, served one term (D)

Nov 2, 1926 -- Jacob P. Smith, served one term (D) (see above)

Nov. 6, 1928 -- Claude Robison, served one term (R)

Nov. 4, 1930 -- William Moore, served two terms (D)

Nov. 8, 1932 -- William Moore

Nov. 6, 1934 -- Lawrence Smith, served two terms (D)

Nov. 3, 1936 -- Lawrence Smith (see above)

Nov. 8, 1938 -- Froman Clouse, served two terms (D)

Nov. 5, 1940 -- Froman Clouse

Nov. 3, 1942 -- Osmer Chaney, served two terms (R)

Nov. 7, 1944 -- Osmer Chaney

Nov. 5, 1946 -- Fred Botts, served two terms (R)

Nov. 2, 1948 -- Fred Botts

Nov. 7, 1950 & 1954--  Earl M. Dowd, Jr.    RHS 1939

Nov. 4, 1958 & 1962 -- Charles A. Cooper   RHS 1949

Nov. 8, 1964 --               Max Webb

Nov. 3, 1970 & 1974     Gary Cooper  RHS 1962

Nov. 7, 1978 & 1982 -- Dennis "Mike" Eslinger

Nov 4, 1986 --1989       Gene Hardman

Nov 6, 1989 & 1998 --  Mark Bridge   RHS 1978

       1998- 1998             Chas. Bolinger

1998--                            Dennis "Mike" Eslinger







Solon Ferguson,  born on Aug. 30, 1831, came to Rockville  in 1866 with his wife Mary from Brighton, Illinois near East St. Louis and opened a mill four miles north of Rockville.  Two years later he purchased a planing mill in 1868 at the age of 37 from Mr. Chance located at the present site on South Market Street.  His two son's Walter and Will grew up working around the mill. Walter (born in 1860 and died in 1941)) and William E. (known as Will or Billy who was born on Feb. 29, 1864 and died in 1943) worked at the sawmill from the time they were youngsters. When  Walter was fifteen and Will was eleven, the two boys bought a team of horses (named Mike and Belle) and began hauling timber to the plaining mill in Rockville. They got $0.25 per 100 board feet and made $2.50 to $3.50 per day ... the two boys making the equal of one man's pay. And with their earnings they bought their own clothes and paid for their board at home.   

Around 1883, prior to Williams 20th birthday, Solon and his son, Walter sold the sawmill to his other son, Will E. Ferguson and  a Mr. Fulwider for $6000.  The firm of Fulwider and Ferguson continued until January 1, 1891 at which time Fulwider sold his half interest back to Solon Ferguson and his son, Walter. The firm was now owned by Solon and his two sons.  The firm name was changed to "Ferguson and Sons".
Six years later on June 23, 1897, the first and worst of several company tragedies occurred. The steam boiler exploded killing Solon Ferguson age 66 and one employee. The explosion and resulting fire completely destroyed the mill. However, it was soon rebuilt. Upon the death of Solon, Mary, his widow, assumed his interest and the firm continued to grow and prosper under the name Ferguson and Company.   Solons wife,Mary, died in 1934 at the age of 99, complications of a fall resulting in a  broken hip.
 In 1908, the partnership was incorporated  and  operated under the corporate name of The Ferguson Lumber Company. 
Left to right 1st row: Will E. Ferguson, Tad Mankin, Gully Cook, Lige Bradburn, Charles Glosson. 2nd row: Solon Carter, Sherman Call, John Skelton, Fred Burnett, top row: Perley Whitesell and Marion Martin.
Will E. Ferguson married his wife Sarah Carver from Rockville, on November 19, 1885 and  had a daughter three years later, Mary Francis Ferguson, on February 22, 1889.  Mary was born in the house just south of the Ferguson Lumber Company.  Will and Sarah's daughter, Mary Ferguson (nicknamed "Mary Frank")  married Brooks T Collings, RHS 1909.

Brooks T Collings came from a large and successful farming family north west of Rockville out Strawberry Road.  Brooks graduated from Rockville High School in 1909 and turned down a football athletic scholarship to Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana so he could go to work at the  Ferguson Lumber Company and marry the boss's (Will Ferguson's) daughter, Mary. 

In 1937, Walter & Will Ferguson and his son-in-law, Brooks Collings, and Marion Martin formed a new partnership.  Brooks Collings and Mary Ferguson had four children: Mary Louise Collings McMillin Ryer (1915-1994 and class of 1932), Paul Benjamin Collings (1917-1970), William Collings (1926-2009), and John Richard "Dick"  Collings(1928-2000).   At one time, almost every home on South Market Street was occupied by a member of a Ferguson or Collings family.  The company survived another disasterous fire in 1952.

 After graduation, sons, Paul Collings and Dick Collings both went to work at the Lumber Company.  Their mother, Mary Ferguson Collings (nicknamed Mary Frank)  died on May 1, 1963 at the age of 74 and  their father, Brooks Collings died  three years later on May 25, 1966 at the age of 79.  

 Brothers Paul (RHS 1935) was President and ran the company until his own death in 1970.  Upon Paul's death,  younger brother Dick (RHS 46) became President and continued running the company until his own death in 2000.  Dick's wife, Freda Collings  handled the payroll.  Dick and Freda's  son, Joe Collings (RHS 1969), who worked at the Lumber company with his father since 1973, took over the operations at his father's death in 2000.  
In 2002 the company expanded to locations in Veedersburg and Plainfield and in 2004, Ferguson's Do-It-Best Hardware opened in Danville, Indiana.
The Seven Sons of Spotsard Collings.
1st Row: Dr. Oliver Perry Collings, Abraham Collings, Dr. Samuel Posey Collings, Archibald Collings
   2nd Row: Dr. Howard P Collings., William Bion Collings, Neri
William Bion Collings was the father of Ferguson Lumber Company President Brooks Collings who married Mary Frank Ferguson.
 Ernie Hill started climbing  poles for the REMC in 1952.  His two sons, Jerry and Bill graduated from RHS in 64 and 66.  He worked for the REMC until he retired in 1982. Ernie died in 2004.
Naming the town of Marshall
Mahlon Woody Marshall (1838-1926) , a Quaker at the time, enlisted and served in the 85th Indiana Indiana during the Civil War. Mahlon's four brothers and his father, Alfred Marshall (~1809-1869), also enlisted in Indiana regiments with the exception of one brother who enlisted with an Iowa regiment. According to Mahlon's obituary published in the Rockville Republican, Marshall, Indiana's name was "conferred in honor of Mr. Marshall in 1878 when the railroad came and the surrounding forest was transformed into a town." Mahlon had once owned much of the land the town was built upon.  The name of Mahlon W. Marshall is inscribed in the concrete plaque embedded on the south side of the  Old Court House Jail as a commissioner in 1879.  Pictures of the plaque and old jail house are in the History of Rockville section.
 Mahlon Marshall and his second wife, Rhoda Hadley Marshall's (1855-1889)   son, Lester Marshall was in the Rockville Class of 1900.  You may read more of the  Marshall Family history in the profile of Lester Marshall RHS 1900 and in the profile of Amfield Estella Ogden Evans, RHS 1900.
Mahlon Marshall was the son of Alfred and Hannah Woody Marshall. Alfred lived in Parke and Fountain Counties and then moved to Howard County where he carried the mail...a daunting task at the time. Hannah died there about 1856 and the family fell on hard times. They appeared to have remained very close. Mahlon helped raise his youngest sister, Hannah Jane.  Only Mahlon lived in Parke County exclusively after his mother's death. Thomas lived in Hendricks County but later moved to Parke where he died about 1908. One of Thomas' daughters, Matilda, was Mahlon's caretaker in his late years. Alfred's other children were in Hendricks County, Jonathan was sheriff there in the late 1880's. One daughter, I think Elizabeth, lived in Hendricks County but moved to Dallas County, Iowa. This is why William Hadley Marshall, Mahlon's brother, served in an Iowa unit during the Civil War. I believe he (Will) was all of 16 at the time. Another brother (Eli Newlin Marshall) of Mahlon moved about a lot. He was in Hendricks  County until adulthood but lived in Parke  County also and also in Clay County, Iowa and Howell County, Missouri and lastly in Jewell County, Kansas where he died. His obituary was published in Parke County and he was remembered as a resident there.
I must add a caveat here. I have my fourth great grandfather, John Marshill (born in Orange County, North Carolina 5 Jul 1768) and his wife Elizabeth (unknown last name) as the parents of Jacob (1792), Joseph (1794), William (1798),  Parke County Judge John Marshall (1799), Mary (~1801), Alfred (~1806), and Francis (1810). John Marshall Sr. the elder seems to have been a somewhat irresponsible man and after inheriting his share of his father's lands in 1818 he mortgaged it by 1821 to cover existing debts, and sold it to settle the mortgage by 1829 (Orange County, North Carolina). It is my gut feeling, and no more, that this event precipitated John and his brother Alfred's departure from North Carolina for Indiana during the 1820's. In the 1840's John (the father) bought a tract of land for $75 and sold it the next year for $70. I cannot say for certain but he seems to have made a habit of financially irresponsible behavior. None of the children ever owned him...there are no illustrious stories of yore and no one claims the man as a father!
But circumstances lead me to connect these persons. 1) the Parke County connection.  John Marshall Jr. lived there his entire adult life once he arrived. Alfred lived there, found his wife, Hannah Woody, there and some of their children were born there. William lived in Orange County, Indiana but after his death about 1848-1849 his wife and children moved there. Mary (John & Elizabeth's daughter) and her husband William Marshall (a cousin from the same family) lived there. One of their son's was Andrew Jackson Marshall who is fairly well documented and likely has related Marshalls in Parke County to this day. And my 3rd great grandfather Jacob moved there and died there I am certain. He had 6 children, Sidney, John D, Elizabeth, Mary, Nancy Ellen, and William Henry who died there (well Henry died in adjoining Fountain County). My own great great grandfather, Mebane J, may have died there as he is not seen after 1860 in the census and his last daughter was born in 1870 in Ray County, Missouri.
2)There were two brothers that remained in North Carolina, Joseph and Francis. Joseph had two sons (Alfred and Joseph) that lived in southern Fountain County in the Kingman area and one son, also a John, that lived in Adams and I believe Penn Twp, Parke County. Francis had a daughter, Edna, that was in Parke County around 1870 (living very close to Judge John...maybe he rented the house to them...who knows) with her husband Asa W Roberts. They buried a two year old daughter there. Francis's son, William, was killed during the Civil War when he deserted his Confederate unit near Petersburg, Virginia. His widow is said to have left for Kingman, Indiana but I have not found her there or anywhere else. Interestingly, the man who told me this was speaking off the cuff and although interested very much in his family history, did not know where Kingman was located. The two men who remained in North Carolina both have documentation that name their parents as John (or Johnny) and Elizabeth Marshall or Marshill. Joseph in the Quaker records and Francis on the marriage license at his third marriage in 1872.
3) The same names, William, Joseph, Alfred, and Francis run through these families consistently. Not so unusual for a William or maybe a Joseph but not so common for Alfred and Francis.
4)I had my father y-DNA tested in 2007 and the results conclusively tie him to the Quaker Marshills that came over from Ireland in 1729 and all ended up in what is now southern Alamance County, North Carolina. I have talked to a descendant there! A 5th cousin once removed I believe, also a John Marshall and the descendant of Francis above!!
Connie Marshall Thompson, North Carolina

The Acquisition of the Lusk Estate for Turkey Run State Park

In the latter part of the year 1915 a small group of enthusiasts, composed of Richard Lieber, Juliette Strauss, Dr. Frank B. Wynn, Sol S. Kiser and Leo M. Rappaport, conceived the idea of raising a fund by popular subscription to be used for the purchase of Turkey Run and to present the property to the State of Indiana the following year as a centennial gift. At this time the Lusk Estate of the former owner was in process of settlement, and it was known that the property would be offered at public auction the following spring.

Efforts were made to interest people throughout the state, but it was soon found that the actual money raising would have to begin in Indianapolis. Accordingly, a group of business and professional men was called together for luncheon at the Commercial Club of Indianapolis, where the project was presented. No one seemed willing to start the subscription list, and finally one of the members of the original group made the first offer to subscribe $100.00. Immediately another man in the group criticised the offer as setting a pace which was too high and stated in proportion it would appear as though his subscription should be at least $250.00, and that he did not feel like subscribing so large a sum. The matter was debated at some length and finally Mr. J. D. Adams, who had been reared in that part of the country, came to the rescue with the statement that under all circumstances this property should be acquired, and that he was willing to make a donation of $500.00. With the ice thus broken the committee had its start and eventually succeeded in raising a total of $20,000.00.

The auction sale took place in April, 1916. Lumber dealers throughout the state had been asked to refrain from bidding. The appraisal on the property was in the neighborhood of $15,000.00, and the committee felt certain that it not only would be able to buy the property but that it had sufficient funds with which to pay for the same. It soon found, however, that it did not have a clear course. Another bidder appeared, representing a lumber company, who wanted the property solely for commercial purposes, and after a spirited contest in bidding the property was knocked down to him for $30,200.00.

The original committee did not lose its courage and immediately began negotiations with the purchaser, who offered to surrender the property to the state after he had stripped it of its valuable virgin timber. This the committee indignantly declined. Eventually it received from him an offer to sell the property, intact, at an advance of $10,000.00. This meant that more funds would have to be raised. In October, 1916, the committee succeeded in interesting Mr. Carl G. Fischer, owner of the Speedway in Indianapolis, sufficiently to cause him to view the property. A whole day was spent in going over the scenic beauties of this tract of land, and by evening Mr. Fischer very generously offered to donate the sum of $5,000.00 and also to propose to the Board of Directors of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that this company donate 10% of the proceeds of the next Decoration Day race. He was successful in this matter and great credit for this contribution is due not only Mr. Fischer but Messrs. Arthur Newby, James A. Allison and Frank H. Wheeler, who were Mr. Fischer's associates at that time in this enterprise. Furthermore, Mr. Newby made a personal donation of $5,000.00, and in later years helped to purchase some land adjoining the state park.

With these added funds, plus a part of a $20,000.00 appropriation by the General Assembly of 1817, the committee was in a position to complete the purchase of the property, and on November 11, 1916—a day which has since become historic in world affairs—signed the papers for that portion of the property, viz.: 288 acres, constituting the original state park.

—Leo M. Rappaport.

The Park's Facilities

Turkey Run State Park now comprises 1,150 acres, nearly all of the area is heavily wooded, and 285 acres of the tract are of virgin timber—in which there has never been any cutting. Taken as a whole, it represents one of the finest forest areas in Indiana or, for that matter, in the Middle West.

The situation, along both banks of Sugar Creek in upper Parke County, provides a natural setting, rugged in character, for which glacial action is responsible. High walls cut from the solid rock, to which cling myriads of small plants and wild flowers, overshadowed by the massed, lace-like foliage of the hemlock, present a changing vista of rare beauty.

To reach Turkey Run one should follow State Road 41, from which a short connecting road brings one to the park gates. If coming by rail, train service is available to Marshall over the B. & O. Railroad, thence one takes motor livery for the three remaining miles.

At Turkey Run ample provisions have been made for the comfort of the thousands of guests who come to the place yearly. Turkey Run Inn is the original state park hotel, and has been long noted for the excellence of its simple service. Recently the Inn has been greatly enlarged and improved, and now provides 100 comfortable and commodious rooms. The new dining room, with an enlarged and thoroughly modern kitchen, has been planned to render prompt and efficient service at all times and to meet all emergencies. In addition to the facilities of the hotel a number of cottages have been provided. These contain sleeping rooms only. They will be found comfortable and convenient for those who prefer the more secluded quarters which they offer. Turkey Run's famous chicken dinners are served on Sundays. Reservations should be made to TURKEY RUN INN, MARSHALL, INDIANA.

Ample parking space has been provided at the park and provision has been made for those who bring their own tents or outdoor sleeping equipment. Fireplaces, water and wood are provided for campers, dressing rooms for bathers, and there is absolutely pure drinking water supplied from driven wells. A playground has been installed for the benefit of the smaller children.



In the park are 30 miles of foot trails which lead to many points of scenic and historic interest, such as Rocky Hollow, Turkey Run Hollow, Log Cabin, Log Church and Walnut Grove. These trails are plainly marked and numbered so that they may be easily followed. Small trail maps may be had at the hotel.

A Nature Guide Service was instituted at Turkey Run in 1927, since which time it has continued, during the months of June, July and August, with a marked increase in popularity. This service, which is free to all, has served to familiarize the park's many visitors with the various interesting details of animal and plant life not usually discoverable to those who have not specialized in nature study. The lectures, en route, are not technical or ultra scientific, but are intended to convey accurate information to the average park guest as well as to those who have a more definite interest in scientific study. The daily "nature hikes," starting from the hotel at 8:30 a. m. and 1:30 p. m., are comprehensive in character and are meant to help the visitor to a general appreciation of the interesting natural and historic features of Turkey Run. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays parties are conducted to those secluded portions of the park where one may best hear the song of the summer birds. Even though this necessitates the setting of alarm clocks at 5:00, the experience is one not soon to be forgotten.

Where it is not found convenient to accompany the nature guide upon his journeys about the park, silent nature trails have been provided. This means, simply, that the interesting features along the various trails have been plainly marked so that one may take the trails leisurely and alone, depending upon the printed data to inform him of the points of interest.

Each night of the week, except Saturday (which is given over to the usual weekly dance), lectures are given at the hotel. The subjects vary but are so chosen that interest does not flag. Moving pictures and photographic slides are used to illustrate these lectures.



"Time flies and draws us with it. The moment in which I am speaking is already far from me."

The History of Turkey Run

The Indian name for Sugar Creek, it is said, was Pungosecone. Although the authority for the name has not been obtainable, it has been derived from the Algonquin and is probably compounded from the Lenape words "pungo" or "pungh," and "saucon" or "sakunk"—which, together, refer to ashes (dust or gunpowder) at the mouth of a stream. Though one must always conjecture, more or less, upon the intent of such Indian words, it is probable that this has some legendary or traditional import, most likely connected with the discovery of the burnt ruins of a former Indian settlement at the mouth of Sugar Creek. Hough has applied to Sugar Creek the supposed Miami name, Keankiksepe, the meaning of which is not quite clear. In the Lenape dialect the word for sugar was "schiechikiminschi," and the former word is possibly a corruption from a similar Miami word, with the terminal "sepe," which means a river or creek. It is well known that we are indebted to the Indian for the discovery of the process of making sugar from the sap of the maple tree, and it is probable that the tribes in the vicinity took stock of the abundance of sugar-making material at hand, as did the white settlers who followed them.

Before the days of the first white settlement, and for some years afterward, the vicinity of the present Turkey Run was a favored haunt of the Indians. There were long established villages of the Kickapoo, Piankeshaw and Wea nearby. In Parke County, too, was the reservation of Ambroise Dazney, who had seen service at Kaskaskia and Tippecanoe, and who was a valued friend of Governor Harrison. His wife was Meshingomeshia—"the beautiful burr oak"—a Miami of historic importance. Her brother, Jocco, was the head of the Wea band of Miamis who lived at "Old Orchard Town," near the present site of Terre Haute, which tribe later removed to the Sugar Creek reservation. This reservation fell, in time, to Christmas Dazney, a son of Ambroise and Meshingomeshia. He was exceptionally well educated, spoke English and French with fluency, and was master of the various dialects of the Indiana and Illinois tribes. He served for many years as government agent and interpreter at Fort Harrison. His wife was a Mohegan woman of refinement and education.

Near Rosedale was the historic mission of Rev. Isaac McCoy. Thus it may be understood that Turkey Run and its environs were, in a large degree, concerned with the history and legend of the red man. The pioneer white families found an acquaintance with these sedentary and peace-loving tribes more to be cultivated than shunned. Such men as Christmas Dazney were, in fact, superior in education and acumen to most of their white neighbors, as was often the case where there was an admixture of Indian and French blood.

* * * * *

To this sparsely settled region came Captain Salmon Lusk with his bride, who had been Polly Beard. This was in the spring of 1821, after the debacle at Prophetstown had relieved the danger of residence in northern Indiana. Captain Lusk was a Vermonter who had ventured into Indiana at an early date, had enlisted in the army of General Harrison, and had participated in the battle at Tippecanoe. For military services rendered his country he was granted a patent to a parcel of land, probably of his own choosing, in the Sugar Creek country. For a number of years after the defeat of the Prophet a military post was maintained at Fort Harrison, above Terre Haute, and it was from this post that Lusk and his wife came, traveling upon horseback, as was necessary when the only roads were often mere trails through the forest.

It may he presumed that the picturesque beauty of the region about the Narrows to which he came appealed strongly to this young man from the Green Mountains—besides, it offered advantages which young Lusk seized upon with the instinct of his ancestry. The site was ideal for water power, and he constructed a grist mill as a first impulse.

In those days New Orleans provided the chief market for flour and meal and for cured meat. The annual spring freshets enabled him to convey these commodities by flatboat down to the Wabash, thence to the Mississippi. Not the least valuable commodity of these cargoes was the flatboat itself, which was, in fact, a raft of yellow poplar timber, useful in building construction and utilized under the name of "tulip wood" by the cabinet makers of the old South. Captain Lusk prospered and expanded in his enterprises. The Narrows became a trading point for the surrounding country. The usual general store became a necessary adjunct, and a tavern was set up to minister to those pioneer tradesmen who came that way en route to New Orleans. Here rough characters sometimes congregated, and many stories are told of the high play at cards which sometimes ended in the loss of valuable cargoes through an hour's gaming.

Until 1847, when the great flood in Sugar Creek swept away the mill and surrounding buildings, business activities continued. This catastrophe ended forever the life of "Lusk's Mills." Traces of the former tavern still remain opposite the old mill site, but there is virtually no evidence left of the once thriving business center. The ingenuity of the day in which "necessity became the mother of invention" is interestingly illustrated at the site of the former mill. Here, where the entire structure was set upon a massive deposit of sandstone, the millrace, as well as the supports upon which the timbers rested, have been carved from the solid rock.

The original Lusk homestead at length gave way to a more pretentious residence, now one of the landmarks of western Indiana. It was erected upon the site of its predecessor of the best material which the locality offered. The bricks for the new structure were burned upon the spot, and are today as well preserved as when brought from the kiln. Clear yellow poplar furnished the frame work, and for the interior trim selected black walnut was deemed the only wood worthy of use. There was no skimping of material, and the house will stand for generations to come.


In 1869 Captain Lusk died, leaving to his son, John, the residence which he had completed nearly thirty years earlier, with one thousand acres of land contiguous to it. Here Polly Lusk died in 1880, the son, John, passing in 1915. To this eccentric individual and his pride of inheritance we owe the preservation of one of the few unspoiled landscapes in Indiana. To the right of the entrance to the Lusk home the Nature Study Club of Indiana has affixed a tablet bearing the legend: "To the Memory of John Lusk, who saved the Trees of Turkey Run."


John Lusk

"There is no such thing as solitude, nor anything that can be said to be alone and by itself, but God."
—Sir Thomas Browne.

The dividing line between eccentricity and genius is the merest thread. A twist in another direction would perhaps have made of John Lusk another Thoreau. He loved his heritage—as is to be expected of one who has grown up in the lap of nature. He cared little for men—not at all for women. An analyst would say that he had the "mother complex," for he revered her above all persons. Upon her death in 1880 the mother's room was closed, to be left as it was when the unseen guest entered. Thereafter Lusk lived the life of a recluse, confining his occupancy of the house to a single room. Here he lived—preparing his own simple meals and paying no heed to the niceties of housekeeping. He read the Bible, an heritage of his pioneer ancestry, and merely scanned the newspapers which came to him. For books, in general, he cared little. The papers he threw aside to accumulate in vast, disorderly heaps. It became necessary to dig out from this impedimenta, upon occasion, as one makes a path through the snow.

It is said that John Lusk was profane at times, as could be anticipated from one who had the stamina to resist the importunities of nature spoilers who wished to convert his beloved trees into joists and scantlings.

In the colorless "1880's," when folk walked afield and bicycling became a near mania, Lusk's woods came to be a popular resort. In those days the place was known as "Bloomingdale Glens," and the name clung to it for years thereafter. The old Indianapolis, Decatur & Springfield Railroad conceived the idea of converting it into a summer resort. Excursions were run to the Glens, an eating place was established and tents were set up for those who wished to tarry for a day or so. Financial difficulties forced the company to abandon their lease and one William Hooghkirk continued to operate for several years upon the same plan. In 1910 it was leased again, to R. P. Luke, under whose and Mrs. Luke's management the place waxed in popularity and became the mecca for visitors from near and far.

In 1915 John Lusk, son of Capt. Lusk, died after having successfully resisted the temptations, if he ever seriously considered them such, to let down the bars to timber vandals. Money, to him, was of little value—the preservation of the place of much. Visitors were at all times welcome, for he seemed to have a strange pleasure in the thought that others were interested in and appreciative of the natural beauties of his possession. Thus, for thirty-five years did this eccentric individual stand guard over his heritage. Perhaps, after all, he was less whimsical than we are prone to believe him. At all events Indiana, in this day of grace, respects his memory.


Geologic History

"Now we learn by what patient periods the rock is formed. It is a long way from granite to the oyster."

The geology of Turkey Run may be said to have begun when the great masses of sandstone, from which the gorge is carved, were deposited upon the vast inland sea which covered this area during the time when coal was being formed. After the deposition of this sandstone, which geologists call the Mansfield, this great sea became shallow, being replaced by marshes of no great depth. In these marshes, under tropical conditions, a rank vegetation sprang up. Here flourished the lordly evergreens of Carbonic time—the Lepidodendron (sometimes called the "Scale Tree") and the Sigillaria, whose trunk bears a delicate seal-like impression upon its surface. More than a hundred varieties of the former have been described, some of whose trunks have measured a hundred feet. The latter, the largest of carboniferous trees, bore trunks reaching six feet in diameter and more than a hundred feet in height. Here, too, grew the Calamites, or giant rushes, and tree ferns of bewildering variation. This accumulated vegetation was at length buried under subsequent deposits and later transformed into coal under the great pressure which resulted. Following this came marine conditions similar to that which exists under our present seas until several hundred feet of sediment had been deposited above the massive layer of Mansfield sandstone. Later this sea receded permanently and land conditions prevailed. Then followed a long period of weathering and erosion, during which time prodigious layers containing coal, hundreds of feet in thickness and overlying the sandstone, were removed. The reader will realize that we are talking, not in hundreds and thousands of years but in geologic ages when we speak of these various phases.

Ages, then, went by—ushering in new events. The climate gradually changed until it became very cold, approximating the present Arctic conditions, until, upon the scarred surface of the Mansfield sandstone, there rested thousands of feet of ice which, moving slowly southward, cut deeply into the sandstone upon which it rested. Again the climate became mild, the ice retreating meanwhile and at length disappearing. In its wake were deposited immense quantities of loose sand, gravel, clay and boulders, brought from the far North—filling in the former valleys and destroying the existing systems of drainage. During this process the raging water carved new channels for itself, establishing an entirely new drainage system.

Sugar Creek was one of these newly made streams and became a part of the new drainage system, cutting its way easily through the drift deposit and on through the underlying sandstone. The surface water of the region, now assuming the proportions of a devastating flood, concentrated at a depression along its course, which point was the beginning of Turkey Run. Through thousands of years, subsequently, the erosional force of water has been continued, lengthening and deepening the gorge thus formed. The upper layer of sandstone, more resistant because of compounds of iron and silica which cemented and strengthened it, has disintegrated less rapidly than the underlying strata; so that the gorge has not widened as rapidly as it has deepened. The erosion of the softer layer underneath has been augmented by cracking and splitting due to freezing, with the result that the gorge is often wider at the bottom than at the top.

Thus, to geologic processes, we owe much of the charm of Turkey Run. These varying phases of the earth's history may be studied with ease and certainly with profit by the non-scientific visitor. The erratic boulders which one picks up, carried upon the glacier's back from the "Land of Snows," may tell us somewhat of their former habitat and much of the uncanny force of glacial action. Along the stream channels may be found numerous cauldron-like basins in the sandstone. These are the so-called "glacial mills," which are precisely like those which may be seen in the famous Glacier Garden of Lucerne. They are the result of the erosional action of glacial cataracts which, with the aid of the abrasive force of stray boulders caught in some rock depression, have whirled about till the softer rock mass has been hollowed as with a chisel—the abrading boulders assuming the shape of an almost perfect sphere. Then, too, one may chance to discover some lingering souvenir of the coal-measure era—a fragment of some once living plant—now a sermon in stone. To the diligent searcher after knowledge here are opportunities galore.

At a number of points along Turkey Run, particularly through Newby Gulch, one may observe examples of the curious and interesting formation known as calcareous tufa, sometimes improperly called tuff. Underground water, and surface water as well, often possesses great disintegrating force. In this state it dissolves more limestone than it can carry away in solution—thus percolating waters throw down a deposit of calcareous limestone which, upon exposure to the air, hardens into a compact mass. If there is a rapid motion to the water, as when it is dashed into spray in a cascade, carbonic acid gas is liberated—thus rendering the lime insoluble and hastening the process of deposition.

If we were to examine one of these newly made rock masses we should find it to consist of fragments of wood, broken twigs, leaves, mosses and other organisms, coated over with the deposited lime—or in a complete state of petrifaction. Thus it is possible, at Turkey Run, to study the actual processes through which fossils have been formed. The formation of tufa is often quite rapid, as, for example, there are certain deposits in Sicily in which the rate is one foot in four months.

If it were possible to look upon the Turkey Run of interglacial times we should have much difficulty in recognizing the fauna which existed here. Today, in northern Indiana, workmen often come upon the semi-fossilized bones of these creatures buried in some glacial deposit, from which we are enabled to definitely determine the character of animal life which existed here before the advent of man.

Of the elephant tribe we have the mammoth and mastodon—cumbersome creatures akin to our modern species. The musk-ox, or ovibos, once made this region their habitat—though now found only in the far North, much varied in type. The giant beaver, or Castoroides, would have dwarfed his modern descendant. Strange as it may seem to us, the camel once flourished here, though quite different in form from that with which we are familiar. The giant sloth, in many variations of size and bearing an armor-plate of small bones secreted under the skin, crippled his way through the Indiana forests; his claw-feet bent inward so that he must walk upon their sides.

It would be tiresome to mention the wide variety of animals and birds which were indigenous to northern Indiana when Turkey Run assumed its present contour. It is interesting, though painful to our state pride, to know that many of the notable specimens of these extinct creatures were first discovered in Indiana, but grace the museums of other states. Many notable collections secured at great expense in Indiana have found their way to foreign museums, while our own state has not yet provided a fitting building in which they might be preserved for all time.


The Trees of Turkey Run

"No tree in all the grove but has its charm; Tho each its hue peculiar."

When one possesses trees of the height and girth of those in Turkey Run the gods should be thanked—not forgetting, of course, the men of rare vision who have preserved them. There are so few remaining remnants of primeval forest in Indiana that they may be counted upon the fingers, with digits to spare; How rare is the Tulip tree, that cousin to the Magnolia, which stands alone in its genus in America. When Freeman made his historic survey of the "Vincennes Tract" in 1802 he recorded seeing these trees 200 feet in height and 10 feet in diameter. The largest Tulip tree in Turkey Run has a circumference of over 14 feet, which is rare in these days. No forest tree seems so erect and stately—when in blossom it justifies the wisdom of Indiana's choice of her state flower, for it is as interesting in structure as it is beautiful.

Most of the trees in Turkey Run belong to the "Hardwood," or broad-leaved group; but upon the tops of the higher bluffs are found the Hemlocks, commonly called Firs, which are among the rarest trees in the state, here found in great abundance. The foliage is as delicate as old lace and vibrates to the slightest breeze. Their spider-like root formation may be observed along the gorges, where they have reached out like tentacles for support. The Yew tree, also an evergreen and very rare in the state, hangs from the cliff edges down into the hollows. In the fall its red berries are conspicuous.

The largest tree in the park, and there are more than a hundred with a circumference of over seven feet, is the "Big Sycamore," on Trail 1. This hoary veteran has a girth of 20-1/2 feet and seems to belong to some other country and age. In winter, after the brittle bark has flaked off, the sycamores along the water's edge look as if splashed with whitewash by some careless painter. Some of our Indiana artists, not pledged to the beeches, love to paint the sycamore, deeming it the most satisfying of trees in the effect obtained. Next in size to the sycamores come the black walnuts, then follow the white oaks, the elms and the hackberries.

One may roam here for hours through deep woods and canyons, each turn of one's steps presenting new pictures of un usual beauty. Grey-splotched beeches throw out their long, graceful branches, which terminate in polished silvery filaments. One can not say whether they are lovelier in the green leaf of spring or when the first frosts have turned their foliage to russet and gold.


In Turkey Run is probably the largest Wild Cherry in the state, the trunk rising to a height of ninety feet, straight as a Poplar. These waxen-leaved trees, with foliage of the darkest green, served an utilitarian purpose in pioneer days, when their soft but tenacious wood became the joy of the early craftsman. It has been called "The Mahogany of the Pioneer," and many rarely beautiful turned and reeded furniture pieces, their color softened by age, have come down to us from our ancestors.

With the first advent of spring the Dogwood becomes a showy cloud of white blossom, replaced in mid-summer by clusters of green berries, which autumn turns to crimson. Here, where it is not permitted to break off the showy branches, the Dogwood is seen in its pristine beauty. Elsewhere thoughtless people have nearly destroyed these lovely trees, which are becoming rarer each year through the onslaughts of those who think only of the moment.

The Red Bud, which really belongs to the Locust family, dominates the spring landscape, where it congregates in thickets on the outskirts of the woods, its rose-purple blossoms contrasting with a background of green. It is one of the first of the blossoming trees to hoist its colors to the breeze. The Wild Crab, the Juneberry, or Service Tree, the Haws and the Pawpaw lend their individuality to the picture, each inviting the visitor to take note of its peculiar beauty or interest.

One should learn to know the trees by name and go into the finer details of bark, blossom and leaf structure to really enjoy them. They are to be "lived with and loved," as John Muir has said. It is interesting to know, for instance, that the Persimmon is a brother to the Ebony. When we admire the delicacy of some rare wood engraving we will be grieved, perhaps, to know that some fastidious Dogwood has been sacrificed to provide the block upon which it has been cut. The common post-card, which Uncle Sam sells us for a penny, has derived its tough and unabsorbent surface from the crushed fibers of the Tulip tree.

Our vacations at such places as Turkey Run are unfruitful if we do not profit from the more serious purposes of nature study, for which they offer a full measure of reward to those "immortals" who live to learn.


The Wild Flowers of Turkey Run

"And because the breath of flowers is far sweeter in the air than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for that delight than to know what be the flowers and plants that do best perfume the air."

The wild flowers of Turkey Run—how they delight our senses by their delicate beauty and the wide variety of their coloring. Their subtle fragrance belongs to the forest recesses where they thrive. It would seem that all the wild flowers in Indiana had congregated here. Dr. John Coulter, Indiana's own beloved botanist, has told us how many of our wild flowers have "moved" from other states, and from regions far remote from us, so that we may trace the migrations of our flowers as we do those of our pioneer families.

Very early in the spring a race is run for the honor of being the first to bloom—the Spring Beauty, Hepatica, Adder's Tongue, Anemone and Bloodroot striving for honors. Two relatives of our cultivated flowers enter the lists, the quaint Dutchman's Breeches and the little Squirrel Corn—both near kin to the Bleeding Heart of our gardens. In the lowland the Virginia Cowslip, or Blue Bells, grow in showy clumps.

Quite soon follow the Rue, Anemone, the white and purple Cress, Violets—blue, yellow and white—the waxy Trilliums in a wide variety of form and color. The Fire Pink, with its red star-shaped flower, prepares the way for the pale or spotted Jewel Weed, which blooms in mid-summer.

The succession of flowering beauties is continuous. The dainty Dogtooth Violet, the Cypripediums, which belong to the Orchid family and are known to us as the Moccasin Flower and Whip-Poor-Will's Shoes, the Chick Weeds, Wild Blue Phlox, Stonecrops, Wild Ginger and Pepper Root, the Celandine Poppy, ask for our more intimate acquaintance. The Greek Valerian, which nods like the Blue Bell, the Hound's Tongue, which has come to us from Asia, and the Beeksteak Plant, or Lousewort, which hails from the East, each appeals to us because of its individuality and associations.

Among the flowering shrubs are the Leatherwood, which has an affinity for the high banks of streams and bears a modest blue flower. The Spicebush, which is in fact a Laurel, covers the slopes with a massive green foliage, its yellow flowerettes appearing before the pungent leaves shoot out. Both of these shrubs bring thoughts of bygone days, where, in pioneer times, they served economic purposes. The tough bark of the former provided thongs for mending harness and for tying bundles, and the latter, beside its medicinal use as a tea, was used in lieu of allspice, the dried buds offering a competent substitute in revolutionary time and after.

In mid-summer the wild flowers become less conspicuous, but late summer ushers in a new riot of color. The Wild Plum, the Wild Crab, the White Bladderwort precede the Cone Flowers, the Asters, the Iron Weed, the Joe Pye Weed and several varieties of the Golden Rod. The Wild Bergamot, which has a refreshing mint fragrance, and the Wild Hydrangea give a delightful color scheme of lavender and white.

The Lobelia, Sunflower and Wild Lettuce come at this time, as do the charming yellow flowers of the Toadflax, commonly known as "Butter-and-Eggs." In the uplands under beech trees may be found the parasitic Beech Drops or Cancer Root, and under the hemlocks on the high ridges may be seen in profusion the delicate white, pipe-shaped plants of the Indian Pipe. This colorless wax flower, sometimes called the Ice Plant, grows also in Japan, when the native artists seem to have become fascinated with its chaste but mysterious charm.

To enumerate the flowers of Turkey Run would be as tiresome as the compilation of a dictionary, for more than four hundred varieties of herbaceous plants alone have been found here. A check-list of its wild flowers would fill a volume. Perhaps no other branch of nature study will so fully repay the adventurer into its realms as that of botany. Here, at Turkey Run, may be found a true botanist's paradise.

The Birds of Turkey Run

"This great solitude is quick with life; And birds that scarce have learned the fear of men Are here."

What the bird population of Turkey Run must have been in an early day would demand the imagination of a true naturalist. Today, including the migratory species and those who pay chance visits, nearly two hundred varieties have been registered by Mr. Sidney R. Esten, who is upon intimate terms with these bird friends of man.

In Audubon's day, and as he and other early naturalists and travelers have recorded, vast flocks of Wild Turkey, Carolina Parrakeets and Passenger Pigeons were native to Indiana. The last two, with the magnificent ivory-billed Woodpecker, have succumbed to the persecution of man and are known to us only through the pathetic specimens preserved in museums. One of the last remaining colonies of Parrakeets is reported to have been found northwest of Lusk's Mills in the winter of 1842 by Mr. Return Richmond. Mr. Richmond, upon felling a hollow sycamore tree, discovered several hundred of these birds, who had taken refuge within the hollow trunk and were so chilled from the cold that they were unable to move. In order to prevent the birds from freezing Mr. Richmond sawed off a section of the trunk containing the birds, which unwieldy cage he rolled to his home, covering the ends with netting. Upon the return of clement weather they were set free.

The Wild Turkey, indeed, was so numerous as to give rise to the name of Turkey Run. What is now called Turkey Run Hollow served in an early day as a place of refuge for thousands of these birds; whose "roost" was provided by the great rock crevices of the hollow. An early hunting story tells of the discovery of perhaps the largest flock ever seen in the vicinity. The birds were discovered a short distance from the canyon, and to this they escaped. Almost immediately the hunters arrived at the spot, but the birds had disappeared so completely that not one was to be seen. The occurrence is, even today, a mystery, but it is probable that there existed some hidden cavern, yet undiscovered, through which they made their escape.

In the heyday of Lusk's Mills the Passenger Pigeon was so numerous as to sometimes darken the sky. Thousands of these birds were caught in nets, and the pigeon squabs were packed in barrels and shipped to the city markets for human consumption. The market became so glutted that shipments were refused, and thousands of these beautiful birds were fed to the hogs.


Throughout the entire year the visitor to Turkey Run is permitted to share the society of these graceful songsters who contribute their cheerful voice and their colorful beauty to his pleasure. During the summer months the Cardinal, Robin and the Wood Thrush vie with each other in scaling the upper registers of song. The Phoebe may be discovered carrying provender to their hungry progeny, whose gaping mouths yawn from a well constructed nest attached to some projecting rock. The Chipping Sparrow ventures up boldly to one's very feet, in quest of seeds or crumbs. Almost as venturesome is the Tufted Titmouse, who scampers over camp tables in search of crumbs. On Monday mornings, after Sunday guests have taken their departure, the Carolina Woodpecker, the Downie and the saucy Jay swing about the refuse baskets, having much ado to keep their balance but managing to gorge themselves to the bursting point.

Along the trails in the spring flashes of color cross one's path—living bits of red, yellow, green and blue—as the warblers pause on their northward flight. At night, from hotel window or through the tent's thin walls, one may hear the weird night cries of the Whippoorwill, or the almost human voice of the complaining Owl.

Of nesting birds there are around eighty resident species at Turkey Run, sharing with human visitors the home which nature has provided for them.

There are some sinners among the birds as with the human race, but they are in the minority. Upon acquaintance we find these feathered folk to be charming companions, meeting us half way and repaying courtesies shown them. So human are they that such nature lovers as John Burroughs has given them human attributes, as when he calls the Crested Fly Catcher the "Wild Irishman of the Forest." We should be thankful for the birds of Turkey Run—there are so few bird friends left us where civilization has been set up—and should pay them our respects and grasp the wing of fellowship which they offer us.


Trails and Trail Distances at Turkey Run

There are nine labeled trails in Turkey Run State Park, totaling sixteen miles in length, and fourteen miles of unlabeled trails. To enjoy best the beauties of the park you are advised to wear hiking clothes and low-heeled, serviceable shoes. It takes about five days for the experienced hiker to cover all the trails of the park, as it is necessary in many cases to go over the nearer trails several times to reach the outlying trails.

The following list of the trails gives the distance of each from the hotel and return; also some of the points of interest on each. From the hotel to the suspension bridge and return the distance is one mile, and this should be subtracted from the following trail distances if the hike is begun and ended at the bridge.

Trail 1. 2-3/4 miles. Along the south shore of Sugar Creek past the swinging bridge to the covered bridge, then south to road, east along road through campground to hotel. This is a comparatively easy trail with but few places to climb. Interesting places: Lover's Lane, Hawk's Nest, the large elms, the sycamore grove, the largest walnut in the park, Goose Rock, Ship Rock, the largest tree in the park, Lusk's Fill.

Trail 2. 3 miles. Either along trail or through the camp ground and down the steps. From Trail 1 Trail 2 leads up Newby Gulch, across the plateau, across the road (Trails 1 and 2 at this point are together) through the woods for about one-fourth mile, then west through Gypsy Gulch and Box Canyon to swinging bridge and back to campground and hotel. Interesting points: The Tuffa Beds in Newby Gulch, the High Bridge over Newby Gulch, the Overhanging Rock Cliffs in Gypsy Gulch, and Box Canyon and many wonderful ferns.

Trail 3. 2-1/2 miles. Take Trail 1 to swinging bridge, and after crossing Sugar Creek go up Rocky Hollow (Trail 4) for about one-half mile, then west through woodlands, down the ladders in Bear Hollow, east by river down ladders in Ladder Rock, back to swinging bridge. Interesting points: Rocky Hollow, Edge Rock, the Punch Bowl, Bear Hollow, the Ice Box, Wedge Rock and Ladder Rock.

Trail 4. 3-1/2 miles. Trail 1 to swinging bridge, thence up Rocky Hollow, turning at the head of the hollow, through woods to Lusk Home on the hill above the Narrows, back to campground or hotel by way of Trail 8 or Trail 3 along Sugar Creek to swinging bridge. Interesting points: Rocky Hollow, Yew Trees, Edge Rock, Punch Bowl, Lusk Home, the Old Mill Site, the Covered Bridge and the Coal Mine.

Trail 5. 4 miles. The same route as that taken for Trail 3. Trail 5 branches out from Trail 3 and extends for some distance west of Trail 3 through the woods. Instead of going up Rocky Hollow, Trail 5 can be reached on Trail 3 by going west from swinging bridge up through Ladder Rock. Interesting points: The Ice Box, Wedge Rock, beautiful woodland scenes with ferns and flowers.

(For comparison note figure in foreground)

Trail 6. 1/2 mile. From Sunset Point down to Turkey Run Hollow, up hollow to road. This is the shortest trail in the park. Interesting points: The Overhanging Cliffs, under which the wild turkeys came to roost, the Cement Bridge over Turkey Run Hollow and Sword Moss, which is found only in a few places in North America.

Trail 7. 3/4 mile. From Sunset Point down into the hollow, west up cliff around Inspiration Point, through woods and down the hollow to Sunset Point. Interesting points: Mosses, Walking Ferns and Yew Trees, good view of Sugar Creek and Overhanging Cliffs.

Trail 8. 3-1/4 miles. Along Trail 1 to swinging bridge. After crossing bridge go east along creek to coal mine, then north on Trail 8 to junction with 4, east (right) through woods to Lusk Home, west along the edge of field to coal mine and Trail 3 to swinging bridge. Interesting points: Coal Mine, Ferns, Flowers, Lusk Home, Narrows, Mill Site.

Trail 9. 4 miles (via Ladder Rock), 4-1/2 miles (via Rocky Hollow). This is the longest and hardest hike in the park, for in order to reach Trail 9 parts of Trails 3 and 5 have to be taken. Trail 9 extends from Trail 5 west through falls and boulder canyons. Interesting points: The Glacial Boulders deposited many years ago when the great glaciers from the North covered this area. Many of the same points seen on Trails 3 and 5.

Distances to Various Points of Interest in Turkey Run

From Hotel to Swinging Bridge (via Trail 1 through campground or via Trail 1 along Sugar Creek)—one-half mile.

From Hotel to Covered Bridge and Lusk Home by Trail 1—1-1/2 miles. By automobile—2-1/2 miles.

From Hotel to Box Canyon—3/4 mile. (Trails 1 and 2.)

From Hotel to Gypsy Gulch—3/4 mile. (Trails 1 and 2.)

From Hotel to Punch Bowl—3/4 mile. (Trails 1 and 4.)

From Hotel to Ice Box—3/4 mile. (Trails 1 and 3.)

From Hotel to Goose Rock and Ship Rock—7/8 mile. (Trail 1.)

From Hotel to Coal Mine—3/4 mile. (Trails 1 and 3.)

From Hotel to Big Walnut—4/5 mile. (Trails 1 and 2.)

From Hotel to Big Sycamore—1 mile. (Trail 1.)

From Hotel to Big Tulip—1/4 mile. (Trails 6 and 7.)

From Hotel to Log Church—1/4 mile. (W. along road from west entrance, across cement bridge over Turkey Run Hollow, and through woods by an unnumbered trail.)


Interesting Places at Turkey Run

1. The Lusk Homestead, the Narrows of Sugar Creek, the Covered Bridge, the Old Mill Site and other points of interest connected with the history of Salmon Lusk, Polly Beard Lusk and John Lusk can be reached by Trail 1 along Sugar Creek or by automobile from the west entrance east to the front entrance and north to the Lusk Home.

2. The State Cabin on Sunset Point is a short distance northwest of the hotel. This cabin was built by Daniel Gay about 1841 and moved to its present site in 1917. Several of the logs of Tulip or Yellow Poplar are 30 feet long, 30 inches wide and 6 inches thick.

3. The Old Log Church is located on the ridge above Turkey Run Hollow. It was formerly used in 1875 and was moved to the park in 1923. It is a sample of pioneer church used by early Hoosiers.

4. Goose Rock, on Trail 1, is between the Covered Bridge and the Swinging Bridge. It is so named because of its resemblance to a goose head, as viewed from Trail 1 east of the rock. The legend of Goose Rock relates that Johnny Green, the last Indian of the area, was shot as he sat fishing on this rock.

5. The Swinging Bridge across Sugar Creek was built in 1918. It is 4 feet wide and is hung on two 1-7/8-inch steel cables which are anchored on one side to a rock ledge and on the other in a fifty-ton cement base. Before this bridge was constructed the method of crossing to the foot of Rocky Hollow was made in an old flatboat which saw service from 1884 to 1917.

6. Lusk's Fill, on Trail 1 south of the Covered Bridge, was John Lusk's attempt to build a roadbed and at the same time to construct a fish pond. This fill, which runs south and along the top of which Trail 1 runs, took three years of fruitless labor and cost many thousands of dollars. It was abandoned and the present road east of it made.

7. Gypsy Gulch and the Falls, on Trail 2, are found in the section of the park underlying the rocks on the south side of Sugar Creek. This area was known to the pioneers as the Falls. Here Salmon Lusk, John Lusk and the others for many miles around came for their picnics. In 1910 a pony called Gypsy fell over the cliff, and since then the name Gypsy Gulch has been given to the area, which is one of the most attractive in the park.

8. The Coal Mine, on Trail 2, was used by John Lusk for many years as the source of his coal supply. The shaft and the old track used in drawing the coal out is still to be seen.

9. Rocky Hollow is on Trail 4 north of the Suspension Bridge. This is the most ostentatious hollow of the park. The lower part is wide and in some places has 80-foot cliffs. Near the mouth of the hollow is Edge Rock, which many years ago fell from the cliff above. The upper part of the hollow is narrow, and steps cut in the rock are used in the passage along its rocky sides. In the upper part of Rocky Hollow is the Punch Bowl, a geological formation 15 feet across and 6 feet deep, caused by boulders being swirled around by the rushing waters at the time of the melting of the glaciers.


10. The Ice Box, on Trail 3, west of the Suspension Bridge, is an interesting glacial formation which is of circular shape and about 80 feet in depth. In it is Wedge Rock, a formation in the shape of a slice of pie.

11. Turkey Run Hollow, although not of great length, is one of the widest and most beautiful in the park. It was under the overhanging rocks of this hollow that the wild turkeys roosted in the past, and the bank and rough-winged swallows now nest in crevices in the rock. In this hollow, also, the very rare Sword Moss is to be found.

12. Boulder Canyon, on Trail 9, is in the farthest west section of the park on the north side of the creek. It is a beautiful canyon which contains the best examples in the park of the various water-worn rounded boulders deposited in the area by the receding glacial ice masses.

13. The Sycamore and Walnut Groves on Trail 1, just east of the Swinging Bridge, contain some of the finest specimens of walnut and sycamore trees in the state. The light-barked sycamore trees, with the great trunks, and the tall stately walnut trees, often with no branches for ninety feet, are the oldest inhabitants of Turkey Run.

14. The Big Tulip or Yellow Poplar, on Trail 7, is one of the finest examples of the trees most often used by the pioneer Hoosiers to construct their log cabins. Throughout the park are a number of great tulip trees. Several are to be found near the hotel.

15. Lover's Lane and the Hawk's Nest are on Trail 1 along the creek from the hotel to the Swinging Bridge. Here are the large trees, elms and sycamores, forming a shady canopy over the trail. From Trail 1 Hawk's Nest, a huge exposed rocky cliff on the opposite side of the creek, illustrates the type of place utilized by hawks, phoebes and swallows as nesting sites.

Park Rules

Visitors are requested to observe the following rules in order that we may fulfill the purposes for which state parks were established, namely: THE PRESERVATION OF A PRIMITIVE LANDSCAPE IN ITS ORIGINAL CONDITION:

1. Do not injure any structure, rock, tree, flower, bird or wild animal within the park.

2. Firearms are prohibited.

3. Dogs are to be kept on leash.

4. There shall be no vending or advertising without permission from the Department of Conservation.

5. Camps are provided. The camping fee is twenty-five (25) cents per car or tent for each twenty-four hours or fraction thereof. Please put waste in receptacles provided.

6. Fires may be built only in places provided.

7. Motor vehicles shall be driven slowly and on established roads. Park in designated places only.

8. Bathing is limited to such places and times as the Department of Conservation deems safe.

9. Drinking water should be taken from pumps and hydrants only.

The failure of any person to comply with any provision of the official regulations (published and placed in effect September 15, 1927) shall be deemed a violation thereof, and such person shall be subject to a fine as provided by act of March 11, 1919.




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Located on State Road 36 in Parke and

Putnam counties in west central Indiana.

Cecil M. Harden Lake is 50 miles west

of Indianapolis and 35 miles northeast of

Terre Haute. It was constructed by the

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and opened

in 1960. The property is operated and

maintained by the Indiana Department

of Natural Resources, under a lease arrangement

with the U.S. Army Corps of



The main functions of Cecil M.

Harden Lake are to control flooding and

for recreation and resource management.

The property is composed of 2,005 acres

of land with a 2,060 acre lake.

Surrounded by numerous species of

trees, Cecil M. Harden Lake is a natural

delight. Wildflowers, berries, nuts and


mushrooms grace the wooded areas of

this property. Minutes from the property

is the site of the Parke County Covered

Bridge Festival that draws thousands of visitors every year.


Cecil M. Harden Lake, formerly “Mansfield Lake,”

was designed and built by the Louisville District of the

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lake serves as

a unit of the Comprehensive Plan for the Ohio River

Basin to effect reduction in flood stages downstream

from the dam, primarily in the Big Raccoon Creek

and Lower Wabash River watersheds. Existence

of the lake creates the potential for water-related

recreation and provides for the enhancement of fish

and wildlife.

The lake was authorized by the Flood Control Act

approved June 28, 1938. Construction began in

October 1956 and the project became operational in

July 1960.

The lake was renamed from Mansfield Lake by a bill

signed into law on December 14, 1974, by President

Gerald R. Ford, in recognition of Mrs. Cecil Murray

Harden for her role in obtaining funds for the project.

Mrs. Harden has long been recognized as one of the

most active members of the community, serving in

positions on the local, state, and national levels. Mrs.

Harden was the U.S. Congressional Representative

for five terms beginning in 1949.


Cecil M. Harden Lake is located on Big Raccoon

Creek in the rolling farmland of Parke County.

following the signing of the “10 O’Clock Treaty” in

1809 and the Treaty of St. Marys in 1818 . By 1840,

the settlement of Parke County was complete.

The Native Americans gave the name “Pun-goso-

co-nee” to the largest stream in Parke County,

meaning “Stream of Many Sugar Trees.” Early settlers

translated that as Sugar Creek and followed

the Native Americans in collecting sugar water from

the trees each spring. They boiled the water down

to syrup or granulated sugar for use as a sweetener

during the rest of the year. Today, several active

sugar camps still operate in the hard maple groves

in Parke County. Equipment has been modernized,

but the technique and spirit is the same as that of the

pioneers over 150 years ago.

The Native Americans lost the area


 Mansfield Mill and Dam
Feb 14, 1977 Valentines Day

In the small Parke County town of Hollandsburg, four young men were brutally murdered and their mother serverly injured.

News reports of what happened that night rocked Parke County to its core. With shock and dismay, we learned that this was a mass murder committed "just to see what it was like to kill people".

We watched in dazed sadness as Nationally known Walter Cronkite told the rest of the nation of the horror on the evening news. His words were

"In the isolated town of Hollandsburg in western Indiana another series of shootings today. Police say four men entered a mobile home and shot and killed four brothers, ages 14 to 22. The men also wounded the victims' mother. She played dead and survived. Police say the four brothers were robbed of $30 and that the killings quote 'Don't make a whole lot of sense.'"

Back home, friends and neighbors grieved for the family. Good kids gunned down by mass murderers.  The three Spencer boys  were students at Turkey Run Schools.  The mother, Betty Jane Spencer, who survived went on to lead the nation in forming victims' rights groups. The experience of surviving an armed robbery and losing her boys left an indelible mark on Betty Spencer, one that inspired her to become a champion of victim's rights. Over the next three decades, she helped change 56 Indiana laws and founded the Parke County Victims Advocate Foundation, an organization that provides crisis counseling to crime victims and keeps them notified of court dates. Spencer also joined the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the Protect the Innocent Foundation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan honored her efforts at a White House ceremony.

Indiana did not have a death penalty at the time, so the murderers were given double life and 4 life sentences without parole.


Dan Stonebraker and Michael Wright, along with Roger Drollinger and Dan Smith went to a housetrailer north of Hollandsburg and murdered Greg Brooks 22, Ralph 14, Raymond 18, and Reeve Spencer 16, four sons of Keith and Betty Jane Spencer.  Betty Jane was shot  3 times with a shotgun but played dead and survived the ordeal.  Keith was at work as a television engineer that night in Indpls near 96th and Ditch Road.
A book "Choking in Fear" by Mike McCarty contains information of what happened that night. Authorities eventually apprehended Roger Drollinger, 24, Daniel Stonebraker, 20, David W. Smith, 17, and Michael Wayne Wright, 21, and charged them with the slayings. Indpls. attorney Michael Conway defended the four men after Indpls attorney Niles Stanton resigned with a scheduling confict to defend Tony Kritsis.  The murderers are all four serving life in prison, all but Drollinger at the Pendleton, Indiana Prison. Ringleader Roger Drollinger is in the Westville, Indiana Prison near Michigan City, Indiana serving four life sentences.  Rockville Prosecutor Clelland Hanner prosecuted.  The trail was held outside Parke County in Hartford City presided over by Judge Bruce Bade.  The three at the Pendleton Correctional Facility understand that they cannot be released due to being sentenced to double life under the old Indiana Sentencing Code. IF they could get their sentences "modified" to one life sentence, they could then seek parole. It is highly improbable that their sentences will ever be modified nor that they would ever be granted parole.
Roger Drollinger wanted to be famous.  He was an admirer of California's famous Charles Manson and Roger recruited his friends Stonebreaker, Smith, and Wright to drive to a random house where they would rob and kill whoever was inside. It wouldn't be their first robbery.  They swore a blood oath that they would each kill someone and if any one of them backed out, the other three would kill any member who backed out.  Michael Wright rented a black Opel Cadet and they obtained shotguns for the occasion. The next day Drollinger showed up to testify in a Crawfordsville court for selling drugs to an undercover cop as if nothing had happened the night before.  He was found guilty but was on the run for the murders when he later failed to show up in court for the drug charge sentencing.  He surrendered to the FBI in Indianapolis on Monday April 11th after spending Easter weekend in an Indpls hotel on North Meridian Street  with his wife and then an interview with TV broadcaster Linda Lupear from Indianapolis channel 6 in Niles Stanton's Law Office.  Niles  had represented Roger in the Crawfordsville drug case and had picked up and driven Roger from Jeffersonville to Indianapolis to surrender.

It was Valentine's Day, 1977, and Betty was at home in her trailer with her son and 2 of her 3 step-sons (Keith's 3 boys).  The 4th son shortly arrived home and was also killed. A daughter, Diane Spencer had gone out on a date and was not home at the time. Mr. Keith Spencer worked nights as a TV broadcast engineer in Indianapolis so was not at home at the time. The ring leader, Roger Drollinger picked their home because of the nice cars parked outside. He thought that surely, if there were nice cars outside that there would surely be drugs and cash inside.  They cut the electricity and phone wires and burst in carrying flash lights and shotguns. 

There were no drugs, and very little money to speak of, only $30/$40 in cash and a couple items of jewelry. While the group were robbing the family, the fourth brother, Raymond, two days before his 18th birthday, arrived home from visiting his birth mother, Carolyn Spencer. The four men jeered him, and forced him to lay face-down shoulder to shoulder with his brothers and mother.  They laid one of the brothers on the couch.  (It is only appropriate to mention that Carolyn Spencer, previous wife of Keith Spencer lost her three sons that night).

Roger asked each boy their age and then they all opened fire.  Betty played dead, but the killers saw that she was still breathing and shot her again. Her wig was partially blown off, making them think they had killed her the same as they had killed her sons.   They were all shot in the head. The worst is that the four murderers enjoyed it. They wanted to do it again. Betty heard their laughter. ALL of their laughter.  Two left in the Opel Cadet and the other two stole one of the Spencer cars.  

When the four men left, Betty thought she heard running water, and raised her head to ask if everyone was ok. But they weren't. It wasn't water she was hearing. It was their blood.

Betty tried to call for help, but the phone lines were cut. The home was on an isolated back road 350N north of State Highway 36, so in the middle of winter, she ran through the snow, over a partially frozen creek, and to her neighbor's home, all the while bleeding profusely from her wounds on her head and back.
Some of the narritive is by Kate, the granddaughter of Keith and Betty Spencer via the surviving daughter that evening, Diane Spencer that had gone out on a date that fateful night.
The gravesites are located  about a mile north of the little town  of Hollandsburg on the east side of the Mt. Moriah Cemetary. The boys  are all buried side by side with one very large beautiful headstone. Betty's son,Greg Brooks is on the far left next to the three Spencer boys. There is a beautiful poem in the middle.  
Betty is now deceased and  is buried in front of the boys. Her headstone faces the boys headstone.  She lived for another 27 years and died of lung cancer at the age of 71 on October 26, 2004.
The cemetery is very quiet and very peaceful. May they all rest in peace.


 TEX TERRY - the "bad man of the movies"

For fifty years, Edward Earl "Tex" Terry, the "bad man of the movies", was hit, knocked off cliffs and gunned down more times than he could remember. He was known in the b-western movies as a 'heavy'. "It was my big eyebrows. They made me a natural villain so I was always the bad guy. I never wanted to become a star. I preferred to be a character actor because I got in more movies that way", Tex once told an interviewer.

Tex Terry was born on August 22, 1902, in Parke County Indiana, near the town of Coxville (once known as Roseville). As a youngster, he learned to use a whip to drive mules in the coal mines in the nearby town of Rosedale. He used his whip skills many times in his career, first in the 1924 silent film "Don Juan" , starring Douglas Fairbanks, and in his most famous role as Brizzard in the 1958 version of "The Oregon Trail", opposite Fred McMurray. Tex worked alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest names, including Alan Ladd, Sunset Carson, John Wayne, and his idol William S. Hart. His most frequent adversaries on screen were Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Although he was often uncredited in his films, Tex had a distinctive look and style that makes him easy to spot. He also appeared in many television westerns like "Wagon Train", "Death Valley Days", "The Lone Ranger", and "Gunsmoke". In 1964, Tex married his long-time friend and Hollywood agent, Isabel Draesemer, who managed the early careers of Buddy Ebsen, and Hugh O'Brian. Isabel is most noted for her discovery of Hollywood icon James Dean.

After making his last movie in 1972 with David Brian called "The Strangers", Tex and Isabel returned to Indiana, initially settling in Mansfield, where Tex would attempt to fulfill a dream of turning the town into Frontier City. The Terry's purchased the Mansfield roller mill and several other buildings, but the dream was largely unrealized. In 1979, Tex and Isabel moved a short distance to Tex's hometown of Coxville Indiana and opened "Tex's Longhorn Tavern", which was and remains very successful. Here Tex would regale patrons with wonderful stories about his days in Hollywood. It was here, too, where everyone would understand just how genuinely nice the "bad man" was in real life. Every August, on the occasion of his birthday, Tex and 'Izzy' would have a party and everyone in the area, both young and old, was invited to celebrate, listen to his Hollywood tales, and watch his old movies. Tex Terry was also a big hit at Indiana fairs and area schools where he loved to perform his whip and roping act on stage and talk about his glory days in films.

On the afternoon of May 18, 1985, Tex died of a heart attack he suffered at home. Appropriately, the old cowboy was laid to rest up on the hill in the Coxville cemetery, very near the place where he'd been born 82 years before. Isabel Terry, his wife of 21 years, joined him there in April of 2002.

© 2005 Special thanks to Ted Osborn for sharing his information on Tex Terry. For more information, visit: www.texterry.com.

“Three Finger” In Baseball Hall Of Fame
Parke County Man Famous Pitcher

Fred A. Massey of Joliet, Illinois, explains that Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown was his mother's uncle. "I can remember him coming to our house In Nyesvllle to rabbit hunt," Massey said.

Mordecai, known as Three Finger, turned an accident into an asset and became one of baseball's most colorful pitchers. He was the first Hoosier to be elected into the sport's Hall of Fame. While still a young man, Mordecai lost about half the Index finger on his right hand in a farm implement. At the time he was playing third base for his hometown at Rosedale as well as at Coxvllle and Brazil and other spots. There was no question of his ability to play the game.

After his hand healed, he discovered the finger stub gave him an uncanny ability to put a peculiar break on his curve. This provided him with the nickname that became a fixture in baseball. There was a time he was called Miner Brown because he worked in the coal mines near Rosedale. How Brown worked his way from third base to the pitcher's mound is not all that clear. There is one story that is generally accepted. In an Independent game, the pitcher for Brown's team failed to show and the decision was made to let Three Finger try out his unique breaking ball under game conditions. The rest is written In sports history books.

Mordecai's fame spread, and in 1901 he was with a Terre Haute team in the Three I League. The following year, he was with Omaha, and in 1903 he was at St. Louis. He joined the Chicago Cubs in 1904 and remained with the team as its mainstay until 1911. Brown came into his own in 1906. That year, as difficult as it might be to believe, the Cubs won 116 of 152 games.

Three Finger was credited with 26 of the victories. He was the team star for the next two seasons as the Cubs collected three straight world championships. Three Finger's great rival was the New York Giants' Big Train—Christy Matthewson. Stadiums sold out every time Brown and Matthewson were scheduled to be the opposing pitchers. In 1908, Three Finger beat Big Train in the famous playoff game that sent the Cubs into the World Series.

On October 8, 1908, Mordecal retired the Giants on three pitches in the ninth inning. The first batter grounded to third baseman, the second flied out and the third grounded to the shortstop.

Brown jumped to the outlaw Federal League in 1914 and was player-manager for the St. Louis team part of the year, and pitcher with the Brooklyn Federal League for the rest of the season. He returned to Chicago the following year with the Federal League team.

After the league folded, Brown in 1916 was back with the Chicago Cubs. He spent the next two seasons with Columbus of the American Association. He ended his professional career in 1920 after managing the Terre Haute Three I League team. He did a little managing of Independent teams over the next few years.

His final appearance as a Chicago Cub came in 1916, when as a stunt, he worked against Matthewson, at that time manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Brown's unusual break on the ball resulted in batters hitting it into the ground. He was, however, blessed with more ability than his freak break. He was an outstanding fielder, harking back to his days as a hot corner player. When he pitched the team had a fifth infielder.

Born at Nyesvllle, Indiana on October 19, 1876, Thee Finger died February 4, 1948. He was 71. His election Into the Hall of Fame came a year later.

(Click on the Plaque to Link to more info on Mordecai in the Baseball Hall Of Fame)


Coxville was the home of "Doc wheat" whose story is one of the most colorful In the county. Doc graduated from medical school In Cincinnati at the head of his class, even though he finished the course in three years instead of the four that was required at that time. He then returned to his home county to practice his profession. Doc settled first in Mecca, operating a combination pharmacy, dimestore and medical practice. Doc made the children of Mecca penny sodas and gave them "Kiss Me" gum every sunday after church. But he kept a skeleton named John Gilbert that the children were terrified of.

After a few years in Mecca, Doc gave up the dimestore business, moved his office to Coxville and turned more and more to natural medicine, using roots, herbs and figs. He gathered quantities of these materials and what he couldn't find he bought in Terre Haute.

Once, Doc was invited to give a speech before a medical convention in St. Louis. He walked the entire distance, gathering roots and herbs as he went. Doc was a brilliant man and a renowned healer. Some still say he knew the cure for cancer. People would come from as far a way as Chicago to be treated by Doc Wheat.

His standard charge was $1.00 no matter what ailed you. After so many years of practice Doc accumulated a great deal of money. He never drank or gambled and spent only what was necessary to support himself. He never trusted banks and it was a well known fact that money was hidden all over the place. One night, two thugs broke into his office and demanded all his money. Doc refused to give it to them so they tied him up and tortured him, burning his feet with lamps- Soon, the night freight train approached blowing its whistle. Doc told them that the train always stopped (although it never did) and this frightened them away. After his death, cans and jars of money, mostly gold and silver coins, were found everywhere; in the barn, the greenhouse, the cinder pile and buried in the pasture.

Once, after his brother died, the brother's family was left destitute. So the wife and young son sold tickets to Doc's office door to assure everyone their fair place in line. Although the tickets were only 10 cents, the practice was plenty large enough to support the family.

Doc never married but was known to have one romance. In the course of his business he had an occasion to talk repeatedly with one telephone operator. Though they had never met in person, a romance budded. Finally, Doc made a date to meet the young lady.

For the special occasion he bought a fancy buggy. No one really knows exactly what happened on their date but when he got hone he was so disgusted that he dismantled his buggy and stacked it in his office and there it stayed until he died.



The first man to see Parke County was a young French voyager in 1705,

whose account of Sugar Creek Narrows was published in a Paris newspaper in 1718.  English settlers began coming following the treaty of 1809, and a land office was opened in Terre Haute,  Fifty dollars would buy 40 acres of land.  The county quickly settled, and the census of 1860 showed a population of 15,538.  The peak population was 19,406 in 1880.  The 1990 census showed Parke County with a population of 15,410.  The population today remains close to that figure.

On January 9, 1827, the last day of the 1820-1821 session of the State Legislature at Corydon, an act was passed creating Parke County. The boundary extended to the Illinois line and included most of what is now Parke and Vermillion Counties.

The name of Parke was selected in honor of Benjamin Parke, who had come to Indiana in 1801, was a member of the First Territorial Legislature, and first Representative in Congress of this territory. President Thomas Jefferson appointed him US Territorial Judge in 1808, and later President Madison named him US District Judge with Circuit Court powers. He was an organizer and first president of the Indiana Historical Society. Parke County has remained rural while much of the rest of Indiana has become highly industrialized and urban. In recent years a movement has been encouraged to keep the county rural and unspoiled and especially to save the 31 covered bridges that have become a nation-wide attraction, and in 1978 were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

As the bridges are replaced by more modem structures, they become the property of the County Park Board and are to be maintained for future generations to enjoy as museum pieces from an interesting past. Parke County is connected with the state and nation by two US highways. US 41 cross the county north and south, while US 36 bisects it east and west. Many tourists are discovering the delights of its rural landscape, and the future for the county seems bright.

Parke County is situated on the eastern border of the great western coal field. Limestone crops out at the east boundary line of the county, and from there it declines until it reaches a depth of three hundred feet beneath the Wabash River, the western boundary. No coal is found in the limestone region, but there are numerous fields of coal in other parts of the county.

Above the limestone and separated from it by a layer of shale is a formation of reddish brown sandstone from 150 to 200 feet in thickness. This stone underlies the channel of Big Raccoon Creek, making a number of excellent mill sites. Immediately above the sandstone clay shale, bands of iron ore, soft sandstone and slate. Overlying the coal measures is a heavy deposit of glacial drift.

There is a natural bridge of sandstone formation in the northwest quarter of section 33, Union Township. It spans a ravine at the base of a high hill overlooking the valley of Big Raccoon Creek. It was formed by water flowing from the summit of the hill and down the ravine into a fissure, thus forming a channel under the outcropping ledge of rock. This bridge is about 35 feet long and 20 feet wide.

The fourth division, the high tableland southeast of Big Raccoon, is more diversified in character than any other. The northern portion from Portland Mills to Limestone Branch is an area of long, gentle slopes with but few abrupt hills. South of Limestone Branch the surface is level with scarcely sufficient drainage to carry off the surface water from the heavy, tenacious clay soil. The streams run in deep chasms between high bluffs. This is characteristic of both branches of Rocky Fork Creek. Otter Creek and Grey's Creek in the southern part of this division run on a higher level, and the hills near them are less elevated.

The fifth division is an elevated triangle of tableland between the Wabash River and Big Raccoon on the northeast and lower Otter Creek on the southeast. The surface of this plane is nearly level and is about 200 feet above the Wabash River to which it extends. When the first settlements in Parke County were made, the mastodon, the elk, and buffalo has all become extinct. The black bear and the deer, however, had not entirely disappeared. The early settlers also found the timber wolf, lynx, raccoon, opossum, mink, red fox, and grey fox, which killed or carried away the farmer's poultry, lambs and pigs, if not securely housed at night. The grey fox and occasionally the black squirrel were in all parts of the county. The skunk and rabbit were not as numerous in pioneer days as they are now. The otter, which has now disappeared, and muskrat were found along the creeks. The groundhog, like most of the native animals, destroyed much of the farmers' products before they were sufficiently matured to be harvested. The flying squirrel is rarely seen now, but chipmunks are quite numerous. The Norway rat was probably first brought here in 1821 by Jeptha Garrigus, who came with his family and household goods down the Ohio River and up the Wabash and Big Raccoon Creek. Other boats brought rats to the river towns, and they soon became so numerous and destructive that they caused farmers considerable trouble.

Reptiles, chief of the reptiles of the county, were the venomous rattlesnake, copperhead, and viper. They were numerous and quite a menace to the pioneers, especially to the women and children who feared them, and to the men who hunted and killed them. On one occasion a hunting party killed seventy rattlesnakes in Rockville and vicinity. This snake is extinct, but the copperhead still is found in some localities. The black, the garter, and water snakes were also numerous, but harmless.

Birds, the bald eagle, crane, snipe, killdeer, and fish hawk lived along the river and largest creeks, while ducks were numerous in swampy districts. The wild turkey was extinct, but has been reintroduced to the area and is now plentiful. The chicken hawk and the crow carried away the farmers' chicks. The buzzard was useful as a scavenger, and the quail was hunted and trapped for food. The bobolink, lark, pheasant, and the oriole are decreasing in number, while the robin and English sparrow are becoming more numerous. The whippoorwill, the grey owl, and other nocturnal birds are fast disappearing as the forests are being cleared.

The late JH Beadle was authority that there were in all about 3,000 "Witness Trees" blazed by the US Government surveyors in this county, as shown by the record of the land office at that time. In 1880 there were but few standing, the balance either having died from old age or been thoughtlessly cut down by the axe men.

In the month of November 1832, the building containing the deeds and other valuable public records of Parke County was burned. All deeds, records were burned save those recorded in book D, which was opened November 12, the year before and was only about half filled.

The first legal execution in Parke County was that of Noah Beauchamp, on Friday, February 18, 1843, in the timber southeast of Rockville Cemetery, by Sheriff Jesse Youmans. People came from far and near to this execution, even Illinois and surrounding counties in this state. It was a bitter cold day and several women with babies in their arms were present and drank whiskey freely, with the men, in order to "drive out the cold".

The second execution in the county was that of Buck Stout, on August 8, 1883, by John R. Musser. His was really a case from Montgomery County, but was tried in the courts of Parke County.

One of the biggest industries in Parke County was that of constructing flatboats. John R Kelly gave the following account concerning this enterprise, which runs as follows; "The first flatboat was built in the winter of 1833-34, at the Narrows of Sugar Creek, and immediately afterward at Coxy's boat yard, three miles away. The next established was Campbells and Tenbrook's at what is now known as Rockport Mill, then called Devil's Den. A few years later the business was carried on extensively at Jessup's Mill on Mill Creek, at Coffin's boat yard, where the old foundry stood, and at several points above the narrows of Sugar Creek. John Kelly engaged in the business in 1833 at Coxy's boat yard, the usual dimensions of boats being 60 feet long and 16 feet wide. He was advised by old boat builders not to exceed that size on account of the danger and difficulty of getting them out of Sugar Creek, it being a crooked and very rapid stream. This advice coming from men older and of more experience taught him different. R. Kelly stated that the most difficult boat to manage he ever handled was 50 feet long and 12 feet in width, while the easiest one was 85 feet long by 18 feet in width. About the average price of a boat 60 feet long, delivered in the Wabash, was $100, the size of the gunnels to secure a ready sale being 30 inches at the bow rake, which was the largest part and 10 inches thick. A tree suitable for gunnels used to cost from $1 to $5 according to distance from the yard, the tree being split into the necessary size was felled and the gunnel logs hauled by oxen to the boat yard. When the boat was framed and ready for the bottom, the planks are fastened in their places with wooden pins, it requiring from 10 to 12 hundred of them to complete the job. It requires 7000 feet of lumber to build a 60 foot flat boat and this must be all first class, as there is no place for inferior lumber, save in the false floor.

From 12 to 20 pounds of hemp are required to calk a boat of this size, after which the vessel was ready for launching. The boats were built from three to four feet above the gunnel and sided up with two inch plank, the same as the bottom, the roof, which had a pitch of 16 inches, being covered with 5/8 inch boards. The vessels were run out of the creek with two oars, one at the bow and one at the stem, none being used on the side while in the creek, except upon going over dams when the water was low, when it was necessary to get up as much headway as possible, that being the safest method. The steering oar is made of the same length as the boat, and so constructed as to balance in the middle. The steersman stands, or rather walks, on a bridge in the center of the vessel, so that by the time he reached New Orleans he would walk a great many miles, from one side of the craft to the other, while steering her on her course. At the date of the first construction of flat boats here, the cargo consisted entirely of corn and pork, but a few years later crates of wheat, flour, lumber staves, hoop poles, potatoes, poultry, and even live hogs became common. The amount of ear corn which a 60 foot boat could carry was 1800 bushels, but there was a constantly increasing demand for larger boats and before the business went out of existence, boats were built which would carry double that amount."