“Early History of Clark County, Indiana”

A presentation by Mrs. Charles Ryan Cogswell to the Silver Creek CemeterialAssociation
on May 25, 1923

On Thursday, May 25, 1923, at Silver Creek Cemetery, Mrs. C. R. Cogswell,of Charlestown, made a speech and brought out some historical facts ofmore than ordinary importance:

It is said that the ground on which we are assembled today is one ofthe historical spots in the State of Indiana. It is historical in severalrespects. First, because of the time at which it was settled. A secondreason is because the character of the people who settled in this vicinitywas such that it helped make the history of the State of Indiana. Stilla third reason for this being a historical spot is because the first EvangelicalChurch in the State of Indiana was organized near this place.

The first settlements were made in this neighborhood in 1797. Comparingthis date with others of historical importance, we find that George Washingtonwas retiring from his second term as President of the United Sates andhe lived two years after this time.

The people who came here were originally from the Eastern States, mainlyfrom Maryland and Pennsylvania. Many of them came from Kentucky, havingfirst stopped in that State. These were not an adventurous people out forthe new and the novel, nor were they a set of frontiersmen living juston the edge of civilization because their mode of living did not alwaysbear the close scrutiny of the law, and when civilization encroached tooclosely, moving a little bit farther on. These were people of sterlingworth and integrity. People who brought with them industry, education andChristianity. They were worthwhile citizens of the communities from whichthey came. They came and brought their families that they might make permanenthomes in this new land. Soon after settling they began to clear the landfor their houses and organize their church homes. Such was the early pioneerof Southern Indiana. He endured many hardships, but with an undaunted courage.

When the early settlers came here, this was an unbroken forest, a densewilderness over which wild animals roamed. Most of the animals of the temperatezone, such as bear, wolves, deer, wildcat, panther, and venomous snakeswere found here in abundance.

Many a time did these animals prove to be a menace to the early inhabitant,often stalking him and sometimes chasing him to his very door, and manywere the depredations made by the wolves upon his lambs and pigs duringthe night or when he was absent from home.

At this time also the red man roamed the forest and here he was foundin great numbers. Never a desirable neighbor at any time, he was particularlytreacherous just now. Our country was on the verge of another outbreakwith England, who was doing all she could to regain control of the AmericanColonies lost to her by the War of ‘76. In order to regain the NorthwestTerritory and halt immigration westward, the Indians were incited to themost atrocious deeds by the English and many were the massacres which occurredin Indiana Territory. No farmer visited a neighbor without a gun in hishand. A gun was carried to church along with the Bible, and as men liftedup their souls to God in prayer, one hand grasped the weapon of defense.Many forts and block-houses were built for the protection of the settlersagainst the Indians and into these the pioneer hurried his family whenthe red man started on the warpath. But even then we were not always safe.One of the most terrible massacres in the State occurred at a place a fewmiles north of here called Pigeon Roost. Almost an entire settlement waswiped out at this place. An incident occurred her which vitally concernedmy family. An old lady living in the neighborhood by the name of Aunt RachelFleehart, hearing that the Indians were coming, rushed to the home of aneighbor, taking a little babe in her arms and the young mother behindher on horseback and raced to the fort just in time to save their lives.The little babe was my grandfather, Hannibal Coombs. A large marble shaftnow marks the spot where these brave settlers perished.

The first Evangelical Church in the State of Indiana was organized nearthis place November 22, 1798, on Owen Creek about six miles from Charlestown,though Charlestown did not exist then. This church was organized by IsaacEdwards, a Baptist minister from Kentucky, with four constituent members,John Fisler and his wife Sophia and John Petit and his wife Catherine.This was called the Fourteen Mile Church. In July, 1799, the first businessmeeting was held at the home of one of the members and three persons wereadded to the church.

In July, 1801, a man moved into the community who was destined to havean influence on its church life. The name of this man was Elisha Carr.He came from the East and shortly after his arrival united with this churchand was received into its membership. He bought a farm in this vicinityand asked the members to meet in his home August 27th and 28th. Here sixmore were added and this being a more central point, thereafter al themeetings were held in the home of either Elisha Carr or Wm. Coombs, andin 1803 the name of the organization was changed from Fourteen Mile Churchto Silver Creek. The pioneer preacher at this time was Wm. McCoy, a Baptistminister from Kentucky. This family figured largely in the church historyof this place, several of them being preachers. Uncle Billie McCoy is toowell known here for me to say anything that might add to his illustriousname or deeds. Five generations of the McCoy family are buried in thiscemetery.

In 1804, the first church building was erected at this place. The groundon which the church was built, also the cemetery, was donated by ElishaCarr, being a part of his farm. This church was made of logs and stoodat the back of the cemetery. About this time the cemetery was laid out,the church contributing a spade and mattock for burial use. A board fencewas built around it and the farmers met and cleaned it off.

This is the oldest cemetery in Indiana, and has been in use about onehundred and seventeen years. The first burial was in 1805, the name ofthe man buried, Frances McGuire.

In 1812, the Silver Creek Association was organized. This is the oldestBaptist Association in the State. A large territory was embraced in this,including many square miles. It extended from Hamburg on the south to PigeonRoost on the north, from Fourteen Mile Creek on the east to Muddy Forkon the west. As the years passed by other churches were organized and builtin this same territory, but Silver Creek truly was the mother of them all.

As early as 1815 we find this church engaged in foreign missionary workand doing its bit in the world.

In 1824, the log church was torn down and a brick church erected onthe same spot. This church is described as having a large fireplace ateach end and stove in the middle, two large entrance doors on one sideand high box pulpit on the side opposite the doors.

In 1829 a division occurred in the church over some question of doctrinalbelief, the majority part of the members voting against said question,and the minority part supporting it. After this they did not worship together,but met on alternate Sundays though each claimed the church building. Finallywhen the building became unfit for use, the majority part of the congregation,or those favoring the Christian Church, moved their membership to StonyPoint and there erected a church building which still stands. The minorityportion of the congregation built a new brick building on the present site,many of the bricks in the old building being used in the one.

In walking over the cemetery, one is impressed with the large numberof family groups found buried here. The largest group is said to be theCarr family. The representative heads of this family are Elisha and ThomasCarr. these men were two of four brothers who lived in Maryland and earlymoved to Pennsylvania. The names of the brothers were Elisha, John, Elijahand Thomas. John fought in the Revolutionary War, was taken prisoner andnever heard from again. Elijah came to Kentucky and made his home there.Elisha and Thomas crossed the Ohio River and came to this vicinity, wherethey purchased farms. Col. Joseph Carr and Col. John Carr are the sonsof Elisha. Col. Joseph Carr was called the miller of Clark County, havingthree large mills on as many large creeks in the county. Col. John Carrlived on a farm one mile north of Slate Cut. He was the father of a largenumber of children and left many descendants, one of whom I am proud tobe. He was my great-grandfather.

Col. Thomas Carr was a man of more than ordinary ability. He was thefather of six sons and six daughters. He was a member of the TerritorialLegislature, and under the old elm tree at Corydon helped sign the Constitutionof Indiana when Indiana became a State in 1816. His sons served their Stateboth in times of peace and Indian warfare. Many prominent people in Clarkcounty are among the Carr descendants.

The second largest family in the cemetery is the Coombs family. thisfamily also came from Pennsylvania about 1800 and left many descendantsof this name, who have made their influence felt in this vicinity.

There are many other large family groups here, but I shall mention onlyone more because of the influence of on of its members on this church history.It has been said that three-fourths of the people of Clark county are relatedthrough the Drummond family. James Drummond is the head of this family.He was the father of twelve children, one of the staunch churchmen of theneighborhood. It is said he never missed a church service, and filled allof its various offices. Also that he did not stop at difficult undertakings,often going to New Orleans on the flatboat and walking home.

We all have red letter days in our lives, days to which we look backwardand from which we date things. I remember one such day in my own childhood.Twas when my father announced one day that we were to visit grandfatherand grandmother and attend the Annual Meeting at Silver Creek. This newswas hailed with delight, for what child does not look forward to a visitto grandfather’s especially when you go but once a year? We told our schoolmatesabout our intended trip and one little girl asked us if we would bringa bunch of flowers and lay it on the grave of her grandparents who wereburied here. This little schoolmate was Cordelia Nugent, daughter of RichardNugent, who once lived near Charlestown. This favor we were glad to dofor her. The grandfather and grandmother whom we visited that day, HannibalCoombs and his good wife Rachel, now lie out in the cemetery with theirlarge family of children. And the little girl lives in a far western stateand cannot send a bunch of flowers today, but she would be glad to knowthat, though she cannot do this now, the graves of her grandparents willnot be neglected.

During the past year an organization has been formed called the SilverCreek Cemeterial Association. This is for the purpose of providing moneyto be used for the permanent upkeep of the cemetery. The money obtainedis to be placed in the hands of seven trustees, competent men, who areto invest it and use the interest received for cemeterial purposes. Partof it will be used to pay a man who will make it his business to look afterthe immediate needs of the cemetery. Two acres have been purchased anddonated to the Association for additional burying ground (by) two gentlemenwho have the interests of this move at heart. At present more than twelvehundred and fifty dollars have been raised, the largest contribution sofar, five hundred dollars, being given by Uncle David Carr who recentlypassed away. A number have contributed on hundred dollars and many otherssmaller sums. Of on of these contributions I desire to mention becauseof the fine spirit in which it was given by a man many miles away fromhere, but whose interest nevertheless reached this community. A check forone hundred dollars was sent to me from Newton Gates, a kinsman of minewho lives in Oklahoma city, and with it a letter expressing great pleasurethat this much needed work had been taken up and signifying a desire tohelp it along. With some expenditure of money and labor this cemetery canbe made one of the most beautiful burying grounds to be found anywhere.It has a fine natural situation, sloping gently on one side toward a fringeof fine forest trees through which flows a deep silvery stream, murmuringa song to those who sleep as it passes onward to the sea.

Transcribed in 1995 by:

James D. VanDerMark
E-mail: family_man@usa.net

For additional information on Silver Creek Cemetery (includingan on-line index of known burials at this site), see the Silver Creek Cemeterywebsite on the Internet at http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/5881/silvercreekcem1.html.

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