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Churches, Cholera, A Barrel of Money

Before the church was erected religious services were held in the school house. Previous to the building of the school house they used to hold services in the hotel, the famous old Junction House, owned by Allison & Allison. The dining room was used for the meetings and when the crowd was large, the door leading to the barroom was opened. Rev. Farmer, an uncle of J. M. H. Allison, often preached there.

The old brick church at Point Commerce was called Wesley Chapel. It was erected in 1849. It was 40x80 feet in size and was two stories high. It stood almost directly opposite the one-story brick residence which still stands and is occupied by Clarence Cressy. This cottage was built by Dr. Shepherd, a brother-in-law of J. M. H. Allison, as a residence. It was occupied later by 'Squire William S. Bays, who had married the doctor's widow after his death.

The brick for the old church at Point Commerce were burned across the road from where the residence of B. F. Hays now stands.

George F. Allison remembers when the first church society was organized at Point Commerce, in the little old brick school house, with the following members: George Helm, Jesse Brazier, James Denton, John Yarnell, Robert Stricklin, George Griffith, Thomas Messick and Cavin Spooner. Mr. Helm and Mr. Griffith were class-leaders.

The first quarterly meeting at Point Commerce was in 1840. It was conducted by Rev. McGinnis, Presiding Elder. A big revival followed.

Camp meetings had been held in the old Point Commerce community even before the town was started, and were always well attended.

The first preacher was Rev. Hugh Barnes, an old Revolutionary soldier. Other old pioneer preachers of that settlement were Rev. James Armstrong, Rev. Obediah Winters and Rev. Eli P. Farmer.

Old Wesley Chapel, at Point Commerce, was a stately and substantial edifice and was the best known church in Greene County for many years. Some great revivals were held there and the leading ministers of those early days, who visited this region, preached in the old church. The people for miles around met and worshipped there for a half century.

The old church outlasted the pioneer town which it had blessed by its divine and powerful influence, by many years. Long after Worthington had grown up into a good town and Point Commerce had fallen into decay, the ancient church on the hill was still the meeting place for the Methodists of this locality. Commercially Point Commerce came to Worthington, but spiritually the conditions were reversed.

Finally a Methodist church was built in Worthington, and gradually the old pioneer church at Point Commerce was abandoned. Its parishioners had died or moved away; the ministers who had preached there in years agone had been called away, some to other fields of labor and others to their eternal rest. And, with all its hallowed memories, the dear old ''meeting house" on the hill top stood silent and deserted until the ancient edifice was razed in 1882, by Marcus Hays, Sr. (father of Ben F., Sam F. and Marcus Hays), who bought the building, tore it down and built a residence with the brick. This house, a substantial two-story building, was erected in 1883, and is now the residence of Marcus Hays, son of the builder.

In the front gable of the old church, over the door, was a heavy slab of stone, in which was chiseled these words: "Wesley Chapel M. E. Church, 1849." This fixes the date of its erection. The old stone now forms a top for Mark Hays' cistern.

The pulpit and pews in old Wesley Chapel were of the finest black walnut. They are now doing service in Mount Vernon Methodist Church, three miles northwest of old Point Commerce, and are still in splendid condition.

Mrs. Josephine Andrews, mother of William C. Andrews, the well known hardware dealer, who went to school at Point Commerce and was well acquainted there, remembers many interesting events and personages of that place. She recalls the name of the first Methodist minister who preached at old Wesley Chapel. He was Reverend Gunsaulus.

Scourged by Cholera

In 1851 the entire country was scourged with an epidemic of cholera, and the four doctors fell victims of the disease within three days of each other, leaving Point Commerce without a physician. This is the way some old residents remember the event. Others say that only two of the doctors died; another says three of the doctors died of cholera. However, one-fourth of the people died and others fled from the dreaded pestilence.

Not only did the ancient village on the hill at the rivers' junction suffer, but other towns and cities, all over the land were visited by the awful scourge. In many a city there were scarcely enough well people to bury the dead. The scourge became so fatal and so prevalent that in some large cities, the dead bodies of its victims were carted to their graves and buried without coffins. Burying squads went from house to house, with wagons. Pausing at the door of the house of mourning the men shouted: "Bring on your dead!" and corpse after corpse was loaded into waiting wagons, to be hauled away to the "silent city of the dead" and interred without the usual funeral formalities.

The feeble words of men fail to express the fullness of sorrow when every heart is burdened with grief and every home is a house of mourning.

In its nation-wide devastation the scourge stalked with sorrow-leaving strides, from sea to sea in a season, and no protecting angel had "passed over" in advance, for nowhere had the saving spray of hyssop struck the lintel of any door in the land: nor was the monster satisfied with the first-born, but demanded a deadlier toll, and, pitied not its prey. Neither tears, nor prayers, nor doctors, could stay its ravages.

A Barrel of Money

One of the leading citizens of Point Commerce was William C. Andrews, who conducted a dry goods store there and was post-master for many years. The post office was kept in his store. In those days the postage on a letter was two-bits. Often Postmaster Andrews was asked by the receiver for a loan of twenty-five cents, in order that the interesting missive might be taken home to the family. Some of these loans were never paid; yet, to the good name of those sturdy pioneers, let it be said that Mr. Andrews lost but a few times through accommodating his neighbors in this way.

Mr. Andrews was also associated with C. J. Barekman in the pork and grain business. They bought such produce from the farmers, built flatboats and shipped it to New Orleans. Mr. Andrews made frequent trips to that city, then the commercial emporium for this and all the intervening territory.

In those days flat boating was an important industry. Boats were built at Point Commerce, loaded and sent to New Orleans. Often twenty-five flatboat loads of pork, grain and other products were shipped to the great southern metropolis in a single season.

Mrs. Josephine Andrews tells us of an interesting event. Mr. Andrews went to New Orleans with an unusually heavy cargo of pork and grain, which he sold and received his pay, several thou-sand dollars in silver and gold. He put his money into a barrel and, accompanied by a trusted assistant, shipped it by boat to Louisville, Kentucky, with as little display as possible, not caring to make known the contents of the barrel. But one of them always stood guard, and both slept by the precious collection of coin. On reaching Louisville, the barrel of money was rolled into a wagon and hauled overland to Point Commerce.

In later years Messrs. Andrews and Barekman located at Worthington, which fact will be given in a subsequent chapter.

Though Allison & Allison, merchants, pork-packers and shippers, hotelkeepers and speculators, were the pioneers, other large stores and rival merchants were soon located and all did a good business.

Hogs and cattle were raised in great number then. They ran at large and it cost little to feed them or to care for them. The cattle fattened on the range and hogs upon the mast. Just before slaughtering them they were taken up and fed a few weeks to make them "corn fed" by which their market value was enhanced.

Mr. W. G. Sanders' father, who had done a large business in raising hogs, packed his own pork in later years and shipped it to market.

Subsequently the hogs were driven to market on foot in big droves. Mr. W. G. Sanders remembers when he went with his father who drove 600 to 700 fat hogs to Terre Haute. They were eight days on the way. The drovers were accompanied by teams, ready to haul any fat swine which gave out on the way. When a wagon got a load it went on ahead to Terre Haute, left its hogs and then returned to meet the drove.

Cattle were driven to Cincinnati or other markets in those early days.

Drovers were usually men of considerable means and on returning from the cities (where their cattle had been sold), with their money in saddle bags, they were often waylaid and robbed by highwaymen, on the lonely roads in the forests. Sometimes they put up for the night at some wayside inn whose landlord was the head of a band of robbers and murderers. The returning drover who fell into such hands never reached home and was never heard from again. No Point Commerce drover ever met such a fate.

However, in those days, before there were any daily or even weekly market reports, many an unfortunate drover lost heavily and was driven into bankruptcy by an unfortunate deal in swine, or through the dishonesty of some swindling speculator in the large cities. Occasionally a local speculator lost heavily upon hogs which he bought here and drove to some large city.

Jack Newsom, who owned the land known as the "Peters' Farm," now the property of Z. P. East, was among the pioneer speculators who lost all he possessed through the dishonesty of Louisville packers to whom he sold hogs. Mr. Newsom had raised some of the hogs, but the rest he bought from his neighbors. He paid them but received nothing from the dishonest men to whom he sold. They told him that the "market was down" and that they had suffered heavy losses. If they bought from others on the same terms they did from Jack Newsom it is difficult to see how they suffered any loss. It cost Jack Newsom 1,300 acres of good land, now worth $125 per acre.

The drovers forded the rivers and creeks enroute. The older residents of Point Commerce remember when big droves of cattle forded, or swam, White river on their long and tiresome journey to Cincinnati, Ohio, or to Louisville, Kentucky.

Everything was cheap in those days. David S. Fulk remembers when his father, Charles Fulk, raised corn, shelled it by hand and sold it for 16 cents, delivered. Pork sold for 2½ cents net. Mr. Fulk's father sold a cow for $8 and a good heifer for $3. With the money he bought a steel plow and a pair of leather check lines. Land was worth $1.25 per acre. A man who wanted to "enter" land rode to Vincennes, paid $L25 per acre and got a deed.

John Stanley, a pioneer citizen of the Point Commerce community, used to raise corn and hogs and ship his products to New Orleans by flatboat. He built his own boat, loaded it with his own com and pork and acted as his own pilot and business manager.

He cooked and lived on the boat as he floated down stream to the great southern mart. On reaching New Orleans he would sell the cargo, retaining his cooking utensils, ropes, block and tackle, which he brought back for the next trip.

Once he sold a load of produce for $1,500 and received his money in silver. This he put into a barrel, piled the ropes, pans and skillets in on top of it and shipped it by boat to Louisville. There the barrel, with its valuable contents, was stored in a wareroom and left. There the barrel stood, with no one to guard it; no one knew what the barrel contained.

Mr. Stanley walked to Point Commerce, took his four-horse team and drove to Louisville, loaded his barrel into the wagon with a quantity of merchandise he had bought and returned. On reaching home Mr. Stanley unloaded his barrel, dumped its contents upon the barn floor, and lo! his bags of money were there, safe and untouched. He hid his money in some "gums" of seed wheat, where it lay for several months, until Mr. Stanley invested it in land. There were no banks near and as no one but the owner knew that the money was there it was safe.


Source: Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. XII March, 1916 No. 1, Settlement of Worthington and Old Point Commerce, by Robert Weems, 1916

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