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Volume I: Chapter XI, pp 235-291

" Random Sketches from the 'Darke County Boy' "

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CHAPTER XI -- RANDOM SKETCHES From the "Darke County Boy."

      The editor of this work has been led to compile a chapter under the above heading from the voluminous contributions of George W. Calderwood, the far-famed "Darke County Boy," who has written articles for the Greenville Courier, of which he was once editor, at irregular intervals for over thirty years, writing probably fifteen hundred or two thousand columns to date.

      Mr. Calderwood is the son of the late Judge A. R. Calderwood, a brother of Mayor E. E. Calderwood of Greenville, and of John Calderwood, editor of the Courier, and a brother-in-law of the late Barney Collins and Samuel R. Kemble. He was born in 1848 at Matchetts' Corner, about seven miles south of Greenville, and was raised in the county seat. He was a vigorous and jolly boy, keenly enjoying the sports of the days of his youth, and a close observer of the people and customs of those interesting times before the war. He possesses a versatile mind, is gifted with humor, pathos and a remarkable and retentive memory, making his writings a veritable mine of information and a source of much sentimental enjoyment to others. George was a drum-major when but thirteen years old and a companied his father with the Fortieth Ohio which was largely recruited in Darke county. He also served in the One hundred and fifty-second and One hundred and ninety-third regiments, and knows the ups and downs of soldier life.

      As a temperance orator for the National Prohibition organization he attained an extended reputation.

      In build he is stout and stalky and bears a striking resemblance to his distinguished father.

      As a sentimental lover of the comrades and associations of bygone days, and a fluent, ready and persistent writer of pioneer lore he has no equal in the county.

      Accordingly this chapter is dedicated to him by one who knows the meager appreciation accorded the unselfish chronicler of local history.

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      On account of the diversity of topics treated, the matter selected can only be roughly classified and is accordingly arranged under the following heads:


Winter Sports.

      We will now have an old-time winter talk:

      All Mud creek is overflowed and frozen up from Tecumseh's Point to far above Bishop's crossing.

      Hundreds of muskrat houses are to be seen stretched along the way. The ice is covered with snow, and rabbit tracks are seen galore. Greenville creek is also frozen up from Dean's mill to Knouff's dam and beyond.

      Skaters everywhere. The snow isn't deep enough to annoy anyone.

      Pete Marks leads off, because he is the "champion skater of the west." George Smith is next, then comes his brother Ben. Hen Tomlinson swings in fourth, followed by Bill Creager, Tip King, Dave and Bob Robey, George Coover, Les Ries, Clay Helm, Ed Connor, Ike Kline, Jerry Tebo, "Jont" Gorsuch, Jack Clark, Ike Lynch, Ed Tomlinson, Gus Rothaas, Bill Collins, Frank (Alex) Hamilton, and a dozen others.

      Every muskrat house is assaulted and several animals are dead and lying on the ice. Bonfires are blazing and rabbits are being roasted. A lot of fish have been killed either by the snare, or stunned by the pole of an ax. The day is one of feasting, and fun of all kinds is on tap.

      Supper time finds everybody at home, but none so tired but that they can take in the Thespian or the dance in Weston & Ullery's hall.

      If the snow is deep enough, the older boys will be out sleigh- riding with the girls, while we smaller kids can be seen coasting down the hill towards Greenville bridge, but scooting off to the right of it and plunging down onto the ice in Greenville creek.

      On moonlight nights the hill behind Robey's house (now the Bause home on Sweitzer street), found us coasting down it, the sleds often running as far out in the prairie as the old race track.

      One thing the boys wore in those days that I seldom see now, and that is knit comforts of red, yellow, green and blue,

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The boy that had the most colors in his neck comfort was envied by all other boys. Neither do I see so many fur caps.

      A rabbit skin cap or a squirrel skin cap was not to be sneezed at in those days.

      The boy whose parents were rich enough to buy him a pair of buckskin gloves, or "mits" was envied by all boys who had to wear the "mits that mother knit" or go without.

      The "holidays" in the 50's lasted from Christmas until New Year. That was the great dance and "festival" week-oyster suppers at the churches and other places. It was the great coming out season for boys who could afford overcoats, fur caps, skates and neck comforters. Later on it became fashion- able or rather aristocratic for boys to wear gloves--fur gloves at that-and the way they would put on style was a caution. Bear's oil was the favorite grease for the hair, provided it had plenty of cinnamon drops in it. N early every boy in town wore a round-a-bout. Long-tailed coats were for men only. Not every boy in town was accustomed to a pocket handkerchief. His coat sleeve was good enough. He would use first one sleeve and then the other. That kind of boy seems to have gone out of fashion.

Singing School.

      Every community in Darke county had a "singing teacher" and of course a "class" of singers--or those who felt that they had voices that should be heard around the world.

      The first thing to learn was the scale:

            Do-se-la-fa-me-ra-do. "

      That was about all they sang the first night. Most of the teachers had a little steel prong that they would tap on a table in order to get the right "pitch." Holding this to his ear the teacher would open his mouth as wide as the room would permit and then out would come his voice until the whole room was full of music. Organs and pianos were scarce in those days but melodions were plenty. As soon as the class was drilled sufficiently a concert would be given, the receipts of which went to the teacher as payment for his valuable services. He would then visit another neighborhood and "get up a class" and so on throughout the county. These teachers did lots of good and seldom any harm.

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"School Brats."

      All those who were "school brats" from 1865 backward are requested to bring their "McGuffey's Readers," "Webster's Elementary Speller," "Ray's Third Arithmetic," "Stoddard's Mental Arithmetic," "Mitchell's Geography," "Bullion's Grammar," and "Payson's Copy Book." Of course each one is expected to bring a slate and a pencil. Don't forget your lunch baskets. See that they are well filled, as you may want to eat a bite at recess.

      The "girls" will be expected to wear sunbonnets, gingham aprons, short dresses (ladies', of course) and pantalettes with ruffles at the bottom. Those that have coppertoe shoes should wear them. Mohair garters are always in style--so that those who can't get coppertoe shoes should wear garters with rubber stretchers on each side. The "boys" should come barefooted, if possible, but in case they have bunions they should wear red top boots.

      When the spelling class is called everyone should be prepared for it. There will be some jaw-breaking words, I know, such as Lat-i-tu-di-na-ti-on, In-com-pat-i-bil-i-ty, In-com-pre-hen-si-bil-i-ty, O-pom-po-noo-sol, Con-sti-tu-ti-on-al-i-ty, and Ir-re-spon-si-bil-i-ty .


      When I was a boy everybody knew what a fiddle was, but nowadays they call them violins--a name that was too hi-fa-loo-tin for the pioneer dances in Darke county. It was a common thing in early days at a country dance for one fellow to lead as chief fiddler and one or two others to play "second fiddle." Later on the big bass fiddle was added, as was also a horn, and then the outfit was called the "orchestra." The orchestra business killed off the old country fiddlers, and as a feature at country dances they have passed into history.

      I don't know where the folks kick up their heels in Greenville of late years, but when I lived there, Weston & Ullery's hall was the most popular assembly room in the town. It was as cold as a barn in the winter, although two stoves were kept red hot all the time. Still, everybody enjoyed themselves, whether the occasion was a dance, church festival or magic lantern exhibition. I was most interested in the dances, for my girl was always there--about six of her. But I couldn't dance at all compared to "Yune" Bowman, Bill Studabaker and Jim Devor (Big Jim). Taylor Fitts was an excellent dancer, and

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so was Alf Hyde, John Deardourff, Pete Lavin, Lew Elliott, Tip King and several others. Among the girl dancers were Mollie King, "Node" Craig, Susan Minser, Mary Scribner, Julia Burge, Susan Gorsuch, Nettie Martin and Molly Sebring. Of course there were many others, but I name the above as the constantly "engaged" set.

      Then take the dances in Ullery & Emrick's hall. Those were the jolliest dances ever held anywhere. The Greenville "Crumrine Club" was composed of men of mark, viz.: Moses Hart, Michael Spayd, Ed Putnam, Charley Calkins, Eli Helm, Jack Sweitzer, Eli Hickox, Henry Horning, Dan King, John King, Enos Shade and General Spiece. Soup for everybody. Toasts and speeches. Frogs' legs and catfish. "Yum, yum." I wasn't old enough to be a member, but I was old enough to eat at many of their feasts.

Circus Lore.

      Nearly every circus that came to Greenville in those days came from Winchester, Ind., and we boys would get up early in the morning to see the elephant. Sun-up generally found a dozen or more of us (no breakfast, mind you, for boys in those days hadn't time to eat on circus day) out on the pike by John H. Martin's setting on the fence waiting for the procession to form. We followed close to the elephant and when he got to the Mud Creek bridge he would refuse to cross it, but preferred to wade through the water instead. When he got in the middle of the stream he would stop and squirt water for several minutes and then meander up the bank and into the procession. We boys would trail after the elephant or band wagon all over town and then hurry back to the show ground and ride the horses to water. This would insure us admission to the show. We all "belonged to the show" for that day at least. The next morning we would be on the ground bright and early hunting for money, which we never found. I have never found any since.

      The Buckeye Hotel burned down in 1856. The following year Spalding & Rogers' circus and Van Amburgh's menagerie exhibited in Greenville on the same day. The circus was given on the corner of Main and Elm streets, on the corner where the late Michael Miller erected his residence. The menagerie canvass was stretched on the ground where the high school stands on Fourth street.

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      With one of these shows was a side-show that opened on the lot where the Buckeye Hotel had stood and on the present site of William Kipp's Sons' drug store, Broadway and Public Square. The first Japanese I ever saw was with this show. His "Skit" was to throw a number of daggers and stick them into a board close to the neck and head of a man who stood up in front of the board.

      The man had his back to the board and the Jap would take up a dagger and throw it and stick it "Ker chuck" close to one side of the man's neck. Another dagger was stuck into the board close to the other side of the man's neck. A third and fourth dagger was fastened into the board above the man's ears, while the fifth dagger was driven into the board close to the top of the man's head. Eli Bowman, the legless man, was another feature of the show, and the third one was John Allen, the armless man who wrote with his toes.


      Another important event took place in Greenville, a year or two after the completion of the Greenville & Miami Railroad. A crowd of Dayton roughs came up to Greenville for the purpose of licking the "backwoodsmen" of Darke county. Instead of licking them they got most beautifully pummelled themselves. Theodore Beers, Ed. Potter and Bill Dewire licked about 16 apiece and sent them back to Dayton with black eyes and sore bones. About 17 or 18 years later the "Dayton Rounders," headed by Lum Cathcart, came up to get revenge. Cathcart got shot in the neck, and a stray shot hit Dave Wise (proprietor King's Hotel) in the neck also.

      A third important event took place when several soldiers were at home on a furlough, and taking umbrage at the attitude of the Darke County Democrat on the war question, threw the material of that office out of the window on to the sidewalk in front of Weston & Ullery's hardware store, corner Third and Broadway.

      Still another "important event" might be mentioned. The old "Butternut Corner," a building on the corner where Weisenberger's drug store now is, was the rendezvous of the Darke County "Copperheads." A lot of soldiers went out "skylarking" one night when it occurred to them that it would be a good idea to "bombard the fort." Preliminary to the attack a line of boxes was extended across Broadway, from Jim Sum-

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merville's corner (now Koester's block, Third and Broadway) to Moore's corner. The sharpshooters crouched behind the boxes and at the word of command the fusilade began. Brick-bats, stones, clubs, and tin cans were fired at the "fort" until those on the inside began to escape by twos and threes. An occasional shot was fired into the air by some fellow for pure devilment, and some cuss had the audacity to scalp wound Bill Barwise with a half spent bullet. It was fun for the soldiers but it was a close call for Barwise.

Fall Pastimes.

      In the fall of the year we hunted red and black haws, hickory and walnuts, yes, and hazelnuts galore. The roof of our kitchen was covered with nuts laid out to dry. The walnut stain stuck to our hands until the "cows came home" and longer.

      Cider making time was here, and often we would walk out to Billy Bishop's and suck cider through a straw. Then came applebutter making and more cider to drink. When corn cutting season was over and the pumpkins were gathered, we would go to the woods with our little wagon and gather hickory bark for morning kindling. I yet can hear it cracking under the back-logs. Soon the apples, potatoes, cabbage and turnips would be unloaded in my father's garden, and us boys were put to work burying them for winter. But when we saw load after load of wood being corded up in the lane we would become seriously afflicted with mental rheumatism. Oh! the excuses we did make! The sawbuck was always broke and the saw needed filing. New saws, new bucks and new axes every fall, and still it was a difficult job to get us to saw enough wood at one time to cook breakfast and to keep the family warm during the day."

      Cabbage enough was always saved out to make a barrel of sourkraut, and the man that made ours was "Old Dutch Thomas," as we boys knew him. That work done, "Pap" as we called our father, was ready to kill his hogs. He never failed to kill from two to four every year. When the butchering was over then came sausage making and the salting down of a barrel or two of meat. The hams were "smoked" in the smoke house near the well. We boys who helped (?) do so much (?) work scrambled hard for the pig tails. These we roasted on the stove and the feast of eating them was

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most enjoyable. When there wasn't pig tails enough to go around, the thought would come to me that if ever I became a farmer I wouldn't raise any pigs but two-tailed kind.

      Butchering time was when mother saved up fat for soap. We had an ashhopper in our yard and a big iron kettle to boil the fat out of the meat. Then came the "cracklings." I am not so fond of them as I once was, but many is the crackling I have "scratched," as mother used to say. Soft soap was all the go in those days and our folks always made enough to last a year.

Children's Pastimes.

      The children in those early days who were too small to attend the revivals were left at home sitting in front of the old fireplace, cracking nuts and eating apples. Methinks I can hear those little tads singing at times:

            "When the north winds do blow,
            Then we shall have snow,
            Oh! what will the poor robin do then, poor thing?
            It will sit in a barn
            To keep itself warm," etc., etc.

Or they may sing :

            "I want to be an angel
            And with the angels stand ;
            A crown upon my forehead,
            And a harp within my hand."

      That was about the only religious song children knew in those days.

      When we got tired of singing we'd play "Button, button, who's got the button," or we'd recite some pieces. "Mary had a little lamb" was a good one. "Albert Ross and his dog 'Dash'" never failed to bring down the house. "Jack and Gill went up the hill" was never lost sight of.

Another one of our "classics" was :

            "I wish I had a little dog,
            I'd pat him on the head,
            And so merrily he'd wag his tail
            Whenever he was fed."

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      Next a boy and girl would stand out on the floor facing the others and the boy would take a sugar kiss (3 for a cent) out of his pocket and slowly unwrap the paper and pick out the little verse and read to his girl this beautiful two-line stanza :

            "As the vine grows 'round the stump,
            You are my darling sugar lump."

      Then the little girl would blush and wiggle her body a bit and take a verse from her sugar kiss and read it :

            "If you love me as I love you--
            No knife can cut our love in two."

      That was a clincher. Every boy in the room was envious of that one boy.

      Then would come this, that and the other until bedtime.

      The other would be:

            "Monkey, monkey, barrel of beer,
            How many monkeys are there here ?
            One, two three-out goes he !"

      Then this:

            "Hick-o-ry, Dick-o-ry, Dock
            The mouse ran up the clock,
            The clock struck one,
            The mouse ran down,
            Hick-o-ry, Dick-o-ry, Dock."

      Of course larger boys and girls--girls who were big enough to have beaus--would sing one or more of the following: Ben Bolt, Suwanee River, Nellie Gray, Mocking Bird, Annie Laurie, Comin' Through the Rye, Little Brown Jug, The Last Rose of Summer, Willie, We Have Missed You, Paddle Your Own Canoe, Swinging in the Lane, The Girl I Left Behind Me, Wait for the Wagon, etc., etc.

      When it came to recitations the big boys and girls could beat us little folks every time. Their favorite pieces were: The Burial of Sir John Moore, Cassabianca, Old Grimes is Dead, That Good Old Soul, Charles D. Moore's Remorse, Lord Ullom's Daughter, etc., etc.

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