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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Memoirs of John Andrews, Part 2

Here is Part 1 of the Memoirs of John Andrews.

Relatives and Travels

My father was born in Bethel town, Fairfield county, Connecticut, in the year 1786. He was the older of three brothers: himself, Anson Seeley; Seth; and John Lyman; and two sisters, Mary and Julia. On reaching maturity, he evidently in the division of the estate sold his interest in it to his brothers, taking the proceeds and after teaching school for a few terms, entered into some mercantile business in New York City.

General store of the 1820s, Shelburne Museum, Vermont
After some years in this, for reasons of his own he went west, and in the year 1818, the year that Indiana added its star to the galaxy on the grandest flag the world has ever known—he bought a small tract of land direct from the United States Government, the patent deed issued and signed by then-President of the United States [James Monroe] or his Secretary. I think he was fortunate enough to find that some squatter had cleared up a small piece as it was all timber, and certainly he had a hard job facing him; but as he was a resourceful man, he accomplished his purpose and in a few years must have been getting returns for his investment and labor. The property was situated three and one half miles from Mount Vernon on the beautiful Ohio river, at this place one mile wide.

Ohio River flatboat
Mount Vernon at that time could have been only a very small village, but by its situation commanded the market, small though it was, of a large section of the country. This county’s peculiar situation, bounded on the south by the Ohio and on the west by the Wabash, made its capitol, Mount Vernon, conspicuous as a shipping place and also as a market for the produce growing in the vicinity of these streams and their tributaries, the merchants buying from the farmers and forwarding it to seaboard by means of flatboats, before the advent of steamboats. It was then a common sight to see this mode of transportation floating down with the current, aided at times by the sweep of immense oars.

New Orleans was then, as now, the seaboard market to a vast extent of territory and it was by means of these boats that for many years the products of these lands found the way to market. But I am getting off the track, getting ahead of my story as some of this should have come in later.

Father’s farm was bounded on the east by the State road from Mount Vernon to New Harmony, quite a noted place at this time and for quite a while after, and was situated on the Wabash River some fifteen miles north of Mount Vernon. On the south it was bounded by an earth road intersecting the State road at the southeast corner of the farm. Near this corner in time a number of houses and shops were built, and of course it must have a name. As most of the people in the immediate vicinity were from the eastern states, it got to be known far and near as “Yankee Town” with a great many. This name was spoken in a sneering way, as the majority of the population throughout the county were from the southern states, except in the immediate vicinity of this settlement. Father must have soon got his farm in working order and [was] realizing fair returns from it, for in a few years he built a very nice roomy house, quite a way back from both the east and south roads.

My mother was born in Massachusetts, one of the younger of a large family of both sexes. Her name was Elizabeth Butler. She left there with an older sister and her sister’s husband, Samuel Phillips, going to New York state and teaching school there for some time, and then journeying with them—her sister and husband—to Indiana, where they settled and commenced farming on some land adjoining Father’s and were his nearest neighbors, the state road on the east of Father’s merely dividing the two properties. Thus Father and Mother could not help becoming acquainted and eventually they were married, and at once went to live in the house prepared for them. In this house I was born, and lived in it until I was united to the blessed partner of my life.

In this union of my parents my father secured a model helpmate and my mother a provident husband. In the meantime Father was improving his farm, clearing more land, and gradually investing his means in livestock: cattle, hogs, and sheep, paying particular attention to milk cows. From the latter he soon derived a profit in the making and sale of cheese. In that for a long time he had no competition. He set his price at ten cents per pound, and that price was maintained for many years and was the largest source of his income. Here is where Mother came in as his most efficient helper. She saw to the milking, until more help was needed for that, and made and cared for the cheese. As time passed and work expanded, more help had to be employed. At the age of eight I became an assistant in milking, having two cows to milk night and morning, and seeing the cows to and from the pasture in summer. In winter [we had] only milk enough for butter and home use.

Another source of income which will seem incredible in these times of high cost of living was by taking boarders at one dollar per week and that included washing also, and at that price for many years a few boarders were cared for. A few students, sometimes from a distance, paid in work nights, mornings, and Saturdays.

In 1839 he built a combined house for a dwelling and store on the southeast corner of the farm at the crossroads, and he and Mother in the spring of 1840 went to New York and Bethel, Connecticut, to visit relatives and buy goods for the store, leaving an old lady we had learned to call “Granny” in charge of the house, and a cousin, Fred Phillips, to care for the farm and stock and keep up the cheese making, etc.

They [Father and Mother] were gone three months. On their return the store was stocked up and a clerk installed. I imagine this venture did not pan out very well, as probably too much credit was given. Anyway, after perhaps two years it was given up, with a large number of notes of hand [i.e., I.O.U.s from the neighbors] as the assets. As there was but little money to pay with, Father had to put his wits to work in order to get his due. Here is where his resourcefulness came in. Employing some in clearing up land and cutting wood, others in the different processes of making bricks, in building and burning the brick kiln, and after in building a brick basement barn, a brick annex to the house, and other jobs as they occurred, in this way in the course of two or three years he “cleared up the docket” and added much to the convenience and value of the farm.


House built later on the foundation of the 1839 house built by Anson Seeley Andrews. Photograph by Ernest John Andrews, October 1927.

Rear view of the red brick barn built on Anson Seeley Andrews’ farm in 1844 using bricks made in his own kiln. The barn was located about 200 feet west of the old home. Photograph by Ernest John Andrews, October 1927.


Up to 1850, although a triweekly mail by stage coach passed from Mount Vernon to Princeton 40 miles north, we received our mail at Mount Vernon. There was a common query—Why not try for a post office here?—and there was a decided movement in that direction. First a name and after various suggestions it was generally conceded that Farmersville was the most appropriate, and with that name we applied to the P.O. Department for an office, and after some correspondence and delay the demand was granted and Joseph Phillips was appointed Post Master. For a time he received and distributed the mail from his house. On account of his moving away, another was appointed and office removed to the store.

The store at this time was successfully operating on a cooperate plan which had been discussed and thoroughly worked out by Father and Eben Ellis, and soon quite a number in the vicinity took an interest and stock in the concern. Both the store and P.O. proved successful for a number of years.

In 1851 my sister Harriet and I went to New York and Connecticut. I had once been to Louisville by boat for a few days, but with that exception, we had never been away from home any distance. Our journey was made by boat from Cincinnati, thence to Cleveland by R.R. on the first cars we had ever seen, then by boat to Erie, cars to Buffalo, stopping off then to visit Niagara Falls, then to Albany, and down the Hudson River R.R. to New York, and Brooklyn, where we met for the first time some of our cousins, Mrs. May Taylor and her sister Miss Harriet Osborn. They were sisters of A.S. Osborn who had come west some years before, and had a farm adjoining ours on the south.

After some days there we went to Bethel, Connecticut, cousin Harriet accompanying us. We found there a host of relatives, near and distant, two brothers of Father, Seth and John Lyman and their families, and here we spent several pleasant weeks, seeing Danbury, Bridgeport, and New Haven, in each of these places finding relatives. Around here were many small factories, mostly hat and comb, and some quite extensive ones in large industries. Here for the first time we saw pictures taken by the then-recent process of Daguerre, and of course we had to sit for ours. It was a long ways from the instantaneous process of the present. [See an article on daguerreotype here.]

Returning to New York and Brooklyn, we were helped in sightseeing by some of our business relatives, Mr. Taylor, Mary Osborne’s husband, who had a hat store on Broadway, another cousin Andrews who dealt in clothing, etc., also on Broadway, and Samuel And]rews who, although a graduate of Yale College, and the only one of my kindred that I heard of who did, drove a dray to support his family , and perhaps he was more successful than his brothers. Those, Samuel, Anson, and a younger brother, were sons of John Lyman Andrews. Years after I met Anson at a small town in Peoria County, Illinois, not far from Galesburg, interested in some railroad work and farming. There was two sisters; the elder, Harriet, married a Universalist preacher, S.C. Buckley. She died a few years later and then Hannah married the same man and lived in Galesburg. I spent one day with them in 1886 and have never heard from them since. [A dray was a low, flatbed wagon without sides, pulled by mules or draft horses, for the transport of all kinds of goods. A drayman was a very low-skilled laborer.]

While [we were] in New York, a World’s Fair was in progress, the second one of that kind I think that had ever been promoted. The year previous, London, England, had a fair. It was held in a very large building almost entirely covered with glass, and was called the Crystal Palace, and the New York building was a replica of that. In one building there was a great many things on exhibition that were new to me, interesting and useful. The typewriter was a novelty and a wonder to most everyone, sewing machines and other household appliances, agricultural machinery in variety, such as plows, cultivators, mowing machines, reapers, etc. [The London Exhibition was in 1851; the New York in 1853. He was probably mistaken in remembering the exact year he and Harriet went east.]

A very early typewriting machine


Having wandered somewhat will now bid good-bye to our eastern relatives and to New York sightseeing, and take the homeward trail. We go by boat to Philadelphia, and after [a] short stop on to Washington. After being satisfied with sightseeing there, we take the cars for Wheeling, nearly the limits of navigation on the Ohio River, and at this, our last change, we take a boat for Mount Vernon. After a pleasant ride down that grand river, in due time, after a three months’ absence, we gladly reach home and find all well.

A steamboat on the Ohio River at Cincinnati being loaded

Here is a little post of the daguerreotypes that I found!
And here is Part 3, Farm Inventions, Politics, and Business.

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