Romance and Reality.
Amongst the various persons whom it has been our duty to notice in this veracious history, our readers will remember Billy Nokes—he who held the position of pitman, in the Gwinn whip-saw mill. Billy was a good humored, stoop shouldered, heavy set sort of a man; a man who had in him a large amount of muscular force; an amount so great in his own estimation, that he told some most extraordinary stories about it. Like the generality of romancers, Mr. Nokes was interested in himself more than in any body else, and hence his tales were invariably of a personal character. The first time we ever saw Mr. Nokes, he informed us that he was a native of Kentucky, and that in his younger days in that grand old state, he had made a sensation amongst his female friends. Although a snubnosed, big mouthed, coarse featured man, he had been compelled at a single term of the court at Louisville, to answer to twelve different suits for breach of promise. As a proof that he was a distinguished character people called him "Old bag o' shot," a name which he received as a reward for a story of his once carrying a sack containing a half bushel of shot on the streets of Louisville. Nokes said that the frost had just then came out of the ground, and that the weight was so great that the pavement bricks piled up about his feet and legs every step. This story grew in its retail till
97the shot amounted two bushels, and the displaced brick reached to his waist. We once met Mr. Nokes at Squire Ashmore's where he made a complaint of an assault and battery. His face was scratched, his lip fearfully swollen and one eye which was black as night, gave him a seriously comic appearance. The assaulter was a boy of eighteen, and Billy explained that the "pup" had taken him by surprise. The squire persuaded him, that it would not look well for a man who had carried two bushels of shot, to prosecute under the circumstances, and so Nokes in his good nature withdrew the complaint. Many years ago he moved to Iowa, and died there.
During the winter of 1830 and 31, two families camped on the west bank of the Ambraw, where the state road and the railroad now cross. That was a winter of deep snow, and when it melted the river rose higher than it has ever done since. The subsiding waters left a large log on the east bank near where Mr. Rollin's house now stands. One of these two families was that of Aaron Collins, who was the first settler on Greasy creek, and built the house in which his son-in-law Rees McAllister now lives. Mr. Mason, the head of the other family settled upon the land where he camped, now known as the Naphew farm. Mason did not hold the property very long and sold out to Wm. Chadd, a blacksmith, mill wright and jack-of-all-trades, who came from White river Indiana below Vincennes. He had considerable means and by the help of his three sons and seven daughters, he soon opened out a respectable improvement. "Old Shad," as people generally called him, was a little weasened, dried up man of sixty, with a large nose and a very full eye. His tongue, however, was his most remarkable feature. Loose at both ends, he astonished his neighbors by his volubility, and the Munchausen-like stories he told about himself and his wealth. As to his resources he professed to hold a bushel or two of "cut money" which he had laid by for an emergency. Like most of the early settlers, he took the mill fever, and in addition to his smith shop got up a corn cracker. "That is a very fine mill," said Mr. Pemberton one day, "Could you grind wheat on it?" "Well, yes, I
98could if I had a bolting cloth; in fact I told the boys the other day that we'd try it so I took a bushel of very clean, nice wheat and ground it. I then took the grist over to Mr. Redden's and bolted it. Well, sir, I had a hundred pound of flour and two and a half bushels of bran." The bare posts of that excellent mill stood for many a long day by the road side, a memorial of old times but now rotted and mouldered away, as though they had never been. Mr. C. next built a mill on the river as we have heretofore stated, but without profit. According to his mill experience in Indiana, as he stated it, this enterprise should have been a success, but it wasn't.
There was no bee-moth in the country then, and Mr. Chadd was a successful manager of bees. One day he came to town in a great hurry for a box or something to put a swarm into. This swarm he described as the largest he had ever seen — about the size of a barrel. What was curious about it he remarked was, that the gum it came out of was "a little bit of a thing not bigger than a nail keg." Everybody had some of "Old Shadd's" stories to tell and possibly (as in the case of Nokes) they may have suffered inflation in the repetition. Our relations with Mr. Chadd and his family were intimate, but for some reason he was reticent with us, and with one exception, never "let out" in our presence. That time he happened to speak on professional subjects; showed us his spring lancet and his "pullikin" for drawing teeth, and estimated his delivery of the latter at several barrels, and of the blood shed by the former, at the hogshead measure. In this connection he stated that he had once been applied to tap a woman for dropsy. From this duty he had shrunk, had plead ignorance and other disqualifications, but as no physician was in reach he made an effort. Although the lady was a small woman, he drew from her one hundred and twenty gallons.
Mr. Chadd was possessed in a high degree with personal dignity. His children treated him with profound respect; he was no joker, and did not permit any body to joke him. Any insinuation as to the truth of his stories he promptly resented, for he told them in dead sober earnestness. Seated on a horse block one day, conversing with Moseley and Pemberton on the subject of music, he observed that the Jew's harp, if properly made was
99the best instrument known. That he had once made one for a boy, a good big one several feet long, as remarked. The bows of frame he made of tire iron and the tongue was an inch steel bar. "Why you could hear it three miles!" At this point Mr. P. stupidly inquired as to how the boy got it into his mouth. Chadd treated the query with contemptous silence, but afterwards remarked to Mr. Moseley, "Jack would like to say something smart if he knew how." The limits of this article forbid further details. A volume would scarce contain the incidents of Mr. Chadd's eventful life. Who has not heard of his duel before breakfast, when in an 18 foot square room securely locked, he and his antagonist armed with knives fought for eight hours ankle deep in blood? Who has not heard of his quarry blast on White river, which required the labor and teams of a hundred men six months to remove? Who has not heard of his snake story, of his fish story and of his perpetual motion saw mill? Mr. Chadd was gathered to his Fathers long ago, in the fullness of time and at a good old age. We never saw a man die with greater dignity; like the patriarch Jacob he set his house in order and bid his family an affectionate farewell. His children are dead or scattered, but two of them remain with us. Of these, his eldest daughter Mrs. Rollin inherits much of his character and talents — a well preserved relic of the olden time.
This is a skeptical age and produces no great men, probably for the reason that our modern school system, like a railroad track, is a dead straight ahead process. In Scott's Marmion the aged Douglas is made to moralize and lament
"The decay Of human strength in modern day."
So we look in vain for a successor or even a good imitation of the great past. Who now bears the mantle of Nokes and Chadd? Alas for this generation!