This well known word is one of the very few which the Irish have added to the English language. It is unnecessary to comment
88upon its potency or prevalence in civilized or savage life throughout the world. It is certainly the king of artificial drinks. Our purpose in this paper is to tell of its ways and works in the early days of this village.
We have heretofore stated that the first business house was first occupied as a doggery. This house as we have seen was next used for the sale of dry goods, and of course the law and whiskey business had to go into other quarters. Sometimes in one place and sometimes in another. In this connection we would remark that the veteran whiskey drinker of to-day will vainly sigh for the good old times when no government tax troubled the people, not even a license from any local authority, interposed in the enjoyment of either whiskey or tobacco. Ten cents per quart left a great margin for the vendor, and the happy consumer had the satisfaction of knowing as he swallowed the beverage, that it was the pure corn juice or honest "bald-face" that assuaged his burning thirst. Oil of vitriol or strychnine whiskey was then unknown.
It was, we believe, in 1840 (we hope the reader will excuse our mistaken dates) that Joshua Davis, a heavy set, sore-eyed man came to Independence. He had with him his son-in-law, Jim Ladd, and his sons Merriman, Nat, Uriah and Welch. This strong force of men should have done something in the way of building up the town. But to tell the truth about it they were a desperately lazy set, and as a matter of course were shockingly dirty. As a "specimen brick" in this latter particular we will state that Mrs. Ladd had two children of five and seven years — a girl and boy if we remember rightly. Their dress consisted of but one garment made like a shirt or slip, which reached to their bare knees. This convenient covering did duty day and night, and certainly never saw the inside of a wash tub for one summer season. By long and judicious usage the fronts and backs of these dresses had become very dark, thickened and glazed with dirt and grease, whilst the sides were of a primitive yellow and comparatively mobile, resembling as a whole the shell of a turtle in a striking degree.
Most of men live by their wits but the Davises struck a medium and lived partly by labor. By a moderate use of the strong muscular power which nature had given them, they commenced building a doggery on the corner where the bank now stands. The logs for this building were cut on congress land, and were first squared and then whipsawed into plank of three inches in thickness. These were set on edge and joined at the corners, house log fashion. This house which now does duty as a dwelling a mile west of town, was opened for business near the close of the year; Mr. Daniel Swall furnished the capital which consisted of a barrel of whiskey and a few rolls of domestic tobacco. The two dry goods houses had by this time fizzeled out and Messrs. Davis & Swall, like Lot of old, had all the plain of the Ambraw before them.
The habit of country people coming to town on Saturday was as common then as it is now, and in this connection we had noticed that they immediately disappeared from the streets and would as a rule be seen no more that day. Passing by the doggery on one of these days, we heard issuing from it a loud continuous noise, and having a curiosity to see western life in all its phases, we stepped in to take a look at the congregation. Nobody was drinking just then. All were talking or speaking at the top of their voices, gesticulating wildly, and nobody appeared to be listening. Dodging around behind the stove, we took a seat by Lindly Ashmore and Lyman Keyes, who were just then disposing of a piece of dried beef. From this safe position we took observations on these groups before us, of which the reader will permit us to sketch one. Near us stood an undersized man in blue jeans and a wolfskin cap, engaged with a large blear-eyed, big-nosed individual, wearing a white hat. The large man had button holed his auditor; that is, he had grasped him firmly by both collars which rendered retreat impossible. The small man was not a good listener, his attention was careless and every half minute he broke into a line or two of some doggerel ditty that appeared to float about in his mind. From this state of oblivion he was recalled by a tap of his companion's great fist on his breast, and "now Jim I'll jist tell you what sort of a man I am!" Jim was aroused by the rudeness perhaps and inquired sharply,
90"Ain't your name Old Yaller?" "Yes, Mr. Hunt," and the large man raised his fist and waved his great red nose. "Yes, people call me Ole Yaller, you know that that isn't my real name, but then people call me so. A nick-name is just as good as any, it don't make any difference in a name. I'll tell ye what Jim, I brought some yaller boys with me to this country, but I hain't got any now. I paid four hundred dollars in gold for the place I live on, and that's the way I got the name of Ole Yaller. You're a Whig and I'm a Democrat, but that don't make any difference either between us; I believe in doin' what is right and honest, and I try and do that way myself, though some of my neighbors who belong to the church, don't tell the truth always, but then that's their business. I'm from ole Virginny, and I believe what's right is right; that's me, that's jist the sort of a man I am — that's Ole Yaller!"
Of the men who wasted their substance and their lives around Davis & Swall's dead fall, many of them were good estimable people in very many respects. Their thirst for liquor was by far their greatest fault. "Old Yaller" was a very kind, good man at home; so was John B. Dougherty, who carried to his grave the great wen on the side of his face. Lyman Keyes went to the Mexican War and left his bones at Chapultepec. Lindly Ashmore was a quiet peaceable person, and excelled in honor and honesty as we thought, all other men. We happened one day to pass some men sitting under the shade of a tree near Hall's smith shop, who were engaged in the then heated subject of politics. Ashmore, carrying as usual a pretty heavy load, sat with his eyes half shut and said nothing till a pause occurred in the conversation, when he remarked by way of interjection probably that the Whig party now was just the same as the Tones were in the revolution. At this Reuben Dannals, a man of seventy-five, sprang to his feet greatly excited. "Mr. Ashmore, you have insulted me, you have called me a Tory; you knew I was a Whig and you have called me a Tory. I am an old man and cannot help myself; I will not speak another word to you!" "Hold on Uncle Dannals, hold on," said Lindly, getting wide awake, "I ax yer pardon, that was all wrong, what I said was all wrong. I take it all back inter me, and I ax yer pardon." Wm. L. Ashmore
91never quit his drinking habits. Exposure brought on pleurisy; as the typhoid symptoms increased his mind wandered, and his hands picked the clothes, and hunted for jugs, and other drinking ware, and so passed away a man upon whose like this generation will probably never cast its eyes.
Times were hard and people had no money. It took money to buy whiskey and Davis & Swall resolved to start a distillery and make their own liquor. They put up a rough log building, covered with clap boards and weighted down with poles; and getting some mash tubs, by the aid of the horse mills around, they made a start on their new departure. When the first run was ready, men collected around the building; some with jugs and some without jugs, waiting for a free drink of the first run in accordance with old time custom. The elder Davis with candle in hand had visited the dark corner where the barrel stood to secure the precious beverage. Two or three times he had visited it and reported good news — the run was doing "beautifully" as he said, and the barrel was pretty well filled. Dan Swalls who was the most awkward blundering man we ever knew, became excited, snatched up the candle and started for the barrel. In his eagerness he held the candle too close, the spirits ignited, and the barrel exploded with a great noise, filling the house with steam and smoke. Soon after Jo. Stears who had a sore heel came limping by barefoot, and Squire Pemberton inquired of him "What's the matter down there Jo?" "Matter enough! the whole thing's blow'd to hell," and with a countenance expressive of unutterable disgust, Jo limped on ahead towards home.
The Davis family did not escape the penalties which nature has ordained against those who taste, touch and handle the unclean thing. After running their distillery a short time, they suspended and finally moved away, taking with them Mr. Ladd and his interesting family.