Odds and Ends.
The reader may have noticed that the material of these papers relates mainly to individuals, to persons of a striking or peculiar cast of character, whilst the direct history of the village has so far occupied but a subordinate position. The leading interest in trading communities is generally the mercantile, and as we possess no manufactories — for the distillery of Davis & Co. was never revived — we devote a portion of this paper, to the rise and progress of the mercantile class in Oakland. We have seen in our veracious history, that the two stores of McClelland & Trembly closed up in 1840. The hardness of the times and the scarcity of money compelled a suspension. Deeply in debt to Cincinnati houses, these men could not pay and could not get credit. They therefore set to work collecting from their customers, anything and everything they could sell or turn into money. Hogs for the Terre Haute market, cows for the Chicago. In this sort of force-put position, they had to give or allow liberal prices on their accounts; prices so high, that when they got their stock to market, a heavy margin appeared against them. It is true that they sold their goods at a very great advance, yet the loss in collecting was so decided, that when McClelland died, he left a bankrupt estate; and Mr. Trembly though more fortunate, left the country worse off than when he came to it. For the next four years no goods of any kind, save what a peddler might bring in, were sold in Oakland. Our trading had to be done in Charleston or Paris. We remember once of carrying a broom on
110horseback from the latter place home. Not a spool nor a thread or even a pin was to be had short of these towns. One morning Mr. Chadd, from the country, came on search of two ounces of turpentine, and although he proclaimed that he had the money to pay for it, it was not to be obtained. There was nothing here to buy goods with. Four year old steers went at ten dollars per head, and the only good horse we ever owned we bought for fifty dollars. Corn for many years never rated above ten cents per bushel, and then was not considered a merchantable article. In the first year of our business, we booked over a thousand dollars and collected fifteen in cash. But those dreary days at last began to lighten, and as the wheel of time would keep turning it brought up Mr. Robert Moseley to the front. This gentleman opened out a small stock in May, 1844, and had the little trade, such as it was, to himself for a couple of years. John Mills and R. T. Hackett next tried their hands in a small trading stock, taking in butter, etc., wagoning it to Lafayette, for market. In the meantime, Matt Ashmore, who had bought Mr. Pemberton's old tavern, opened out a sort of "curiosity shop," which he kept in a style and order that would have given our friend Mr. Kurtz, a stroke of apoplexy to have seen it. After raising corn one season, Squire Pemberton went into partnership with Mr. Moseley, and the year 1847 was signalized by the beginning of their long partnership business. Competition, as we intimated, was pretty lively and the amount of wit bestowed by one firm upon the others, was mutual and pretty evenly balanced. In the matter of romance and storytelling, our old friend Robert had a decided advantage. Mills would turn up his nose when he heard his tales, and Matt would exclaim, "Well-now-Bob, why,-that's-vul-gar!" We are sorry to say that a great many of these stories were in the style of Barney Russel, and as Lyman Keyes often said, "hadn't ought-to-been told."
Trade and farm prices becoming better, we soon lost a large part of our hunter population. These people led in most part a do-less, roving life, while the game lasted. When they came to town they carried a gun, carried one when they went visiting, and if they stepped over to a neighbor's on Sunday, the gun was sure to be taken along; "because," as Mike House observed, "a
111body might see a snake or some other varmint." Rough men have rough ways. Police and city marshals were not invented in this village, and on public days three or four fights was the common average. We have seen rings formed fifty feet wide, and have seen the belligerents stripped and spoiling for a fight, cavort and cave round the privileged enclosure, in a most alarming manner. Fortunately the spirit affected but one of them at a time, the other being quiet and waiting for something to "turn up," perhaps. No. 1 having blown off, No. 2 took up the refrain and went through the same performances whilst No. 1 "rested." We once saw an eager patient crowd break its ring in disgust at a game of this character, whilst Mr. Daugherty boiling over with contempt, proclaimed them "dung hills." As the sequel of a shooting match on another interesting occasion, a ring was formed by a select few who remained after the target practice of the day, to enjoy some whiskey and sugar at night. The snow covered the ground several inches deep "as with a mantle." The full moon shone down in steady brightness, whilst the quiet people of the village having retired, were snoring the night away in blessed unconsciousness — sleeping the sleep of the just. At this momentous juncture Jonathan Wayne and Lyman Keyes, passed within the precincts of the ring, rolling up their sleeves and looking hostile exceedingly at each other. "For what reason did you strike my boy?" enquired Wayne. "Well, the d — d whelp," replied Keyes, "drank my whiskey and stole my sugar." "You're a liar!" And a blow was the rejoinder, and both of them being light-bodied men, they tusselled around with considerable vigor. All this time the ring composed of Daugherty, Dick Hawkins, Lindly Ashmore, and a few others, with guns on their shoulders, kept dancing about calling "fair play, fair play." It had happened that the ring embraced in its bounds a few scattering sticks of Squire Pemberton's wood pile, and as the combatants kept pushing about, Keyes tripped over one of these snow covered sticks and came to the ground. As he fell his neck and back of his head rested upon another good sized stick. In this comfortable position, Wayne, with one hand on this throat, crowded down upon him and struck at his face repeatedly. The members of the ring looked on intently and waited for Lyman to cry
112"Cavey," but his body was shadowed so much by his antagonist, that they finally came to the conclusion that the pressure on his throat prevented him, and so they separated them at once. When they stood up in the moonlight Lyman's face was untouched and unhurt, but Wayne's hand, which had by mistake come against the wood, had to be nursed for a week.
The old still house had its memories in the administration of justice. Every week when a "run" was on hand, more or less fighting would grace the occasion or else an accident would happen instead. Dan — had been testing the quality of the "run," but like Mr. Archer, he took too much of it and it flew to his head. Sauntering around amongst the mash tubs he was observed to be emptying his stomach, into one of these vessels. To assist him. Old Yaller kindly took a stern hold on him, jerked him suddenly up but unfortunately balancing over, he went down into the mash head foremost with his feet projecting above. Yaller called for help and got Dan partly out but he slipped back. On the next effort many hands being by this time laid upon him, he came out with a rush bringing a great flood of mash with him. Dan was removed to an old stable to repair damage, carrying with him the sympathies of the spectators, and the excuses and regrets of Old Yaller. As Dan sat in that old stable drying himself, with his head down, and his hair and clothing filled with the wet meal, we certainly never did see a more comical-looking individual. A couple of ladies called to see him, but Dan wouldn't look up and that night he made tracks and has never been heard of since.
Returning to our mercantile friends, we believe the late G. W. Ashmore, comes next in order of time. Mr. A. removed the Davis & Swall whiskey house, and put up a two story building with a store room below and hall above. This was if we remember rightly, in 52. Mr. A. sold goods in this house for a number of years and then traded his stock to Mr. Clement. Finally after much changing the house burnt down, and the bank building was erected on its site. Before this house was finished Mr. Ashmore died. Our friend D. W. Mitchell, who never will have a gray hair on his head, built his house on the opposite corner, much on the pattern of Mr. Ashmore, and went into the dry
113goods business in 1853. Excepting a few short intervals, Mr. Mitchell has continued steadily in that line ever since, selling "the cheapest goods that ever was sold." About the same time Dr. Wampler bought out the old tavern, and put up the shell of the present hotel, and built a store house on the opposite corner in which he sold goods. Selling out to Sam Ashmore, the latter kept store for some time, much after the fashion of the old lady who kept tavern. And now the dishonored building stands on the alley, devoted to miscellaneous uses, whilst its old site is occupied by T. S. Coffin's new brick with iron front.
In 1855, the brothers, L. S. and S. M. Cash bought out Moseley & Pemberton, and for two years sold goods in their old stand, where Williams & Carter now measure tape. From thence they moved to their new business house on the south side of the square where the law and whiskey den formerly stood. This building was burnt down a few years ago, and has been succeeded by their magnificent brick with stone front. In the long period of twenty-two years, this prosperous firm has never suspended nor closed up; an evidence of prosperity and steadiness in business which speaks for itself. Our community has lately had the misfortune to lose the younger member of this co-partnership of whom it may appropriately be said in the verse of Halleck
Friend of my better days;
None knew thee but to love thee,
Nor named thee but to praise.