Personal recollections told to William E. Ryker – Sept. 1910
I was born in October 1828 on the farm where was built the “Old Fort”, or what was commonly known as Buchanan Station. My grandfather, George Buchanan, moved there with his family in the Autumn of 1814 from Paris, Ky. to which place he emigrated from the barrens of York (i.e. hills of York, County Pennsylvania). He built the fort and stockade shortly afterwards as a defence against the Indians. Grandfather Buchanan was a soldier in the Revolution. He died at the age of 102 years. Grandmother lived to be 101 years. They are buried in the McLaughlin burying ground west of where the fort was built.
The fort, or station, was built of logs. There was a heavily barred door. Around the walls were loop holes or firing ports. It had a projecting upper story with ports for firing out and down should the enemy scale the outer walls and attempt to fire the fort, as was frequently done in the times of frontier forts. The fort was surrounded at a distance of a rifle shot by an outer wall or stockade, consisting of a solid wall of posts set firmly in the ground and sharpened at the tops, ground and sharpened at the tops, and a massive gate, heavily barred, served for coming in and going out. There were also loopholes in this outer wall to enable the garrison to shoot down the approaching savages.
The Indians stopped at my Aunt Mary Benefiel’s cabin when they were on their way to Pigeon Roost and robbed her of the dinner she had just set for the “log rollers”. She had to blow the dinner horn twice that day. Some days afterwards, the word came to the station of the massacre at Pigeon Roost.
My father, Willson Buchanan, built his cabin south of where the fort stood. East of him was uncle Jack Buchanan’s claim, west of father’s were the lands of Uncle William Buchanan and Uncle George McLaughlin. They were then all in Jefferson County as Ripley County was then but a part of Jefferson, as were parts of Jennings and Scott. Adjoining my father and uncle on the south (in what is still Jefferson County) were the homesteads of Cousin William McLaughlin; Uncle George Benefiel (a soldier in the Revolution); cousin John West, Moody Pullem and George Mermoo [a variant of the name Mermoud]. These last joined the Ripley County line as afterwards located. The Benefiels nearly all settled within the boundaries of Shelby Township, while the Buchanans have rather inclined to Ripley County, although there are many of their descendants in both counties.
I may be said to have lived in both counties. Madison was always our trading point, and although it was over the hills and “away far.” My recollections of Ripley County, as well as of North Jefferson, are of a time when with the exception of the settlers’ cabins and small clearing here and there, it was an almost unbroken forest of giant poplars, monarch oaks, with cherry, linn, ash and beech of even giant size as undergrowth. There was still some wild game left. I remember going after the cows one evening, when I ran and climbed up a large poplar log, a deer sprang up and bounded away. Through the dense forest, I ran the opposite way as fast as my little legs could carry me. Squirrels were so plentiful that we boys were required to watch the corn fields and shoot them to save the corn.
We had some glorious fox chases in those days, too. Pigeons would come flocking in when the beech nuts were ripe. They would fly in swarms to as to almost darken the sun, mornings and evenings, as they came from or returned to the Pigeon Roost. There appeared to be millions of them at times, and the noise of their wings would sound like the roaring of a hurricane in the great wide forests. Our hogs fattened on the oak and beech mast and when we were hungry for mess of pork we had but to take down the rifle and go to the woods for a fat hog. Hogs, sheep and cattle were marked in those days, just as they are branded with the owner’s brands out on the ranges now. Thus, a crop and a slit in the left ear with a half crop and underslit in the right ear would be one man’s mark; whilst a half crop and a slit in the left ear with a crop, a slit and an under bit in the right ear would be another’s mark and so on.
I remember when a lad going with my father to the New Marion larding machine. There was but one house on the road from Haney’s Corner to New Marion. The parents and the children at this house had white hair and little eyes. Our roads were mostly just blazed roads, and when we were not jolting over roots we were in the mud and chuck holes. As to our mails, “Old Ben” Whitham was both postmaster and mail carrier. He would walk to Madison and back the same day carrying the mail sack on his shoulder and the next day he would go the same way to Versailles and back. We had mail once a week from each place.