Title Reviewed:
A History of Clark County

Author Reviewed:
L. C. Baird

Demarchus C. Brown


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 59-61

Article Type:
Book Review

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[By L. C. Baird. Illustrated. B. F. Bowen & Co., Indianapolis.]

The author of a local history meets with one very serious difficulty. He is almost compelled to be laudatory, to overpraise citizens who are still living and whose enmity the writer feels that he dare not have. It is praiseworthy, however, that some men in Indiana are trying to preserve the early history of the counties in which they live. Much material which the future historian must use is thrown away; a history, then, like L. C. Baird's, deserves commendation because of the author's serious effort to keep intact all the history of his locality. Clark county deserves and has received at the hands of Mr. Baird accurate treatment, especially in its early period. The author devotes his first chapter to the traditional earliest inhabitants of Clark county. He has two additional chapters on the history of the county before its organization and while it was a part of Virginia. Mr. Baird divides the history of the county into decades and then continues it in a series of chapters under heads like the following: The Military History of Clark county, in five chapters; Freemasonry in Clark county; The Roman Catholic Church in Clark county; Journalism in Clark county; The River and Steamboat Building; The Schools in Clark county; and quite a number of others.

The historical field here outlined is a large and important one, because Clark county was the first to be created out of the limits of Knox county, which was organized in 1790. Clark county was, therefore, the second one in the State. The editor's division into decades has some advantages, and makes easy reference to the periods of development in the southern part of the State, and, while the first fourteen chapters are merely annals, they are valuable, distinctly classified and therefore very easy for reference. We believe that Mr. Baird has -done a very valuable work for the history of the State. There is a well-written and valuable account of the town of Springville, founded in 1799. This little town was a distinct American settlement and was the first capital of the county.

The list of families in the first decade provides an excellent foundation for the future genealogist of southern Indiana. The list includes the Bottorffs, McKinleys, Hawthorns, Carrs and others.

An interesting item is given about a teacher of an academy before the public schools were established: The old teacher (Zebulon B. Sturgus) was a strict disciplinarian. Tobacco-chewers and swearers were not allowed among his students. It is related that when the first locomotive passed over the Ohio & Mississippi railroad, he whipped all the scholars for "imitating the engine."

The chapters on "Church History" and the "Secret ahd Benevdent Orders" are quite complete and satisfactory. They are much more so than the chapter on "Schools," which is quite defective because it is entirely too brief for a subject of such value to the county as that. The future historian will not be able to tell much of value about the schools from this history. They are 93f greater importance than the "Benevolent Orders," or "Journalism," or "River and Steamboat Building." The reviewer is compelled to call attention to some defects in this otherwise valuable history. There are attempts at fine writing which are not worthy of Mr. Baird. As for instance in the tenth chapter: "Beyond the river lay the Southland, whose legions surged to and from the border, while from the North came untold blue-clad thousands to preserve the Union established by our fathers," and in the nineteenth chapter, "placing the United States before humanity as the greatest benefactor ever known among nations." It is unfortunate also that Mr. Baird should write even one sentence like this: "He went into the tents and examined patients with his own hands, and elevated the abode of his satanic majesty. as only the old general could." There are other instances like this, all of which seriously mar the form.

In the "biographies" it would have been better to have arranged the families and individuals in alphabetical order. The author of this history was swept off his feet here by his inability to avoid praise for everybody mentioned. A simple, straightforward statement of facts would be much more scientific and creditable. It is very diffcult to avoid praising your fellow townsmen, but the writing of history is a science and when it becomes merely praise it is faulty.

All the military history should be put together and not in separate chapters. The proofs were not carefully read. For instance, "liquor" is spelled without the 1, "companies" is written "cam," "indefinitely" is written with two f's, and "had laid" and "laying" instead of "lain" and "lying."

The volume is fairly well illustrated.


Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.