An Interesting Old Home of Vevay, Indiana

Julie Le Clerc Knox


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 288-291

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An Interesting Old Home of Vevay, Indiana


Visitors of Vevay, a little town of Swiss origin in Switzerland County, always seem surprised to find so many antiques in the various old homes. One of the most notable of these interesting homes is that of Dr. and Mrs. R. M. Copeland. Having been collectors for years, they have added many antiques to those they inherited.

Recently, they sold the large brick house on Main Street and purchased from Mrs. Adelaide Fairbanks Causey an intriguing six-room bungalow on Market Street on the overhanging bank of the Ohio. This cottage was built almost one hundred years ago by Thomas Armstrong, one of the most substantial pioneers prominent in social, civic, and political movements. He was one of the first tavernkeepers of the place, and the house where he conducted the inn is still in good repair which proves he excelled as a builder. He served seven years as the first county recorder, was one of the backers of the first bank in the county, and was a member of the state legislature in 1850.1 It was at his house the Switzerland County Committee met and nominated Henry Clay for President and Andrew Jackson for Vice-President, and the county courts were also occasionally held here. Evidently, it was at the tavern these meetings were held as the brick cottage was erected later.

This house is four rooms and a hall wide and two rooms deep on the west side. The hall and the room on each side have hardwood floors covered with Oriental, Indian, and braided rugs. Another room has the original broad planks. The ceilings are twelve feet high and the woodwork, painted white, is the lovely kind found only in fine old houses. Some of the walls are papered in exquisite old-fashioned patterns, while others have the delicate, harmonious tints supplied by casein. A grandfather's clock stands in the hall and also two priceless cherry tables—one a Pembroke with rope legs and an end drawer, and the other a Jenny Lind, beaded pattern, which belonged to Mrs. Copeland's grandmother. The latter table was sold out of the family but after forty-five years was found and bought back. An old wooden Boston rocker extends hospitable arms; "Old Glory" is unfurled in a corner; and the portrait of Mrs. Copeland's father, Dr. Lewis, a Union surgeon in the Civil War, occupies a prominent place.

The sitting-room is at the right of the hall. The tall wooden mantel first catches the eye with the eight-day clock (a Birge-Gilbert & Co., Bristol, Connecticut). This timepiece was once owned by Mrs. Copeland's grandmother and, like the cherry table in the hall, was sold at a sale but returned to her father after thirty years' exile. A Hamlet and Ophelia of Staffordshire ware share the honor of the mantel with other quaint and priceless pieces of bric-a-brac.

An Estey organ, the first one in Switzerland County, is in one corner and a cherry corner cupboard in another. This is filled with patterns of old glass—thumbprint, hob nail, sandwich, and thousand eyes. Some of this wonderful old china, fragile though it is, has weathered almost a century. Cups and saucers and a luster pitcher one hundred

  • 1Journal of the House of Representatives of Indiana, 1850, p. 4.
years old were imported from Scotland as a wedding present for the parents of W. W. Spencer, a. former resident of Indianapolis. In another corner is an inlaid cherry chest with brass pulls and a large mirror framed in cherry. A rose-back settee, roseback Boston rocker, upholstered rocker, and old walnut chairs with needle-point cushions are scattered about. There is also a little wooden rocker, inherited from the Doctor's family, which has sturdily withstood many decades. All forms a picture worthy of a background for Godey models. Curtains of Irish points are held back at the windows with quaint old metal pullbacks.

A bedroom back of the sitting-room has a lovely four-poster cherry and maple corded bedstead and large bureau with a small cherry dressing table and mirror. On the wall are family portraits and an oval framed photograph of a graduating class from an Indianapolis Baptist seminary. Opening from this room is a small den which contains a tulip patterned daybed, bed clothes chest, sewing basket, and easy chairs. A window overlooks the river view and makes the room a most cozy and restful place. A narrow hall connects the modern bathroom with the den and dining-room. Wooden peg hangers are along the wall, as well as in the front hall, like those in the old Shaker houses in Kentucky. An ancient hair trunk bearing the date, 1850, was evidently "brought over" in pioneer days.

The dining-room, largest apartment in the house, has a Dutch cherry china cupboard on matching chest and is full of lovely glass, china, and silver. A dropleaf cherry table, a card table, and twin cherry tables of unusual patterns are also here. An old silver castor, ladled soup tureen, brass kettles, and innumerable other attractive articles are here and there. The surgical instrument case of rosewood with brass inlay, which belonged to Mrs. Copeland's father, occupies a prominent place. Off the dining-room is the kitchen, also modern, very dainty and colorful with white enameled equipment and bright red trimmings and curtains.

The guest room is at the left of the front entrance with its high mantel, fireplace, Seth Thomas clock, and bric-a-brac— each with an interest all its own. A cherry corded bedstead of unusual design is the center of attraction with low head and footboard and a brightly colored oak leaf quilt. Two or three chests, a dressing table with a mirror, and a pedestal table—all of cherry—occupy this room. An old Paisley shawl of the most fascinating harmonious colors is draped over a cedar chest, and a ladder-back rocker and other chairs are grouped about. There is even a conch shell doorstep. Antique mirrors, Currier and Ives sketches, Godey and English prints, wall brackets galore, and articles "too numerous to mention," as the schoolboy essay says, complete the picture of this lovely home where most of the furniture are museum pieces.

The back porch has a cement floor of richly colored blocks with a quaint old settee, "Mammy rocker," and attractive seats that tempt one to sit down and feast on the lovely view. The lawn at the rear leads in terraces to the river bottom, and a stately sycamore lifts its lofty top at the corner of the house like a plume at the back of a hat. The front lawn Is enclosed by an iron fence and there is an old-time foot-scraper at the gate. A short paved walk leads to the broad stone steps flanked by large stone flower urns. The attractive entrance has an upper transom and one on each side of the door, the conventional pioneer architectural design. If the rear door happens to be open as the visitor steps into the hall, he gets a magnificent view of the Ohio River and the Kentucky hills—a sort of backdrop to a picture more beautiful than an artist could paint.

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.