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August 03, 2017

A Look Inside The People’s Guide

A Look Inside The People’s Guide

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

Hamilton County has several unique historic resources – I’ve posted about the 1866 map before.  There is another resource that has some quirks, but gives a unique picture of the area.  The proper title is “The People’s Guide: A Business, Political and Religious Directory of Hamilton Co., Ind.; Together With A Collection Of Very Important Documents And Statistics Connected With Our Moral, Political and Scientific History; Also A Historical Sketch of Hamilton County And A Brief History Of Each Township”.  Copies are available in the Indiana Room and the Indiana Room web page has a link to an online version.

It was published in 1874 by Cline and McHaffie, a company based in Clayton, Hendricks County.  Oscar F. McHaffie (1837-1915) was one owner and nothing can be found about his partner Cline.  That same year, the company also produced directories for Hendricks, Marion, Boone, Johnson, Henry, Bartholomew, Vermillion, and Morgan counties.  Another resident of Clayton, Dr. C. T Lawrence, did the survey for Hamilton County.  After this, the company published nothing else and disappeared.

The book is an Interesting look at post-Civil War Hamilton County.  It has some flaws – there are names of known residents that are missing and there are several typographical errors.  It’s not clear why some names are highlighted.  However, it’s still fun to read and has also sorts of extra information that would have been useful at the time.  It starts with the Declaration of Independence, followed by the U. S. Constitution, the 1851 Indiana Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, platforms of the various political parties, the Baxter Liquor Law, and sections on geology, philosophy, astronomy, the pay of government officials, religions, and populations.

Each entry for a person lists their address – by the nearest post office – occupation, birthplace, birthdate, arrival in the county, political party, and religion.  Some of this is not consistent.  For example, there is the town of Fishers.  In the Delaware Township listings, it’s called “Fishers Switch”, and in the Fall Creek Township listings, it’s called “Fishers Station”.

Something to note is that, in most directories of this time, African Americans would have the word “(colored)” by their name.  There are a few listings like that, but some obvious members of the Roberts Settlement aren’t designated that way.  Perhaps the publishers were forward-looking in their attitudes.  There are women listed who were usually famers, dressmakers, or milliners, although there was a Mrs. R. A Martin who sold books and notions in Noblesville.

Most occupations are fairly ordinary – farmer, merchant, craftsman.  But as one searches, some oddities appear.  Samuel Griffin is listed as “farmer and historian”. However, I can’t find that he published anything.  James A. Houser (listed as A. Houser) was a “phrenologist and lecturer”.  Phrenology was not yet considered a pseudo-science.  Later, he would move to Indianapolis and become a legitimate doctor and professional speaker.

There are quite a few nations represented by the immigrant population.  Jackson Township had many from Ireland and Germany.  They were predominately Catholics who would later create Sacred Heart Church.  Other immigrants were from Canada, England, Scotland, France, Prussia, Sweden, and Hungary.   Washington and Clay Townships show many settlers from North Carolina listed as “Friend”, a sign of the large Quaker emigration in the 1830s.

Politically, most people are listed as Republican or Democrat or Independent.  There are several Grangers, sometimes listed in combination with Republican or Democrat.  Grange meetings are listed at the beginning of each township section.  Three people are listed as “Anti-Secret”.  This was a political movement opposed to secret societies such as the Freemasons.  Most of the standard Christian religions are represented.  There are also Universalists, Spiritualists, a Swedenborgian, a “Philanthropist”, and three people listed as “Materialist”.  The listings for N. D. Levinson and Elias Glick have them designated as “Israelite”, meaning Jewish.

Many of the listings have unique details.  Old settlers are pointed out, as well as a veteran of the War of 1812.  Elam Hiatt is listed as “The only Democratic Quaker in Washington Township”.  A famer named J. Mundel seems to have been a bit of a problem.  The listing says, “This man is deaf.  He refused to give his name and said: ‘These agents are rascals and can’t have my name.’”

Finally, there are listings that may have more of a story behind them.  T. M. Reveal, a farmer and stockbreeder, is noted as “a gentleman of fine cultural and extensive travel”.  Some of the listings may be a joke.  One person has their religion listed as “Mohammedan”.  It is extremely unlikely that a practicing Muslim would have been living in Hamilton County in the 1870s, particularly a man named Jesse Hodson born in North Carolina in 1798.   It would be interesting to find out what inspired that answer.