The subject of this sketch is my great—grandfather, who passed away seventy—three years ago. My initial interest was aroused by my grandmother, Mrs. Grant Pickett, who about twenty years ago related to me her recollections of him.
Like a jig—saw puzzle many of the pieces have been lost through the passage of time. My object, therefore, has been to collect all the existing pieces of information and to assemble them so as to present the most coherent picture possible.
The following persons have been helpful in locating data, and thier contributions to this effort are gratefully acknowledged:
Mrs. Elizabeth Hutchison Pickett, deceased
Mrs. Bessie Tiffee Carpenter, Brazil, Indiana
Fred Hendrickson, Indianapolis, Indiana
Grant F. Pickett, Sand Springs, Oklahoma
John P. Danglade, nublisher, The Vevay Reveille—Enterprise
Miss Carolynne Wendel, Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library
Mrs. William H. Smith, genealogist, Lexington, Kentucky
John Partain, abstractor, Vevay
Cecil Duvall, clerk of the Switzerland Circuit Court
Claude Brown, retired steamboat captain, south Charleston, West Virginia
THE EARLY YEARS
He belongs to the period when the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers were the superhighways of the West, when pioneers floated their produce to the New Orleans market on flatboats, an era which like the ante—bellum South is "gone with the wind."
Francis Pickett was born near Lexington, Kentucky, on May 23, 1812, the eldest child of William and Rhoda Pickett. The parents were both natives of Virginia who had migrated to Kentucky in early childhood. Rhoda, who was of the same maiden name, was the daughter of another Francis Pickett, a farmer and slaveholder.
Young Frank’s childhood is completely obscured except that at the age of twelve he migrated northward with his parents to Vevay, Indiana, the Switzerland County seat, which is situated on the north bank of the Ohio River about midway between Cincinnati and Louisville. The area was settled early in the century by Swiss immigrants who found the area to be reminiscent of their homeland. They planted vineyards on the nearby hillsides and tilled the fertile farmlands near the river, Industries soon came, and the town prospered.
Virginians and Kentuckians as well as those of other national origins then discovered the advantages of the young Swiss settlement, among them the Picketts.
Our next knowledge of Francis is in 1841 when he was married to Sarah Ann McCauley, who was to bear him seven children. The following year he joined the Baptist Church of which it is said he was a "consistent and exemplary member."
2. TO IOWA AND BACK
About 1850 Francis and Sarah Ann with their four small children, Mary Virginia, Edward, Cassius, and Cornelia, moved from Vevay to Boone County, Iowa. The reason for this migration is unknown.
One anecdote which survives this period concerns Francis, an elder in the Baptist Church who in that capacity was authorized to perform marriages. One such ceremony he performed in the front yard of his Iowa home while the bride and groom remained on horseback.
The family remained in Iowa three years. Lavander and William were born there, and at the arrival of the latter Sarah Ann died in childbirth. Unable to care for young Bill, Francis left him in the care of a family named Holdcraft, and with his remaining children returned to Vevay in a covered wagon. Correspondence with the Holdcrafts continued for two years when a letter containing a curl of blond hair indicated that they were leaving Iowa for a destination unknown. Contact with Bill Pickett was then lost forever.
3. MEET MR. SCHFNCK
Flatboats, so named because of their flat bottoms, were variously known as tobacco boats, hay boats, flour boats, horse boats, cattle boats, etc., depending on their cargo. They varied in length from 20 to 100 feet, and those originating above Louisville were restricted to 14 feet in width because of a narrow passage in Indian Chute at the Falls of the Ohio. Capacity was from 40 to 50 tons. Material was native timber, usually unseasoned for the sake of economy and because of the short life of the boats. Steering was done by a 30— to 40—foot oar, pivoted in a forked stick fastened to the roof or rear porthole. Two or more sweeps or broadhorns pivoted on the sides were used to keep the boat in current. Average crew was two men for each broadhorn and a steersman or pilot.
This type of craft was less expensive as a freight carrier than was the keelboat which could boast more speed, easier manipulation, more experienced crews, and more safety. The greater part of downstream transportation in the pest, however, was in flatboats,
Foremost among men of finance in Vevay was Ulysses P. Schenck, successful merchant and produce dealer. After an initial business venture in Louisville he came to Vevay in 1837 where among a variety of enterprises he owned flatbosts and steamboats. One of his flat— boat pilots was Frank Pickett.
In 1927 a local newspaper, The Vevay Reveille—Enterprise, published a series of eight letters from Pickett to Schenck concerning downstream voyages. They are reproduced verbatim herein, and through them we view a colorful era in a more intimate light.
4. AT THE FALLS OF THE OHIO
Opposite Louisville are a series of rapids through which the river level drops 22 feet in two miles. This landmark of navigation is known not too accurately as the Falls of the Ohio. The Falls are navigable at high water; however, a canal was constructed through which safe passage could be made in times of low water. Frank reports to his employer before and after a passage through the canal:
Louisville, Oct. 23, 1855.
Sir: We landed the boat yesterday and this morning there is only 32 inches on the falls. The cost of taking the boat through the canal will be about ~3O.
Evansville, Nov. 3, 1855.
We passed through the canal on Saturday, Oct. 27. We have had very bad weather ever since. The nights for some time has been dark and misty so the boats could not run. There is 4~ feet in the channel, which takes pretty close running. I hired another man at Louisville for ~3O and have what I consider a first rate crew. The boat don’t leak any of consequence. We have now been detained two days in the same place.
A boatman’s life was greatly influenced by the elements. Later that winter comes this report from the Falls, where a "falls pilot" was on duty to aid boat crews in passage.
Jeffersonville, Feb. 22, 1856.
Messrs Schenck and Son.
I landed yesterday morning in the snow storm. There is water on the falls to cross but the snow made it so dark on the falls the pilot would not try it. We have been engaged ever since daylight clearing the deck of the ice and snow but haven’t succeeded yet. It is probable that we will not cross before tomorrow morning. Should the ice run so we cannot run we are l~ring in a good harbor under some salt barges.
N. B. Please send my family a load of wood.
5. FORTY MILES IN EIGHT DAYS
A trip to New Orleans required thirty to sixty days depending on the weather. Average flatboat speed on the Ohio was one mile per hour in low water and five miles per hour in flood water——somewhat faster on the Mississippi. The following cruise was evidently one of the slower ones.
Cario, Nov. 1, 1857.
Messrs Schenck & Sons, Sirs:
We have just landed. We have had some wind and some fog
but have got along so far without much trouble. The Mississippi
is very low. Bailey left on Friday. We are all well. I have
a very good crew. The man you hired at ~l5 a month is A number
1. I have not seen a hay boat since I left.
Yours as ever,
Hickman, Ky., Nov. 9, 1857.
Messrs Schenck & Son, Sirs:
We have been 8 days running 40 miles. The wind has blowed without any intermission for 7 days and is still blowing today. We have had two of the hardest storms that I ever experienced. I expected every minute that the boat would be unroofed. We are all well, the boat and everything in good condition.
Yours as ever,
Will you please write me a few lines to Vicksburg and let me know how my family is.
Napolean, Ark., Dec. 15, 1857.
Messrs Schenck & Son.
I have got along so far tolerable well with the Great Western. She is a very hard craft to manage in wind. I have a pretty fair crew except my assistant. He is of no account here nor no where else. No bad luck I shall be home in time for No. 12.
Yours as ever,
6. THE COLONEL OBMSBY HOUSE
Frank’s household consisted of five motherless children. Whether adult care was provided for them during his river trips is not known; however, his concern for them is evidenced in postscripts to two of the preceding letters.
The year was about 1856. When on the streets of Vevay the children would stop to admire the Colonel Ormsby home whenever they passed, and one evening their father announced that he had purchased it for their future home. Over a century later Mrs. Bessie Tiffee Carpenter writes (in 1958): "We visited Vevay about four years ago, and that house is still there, beautiful inside, built of brick, painted white outside. The transoms were imported from Switzerland.
On the second day after Christmas in 1858 Francis was married to Mrs. Hannah Watkins Hendric1~s, a young widow from North Carolina. The ceremony was performed by Rev. F. P. Bland, pastor of the Vevay Baptist Church. The home then included his five children and her two daugnters as follows: Mary Virginia, Edward, Cassius, Cornelia, and Lavander Pickett, and Mary Ann and Louise Hendricks.
7. CONCERNING HAY
The "honeymoon" was indeed a short one. Frank was in Cairo eight days after his wedding.
Cario, Ill., Jan. 4,1859.
Messrs Schenck & Son.
We are getting along pretty well. We lost 30 hours at Louisville. Since then we have not stopped. I am sorry to say that I have two men that is not worth their grub.
Vicksburg, Miss., Jan. 16, 1859.
Messrs Schenck & Son.
I calculated to have written to you from Memphis but we made a perfect failure in landing wo we had to pass on and I have not had an opportunity of mailing a letter since until now. There appears to be a great demand for hay but the buyers are still under the impression that hay will be cheaper in the spring and are holding off. I mean the planters.
Landed here this morning. Hay is dull here, retailing at 49 per ton. I have been unwell since I left home. So much so that I have had to lose several good nights. We have not met with any difficulty or accident whatever. We had three nor’westers that lasted several days.
8. AT NEW ORLEANS
Unfortunately none of the existing letters was written below Vicksburg, and none concern the return trip. We have only general information about the flatboat industry.
New Orleans, which was usually the terminus, was foremost in river commerce• There were f2Latboat arrivals every month of the year, May providing the heaviest traffic, April and June next, but very few from ~ August to November. In 1850 Indiana led as the state of origin, accounting for 32~ of the arrivals. The early days of the steamboat did not provide serious competition for it was not until after the Civil War that flatboating showed a marked decline.
When the cargo was sold at New Orleans, there were several alternatives. Sometimes the boats were cast adrift. More frequently they were sold to be dismantled for use as shelter or fuel, and such was the case in the early days of Mr. Schenck’s operations.
By the 1850’s, however, he was operating steamboats to New Orleans, and in many cases when the steamboat arrived there, it would pick up tne empty flatboats and tow them back. The Schenck flatboat crews frejuently returned aboard the steamboat which had their flatboat in tow.
There is considerable reference in flatboating annals to boatmen who returned home on foot via the Natchez Trace; however, this presumably alludes to an earlier period. It is not known whether Frank Pickett ever employed this means of return.
Sarah Ann had evidently possessed assets in her own right because in the summer of 1859 Francis was appointed by the Switzerland Circuit Court as guardian of Mary V., Edward, Cassius, Cornelia, Lavander, and William Pickett, minor heirs of Sarah Ann Pickett. Two years later he purchased in their name lot 52 in Sheets and Dufour’s Addition to Vevay for a consideration of $38.
His final guardian’s report filed in 1871 indicates that he held no money belonging to said wards and that the only property belonging to them was the town lot aforementioned. It is a curious fact that in 1884 Francis and Grant, a son by his second marriage, executed a quit—claim deed for said lot 52 for a consideration of $70. Grant had no known interest in this real estate, and according to deed records Sarah Ann’s children were never divested of their interest.
Francis had in 1859 purchased for himself the adjacent lots 53 and 54 for $30. These he sold in 1864 for $400, indicating that he must have constructed improvements thereon.
10. THE WAR YEARS
Frank’s sons Edward and Cassius had each attained a stature of six feet, three or four inches, and were able to join the Union Army at the ages of 16 and 15. Edward fought in General Buford’s cavalry at Gettysburg. Wounded in the left arm, he did not report it but preferred to treat it himself and luckily had a normal recovery. He was for four months a prisoner—of—war at Andersonville, Georgia.
Cassius answered the first call for volunteers at the age of fourteen; however, due to illness he was not mustered in until the following year when he was enrolled as a private in Company D, 93rd Indiana Infantry. He was engaged in the fight at Vicksburg. Also taken prisoner he remained at Andersonville until the end of the war. It would be interesting to know if the brothers met while interned at t~~at famous prison camp.
As the war was in its fourth summer a son Grant was born to Francis and Hannah, supposedly at the Ormsby house aforementioned. The older children were becoming scattered so that Grant did not come to know some of them until years later.
11. WITHOUT A WOMAN’S TOUCH
Hannah Pickett died of consumption in January, 1870; thus Frank had lost two wives, both at the age of forty and each after eleven years of marriage. This left Lavander or "Vandie" to assume the role of homemaker for her father and 5—year—old Grant. She maintained the home only four years when she too died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty—three.
From that point Frank reared his young son without a woman’s care and guidance. His means of livelihood then is not certain. The 1870 census still lists him as a flatboat pilot; however, it is known that sometime during his later career he was employed on passenger boats. His daughter Cornelia or "Nellie" boarded some of these boats at Vevay and referred to them as "floating palaces."
12. VEVAY PARK
The census taker called at Pickett in June, 1880. Frank, age 68, was then a day laborer although unemployed thus far in that year. Grant, age 15, was clerking in a grocery store.
About that time Mary Virginia was widowed by the death of Connell Hendrickson, a Vandalia Railroad pumper at Long Point, Illinois, about three miles west of Casey. She subsequently wrote her father that the railroad would give Grant employment in the job vacated by her late husband. Thus it was probably in 1881 that Francis and Grant departed from Vevay for new horizons in Illinois.
They took residence with Mary Virginia Hendrickson and her three children on the north side of the National Road, and Grant manned the water pumping station nearby known as Long Point at a starting salary of $37.50 per month. He had sufficient pride in his old home town so that Long Point soon became Vevay Park, a name which has continued ever since.
Mary Virginia subsequently married Daniel S. Hutchison, a farm equipment salesman, widower, and father of seven, among them Elizabeth, a resident of Casey where she was employed in a dressmaking shop. After a friendship and courtship of about two years Grant Pickett and Elizabeth Hutchison were married in January, 1884, at the home of her brother—in—law, Lewis Cochanour. This created a double relationship in the families involved. For instance, Elizabeth’s father became her brother—in—law (her husband’s half—sister’s husband).
13. VOYAGE’S END
0rant and Elizabeth built a three—room cottage on a small acreage at the west edge of Vevay Park on the south side of the Vandalia tracks, and his father went to live with them. It was here that Francis Pickett resided until his death on February 3, 1885. Had he lived but 2~ months longer he would have seen his granddaughter Florence, the first of Grant’s eight children.
The Casey Banner reported that he died "from old age"——he was 73——and that he was "highly respected by all who knew him."
Edward came all the way from Memphis, Tennessee, to attend the services. Cassius was then working in the redwood forests of northern California, but after a long absence from the family dating from soon after the Civil War he was presumed to be dead. It would be about seven years before he would appear to first learn of his father’s death.
The funeral was preached by Rev. John Bratton, and burial was in the rural cemetery at Long Point United Brethern Church about four miles northwest of Casey. His grave is without a marker.
When the news reached the old home town on the river, The Vevay Reveille observed: "A good man has gone to rest."
FRANCIS PICKETT married first on Aug. 31, 1841, SARAH ANN MC CAULEY
(b. May 11, 1813; d • Mar • 12, 1853, Boone Co., Iowa) Children:
1. Mary Virginia Pickett——b. July 10, 1842, Vevay, Ind.;
d. Apr. 11, 1923, Casey, Ill. m. (1) 1866 Connell B. Hendrickson, water station pumper, Vandalia Railroad (d. 1880). m. (2) 18& Daniel S. Hutchison, farm equipment salesman (b. 1832, eastern Tenn.; d. 1900, Cc~sey, Ill.) m. (3) Henry Canady. Children: (1) Laura Hendrickson (Mrs. Thomas Tutewiler), deceased, (2) Gertrude Hendrickson, deceased, (3) Grace Hendrickson, d. in infancy, and (4) Fred Hendrickson, retired railway mail clerk, now real estate appraiser for township assessor, Indianapolis, Ind.
2. George Pickett——d. in infancy
3. Edward Francis Pickett, blacksmith, real estate dealer,
Civil War soldier——b. Feb. 9, 1846, Vevay, Ind.; d. 1918, Vevay,
Ind. Resided Memphis, Term., 1885; Watonga, Okla., 1892. 1st wife
and 3 children died of cholera in Texas. 1 child by 2nd wife.
1 daughter by 3rd wife: Fay Pickett (Mrs. Louis Heiden), nurse,
4. Cassius Lysander Pickett——b. May 13, 1847, Vevay, Ind.;
d. June 14, 1921, Sand Springs, Okla. Civil War soldier. Employed by Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad Co. which he helped build into Okla. Hauled freight from Abilene to San Angelo, Texas. Farmed in late 1870’s near Boerne, Texas. Worked in redwood forests of northern California 1880 to 1885. Farmed near Fredericksburg, Texas, 1886 to 1892. Farmed in Pottawatomie Co., Okla., 1892 to 1920. m. Nov. 12, 1886, Fredericksburg, Texas, Inetz Striegler, a native of Denmark. Children: (1) Mrs. Nettie Pickett Shope, Rotan, Texas, (2) Mrs. Laura Pickett Dudgeon, retired railway paymaster, Sand Springs, Okla., (3) Walter C. Pickett, rural mail carrier, Beulali, Mich., and (4) Grant F. Pickett, retired postal employee, now city clerk, Sand Springs, Okla.
5. Cornelia Pickett——b. Dec. 27, 1848, Vevay, Ind.; d. Nov • 16,
1934, Brazil, Ind. m. Berryman James Tiffee carpenter and contractor.
Children: (1) Lawrence H. Tiffee, (2) Francis B. Tiffee (3) Harry E.
Tiffee, (4) Thomas E. Tiffee, former mayor of Brazil, (5) Mrs. Grace
Tiffee Doyle, all deceased, and (6) Bessie E. Tiffee (Mrs. G. E.
Carpenter), Brazil, md.
6. Lavander Pickett——b. Mar. 2, 1851, Boone Co., Iowa; d. May 7, 1874, Vevay, Ind.
7. William Pickett——b. Mar. 12, 1853, Boone Co., Iowa. No contact since 1855.
FRANCIS PICKETT married second on Dec. 27, 1858, MRS. HANNAH WATKINS HENDRICKS (b. 1829, N C.; d. Jan., 1870, Vevay, Ind.) Children:
1. Grant Pickett, supt. of water service, Pennsylvania Railroad——
b. Aug. 27, 1864, Vevay, Ind.; d. Aug. 19, 1932, Terre Haute, Ind. Moved to Vevay Park, Ill., 1881, to Casey, Ill., 1901, and to Terre Haute, 1904. Employed by Vandalia (later Pennsylvania) Railroad 1881 to 1929. in. Jan. 30 1884 Cumberland Co., Ill. Mary Elizabeth Hutchison (b. Jan. 36, 1864, Coatesville, Ind.; d. Oct • 22,1939, Terre Haute, Ind.), daughter of Daniel S. and Caroline Robinson Hutchison. Children: (1) Florence Lenore Pickett (Mrs. Rolla S. Wilson), Orlando, Fla., (2) Frances Carolyn Pickett, Terre Haute, Ind., (3) Charles Edward Pickett, grain company accountant, West Terre Haute, Ind., (4) Mary Louise Pickett (Mrs. Clyde W. Aridrews), deceased, (5) Cassius Daniel Pickett, radio technician, deceased,
(6) Sara Grace Pickett (Mrs. Ephra.im A. Patterson), Indianapolis, md., (7) Jessie Elizabeth Pickett (Mrs. Harry A. Jones), Clarks— ville, Ind., and (8) Paul Hutchison Pickett, restaurant owner, Terre Haute, md.
2. Jesse Pickett——d. in infancy before 1870.
HANNAH WATKINS HENDRICKS PICKETT married first _______ HErTDRICKS.
1. Mary Ann Hendricks——b. 1846, N. C.
2. Louisa Hendricks——b. 1853, N. C. m. _______ Fink. Several children. Resided at Fairmount, Grant Co., Ind.
Elizabeth Hutchison Pickett, family birth—death record and personal recollections
Bessie Tiffee Carpenter, letters of Jan. 27 and Feb • 11, 1958, recollections from her mother, Cornelia Pickett Tiffee
Fred Hendrickson, letters of Feb. 18 and Mar. 3, 1958, and interview, June 21, 1958, personal recollections
Grant F. Pickett, letter of Feb. 17, 1958, biographical sketch of Cassius L. Pickett
Grant Pickett, letter to Lizzie Hutchison, Feb. 16, 1882 Marriage certificate of Grant Pickett and Mary F. Hutchison
The Casey Banner, Feb. 14, 1885, obituary
The Vevay Reveille, Mar. 12, 1885, obituary
The Vevay Reveille—Enterprise, May 12 and 19, 1927, eignt letters from Francis Pickett to U. P. Schenck and Sons, 1855—1859
Fayette County, Kentucky, records:
Probate Order Book 1, p. 354
Burnt Records, vol. 6, pp. 147—149
D. A. R. Magazine, vol . 82, p. 386
Burns, Kentucky Genealogies and Historical Recorder, vol. 7, p. 99
United States Census for the Town of Vevay, Jefferson Township, Switzerland County, Indiana, for the years 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880
Switzerland County, Indiana, records:
Deed Record, Book X, pp. 174, 493; Book 7, p. 441; Rook 9, p. 556
Probate Order Book 2, pp. 255—258; Book 4, p. 182, 233; Book 5,
Marriage Record for 1841 and 1858
General background information:
Claude Brown, letters of Mar. 14 and June 17, 1958, remarks on Schenck and his boats
Dufour, Swiss Settlement of Switzerland County, Indiana, pp. 76, 68 Indiana Historical Commission, Indianapolis, 1925
Switzerland County Historical Society, Highlights of Switzerland County History
Eggleston, The Last of the Flatboats, Lothr op, Lee and Snepard and Co., Boston, 1900
Baldwin, The Keelboat Age on Western Waters, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1941