Dark Stoney Lonesome

(The picturesque Bartholomew county section of Stoney Lonesome on State Road 46, eight miles west of Columbus. has had a checkered reputation. New road 46 today avoids the creek bed and bottom of the valley -- the old road. The big log house on the north side of the road was rebuilt about 25 years ago and modern new homes now dot the area, but the Road 46 motorist still goes through Stoney Lonesome. The lol-lowing article was written by Charles L. Sawin of the Louisville. Ky., Courier-Journal and appeared in the Courier-Journal magazine section in the late 1940's.)

By Charles L. Sawin (Written in late 1940's)

At one time the surest way to lose your money was to travel through this area after dark. A small dot on a map of Southern Indiana marks the spot where once stood Stoney Lonesome, a village notorious in more ways than one; but a town noted primarily for the robber bands and terrorists who infested the region at one time or another.

The site of the town borders on the hilly, rustic area of Brown county made famous by Kin Hubbard and his "Abe Martin." Nine miles east of Nashville. the county seat, Wolf Creek cuts through heavily wooded Sharer Hill to form Stoney Lonesome Hollow. It was here that the village stood [in the Bartholomew county section of Stoney Lonesome]. A hundred years ago. this was the loneliest, dreariest spot a traveler had to ptiss through. The only good route was along the bed of the creek.

Of the once-notorious village, only one structure stands -- a log cabin that gives evidence of the early settlers' craftsmanship. Formerly, as was customary, this log cabin served as a sort of citadel for the village. In time of trouble or attack, the settlers could gather in the big log house. For several years it served as a post office and then it belonged to the McGarlick family.

The last of the family, Grace McGarlick, died around 1915 after she was past 90. In this log cabin during Civil War times men were sworn into the Federal Army and spent their first night in the Army before leaving for New Albany and their regiments.:

Also served as inn

While the McGarlicks owned it. they put up guests in the upper story. Later the hostelry business was given up and the top floor was used to dry foods and tobacco. Traveling along creek beds was the usual and easiest manner of getting around in the early days there. In this hollow, the forest was extremely thick with underbrush. So rough was the terrain that when the ground was covered with the ice of winter or saturated with the rains of early spring, passage on foot was impossible.

The dark, dismal surroundings in this rocky hollow, shut in by the hills and mantled by the thick forest, naturally gave the spot its appropriate name, Stoney Lonesome. It became a favorite rendezvous for robber bands. They usually lay in wait among the underbrush for travelers. Among the common victims were settlers on their way to buy land for cash and the 19th Century model of the traveling salesman, called a drummer. As late as 1880 travelers made it a point to get through Stoney Lonesome before sundown.

Through the last of the 19th Century and up till 1915. Stoney Lonesome had a curiosity in the person of Tim Rat-tikin. A soldier in the Union Army, Rattikin had been shot through the head and lived to tell about it. People from miles around would come to Stoney Lonesome to view this human wonder. When anyone doubted the truth of the story, Tim would point to two scars, one on his forehead and another at the back of his skull, and say, "That Confederate bullet went in there and came out here."

Center of 'White Caps'

The area surrounding Stoney Lonesome was the hotbed of White Cap activities from 1880 till 1909. Borrowing the idea from English outlawry, the members dressed themselves in white paper foolscaps with white paper masks and wore coats made of coffee sacking. Tn make the coats, three holes were cut in the sack, two for the arms and One to put the head through.

The White Caps were known to intercede mostly in moral cases when a man was giving another man's wife attention. If a man did not heed their warning, the White Caps usually came to his home after he had retired, took him to a nearby tree and bound and whipped him with switches.

The organization was so powerful that it was useless to run for public office unless one was a member. The secret organization kept various natives "morally straight" until 1909, when Governor Hanley stated he would not tolerate the whippings. Evidence was gathered and eight men were brought to trial before Judge Marshall Hacker in Bartholomew County Court. Six were acquitted. The re-mainlng two were given suspended sentences. This trial sounded the death knell to the White Caps.

Today a hard-surfaced road runs right through the former settlement. Yet even with these fine developments, the present-day traveler who passes through at night has only to pause and listen to the owl and the whippoorwill chorus and look up at the ridges surrounding him on both sides to sense the Stoney Lonesome of the missing traveler days.

The big log house for many years was known as "Grace's place" and scores of dusty travelers quenched their thirsts at Grace's well, which is still at front of the property. About 25 years ago the old log 2-story house was dismantled by Austin and Homer Syivester. brothers, of Columbus, and moved a few feet north, the old logs being used to rebuild the 1-story structure. The Sylvester brothers operated a restaurant there for a time, "The Trees," but closed it because not enough water was available.

According to Austin 5ylvester, the old house had slots in the outer walls for rifle placements and nearby hillsides were covered with bee-hives, dating back to when honey was sold at a stand at the side of the big house. The present house is the residence of Mr. and Mrs. ]. C. Tutton.

Even after advent of the automobile, there were fords to he crossed in Stoney Lonesome and in the late 1920's a well-patronized bootlegger sold "home brew" at a residence along the branch creek just north of the highway and east of Grace's place.

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