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Old Jack City

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Brummett house
Banner Brummett house in Nashville.

Old Jack City

by Bill Weaver

"Dang,” thought Banner Brummett as he listened to the sound of axes falling in the distance. It had been hardly a year since he and his family had built their cabin on the high point between Salt and Greasy Creeks and it was already getting crowded, the way it’d been up by Scarcity Fat before he’d left.

Back there Fleenersburg was growing so fast they said that someday it might be bigger than Bloomington itself. As soon as the rumor about the new county had been confirmed he and his brother Pierson had lit out and bought land as near the middle of it as was reasonable. Now it was official. This was where the county seat would be.

“Goin’ over to Dawson’s now, Maw,” he called to his wife, Esther, who was working inside. Out in the yard he passed their tall, ungainly ash leach. Behind it an old hound lay in the shade. Banner stopped beside the yarb garden to bite off a plug of ‘baccy, which he stuck in the back of his jaw before ambling off again on his short journey.

It was going to be another hot August day and Brummett wanted to get over to Dawson’s before the shenanigans commenced. James Dawson had got himself appointed sheriff by his pal, the governor of Indiana. This meant he was the one who organized the elections for all the important county positions. Dawson had recently moved down here from his spread in Georgetown when they were passed over for the county seat. He’d hastily thrown up a cabin on the south bank of the Salt Creek and was giving out county offices to all of his pals. They’d thrown Banner a bone by making him county agent. It was the least they could do as Brummett had already given over fifty acres of land for the new town and promised cash, as well. So had his brother and near a half dozen others.

They had followed his advice and named the new county seat Jacksonburg, for Old Hickory, the best danged president since George Washington! Nobody was fool enough to argue with that. Jacksonburg. He liked the sound of that name. Kinda rolled off the tongue.

Today we’ll commence the layin’ out, he thought as he passed by the limits of his own property, delineated by a row of dry, piled brush. He crossed the area where the town would soon be. He’d cleared many of the trees himself—beautiful, huge trees that were of no use. So they’d burned them in huge fires, leaving some of the nut trees and a persimmon or two. Once he’d cut the town into lots it’d be somebody else’s problem.

He tried to imagine a courthouse in the clearing: cabins, taverns, shops, a church or two. “Here’s a good place for a horseshoe pit,” he thought. “Maybe set a bench up there for me and the other old boys to sit around and lie to each other.”

Banner started walking again. It was hard to remember how wild this place had been a short year ago. It still was wild around the edges. The bears were pretty much gone but the wolves still prowled nearby in the hills and “pisonous snakes wuz everywhere to be found.” He followed the trail south and soon was at the cabin of his royal highness James Dawson. It wasn’t particularly well built, the logs had gaps big enough to let a skunk through and the joints were laughable. He’d like to see Dawson winter here. A number of camps had been set up in the clearing by the cabin. Folks were arriving from all over the county to see what the commissioners were going to decide. Banner nodded to a couple of folks he knew from over the old county line before entering the cabin.

It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the sudden cool dark inside. The commissioners sat around a thick puncheon table. There was James Alexander of Monroe, David Deitz and Hiram Wilson of Bartholomew County, and Stephen Parks of Jackson County. They’d returned recently from a visit to competing sites for the county seat but there never seemed to be much doubt about what they were going to decide. Georgetown had more settlers but was too far north and Hedgesville as county seat was laughable, the pipe dream of old L.M. Hedges and David Randolph, owner of the grocery there.

“Ah, Mr. Brummett, are you ready?”

“That’s why I’m here.”

“Come on over and take a look here at Mr. Dawson’s survey...”

Outside a crowd of fifty or sixty had gathered. A deer was roasting over a fire and a hastily constructed table was being filled with eats of all kinds. Some of the boys were swimming in the creek, swinging out over the water on a grape vine and dropping off with a loud shout. The men were drinking mash and shooting at a mark. Some were sitting around a stump playing cards, including Littleton Mathis who looked like he was winning. Even the folks up Harden Hollar were there, along with some Taggarts and a Hamblen or two from up county.

Inside the cabin the table had been moved into a corner. A jug, a tin cup, and a bucket of water sat upon it. Across the room, on a bed, a fiddler played as two barefoot men danced.

“Looks like somebody’s declared a holiday.”

As he left the cabin Brummett saw his son Josh and told him to go fetch his ma and tell her to bring the jug. “Tell her Rolla’s here with his fiddle, we’re havin’ some dancin’ tonight.”

Banner joined a large knot of men where Kentucky Bill Snyder was braggin’ on his horse. Said it was the fastest in this new Brown County. He got a good laugh out of that. Soon they were betting on horses they hadn’t even seen yet and planning to meet later in the month up in Georgetown where there was a good flat field to run.

Banner noticed one of the commissioners, Hiram Wilson, fanning himself with a piece of the county map. Something about it caught his eye.

“Lemmee see that for a minute, Hiram,” Brummett said, reaching out. His jaw swung open as he realized what he was seeing. “You added this new township and now Jacksonburg is outside of Jackson township. It’s gonna confuse people.”

“Don’t worry about that now, Banner, we’ll fix it later,” Hiram tipped his hat and stepped over to speak to the widow Jordan.

~=~

Seven months later the Indiana General Assembly officially changed Jacksonburg’s name to Nashville, at Banner Brummett’s suggestion, to honor the city and state from where many of the county’s earliest settlers had come and where their beloved Old Hickory made his home.



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