By Bessie Spell Shirk.

I am indebted to Amy Miller and Ann Miller-Neilsen of Indianapolis, Indiana for contributing this sketch written by their great grandmother. This story may not be used, reproduced, or published without the consent of AMY.

The Pioneers - October 1831
Robert Crandall - born 1802 - Elcy Thompson born 1806

by Bessie Spell Shirk, as told to her by grandmother, Nancy Crandall, daughter of Elcy Thompson and Robert Crandall.

That long hot October day seemed endless. The sun had come too fiery red and all day, a hazy sky had seemed to shut out any cooling breeze. The heavy covered wagon was crowded with all the worldly goods that Robert and Elcy possessed and they had accumulated quite a lot since leaving Montgomery County, VA seven years ago.

At that time, it had been their intention to go at once to the new land being opened in Indiana. Elcy's two sisters who married and settled in Henry Co., Indiana had written such glowing accounts of the country, such fertile soil and mild climate, how easy it was to obtain a grant of land. That was Robert's one ambition, to own land and he could hardly wait to reach his destination. Although he had always worked at his trade as a saddle-maker, he felt he could also be a successful farmer.

Robert and Elcy had two children when they left Virginia, Nancy aged four and Andrew aged two. But Elcy was the daughter of a planter and had never known hard work. In fact there were so many black slaves on her fathers plantation that they had become a burden, too many for the worn out land, so that when the father, Archilbald Thompson died, the family decided to join the caravan of people going out to settle the new west. When they reached Clark County, Ohio, they found old neighbors and friends living there and as Elcy was expecting another child soon, they decided to remain there for awhile (1829).

There was a great demand for saddles and harnesses so Robert found no difficulty in obtaining work. Horseback riding was the most popular mode of travel. But letters continued to reach them from the two Sanders sisters in Indiana and the urge to move one was too great. So in October 1831, the weather being warm and dry, they again began to pack the covered wagon and started out on their journey.

Little David, the third child was not strong and Elcy found the journey very tiresome. The going was rough, besides, Nancy and Andrew were wild as Indians and had to be rounded up every time the wagon halted. They wanted to pick up the hickory nuts and chase the squirrels. Meanwhile, little "Davy Crockett" as the father called him, became more and more sick.

The farms and settlements became farther apart, but everywhere they found these places the people were very kind, giving the children fresh milk and ministering to all of their needs.

Robert was advised to keep to the north when he felt he was nearing the village of New Castle for there were treacherous swamps between him and that place. So it was probably that fact the caused Robert to lose his bearings and as evening came on, all at once he saw a freshly blazed trail, so he took heart and started to follow. It ceased abruptly and there on the ground were the ashes of a camp fire, still smoldering and nearby lay a hatchet.

Robert, satisfied it was not an Indian hatchet, picked it up and laid it in the wagon, he took another look at little Davey and urged his team on faster for now it was growing darker and clouds were banking up in the west. Now it would surely be safe to turn to the south for he could begin to find paths and wagon tracks going in that direction. Before long, he caught a glimpse of a light ahead of him and he would say nothing to Elcy yet to raise false hope. But now he was sure he could see the out line of farm buildings and a house and he called to his family to cheer them.

Soon the good farmer and his wife had them inside ministering to them and Robert, taking another look at little Davey, asked where he could get a doctor. Then Mr. Stinson, the farmer, quickly brings two horses from the barn and he and Robert ride into the village for a Doctor. But little Davey's wanderings were over before dawn, when the first fall rain was pouring down, and little Davey passed away.

It was in those sad days following that Robert and Elcy found what good neighbors really meant. They showed them the burying plot where the new Sugar Grove Church was to be built and there little Davey's body was laid to rest.

Today, when I, their great grandaughter, travel west on the highway, I always look to that burying place and see the tallest pillar and know that the names carved there are Robert and Elcy Crandall.

Robert Crandall died Janaury 25, 1878 in Sulphur Springs, Henry Co., Indiana.

Elcy Thompson Crandall died December 25, 1877, in Sulphur Springs, Henry Co., Indiana - one month apart.

By Bessie Spell Shirk
born Alberta Lee "Bessie" Spell on July 29, 1876 in Mt. Summit, Henry County, Indiana. She was daughter of Mahala Susan Dunbar and Allen Crandall Spell. She married Charles Rosco Shirk on January 4, 1899 in New Castle, Henry County, Indiana. Bessie died on March 24, 1952 in New Castle,Henry County, Indiana.

More Stories of Henry County by Bessie Spell Shirk

JOHN WESLEY DUNBAR - Family group sheet of the John Wesley Dunbar family.
BIO OF J.W. DUNBAR - From the History of Henry County, Indiana 1822-1906

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