Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

August 15, 2012

Smith: Shiloh, Tarkio and a big old serpent

Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Most of us pay little attention to cemeteries unless the graves of our loved ones have been disturbed.

Decatur County Historian Russell Wilhoit, recipient of the Indiana Historical Society's W. C. Heiss Family History/Genealogy Award, saw the need and did something about it.

Russell is president of the Cemetery Commission, and Shiloh Cemetery in Adams Township was badly in need of repairs and some loving care. Russell, George and Hunter Metz of New Point and Greg Meyer of Adams put in many hours of hard and extremely hot work repairing headstones and generally improving the historic old cemetery.

Kent Fenley inquired about what could be done. That's all it took to get the four men out working on it. Shiloh has more than 300 burials in it. At least 30 are marked only with a rock instead of a headstone, and a few are not marked at all.

Revolutionary War Veteran Joseph Lee and his wife are buried in Shiloh. Lee was born in Hunterton County, N.J. in 1762 and was 14 when the Revolutionary War began. He volunteered when he was 16.

Russell said it took them more than a month, and they repaired 80-plus stones and straightened several others. That makes five cemeteries they've done this summer: Butcher in Sandusky, Bowler-Jolliff near Carksburg, Clark-Elliott in Marion Twp. and Myers Cemetery on John Oldham's farm. Last summer they repaired Old Rossburg and Sandcreek.

Months ago Barbara Waits and others mentioned that a TV weatherman had announced what the weather was in Tarkio, Decatur County. Barbara knew where Tarkio was located because she lives in the area, but most people didn't. I only knew because I was there once to talk with Mr. B.J. Phelps. He lived on CR 500 South and told me that the word Tarkio meant Òwalnuts grow well hereÓ in certain Native American tribes.

I imagine that walnuts did indeed grow well in the area known as Tarkio but it may be that it got its name when families from Tarkio, Mo. moved here and settled in that area. Some years ago, a museum in Iowa had the Tarkio Valley Sloth Project. A bone from a giant Ice Age sloth had been found there. If we're lucky, maybe someone reading this can fill us in on the history of Decatur County's Tarkio.

I don't suppose anyone today can remember back in Oct. 1920 when a report of a monster snake loose in southern Decatur County hit the headlines. Bryan Robbins showed me the clipping about it some time ago. ÒProminent citizensÓ in southern Decatur County had seen a snake measuring from 25 to 35 feet long with proportionately large girth.

Probably Òprominent citizensÓ was used to indicate that it was upstanding people that saw that snake as opposed to non-upstanding, moonshine drinking people. Southern Decatur County men had stopped working in some sections and were searching for the monster armed with guns. A calf belonging to Robert Bishop was said to have been eaten by the snake. The entire community was nervous.

Some thought the reptile had escaped from a show but others remembered stories from other counties of a similar snake that had caused Model T Ford automobiles to overturn. Snakes of similar size were later reported in Kentucky, Kansas, Yellowstone National Park and Utah. It might have been the same snake because one that large could surely travel mighty fast.

I talked with Joy (Jessup) Jones of Westport after she read the column about Maddux Auction last week. Joy said that her dad (Neal Jessup) worked for the C. J. Lloyd Poultry House in the building where Maddux Auction is now located.

Her dad bought poultry and eggs from people in the southern part of Decatur County and hauled them to Greensburg to the Lloyd Poultry House. Lloyd's sent loads of chickens and eggs to just about every place in the country by railroad. ÒThe ladies would gather the eggs and leave them on the porch if they weren't home,Ó said Joy. ÒThen Dad would pick them up and leave the money for them.Ó The egg money meant a lot to families back then. Wives would usually save the money to buy school clothes or fabric to make them.

Joy said that Lloyd allowed her dad 50 cents for lunch, usually a sandwich and drink, and then he'd buy a loaf of bread and bring it home. Her dad had a little poultry house in Westport after Lloyd's went out of business but he later went into real estate. Joy's grandfather, Col. A. L. Jessup was an auctioneer and George Cann's book of Westport states that he worked his first sale in 1899.