Looking Back: Forest was a leading character in county’s story

The Hoy family, left to right: Clarence Hoy, Blanche Exner, Myrtle McBride, Hazel "Slim" Patterson, grandma Sarah Hoy, Winnie Henderson, Alice "Todd" Voland, Cecil or Hershel Hoy, Josie Young and Rachel Beaumont. Courtesy of the Brown County Arc

The following is an excerpt from a story written by William Hoy, whose family lived on upper Schooner Creek. There were no dates on the stories, but from the time frame he talks about, this one was written around 1930. William was married to Sarah McLary. His parents were Samuel Hoy and Rebecca Watts. His children were Clarence, Blanche, Myrtle, Winifred, Rachel, Josephine, Alice, Hazel, Cecil and Hershel Hoy. These stories were donated to the historical society by Robert Voland, his grandson.

For 50 years, I have seen slow changes going on of bringing Brown County from an almost unbroken virgin forest to what it is today. Before I come to the Indian grave part of this story, I wish to tell you about the condition of life in those days and the environment that surrounded the people and school children.

When I was a boy, my first remembrance of school days as impressed upon my memory was the long, tedious hours spent in the little old hewed-log schoolhouse on Schooner Creek called Lower Schooner. That was 3 miles west of my well-remembered home on the headwaters of that stream.

Those schoolmates that are left will no doubt remember the old log schoolhouse, the stern-faced teacher with his long, flowing beard, and the long, witch hazel and water beech switches that adorned the corner of the well-remembered room.

Back to the subject of this story: the Indian graves are hardly perceptible today.

You know the great state of Indiana has purchased the Weed Patch Mountain, and much of the surrounding country, and turned it into a game preserve. Part of it is a state park and there is now situated a CCC camp with barracks and buildings to house several hundred veterans and CWA workmen.

Much of the timber has been cut away. Boulevards have been built, and the country, while even yet after the spoiling hand of man has unmercifully been applied, still it bears much of its original rugged picturesque beauty.

Yet, if you had seen it 50 years ago — and I saw it with its giant trees, thousands of great huge poplar, four and five and even six feet in diameter, that pushed their towering summits over 100 in the air, and on the great elevated plateaus seemed to reach almost to the clouds.

Schooner Creek was named after an old Indian whose name was Schooner. In the Indian language I don’t know what Schooner means. Old Uncle Ransom Sturgeon — who was a very old man when I was a boy — spent his boyhood days in Brown County around 100 years ago. He said there were several Indians here then.

I have often sat at night before a dim fire in the great huge fireplace of the old home when that old, old man would tell my father about the Indians, and it was he who told us where the Indian graves were.

Sometimes, my sisters and I would slip up the hollow to see the graves and if the Indians had come out of their graves. If they ever came out, we never saw them, but we were often startled by the barking of a fox, the screeching of an owl, or the rustle of some wild animal that was startled by our presence, and we imagined that maybe the Indians were keeping watch.

There is another Indian burying ground over near Bethany, so I am told, but I have never seen it. But the one here I have seen and often dreamed about.

This old man Sturgeon used to tell of Indian hunting parties he was with, and I often dreamed of the wildlife and of massacres. By then, that was worse than a nightmare.