My father, with my
mother, came to this great and wonderful continent
in 1842, landing at Quebec, Canada, my eldest
brother, William, being born there. The family
removed to Boston in 1845, where my father, James
Haslam Middleton, was employed in the Charlestown
Navy Yard. There we lived in sight of Bunker Hill
for ten years. During this time three children were
born, George, James Haslam and Charles. My father
then succumbed to the western fever and with his
little family, started for Indiana.
I was a youngster, but well do I recall the boat and
its lights, and the excitement of being on the water
from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Madison, Indiana, our
objective point. As we were leaving the boat I
looked back and exclaimed in delight, "Mother, the
boat has an upstairs!"
We settled at Madison, Indiana, which in those days
was a wide awake, thriving town, located on the Ohio
river, surrounded by beautiful and attractive
scenery. Madison lies huddled at the foot of
beautiful hills overlooking the Ohio, and one can
see beautiful trees swaying contentedly, tobacco
fields and distilleries. I have traveled this old
world a great deal, but it is difficult to find a
more charming spot; Nature had indeed been more than
kind to that part of the country.
The principal industry at Madison was the pork
packing business, and more hogs were killed and
packed there at that time than in Chicago. Madison
had the first railway in the state, which was built
to Indianapolis, the capital city. Up the hill from
Madison was the heaviest railway grade in the world
at that time. The principal freight that went over
road was brought down the Ohio river from Pittsburg
by boats, transferred to rail at Madison and shipped
into the interior of the state.
The Reverend James Greenleaf, of Madison, corresponded
with my father while he was in Boston and advised
his going west. He wrote a glowing account of the
possibilities in the quaint little place. On our
arrival we stopped with a family by the name of
Merens until the necessary arrangements could be
made to start housekeeping. This good couple did not
have a family, and I often think of how they must
have enjoyed four boys as full of life as we were.
I fancy they did not regret being childless.
One of the principal characters living in Madison
was an old gentleman known by the name of Gundy
Lawrence. He had been elected to the Legislature.
When the time came to attend he rode to
Indianapolis, a distance of eight-five miles, on a
dray. This of course gave him great notoriety. In
later years he was town crier, announcing public
auctions, lost children, strayed or stolen horses
and cows. When he was to announce political meetings
he would mount his horse about three o'clock in the
afternoon and swinging a big brass bell he would
start out with his cry that such and such a
prominent man would "speak at the Town Hall at early
candle lighting." It was seldom he rode past a
saloon without making a call, with the result that
he would continue the cry of "speech making at early
candle lighting," while the candles had been lighted
and burning for at least two hours. He surely was a
character long to be remembered.
After looking over the ground my father decided
there was an opening for a meat shop, as there was
not one in the town, all the meat being sold in the
market house. On his small capital he opened a meat
shop and grocery store. After the business was under
way, and housekeeping affairs were adjusted, we
youngsters were started off to school, which I am
sorry to say I was not fond of attending, and did
not do so when it was possible to avoid it. On my
return home from school the first day my mother
asked me: "George, how do you like school?" I
replied: "I don't like that school."
"Don't like it! Why?"
"Because the room has no cupboard in it." This goes
to show that early in life I was more fond of
to eat than of knowledge.
The hills, the river, the surrounding country, all
so new, had a great charm for me, so much more
attractive than the school room. I loved the river,
to fish, swim, to get into a skiff and take a ride,
to paddle around on a board. The negro slaves coming
over from Kentucky with their masters on trading
trips were a new sight to me. The hair of men and
women was done in pigtails bound around with string.
If down on the river bank was attractive to me, the
surrounding hills, covered with nut-bearing trees of
all kinds, grape vines, berries, orchards, May
apples and other wonders were more so. How I loved
to roam over those hills! What freedom I knew in my
youth ! I often dream that part of my life over
again when seated in a comfortable chair with a good
cigar, before a log fire blazing away merrily.
About this time wild pigeons, which are now extinct,
would fly in thousands from the hills of Kentucky
across the river to the hills on the Indiana side.
My father, who was a good shot, along with hundreds
of others, would go up on the hills, taking my
brother William and me along to gather up the
pigeons. In a few hours shooting we would bag
hundreds of them. It seems strange that these
pigeons should become extinct, when at that time
there were millions of them.