The area as long as I can remember has been a marsh; sometimes a pond and sometimes thousands of acres under cultivation; there were years when it spent more time being a pond than it did being cultivated land. The Blackwater Marsh comprises approximately 8,000 acres.
"--And God called the dry land Earth;--" "--And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind--" "--And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.--" "--And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind:--" "--And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind--" "--And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind:--" "--And God said, Let us make man in our image,--" "and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.--" "--So God created man in his own image,--" "--And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.--" [Excerpts from Genesis, Chapter 1, Old Testament, Holy Bible; American Bible Society; New York; 1852.]
And so, the order of things as they were to have been on earth were set into motion; with man having been created lastly of all of God's creations. Man was to look after the earth and all living creatures and all things growing upon the face of the earth. But, one day the serpent crawled into Eden; seduced Adam and Eve into eating the fruit of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of right and wrong. Thus commenced the world as we know it today.
Be that as it may, man was still intended to look after the creatures of the world. I mean let's face it, Noah did his share of "looking after". But then as man inhabited different parts of the world things continued to change, because of man. The good and the bad changes were because of man. With some natural changes brought about other than by man. And yet today we are in a constant state of change and so it shall remain in perpituity.
Many, many years after "the really big flood" what we now know as the continental United States of America was settled by persons from other parts of the world. As the settlers kept coming in ever increasing numbers and the western areas of the United States were in the the process of being explored and settled, Congress decided that the system of rectangular surveys should be made of all the unsettled portions of the United States of America. And so began the enormous task of surveying the lands of the United States. Those original surveys survive today and provide the basis for the land descriptions and records of Indiana and Greene County. There are exceptions to the rectangular surveys in Indiana. The Clark Military Grants, Vincennes Donation Land, Upper and Lower Prairie [French] Surveys at Vincennes, a few other scattered Donation Lands, and last, but certainly not the least in importance; the many Indian [Native American] Reserves throughout the State.
One group of surveyors was responsible for surveying portions of what is today Greene County. This group of surveyors really drew the "short straw" as far as the area they were assigned to survey. They were assigned Township 6 North, Range 7 West of the 2nd principal meridian; and boy, did they have their hands full. Daniel Sullivan was the surveyor.
For instance, the description of the "Land on the Interior Sectional lines" were described thusly:
Between Sections 35 & 36 - 2nd rate Hickory land
Between Sections 25 & 36 - Good Bottom Land
Between Sections 26 & 27 - Wet Land [Wet Land? I thought that was a word that had just come into our vocabularies in the recent past. Guess not.]
Between Sections 14 & 15 - Swamp
Between Sections 14 & 11 - Swamp
Between Sections 10 & 11 - Swamp
Between Sections 32 & 29 - Good Prarie
Between Sections 15 & 10 - Marsh
Between Sections 9 & 10 - Marsh
Between Sections 3 & 10 - Marsh
Between Sections 3 & 4 - Marsh [A portion of the Northeast Quarter of Section 3 was at an elevation above the marsh area. And am I glad. That's where I grew up and still call "home".]
Between Sections 8 & 9 - Marshy Wet Lands
Between Sections 4 & 9 - Marshy Wet Lands; well you get the idea, this place was no place for a survey crew to be plying their trade. The general conditions were so bad in Section 1 at the time of the original surveys that the Northeast corner of the section had to be re-surveyd approximately 20 years later.
This entire marshy, swampy, wetland area was drained by a major stream running almost due south through sections 24, 25, and 36. At the south line of section 36 the stream turned west for approximately 1/4 mile and then turned south again and left what we know today as the south line of Stafford Township in Greene County. Oh, I guess I hadn't mentioned that township 6 north, range 7 west is Stafford Township. The marshy, swampy, wetlands located in this congressional township were called the "Blackwater Marsh" by the survey crew. The survey crew also identified the main drainage to the south as "Blackwater Creek"
The survey crew included contour lines of the areas occupied by the Blackwater Marsh that also extended to the north into modern day Stockton Township and to the east into modern day Washington Township. This area is known today as the GOOSEPOND and the BEEHUNTER MARSH.
A part of the Beehunter Marsh was at one time owned by my great-great-great-grandfather. He finally sold the property and moved to Vigo County. But that's another story. The purpose of this feeble attempt at writing is to discuss the GOOSEPOND and some of its history as Blackwater Marsh and later the Goosepond.
Can you imagine farming this area in the mid 19th century? Well the Ogle family did and then they left. Their farming days have been followed by a long succession of farming operations who succeeded for a few years and left. Not including the present farming operation which is yet ongoing.
A tremendous amount of money has been spent over the last 100 plus years in trying to drain the Blackwater Marsh. Yet I stood in the middle of County Road 1200W in January of this year , looked to the south and there was water, or rather ice, as far south as the eye could see. The same was true that same day as I was entering the "Weaver Curve" on S. R. 59. As you came out of the curve and just before you headed west you could look to the southwest and see water/ice as far as the eye could see. Even with all the drainage improvements; underground drains, oversized side ditches, dredging of the Blackwater Creek and its tributaries, and pumping stations, Mother Nature is still on a regular basis saying to us "come on people give it up; let me have back that which is mine. No, you won't give it back to what it once was? Well, then I think I'll just rain so much that you are going to have to replant your crops 4 times this year . And it did. And the replanting was done 4 times. And the owner at that time had the resources to have replanted a fifth time if the "pond" had flooded a fifth time that spring.
Years later a subsequent owner spent $1,000,000.00 on drainage of the Goosepond. The Pond is still winning and shall in all likelihood continue to win.
Let's take a look at what information we have recorded in the history books of days gone by concerning the Blackwater Swamp.
"--Delaware fork of Bogard's creek, in the west part of the township [Stafford Township], was called so for the last tribe of the Deleware Indians that was seen hunting there. That creek empties into the cane drain and passes out into Knox County. The Goosepond is a very large marsh and prairie, covering about five miles of soil with water and geese. We have wild geese here every year by the thousands.--"
"--Carrico marsh was the old man Carrico's stock pasture and range for over twenty-five years. It has been a great place for old pioneer hunters. Mrs. Carrico raised the first crop of corn in this township. Mr. Hugh Massey was a colored man, and he built the first little horse mill and the first cotton gin to pick out cotton seeds for our farmers. Mr. Massey and the old mill have long since passed away.--" [The early History of Greene Co., Ind., By Uncle Jack Baber - 1875.]
"--The appearance of the township in early years was different from what it is at present in many respects. Much of the land is low, with but little natural slope for drainage, and even at this day is too wet for profitable cultivation; but in early years, before the arts of man had been used to convey the surplus water with speed to the streams, large portions of the township, especially in the rainy season of the year, were vast lakes where millions of wild aquatic fowls took bath and gtathered their food. This characteristic of the township endures to the present day, as will be testified by scores of resident and non-resident sportsment who have waded the marshes many a day with wet limbs, empty stomachs, but happy hearts. It is stated that one hunter, about twenty years ago, killed in one season over, 1,000 geese, ducks and brants. In later years, hunters from abroad come in sometimes with modern sporting facilities and slay in a week's time one third as many. At a much earlier day, wild turkeys were very abundant in the drier portions, but sought the treeless marshes very often for food, or to hatch their young. Every old settler can tell interesting tales of turkey hunts. Along the borders of the woods in early morning they congregated, and could be shot from tree tops until the hunter was weary. It is asserted that often they were so remarkably fat that when they struck the ground after being shot dead from the top of high trees, the skin upon their backs would burst open like a ripe pod. Great rolls of yellow, oily fat were often taken from their bodies. When nicely cooked before the old fire-places, they were fit for the gods to eat.--"
"--The old mill on Black Creek was built quite early and ran for many years with many changes in the ownership. The name of the builder could not be learned. A large dam, with an excellent natural mill site, furnished water-power second to no other place in the county. Just above the dam the country was as level as a floor, and over all this, now called the "Goosepond", a head of water was obtained to operate a dozen mills. The entire country above could be kept under water, and was.--"
"--William Harrison was one day hunting in the township when, in passing near the border of the Goosepond, he saw a bear out to one side in the woods, It seemed to be coming toward him, so he concealed himself behind a clump of bushes, and after priming his rifle awaited the approach of bruin. At last the animal came shambling along to within easy rifle shot, when he took careful anim, fired, and stretched it dead on the ground with a bullet through its head. He skinned it, and went to the house and got a team of horses with which it was loaded on the sled with skids with the help of some of the Stafford boys. It weighed when dressed over 400 pounds. Its flesh was eaten by nearly all the neighbors. On another occasion, Josiah Johnson was hunting in the vicinity of the Goosepond, with two dogs, which soon were heard at by out in the woods, barking at something they had treed. Mr. Johnson surmised by their angry and rapid howls that they had encountered an animal of more than usual size and ferocity. He accordingly hurried out to see what they had found. He reached the spot and saw a moderate sized bear in a large oak tree, to which it had climbed after ascending a smaller oak which stood against the large one. The animal stood on a high branch composedly eyeing the raging dogs below. Without deliberating very long, Mr. Johnson brought the bear to the ground with a bullet. It was seized by the dogs, but, after a few spasmodic kicks and gasps, it became motionless.--" [History of Greene and Sullivan Counties, Indiana, 1884. Goodspeed Bros. & Co., Publishers.]
One very interesting by-product of the restoration of the Goosepond might be the finding of "Old Man Mc Carty's" gold. John Mc Carty purchased land in the northeast quarter of section 3, township 6 north, range 7 west at an early date. He apparently was well off for those days and, so I am told, became the financier of many of the persons living in the neighborhood. Arrangements would be made for a loan on one day and the loan would be available, in gold coin, the following day. No one was ever able to find where "Old Man Mc Carty" kept his gold stored.
Years later, after John had died, my great-grandparents returned from their 14,000 acre tract of land in Texas to the norteast quarter of section 3 to find numerous holes where people were trying to find "Old Man Mc Carty's" gold.
John is buried in an unmarked grave on the west side of and adjoining County Road 1200W. My great-grandmother attended his grave until her death in 1921. He is buried at the top of the hill overlooking the Goosepond to the south [See photo above.]; north of present day Black Creek.
The last known attempt to find "Old Man McCarty's" gold was by a couple of neighborhood boys who decided they would take a very large bit and auger and drill into John's grave. They did; the bit and auger finally penetrated the actual grave and fell through the existing void. The boys were so scared they took off running to the log cabin that was situated a few hundred feet north of the grave site never to return. They were sure "Old Man McCarty's" gold was buried with him. I doubt that it was. So it's possible that dredging of the Goosepond will unearth "Old Man Mc Carty's" gold. [I personally doubt it; but it is somewhat of an intersting bit of local folklore.] I would suspect that the gold has gone the same way as the steel fence posts and six strands of barb wire that used to be on either side of County Road 1200W; the Goosepond muck has buried them over the years; unless they were dug up several years ago when the ditching was done along County Road 1200W. The last time I recall seeing the fences only the top strand of barb wire was showing. In case you don't know or have forgotten the fences were originally built to confine the Texas Long Horn and other breeds of cattle that were shipped in from Texas and Mississippi; along with a few rattlesnakes.
And so goes the Goosepond; a not too glorious past from the farming standpoint, but you do have to admire the people who had the courage to try. A really interesting past from the standpoint of its original intended purpose; being the Blackwater Marsh.
One other interesting item; the man made lake just south of the Lyons Road and east of County Road 1200W was constructed for the purpose of providing water for the cattle in the several thousand acres of land east, south, and west of the lake site. The water was transported through an underground piping system that went to watering troughs scattered through the Goosepond. I believe the troughs are now gone; but anyone seeing them would probably have thought they were the bottom 2 or 3 feet of former silos; not so, they were watering troughs.
Well, what else can I say; "Once a marsh, always a marsh". Or, as a State Senator recently commented to me; "--that's what the area was intended to be--".
24 September 2000