Tuesday, January 20, 2015

JANUARY 20, 2015

200 years ago today in Washington County, Indiana Territory, John DePauw entered into a contract with John E. Clark of Shelby County, Kentucky to perform the brickwork, plastering and penciling subcontract for the construction of the Washington County Court House. He filed a $3,000 performance bond to secure his completion of the contract according to the plan filed in the Clerk’s office.  The brick work and the forming of the pillars work for the new seat of justice was to be completed by Clark by October 10, 1815.  Clark was to complete the plastering and penciling “as soon as circumstances will admit”.

 DePauw had been the successful bidder for the court house construction contract awarded by the Washington Circuit Court on August 24, 1814.  DePauw’s bid was in the amount of $2,490.  The specifications for this contract were first set out in my post of July 13, 1814.  These specifications were:
A building 45 feet by 30 feet
Arches not less than 8 feet high
Supported by 14 pillars of stone sunk 3 feet deep in the earth unless founded on solid rock
One story above the arches to be 14 feet high built of brick
4 windows of 24 panes each in the court room
2 windows for the jury rooms of the same size
2 outside doors and 2 inside doors in proportion to the building
A fireplace in each of the jury rooms
Walls to be laid in limestone mortar well pointed and pencilled and to be plastered and whitewashed [“Penciling” is the technique of painting narrow, straight white paint stripes on brick, stone or stucco walls to emphasize and visually straighten the mortar joints or to simulate mortar joints as on marbleized stucco. Most Federal Period and Greek Revival brick houses were “penciled.”]
The cornice to be handsomely made of brick moulded for the purpose
The materials to be of the best kind and also the work to be done in a good workmanlike manner

One can see that the brickwork to be performed by Clark was a major component of the construction.  In addition to laying the brick, Clark also had to make the bricks from the clay soil available in the uplands and river terraces adjoining Royse’s Fork of Blue River. The fact that Clark’s performance bond was greater than the total cost of DePauw’s construction contract highlights the importance of the subcontract he was to perform. John DePauw had faced the obstacle of the limited pool of available masons to do the brick work for Salem’s first substantial building. Those in Washington County with some masonry experience were too busy clearing their newly claimed or titled land patents to give up a year in the construction of the court house.  As reported in the post of January 17, 1815, DePauw was banking his reputation on the character and skill of John E. Clark when he induced him to leave Shelby County, Kentucky to be his prime subcontractor. Clark was successful in performing his contract and DePauw was able to complete the court house in substantial compliance with the original plans.  The Washington County Court House was accepted as complete on May 6, 1816.  Its appearance led to the sobriquet “The Stilted Castle of Justice”. At the end of this post are two different depictions of how Washington County’s first court house may have appeared.

Upon completion of his masonry work, John E. Clark was now established and determined to remain in Salem and Washington County, Indiana.  Clark used his earnings from the court house contract to stake his purchase of at least two quarter sections and a lot in Salem.  Clark’s first land purchase was from Jacob Hattabaugh.  He paid Hattabaugh $40 for lot 169 in Salem. Lot 169 is today part of three residences located on the northwest corner of South Mill and West Small Streets. Clark next bought out a land claim from his patron, John DePauw, on April 2, 1818 for the southeast quarter of Section 29, T2N, R4E.  This 160 acres was located north of Hoggatt Branch and is bordered today by SR 135 on the west and Rose Lane on the north.  Clark also purchased the claim of Allen Hodges for the northeast quarter of Section 32, T2N, R4E, on April 10, 1821.  This tract abutted the first tract on the south and today includes the site of the Lake Salinda dam and water treatment plant.

John Ellis and Catherine Hardman Clark through his masonry skills and her inheritance owned several hundred acres in the following years.  Their success fostered affectation.  They changed the spelling of their name to “Clarke”. Risky investment in the Salem and New Albany plank road and milling interests resulted in financial setbacks which precipitated the sale of much of their land holdings. Catherine Hardman Clarke died on July 10, 1849 of cholera.  John Ellis Clarke died on March 1, 1853 at the age of 1967. They were members of the Blue River Christian Church where he was an elder and were buried in the church cemetery on Blue River Church Road.  Their children married into the Morris, Cooper, and Berkey families. Descendants of John E. Clark/Clarke include George Clarke Shanks who owned Shanks Abstract and Title Co.; Hoyt Clarke Hottel who was a professor of chemical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and local attorneys, William L. Thompson and Trent Thompson.

                                                              BY M.M JAMES  1976

                                                               BY JOHN SIMPSON

                                                           HOYT CLARKE HOTTEL
                                             PROFESSOR OF CHEMICAL ENGINEERING
                                      MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
                                                    GREAT GREAT GRANDSON OF
                                    JOHN ELLIS AND CATHERINE HARDMAN CLARKE


  1. John McPheeters is my 3rd great grandfather. One of his great grandsons was Samuel "Big Sam" Thompson who is a member of Baseball's Hall of Fame. Sam is ranked among the top 50 MLB players. He was a Deputy US Marshal after baseball.