The Boneyard

"Ken McCutchan is a life-long resident of Vanderburgh County, Indiana, descended from pioneer families that entered the area in the early 1800s. He is veteran of WWII, having served with Army Corps of Engineers in both North Africa and Europe. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Composition and Modern Language from the University of Evansville, a certificate in French Language and Culture from the Sorbonne in Paris, and an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from the University of Southern Indiana. His other books include: The Adventures of Isaac Knight, From then Til Now, Saundersville, An English Settlement, At The Bend in the River, and Dearest Lizzie. Mr. McCutchan's books may be purchased at Willard Library in Evansville, IN.
President Polk Sleeps Past Evansville    - History

by Kenneth McCutchan

The great Ohio River has long served as a sort of interstate highway leading from the east into the heartland of America.

Early settlers floated downstream to find new homes in the wilderness.

After the advent of the steamboat, it was the main artery of travel for all sorts of people going both down and up the river.

There were businessmen, gamblers, ruffians, rowdies - the refined, the famous and the illiterate.

One story is told of an individual who went to bed with his muddy boots son.

When the steward saw this, he woke the man and said to him politely, "Sir, you have lain down with your boots on."

The Traveler calmly raised his head and, looking down at his boots, said, "Oh it won't hurt 'em. They're not my best pair."

Sometimes world-famous people passed by Evansville on the steamers: Marquis de Lafayette, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Henry Clay, and several presidents of the United States.

In 1845, word came that James K. Polk would be traveling aboard the steamer China on his way to Washington for his inauguration. He was expected to arrive at Evansville on Sunday Feb. 2.

Early on the morning of that day a great crowd of citizens dressed in their Sunday best began to gather at the riverfront hoping to get a glance of the famous gentleman.

People came into town from all around. A delegation fron Vincennes, Indiana, had arrived the day before on the stagecoach.

Flags were out, and a cannon was set up loaded, and ready to fire a salute when the boat arrived.

All day long they waited and watched, but the China did not come churning around the bend until almost dark.

When she was tied up at the wharf, there was great excitement, but no signs of the president.

After a lot of cheering and just milling around, the crowd was finally informed the great man was asleep in his cabin.

Although, they begged the captain to wake him, the captain refused.

So the people had to finally had to turn toward home greatly disappointed.

A few days later The Evansville Journal received a letter to the editor from the Vincennes Gazette:

"We are extremely anxious to know whether the persons who left this place for Evansville, expecting to meet the president-elect there, had their wishes gratified. Do tell us, somebody."

The Evansville Journal replied:

"They did not. The gentleman from Duck River was in a mesmeric sleep during the whole trip from Nashville to Louisville, and his loving friends from Vincennes had no opportunity of boring him before reaching the falls. They were after him, though, like a thousand bricks."

One must wonder - if this was true - what kept the president in such a "mesmeric" sleep all the way from Nashville to Louisville. That's quite a long trip.

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