Did you ever go away off, when traveling
was the work of months—away off, a thousand miles,
in search of the nearest and dearest kindred—and then,
unexpectedly, on a bright and fragrant May morning, find
those dear ones in the dark depths of an almost impervious
wilderness? ...[H]ow we crossed the creek I never knew....
On January 28, 1798, Baynard Rush Hall was born
in Philadelphia. His father, Dr. John Hall, was staff surgeon
to General George Washington. Hall became an orphan in his
early childhood and little is known about him until his teenage
years, when he became a printer to help finance his education.
In 1820, he attended Union College, and after graduation,
he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary. Soon after
completing his studies at the seminary, Hall accepted a teaching
position at the Indiana Seminary, later to be named Indiana
University, which was just opening in Bloomington,
Bloomington was in its early years of settlement,
with less than a few hundred citizens when Hall arrived. He
was excited about the new position, but unprepared for the
challenge he would face in trying
to educate the woodsmen of this western town.
Although it is not known whether or not Hall
succeeded in his plans to educate the people of Bloomington,
he did teach at the college for more than ten years, until
1831. That year, a quarrel with Dr. Andrew Wylie, the seminary's
president, caused Hall to leave Bloomington and head back
to Pennsylvania. There he founded an academy in Bedford, and
he preached and educated students for several years, traveling
to several cities, until his death on January 25, 1863.
in Bloomington led him to write a fictional memoir, The
New Purchase; or, Seven and a Half Years in the Far West
(1843), under the pen name Robert Carlton.
The memoir describes his journey from Pennsylvania to Indiana,
with several references to the land, rivers, trees, animals,
and dangers he and his family faced on along the way. The
memoir gives readers a glimpse of how unprepared Hall was
for the journey and the condition of his final destination,
and how uncivilized Hall found the inhabitants of Indiana.
During the time of Hall's travels to Indiana
in the 1820s, the land was covered with dense forests
filled with wild animals, swamps
packed with bugs, and peat
bogs, which settlers often mistook for quicksand. There
were also very few settlements. At the time, Bloomington was
part of The New Purchase, a land agreement made by the United
States Government in 1818 with several Indian tribes, including
the Wea, Delaware, Kickpoo, Pottawattomie, and the Miami.
The purchase contained eight million acres of land
east and south of the Wabash River, creating thirty-seven
The memoir shows the excitement and happiness
Hall felt when he first accepted the position at Bloomington
and began the journey to get there. He anticipates the forests,
Reader! all is ready! Oh! how soft the blossom scented
balmy air is breathing! See! the sun light dancing from
one sparkling ripple to another! A most delicious April
morning is inviting us with the blandest smiles to come
and float in the beauteous river far, far away to the boundless
prairies and the endless forests of the New World! Yes!
Yes! here is a vision—and in the midst's [sic] of
fragrance, and flowers, and sunshine's [sic], and with those
we love for comrades, and those we love awaiting us, we
are entering the land, the glorious land of sunsets. (35-36)
At first, the journey is very pleasant and scenic
for Hall, but when the true nature of Indiana becomes clear,
he has very different opinions of the landscape, as well as
some observations of habitat
destruction and deforestation:
...I felt some sort of shiver; especially
as the gloom of the frightful shades increased; and the
deafening clangour of innumerable rude frogs in the mines
and the trees arose; and the whirl and hum and buzz of strange,
savage insects and reptiles, and of winged and unwinged
bugs, began and increased and grew still louder; and vapers
[sic] damp, chilly and foetid ascended and came down; and
the only field in sight was a few years of "clearing"
stuck with trunks of "deadened" trees and great
stumps blackened with the fires. (48)
Although Hall is disappointed with Bloomington
residents and the rough landscape, he is eventually
able to see the beauty of the land and regret its destruction.
He feels deep sympathy for the trees that were being hastily
cut down to make room for farmland
and to mill timber for houses and furniture, among other reasons.
He speaks of destruction throughout many passages of The
New Purchase. One in particular deals with a recent clearing
of land near Hall’s home:
on Wabash River bottoms (photo
by Robert Ridgway)
Far and wide the forest was grandly illuminated and in
returning home I often looked back and saw noble trees at
the pyres, tossing their mighty arms and bowing
their spreading tops for mercy and succour—like
beings spreading forth cries of agony unheard in that fiery
chaos.... I passed that clearing, the arena was yet smoking,
although nothing remained of that part of the primeval forest,
save heaps of ashes and a few blackened upright masses that
for so many creatures had been the living bodies of lately
martyred trees! (199)
Hall contributed greatly to Indiana environmental
history with The New Purchase.
(Read more excerpts.) He opened
a window to the past with his descriptions of the West, known
today as Indiana. The New Purchase gives a glimpse
of what the landscape was like in early settlement times in
Barnhart, John D., Donald F. Carmony,
Opal M. Nichols, and Jack E. Weicker. Indiana: The Hoosier
State. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson, 1960.
Hall, Baynard Rush. The New Purchase,
or Early Years in the Far West. By Robert Carlton,
Esq. 3rd ed. New Albany, IN: Nunemacher, 1855.
Lewis, Dorothy F. The Indiana
Story. Chicago: Wheeler, 1951.
Lockridge, Ross F. The Story of
Indiana. Oklahoma City: Harlow, 1957.
Shumaker, Arthur W. A History
of Indiana Literature. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical
Vanausdall, Jeanette. Pride and
Protest: The Novel in Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana
Historical Society, 1999.
Woodburn, James Albert, ed. The
New Purchase; or, Seven and a Half Years in the Far West,
by Robert Carlton, Esq. By Baynard Rush Hall. Indiana
Centennial ed. Princeton: Princeton U P, 1916.
"Baynard Rush Hall." Archives,
Indiana U Bloomington Libraries. 2002. 7 Nov. 2002. <http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/iuchron/hall.jpg>.
"Indiana Seminary." Indiana
University. Archives, Indiana U Bloomington Libraries. 2002
. 7 Nov. 2002. <http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/iuchron/seminary.jpg>.
Ridgway, Robert. In The Natural
Heritage of Indiana. By Marion T. Jackson, ed. Bloomington:
Indiana UP, 1997. xxi.
To our knowledge, there are no sites dedicated
to Baynard Rush Hall. If you know of any, please notify us