Hardin County

Richard Garvin

H as worked on most buildings.

ROSICLARE, Ill. (Feb. 16, 1939) — Richard Garvin, age 87, last November 20th. is a resident of Rosiclare who has left his mark on most of the buildings in Hardin County and most of the packet boats on the river in the last half century. He is a painter by trade and did commercial and papering for his father at the age of 8. He has painted houses and business places in Cave-in-Rock, Elizabethtown, Rosiclare, in Hardin County and also in Tolu and Caseyville, Kentucky across the river.

He painted packets and excursion boats dry-docked in Paducah and also painted the John B. Hopkins, the boat which the river docked dry on the Hurricane Island for six months, in 1905. Being 87 he has only painted one property in Rosiclare since the first of the year-the home and telephone office of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Johnson. "I don't know anything, I don't want anything but a comfortable place to eat and sleep, and I can take a dollar and pay all I owe and have 85 cents left this minute" he said when interviewed. He had bought 15 cents worth of chewing tobacco and didn't have his purse with him, so had it charged 'til he passed the store again.

Mr. Garvin was born in North Caroline November 20, 1851, but his parents moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana when he was a boy in his early youth, he was busy store boating on the Mississippi River with his father; trading with Negroes who were then slaves.

"They had money" he said of the slaves. "They got their Saturday off, had truck patches of their own, and chickens and bought groceries and goods from us. Lots of them were better off during slavery then they are now," he said. "I saw Jefferson Davis a number of times after the civil War" Mr. Garvin said. "Davis weighed about 165 pounds, always dressed in gray and had one artificial eye." Garvin had been too young to fight in the war.

Whe Mr. Graven was thirty-two, he saw the famous race of the two river boats, the Robert E. Lee and the Natchez, which race was won by the Robert E. Lee. He said the Robert E. Lee was a new boat, and they sawed every other timber on her so the timber would give with the water to win the race.

Mr. Garvin was married in Tennessee, and came to Kentucky on the other side of the river from Rosiclare to visit his wife's relatives. They decided to settle in Rosiclare. That was February 2, 1877. He said mines were shut down when he moved then, but that Howard and Kirk of Pittsburgh were getting rock out of the Woods Quarry, later the Howard quarry, for jetties near New Orleans and shipping this rock.

"There's no one living in town today who was grown when I came" he said. "A new generation and families are grown all over the county since then." Bass Humm, who is ninety and who now lives near Rosiclare on his farm, was running a shoe shop in Rosiclare when Mr. Garvin came to Illinois. Mr. Garvin's wife died soon after he moved to Rosiclare and he was married the second time. His second wife died two years ago. They had nine children. Mr. Garvin now lives with his daughter, Mrs. Georgia Miles.

He first rented a house when he moved to Rosiclare near the house where Mrs. Stella Davis died a few weeks ago. Mr. Garvin's first house was moved during the 1937 flood and the lot is now vacant. He built his present home about a block from the Rosiclare Hospital 40 years ago.

Almost all the houses in Rosiclare were "under the hill" when he moved there, Mr. Garvin remembers. They were three-roomed houses in which the lead miners lived. He thinks there were only about 70 or 80 of these homes.

"A school teacher and preacher named Charles had built the house where Jim Moore lives now. The house where Ed Ferrell now lives was built after another house which was located there burned" Mr. Garvin said. "That was before I came here. They told me a man named Weatherington had lived in a house there, he had been murdered and the house burned to destroy the evidence. Later one of the gang 'Blind Tom,' was caught and hung on the Hurricane Island."

"There was a store when I came here, D. W. Pell's opposite where Ferrell lives now, and Aunt Sally Durkin ran a store on the other side of the street."

"Where the lane turns to Fairview there was a saloon. Captain Kirkham had the habit of tackling men when he got a bit too drunk and he tackled a man named Mooney ordering him to dance. Mooney refused, Kirkham drew his knife, lunged and missed Mooney, tripped and cut the big artery in his own leg and bled to death in a few moments. Mooney couldn't get any witnesses to testify for him and he was sentenced to the pen for killing Kirkham."

"I've seen Rosiclare when there was all kind of work here and again when there was no work at all and a man would study an hour where he could go to earn a quarter" he said.

"The mines were shut down when I came. They had been mining lead and throwing the spar away. Later I saw them mine and sell the spar dumps.

Mr. Garvin remembers when the Mullen Company ran Fairview Mines, now the Aluminum Ore Company. He said "I painted the sign on it "Mineral City, Main Office, Washington D. C."

"There was a seven story building where the Rosiclare mines is now, when I came to Rosiclare, a smelter for lead, etc., in it" he recalls.

When Mrs. Stella Davis was buried in the cemetery beyond the Fairview mines, people who hadn't known the cemetery was there began inquiring about it. Mr. Graven remembers it was an old one when he came to Rosiclare. He said Mr. and Mrs. Oho Davis are buried there and George Conrad's father. He remembers when "Doc" Mullen was buried there. The son had the casket lowered with chains to be moved later. "But it has never been moved," he said.

Rosiclare has been incorporated and there has been a town board before Mr. Graven moved there. "But the board members had all gone away and there was no ruling board then" he said. Billy Fields and Mr. Graven wrote to the Secretary of State and asked how they could incorporate the town again, and were told it had once been incorporated and would always remain that way until legally changed. "So we had an election. I was one of the board elected. I served 12 years. The village board served free, to keep order, etc." he said.

Mr. Garvin said "Many's the time he arose early had breakfast and pulled his skiff up the river to Elizabethtown for a day of painting, and many's the time my feet nearly froze and I had to land on the way, and jump up and down to keep my circulation going."

He painted every house in Tolu, Kentucky. "I knew it when there were only two houses there. Then they started the rumor that a railroad was going to run in there, and a big building boom started and I contracted to paint the houses."

Mr. Garvin hunted and fished in his spare time. He said there used to be plenty of cat fish, buffalo, carp, hackleback, eels, turtles, blue cat and channel cat in the river.

"They could still catch them, if they used the right bait" Mr. Garvin said, "A doughball is the bait for the buffalo fish. Dough boiled in cold water until it makes a ball, a cat fish will bite on anything."

He remembers Baronet Lake in Kentucky opposite Elizabethtown was another good fishing spot.

Hardin County was the place for quail and rabbits. Mr. Garvin is in excellent health and continues to take long walks every day, though he doesn't hunt anymore.

"I haven't done much of anything lately, only painted one house, Johnson's since Christmas." Mr. Garvin said, "I worked regularly, 'til three years ago when they turned me out with the stock to pasture. Because I've got a few gray hairs, the Democrats don't think I should work" he laughed.

Thanks to Wanda H. Reed for contributing this article to the Hardin County ILGenWeb site. The Hardin County Independent first published this article on Feb. 16, 1939.

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