Thursday, March 24, 2016

George Settles -- Sort of

George Fawkner's adventures were only just beginning. Back home in Hendricks County after the Civil War, George and his brother Cyrus went into the harness-making business. Between November 1865 and January 1866, the IRS assessment lists included C.W. and G. S. Fawkner in a harness manufacturing business in Danville.

In February 1866, George married his former school-mate Mary C. Burks. The wedding was at her father’s home near Danville. By 1870, George and Mary, with daughters Jennie, 3, and Ferris, 1, were in Tuscola, the county seat of Douglas County, Illinois. Both daughters were born in Illinois, so George and Mary presumably made the move 80 miles west soon after their marriage.

Here is where the fun starts. The 1870 U.S. Census stated that George's occupation was "Depty Shff" -- deputy sheriff. I have no idea what his qualifications were. By 1874, George was back in Indianapolis, where the city directory listed him in the coal business. But, law enforcement must have still called him. In January 1875, the Indianapolis News reported that he was collecting bills for the sheriff's office.

All may have been well and good, but by June things turned sour. On 17 June 1875, the Indianapolis Sentinel reported: "The demolition of a house occupied by George Fawkner, on Massachusetts Avenue, yesterday, gave rise to one of the liveliest free fights, or rather series of them, that has enlivened that vicinity for a long time." When George returned home that evening, he found the house being torn down.

He ordered them to desist and encouraged them to come down by propelling brick bats at them. Just as Fawkner heaved a well burnt bat at an Ethiopian on the roof, which missed him by a hairs breadth, Shover [owner of the house] replied with another piece of clay and being the better marksman, struck Fawkner on the shoulder. The latter got his innings, however, when he wrested the second missile out of Shover's hand, and worked it with good effect on his enemy's head.

The next day, the Indianapolis News identified George as "one of the Sheriff's baliffs." He had been arrested for the brickbat incident and now, at the courthouse no less, "severely assaulted" the contractor.  Mused the News, "it is well to inquire of the Sheriff if private citizens cannot transact business in his office without danger of attack from bailiffs whose duty it is to preserve the peace, not to break it in this outrageous fashion. If these are the sort of men to act as officers people ought to know it."

This may partly explain why George was soon off to Saint Paul, Minnesota, where in 1880 he was a merchant "taking coal."

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