by Rose McIlveen March 8 1988
Despite the august presence of the Indiana Seminary in Bloomington in the 1830s the town exhibited some of the rough characteristics of the frontier.
One of the earliest cases on the court docket here was typical of the many slander and “affray” disputes. Seth Goodwin had been charged in 1818 with assault on Jacob Lebo. When the circuit judge, “The Honorable General Washington Johnston” got around to hearing the case he fined Lebo $9.50 and Goodwin 5 ¼ cents.
Goodwin, who came to Indiana from Pennsylvania “when Indians were as thick as wild turkey” had prospered at some stage of his life. According to the 1856 Atlas of Monroe County, he had purchased half of a section and a quarter of another in Van Buren Township. In fact, he was listed in the Histories of Morgan, Monroe, and Brown Counties, Indiana as being the second highest taxpayer in the township.
In 1836 Goodwin got wind of some disturbing gossip, which he traced to Solomon Wooden. Settlers in Salt Creek area were saying that Goodwin had abused his wife before her death.
Instead of shrugging his shoulders, Goodwin ran an ad in the Bloomington Post. It said, “Take Notice, I am sorry to begin with the fragments of the world (whatever that means). I would inform the public that Solomon Wooden reported that I should have abused my wife before her death. I found the report on Salt Creek and traced it back to Solomon Wooden and he refused to give his author. I now inform the public that Solomon Wooden and his author is a LIAR and I can make it appear by many. I would wish Solomon Wooden to bring suit against me and then we will know the certainty.”
Well, barely had the ink dried on Goodwin’s salvo, when the subject replied via another Post ad, “Seth Goodwin. This man published me a liar in the Post and in reply I have only to say that I can prove by many respectable and honorable men and women that this self same Seth goodwin did abuse and ill treat on of his former wives, from her own assertions, and I now pronounce this self same Seth Goodwin a LIAR, a paltroon, and a scoundrel, and I dare him to sue me or to seek any kind of satisfaction of me.”
In the midst of all of this bridge-burning rhetoric, one would expect to find a news time in the Post that described an “affray” between the two. Not so.
By way of background, Goodwin had at least two marriages that were performed in Monroe County – to Delilah Rickets in January 1836, and to Nancy Morgan, who wed him in August 1841. Presumably the “abused” wife preceded Delilah.
The Goodwin/Wooden paper war lasted from December 1836 until March 1837. Considering the price of advertising, it was a costly argument. On March 3, 1837, in a fit of good humor, Post editor/publisher Marcus Deal printed the name-calling ads side-by-side.
Once the argument had really warmed up, Goodwin’s ad was bigger and showier than Wooden’s. Goodwin said, in part, “SOLOMON WOODEN AGAIN!!!! I am going to give a detail of Solomon Wooden’s character. I have known Solomon Wooden – he was called a cruel liar in Kentucky, and since he came to this state he is called Broad Horns, the reason he tells such broad lies so extensive…I would have brought suit against you, but ‘sue a beggar and catch a louse.”
Was there any real substance to the name calling? Who knows? Unless some descendant of either of those hard-headed men supplies the information, we will never know. In any case, Goodwin, the ore affluent of the two, had the last word in the March 17, 1837, edition of the Post.