A woman got pushed into a well

My son, Ethan, and I were picking blackberries the other day, and as we continued our conversation amidst the canes laden with berries and thorns, several stories came to mind.
Of course, my first thought was of bears and their love of blackberries; however, their numbers are so depleted that they are not generally seen by the public. Several birds chortled at us, but with the idea that there was enough for all, we continued until we had a gallon pail full.
In the earlier days, families would go berry picking together and would lay planks over the top of the canes and send the younger kids on top to harvest those in the center.
Our berry-picking exploits also reminded me of a story I had read of two women who got into an argument over a blackberry patch. It ended when one of them pushed the other into an open well.
From what I remembered, a local justice of the peace held court fined the woman who did the pushing and then paid the fine for her.
Years passed before a chance conversation with the late Vontella McEndollar resulted in her sending me a copy of John Hamilton’s history of Loogootee. His grandmother, Nancy, was the “pusher” in the blackberry story.
John Hamilton was a son of John B. Hamilton and Martha Pippin, who were born and reared in the Loogootee neighborhood. In the five pages of history, the writer recorded several stories that took place in Loogootee, a bustling village on the old Indian trail from Vincennes, Ind., one of which was the “blackberry patch story.”
He wrote, “The author’s grandmother, Mrs. Hamilton, caused quite a commotion in the village one day. She and a neighboring lady got into a fight over a blackberry patch and it climaxed in Mrs. Hamilton pushing the offending neighbor into an open well.
“Fortunately, the well had only about 3 feet of water in it. The news flew rapidly and quite a bunch gathered and brought the lady to the surface.
“Mrs. Hamilton was arrested and brought before the justice of the peace, Mr. Fulton, who fined Mrs. Hamilton $14 and costs. As Mrs. Hamilton had no money, the justice loaned her the money to pay the fine.”
Nancy Greenwood Buntin was born on March 18, 1822 in Halifax County, Virginia, as recorded in the family Bible. She and John Gimmerson Hamilton, who was born in 1818 in Stark County, Ohio, were married in Ohio on May 20, 1838.
A story told in the family is that the two met on the Ohio River, married and moved to Kentucky, where they made their first home and where the six of their eight children would be born: Sarah E., William, John B., Alexander, Martha J. and Andrew Hamilton.
The family moved to Fayette County in about 1855 and two more children were added to the family: Mary Frances and George W. Hamilton.
Recruiters for the Civil War came through the Loogootee neighborhood and son William begged his parents to allow him to sign up. Nancy was against it, but her husband said that both of their grandfathers had fought in the Revolution, and to allay her fears, he, too, would sign up in the same unit as their son, Co. F, 40th Illinois Infantry.
Nancy must have been well thought of in her community. When it was learned that William had been picked up from the Shiloh battlefield by his father and another man and sent to Jefferson Barracks to recuperate, her first thought was to go to him.
She offered to sell her cow to Mr. Mahon, a neighbor, for $15, but he would not take the cow and loaned her the money for the train fare to St. Louis. She obtained a furlough for William and he recuperated at home.
When William returned to his unit, it was to find that her husband, John, had been injured in an explosion and received a grievous injury to his left arm. John came home from service broken down in health. He began receiving a pension for his service in November 1881.
Both John and Nancy made their home in their later years with their son, Andrew, who lived south of Brownstown. Nancy died on Aug. 20, 1900, and is buried with husband John and five of her children in Harris Cemetery, also known as Hamilton Cemetery, near the village of Loogootee.
Thanks to John Hamilton, we know that his grandmother was an extraordinary woman. She was feisty, strong, a good mother and a fairly good neighbor. Her life from 1855-1900 was spent in the vicinity of Loogootee and she was a part of its history, whether she knew it or not.

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