From Gorin’s “Times of Long Ago” –
Pioneers had their amusements as well as hardships, and if we compared their happiness with that of the present generation perhaps we would find them as cheerful and happy, if not more so, notwithstanding their deprivation of almost all things we consider absolutely necessary for our comfort and pleasure.
Shows contributed greatly to the amusement of the pioneers. The first in town (Glasgow) were at an early date, when there were but few people to see them. The first was “Punch, Judy, and the Devil.” It was upstairs in the house belonging to James Depp, on the corner of Main and Race Streets. He suspended a quilt between two corners of the upstairs, and the puppet show was carried out above the top of the quilt.
The second was the elephant exhibited in a frame house then being built by John Matthews, Jr., on Green Street opposite the Court House. It drew nearly the whole county, as many had never seen an elephant.
The third was a circus composed of one horse, a bay pony, gaily caparisoned, and a single performer, who exhibited on the west corner of the Square on which stands Urania College.
The fourth was a guinea pig, exhibited from house to house, and on the streets and by-ways. As for those shows, they afforded as much pleasure to the primitive settlers as the menageries, circuses, and theatres of this day do to the present race of sightseers.
We must not omit a fifth show we had. It was an exhibition long after those mentioned above. The schemer, Samuel Fowler, a well digger and a wagoner, who plied his wagon and team for several years between this place and Louisville. He was an eccentric man, very industrious, and fond of his jokes and fun.
He built a brick house on the corner of Front and Main Cross Streets (Main Cross being Broadway). After building it, being somewhat pressed for money, and being of the opinion we should keep up the good old habits of the pioneers to aid and assist one another, he gave it out that he had learned to fly in the air with wings he had invented. Soon after he advertised that on such an evening and hour, he would commence his flying journey from an upper window in the end of his house on Front Street. The wonder was to be seen for 25 cents paid by each person in advance, as he could not collect it after his return. At an early hour a large crowd of citizens of town and country collected in the streets, and eagerly crowded the door to procure their ticket.
At length all had received their tickets and anxiously awaited the great exhibition. The sash was raised, every breath was held in great anticipation, “when true to his charge” the herald came flying out of the window head foremost; but lo! and behold before he had crossed the street his wings failed and he landed in the street at full length. A piercing shriek was heard and all thought good old Sam Fowler was gone. The crowd rushed to his aid, and picked up, to their amazement, a stuffed manikin. By this time Sam Fowler was on the public square entertaining the few who had not been gulled by his wonderful voyage through the air.
And thus ends Gorin’s tale of the illustrious Sam Fowler. And I will leave you on this sad note, left to us by Cyrus Edwards, in his “Stories of the Early Days.”
“As an old man, (Sam) Fowler lived alone in a house – a crudely built stone building once a storehouse, on one corner across from the carding machine. He took the Cholera and was very ill for two days and nights; the nurses were so busy that none could stay with him – they had to go from house to house to minister to so many in dire need. Mr. Meredith Reynolds, who lived on the opposite corner, and another man went to stay with him but he died before morning. This was one of many pitiful cases.” It has been said that Sam Fowler was buried right there on that corner lot, right outside his door, as so many were in this epidemic.
This Asiatic Cholera epidemic took place during the August Court Session, occurring in late August, early September 1853. Robert Maupin’s Hotel, on the Square, where the Beulah Nunn Park now stands, is where the outbreak started. More on this sad page in Glasgow’s history to follow.