From Kook Science
1895 newspaper ill.
|The Hermit of Irvington
Jehu Parsons was an American hermit who was the subject of local press attention in Indiana during the 1890s for his eccentric lifestyle and his obsessive construction of an intricate perpetual motion machine.
- "AN IRVINGTON HERMIT. How Jehu Parsons Lives East of the Suburb.", Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana): 6, 4 May 1895, https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=INN18950504-01.1.6&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------
Irvington has a genuine hermit in the person of Jehu Parsons, who for several years has occupied a shanty on the commons east of town. His domicile, consisting of one apartment about as big as a box stall, is a composite structure of railroad ties, rails and old boards, hermetically sealed with clay, with a small aperture near the top for the smoke to escape. He heats it, wigwam fashion, by building his fire on the earthen floor. In the winter time he hibernates and in the summer time he cultivates a small piece of ground, which constitutes his side yard. Parsons is addicted to tobacco and philosophy, and is quite happy, barring the continual suspicion that his Irvington neighbors are waiting for a chance to break into his house and rob him.
- "THE IRVINGTON HERMIT. Something About "Old Parsons" and His Perpetual Motion Machine.", Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana), 17 Oct. 1895, https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=INN18951017-01.1.6&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-%22perpetual+motion%22+hermit------
- "THE PASSING OF PARSONS. DISAPPEARANCE OF A QUEER IRVINGTON CHARACTER. Lived as a Hermit with a Perpetual Motion Machine — Was a Fiddler and Friend of College Boys — The Story of His Life", Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana): 16, 6 June 1898, https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=INN18980606-01.1.12&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------
Jehu Parsons, the old, gray-headed hermit of Irvington. has taken his departure from his hut at the edge of the college campus, to seek new fields in which further to pursue his studies on perpetual motion, which has bothered his brain for the last twenty years. On the site of the hermit’s former home, in a little hillside, nothing remains to tell the tale of the eccentric character and his perpetual motion machine save a few rusty bolts and wheels, which the queer old hermit, in the haste of departure, left behind him.
Jehu Parsons was once a well-to-do man, living in peace and contentment with his family, which consisted of a wife and a son. He settled in Irvington nearly twenty years ago, then living in the large mansion in southwest Irvington, afterward occupied by President Everst, of Butler College. The house still stands as a reminder of the Irvington boom of 1873. Parsons then removed to to a house at Washington street and Downey avenue, where he lived for a number of years. Family troubles arose in the Parsons home, and his wife left him and returned to her people in Richmond, where she now lives. A son of the hermit is a prosperous man in Anderson. Parsons's relatives have offered the old hermit a home many times, but he preferred to live in a dug-out and work on his perpetual motion machine.
The perpetual motion machine was of intricate construction. Wheels, bolts, weights and levers had been fitted together by Parsons in his assiduous efforts to make the machine run, but it would not “go,” and the hermit’s head grew whiter year by year as he worked on his vain conception. The village blacksmith at Irvington tendered the use of his forge, and for days at a time Parsons blew the bellows and pounded the anvil, but his perpetual-motion machine never would run without stopping.
“I can get her to go just five-sixths of the way round,” Parsons would say, “but I have been working on that other sixth for fifteen years.”
Parsons as a Fiddler.
Few persons knew where the old hermit came from. Few know where he has gone. Fiddle in hand, he was accustomed to roam the Irvington avenues at will, romping with the children, stopping to debate with a college professor and occasionally picking up a few cents here and there by his wonderful facility for playing the “Arkansas Traveler,” both “for'ard and back'ards.” The students of the college were his closest friends, and it was to them only that he confided the secrets of his perpetual-motion machine, which stood half-concealed within his den in the hillside. Class conspiracies have been conceived and planned on dark and rainy nights in the hermit's hut, with Parsons, axe in hand, as guardian on the outside, and it was woe to him who attempted to enter the narrow limits of the hermit’s abode without first giving the password. An evidence of the close bond of friendship between the hermit and the college boys could often noted as Parsons sauntered down through the college campus, clad in striped blazer and patent-leather gaiters.
In the winter Parsons kept from freezing by building a fire on a stone hearth in his hut. The smoke curled around the walls of the hermit's dwelling and then out at the top of the hut, smoking and "curing" the hermit as it went. Parsons’s presence in church or street could always be told by the smell of smoke.
A short time ago Parsons, who lived near the C., H. & D. railroad, found some cast-off car trucks, and with them constructed a hand-car, on which he used to make journeys to Indianapolis and out into the country. One night he forgot to take his hand-car off the track and the midnight limited express train smashed into it. The railroad company instructed section employees to look out for a second hand-car, and it was not many days until Parsons passed the section gang at a rapid speed, his gray hair flying in the breeze, on another hand-car of his own construction. Hand-cars were thereupon declared contraband of war and on the same evening Parsons’s hand-car was confiscated by railroad employees. Complaint was then made by the railroad company to the owner of the ground on which Parsons had built his hut. The owner immediately sought Parsons and offered him 60 cents if he would allow the hut to be burned down.
Parsons went home without replying to the offer. The next day, however, he appeared at the neighbor's door and agreed to take the offer if the purchaser of his dwelling would permit him to remove two articles — his perpetual-motion machine and his fiddle. The sixty cents was paid and the old hermit laughed in glee as the smoke curled up from his board hut in the hillside. Parsons then hailed a passing wagon and, without a word of farewell, rode toward the north.
In a few days he returned and, selecting a site on the banks of Pleasant run, began to make excavations for another dwelling. Irvington citizens told Parsons he must either go to his relatives or to the poor-farm. Parsons remonstrated, but finally gave up his work of establishing a new home and went away toward the north. A man with a spring wagon drove into Irvington a day or two after Parsons’s disappearance and removed the perpetual-motion machine, saying Parsons had built a hut in the woods near Broad Ripple.
- "JEHU PARSONS, THE HERMIT. He Occupied a Lonely Cabin at Richmond for Many Years.", Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana), 7 June 1898, https://newspapers.library.in.gov/?a=d&d=INN18980607-01.1.7&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------
- "HERMIT IN POLICE COURT. Jehu Parsons, Formerly of Irvington, Says He was Robbed.", Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana): 7, 5 Oct. 1898, https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=INN18981005-01.1.7&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------
- "Irvington Hermit May Travel.", Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana): 7, 22 April 1899, https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=INN18990428-01.1.7&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------
Jehu Parsons, formerly known as "the hermit of Irvington,” made early morning calls in the city to-day. Parsons explained, by way of apology for the hour of his call, that he had been kept up late in town "fiddlin’ in a barber shop" and had not taken the trouble to make a journey to his little bark hut on the banks of White River, near Broad Ripple. Parsons is thinking of going on the road with his violin, which he "made all by himself when he hadn't nothin' else to do." The violin itself is a wonder, yet one can easily believe Parson's story when he gets a sight of the instrument.
- "Old Fiddlers' Contest", Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana): 8, 16 Oct. 1899, https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=INN18991016-01.1.8&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------
Jehu Parsons, of Broad Ripple, but best known as the “lone hermit of Irvington,” where he lived for many years, carried off the honors at the old fiddlers’ contest, given by the Travelers' Protective Association, in Tomlinson Hall, Saturday night. He was the oldest fiddler present, and also played “Leather Breeches” in the style most approved by the Judges. Parsons lived for years in a dugout in Irvington, where he labored in vain in an-attempt to Invent a perpetual motion machine, odd moments he made a violin, and amused himself and the Butler College boys by playing on it of evenings. He left Irvington mysteriously about a year ago, and some time later was discovered in Broad Ripple. He is seventy-seven years old.