How important is a single vote? How important is keeping one’s promise? The answers to those questions can be found in the amazing story of Henry Shoemaker, a Hoosier farmer from
. DeKalb County, Indiana
On the run-up to the recent election, the American public was inundated with TV and newspaper ads touting candidates and stressing the importance of voting. Over the years pundits have cited instances where a handful of votes, or even a single vote, has tipped an election to one side or the other. Though many “single vote” anecdotes have been debunked, I recently learned of one in my own state of
Henry Shoemaker was tired that afternoon in 1842. He’d worked all day on a farm. I expect the last thing he wanted to do was to saddle up his horse and ride twelve miles to the polling place at
. But he’d made a promise and a man’s
word was his bond. Kendallville, Indiana
I can imagine Henry heaving a deep sigh as he hoisted the saddle onto his horse’s back and again as he plopped himself into it and headed down the rutted road toward Kendallville. What motivated Henry to make the long ride
instead of heading home for supper was a promise he’d made months earlier to a man named Madison Marsh, who was running for representative in Indiana’s general assembly. While campaigning, March had stopped at the farm where Henry worked and asked for his vote and Henry had promised to vote for him.
After all his trouble, Henry hit a snag when he finally reached the polling place. The polls were about to close and they were out of tickets containing the names of the candidates for whom Henry wanted to vote. Undaunted, Henry used his pen knife to cut out the names of the candidates he wanted to vote for, including that of Madison Marsh, from several tickets supplied by the election inspector. He wrapped them in a piece of paper and dropped his makeshift ballot into the ballot box, then waited for nearly an hour until the polls closed to make sure his vote counted.
The vote count between Marsh and his competitor was a 97 to 97 tie without Shoemaker’s unconventional ballot. Shoemaker’s vote was allowed, putting Marsh over the top to win a seat in
General Assembly. Before the 17th Amendment, Indiana senators were elected by their
state’s General Assembly. Marsh, who won his seat in the General Assembly
thanks to Shoemaker’s vote, in turn elected Edward Hannegan to be U.S. ’s next U.S.
Senator. Four years later, Hannegan cast the deciding vote to go to war with Indiana . Mexico America’s victory in that war added to the
country all of the southwestern U.S.
states including Texas, California,
and . New Mexico
|Land in green added to U.S. after Mexican-American War|
One could logically extrapolate from the cited anecdote that by going out to the farm fields of his potential constituents, Madison Marsh changed the world. While this kind of “stomp” campaigning is still done today, travel was more challenging during
He greets the woman with courtly grace,
He calls to the fence the farmer at work,
And bores the merchant and bores the clerk;
The blacksmith while his anvil rings, he greets,
And this is the song he sings:
‘Howdy, howdy, howdy do?
How is your wife and how are you?
Ah! It fits my fist as no other can,
The horny hand of a working man.’”
Does this sound familiar? In many regards, campaigning for public office seems to have changed little in the past hundred and thirty some years.
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Ramona K. Cecil is a poet and award-winning author of historical fiction for the Christian market. A proud Hoosier, she often sets her stories in her home state of
Check out her website at www.ramonakcecil.com