The East Fork of the White River widens as it winds through the rolling countryside of Martin County rippling over a shelf of flat stone as it continues downstream. There’s not much here now, just woodlands crowding the riverbanks and a few fisherman with their rods poised over the sparkling water.
Hindostan Falls was a much livelier place two centuries ago after the founding of Hindostan (named after a British soldier who had served time in India) in 1816, a town with a booming population that reached 1200 by 1820 making it one of the largest settlements in this part of Indiana. Poised on one of the new state’s first stage coach runs connecting New Albany and Vincennes, Hindostan boasted two mills, a hotel, whetstone factory, post office and even a button factory. Ferries made their way between the river’s two banks and houseboats moored on its waters.
Time wasn’t kind to Hindostan and today all that’s left of the thriving community are some square cuts in the flat rocks where one of the mills used to be anchored and stories of spirits haunting Hindostan Falls.
Some towns just fade away, but much of Hindostan disappeared much quicker, many of its townspeople wiped out by a terrible sickness – yellow fever or cholera or even, some say, the plague. Homes where entire families had died were burned to the ground and mass graves, some holding a hundred or so, were dug and then hastily filled up.
“I don’t really believe in ghost tales,” my friend Brandi tells me, “but I remember going to the falls with some friends and none of us had ever been so scared in our lives.”
So what are these restless spirits looking for as they wander the woods near Hindostan Falls? Maybe the silver and gold coins said to have been hoarded by a tax collector who died during the sickness and the money forever lost.
Today, Louisville, Kentucky which in 1810 had a population in size similar to Hindostan, now numbers in the millions. Loogootee, four miles away from the falls and the only official city in Martin County, is no larger than that of Hindostan all those years ago.