As a digital assets assistant for the McGrady-Brockman House, I've run across John Small’s name many times in Knox County’s early court records. John was a man of many talents and played a large role in early Vincennes. According to a book entitled “John Small of Vincennes,” by Jim Dresslar and Jeff Jaeger, Small was born in Ireland in 1759 and may have arrived in the Vincennes area between 1780 and 1785. He was a sheriff of the Northwest Territory, was licensed for a ferry, was a surveyor, and ran a tavern that was used as the courthouse, was a gunsmith and silversmith by trade. One of his famous Kentucky style rifles is located at Grouseland.
One file that is in the archives at the McGrady-Brockman House involving John Small is the one titled Andrew Brooks vs. John Small. The file contains numerous documents related to the suit Brooks brought against Small in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas in August of 1813 in a plea of covenant broken. The document that I found the most interesting was the indenture contract that James Brooks signed indenturing his son, Andrew Brooks, as an apprentice to John Small on Sept. 20, 1804. The term of the contract put Andrew under service with Small for eight and one half years. Andrew was to learn the art and mystery of the gunsmith trade as a result of his indenture with Small.
During his servitude, Andrew was to truly and faithfully serve, obey and keep his secrets. He would do no damages to his master, not waste his master’s goods nor lend them unlawfully. He would not buy or sell his own goods nor goods of others without his master’s consent. He would not absent himself day nor night and in all things behave himself as a true and faithful apprentice ought to do during the term. He would not commit fornication, nor contract matrimony within the term of contract. He would not play at any unlawful games.
The master, Small, would use the utmost of his endeavors to teach or cause to be taught to Brooks the art and mystery of the gunsmith’s trade and to provide for him meat, drink, washing, lodging and wearing apparel and to educate him as far as the five common rules. At the end of the apprenticeship, Small would provide Brooks with two vises, one hand and one stock vice, a dozen files, three hammers, three pair of smith tongs and one good suit of freedom clothes compleat (complete).
By August of 1813, William Prince, the attorney for Andrew Brooks, filed suit against Small in the Court of Common Pleas for a convent broken of the indenture. According to the complaint, Brooks said that he did serve John Small as a good and faithful apprentice during the eight and one half years. He further stated that Small had not taught nor instructed him to be educated as far as the five common rules in arithmetic which he ought to have done, therefore, Small broke the covenant and Brooks was suing for damages of $500. The suit lasted until the June Term of 1816.
The jury found for Brooks and he became a gunsmith at Fort Harrison north of Terre Haute.