Another Word About the Sword

The last post concerned the pirate sword found by John Phips or Phipps. Another previous post which dealt with the sword was one titled “John A. Phipps of Owen Co., Indiana, Discoverer of Pirate Sword.” In addition, the sword is discussed in an article which appeared on the first page of the Columbus Republican on 9 December 1875:

Damascus Heard From.

A most satisfactory proof that this country had a prehistoric greatness was deposited a few days ago with Prof. Cox, for the benefit of the archaeological archives. It is an old sword, very rusty and minus a hilt, but undoubtedly a genuine Damascus blade. It speaks of a dim past, when mastodons, Frenchmen and Spaniards took turn about in depleting red skins and rooting around among fields and forest for the necessities of life. In Owen county there has been a tradition from time immmemorial in the neighborhood of Freedom about a mysteriously wonderful sword supposed to be hidden in the trunk of an aged oak. The story went that the legend was most firmly believed in by the Indians, whose superstitions had been worked on by some strolling band of Spaniards and who diligently interviewed all the oaks in a circuit of ten miles, hoping that it might turn out that the sword, when discovered, would either be found to possess remarkable properties, or else to point, like a needle, to some hidden heap of wealth. The oak in question was known to be located on a bluff above White river, and the sword had been dropped into its hollow heart through a knot hole some twenty feet from the ground. For many years the search was kept up, and the tradition passed down from father to son, but never had the slightest trace of the relic been seen. In July last, however, John A. Phipps had revealed to his inner consciousness, while he was ploughing a field in that immediate neighborhood, that it would be the thing for him to investigate the recesses of an old oak which had deposited its trunk in the ground and allowed it to go to inglorious riot [Error for “rot”]. He did so. Tearing away the decayed bark and reaching the core of the tree, imagine his surprise to find the sword of antiquity which had worried the denizens of that district for many generations. The sword bears the date of 1640, and as much of the inscription as can be deciphered, reads as follows: “No-Me-Salves-ason” – the first letters of the last word being erased beyond redemption, even by a steam doctor. Various attempts have been made to solve the riddle, but the most plausible one suggests a reading, Notice me, salves sine, which, being translated, means, “Know me (that is trust me) and you are safe without” – something to be imagined. Mr. Phipps, who did not happen to own the land on which he was ploughing, outraged all rules of archaeological propriety, by grinding up the venerable sword into a corn cutter, till he was prevailed upon by Prof. Corbett to make a donation of it to the State’s collection of relics.

Essentially the same article, with the same title, appeared in the Indiana State Sentinel in Indianapolis on 8 December 1875, p. 7. There, the word “riot,” found above in connection with the tree, is rendered “rot” instead, which makes far more sense. The inscription is there rendered as “No-Me-Salves-Sin-ason,” but with, again, no explanation as to what a “steam doctor” would be. In both articles, no explanation is given as to why mastodons would be roaming in the 16th century, or why the 16th century would be considered “prehistoric,” or who Professors Cox and Corbett were.

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