By Virginia Zuck, Times-Union Reporter
More than 100 years ago, William Boggs, 20-year old pioneer from Ohio, homesteaded a Kosciusko county farm that has remained in his family ever since.
It is believed the Boggs farm may be the only one in the county still held by descendants with the same last name as the original settler.
William Boggs lived to be 94. After his death in 1906, the farm on the Devil's Backbone, three and one half miles south of Warsaw, passed to a grandson, Al Boggs.
Al is now 82 and resides at 815 South Detroit street. One of his most treasured possessions is a deed, signed by President Martin Van Buren, certifying sale of a quarter-section (160 acres) to William Boggs through a LaPorte land office in 1837. The price was $1.25 per acre for a total of $200.
According to the account handed down in the Boggs family, William came alone in the early 1830's, looked the area over and settled on a claim in Wayne township some 10 miles south of the Leesburg prairie where kinfolks were located.
This version differs slightly from that in the "Biographical and Historical Record," published in 1887 while William was alive. It has a full page portrait of him, the lower half of his face enhanced by a luxuriant beard. The book gives the fall of 1835 as the date for William's arrival in this county.
Left home at 14
It may be that William explored here earlier. A biography of his younger brother, Andrew Hamilton Boggs, states he left home at 14, made a trip with his brothers from Henry county to LaPorte, worked as a farm hand there for $10 a month to get a stake together, then went to Peru, just a sparsely settled community in those days. Eventually A. Hamilton Boggs returned to Leesburg where he visited a brother-in-law, Joel Long, Sr., before buying his own farm nearby. Brother Lewis settled in Marshall county.
At any rate the LaPorte land office document shows William got title to his quarter section in 1837. By that time he had probably put up a log cabin, started clearing the timber and making other improvements to establish his claim. George Nye, county surveyor, says surveying was not completed until 1836. Settlers didn't feel sure about land titles until section lines were officially drawn.
Old histories state Wayne township was not organized until June 20, 1836. First settlements were made during the summer of 1834 by Peter Warner, William Kelly, John Knowles, Arnold Cain, William C. Graves, James Robinson and James Comstock who all located west of Warsaw. The following year Metcalf Beck, Daniel Webb, Charles Sleeper, John W. Morris, Andrew R. Willis and John Pittenger located here.
William married Lydia Groves and built a substantial home. It was remodeled in 1922, is still being lived in. A Boggs son, James, married Minerva Charles, who lived on an adjoining farm. Al was one of their four children.
Al remembers his grandfather very well. The old gentleman had an Irish wit and dramatic gifts. The children thought he was exaggerating a bit though when he described one terrible winter that killed the stock. When the weather moderated slightly after the coldest spell, William said he went out to a little spring about a quarter mile from the house and found a pile of wild hogs frozen to death.
The story came back to Al's mind one "Cold Saturday" in January, 1918. There had been no rain the previous fall and many wells went dry. Al went to Sickle lake near the Backbone and found it frozen hard. He succeeded in breaking a hole through the ice but fish were so thick he couldn't get a bucket down. He was ready then to believe old time winters may have been as severe as his grandfather claimed.
Al was born in a log cabin on the Treesh family farm and attended Crouse school. For about 20 years he was a railroad engineer for the Pennsylvania on the Crestline-Chicago run. He has seen it double-tracked and elevated in his time.
From 1915 until 1924 Al lived on the family farm. He then moved to Warsaw where he operated a grocery for 17 years in the store now occupied by Main Automotive and Equipment Co., 120 West Main street. For 14 years ending last January he was night clerk at the Hotel Hayes.
There are other keepsakes besides the 1837 deed. Al's daughter, Mildred, is proud of two beautiful pieces, handmade from cherry wood. One is a china closet, the other a chest of drawers, handed down from her grandmother, Minerva.
Al Boggs has two grandchildren, Mrs. Elonwy Olsen, of New Orleans, La., and Robert Neer, who attends the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. There is one great-grandson, Jonathan Olsen.
The old Boggs farm was established when the country was only 61 years old. It has produced food over an amazing span of history.
Warsaw Times-Union Thursday December 6, 1956
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