Kosciusko County

How it was Named & Why

Written for the Indianian
by John B. Chapman

In compliance with your request, I give you a brief sketch relative to the naming of Kosciusko county and of Warsaw, the county seat. It will be recollected that, in the year 1832, the United States, at a treaty held on the Tippecanoe river, immediately below the Michgan road, purchased from the Pottawatomie Indians a large tract of wild, uncultivated land, of the best quality in the State of Indiana. The territory was of sufficient extent to form, when divided up into counties, twelve or fifteen of the usual size of municipal district, and contained over one million two hundred thousand acres, with not a white settler on it. The tract extended from the east to the west lines of the state.

The reader may be able to imagine, but I am unable to describe, the commotion among all classes of citizens when Congress ratified the treaty and passed the preemption law, that each settler or inhabitant, at such a time, with a house twelve feet square at least, with many other conditions, all of which were easily overcome by an affidavit, should be entitled to a section of land. An opening to all classes to fame and wealth; the poor man to his thousand-dollar preemption; the politician to fame through the process of having some one of the numerous counties to be organized named for his remembrance.

In the winter of 1832, by a joint session of the Legislature of Indiana; I was elected prosecuting attorney for all the state north of Lafayette, and in 1933 I bought an improved claim on Turkey Creek prairie, a well-known part of this famous Pottawatomie purchase, and which ultimately, by virtue of my residence there, became incorporated in the renowned and ever-memorable name of Kosciusko county. The recital of personal affairs of the writer may appear egotistical and superflous to the reader, but where there is a mystery in the result of a fact, the reader is generally desirous to know the modus operandi and inducement of result, and as there can be no physical action without an actor and something to act upon, there must be a relation between cause and effect, and as we are an inquisitive and curious people, we generally desire the incentive with the event. The object of the writer is to develop the physical, mental and philosophical condition of a community of people as they existed forty years since. The various capacities of this community of forty years past in the county of Kosciusko can only be obtained through the mirage of personal contact or historical record. The writer may be excused for using the first person for convenience, in as much as he was the special actor in the matter on which information is desired.

I have stated that I had, in 1832 been elected by the Legislature prosecuting attorney for the north of Indiana, and in 1833 located on a farm in what is now Kosciusko county. In the course of business matters for this unorganized district, I saw no hope for its progress in the future; in a retrospective view of the kind and caste of the inhabitants, I could not anticipate any enterprise from among them. At the general election of 1834 I resigned my office and was elected to the Legislature. The naming of the county I resided in was awarded to me by general consent, but no human soul ever heard the least intimation what I would name it. As there was no Van Buren county in the state, and all knew I was his special friend, the members had no doubt that that would be the name. The settlers on the Turkey prairie petitioned for the name of "High Plain," and for the bounds to be only eighteen miles square, so as to bring the center to Leesburg, where I resided; but I disregarded both petitions and fixed the bounds as they now are. They asked me what I would do with the strip of three miles between my county and Wabash; I told them that I left it as a legacy to posterity. I had determined on this locality for Warsaw before I went to the Legislature.

This territory was not yet surveyed, but I mapped the whole territory out by the township next to Elkhart, and by that I had fixed the bounds of the county, and had resolved in my own breast what the names should be. I had resolved to keep it a profound secret or I never could have carried it out. At that time there were about fifty settlers within the bounds; they all resided on the prairie, but they had no right to direct action for future thousands. I intended this to be my home for life, and desired a county of dignity and one that would command respect in elections.

When the call came to fill the bank of this territory, perfect silence prevailed. All eyes turned on me, as there had been many conjectures as to what the name would be. I announced Kosciusko, a general shout of cheering and claipping of hands followed. As soon as the cheering was over, McLaughlin, of Dearborn, moved to change the names of three counties to fill up with the names of Kosciusko compatriots --Steuben, DeKalb and Pulaski. But few people appeared to recollect, or they did not know, any thing about the name of Kosciusko.

When I was a boy in the army of the war with Great Britain, stationed at Norfolk, VA., I heard some old veterans of the revolutionary war speaking of the noble traits of character of Kosciusko. I always thought he had been neglected by the American people as a patriot of the revolution, as also had Steuben, for whom also I had a county named. Samuel Hanna, the old Indian trader of Fort Wayne, was our Senator. He came down to the House and inquired of me, "Where does that Indian live that you named your county for?" He then said, "I do not recollect hearing of such a chief." I told Hanna that he had emigrated to Poland when he sold out here. Many persons could not pronounce the name, and many amusing incidents occurred and the people declared war against the name. Candidates for office all promised to change the name, but I always defeated them.
Warsaw, Feb. 27, 1877

Northern Indianian, Thursday March 8, 1877

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