Early Times

by John B. Chapman
"Freedom shrieked when Kosciusko fell."

Although but few members appeared to be familiar with the name and character of this great patriot, I anticipated a strong opposition to the name, and, in all probability, the loss of my re-election the next year; but the gravity and high consideration of respect paid the name by all the members, and the unanimous consent to strike out three names to insert those of his compatriots, convinced me it would be impossible for the citizens of the county to ever change it.

I have already stated my reason for resigning my office and offering my service for the legislature. All the new purchase was attached to the counties north for judicial and legislative purposes, and believing the first direction of public affairs by legislation would be the ground work and standard policy for the future; such as the bounds of counties, their names, fixing county-seats, and the location of roads, internal improvements, the kind of improvements, etc., as the west was rapidly being developed by new settlements, the mode and manner of internal improvement was undergoing vast changes. The first national public highway fixed on by the Congress of the Union was a flat stone pavement called the "National Turnpike." It commenced at Baltimore through the enterprise of Henry Clay, of Kentucky; and so highly was Clay extolled for the project that they erected a monument to his memory. This simple kind of national improvements terminated as a political question in 1827 as States' Rights. After macadamized, then canals, and finally changed to railroads after a long contest of sixty years.

In the treaty of 1826, provision was made for the grant of ten alternate sections of land to the Miami and Wabash canal. Fort Wayne became the center of operation. The donation of so large an amount of land so demoralized the whole people of the State of Indiana that they concluded that they were very rich; that every stream demanded a branch canal. The state had not a dollar to begin with, and had to resort to borrowing in the eastern cities on the credit of the land to make the preliminary survey. They sold the land on a credit; but being wild, thick timber they could not raise funds from the sales to pay the interest on the bonds, and the work stopped in 1839. Those who bought largely of the canal lands, which cost them forty dollars per acre to clear it for the plow, failed. Notwithstanding the suspension of funds, the crazy excitement for new canal routes continued, and every water course as large as the historical and politic Tippecanoe was incorporated in a mammoth internal canal bill. Tippecanoe only escaped the deluge by belonging to the Pottawatomie Indians and it was anticipated as soon as purchased from the Indians to canal it.

When I went to the Legislature in 1834, there was the Wabash from the east line of the state to Evansville on the Ohio river; Whitewater from the junction of the Wabash and Miami river to the Ohio river and the west branch; the White river by Indianapolis to the Ohio river and eastern branch of the same; also the land was surveyed and commenced from Fort Wayne to the head of Elkhart river by Goshen, South Bend to Little or New Buffalo on Lake Michigan. The canals under contract in 1834, if completed, would have cost upwards of $100,000,000; and yet, strange to say, the people were clamoring at the Legislature for more lines to be added, and the only anticipated source of funds was the borrowing of money on the faith of the grant of ten alternate sections to the mile, and not a dollar available. Any man who opposed this reckless system of canal-making had no place in legislation.

I had examined the whole subject of transportation the previous winter at Baltimore. A horse railroad only was in operation from Frederic to Baltimore. I was satisfied canals would be superseded in our state; hence I commenced a new system, and therefore I wrote out three bills for railroads. The principal one was a line of roads from Buffalo, N.Y., to the Mississippi river, and another bill for a road from Fort Wayne to Michigan City. Not a member of the legislature, or any where else, believed a road from New York was possible. I made many valuable conditions in the bills for the mutual benefit of Illinois and Ohio, and drew up three joint resolutions; one to Congress, one to Illinois, one to the legislature of Ohio, and caused our governor to send a copy of the bill and a copy of the three joint resolutions, asking them to participate in the application for aid in the work designated, and asking for the immediate survey of the route by the United States engineers. Mr. W. Hendricks, our Senator, had a bill passed in Congress immediately for a company of engineers to go to the work at once and survey the route from Buffalo to the Mississippi river and report the practicability of the route.

While the name of the couty was so very offensive to the citizens of the county, the railroad project was still more objectionable to the north part of my district. Although no person believed that a railroad could, by any possibility, be constructed from New York to the Mississippi river, yet, if it could be constructed, it was, they said very objectionable. They said it would run through and cut up their farms, and kill their stock. All through Lagrange, Elkhart and St. Joseph counties the opposition was very great to the idea of a railroad; they were looking daily for the canal coming down the Elkhart from Ft. Wayne. I had named the commissioners in the bills who were to meet in Elkhart town on the first of August, 1835, and arrange the company. The commissioners named in the bill were Judge Latta, Aaron M. Perrine, E. Trimble, Doctor Beardsley, Beeber, John B. Niles, Andrews, Bradley, and some four or five more, all assembled and organized by the election of a President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The opposition to the organization of the company was Wm. Perin, of the county of Kosciusko. I there discovered from Perin's speech that there were several aspirants for the legislature next year, and that a deep set prejudice against everything I had done the previous year, a jealousy prevailed among the aspirants, for office-seekers feared that the number of "bills" I had passed would render me popular. The line of the county, the boundary, and the county seat they cared very little about; as the land was not yet in market these office-seekers had no doubt but that they would be able to augment the jealousy against the county name so as to defeat all my projects in the legislature , and next year change the name and bound.

I kept my secret as to the county seat and whoever was elected could change it! As soon as the lands on the prairie were surveyed a new subject of deadly strife on the location of the proposed county seat arose; a Methodist preacher from Goshen, by the name of Randall, had located, erected a cabin and plowed, where Mr. Joel S. Long resides; he being the first settler on the prairie. Some new fast emigrants came in from Wayne county, they crowed and finally bull-dozed him, and told him they did not want a Methodist preacher so near them. He became alarmed at a few belligerent manifestations and left Turkey creek and protested against them. Mr. Randall asked two hundred dollars for his claim, and the citizens all advised me to purchase it, as it was the first improvements and the oldest claim on the prairie, and all the neighborhood helped me raise another cabin. I had no idea of trouble whatever, until the next year after I returned from the legislature, and the first development of hostility to every act I had done was manifested at the railroad meeting of the directors at Elkhart. The volcano had been slumbering in private disapprobation for six months; and a large emigration having arrived in the winter of 1834-35, I was informed by my special friend, Elisha Trimble, that I would have strong opposition to my election. A political meeting was announced to be held at the store house on old Lee's claim, now Leesburg; four candidates made their appearance from Elkhart county, John Jackson, John D. Defrees, E. M. Chamberlain, and Wm. Crawford, and myself.

They all led off by denouncing the railroads; then the name of Kosciusko and the bounds were too large, and they all four declared that railroads were a bad thing, they would ruin farms and kill stock, and that no man but a crazy one could think of such an impossible project; that it was impossible to build a road from New York to the Mississippi river, that if the people would elect him, (Chamberlain), he would try and have the canal extended from Fort Wayne. Mr. J. D. Defrees next spoke, he said he was also a candidate for the legislature, and if they would elect him he would also change the name of the county and bounds; he said that Kosciusko was a hard name to spell and speak, and the bounds too large. He said that the man who supposed a railroad could be constructed from New York to the Mississippi was crazy, and should be ashamed to ask for such an impossible improvement; he (Defrees) was for canals. Col. John Jackson went over in his speech the same promises; to change the name of Kosciusko; he (Col. Jackson), thought it a very hard name to pronounce, he had tried it and could not write it al all, and that the people did not understand what it was and if the people would elect him he would change it.

As a matter of course I had to say something, in order to show confidence in all my projects. I told these Elkhart candidates that I had, while in the legislature, memorialized Congress to have the lines of the railroad I had charter surveyed by the United States engineer, from Buffalo, N. Y. to Rock Island, on the Mississippi, and that the engineers had just passed below the town of Goshen; and that either of them if elected could arrest the progress of the railroad but as to changing the name of Kosciusko; they had each one of them, declared very positively that they would do so, I wish to save these gentlemen from mortification and disappointment, by informing them that the name of Kosciusko county shall never be changed; when you reach the legislature you may be able to blot out the sun, and sink the earth in oblivion, but never can one jot of the name of Kosciusko be changed. I say unhallowed be the ground on which the man shall stand when he utters one word to change the name They all looked much mortified at my terrible anathema.

Chamberlain tried very hard to change the name but never could. Old John Warner was standing very near me when I spoke, he wanted to act flunky to my enemies, and reported for three years that he heard me make a speech in which I declared that I would sink Kosciusko if elected, after I had secured the county as I had made it then. The public land was offered for sale, and the county was ordered to be organized by the election of officers, clerk, judge, recorder, etc. No office of the county was ever offered to me; but through the manner in which I made a returning board to count Warsaw into the center of Kosciusko, I beat Judge Bradley, old Wells and Cronin, all three. In my next I will give the readers of THE INDIANIAN the story from the moment I bid off the land, and every body against me.

The Northern Indianian March 22, 1877

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