Early Times

Locating and Naming of Warsaw

Written for the Indianian
By John B. Chapman

The politicians were so intent on effecting a change of the name of Kosciusko county, that they paid no attention to a suitable location for a court house. Before the act passed to organize the county by the election of officers, etc., I concluded it was time to secure the opinion of some good reliable men to whom suspicion could not attach. I applied to James Cook, of Goshen, to know whether he would, if appointed a commissioner to locate the court house of Kosciusko, locate it as near the center of the county, as a suitable place could be found. I then went to Indianpolis and applied to Willet, of Rush county. I had served in the legislature the year previous with Willet. I knew he was a true man and would do whatever he promised. Willet knew all about Kosciusko. I told him I wanted him to act as one of the commissioners to locate the court house. "Why," said Willet, "I am a member of the legislature and can not be appointed." "Never mind," said I: "will you act and put the court house on a location of land which I will designate as the town of Warsaw?" I told Willet that Chamberlain was the representative of Kosciusko and for him to watch. I then got a friend to name Cook and Willet. Chamberlain had no idea that I had been to Indianapolis, and Cook happened to be the man that Chamberlain wanted.

In the spring that part of the land came into market. I bid off the quarter section, and said aloud: "I call that Warsaw, the county-seat of Kosciusko!" The only notice or answer from the crowd standing round was "Thaddeus of Warsaw." There was not a stick cut on the land; there it lay in its native majesty; its only tenants the native oak, the green award, its winding sheet, and here slumbered the virgin soil devoid of car or tenant until aroused from peaceful slumber to make a court house for Kosciusko. I procured the services of Wm. Lightfoot and his instrument to survey the town. I brought as a novelty, all five of my little boys to recognize the town. I soon had stakes driven in all directions. A large white oak tree stood between where Hud Beck's store now is and the present court house. I barked about four feet square and wrote on the tree "courthouse of Warsaw." Old man Lightfoot laughed at me all the time. He said I made too much bluster for prestige. As soon as I had stakes set from the lake out south to where the railroad now is, I put up advertisements for a sale of lots. A number of people came over from the prairie and made all kind of sport of my town; yet I sold seventy-five lots; not in good faith.

I became satisfied that I must get some other person to carry out my programme or they might defeat my plans. Therefore I procured W. Hood, a special friend to take an interest in the matter while I should absent myself till the commissioners finished locating the court house. Chamberlain of Goshen became suspicious I had sprung a trap on the court house. Now I had the land for the county-seat. That tract of land had been in jeopardy for a long time, but no person thought it worth consideration for any purpose, and especially not for a court house. In a native state it was swamp and tamarack all around. One little table spot and that beautiful little lake were the only attractions.

The tamaracks were very forbidding indeed; almost disgusting. The tamarack tree is a small pole, nearly twenty feet high, very often dead and destitute of limbs; slim and straight as the mast of a small vessel. When seen at a distance, standing in their native swamp, they have the appearance of a young fleet. The surface of the tamarack marsh is corrugated and covered with moss, sometimes two feet thick above any solid earth. It appears that, in earlier times, the ugly tamaracks were lakes, and the water having receded, the sod over grew the water. When I first came to this northern region there were many marshes and outlets of lakes that were so thickly sodded over that I rode across them in perfect safety, until the sod became worn through, when all would sink into a deep channel. There are a few of these tamaracks that can be reclaimed, and but few. A grass marsh may sometimes be reclaimed by vast expense of ditching which will not justify a poor man.

It will be recollected I had already engaged the commissioners before I had bought the land on which I wanted the court house built. All this I had to keep a profound secret; but now I had everything arranged to close up my long contemplated to hold on to Kosciusko and give the county a court house. It was therefore my plan, before the commissioners could locate the court house, to give the town of Warsaw as wide a notoriety as possible, so that every body could tell the commissioners of Warsaw. The sham sale I made had the desired effect, so when the commissioners came every body could tell a tale of Warsaw; but as soon as they located the county-seat at Warsaw, a doleful cry went up against the author and proprietor. They had tried to change the name of the county but could not; they had tried the bounds but could not alter them; and now fixing the court house at Warsaw, clinched the whole fabric together.. I was not home when the location was made. I was at Washington City, Dear Mr. Editor, the manner and method of getting Kosciusko and Warsaw together was through much opposition of a violent character, and the final consummation was by strategy.

Northern Indianian March 29, 1877

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