Early Days in Kosciusko County

First Four Families to Locate South of the River

Some of the Aborigines, Whose Trail Followed the Course of the Tippecanoe Up to 1848

By The Editor (Reuben Williams)

I see that my old friend Dan McDonald, formerly of the Plymouth Democrat, is billed for a lecture at Rochester, his subject being "The Pottowattomie Indians," As Mr. McDonald is well versed in the Indian lore of early Northern Indiana, I have no doubt but that the lecture will prove of deep interest to his hearers, for Rochester was a favorite locality for the Red Man previous to the removal of the Pottowattomies and kindred tribes to the Far West, the last of those inhabiting Kosciusko county departing on their long journey in the year 1848. I do not remember, and perhaps never knew, whether Exekiel French had the contract for the removal of all the Indians, but that he did have control of those who made their home in this county is a well known fact to all of its pioneer citizens. Exekiel French was an early resident of Oswego, this county, but at the time he secured the government contract referred to, he was making his home in South Bend.

I have often heard it stated in my boyhood days that the Warners, Kellys, Comstocks and Knowleses were the first four families to settle in this county south of the Tippecanoe river. The northern half of the county in its wide stretching prairies had a decided advantage in securing the first settlers, as a farm could be had much easier, requiring far less labor to get it ready for crops than the dense forests of the southern half and it can be truthfully said that there were a goodly number of very excellent farms under very fair cultivation ere that portion south of the Tippecanoe had secured its first settlers. It is almost impossible for the farmer of the present day to fully conceive of the incredible amount of the very hardest of labor to open up a farm in the "thick timber" of the southern half of Kosciusko, where grew the white ash, black walnut, and the numerous poplars, the majority of them being four feet and more in diameter at their base, with smaller trees of almost every variety, and underbrush in most places so thick on the ground that a wild deer could hide from the hunter and still be only a few yards distant from its foe. In the short time that this portion of the county has been settled, it is almost incredible for one to conceive how such a forest could be almost entirely obliterated in the time it had been done; for at the present day nearly every piece of timber, every board, and nearly every piece of wood used in the construction of a residence is shipped in from long distances, a thing so strange to the early settler, who, if any one sixty or seventy years ago had predicted that such would ever bee the case, the pioneer would have accused him of incipient insanity. However that time has arrived and the very commonest of fuel is selling from $2 to $2.50 a cord; wood that the pioneer would have paid the consumer to take away free of any cost whatever.

The four families to which I have alluded settled on land three or four miles south of this city, a place that then had no existence, nor was even thought of for the coming county-seat, except by Peter Warner, who took up land on the Tippecanoe river just northwest of this place, and as soon as it was possible erected a flouring and saw-mill a couple of miles down the river from the spot that was finally selected as the county-seat, and given the name of Warsaw. At that time the aborigines were numerous, and although not very long after the battle of Tippecanoe, in which they no doubt took part, were quite peaceable, and continued so until their removal to the far West to the region that was afterwards organized under the name of "Indian Territory" by Congress. There were still a good many Indians here when the family of the writer arrived in 1844. In 1845 along with a cousin-- Marion Warner, the only one of the family left, and who still lives on a portion of the ground his father entered-- (we) visited the Indian village on Trimble creek, a short distance from Palestine and near the farm so long known as the "Wooden place," of which "Old Topash" was the chief. the old chief had two boys, one named "Dominique" and the other "Joanetta." They were about the same age as their visitors, and rather social in their disposition. Afterwards I kept up a sort of acquaintance with them until their father decided to remove to Michigan, and it is only lately that I have seen in the papers that the tribe to which "Topash" and "Peashwa" belonged have at last secured a claim for quite a considerable sum of money from the government. The Topash village was beautifully located on a bluff of Trimble creek and consisted of quite a number of cabins, along with many trappings of Indian manufacture. The two boys referred to were expert in catching fish, often using a bow and arrow to capture the pike and bass, then so numerous in all the streams of Northern Indiana.

Warsaw Daily Times December 10, 1904

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