Early Times in Kosciusko

Incidents and Anecdotes of Pioneer Days and the Early Settlement of this Region

by Reub Williams

"Home's not merely four square walls,
Though with pictures hung and gilded;
Home is where affection calls,
Filled with shrines the heart hath builded.
Home! Go watch the faithful dove
Sailing 'neath the heaven above us;
Home is where there's one to love us--
Home is where there's one to love."
------ George Swain

Once more I desire to say, that these sketches are wholly written from memory and with neither previous thought or preparation of any kind whatever, and this point was clearly set forth in the first sketch of the series that appeared in these columns, and afterwards often reinterated. This was done as a defense for any minor errors that might creep into them under such circumstances, for I felt convinced that there would be some of them from forgetfulness, or still more frequently from unintentional omission.

I am reminded of this by a criticism in the Milford Mail of recent date. The Mail says that "there was no barbecue in Goshen at the date that Cassius M. Clay spoke in that place." It may be that I have got the two campaigns--that of 1856 and of 1860--confounded, so far as Cassius M. Clay's presence is concerned; but that was neither the subject, nor the point made in the sketch; and while I am most willing--aye, even anxious--to admit that all statements should be correct in every particular, as the Mail says, How could such be the case when one is writing form memory with no data whatever at hand to correct himself should memory prove defective after a lapse of nearly half a century?

Besides, it is not at all vital--except for truth's sake, and with no proof for that at hand--whether it was Cassius M. Clay that held forth at the barbecue, or some other one of the very plentiful supply of orators procurable at that period. The Mail's complaint reminds us of a letter we received from an old-time friend criticizing me for saying that Lane represented Indiana when it contained only two congressional districts and went on to give the names of all the members of congress that Indiana had ever had, evidently gleaned from some political encyclopedia or political almanac. When I wrote the sketch about Lane, the point I was trying to make was the skillful manner in which Lane impressed his audience that he was no stranger to a Northern Indiana assemblage; that he was among his own people, having represented them in the lowerhouse of congress in his younger days, and by his impassioned eloquence led up to a climax that excelled anything I have ever heard, and I was about to say I have heard all of the great speakers from Tom Corwin down to the present day. That was the point.

I gave the number of districts as two, because when I wrote it, I believed that was what he said. I was depending on my memory with nothing to consult and did not take the trouble to look in an almanac to know whether there were two, four, six or eight congressional districts. Whatever Mr. Lane gave as the number at the time was evidently the right number, and I remember it after more than forty years as two! I was wrong, but that was not the point I was trying to make. It was the magnificent manner in which that giant orator so enthralled his vast audience, that every one in is presence had involuntarily half-risen from his seat, and in a stooping posture was waiting for the end of the peroration that all knew was to come When it arrived and he used the quotation from Scotland's outlawed chief, Rob Roy McGregor, who had once more got safely back to his home having evaded the pursuit of the English soldiers: "My foot is on my native heather, and my name's McGregor." I can truthfully and unreservedly say, that it was a climax in which the orator swayed his hearers to a more wonderful degree than anyone else had done before or since.

What odds if a lack of memory led me to say two instead of more districts? That was not what I was writing about, though I would of course have given the right number, and really thought I did at the time of writing. Again, since these sketches have been appearing, I have been taken to task both by letter and in person, for saying that the late Oliver P. Morton was elected Lieutenant-Governor in 1860! What is more, there are a good many people who believe that such was the case. They only remember that when the war broke out Gov. Morton was at the head of the state as its chief officer, forgetting that Lane, who had been elected, had been promoted to the Senate--a state of facts that was most fortunate indeed for Indiana for Henry S. Lane made a most excellent United States Senator, and the late O. P. Morton a peerless Governor, the one strong man amongst them all on which Lincoln leaned the heaviest and relied on the most, although the Northern States were full of great and good men at the head of the various State governments. It is only natural, I presume that these sketches may be and are criticized, but on the other hand, I meat people every day who are loud in there praises of the series, and a very common expression among them is: "I can't see how you can remember so clearly the many incidents you relate so long after they have occurred" and frequently I meet old men who say: "Your sketch brought to mind a number of things that had passed entirely out of mind, but came back to me as clear as the noon-day sun after reading your last sketch," and thus I feel that the compliments, and endorsements, are a fair offset for whatever criticisms the series have encountered.

However, I especially desire to impress upon the reader the point set out clearly at the start, that in writing from memory minor mistakes may occur; but the main feature of the sketch, whatever the subject may be, will be found truthful and the errors of a minor nature, as in the cases alluded to above, and while it would be best to have every statement absolutely correct,yet, as in the small matters that cannot be with not data to appeal to; and in writing wholly from memory a wrong date, a wrong year may appear, but the main story will be found true, as nearly as recollection serves. No man can write well about what is forgotten!

Before closing, to some extent, at least the political feature of these sketches, as connected with the earlier times, I desire to make mention of a riot that occurred at Bourbon during the Fremont campaign of 1856. There was a double meeting at Bourbon during that year, at which the late Hon. Schuyler Colfax, who was the Republican candidate for Congress in What was then called the "Bloody Ninth" district, and a man by the name of Z. T. Stuart, of Logansport, was the Democratic candidate for the same position, were the speakers. Just at present I cannot remember whether it was a joint debate, or a meeting of both parties to hear their respective leaders. When Mr. Colfax was first elected to Congress, Kosciusko county was in the district represented by him, and he was exceedingly well-known and popular here. The Legislature had, however, eliminated Kosciusko and placed it in the "old Tenth district," which included every county in the northeast corner of the state, with Elkhart and Kosciusko for its western border, Whitley and Allen its southern, and the state lines its eastern and northern borders.

In 1856, D. A. Shinn, a very active, warm-hearted Republican, lived at Etna Green. He took a very prominent part in the organization of the Republican party and when the big meeting to which I have alluded was held, he had organized a big procession, with wagons, flags and banners, to go to Bourbon on that day which included many people from the entire western part of the county, who joined in the big representation from Etna township. Several of us young men from Warsaw, including the late S. R. Gordon, whose name has already appeared in these sketches several times, Elijah Tusing, Dick Howe and myself. All of us in those days carried at least a single-barreled pistol; but "Rig Gordon," the name by which he was best known, owned and took along an old-fashioned Allen revolver. It should be remembered that the Fort Wayne and Chicago railroad was in the course of construction and many laborers were employed all along the line, composed principally of Irish. The meeting had passed off without any special disturbance, although Stuart, the Democratic candidate, was exceedingly abusive in his remarks, while on the contrary, Colfax was over and above most speakers, gentlemanly and pleasant, as an orator.

The procession from Etna Green was very large, covering over a fourth of the four-mile distance to Bourbon. The meeting had ended and we who were from Warsaw had noticed that an intensely bitter feeling prevailed among the Irish laborers on the railroad, and hence were not so greatly surprised when an attack on the Etna Green delegation was made with clubs, stones and missiles of all kinds. D. A. Shinn, who was acting as marshal of the delegation, directed all wagons to pull out on the road home, but quite a large body he kept near him in order to stem the attack, if possible. There were many women and some children in the wagons, and the assault was of a very vicious order, and, so far as those in the procession were concerned, a complete surprise. Rig Gordon and his comrades from Warsaw, all four of us armed, as already stated, kept together. D. A. Shinn had already been knocked from his horse and was badly beaten with clubs. The same part that did this came on with a howl rather than a cheer. The Warsaw crowd was retreating along with all others who were on foot. Discovering that the party would be overtaken, Gordon wheeled around and emptied his revolver right into the advancing crowd, and those were followed by the shots from the three single-barreled pistols. The flying bullets stopped the pursuit right there; but had the attackers only remembered that every one of the firearms had been discharged, then was their time to act before we could reload, and the outcome might have been different. As it was, the pursuit, so far as the party with which the Warsaw representatives acted, ended right there. D. A. Shinn was seriously hurt and was laid up for several weeks. The story came from Bourbon the next day that some of the Irish were wounded, and that there had been at least one funeral perhaps more, among them. I never believed this story, although it was repeatedly reaffirmed. The combo was strung out to such a length ___ line that it was like some of the battles of the civil war only in view of the participant for a remarkable small space about him. All such events were leading up slowly but surely to the great struggle of 1861-65.

Warsaw Daily Times January 11, 1902

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