Early Times in Kosciusko

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

by Reub Williams

"O ghostly visitants
That haunt the lonelyheart.
A trooping shadows of old joys,
Echoes of words that still return
Dream-like to paint anew
The vanished happiness
Of perfect yesterdays."

Since I began writing these sketches almost seven months ago, how vividly--so much so, indeed, they seem to be a reality--do those I have known, respected, aye, even loved, come to mind singly and somtimes in troops, for the past fifty years cover a history-making period, as much so, perhaps, as any half-century that could be named, and even more so for the people of this particular country. Besides, the period alluded to called together the men of the whole land--South as well as North--and made them better acquainted with their fellow beings to a greater extent than could ever have been done save in a war that called forth the very best on both sides; and how numerous and how lasting have been the friendships thus formed--some of them on the battlefield amid the din and carnage, and the crush and roar created by men in a contest to the death!

All these friendships have been formed only to be severed, and the veterans that are left of the civil war can notice almost daily in the public prints of the day the announcement of the death of a dear friend. In fact, the soldiers of the war of 1861-5 have arrived at a period when these separations will be only all the more frequent, and growing more and more numerous until there will be but a "corporal's guard" left, and even it will prepare to carry arms at "reverse." What a great army it was, and how numerous and close were the friendships made! In taking a "backward look" ah, how many who lived to get home, yet have since fallen by the wayside, and their faces and forms have disappeared from amongst us, but who on each 30th day of May are remembered by the loving token of the small tribute of a flower cast upon the last resting place of the honored, and in many households, its lamented members. The picture is a sad one, and calls up recollections of those whom we knew so well.
"In the days that are no more."

I receive many letters from abroad referring to the interest taken in the perusal of these old-time sketches, and as a rule they come from former Indiana people now residents of almost every western state. For the many compliments they contain, I feel truly grateful and I assure one and all that if they afford the reader pleasure, my object has been fulfilled. They were undertaken wholly without any plan, or the laying out of any course to pursue, and thus far they have all been written on the spur of the moment, and always very hastily. Sometimes the day on which they are to appear--Saturdays in THE WARSAW DAILY TIMES and on Thursdays, the regular publication day of THE NORTHERN INDIANIAN --come around so speedly that on two or three occasions the pages as fast as they have been written went straight to the compositor, and were placed in type as fast as they were written. While on this subject I might as well furnish the readers of these sketches with additional particulars of the Bourbon riot in 1856, which have been sent to me from various sources. The following additional facts concerning the ugly fight alluded to come from D. F. Reid. He says:
Vancouver, Wash., Jan. 24, 1902
Gen. Reub Williams:

Joel Leffel was the chief marshal at the big political meeting at Bourbon, the day of the riot at that place. He was nearly killed, so nearly so that he was deaf in one of his ears until the day of his death. Mr. Leffel was one of our nearest neighbors. I was eleven years old then and remember the time as though it were but yesterday. My father, R. M. Reid, took his gun and went back to Bourbon the same night to look up the Irish implicated in starting the riot, but noe were found. You are doing fine with your "recollections." Go ahead!
D. F. Reid

The R. M. Reid referred to by the son, was familiarly known all over the county as "Bob" or "Bobby" Reid, and when aroused--as he evidently was that night--he was ready for any sort of trouble, coming from whatever source it might. The writer remembers "Old Bobby" exceedingly well. He was a warm friend of A. J. Bair, still living in this city, but who at that time was at the head of the old Kosciusko Republican, and whenever "Old Bobby" came to Warsaw, he was always a welcome visitor at Mr. Bair's. I was a small lad when I first knew him, and notwithstanding the difference in our ages we became fast friends, the friendship remaining up till his death. Ex-Sheriff John M. Reid, now of Las Vegas, N. M., will no doubt remember how often "Old Bobby" related in after years, of seeing me when a boy; with face all blacked with ink, and engaged in rolling the "forms" for the pressman. "Old Bobby" kept a tab on that incident and Sheriff Reid informed me that he related it nearly every day during the war period--in fact, kept at it until he removed to Oregon.

In my last sketch I referred to old characters living in Warsaw. "Old Bobby" Reid did not live in Warsaw, but he was an "odd character" all the same. He was a settler on the Tippecanoe River long before Etna Green was thought of, and he was so much of a pioneer and hunter that after settlers grew thick about him, longing for the freedom of the woods, and to engage once more in hunting deer. This thought was with him so constantly that he finally emigrated to Oregon, where he sought and found an opportunity of adding many captured deer to his already long string. Old settlers in the west part of the county will well remember "Old Bobby" Reid.

In addition to the above, a letter reaches me from J. H. Grant, a former resident of the western part of this county. He writes as follows, and as his letter contains additional particulars concerning the Bourbon fight in 1856, we append it below:

Howard, Elk county, Kan., Jan. 26, 1902
Gen. Reub Williams:
I desire to say in the first place that it was Joel Leffel, who was chief-marshall of the Etna Green delegation at the time of the riot in 1856, instead of D. A. Shinn*. Mr. Leffel was very seriously hurt, having been knocked off the horse he was riding. I remember this particularly because the horse belonged to my father and Mr. Leffel rode it on that day The animal became frightened and ran away, and fetched up in the mill-yard located at the east end of Bourbon, and my father, Wm. Grant, had to go to Bourbon the next morning to hunt up the missing animal He found her in the saw-mill yard, or rather in the log-yard, for it had got in amongst the logs so deeply, piled up as they were in large numbers, and could not get out until help arrived. My father then went up town to find where Mr. Leffel was. He had been knocked from his horse in the affray in the streets, and was afterwards conveyed into the house then occupied by the Rev. David James**. He had been struck over one eye with the back of an ax, and was rendered unconscious at once; afterwards he was struck with the blade of the ax on the side of the head, the crazy mob following him into the house, where the hard blow was given him which partly cut his year in twain. He was then rolled under the bed and left for dead, and at the time father reached him the next morning, he was still unconscious. However he finally recovered and was able to enter the service of his country six years afterwards becoming a member of Company F, 74th Indiana Regiment. I was in the same company with him under Captain Jack North of Milford. Frank Breading, of Warsaw married one of Leffel's daughters, and his mother resides with her daughter at the home of Mr. Breading. I was also well acquainted with D. A Shinn, and in fact all of the Etna Green people who were in Bourbon on that day. Two of Mr. Leffel's sons are living in Etna (Green) now. Charley Bowman, of that place married another of Leffel's daughters. Ask S. R. Hamlin, who now lives in Warsaw, if I am not correct in these statements. Yours in F. O. and L.
J. H. Grant.
* D. A. Shinn was an assistant, instead of chief marshall, as given in the sketch alluded to. He was exceedingly active in getting the Etna Green delegation started on the road home, and as he was on horseback, and I knew him to be a more than ordinarily active Republican and organizer, I spoke of him as chief-marshal.
** David James, referred to by Mr. Grant was a local preacher of no small reputation and was well-known here in Warsaw, he having married the late Kate Thomas and a few years ago removed to Oregon or Washington where he died about a year ago. both Mr. Reid and Mr. Grant's correspondence is interesting in details such as it was impossible to secure only through such correspondence and thanks are returned to both gentlemen.

All through the year 1860, the year before the war broke out, and a Presidential campaign being in progress, Warsaw was a lively place. What was known in its day as "Empire Block" was in course of erection, and it was a very large building, covering all the ground from Odd Fellows' corner on the south to the alley running east and west and including the lot owned by the Lake City Bank, three stories in height, and all under one roof, thus an idea can be gained of its great size. The first floor contained six business rooms, offices on the second floor, and Empire Hall covering all of the two north business rooms, and reaching to the rear to the full extent of the building, it can readily be perceived that the hall was far beyond the usual size even in towns much larger than Warsaw was at that period. The erection of so large a building of itself gave employment to many people, and political meetings were held almost every day.

Warsaw was a great market in those days for wheat and pork--the latter was marketed at that period as dressed hogs--and in taking a look backward, over the years that have intervened, I cannot come to any other conclusion than that from the time of arrival of the cars (trains)--late in the autumn of 1856--until after the war, the town was one of the liveliest in all Northern Indiana. It had already been accorded the reputation of being a very handsome place, and the three lakes abutting the corporation were exceedingly attractive to strangers, and it is a fact that along in those times these two features--its beauty and the lakes--drew a good many people seeking homes, and induced them to locate in the town. At any rate, whatever may have been the cause, the town kept fully abreast of the surroundings country in securing a class of every enterprising and desirable people. The rich farming lands of the county attracted many of the better class of farmers who sought and secured homes in Kosciusko during that progressive decade, the good effects of which are still visible, as the county to all intents and purposes is devoted to agriculture, certainly to as great an extent as any other north of the Wabash.

Of course, during the period alluded to, there was considerable effort put forth to make Warsaw a manufacturing town, and on several occasions no small amount of money was raised for this purpose; but the first great effort--the Warsaw woolen mill--proved so disastrous that it has ever since been rather uphill work to raise the necessary means to induce the location of manufactories in the town; so that after the discovery of natural gas south of the Wabash river, and this region left entirely out of the advantages derived from that wonderful natural gift, there has been but little effort made to secure the location of manufactories in this city. However it is a safe thing to say that had this product been as plentiful as it has been at the most productive points in the "gas belt," Warsaw would have eclipsed them all, and, with scarcely a doubt, have made the biggest and handsomest of the smaller cities, not only of the gas region, but of the entire state. The discovery and use of gas, however, operated as a compete "deadener" for the promising towns and county seats outside its limits. What will be the effect in the future--now that the product of natural gas is steadily decreasing--remains to be decided. The replacing of coal or some other fuel product for manufacturing power would certainly put all the towns surrounding the gas belt once more on an equality, and if natural gas fails that region will have no special advantage over other villages, towns and cities. Its failure would certainly work a revolution of some kind, and since the discovery of oil in such large quantities in Texas, who knows but that this wonderful natural product will become the fuel of the near future?

Warsaw Daily Times February 1, 1902

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