Early Times in Kosciusko
Incidents and Anecdotes of Pioneer Days and the Early Settlement of this Region

by Reub Williams

"Long years have elapsed since I gazed on the scene,
Which my fancy still robed in its freshness of green--
The spot where, a school boy, all thoughtless I strayed,
By the side of the stream in the gloom of the shade,
I thought of friends who had roam'd with me there,
When the sky was so blue, and the flowers so fair--
All scattered--all sunder'd by mountain and wave.
And some in the silent embrace of the grave!
I thought of the green banks that circled around,
With wild flowers, and sweetbrier and eglantine crown'd
I thought of the river all quiet and bright,
As the face of the sky on a blue summer night."

How very often since I began writing these sketches, in August last, has the memory of my boyhood friends and schoolmates risen before me--so vividly, indeed, that I can not reconcile the fact that so many years have elapsed since the time to which I allude. Only a few days since in talking to an old school friend still a resident of this city, he told me that the perusal of some particular incident recalled to his memory the details of the incident so plainly that it almost seemed to be once more passing his view, although he had not thought of the particular matter for perhaps half a century.

I, too, sometimes think that school days are the happiest period that comes to one's life. It was my lot in life not to be able to take advantage even of the meager facilities offered in a new country to obtain even a common school education, and I have counted up the time very often that includes the full period I attended school--two years and four months, one month of which I have thrown in for good measurement, but I very promptly learned to read when but a very small boy and I remember that as soon as supper was over at my early home in Ohio previous to our removal to this place, the candles lighted, and all the family--a fairly good-sized one at the time--that I was placed on a stool that I even yet remember was slightly taller than all the other chairs occupied by the family, and my duty was to read aloud to the rest of them, many times growing so weary as to go to sleep and dropping the book.

Sometimes it would be a newspaper from which I read to the family, but generally it was a book of some kind, and frequently a borrowed one also. I was attending a country school the same winter the family removed to Warsaw in the spring, and remember there were so few school books that in both reading and spelling classes the same book had to be passed from one scholar to the next one in the class, as it was the custom for classes in those times to begin at the head and each scholar read a verse and pass the book to the next one, and so continue down the class. At the same school alluded to, I remember that owing to the scarcity of "readers" the teacher decided to adopt the New Testament for the reading class on the presumption that every family in the school district certainly possessed a copy of the "new dispensation," but alas, in those days there were some families that did not even possess a New Testament, although the scheme worked quite well for the perusing of the book containing the reading lesson got rid of a much greater proportion of scholars without readers of their own.

Looking back at the period in which I as a boy was the "family reader," I am confident that it was an assistance to me personally, for I read aloud to the family all the books it possessed many times over, and the two sisters, who were my elders, succeeded in borrowing many others, and I sometimes looked upon the borrowed addition to our own meager library as more work for me at nights. Along about this time I remember that my step-sister borrowed a book called "The Children of the Abbey" --a thrilling story in tow volumes, and the family became so interested in the thrilling tale that the house would scarcely be placed in order until I was compelled to mount the stool and commence with the story, and sometimes I was completely worn out by reading aloud, but I got deeply interested in the "Abbey Children" myself, and when that--the first long story I ever read was finished--I was as anxious as the listeners to hear the tale to its end.

The first school I attended after coming to Warsaw along with the family was taught by James Chapman, a brother of the late Co. C. W. Chapman, Mrs. J. K. Leedy and Wm. G. Chapman, who still reside here. The schoolhouse then used for the purpose stood right in the angle of the streets where Fort Wayne avenue and Fort Wayne street join. It was a one-story frame, and I remember among those who were small scholars then W. B. and A. C. Funk, Will H. Richhart, and while there may be more still residents of the place who went to school to Chapman, I cannot place them. The schoolhouse was then removed to South Indiana street, and I went one term to the late Joseph A. Funk at the close of which I arranged with Andrew J. Bair, still a resident of this city, but then the publisher of the Kosciusko Republican, to learn the printing business. On completing the time agreed upon as an apprentice to the printing business I went to school to the late Mrs. Robert Cowen, the school then being taught in a house on Buffalo street, on the east side just where it crosses the Pittsburgh road, and either the first or the second residence south of the crossing, and there is where I received my imaginary diploma.

In my last sketch I had something to say concerning those lawyers who composed the Kosciusko county bar in the early days that had impressed themselves upon me as a mere boy, confining myself, of course to those who had passed to their reward, as it might not be entirely comfortable for the editor to write with a free hand and from memory of those "still in the flesh."

The first physician to impress himself upon me as a youth was the late Dr. A. B. Crihfield. He was already in Warsaw and engaged in the practice of medicine when the family of the writer reached this county and made it their home. Dr. Crihfield was a splendid specimen of physical manhood, and at that early period had a little square, one-story, frame building with just one room in it for an office. It was located on Center street on the ground that Grabner's hardware store covers. Besides being of fine physique, Dr. Crihfield was a very pleasant, genial gentleman and possessed among other attributes the ability to laugh, when anything tickled him, about as loud as most horses can neigh! He was exceedingly popular among the people and had a wide practice, his charges being very remarkably low in price. There is a story told of him in this particular that does not tally with the charges of the present-day Esculapius, although we hear of no complaint of over-charges among the fraternity. Crihfield had been called out to Elihu Davis' home, about six miles southwest of Warsaw, and found him in the high fever that follows the chill from a clear case of "fever'n ager," and after dishing out some medicine and leaving a prescription for the wife to follow, Davis, just before he started, asked him the price of his bill. With his usual horse-laugh, and a jest or two, he replied: "Give me a half-dollar and let it go at that!" It was instances like this that not only made him very popular, but secured for him the largest practice of any doctor in the place at a very early period.

Another doctor of that time was G. W. Stacey--a fairly well read physician of those early days, and a good scholar on most subjects as has already been stated of professional men in a former sketch. The boys of the period of which I am writing were as mischievous, perhaps, as they are today. It may be that they are more so; for fun was so scarce that it had to be manufactured by home talent, and very often out of slight foundation. I remember the crowd I was accustomed to meet, oh, so well, as we gathered about the old court house--its old Grecian porch and Corinthian columns generally being the assembling point for a game of "I spy," after night, and sometimes it was well if the games played were confined to the always innocent "I spy"; but in the gang were Lavirtue Harvey, Bram and Lewis Funk, Tom and Marion Fairborther, John Day--a boy whose father had the contract for building the old jail. By way of parenthesis, how many people still residents of Warsaw, will remember that the old jail was built of brick burned on the public square? Such is the fact, however, and the clay was hauled from what was then known as the Fisk farm, where Peter Kentner now lives, and the wood also, and the public square--the western part of it rather--was laid off and made into a brick-yard, and the kiln of brick, sufficient for that rather large building was burned just at the side of where the jail finally stood?

But to return to "the gang." In the course of an evening the play "I spy" became rather tame and other sources of amusement followed. Frequently the small house, which usually stood at the back end of a residence lot, would be found lying on its back, although it was a particular aim of the gang usually that it should lie, when the job was completed, on its face! The reader may by this time desire to know what this has to do with Dr. Stacey. Just this: after some particular mischief had been accomplished--all in fun, of course--if the result was a noise of any kind, "the gang," of course, had to "make tracks"--in other words get away from the scene as quickly as possible, and it was on such occasions, no matter what time of night, whether directly after 9 o'clock, or in the early morning, "the gang" would invariably run into Dr. Stacey, saddlebags in hand; so quiet, never a word said by him; but the meetings of this kind grew so frequent that "the gang" began to grow superstitious on the subject. It happened so often that, although nothing was ever heard from Stacey, yet a fear crept into the feelings of the crowd that induced some of them to desert their comrades, except for the game of "I spy."

The most frequent place that one would meet Stacey was in the alley now know as Wall street, and we always saw him just as we were putting forth every effort of speed. Just then the little figure of Stacey would appear reminding one of scenes of the gruesome characters in Dickens' stories. Stacey removed to Iowa and I never heard of him afterwards; but it is a true fact that the boys began to believe that there was something uncanny in the frequent meeting at all hours of the night of Dr. Stacey.

Previous to the death of Dr. Crihfeield two or three years, a bright young man made his appearance in Warsaw, fresh from graduation at some medical college, and a short time after his advent the medical firm of Crihfield & Leedy was formed. Not long afterwards Dr. Crihfield died. Dr. J. K. Leedy married Miss Regina Chapman, and even as a young man gained a wide even extensive practice. He was a pleasant gentleman; a splendid fellow in every way, and very successful as a practitioner. When the civil war came on he was made surgeon of the 74th Indiana Infantry, and served with that command till the close of the war, and died, if I remember right, in 1876. His memory is kept bright in many Kosciusko county homes.

In the early days a very peculiar sort of a man came to Warsaw and "stuck out his shingle" as a doctor. He professed to be an eclectic, and as all those in the practice about that time were alopaths, a medical war raged for two or three years, even going so far as to consume several columns of the home paper of that time with the discussion pro and con. Schellhouse did not remain here a great while. He was a young man and had but recently married a young wife; but he procured himself a horse and about once a day mounted his Rosinante and galloped out on some one of the highways leading out of the town as fast as horseflesh could carry him; but it was said of him that if he had been followed he would have been discovered about a mile distant under the shade of some tree reading a book! That was Schellhouse's way of endeavoring to procure a practice, but it did not succeed like the plan of Crihfield--a hearty good-humor and low charges--and the eclectic soon "vamosed the ranch."

In the early days--say about 1847 or 48--Dr. Thomas Cammack still a resident of Milford, located here as a physician. He came here from Maryland as a young man with a wife whom he had married but a short time before his coming. He afterwards removed to Milford and is still engaged in the practice at that place.

Everybody in this city, and its immediate surroundings will pleasantly remember the late Dr. David Wynant, who for a good many years was quite successfully engaged in the medical practice and was also an eclectic in his medical belief. He was know as an upright, conscientious, honest man--one of the olden kind--and everybody liked him. For many years he was an active leader in the Methodist church of this city, and not only practiced medicine but practiced what he preached, as well. He was a personal friend of the editor of this paper and always encouraged him in the early days of THE INDIANIAN when it was so difficult to issue a paper at all.

Warsaw Daily Times February 15, 1902

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