Early Times in Kosciusko

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

by Reub Williams

There's a magical Isle up the River Time,
Where the softest of airs are playing;
There's a cloudless sky and a tropical clime,
And a song as sweet as a vesper chime,
And the Junes with the roses are staying,
And the name of this Isle is the long ago,
And we bury our treasures there;
There are brows of beauty and bosoms of snow--
There are heaps of dust--but we loved them so--
There are trinkets and tresses of hair.
---- B. F. Taylor

The above beautiful quotation from B. F. Taylor's "River of Time" reminds me that I was well acquainted with the author, who during the civil war was the war-correspondent of the Chicago Evening Journal, and whose description of the Battle of Missionary Ridge has since become classic. Assuredly, as a piece of word-painting I don't remember that I have ever seen it excelled--not even by Victor Hugo's thrilling description of the "Battle of Waterloo." During the winter of 1863-64, Mr. Taylor joined Sherman's army at Huntsville, Alabama, expecting to accompany it on its march to Atlanta. Unfortunately for the Western army, I always thought, the first and preliminary letter he wrote back to his paper led General Sherman to forbid him to accompany his army. Just previous to the assembling of the army at Chattanooga, Mr. Taylor in a letter to the Journal--unthinkingly, of course--wrote that Sherman's lines, now extended from Knoxville on the left to Huntsville on the right. General Sherman had no great love for correspondents, who at an early date in the war, spoke of him as that "crazy Sherman, who declared that it would take 200,000 men to invade and hold Kentucky!" It did take that many and more too, but Mr. Taylor's statement was enough for him. He sent for him, and told him that he would have no correspondents along with his army, who heralded to the world a knowledge of his army, or its movements, and forbade him to accompany the troops on their march to Atlanta. The result was that Mr. Taylor was sent to another field, and the Western army lost a correspondent who would have detailed their marches, struggles, skirmishes, assaults and battles as no one else could--certainly a very great loss.

Five or six years after the war, the writer prepared a description of the Battle of Missionary Ridge to be read before a meeting of a Grand Army gathering at Fort Wayne, but as I had not confidence sufficient in myself, and knowing that Taylor was an eye-witness of that great battle, from General Grant's headquarters at Orchard Knob, I wrote to him to revise and correct my manuscript so as to make it presentable to a critical audience. He answered me by agreeing that it was very well done and also above all, a truthful picture of that great battle. I, however, insisted on his repainting and retouching it and promised to send him $100 if he would do so. The manuscript was sent him, and one or two more letters passed between us; but about that time he died, and I never had cause to fulfill my promise, nor have I since heard from the manuscript of my address or "lecture" on the "Battle of Missionary Ridge," but in making the poetical quotation at the head of this sketch, I was reminded of the incident and the correspondence that passed between the poet and myself.

At the very beginning of these sketches, I determined to make them of some value, if I could, to the younger generation--the descendants of the pioneers in whose special interest they were undertaken--by imparting at least some information concerning the county, not generally known. Among such I am almost sure that few of the readers of THE INDIANIAN--unless they are quite well up in years--know why or how the county came to be called "Kosciusko," or the county-seat, "Warsaw."

How the question of who named the county arose I cannot say; but when I was a boy I knew it was well understood that the late John B. Chapman--father of Col. Charles W. Chapman, who died in this city a few years ago, and Mrs. J. K. Leedy and Wm. G. Chapman, still residents of Warsaw--named the county after the distinguished Polish officer, Thaddeus Kosciusko. Kosciusko, at 28 years of age, entered the service of the colonies during the Revolutionary War and was detailed to General Washington's staff and served along with Colonel Alexander Hamilton, a young man of about the same age. he was known and recognized all through the war as a gallant officer and gentleman and had the entire confidence, respect and esteem of General Washington. After the war of Independence was won, he returned to his home in Poland, and command the forces of that country in their uprising against Russia, and was killed in the defense of Warsaw, the capital of Warsaw.

John B. Chapman had read much about the gallant Polish officer, after the Revolutionary War, and it was he who suggested the name of Kosciusko for the new county, and the story was told that he made a trip to Indianapolis, especially to secure the name for it and succeeded in his effort. What was more natural, then, that the city where the gallant Kosciusko laid down his life in defense of his country and freedom from the oppressive Russian yoke, should also give its name to the county seat? This, too, was done, and I presume that every reader of this incident will concede that both under the circumstances are exceedingly appropriate.

Before dismissing the subject I will relate another incident concerning "Kosciusko" in which I was personally concerned; at least to a slight degree. When the new court house that now adorns the public square was approaching completion, it became necessary to have some ideas or designs as to the inside finish of the handsome structure, the frescoing and inside painting of the court room not having been included in the original contract. A gentleman by the name of Hahne, of Dayton Ohio, was finally given the contract for the frescoing of the court room and the inside of the very handsome tower that surmounts the building. Of course, Mr. Hahne had plenty of designs for such work, that being his calling, but there was a desire on the part of the county commissioners to have something of a local nature connected with the painting, and it was the writer who suggested that a portrait of Kosciusko should grace the inside of the tower with other similar figures. The commissioners at once sanctioned the idea and deputed me to procure a likeness of Kosciusko, for whom the county was named. I presumed this could readily be done; so I wrote the managers of several libraries throughout the country, but I failed to get a clue from any one at first--all of them declaring that they had none, nor did they know where a portrait of the distinguished Pole could be obtained. I persisted in my correspondence, however, although I greatly feared for a time that I had undertaken an impossibility. A letter I had written to the Boston Library, however, was turned over to an individual who thought he could procure the picture desired, and I finally received an enlarged photograph taken from a diminutive miniature--so fashionable a hundred years ago, but so beautifully executed, that it is a pity that the art of miniature painting has gone into "dessuetude." Of course the owner of the miniature would not permit it to be sent, but she did permit a photograph to be taken of it, and this, when enlarged, formed the basis for the head and shoulders of Kosciusko now to be seen in the rotunda of the Kosciusko county court house on the second floor.

In writing of the services of such men as Kosciusko in the American Revolution, and so many other distinguished officer of foreign birth, who came over to help the struggling colonies, such as Pulaski, a fellow countryman of Kosciusko--Baron Steuben, Baron DeKalb--the latter losing his life in one of the Southern battles--and many others who patriotically entered the service, and aided greatly in helping the colonies in gaining their independence, is one great reason why I could never join in the antipathy so many American entertain against foreigners--especially in the great cry of Native Americanism that swept over this country during the early fifties, afterwards nicknamed "Know Nothingism." This upheaval of sentiment against foreigners followed the crushing defeat of the Whig candidate for President in 1852, General Winfield Scott, and the death of that party, and was the last expiring gasp of what had been a great--a very great--party, numbering among its adherents, a Henry Clay, a Daniel Webster, a Tom Corwin, and a host of lesser-lights with so great a following that at the presidential election of 1840, it had swept the entire country with Wm. H. Harrison, of North Bend, Ohio, as its candidate.

There are still many readers of THE INDIANIAN living, who will remember the "hard-cider and log cabin campaign of 1840." for myself I can remember the occasion quite distinctly, although only a mere lad, then. Every town of any size erected a log-cabin in its public square, or at some convenient spot for a meeting place, and I remember that the one that was built in my native town--Tiffin City, Ohio--had a large double door built also in the Log-cabin style--that is, with "rived" clapboards all in the rough and put together with pins. On this door two coon skins were nailed and two live coons occupied the building with a collar and chain attached to prevent them from escaping from the cabin. On each side of the double entrance stood a barrel of hard-cider, with a gourd hung up to a pin by the side of each barrel and every one was free to drink as much at a time and as often as he felt inclined to do so--pretty often sometimes as the excitement waxed. Mr. Samuel Scott, a resident of Warsaw at the present time, will no doubt remember the Tiffin Log Cabin and its surroundings, even better than myself for he is a few years the eldest. If the younger readers of this contribution can find something in it of a historical nature of his own locality, my object in detailing how "Kosciusko" and "Warsaw" obtained their names, will have been accomplished, for I believe it is a fact not generally known save among the very oldest pioneers.

I feel that I cannot close this sketch without alluding to an old-time song once exceedingly popular, and an air that in the early forties was sung in almost every hewed log house and cabin, where "buckwheat notes" held away. I am reminded of these for the reason that the death of Dr. Thomas Dunn English, its author, occurred only a few days ago--to be exact on April 1st--at his home in Newark, New Jersey. I am confident that all who can remember from 1840 to 1850 and who are still living have heard "Ben Bolt," sung at some place during that decade. It came to my father's home as early as 1842-43, as least, and as my stepsister--a young lady a few years older than the writer to whom I have already alluded in these reminiscences--being a good singer, it was only natural that we all of us heard "Ben Bolt" early and often. Sometimes when the whole family was gathered around the ample fire-place, with its back-log, fore-log and "fillin'," and at other times when a pair of beaux would drop in--for I had a full sister as well as one whose mother only answered as a step-mother to me.

Of course these beaux would be elated over "Ben Bolt" for looking back to the many similar songs, I can remember of none that suddenly grew so popular--not even excepting the "Suwanee River," or "My Old Kentucky Home." No doubt the majority of the readers of this paper have heard the words, but now that the author is no more, I feel sure that all the older readers of the lines will re-peruse them with sincere pleasure and heartfelt memories of other days. They are as follows:

"Don't you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt,
Sweet Alice, whose hair was so brown--
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile,
And trembled with fear at your frown?
In the old church-yard in the valley, Ben Bolt,
In the corner obscure and alone,
They have builded a slab of granite so gray,
And sweet Alice lies under the stone.

"Under the hickory tree, Ben Bolt,
Which stood at the foot of the hill,
Together we've lain in the noon day shade,
And listened to Appleton's mill.
The mill wheel has fallen to pieces, Ben Bolt.
The rafters have all fallen in,
And a quiet which crawls round the walls as you gaze
Has followed the old-time din.

"Do you mind of the cabin of logs, Ben Bolt,
At the edge of the pattess wood,
And the button ball tree with its motley limbs,
Which nearby the doorstep stood?
The cabin to ruin has gone, Ben Bolt,
The tree you would ask for in vain;
And where once the lords of the forest waved
Are grass and the golden grain.

"And don't you remember the school, Ben Bolt,
With the master so cruel and grim;
And the shaded nook in the running brook
Where the children went to swim?
Grass grows on the master's grave, Ben Bolt,
The spring of the brook is dry;
And of all the boys who were schoolmates then,
There remains Ben, but you and I.

"There is change in the things I loved, Ben Bolt.
They have changed from the old to the new;
But I feel in the depths of my spirit the truth,
There never was change in you.
Twelve-months twenty have passed, Ben Bolt,
Since first we were friends, yet I hail
Your presence a blessing, your friendship a truth,
Ben Bolt of the salt-sea gale."

Warsaw Daily Times April 5, 1902

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