Early Times in Kosciusko

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

by Reub Williams

In childhood's hour I lingered near
The hallowed seat with listening ear;
The gentle words that mother would give,
To fit me to die and teach me to live.
She told me shame would never betide,
With truth for my creed and God for my guide;
She taught me to lisp my earliest prayer,
As I knelt there beside her old arm-chair."
---Alice Cook

Perhaps no other cause than the teachings of a loving mother had more to do in instilling into the hearts and minds of her children honest, earnest principles of right, that were certainly dominant to a far greater extent fifty and more years ago than they are today. I do not wish to be understood that the present generation is a dishonest one--far from it. Upright men of high principles exist in every section of this board land today, but I believe that it will be admitted that there were far fewer rascals among the pioneers and the early settlers of any new country than is the case at present. This came largely from the mother implanting in their young minds the heaven-born principles of right to such an extent that, sown in the plastic, receptive minds of the child so beautifully hinted at in the above lines, these early impressions have stayed with the rising generation, clear on into full-grown manhood, and never more freely acknowledged than when the once child is nearing his three or four score years. Surely the pioneer mothers built well in this country; for it is only quite recently that rascality could live and thrive.

I have had something to say about the introduction of new implements--the cradle, the reaper, the thresher, etc., but it would almost be unfair not to mention the "Old Franklin Stove"--sometimes known as the "ten plate stove." It receives its name from the fact that Benjamin Franklin, the printer, statesman and sage--the man who represented the United States at the French court during the trying period of the Revolutionary War, and assisted by others who were sent to him by the Continental Congress, finally induced France to come to the assistance of America with Armed intervention on both land and see--was its inventor. Those who have used stoves that followed the old "ten-plate"--called so, because there were 10 principal pieces used in its manufacture--cannot realize the opposition the very homely but comfortable piece of furniture received at the hands of the public whom it was intended to serve. When all the older readers look back at the comfort derived from the old-time fire-place--of a size sometimes that took in the whole end of the room in which it was built--with its reserved corner for the grandfather or grandmother, and its great amplitude that permitted the large family--all families were large in my boyhood days--and then imagine a "Franklin" being substituted for the great log-fire that sent its heat to the farthest corner, and warmed all that the room could hold, it is no great wonder that the "ten-plates" had a hard "row to hoe" in being introduced into such surroundings, when it undertook to oust the old time fire-place!

Besides "The Franklin" was recommended as a bread-baker. Think of that! It came into competition with the old-time outdoor oven--which as a baker of bread I undertake to say has never yet found its equal and perhaps never will. Taken with the natural antipathy of the people towards the introduction of any new-fangled process for anything, and the tenacity with which they held on to the conveniences they had always known, and their fathers and mothers before them, it is not to be wondered at, that the "Franklin Stove" had a great struggle before it to supplant the great fireplace and the outdoor oven. However, improved stoves followed these ten-plates until now they can be had in a hundred styles for both heating and cooking and are in general use, while the old log fireplace and the outdoor oven have almost entirely disappeared, although there are some of the latter retained for their merits alone.

I remember of hearing a number of people here in Warsaw at the time the question was up quibbling about building the new school-houses that the town now possesses. There was quite a large party in favor of erecting only one large central building for the city, they declaring that it should be made large enough to accommodate the full number of scholars the town possessed. There was still a larger body in favor of a central large building and two smaller ones, for each of the remaining wards. I, at least, judge that those favoring the erection of three houses must have been the largest in number, for that plan was finally adopted, and the town is now certainly well provided for it has one large and two smaller school houses, one in each of the wards.

What struck me at the time was the argument that if only one school house was built, the great distance the scholars would have to travel in going to and coming from school as an objection. As the city was even then fairly well supplied with sidewalks the argument in the presence of one who at six years age, accompanied by an elder sister, with dinner in basket, had to trudge three miles every morning and back in the evening, that being the distance the school house was from the home of the writer. What is more, the trip had to be made over the rough roads of a new country with two creeks to cross on the way with only foot-logs for the purpose made by the felling of trees across the stream.

If there is any one thing for which the people of this great country--all of them, and in every walk of life should feel grateful--entertain a very deep sense of gratitude, in fact--it is for the present school system, with all its thousand-fold advantages over that period well remembered by men and women of my age. No State in all the country deserves greater praise for its present school system, free to all between the ages from six to twenty-one years, than Indiana. I do not know whether any one within the last few years has excelled the "Old Hoosier State" with a school fund at interest. Not many years ago the gross amount at interest was something over $11,000,000. As I have not kept a tab on the increase and the comparison with other commonwealths, it may be that Indiana has been exceeded on this point, and if so, it has probably been done by Iowa, which at the time is which I have referred, as a close second.

I have referred to the carrying of the dinner basket to school to school in a previous paragraph. I remember an incident connected with that winter term of school, which I feel sure that many of the older readers of this paper will remember as well. In the month of June of the previous summer, when the growing wheat of a new country--which means that none of the fields were particularly large--there came a frost that extended all over Northern Ohio and throughout this part of Indiana, and literally wiped out in a single night all prospect for wheat-bread for the coming winter. It was a terrible blow to the people of a new country--would be, in fact, had it been as old as the Garden of Eden--for if I can remember from the talk of my elders at that time, not a field was worth the cutting, save for the straw, alone.

Fortunately there was a fine crop of corn that year, and corn-dodgers, corn-pone, corn-fritters, parched corn, and hominy made from corn, was so common that I remember that my sister and myself, so weary of the ever-present corn substituted for wheat-bread, often returned the dinner basket we had carried to school, with its contents of cornbread, with perhaps a slice of fat bacon, or "side meat" as it was then always called, lying in between the slices--wholly untouched.

Thee was no wheat flour in all the country, except that which had been brought to the more central markets from the Ohio river, or the lake region and then hauled in wagons to the points referred to. As a consequence wheat flour rose to a fabulous price per barrel, and the reference to the children growing so tired of the ever-present corn-bread recalls an incident of my boyhood days--childhood, I rather should say--that may be worth repeating and which will be appreciated by those still living, who may remember that winter, and who may peruse it. The home of my family during that winter was on the banks of the Sandusky river not far from McCutchinsville. My father was a millwright by trade, and during a visit to Tymochtee--originally an Indian village near where Col. Crawford was burned at the stake--several miles up the river from our home.

While there he perceived that at a general store the owner of the establishment had several barrels of flour for sale, the price of which was $26 each. After some dickering he bought a barrel of the flour at $1 less on the barrel, thus reducing the price to an even $25. to get this barrel to its destination, he hired a young man with a canoe to take both it and himself to his home down stream, which if I remember correctly by the windings of the river was something more than 12 miles. They got a late start and did not arrive at the home-cabin until after 12 o'clock at night. Our home was a double log-cabin located on quite a high bluff, there being at that time two sets of steps leading down from the top to the spring that bubbled out, only a few feet above the stream. The first set of steps led to a sort of natural terrace of about twelve or fifteen feet in width and the second set clear down to the spring.

On making the landing my father called for help, and my mother hearing him, awoke and set an elder brother, who was then about sixteen years of age, down to what was called "the landing," following after him, herself. It was no small bit of work to get the barrel of flour up to the top of the bluff; but this was finally accomplished and the barrel was rolled the remaining distance to the house. By this time, hearing all the noise and aware that something unusual was in progress, all of us little folks were up, and taking a deep interest in the fact that for a time, at least, the hated, the loathed corn-bread would have to give way to wheat-bread, and it may be spread with butter, instead, of flitch-bacon grease! We children were so loud in our joy over the arrival of the flour and became so persistent in our demands that some hot wheaten biscuit should be provided at once; and this demand being reinforced by the fact that the father had had no supper, my mother acceded, and within an hour after the arrival of the barrel of flour, hot biscuits were steaming on a table, that the reader may designate either as a very early breakfast or a quite late supper! After that we carried wheat-bread to school and ate every bit of it before coming home even if the piece of bacon still retained its place between the sliced biscuits! To this day I can only stand corn-bread for two or three successive meals, and I attribute much of my antipathy to it to that winter that I learned to loathe it as a substitute for wheat-bread.

All that region where the above incident is located is historic ground. The Wyandottes and Senecas were there even yet in quite goodly numbers, and it was only a short distance from the battlefield where the whites under Col. Crawford were fearfully beaten in battle; himself captured, and by the decision of the head-chiefs was sentenced to be burned at the stake, no doubt at the instance of Simon Girty. Back in the late thirties, as a very small boy, I accompanied my elders to the Sandusky plains, and near the scenes of the battlefield, for the purpose of gathering strawberries in their season, which grew wild and in great plenitude all above, even though they were smaller than the ones our people know today. A commemorative monument has been erected over the spot where Col. Crawford was buried. Simon Girty, the renegade white man, whom history declared could have saved Col. Crawford's life had he exerted himself in his behalf, lived to a very old age, in a cabin all alone, despised, berated, disowned and unvisited by everyone. Who knows but that his later years were protracted as a punishment; and that he suffered as much from his desertion by all mankind as Col. Crawford did in the terrible shocking, cruel manner in which he was put to death.

Mrs. Thomas Cammack of Milford whose maiden name was Perrine and who was a daughter of an early pioneer of that part of the country, some years since wrote a series of sketches about early times in that town and its immediate region, which were published in the Milford Mail, three successive copies of which she has sent us by the hand of her husband, himself an early settler of Warsaw, coming here, if I remember aright, in 1847. At any rate, I remember very well when he arrived with a young wife and a small child. I have not examined these old-time sketches yet, but I shall no doubt find a good many "incidents and anecdotes" worth reproducing when I come to do so; but in the meantime I desire to return my sincere thanks to her for the interest she has taken in these sketches as is shown by this act. I remember the Perrine family quite well as far back as the beginning of the first half of the century just closed. In conclusion, I am once more called upon to return additional thanks to all who have written me so kindly about this series of old-time articles. letters reach me very often and come from former Kosciuskoans in distant states and territories. Let me say in the language of the much-lived Sir Walter Scott--

"To all, to each a fair good-night,
And pleasing dreams--and slumbers light."

Warsaw Daily Times April 12, 1902

Back to YesterYear in Print