Early Times in Kosciusko

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

by Reub Williams

The barn, the old barn, Oh the dark walls were rife
With the records most fair in my tablet of life;
And a rare barn it was, for search twenty miles round,
Such another brave building was not to be found.

Who among my readers, that have passed the fiftieth mile-stone on life's journey can ever forget the old barn of his boyhood days? I have often thought that around the old red barn--it was most generally of that color in the region in which I was born--clustered many of the delightful days of farm life. It was the place of all others, where neighbor boys gathered when they came on a playing visit, and it was always the place, where the youngsters of the farm hid away their supply of hen's eggs for Easter. to the boys of almost every farm it was the most enjoyable spot to be found on the "place," and we venture the assertion that nine out of ten boys--now grown to grizzled manhood--as reminiscences come trooping up of boyhood days, the old barn will be among the most prominent features of their early life.

As the writer of these sketches has been considerably indisposed, since the beginning of the recent cold weather, he regards it as an excellent opportunity to fulfill the promise made to reproduce some portions of the old-time sketches published in the year 1894 in the Milford Mail, by Mrs. Dr. Cammack, a very early resident of that place, and which she had the kindness to send us several weeks ago. Mrs. Cammack's father, Judge Aaron M. Perine, was the original owner of the ground upon which Milford was laid out, and in the spring of 1836 laid out the town. Mrs. Cammack then goes on to say that "J. R. McCord was surveyor, William Felkner and a man by the name of Stewart, chain-bearers. There was at that time no small brush or undergowth, the same being kept down by burning over the ground by the Indians. When William Felkner first settled on his farm on the prairie he could see a covered wagon from his door to where the bridge crosses the creek. Game and fish of every description were plenty, and there never was any lack of meat to those who took the trouble to get it. To see ten or fifteen deer in a flock (herd?) was almost a daily sight and was thought of little consequence.

But to return to the laying out of the town of Milford, as we before stated, in 1836. Lots were sold off and the new town began steadily to grow, and new buildings going up, blacksmiths, carpenters and shoemakers soon settled here, and thus while Milford was yet in its infancy, the Hon. A. M. Perine, died, being cut off in the vigor of manhood and prime of life. He died in September, 1839, at the age of fifty-six years. He was a man of fair education, genial, affable, and of a kind disposition, as many of the old residents could testify, and he was often sought by the old pioneers to aid them in their differences, and his counsels were always well-timed, and by his superior knowledge he was able to be, and in fact was, to a great extent, the advisor of the early settlers. Such is the brief history of the founder of our village. At his death, the early settlers of the town and surrounding country, lost, for a time, as it were, their great beacon light.

Hon. A. M. Perine was the Joint Representative in the Indiana State Legislature, for the counties of Kosciusko, Marshall and Stark, at the sessions of 1837-38 and 1838-39. The summer of 1838 was what is remembered by the early settlers as the sickly season, and those were days that tried men's souls. Young as the village was, and scattering as were the residents, at one period during the year there was one funeral per day for eighteen days--despair and discouragement could be read on every countenance and every house was a hospital. Some left the country and more would have gone, but could not leave. Those that yet remain to tell of the trials of that year are few, and rapidly passing away. In 1860 there were three general stores in Milford. Isaac Nolan's place of business occupied the present site of the jewelry department of Kleder's drug store. Mr. Nolan now resides in Kansas. Martin Felkner engaged in business at about this time. His place of business occupied the ground where Smith's barber shop now stands. J. W. Sparklin was also a prominent business man of Milford along in 1860 and 1861.

The M. E. church was organized in 1866 and the present church was erected soon afterward. The Christian church at this place was organized by Rev. P. Marshall in 1866, and in 1867 the present church building was erected. In 1865 a public school building was erected. Its existence was of short duration, it being destroyed by fire. Another school building was subsequently built which was afterwards sold to be used for other purposes. The year of 1869 was one which will long be remembered by many of the people of Milford. Summer and autumn of this year was known as the "rainy season." The crops had succumbed to the effects of the rain. The situation was rendered worse on account of sickness. The disease, which attacked many families, was something like flux. Twenty persons died within a period of sixty days. One peculiar feature of the disease was that children over the age of six years and persons under twenty were not attacked. The disease was almost as fatal as cholera. The funeral bells were tolling ever and anon, and the people were depressed in spirits. During the siege of this malady a number of prominent persons of Milford passed away. Among the number were Mrs. Higbee, Dr. Potter, Mrs. Egbert, mother of Mrs. S. J. North and others. This disease made its first appearance in the family of Dr. Cammack.

Following is a list of the early settlers who lived in Little Turkey Creek settlement in the year 1838: Thomas Harper, John B. Chapman, Jacob Kirkendall, Mr. Jeffrey, Charles Irwin, Thomas Hall, Martin Kerschner, Dom. Rousseau, Hugh P. McCoy, Wm. Felkner, Benj. Woods, Antony Woods, John Woods, Oliver Wright, Joel W. Long, Widow DeVault, Elijah Miller and Richard Gawthrop. John Be Chapman was one of the prominent men of this section of the state, and for a number of years was prosecuting attorney. His district was the northern portion of the state.

During the years that intervened between 1838 and 1844 nothing worthy of record transpired. The fall of 1844 was one of more than usual interest to the early settlers as a campaign season. The Presidential candidates were James K. Polk and Henry Clay. The party feeling had been wrought up to an unusual degree through the medium of stump speeches. In the autumn of '44 the Democrats held a rally at Goshen which was remembered for many years as one of the most important political meetings ever held in this section of the state. Dr. Fitch, of Logansport, and Hon. ____ Kenedy were the principal speakers. It seems that the Whigs were present at the rally in force, and whenever an opportunity presented itself indulged in campaign music. One of the favorite songs had a chorus as follows:
Get out of the way you Polk root pizen,
You can't beat Clay and Frelinghuyzen.
A large number of huge wagons drawn by as many as sixteen yoke of oxen paraded the streets. The wagons were decorated with hickory branches. There were also a large number of wagons drawn by from ten to sixteen horses, which were ridden by men wearing hickory shirts. It will be remembered that 'Old Hickory,' otherwise known as Andrew Jackson was still held in high esteem by the Democracy of Northern Indiana. It was upon this occasion that Miss Lydia Hess, a young lady in her teens, but who is now Mrs. Schaffer, of this place, drove a four-horse team to the rally, and attracted no small amount of attention during the street parade."

Warsaw Daily Times May 31, 1902

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