Early Times in Kosciusko

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

by Reub Williams

Strange to me now are the forms I meet
When I visit the dear old town;
But the native air is pure and sweet,
And the trees that o'ershadow each well-known street,
As they balance up and down,
Are singing the beautiful song,
Are sighing and whispering still;
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
And "Egbert's" woods are fresh and fair,
And with joy that is almost pain,
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams that were
I find my lost youth again.
And the strange and beautiful song,
The groves are repeating still;
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts"

No doubt the sentiment in these beautiful lines of Longfellow finds a responsive cord in the heart of almost every one who revisits the old home, especially to one in which he lived as a boy. In the quotation I have taken the freedom and the liberty to change the name of the woods, which Longfellow calls "Deering's" to that of "Egbert's," in order to express the truth; as the "Egbert's woods" were to me as a 9-year old, the scene of all my hunting and the location of all the birds and animals the acquaintance of which I made in my three years' life in the country.

In this contribution to the series of reminiscences that have appeared under this head for the past ten months, I have concluded to continue the series of articles that appeared in the Milford Mail of 1984, from the pen of Mrs. Cammack, wife of Dr. Cammack, of Milford, both of whom are well-known also here in Warsaw. Mrs. Cammack started her articles in the Mail, dated May 10, 1894, as follows: "History records the fact that the earliest settlers of Van Buren township, Kosciusko county, Indiana, were Oliver Wright and his son Moses and William Felkner. The two former settled on section 28 and the latter on section 21 in March, 1833. Soon after Elijah Miller, Richard Gawthrop and A. C. Cory selected sites for their homes in this township, and in December of the same year seven more were added to the little colony--Mrs. Sarah DeVault and five children and Samuel Street. At that time Kosciusko county was a part of Elkhart county.

"In the years 1834-35 the pioneer settlement was reinforced by a number of families namely: James and Samuel H. Chipman*, Joel Long, Henry Doolittle, John Egbert, Samuel Sackett, Elijah Jones, Bently Jarrett, James Jarrett, Andrew Edgar, William Mackey, David Maxwell and others. The settlement was made on what is known as Little Turkey Creek Prairie. Insomuch as there was little or no timber to clear away the settlers proceeded at once to plant their crops. The soil was new and fertile, and the result was that laborers were awarded a bountiful crop the first season. All the settlers united in constructing a fence around the entire settlement. It was a community of hardy pioneers who had braved the dangers and hardships incident to all pioneer settlements. But they labored together as a family, and in the midst of their early struggles found enjoyment of a character which the people of this generation know nothing of. They were mutually interested in the work of making homes. Being isolated from the rest of the world, as it were, they were drawn closer together in the times of friendship. Selfishness was not a characteristic of the first settlers.

"The first white child born in the settlement was Rachel Felkner, daughter of William and Mary Ann Felkner, May 15, 1833. The great social event of the day was the first marriage in the new township, which occurred in October, 1834, the happy contracting parties being Fred Sumney (Summy?) and Miss Adeline Trimble. The event was celebrated in the style peculiar to the time of which we write. There was a feast of large proportions, to which the entire community was invited, followed in the evening by a ball, in which old and young alike participated. The following day was known as the 'infare'--an occasion not much less important than the wedding day. The happy groom and bride repaired to the home of the former's parents, where a feast was prepared. Another evening was then devoted to dancing. In the year 1837 John Egbert, who was one of the enterprising settlers of the community erected a sawmill on the banks of Little Turkey creek, about one mile east of Milford. It was one of the old style 'watermills,' which was very different from the steam saw-mill of today. However it served the purpose of the community and was regarded as one of the indispensable fixtures of the settlement. Man can live without flowers, poetry or even newspapers; but where is the civilized man who can live without lumber! The old sawmill which stood for many years, like the early settlers has passed away--not even a vestige of its remains are left. Two years later (1839) Mr. Egbert, foreseeing the need of a gristmill, proceeded to erect one on Little Turkey creek at the then embryo town of Milford. For many years the mill did an excellent business. It was remodeled and repaired from time to time. today it is tenantless, silent and slowly going to decay. The mill, which in the halcyon days of its prosperity, was the scene of busy life and activity, is only a shadow of its former self. It is going the way of all material things. 'Time and tide wait for no man,' and ere the lapse of another fifty years the greater portion of the present generation will have passed from the busy scenes of life.

"In the year 1836 Chipman & Doolittle opened the first dry goods and grocery store in Milford, which business they conducted for about seven years. The building which they occupied was built of hewn logs, and stood on the site now occupied by Peter Smith's dwelling house. The first hotel in Milford was opened by Judge A. M. Perine to the public soon after the village was organized; but from his earliest residence in the township his house was always open to the traveling public. John Egbert also engaged in the tavern business in the year 1840, in the building opposite Peter Smith's residence, and now owned by S. J. North. Mr. Egbert afterwards carried a stock of goods in the same building. The first blacksmith shop was opened in Milford in 1836 by Samuel Sackett. He erected his shop on the site where George Kleder's drug store now stands. Mr. Sackett was the pioneer blacksmith of the country, and the only one in Kosciusko county at the time named. Samuel Sackett was then a young man in the prime of life, and with a sturdy arm yielded the hammer and made himself useful to his fellow pioneers. But over fifty years have elapsed, and the few who are left of the strong men of 1836 are now in the 'sere and yellow leaf' of life.

"Dr Joseph Chamberlain was Milford's first physician. He hung out his shingle in 1839, and at once proceeded to minister to the physical infirmities of the people. In 1841 Samuel H. Chipman built a dwelling house, which stood for many years on the site now occupied by C. C. Reynolds' drug store. The only frame building in town built in or prior to 1840 is now used as a residence by E. J. Kellogg. It was erected in 1840 by Mr. Doolittle and used for many years as a dwelling house and subsequently by J. C. McLaughlin as an insurance and real estate office. Van Buren township was organized June 29, 1836. The first schoolhouse in the township was erected in the fall of 1835, and John G. Woods was the first teacher. The first road surveyed through the township ran from Logansport to Goshen, passing through Milford. In the year 1833, while Kosciusko county was a part of Elkhart county, William Felkner was appointed road supervisor, his district including the territory south of the county line, from said line south as far as Galveston, and east and west wherever there were any roads. In the spring of the year the supervisor gathered together his men liable to do road work, numbering almost thirty, at what is now known as Shaffer's Hill, a little north of Milford, in the morning of the day, when they were all met there. David Colerick and Mr. Hanegan, of Fort Wayne, came along, the former a candidate for representative, and the latter a candidate for Congress. They were on their way north, but made a proposition that, inasmuch as all hands were busy, if the company would consent and be present they would return in the evening and make speeches, which was readily assented to by all. True to their appointment, Colerick and Hanegan met these sturdy yeomen of their country and made telling speeches, and here it may not be out of place to give the subject of their speeches.

"Colerick proceeded first to enlighten his hearers upon the all-absorbing question, 'Pre-emption Rights of the Settlers,' pledging himself to do all that could be done in behalf of those who had sought the far west as their future homes, etc., and here it would be proper to say that he was elected and faithful to his promises. After Colerick had concluded, Hanegan followed, and he, too, frequently set forth the rights of pre-emptors, and made like promises, after which he launched out into a broader field and enlightened his hearers on the all-absorbing political event, to-wit: "The Difficulty Imminent Between the United States and France.' The reader by referring to history will find that about that time Andrew Jackson was President of the United States, and had made certain demands of France, in his manner of doing things, which insulted the dignity of his Majesty, who in return demanded an apology from the President. When Hanegan came to that part of his address, where the apology was demanded, he said: 'I am in favor of making no apology to France, excepting such a one as it belched forth from the mouth of an American cannon.' It is useless to say he was, too, elected and faithfully kept his promises. And it is presumed that Jackson made no apologies, but urged his demands in more emphatic language, for when Jackson's second demand was made, his Majesty wanted to know who this Andrew Jackson was, and when told that he was the President and hero of New Orleans, he said he guessed that fellow would fight and he wasn't particular about an apology at any rate.

"From 1843 to 1853 the people of this township moved along in the work of wresting homes from what had once been the hunting grounds of the red men. The wilderness was being reclaimed by the toll of the husband-man and was made to 'blossom as the rose.' At this period, this section of Indiana was known to the people of the New England states as the 'far west.' The people who had settled in this township were not slow to apprise their friends and relatives of the older states of advantages offered to the plucky man who would settle with them in their respective neighborhoods, and the result was that between the years of 1843 and 1853 a larger number of families came to join their fortunes with the early pioneers. The village of Milford became a place of some prominence as early as 1850, the tide of emigration which swept through this section at the period spoken of gave Milford no small amount of trade.

The presidential campaign of '56 is remembered as a time when this township gave a majority of fifty-three votes for the Republican candidates on the sate ticket. Buchanan and Fremont were the presidential candidates. A large number of the citizens of this township attended a Democratic rally at the Tippecanoe battle grounds. John C. Breckenridge was the chief speaker on that occasion. General Cass, who was then a very old man, occupied a seat on the speakers' stand. There was probably more money bet on this township on the result of the election during the campaign than ever before or since. William Felkner, who was then active in politics, was worth more by some two hundred dollars after the election than before. Numerous cases are reported of men who parted company with some of their surplus cash because they had too much faith in the popularity of the 'hero of the Rockies.' It was ever thus, and for that matter, it will ever be that way until the end of time.

The first school teacher that taught in the village of Milford was Alonzo Doolittle, and for the benefit of our young readers, we will give a description of one of the early schools of this county. A log house 18 x 20, with puncheon floor and puncheon ceiling, a large fire-place, occupying nearly one end of the building, with windows horizontally longest; slabs for desks and seats--such is the description of the place. Now, for the teacher. He was usually selected more on his having, as the boys would term it, plenty of muscle, rather than learning; who would unfold, on first entering the school room. a long roll of manuscript and commence reading therefrom, and soon you would learn that he was laying down, in Mosaic style, his rules. Steel pens, fancy paper, and a score of useful articles now used, were then unknown, and baseball and billiards were yet in the future.
*The Samuel H. Chipman alluded to above was nominated on the Whig ticket for county Clerk, and was elected for two terms, dying only a few years since at Petoskey, Mich. He entered the dry goods trade here and was successful, and at the close of his career, he was prominently connected with the State Bank of Warsaw.

Warsaw Daily Times June 7, 1902

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