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

by Reub Williams

For a good many years after Northern Indiana became fairly well settled by the whites, the aborigines were a no small feature of the country. There were large numbers of them in all the adjoining counties, and in Kosciusko they were quite numerous until 1848. The writer cannot be truthfully called a very old man, having just passed his seventieth milestone, but his life has been of sufficient length for him to have seen, and to remember, as well, the last of the Indians to be removed from Northern Ohio, as well as the last to be removed from this section of Indiana. In Ohio it was the remnant of the two tribes of Senecas and Wyandottes, and the region from which they were taken was not far from the identical locality in which the brave Colonel Crawford was burned at the stake. Although but a very small boy, I distinctly remember the assemblage of about twenty-five chiefs and head men of these tribes at McCutcheonville, on the Sandusky river, in all their trappings and paint. I was too young then to remember the years exactly, but it must have been in 1836 or 1837.

At any rate, the government had provided for their removal, and if I am correct in my memory they were located in the territory that has since become the state of Kansas. Ten years later (or in 1848), the late Ezekiel French, whose home was then at Oswego, this county, secured the contract to remove the Miamis and Pottawattomies to what was then called Indian Territory, since divided up into different sections for many Indian tribes, and I distinctly remember the day they passed through Warsaw, at the veer beginning of their long and tedious journey. Not all of them, but any means, determined to go west. That was before Greeley's advice of "Go west, young man, go west," had had its origin in the brain of the Tribune editor--good advice when it came, and the teeming, brainy west of today shows that Horace's suggestion was complied with to such an extent that what was then a wilderness is now peopled with as energetic, pushing, well-informed, vigorous class of people, as the world contains today. The party that passed through the county seat on their first day's journey presented a motley appearance, certainly and riveted the attention of the boys of my own age to a wonderful degree. In the procession of wagons there were both covered and open vehicles, fitted with their own peculiar "plunder" and squaws, half-grown boys and papooses.

Every old settler of that period will remember "Bill Squawbuck," as he was called--Esquebaugh, more properly speaking. He was well-known to the whites of this region as an Indian that took more delight in a dram of whiskey than any person--Indian or white--that I ever saw indulge in the fiery liquid. That he knew how to secure the full measure of fire-water is shown by an incident that came under my own eyes. The late George R. Thralls, who died in Florida several years ago, but who was appointed as the first clerk of this county--he being an early pioneer--was the proprietor then of a drug store located on the ground now occupied by the Haas Bros.' building. On the day the Indians passed through Warsaw, Squawbuck had procured a wine bottle which was of the kind that were quite lengthy--long and slender would describe size and shape better, perhaps--and went to the drug store to have it filled with fire-water. These bottles, the older people will remember, had a bottom that projected well up into the body of the bottle. After getting it well-filled and corked, he turned it upside down and desired Thralls to fill the lower end. After insisting on it to some extent Thralls complied with the request, filled up the bottom and he drank it off with his usual gusto. For Squawbuck, it was not a full-sized drink, but for a white man the inverted bottle held a fairly good-sized dram, and the incident only showed Squawbuck's ingenuity in getting the full worth of his money.

The journey of this caravan of aborigines required nearly all of the remainder of the season to make, as much of the country through which French passed at that early period was just as it came from the hands of Nature, and in a talk by Mr. French after his return I heard him say that it was the most tedious and trying period through which he had ever passed. Not all of the Indians of this section sanctioned the government's disposition of them. Many of them dreaded to leave their old homes and especially they disliked to leave behind them their old burying grounds; consequently quite a large number took the terms allowed them by the government; had their share of lands allotted to them and took up homes upon them. Many readers of THE INDIANIAN will remember Bennack, whose lands and home were near North Galveston. He was counted even at that early period as a wealthy man, and was quite a well informed Indian; a great friend also of the late Metcalfe Beck and well known to George Moon, who still resides here in Warsaw, as he did at the time of the removal.

There was also a sub-chief among the Indians by the name of Topash, who lived in a small Indian village on Trimble Creek, near the home of the late James Wooden, about seven miles west of Warsaw. He had two sons at that time called Joaneta and Dominique. These two boys were about the age of the writer and Marion Warner, who still lives in the locality of the old Warner flouring mill of early days and who is the youngest son and child of the Late Peter Warner. We became quite well acquainted with these two boys and both of us visited them when they lived at the village referred to. It is only three or four years since the particulars of a law suit for the recovery of lands were given in the daily press in which the plaintiff was Topash, and it might easily be one or the other of these two boys, or both, who had commenced a suit to recover lands owned by their father, or at least on which the father's estate may have had some claim. Their family removed to Michigan not long after the hegira of the main body of the tribe for the West.

The lands claimed were in Laporte county, and still another claim was preferred for lands in the vicinity of Chicago. These claims, perhaps, are based on defective titles, but are often originated by lawyers who hope to secure a big sum for their clients and themselves on a compromise. I have heard nothing as to the outcome of the Topash lawsuit.

In early days Leesburg was the principal town in the county; was, the principal town in the county; was, in fact, the first one laid out within the borders of Kosciusko and for many years it was ahead of Warsaw even after the latter became the county seat. As a consequence of its being the best town and the country round-about much the most thickly settled for many years Leesburg got all of the annual visits of the old-time wagon circuses that made their annual tours through the country, and I well remember a circus given in that town (it must have been in 1850) that was attended by about thirty or forty of the Indians who had declined to be removed to the West. Looking back at the entertainment after the lapse of half a century I am sure that the presence of the Indians under the tent and their thorough enjoyment of the show attracted my attention as much as the show itself. Indians, everybody knows, are always attracted by gaudy trappings and high colors and as this was the first circus that most of them had ever attended, it is not laying it on too thick when it is stated that the whole party went wild over the bare-back riding and the tinselry of the flashy costumes that were everywhere visible in the ring. They clapped their hands; they yelled, fell of their seats and were, in fact, carried away entirely by the gorgeousness of Sands & Nathan's old circus. It is sad that Bennack tried to hire the show to stay another day, and was much chagrined when Messrs. Sands & Nathan refused a hundred dollars in silver to do so!

Warsaw Daily Times August 17, 1901

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