Early Times in Kosciusko

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

by Reub Williams

We lived not hermit lives but oft
In social converese met;
And fires of love were kindled then
That burn on warmly yet.

The early settler of almost every section of the west was alive to the great advantages of eduction, and as soon as a sufficient number "squatted' in the same neighborhood, a school house soon arose. I preseume that this almost inbred feeling on the part of the pioneers that his children should at least have a fair, common school eduation grew from his own disadvantages in this particular, and hence came an intense desire on his part to give his boys and girls all the advantages procurable.

From Marion Warner--a son of Peter Warner, who settled on the banks of the Tippecanoe a couple of miles west and north of Warsaw--himself a scholar of this school, I learn that Mr. Hamilton--I regret that I cannot ascertain his given name--taught the first school in this section, and it may have been the first one in the entire county. This was in 1836, and in the summer time, too; so I argue that the scholars must have been the youngest children of the first settlers.

This school was a cabin built on land owned by my father and was erected by the neighbors joining together for the purpose, and of couse the cabin was of the usual kind, a mere shelter built of round logs covered with split clapboards, held in place by "weight-poles," the cracks between the logs chinked with blocks and wastage from the riving of the clapboards, and then daubed with a clay mortar, without lime of course, for at that time there was none of this article in all the country. The doors were put together by the use of pins, and in all probability there was not a single nail used in the entire construction from first to last.

Mr. Warner also gives us the names of those who contributed their labor to the construction of this first school house, and they were William Bradway, Samuel Yarnell, David Garvin, the father of the late William Williams, whose first name was unknown to Mr. Warner, and Mr. Hamilton, who became the teacher. It does one good to be able to reproduce the names of even a portion of those who so greatly desired that their children should not grow up without at least the rudiments of an education, for it must be understood that an education in the west in those days were in reality confined to the three r's--"readin, ritin' and 'rithmetic." However, of Mr. Hamilton, the teacher of this school, more than this can be said for his qualifications, for although he had died before the family of the writer came to this section of Indiana, he was a man much talked about by the first settlers as an educated gentleman.

He came from New Jersey, and was so completely captivated with the lakes and scenery of this part of Kosciusko that he entered the land that likes at the southeast end of Eagle lake, and which but a few years ago was incorporated into Winona Park. It was his dying request to be interred on the apex of a knoll on his land that was fully a hundred feet high, I should guess, the ground falling away in every direction from the highest point, making a round, symmetrical hill. Here he was buried and a neat enclosure of palings was erected around the grave with a board containing in fairly well constructed lettering giving his name, age, place of birth and date of death. The enclosure has disappeared and for a number of years the head-board only remained leaning against a tree. Whether even it has been preserved I am unable to say; but all those who attended the numerous picnics held at "Pilot Knob" preceding the war days near the point of burial, will bear witness that it was indeed, a beautiful, sequestered, picturesque spot. There are five persons still living in this county who went to school taught by Mr. Hamilton, their names being Samuel Leighty, Julia A. Garvin, two of the Yarnelle girls and Marion Warner.

School houses spring up in every neighborhood, and among the first in the immediate region referred to was one known afterwards as the Goshert school house; one on the farm of Jacob Losure, due west from the court house and perhaps a mile and a quarter distant from town. This one, I think supplanted the one alluded to by Mr. Warner. At any rate, it was here that the Warner boys, the Losures, the Milices, the Fawleys, the Tusings, etc., frequently received their rap on the knuckles or the open hand from the pedagogues of those days, believers and practicers to the last degree of severe punishment for any infractions of the sometimes most rigid rules.

During the winter of 1846 James Chapman taught the Warsaw school, the house standing right in the center of the junction of Fort Wayne avenue and Fort Wayne Streets, in front of the residence of Mr. Peter Conrad and Mrs. Hudson Beck, as well as that of B. Q. Morris. He was a tall slim young man, a brother of the late Col. C. W. Chapman, but was an invalid, and died the following spring. Then the late Joseph A. Funk taught several winters in succession, and I can still county quite a few survivors of scholars who attend the school the two terms that I was one of the pupils. among those are Capt. Robert S. and Wm. H. Richhart, W. B. and Austin C. Funk.

In those days it was quite the custom to bar the teacher out on Christmas Day, unless he provided something out of the usual as a "treat" as it was then called. Many teachers willingly complied and turned Christmas into a "winter picnic," providing the scholars with cakes, candy, nuts, apples, etc. As there had been some threats made by the "big scholars" that they intended to make Mr. Funk "come to time" during his second winter, he got to hear of it, and resolved to have some fun on his own account. In those days he was an athletic, vigorous young man of perhaps twenty-five years of age, and a wrestler who knew all the tricks of "side-holts," "lock-trip," etc. It was acknowledged all around the county-seat that "Joe was a hard man to handle,"

Well, Christmas morning came and a young man by the name of Elmer Burgan, also a "rough and ready tumbler," but not nearly so heavy, become the leader, and along with two other young men--John and Jared Day--whose father was then engaged in building the old jail that stood on the corner of the public square here for so many years, including--well it's no difference about who the other fellow was--arose very early on Christmas morning, and according, to pre-concerted arrangements, proceeded to the school house then located not far from the present magnetic well on Indiana street; forced the lock of the door and got inside the building. Plenty of braces, a couple pounds of ten-penny nails and other implements thought to be necessary had been provided for the purpose of fastening all of the windows, but especially the door.

This was soon done, and as it was not yet day the party sat down to await the coming of teacher Funk, confident that we could bring him to terms. All at once a slight noise was heard overhead, when lo, and behold, the trapdoor was opened, and Mr. Funk dropped down right amongst us. The only thing then to do was to put him out and re-bar the door. Burgan and the Day brothers leaped upon Mr. Funk, and at the same time directed the writer to unbar the door, so they could put him out at once. all this time Mr. Funk was giving the three others all they could do in the test of strength that was then being exhibited in the tussle going forward. The door was flung open but alas, it was not the teacher that was put out, but the three scholars and the outcome showed that Burgan had sustained a fracture of the small bone in his wrist and one of the Day brothers could scarcely walk for several days from a sprained ankle, the writer escaping with not even a bruise or an abrasion.

Fun was of a rough character in those days, but after all it did not so frequently get beyond that, and that Christmas Day was very pleasantly enjoyed by all the scholars, as Mr. Funk provided plentifully with the "good things" of that period, and the day was wholly given over to mirth and merriment.

In addition to the public schools of early days, the Sunday school must not be forgotten, for to this day the good effects of this free teaching of all who attended on Sundays is plainly visible, and I want right her to acknowledge great benefits derived from my attendance at Sunday schools. Deep interest was taken in them in those early days, and I am sincere in the belief that I acquire more knowledge through the medium of the Sunday school than I did in the two years or two months of my education in the public schools. I make this statement for the encouragement of the Sunday school of today, and to urge upon superintendents and teachers to take special pains in inculcating correct principles in the minds of the young.

The impressions received by the young are most lasting, and in after-life they are seen to prove beneficial to all who receive them. On reason, I think, why the Sunday schools of early days produced such good results, and assisted to a wonderful extent in the acquirement of a common -school education, was because such such, just as soon as it was organized, added a library, and although in many instances it may have been a small one; yet in those days, books were scarce and high-priced. In some of the schools, the library was quite large, and what is more--large or small--they were greedily perused, and the majority of scholars returned their book on each Sunday, with the announcement that it had been "read clear through" during the week. for my part I owe much to the Sabbath school, and I am only too glad to publicly announce the fact, and to suggest to the people generally to give it all possible encouragement. There will be far less danger to this country from anarchy if the Sabbath school is well sustained in all church denominations.

Warsaw Daily Times September 14, 1901

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