Early Times in Kosciusko

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

by Reub Williams

"We love the well-beloved place
Where first we gazed upon the sky;
The roofs that heard our earliest cry
Will shelter one of stranger race."

The coming of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway made lively times in the then small village of Warsaw. The work of surveying, grading, bridging, etc., was carried on through 1854-55, and a larger part of 1856, and during this period troops of laborers--usually Irish--were scattered all along the line from Fort Wayne to Chicago. There was a larger amount of work to do on which was then known as the "Boss cut" just east of this city, the land being owned by the late Dr. Jacob Boss, giving to it the name. Just west of town and across Walnut creek there was also a cut for some distance further west. This was not considered a "deep cut," but it was sufficiently so that the whole families of the laborers made their homes during the winter of 1854-55 in it by burrowing caves into each side and hanging quilts or blankets up for doors and to partially keep out the wind, rain, snow and sleet. The large body of people lived in these burrows during the winter alluded to, and looking back at the period from the present time, it is safe to say that Warsaw was a busy place, and equally as safe to say that with such a numerous body of Irish people, both just east and west of town, that at least on Saturday nights, the village was also a noisy one.

I remember a character of that period that furnished much amusement for not only himself, but those around him, and there was generally a crowd. His name was Sam Borin, and his home was in Fremont, Ohio, formerly Lower Sandusky. He was a tinner by trade and in those days a man master of that craft need not be idle for want of work for a single day, for it must be remembered that stove dealers and hardware men purchased stoves without a single atom of what is known as trimmings, and hence the tinner made all the boilers, tea-pots, pans of all kinds, tin cups, ladles, etc., in the shop whence the stove was sold--a feature of trade that has entirely passed out of existence and the general public has almost entirely forgotten that this form of turning out a stove after it was purchased, ever existed.

Sam was a good workman, but owing to his intimate acquaintance with one "John Barleycorn," he was considered quite unreliable, "Barleycorn" employing him most of the time. The coming of the railroad made business of every kind much more lively than it had been before, and consequently Sam's services were in great demand, but as is usual with such characters, when the most needed, Sam was most incapacitated. Besides, he had disappeared. His employer inquired everywhere for him but all to no purpose--he could not be found. Knowing of his intimacy with the Irish people who lived in the burrows west of town to which I have referred, I asked him if he had made any search in that direction. He said he had not, but proceeded to do so at once. Sam was found, brought to town, a watch placed over him, and after a day's rest while "John Barleycorn" was forbidden to come near him, he went to work and remained steadfastly employed for some time, making big wages for that period.

The enticements of the "burrows" for Sam was great and ere long he was again found at his old place surrounded with a plentiful supply of "oh be joyful" and intent on card-playing with the young Irishmen of the caves. Sam was ready-witted, a good storyteller, and what was very peculiar, he could talk plainly and well even when he was so drunk he could not walk. I remember on on occasion--it was Sunday night and I had been making a call that extended into the small hours of the night or rather into the early hours on Monday morning. On my way to my lodging rooms I passed north on Buffalo street and when nearly opposite the old frame building that then occupied the place where Lynch's drug store now stands, I discovered something hanging on the hitching rack in front. It was too dark to make out just what it was. My curiosity being excited, however, I determined to do so, and went back to see what it really was. It was Sam Borin, who always pretended to be perfectly sober with tone and voice, while his legs could not have carried him a rod. I spoke to him after ascertaining who and what it was, and asked him what he was doing there: "Only waitin' fer a feller," was the ready reply, but when it is remembered that both of Sam's feet were off the ground and he was hung across the rail as limp as a quilt or blanket would have been, his effort to be considered sober was remarkably funny to me.

On another occasion when the incidents were exactly similar so far as I was concerned, it being again on Sunday night and I on my way home, only that rain was falling almost in a deluge, while passing the then frame building that was so long occupied by Andy Thomas, deceased, and erected by Henry Wynant, and which had three front doors twenty-two feet apart, deeply sunk into the front of the building, I discovered that some one occupied one of these deep recesses. I stepped up close to the occupant and asked him who it was? " 'S that you Roob? You'll have to take the next door!" his idea to make it appear that I, too, was seeking a similar bed, showing his readiness of wit , and his desire to perpetrate a joke on someone else. Poor Sam!

Many times did I care for him in those days, but he left Warsaw, and I never saw him but once since. That was during the Atlanta campaign, when I was passing an Ohio regiment, a man stepped out of the ranks and, after giving me a soldier's salute, asked: "Is this Col. Reub Williams?" "Certainly," I replies and tears came into his eyes as the old days swept before him once more and he narrated many incidents that transpired in Warsaw, and that had befell him since. With me those Sunday night late hours amounted to something, for early in the following April I was married!

The incident of planting 35 bushels of black walnuts, on the home farm of our always esteemed old friend, Horace Tucker, an account of which has appeared in these columns, and which was done by relatives, friends and neighbors at a recent birthday, reminds me of an incident that came under my eye when I was a tramping "jour" printer in Iowa, in the year 1855--the year before THE NORTHERN INDIANIAN was projected. Most people know that when a beginner first settles on a piece of land in any of the Prairie States, that about the first thing the owner does is to set out many fast-growing trees on the west side of his house. As there is a steady breeze in all prairie countries prevailing all day long, and as they come from the west on an average of nine days in ten, it can readily be perceived that this is done to make a wind-break. In passing through these states on the cars since the period I have already referred to, on several occasions I have hard passengers wonder what the row of trees always on the west side meant. If there are any readers of this paper who have never known this, they can now, at least, perceive that such is the case and also learn the virtue of doing so.

It was in 1855 that I passed through a small village near the Des Moines river on my way home to found this paper. At the hotel where the stage stopped, I met a man who claimed he was from near Indianapolis, Indiana, and after learning that I too, was from the same state, he insisted that I should stay over with him until the next morning and he would carry me to the next stage station, and I accepted his invitation. He had been a resident of that part of Iowa for three or four years, and during the conversation that went on between us, he informed me that after settling on his land, he had sent back to Indianapolis for two bushels of walnuts. These he had planted in two big rows clear across the extent of the land he owned on the west side, and before supper he took me out to show me how nicely they were growing I had no idea how many walnuts there might be in two bushels, but it can readily be perceived there would be a good many.

At the time I am speaking, the sprouts were from a foot to eighteen inches high, and I remember even at this distance day, the thought came to me that he would have to wait a long time for his anticipated wind-break; and so he did, perhaps, think that it was really a long period; but to me it did not seem such a great while. In about twenty-one years afterwards I saw the trees that came from the sprouts I saw of Indiana walnuts in 1855. As a rule they were nearly all the same height and growth, but they did differ some. At the base they were from 18 to 20 inches and their height was given to me as 55 feet or over, and the remark was made that he could get from $10 to $15 for each of these trees! I am aware that this is a big story; but at the same time it is a true one, and I refer to it now because the Horace Tucker tree-planting incident has brought it to mind once more; but if I mistake not, I referred to the Iowa tree-planting on some former occasion in these columns. Such is my impression, at least.

What I desire to say, however, is that it must be plain to every intelligent mind that some system and method must be adopted for the growth and preservation of forest trees; else all of the rising generation will be in a region ere long that will be as treeless as were the Prairie States of the great West fifty years ago. Where is there one living who knew this heavily timbered region fifty years ago who would then have believed that it would ever be necessary to ship lumber-aye, even large pine timber--into a country so densely studded with the finest forest that ever "lay out of door?" There are not many, I feel sure; but it is today one of the most important of questions, and it is for this reason, too, that I want to urge upon the people of Kosciusko, both in town and country, to make a big start at the coming Arbor Day, and as I have before stated in these columns, especial attention should be given to setting out trees on both side of the public highways. this portion of the work should be under the supervision of the township trustees and the corps of supervisors of the same township, means to prevent confusion than otherwise, and to bring system to the work. The readers of this particular sketch, will, I feel sure, excuse the digression, as tree-planting does not come under the head of pioneer sketches to any great extent. Yet even this allusion to forest planting goes back to 1855 on the plains of Iowa.

Warsaw Daily Times November 23, 1901

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