Early Times in Kosciusko

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

by Reub Williams

"This fond attachment to the well-known place,
Whence first we start into life's long race.
Maintains its hold with unfailing sway.
We feel it e'vn in age, and to our latest day."

In writing of some particular incident of these sketches, the subject is almost sure to suggest another along the same line, thus the reference to the late Senator Henry S. Lane as the president of the first National Republican Convention, in my last contribution, has recalled the fact that along with Abraham Lincoln, who was elected President in 1860, that same year saw the election of Henry S. Lane as Governor of Indiana. How many of the present readers of this paper can remember, however, that such was the case, or what a wise arrangement it was on the part of the Republican leaders of the state that if the Legislature was Republican Lane should be elected United States Senator and thus make room for the vigorous and capable Oliver P. Morton to become Governor. Henry S. Lane was in 1860 well advanced in years and with the activity required of the Governor as a result of the breaking out of the civil war, he could never have withstood the strain, but in creating him Senator, room was made for that vigorous, able patriot, who along with Lane at the head of the state ticket was elected Lieutenant-Governor. Lane was especially fitted for the Senate, while O. P. Morton as the Governor of a great state during the War for the Union became the mainstay and support of the martyred Lincoln, and the one on whom he most relied whenever an emergency arose.

The writer was but a young man at the period of which I am portraying; but even then I could readily perceive the wisdom of the leaders of the young but very vigorous Republican part in making that happy--I was about to say Providential--arrangement, even previous to the election of 1860, hinging, of course, on the question whether the Legislature would have a Republican majority, and thus create the vacancy required to place O. P. Morton in the gubernatorial chair by sending Lane to the Senate. The party did have a majority; did create the vacancy to be filled by the wisest of all the war governors, although every one of the heads of the loyal states did valiant service for the Union cause. How often did the soldiers from Indiana hear the remark from other soldiers in the field--"How we wish we had a Governor like yours!" This was a common remark from the soldiers of other states on meeting those from Indiana, and it was a source of pride to every Hoosier boy who hear it, for he was a great and wise patriotic ruler and it was Indiana soldiers whose wounded received the first aid from surgeons and nurses hurried to the field by Governor Morton after a great battle, although they by no means confined their labors and their help to the Indiana soldiers along, but rendered aid to the wounded from whatever state they may have hailed.

I remember another incident of Henry S. Lane besides the one already related in these sketches. I have already stated that Henry S. Lane, at a very early date represented Indiana in the Lower House of Congress, when the state only had a population of sufficient proportion to entitle it to two members; consequently Lane represented the northern half of the state. On account of his wonderful ability as an orator, and as a candidate for Governor on the Republican ticket in 1860, he spoke at many points in the state, and as this county always possessed the faculty of securing the very best talent there was going, one of his appointments for speaking was at Warsaw.

I think the appointment was in September and it should be borne in mind that in those years the state elections were held in October, followed by the Presidential election in November, as is now the case. As a consequence the great effort of both parties of all the October states--and there were several of them--was put forth to carry the October election for the effect that a victory would have on the Presidential contest one month later, and hence a determined effort was always made to carry the state in all years where a presidential election followed. The day fixed for Lane's appointment came and the meeting was held in the old Empire Hall, afterwards destroyed by fire, but which was a very large building extending from the present corner of the Lake City bank south to the present Odd Fellows corner, including both buildings, and if I remember correctly, clear back west to the alley running north and south. The hall portion was 44 x 132 feet, with only a ten-foot stage cut off on the west end, consequently it was of size sufficient to hold an immense crowd, as many, indeed, as even as eloquent an orator as Henry S. Lane could make them hear even with his powerful voice.

Of course I have neither the means nor the disposition to try to describe how completely this peerless orator got control of the immense throng assembled to hear him; but I do remember noticing the complete hold he had secured on his audience, for I sat on the stage facing it and could see how wonderfully those present were worked up by the speaker's astounding eloquence. He had taken occasion to refer to the fact that he was not among strangers, by any means; that those before him were his constituents in former days when he represented them in the halls of congress, and he then went on with his fervid eloquence on that particular point; that he was at home, among old friends, and to such an extent was the audience excited that I perceived as by a single impulse almost every one before the speaker was in a half rising posture, awaiting the climax of the speaker's impassioned burst, and coming forward to the front of the stage he used the words of the outlawed Rob Roy McGregor, of Scotland as given by Sir Walter Scott,
"My Foot is on my native heather, and my name's McGregor"
stamping his foot at the word heather, there arose such a shout from the audience that had been awaiting the climax that it is simply out of the question to describe.

I have heard many great orators; have seen them sway their hearers to laughter or tears, but never before or since have I known an audience to be more powerfully affected than the one described. The newspaper, we fear, is compelling the orator to take a back seat. Certain it is that oratory has been declining to a perceptible extent within the past twenty years, and it is to be regretted that such is the case; for it has been a great power, a great educator, and it does the people good to listen to an orator that can sway them as many of our American speakers have been able to do in times past. No class of people regrets the decline of oratory to a greater extent than newspaper men themselves, and I feel certain that there is scarcely one among the old-timers who would not do anything in his power to restore oratory to its once proud position in a land noted for great speakers.

Speaking of oratory, I wonder how many of the readers of this paper can remember the winter that the once celebrated temperance lecturer and apostle of that cause, the Rev. Augustus Littlejohn, occupied the attention of all our people, and the entire winter as well? It was the first thing of the kind the town ever knew, and this temperance advocate certainly had things his own way that winter, at any rate. It was long before any legal restraints were placed upon the sale of intoxicating liquors, and moral persuasion only was used. Meetings were held in the old court house every week-day night, Sunday evenings being turned over to the few churches the village then contained. The once celebrated lecturer, about fifteen years ago, called at the business office of this paper, a weak, feeble tottering, old trembling man. He had known me as a boy of about fourteen years of age, having boarded at my father's home, then located on the same ground occupied at present by THE INDIANIAN, and I could scarcely realized that the old man before me was the vigorous individual who had carried on a temperance revival lasting for months.

He was a queer character in the days alluded to. For instance, in the prayer with which he always opened his meetings, he was apt to touch on local matters, and frequently took the Lord into his confidence in his efforts to work reform, not only so far as temperance was concerned, but the habits of the people also. I remember on once occasion in his prayers he said: "Lord, Thou knowest that (naming out the man) is filthy in his person; that it is unpleasant for other people to sit near him in the congregation. Oh, Lord, bring (again named the individual) to a realizing sense of the eternal fitness of things; induce him to wash and clean his person; give him no rest until he shall fall into the habit of at least washing his feet before he goes to bed!"

On another occasion he alluded to an early pioneer in his prayer who was as ardent a temperance man all his life as the lecturer ever was, and a well-known citizen of the town. I refer to the late Peter L. Runyan, Sr. In that winter he had the contract for building what is known as the Pike Lake bridge, a short distance north of this place, and had also engaged with the county commissioners to build a good embankment on the south end of the crossing, and this embankment required several rods of filling. It seems that Littlejohn had occasion to cross the bridge that day, and as the grading was yet in an unfinished state, there was only room in places for one vehicle to occupy it, although the contract required the embankment to be sufficiently wide for teams to pass at any point. that night he once more grew confidential with the Lord, and in his opening prayer he remarked: "Oh, Lord, Thou knowest as well as I do that Peter L. Runyan has had the contract for building the bridge and the embankment over the outlet of Pike Lake. Thou knowest, too, dear Lord, that he has skimped the embankment in width several yards at the least. Compel him, oh Lord, to fulfill his contract. There is danger there. Were two teams to attempt to pass at some points on the embankment both, perhaps, would roll down into the water. Put it into the head and heart of Mr. Runyan, Oh Lord, to see to this at once--before an accident occurs."

Those who remember Peter L. Runyan can readily surmise that he at once took the temperance lecturer to task, and on the next evening he said in his opening prayer; "Oh, Lord, I owe Thee; this people, and Peter L. Runyan an apology. He informs me that when completed the embankment leading up to Pike Lake bridge will be nearly double as wide as it is now; that the work of fulfilling the contract will progress until it is fully complied with. I want to make these remarks just as public as my criticism was last night. Forgive us, one and all, for all of our sins, and forgive me for being too hasty in my reference to the bridge; but at the same time, oh Lord, keep an eye on Mr. Runyan until he fully complies with the width of the embankment!"

Warsaw Daily Times December 7, 1901

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