[pen-name of Isaiah. J. Morris]
A great many facts, incidents, anecdotes and scenes connected with the early settlement of Kosciusko County, and in fact, of all Northern Indiana, have passed out of memory, while others have passed beyond the living, in the demise of so many of the early pioneers, who are annually growing smaller and smaller in number, and a few years more will witness the fall of the last representative of those who emigrated hither prior to 1838. The writer hereof was not one of the earliest pioneers, yet he saw this country when it was wild, uninviting, and almost an unbroken wilderness-particularly the southern part of the county. In penning these recollections no particular system can be followed, but the facts etc. be given as near as possible to date, as this chain of connection will permit. Many items written may not directly pertain to the immediate settlement of this county, but appertain to the incidents of emigration, and what the pioneers saw and endured on their pilgrimage to this land of promise hence my description will commence with my departure from the old homestead in the Keystone State.
Early in the summer of 1840, I put into practice the advice given by Horace Greely to something less than a million young men, and came west to grow up with the country; but it seems to me that I have grown old faster than the country. While it grows fresher, greener, and more beautiful and lovely every year, the frosts of winter have left their imprint of gray upon my locks, and elasticity and vigor of youth have, in a measure, yielded to age and the effects of the climate. To become acclimated to the pecularities of this latitude at this day is a different process from that of thirty-five years ago. Then, the first sphere you entered was, as it was usually termed a "regular siege of the Wabash Scratches". Of this siege my recollection is remarkably vivid, and it took a term of from six to twelve months to scratch through the annoying introduction to western life. Then came the shaking ague; and to shake as people then shook, was no idle tale or school-boy play. I have seen stout men sit before a large blasting fire and shake until their teeth chattered, and the loose boards overhead and dishes on the rough, home-made cupboard rattled in unison to the terrible paroxysms of the poor sufferer. This was ague in its primitive state and may be referred to hereafter.
The year of my emigration hither from the old Keystone State was one of great events, politically speaking, it being the year of the memorable hard cider campaign, when "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" was heard ringing on every side, from Maine to the Mississippi. Beyond that river, North of Missouri, was the home of the buffalo, the elk and the shu-shugah, which were disturbed only by the whoop of the red man. The great campaign speech of Charlie Ogle, of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, known as the golden spoon speech, was the favorite document of the whigs, and by it they proved everything, and upon it, took their solemn oaths. In Ohio the political caldron was boiling most intensely, and party furnaces were seven times hotter than ever before known. Tom Corwin, the wagoner boy, and Wilson Shannon, were rival candidates for gubernatorial honors. Benjamin Tappan and Bill Allen, U. S. Senators, both Democrats, Thos. Ewing, Thos. Ford and W. H. Harrison, the Whig nominee for President, were in the field addressing mass meetings of the people. Hard cider flowed like water and the populace for the first time in the history of the country gave loose rein to their enthusiasm, and, to say the least of it, they acted very foolish-suffering themselves to be led captive by their political leaders. David Wallace was the Whig and Tillman A. Howard the Democratic candidate for Governor of Indiana. Both were men of acknowledged ability and great favorites with their respective parties, and Judge Sample the Whig candidate for Congress in this, then the North District. Wallace and Sample were elected.
This year was also celebrated from another standpoint, vis: the Great Morus Multicaulis speculation. This is the name for a Chinese mulberry which is used to feed the silk worm. Everybody was anxious to become a silk grower, and planted acres of Multicaulis, paying high prices for the plants and worm eggs, the whole of which was a failure, and proved disastrous to those engaged in it.
When I left my native state I was but nineteen years of age. I had never seen much of the world; for, indeed a man in any of the middle states could not see many great sights, or learn with that lightning speed which characterises the youth of the present day, from the fact that it was not every town that could afford an elephant, the larger cities, only, being able to support such costly paraphernalia. In fact the people generally-barring this noted scallawag swartwout-were honest. I did not say they were not honest now, but it seems as though, at least to the old settlers, that at that period, honesty, integrity, and fraternity, was a little more evenly distributed, and saint and sinner had his proportion according to his necessity, and Congressmen were content to serve their country for eight dollars per day during the session. A young man could then made a long journey without meeting pickpockets, confidence men, sharks, sharpers, or a tidal wave of middle men. Those who emigrated from their Eastern homes, when not in company with their families and friends, either traveled on horseback, or by the more pleasant and economical way-"on shank's mare"-that is, on foot. This was the mode I adopted, and having used nature's own propellers on a tramp of five hundred and fifty miles, you may be sure it was a regular sinew toughener and joint settler, and was looked upon at that period as an undertaking of greater magnitude than a trip to Europe or the Holy Land is, at the present time. The journey was somewhat tedious and protracted, but nothing of special importance transpired at the outset. A view of the battlefield upon which Gen.Braddock was defeated by the French and Indians in 1755 was the first historical place visited. The ground occupied by Braddock is surrounded by steep rocky bluffs or rather mountains, the summits of which seem scarce a half a mile apart. One hundred men in ambush on those bluffs could arrest the progress of ten times their number, and it is no mystery to the beholder to form an idea of the ease by which the victory was gained. Near this is the old Pittsburgh turn pike, which was up to 1850 the great thoroughofare between those great cities. Great broad-wheeled covered wagons capable of bearing five and six tons, and drawn by six horses, were used in the transportation of merchandise to the West, and flour to the East. It was no uncommon thing to see ten, twenty, and even thirty of these "toad-smashers," as they were called, in company, one behind the other, moving slowly along like an army baggage train. It was estimated by competent judges, that about the year 1835, there was a sufficient number of teams employed on this pike to place ten on every mile between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Passing through Pittsburgh, and pushing westward, the first thing to relieve the monotony of the weary journey happened between Monroeville and Milan, on Lake Erie, where we came to a railroad, the second I had seen, the old Portage, across the Allegheny Mountains, being the first. This road was built from Monroeville to Milan, and afterwards became part of the old Mad River & Sandusky road; but strange as it may appear, there was no locomotive on the concern. Whenever they got together a load of stuff for one or two cars, a span of bob-tailed horses were attached, and the train moved off majestically at the rate of three or four miles an hour, and people thought it a grand thing. When we (there were six of us) came to this strap iron railroad, we took a good look at the institution, and while surveying the magnificent structure a farmer, who was plowing an adjoining field, came to the end of his furrow at the fence, and of him we made some inquiry concerning the road and its objective points. He gave us all the necessary information and then voluntarily related the following amusing anecdote: "A few days ago a family of movers, going West, crossed that railroad, and as soon as they were over, the head of the family (being of German descent) and a large muscular boy, got down from the wagon and went to the road to examine it, with great care. Finally the old gentleman broke the silence, and speaking to his son, said:
"Vell, Shake, vat you dinks from dis? Vat you say he ish?"
"Vell, daddy, I dinks I toos not know vat I makes of him. I dinks him a patent wagon roat."
"Vell, Shake, I tells you vat tis ting means. Ter peebles hash put dese iron glamps 'round ter vorlt to keep ter earsguakes from plowin' him all to flinters. Py hokey, we neet pe no lonker afrate of earseguakes! Now trife on, Shake, and I vill valk a lettle vile."
Shortly we reached Lower Sandusky-now Fremont-where the remains of old Fort Stephenson was plainly visible, and some of the stockades yet standing. This fort was bravely defended by the gallant and daring Col. Croghan, during the war of 1812. Lower Sandusky was a place of considerable note during the Indian Wars, and many white prisoners were burned at the stake, in this vicinity. A prisoner named Johnson, barely escaped the stake, while a Miss Flemming, of Pittsburgh, after a horrible captivity, was rescued from a terrible doom, by Old King Crane, an Indian Chief, thro' the friendly offices of a white man named Whittaker. Miss Flemming's sister was murdered, Flynn was burned, Skyles escaped, and Johnson was ransomed. All these were captured at the same time.
Northern Indianian Feb.19, 1874
Photo published Northern Indianian March 10, 1910
in a front page obituary & tribute.
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