Early Settlement of Kosciusko County

by Greybeard
[pen-name of Isaiah J. Morris]

Chapter 3

Passing within site of Wolf Lake we struck the road leading to Oswego and Leesburg. We travelled along this through a cold autumnal rain. About an hour after nightfall we arrived at the village of Leesburg. Through the kindness of one of the citizens who dryly announced that the clouds were in a leaky condition we were conducted to the village tavern kept by Mr. Kirkendall, later to be the first sheriff of the new county. A beautiful fire was roaring in the large oldfashioned fireplace. The High Sheriff of Kosciusko County was the principal stoker. After partaking of a hearty supper, and after we were quietly enjoying the drying influence of that capacious fireplace, the radius of the circle had to be necessarily enlarged to admit the company of several persons one of them being the inveterate joker and lover of fun and good cheer, Ludlow Nye. He was a regular brick as well as a brick layer. His yarns and anecdotes seemed inexhaustible. Even if his supply fell short of the demand, his fertile imagination and inventive genius, which was ever sufficient for any emergency, would at once supply the deficite by an original story. This he would draw out indefinitely until he reached the point. He had been a citizen of the county for four or five years having arrived here before the Government Land Sales. He was one of the first settlers. He was of that particular caste of mind that he knew everybody, not only in this county, but everybody worth knowing in the adjoining counties. He told all about the country it's rare beauty, fertility, and prospects, mentioning its mild, healthy and salubrious climate. He mentioned especially the morality of the people, the intelligence of the youth as compared with the rising generation in Michigan, where, he said, the children were as wild as Wolverines, and parents were compelled on Sunday mornings to hunt down and catch their children with dogs to put clean clothes on them, seldom catching more than half of them. He spoke with great earnestness about his brothers saying, "there were eight of them all tall, straight and well developed, muscular, intelligent and handsome men. The ninth would have been equal, if not superior, to all the other brothers, but unfortunately for him and the world, while yet a little boy, the ducks nibbled him so fearfully that he never recovered, and remained a dwarft ever after".

It was plain that he was trying to put stress on the blankets of my credulity, and test the acuteness of one fresh from the mountain slopes of the old Keystone State. So being aware that he was feeling for my eyeteeth, I gave full credence to all this, more to accommodate this lover of fun than for my own edification. Nye sometimes came out decidedly second best in some of his stories and adventures, as evidence of which the following is an example.

During one of his exploring or electioneering tours he stopped over night at the house of a friend. His bed was up stairs or on what was then called the loft. The upper floor was composed of loose clapboards with the cabin roof for a ceiling. During the night a storm came up accompanied by wind, rain, lightning and thunder. Nye was a very timid man which peculiarity attaches strongly to his posterity. When the storm broke forth his timidity overcame his courage. He quietly got up, dressed himself and climbed down the ladder to the lower floor. The lady of the house asked what ailed him. He answered that he was subject to cramps in the stomach, but that it would soon pass off. The lady got up, made a dose of ash tea, and presented it to Mr. Nye. She told him to drink half of it and it would straighten him out in a jiffy. Here was a dilemma. Nye must either acknowledge the truth of his cowardice or swallow the lye. His honor was at stake so he swallowed the half pint of lye which peeled the skin from his throat, to say nothing of the straightening process. It may be presumed that he never after was troubled with cramps. Some of the doing and saying of Ludlow Nye may be referred to hereafter.

The next morning we left our tall joker. He gave no indication that he had any work on hands or men waiting his orders. We all had a burning curiosity to behold with our own eyes the great Tippecanoe River, which the political canvass had rendered famous. We all had pictured in our minds a wide, clear, beautiful stream with beautiful banks and inviting surroundings. But what was our disappointment not to say disgust at the farce! There we stood upon a bridge - yes, a primitive bridge of olden times without even an apology for abutments, or any evidence that any part of the structure had ever been introduced to either sawmill or broad axe. Two round logs reaching from shore to shore (about 25 feet) covered with round saplings made up this wonderful bridge. The great river so famed in song had receded, narrowed and shrivelled from a grand, majestic and glorious river, rolling it's translucent waters through a land of lucious fruits and dazzling flowers to an insignificant muddy creek winding its diminutive course through marshes, quags and rushes. But thus it ever is and this is one of the great lessons of contrast between the imaginary and the real; between what we picture things to be and what they are when revealed. This has doubtless happened to every individual sometime in life's course. It is well that such lessons are learned in youth for then the experience may be turned to good account and we find it the better way not to count our chickens before they are hatched.

Having satisfied ourselves that in political campaigns by exciting the people by persistent shouting, incessant laudations, and constant mention, small and insignificant characters may be raised to the altitude of great, good, honest and intelligent men, but when sounded or tested upon their merits, like this famous river, they are not only insignificant, but are without a redeeming trait in their character, or an honest principle in their composition, we passed on to the namesake of Poland's capitol, where we arrived in safety after a journey of sixteen days from Wooster, Ohio. Here our company separated in different directions. All three of my travelling companions have been gathered to their fathers. Two lived and died as bachelors: the third left a family.

In 1840 Warsaw was a village famous only for its shot tower, its redbrush and isolated position. Judge Baker kept tavern in the shot tower, which was located on the premises now occupied by I. J. Morris. (SW Cor Main and Detroit.) Judge Baker had represented Wayne county, Ohio, in the State legislature for three terms. Being of German descent, he spoke English very imperfectly, which made him the subject of many jokes, and caused many hearty laughs at his expense. While in the legislature an important measure was being discussed and many able speeches were made for and against its adoption. While one of the members was making a speech, Baker was busy with his pen jotting down, as all supposed, the points of the speech, with the purpose of answering him. When the member took his seat, another gentleman arose, which roused Baker, who straightened up as if to rise. The gentleman bowed and inquired of Baker if he wished to speak. Baker answered no. The gentlemen said he would take his seat and give way to Baker, who desired to speak, as he had been very busy taking notes of the last member's speech in order to answer him. Baker responded in broken English, "I vash not takin' no notes. I vash only makin' de bicture of von little gow". A roar of laughter followed the explanation. After the election of General Harrison as President in 1840, Judge Baker, who up to the opening of the hard cider campaign had been a member of the democratic party, was an applicant for the appointment of Governor of the Territory of Wisconsin, with a fair prospect of receiving that, or some other prominent position, when the death of Harrison cut the matter short. This fact was disclosed by some correspondence which came into the possession of the late J. L. Miller, Esq., either as administrator, or as Baker's successor as Justice of the Peace.

The first house in Warsaw was built in 1836 by Matthew D. Springer, on the lot north of Judge Carpenter's residence, and east of the C.W.M. R.R. depot, and was by no means a stately mansion, being composed chiefly of round tamarack logs. William Polk erected the second building on the lot south of the Weirick house, now owned by Mr. Laubaugh. It contained a store room in which Mr. Polk kept a stock of dry goods, groceries, etc. Jacob Losure, who now lives south of Warsaw, built the third house, which was a hotel, where the Weirick house now stands, and was composed of substantial round log logs, and clapboard roof in which Mr. Losure kept tavern for several years, adding such additions to the building as the nature of his business required. Mr. Losure kept a good house, which was considered the best stopping-place between Fort Wayne and Rochester, or Huntington and Goshen; but Mr. Losure was not contented as a landlord, so he returned to a farm west of town, now known as the Kiester farm.

The first County Court was held in Leesburg, Judge Evert, of Laporte, presiding. The Judge was a good jurist, but passionately fond of card-playing and horse-racing, which he carried to such an extent as to arouse the indignation of the people, whose complaints reaching headquarters, an investigation terminated in his dismissal from the bench and the selection of Judge Sample as his successor. Everts went to Texas, where he became somewhat of a politican, was a candidate for United States Senator, and lacked only four votes of an election. The first Court House was built in 1837, by Mahlon F. Davis, on the lot now occupied by the First Baptist Church; but before it was fully finished, or at least before any Court was held in it, some thoughtless person set the woods on fire, which spread with such fearful rapidity that among other things, the newly erected Chamber of Justice was laid in ashes. In 1838, the second Court House was built on the spot where the first one stood, and on the same lot, two offices, one for the Clerk and one for the Auditor, was built. The Auditor's Office being the first building plastered within the limits of the county, and was done by Andrew Nye. The Court House was a frame building about 26x34, two eight feet stories in height, and painted in the usual fashionable style of the age, viz.:heavy, dull red, or a Spanish brown; yet it was considered, and in fact was, a superior house to those in many of the older and more densely populated counties.

(Note by George A. Nye: These buildings were used about ten years when the seat of justice was established on the public square in a new courthouse completed about 1848. Today, 1932, the old site is vacant. The church was torn down about 1930 and a pretty little park has been made on this corner just west of the fire-station.)

Northern Indianian March 5, 1874

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