Early Settlement of Kosciusko County

[pen-name of Isaiah J. Morris]

Chapter 8
The subject of dividing the county and forming a new one on the south, was first talked of in the vicinity of Leesburg. Who it was that first conceived the idea, or first advocated the division, is not known, but the first petition to the legislature for the purpose was framed by the Hon. Rippey, recently deceased. Whether this petition was sent to the legislature, or not, is not positively known; but the preponderance of evidence seems to indicate that it was not widely circulated, nor sent to the legislature. During the following year, (1837-38) however, the matter was taken up in earnest. The friends of the measure, moved cautiously, laboured industriously, and with such judgment that few, if any, of those opposed to the measure, knew anything of the arrangement. Aaron M. Perrine, of Milford, was representative in the legislature from this and Marshall counties, and to him the petitions were sent. It might at once be presumed, and such was the fact, that Mr. Perrine's interest would prompt him to espouse the cause of the clippers, as the friends of the new county were called, and push the measure to successful issue, and thus bring the county-seat six miles closer home; but such was not the nature of Mr. Perrine. He was honest, upright, and scorned the thought of voting money into his own pocket at the expense of his constituents, or his reputation. To satisfy his own mind, and to ascertain the true state of affairs, he rode on horseback from Indianapolis through mud, slush, rain and storm, when the roads were almost bottomless, about the holidays of 1837-38, so as to be able to do justice to his county and himself. He found that in and about the center of the county, but little, if anything was known of the movement. After satisfying himself of the true status of the case, he returned to Indianapolis, defeated the movement in the House, which laid it on the shelf for the time being.

In 1838, Mr. Perrine was a candidate for re-election, and the question of dividing the county was the main issue upon which the election hinged, at least so far as the contest in this county was concerned, and the parties had a fair test of strength in the race, which resulted in a victory for the anti-clippers, and the return of Mr. Perrine to the legislature. No very great effort was made during the session of 1838-39, to secure a division by the clippers, and nothing was done.

In 1839, A. L. Wheeler, of Marshall county, which with Kosciusko formed the legislative district, was elected representative, and during the session of 1839-40, petitions were circulated and numerously signed, praying for a division, and were forwarded to Wheeler, who secured the passage of a bill by the House, forming a new county; but which was defeated in the Senate through the exertions of Tom Beard, of Laporte, to which Kosciusko was attached for senatorial purposes. After the defeat of this bill, Beard introduced a bill in the Senate attaching the three mile strip, lying between the north line of Wabash and south line of Kosciusko counties, of which mention was made in a former chapter, permanently to Wabash. This reduced the strength, as well as the territory, of the clippers, as it took the equivalent of two whole townships out of the controversy and gave them to Wabash. The bill passed both Houses, and became a law.

In 1840, A. L. Wheeler was a candidate for re-election, on the democratic ticket, while Peter L. Runyan was his opponent on the Whig ticket. The strife was somewhat violent between the factions. As far as representative was concerned, party ties and party loyalty failed to hold the voters to their respective candidates. The clippers rallied all their forces, regardless of predelections, in favor of Wheeler, while the anti-clippers prosecuted the campaign with equal vigor in favor of Runyan, for whom anti-clipping democrats worked and voted, and so with the clipping Whigs, who rallied to the standard of the democratic candidate. Wheeler received but three votes in the Warsaw precinct. The results of the election returned Runyan, and permitted Wheeler to rusticate on the banks of Yellow river, instead of going to the legislature. During the session of 1840-41, both parties worked with a fixed determination to succeed. Several citizens, among whom were Ludlow Nye, an anti, and Ezekiel French, a clipper, went to Indianapolis to lobby for their respective interests. In turn they buttonholed the members of both Houses with a zeal that knew no abatement. Whenever French cornered a member, Nye was ever present to contradict and argue the point with him. On one occasion, French was earnestly engaged in proving to several members the utter impossibility of building a town on the site of Warsaw, stating that there was but one road by which you could enter it on dry land, (which was the fact) and that a dense tamarack swamp bounded it on the east, over which a man could never pass, nor over which no road could ever be made. Nye, as usual, stood right behind French, and stepping forward with surprise depicted in his countenance, exclaimed: "Mr. French, in the name of common sense, how can you stand here and tell such outlandish stories about that tamarack, when you know very well that Mr. Landsdale had that swamp all cleared up five years ago, and sowed in timothy, and it is now the finest meadow in the State?"  French was dumbfounded at this unexpected speech, and it so bewildered him that he beat a hasty retreat, leaving Nye master of the situation for that time, at least. Both parties anticipated success, but when the test came, the anti-clippers were victorious. The clippers acknowledged themselves defeated, but not conquered, and prepared themselves for a new contest at the next election. During this session the State was re-districted, and Kosciusko and Whitley were constituted a representative district, and these two, with Elkhart, formed the senatorial district. This arrangement left Wheeler out of the contest.

In 1841, Peter L. Runyan and Ezekiel French was opposing candidates for representative, both being strict and uncompromising Whigs, but for this office, on account of the clipping question, politics was wholly ignored, and did not enter into the contest. The question now assumed a new phase. In former contests the site of the county-seat for the new county was an open question, causing no agitation; consequently the clippers were a unit in the movement. But this year, Oswego put in a claim, that should a county be formed, the county-seat must be located there. This brought about some controversy in the ranks, which led if not to open hostilities, to a lukewarmness on the part of many, destroying the harmony and unity with which they had heretofore acted. The canvass was somewhat bitter between the aspirants and their friends. Not a hamlet, no matter how isolated, but received a visit from one or the other, or both, of the candidates. French, in one of his tours, wandered quite a distance into Wabash county in search of votes. The next day Runyan came panting and weary on the trail of his opponent, missed his reckoning, and drew up in Huntington county. The campaign resulted in the election of Runyan, and the defeat of the clippers.

In 1842 the leading clippers called a convention for the purpose of bringing into the field a democratic candidate for representative. Joel Hidy, of Jackson township, was nominated, but the members of the party who lived in the central portion of the county seceded, and repudiated the nominee. This was unlooked for, as party lines were being drawn so close that local questions were not allowed to interfere. A United States Senator was to be elected, and each party was striving to secure the office. A compromise was brought about by the withdrawal of Hidy, and the nomination or selection of Abe Cuppy, of Whitley county, in his place. The clipping question was partially dropped. Monoquet, Leesburg, and Oswego, all wanted to be county-seats, and if anything was said about the matter, the triangle fire silenced the affair. The election of a U. S. senator made the contest purely political in its character, and resulted in the election of Mr.Cuppy. This was the end of the clipping question. It had long vexed the people, and in some instances estranged persons who had been intimate friends before. Mr. Cuppy was re-elected in 1843, and at the session of that year petitions were circulated asking the legislature to appoint new commissioners to re-locate the county seat. A remonstrance was also circulated; but the petitions had by far the greater number of signers. Commissioners were not appointed, and that scheme went to sleep with its clipper friend, in the tomb of the capulets. This was the last effort made in the matter, and the whole thing was dropped, and has now nearly passed out of memory.

During these years great exertions were made by both the old parties to augment their strength. Warsaw had a kind of self-constituted committee to wait on strangers, and if they gave proper evidence of being one of the faithful, to encourage them to locate. If a stranger came to town, this committee would surround him, ask him where he was going, what his business was, and if he intimated that he was looking for a place to settle, they at once told him there was no better place than here. They would then put the main question, "What is your politics?" If he answered democratic, they instantly informed him that this was the most unhealthy county in the west, and people were dying like diseased sheep, and if he came here he would starve, if he did not die; on the other hand, if he was a whig, all the inducements in the world would be held out to encourage him to locate. Thus, the county was made a whig county permanently.

A good anecdote is told on our fellow-townsman, Daniel Shoup, who was at one time a justice of the peace. Being invited to marry a couple, he, in company with George Moon and George R. Thralls, started to the place near the Kelly farm, on the Monoquet road. The weather was cold, and the 'Squire thought a whistle-dampener would be a good thing. So he invested half a dollar in a pint of gin, which they swiged a time or two on the road. Arriving at the house, each took a courage-bracer, and then hid the bottle, which was about half empty, behind the chimney outside of the house. After the ceremony was over, the bridegroom asked the 'Squire how much he charged; Shoup told him he made no charge-that was always left to the liberality of the party. The bridegroom insisted on a charge being made, saying he wanted to be liberal and pay well; but failing to get a sum fixed, he drew his wallet and took out an old fashioned slick quarter, and handing it to Shoup, told him he always liked to pay well for jobs that were promptly done. Shoup and his companions started for home, and going to look for their gin, found "somebody had been there since they'd been gone," and captured the gin. Three disappointed fellow-travelers slowly wended their solitary way homeward, and parted without a word.

Northern Indianian April 16, 1874

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