Early Settlement of Kosciusko County

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

Chapter 9
When Barbee built his saw-mill on the Tippecanoe river above Oswego, the road from Leesburg and Musquabuck's village crossed the river on the dam, and Barbee collected toll from the emigrants who crossed there. The Nye family, with their team, crossed, and Mr. B. demanded toll. Old Mr. Nye, (father of Ludlow, Andrew, Asa, Newt., etc.) handed over the required quarter, then quietly handed him a ten cent coin, with the injunction to "purchase a fine toothed comb, capture his greybacks, extract their oil, and grease his conscience, as it would help him to die easy."

In the south part of this, and north part of Wabash county, during '38-39, and even in later years, much disturbance took place by the settlers loosing their hogs in the fall of the year. Hogs generally took care of themselves, and subsisted in the woods, the settlers killing from the woods their porkers after they had fatted on the mast. Sometimes hogs would get into the wrong man's barrel, and frequently settlers, who counted on ten or fifteen heavy porkers, when they came to hunt their hogs did not get over one-half or one-fourth of those he had counted his drove but a week or two before. Some fellows, who never owned a pig, had barrels of nice pork securely salted away. This gave rise to numerous lawsuits, sometimes making a majority of the cases on the docket. A man by the name of Reed, (this is the name as near as can be ascertained) a half-breed who kept a trading establishment near where Kirkpatrick settled, above Oswego, was one of the most dishonest traders that ever visited this or any other country. His propensity for stealing hogs was developed in an unusual degree. In one of his hog thieving expeditions, he, in company with a few Indians, fell in with Mr. Hull's hogs, and immediately commenced a general slaughter. Hull kept a country tavern, where the Fort Wayne road crossed Eel river, who, with his boys, on hearing the squealing of the hogs, sallied forth, guns in hand, and fired on the thieves, who fled precipitately, leaving the dead hogs, but taking all the killed and wounded Indians, if there was any, with them. Reed escaped, and the next year followed his usual practices lower down the river.

Game, such as deer, turkeys, and occasionally a bear, were plenty, and contributed largely to the sport, as well as comfort, of the citizens. Fur buyers traveled through the country gathering up deer, coon, and otter skins. Mink, skunk and fox did not pay for skinning. These were the only middlemen known in those days . Up to 1845, it was very common for a young man, as soon as he made up his mind to marry, to commence hunting coon in earnest, this being the usual means used to procure the license, which cost a dollar, and two coon skins generally secured the documents. If a young miss was suspicioned of matrimony, her friends would made the solemn inquiry if her fellow had already secured his coon skins. A young fellow from the neighborhood of Galveston started to Warsaw to procure license, but unfortunately had no coon skins. His dependence was in the generosity of the Clerk, who he expected would trust him until the hunting season came. But fortune, that always favors the brave, was unusually kind to him. When within a mile or so of Warsaw, he saw a wolf; returning a short distance, he borrowed a gun, shot the wolf, took his scalp to the Auditor, secured the bounty, paid for his license, and returned to his true love with his heart as light and warm as a sunbeam. One cold winter day Bill Squabuck chased seven deer on the ice on Center Lake, and succeeded in killing with his knife four of them, the other three barely escaping with their lives. Sometime after this some dogs chased seven deer into Eagle Lake, which was covered with snow and ice, but not of sufficient strength to bear their weight. The dogs kept them in the water until Mr. Bashford, Holbrook, and one or two others, came, who went in with a boat and killed the whole seven with clubs. The writer at one time (1841) started from the old shot tower to kill prairie chickens. The first one was bagged about the spot where the court house door is now, the next near where the Christian Church stands. Six chickens were the reward of a two hours' hunt.

As late as 1842 the wolves held high jenks in the tamarack, and made the darkness melodious with their music, often venturing out on the town plat howling an anvil chorus that no Boston jubilee ever excelled. In winter they would play for hours on the ice on Pike and Center Lakes. The bounty offered by the Commissioners, prompted a warfare against the whole race, which soon reduced their number, and finally exterminated, or drove them off. Ducks in those days were not considered game worthy a hunter's notice, yet they would occasionally shoot them. A flock was discovered one morning on Eel river by a man who lived on the bank; seizing his rifle, he ran out to get a shot, but the ducks flew away about the time he was drawing a bead. Turning and walking back towards the house, he noticed his horses grazing close by; raising his gun, he remarked to some one near "How nice I could drop Fly."  He touched the trigger, and to his utter dismay, Fly dropped! Fly was a handsome bay, with a small star in her face, and would at this day command a hundred dollars in any market. He had cocked his gun to shoot the ducks, and neglected to let the hammer down when he turned homeward. The loss of a valuable animal was the result of his carelessness.

Peter Warner was one of the three first settlers south of the Tippecanoe river. He located on the tract of land now owned by John Sloan, where, in 1836, he erected a saw mill. This mill was half a mile or more above the spot where his grist mill was afterwards erected. This first saw mill was of the old style, but done considerable work. At the dam Warner erected a fish trap, in which he caught large quantities of fish, and during the spring of 1837 he sold to the settlers a sufficient quantity of fish to enable him to enter at Congress price the quarter of land now owned by Henry Shaffer, one mile south of Warsaw. In 1838, Warner abandoned his saw mill seat, tore down the dam, and moved his mill down the river, where, in 1839, he built a grist mill, and between the two mills he done a fair business. In 1840, Barbee's mill dam above Oswego gave way, and the pent up waters of the upper lakes of the Tippecanoe rushed through, and with it went immense quantities of fish. When the flood reached Warner's mill, he had his trap in catching order, and his mills both running; so numerous were the fish, that both wheels were clogged, the vents being completely closed up with fish, and as a sequence, the mills ceased running, and old Uncle Pete Warner, as he was familiarly called, went fishing. Eight thousand seven hundred pounds of fish was the result of that little fishing scrape. Peter, like his illustrious scriptural namesake, was an expert fisherman, as well as a preacher of the gospel, and took great pleasure in tossing buffalo [fish] of thirty and forty pound weight upon the shore.

The amusements of the pioneers varied according to taste or opportunity. Sometimes the young folks would meet and hold what was then called a "shindig," or country dance, at which the male sex were usually largely in the majority. In Warsaw a moot, or as it was called "a surgudgeon court," was organized. Judge Comstock, Ludlow Nye, Mahlon F. Davis, William H. Morris, W. J. Pope, and other gentlemen, took an active part in the proceedings. If any person was guilty of any unworthy or mischievous conduct, he was brought up before the court and tried. At one of these trials, John Wright, of Logansport, who was traveling and stopped for the night, was, with the mail-carrier, summoned as jurors. Morris was the culprit, Nye the prosecuting attorney, Comstock attorney for the defense, and Billy Williams prosecuting witness. The offense was placing a small quantity of turpentine where it would do the most good in making a dog howl, whose owner was attending church at the old courthouse, to which the dog retreated for sympathy and relief. The prisoner was convicted of being accessory to disturbing a religious meeting, and fined a quart of wine, etc. Billy Williams' name as a witness calls to mind a circumstance which happened in later years. Mr. Littlejohn was lecturing in Manchester, and in his opening prayer, he came over the following: "Oh Lord, thou knowest what Mr. Littlejohn has been doing in the great cause of temperance, that thousands of drunkards have been reformed, and the great work Mr. Littlejohn accomplished in Lima in South Bend in Goshen and thou knowest that in Warsaw, Mr. Littlejohn reformed five hundred gutter drunkards, and if thou dost not believe it, I can prove it by Billy Williams!"

John W. Wright, who afterwards was a Circuit Judge, after the surgudgeon of Morris, returned to Logansport and reported that the people of Warsaw were so cursed ignorant that they did not know a citizen could not legally sit as juror outside the limits of his own county, when it was himself that could not distinguish a moot, or mock court, from a real one. Wright has since became somewhat notorious as a member of the Kansas Legislature, as Indian Agent, and as a Government claim swindler. The last that was heard of Pope was some two years ago, when he was at San Diego, Lower California, and Morris is in Texas. Those who associated together in the early times have become scattered all over this Continent. Some have gone to Oregon, others to California, Texas, Iowa, Kansas, and other places. Time has laid its hand gently on some, while others have yielded to the fierceness of the storm, and the ever-enduring marble marks their resting place in the cemetery. It seems but a few years ago when all these were here, and gave each other friendly greeting. One by one they are passing away, and soon the whole band will have passed over the river. One feels a sensation of loneliness settling upon him when he looks back to the days when cabins were scarce, and neighbors few, and counts out his acquaintances, and associates, and friends, how few yet remain. Chapman, Warner, Felkner, Knowles, Correll, Runyan, Pope, Blain, and Comstock, who were the first settlers, yet remain; but what a host have gone. Yet thus it is ever, "Generations come and go, but the earth abideth forever."

Northern Indianian April 23, 1874

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