Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

In 1909 Thomas Topash, an Indian from Dowagiac, Mich., came to Warsaw loaded with legal material to try to prove that the Indians still had title to some land in the Clunette area of Kosciusko county. The claim went back to an Indian treaty made in the 1830's when the United States government reserved three sections of land for Mary Ann Benack, daughter of a Pottawatomie chief.

By a curious line of reasoning, Topash argued that the land was given to the Indians by the government and they had no right to sell or dispose of it except through permission to be given by the President f the United States. Inasmuch as Mary Ann Benack was, like all Indians, a ward of the government her land could not be sold without consent of her guardian, the President. Topash claimed that this permission had not been given, because the President's name did not appear on the deeds. The court did not allow the claim.

Although the county atlases show the reservations of Monoquet, Musquawbuck, and other Indian chiefs in our county, they do not give the exact location of Mary Ann's three sections or of the reservation of eight sections reserved for her father, Chief Benack. The area claimed by Topash was one thousand acres of land, including all of Section 14 and the eastern half of section 13 in Prairie township. This area lies just southeast of Clunette.

An early settler relates that the tribe of Benack left our county in 1848, but that Benack stayed on after that. Armstrong's "History of Plain Township" states, that he lived in a log cabin in the Leesburg-Clunette area, and died in the early 1850's. His daughter, Mary Ann, first married a white trapper by the name of McCarter. They did not get along very well, however, so she gave him some of her land in order to get rid of him. Later on she married an Indian by the name of Peashwa and moved to the South Bend area.

This 1909 effort did not end the attempts of the Indians to secure title to this land. Again in 1925 another case was filed in Kosciusko County Circuit Court by John W. Peashway, an Indian who claimed to be a direct descendant of Mary Ann Benack. His claims were based upon arguments similar to those Topash had used sixteen years before.

Warsaw Times-Union Tues. May 18, 1954