Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

In the fall of 1839 a man by the name of William Polke visited a number of Indian villages in northern Indiana in an attempt to persuade them to move to reservations west of the Mississippi. His journeys took him through Kosciusko several times. Polke had been appointed by Indian agent Samuel Milroy to be the conductor for the projected 1839 emigration, which ended in failure due to the lateness of the season. Polke's task was to visit each Indian village and try to talk the chief into gathering his band together for the trip. We knew very little about this attempt to move the Indians westward until letters written from Polke to Milroy were found just a few years ago. According to these letters Polke visited the villages of Indian chiefs. Benack, Checose, Monoquet, and Musquawbuck in our county. The latter two chiefs had died, but the villages still bore their names.

These letters reveal how depraved the life of the Indian had become and how utterly dependent he was on the white man. At one time the Pottawatomies had been a strong and virile nation, but they had been using the white man's liquor and ammunition too long. Concerning his visits to Musquawbuck's village Polke says: "Found about 30 drinking. On making known my business the chief said he was unfit for business but would be sober on my return." When Polke returned he was told "they would all go early in the spring. Said something about being furnished ammunition for hunting, which I promptly informed I was not authorized to give him, but that they as they declined going must rely upon their own exertions."

Polke spoke highly of Checose, describing him as sensible and respectable. Checose's village was located west of Warsaw near the present site of the Tippecanoe River park. Checose explained that the Indians were unable to leave at that time because many of them had dispersed for their winter hunting. Checose advised Polke that if the emigration was to be next year, it should be started early in the spring "as the squaws were unwilling after they planted their corn to leave it."

Warsaw Times-Union Tues. Oct. 6, 1953