Modes of Travel Then and Now

By Judge Lemuel W. Royse

My earliest recollection takes me back to a one-roomed log cabin where I was born and where I then lived. This cabin was near the old Fort Wayne road, which was then and still is one of the main thoroughfares through Kosciusko county. Conditions in this county were still rather primitive. Most of the homes were much the same type as the one in which I lived. The trees had been cut down and removed from the roads, but many of the stumps of these trees remained. Practically nothing had been done in the way of cutting down hills, or grading and building a firm roadbed. Mud-holes and chuck-holes abounded. Swampy places were made passable by corduroy causeways, always rough and bumpy. Streams were spanned by rude, wooden bridges, which were not infrequently swept away by high water. When this occurred sometimes a good fording place was found. and the stream crossed in that way. If the stream could not be forded, then travel over it must be delayed until the bridge was restored. Nothing but heavy, strongly built vehicles could travel over roads like these. These vehicles were drawn by horses or by oxen. Ox teams were as common as horse teams. Oxen were slower on the road, but if the road was in bad condition, you had better take the ox team. At the very best, travel over these roads was slow and tedious---not more than four or five miles per hour. Frequently forest trees grew close to the road, and in heavy windstorms trees were blown down and across the road. The wise traveler carried an ax with him in order that he might cut and remove this fallen tree.

Travel by horseback was very common. The U.S. mails were carried by a man on horseback. The one that passed our house generally rode a white horse, and in my memory I hold a picture of him as he appeared to me in my early years. Both men and women rode horses. It was the pride of some of the women to be an expert rider. In many of the homes you would find men's saddles and also women's saddles. In the absence of a saddle, a blanket or a sheepskin was used. When these could not be had, bareback riding was resorted to.

These pioneers were strong and speedy walkers, and a large amount of travel was done on foot. It was over ten miles from our home to Warsaw, but our neighbors did not look upon it as a serious task to walk to Warsaw and back.

Roads gradually grew better, so that light wagons, buggies and coaches could be used on them. Travel in this way was regarded as luxurious and which only the rich could afford, to the envy of all his neighbors. A stage coach line was run from Warsaw to Columbia City, passing our house in the forenoon and returning toward evening. This coach was usually drawn by two horses, but now and then by four. As a boy, how I envied that stagecoach driver, perched upon a high seat, and cracking his long whiplash over his horses. This man was my hero, and I often resolved that when I became a man I would be a stage coach driver. But the railroads came, and the stage driver's occupation was gone. Before I became a man, the stage coach and the stage driver were things of the past. In those days all the merchandise which supplied the stores of this county was brought in wagons from Fort Wayne.

From my boyhood days until now just in the space of a lifetime, what a wondrous advancement has been made in our means of transportation. Every day many trains of freight cars passed through our city, at the rate of from thirty to forty miles per hour, carrying hundreds and hundreds of loads of freight.

We can now travel by steam cars by electric railways by the automobile, or fly through the air-ways our fathers never dreamed of. At every heart beat news from the most distant parts of our country come to us by telegraph, or telephone or the radio.

God placed all these instrumentalities right here without our reach, but we were a long time in finding them and putting them into service. "What God Hath Wrought" was the first message sent by telephone. But now in the presence of still greater achievement, we can more truly say: "What God Hath Wrought."

Warsaw Daily Times August 23, 1932

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