In the course of years, and in any community, as human life is, there will always be some events of more than ordinary sadness. At least two of such events may fittingly be recorded here. The first is the death by freezing of David Agnew, whose wife was a Bryant, on the night of April 4, 1835. One of the Bryant family making the settlement at Pleasant Grove, it fell to his lot to take an ox team across from Morgan prairie in Porter county to the new settlement.
The weather had been mild with some rain, and snow and cold were no longer expected; but on that April day there came "a most terrible snowstorm.'" Circumstances had separated David Agnew with the ox team from others of the party, but as the storm became very severe Simeon Bryant stopped at Hickory Point, built a fire, and waited for their coming. They came not as expected, and at about four in the afternoon, Simeon Bryant, thinking that David Agnew had concluded not to come on in that storm, building a large fire of logs for a camping place if he should come, started on foot for the settlement, distant ten miles west. He was "a remarkably strong, robust man," said one of that family, but was very thoroughly chilled when at dark he reached the cabin of E. W. Bryant. David Agnew was not a very strong or healthy man, and no one thought of his undertaking that perilous trip of ten long miles on such a fearful night. The next morning, when the storm was over, an April fog coming on, as Simeon Bryant, David Bryant, and E. W. Bryant went out to look over the land, they saw some object lying in the snow, and E. W. Bryant said, "It looks like a dead man." David Bryant took a closer look and said, "It looks like Agnew." And the body of David Agnew it proved to be, beside which those three stout-hearted men stood aghast. What that night had been to him in suffering and in struggle none could fully know.
I quote now from the Bryant narrative: "Upon looking round they found beaten paths where Agnew had at first run round in a circle to try to keep from perishing, and then, as if strength had failed so as not to be able to do that, he had supported himself with his arms around the trunks of the trees, running around them till there was quite a path worn and leaving the lint of his coat sticking in the bark. He finally got hold of a pole about seven or eight feet long, and placing one end on the ground and leaning on the other ran round in a circle, until, as it would appear, his strength was entirely exhausted and he fell across his support, leaving no sign of having made a struggle after."
We can see in this account how heroically he struggled for life, and that he should have perished so near to a home and a shelter seems doubly pitiable. It was found that he had reached Hickory Point with his oxen and wagon, but instead of trying to camp there with them by the fire, had drawn out the keys from the ox bows, dropped them with the yokes all chained together upon the ground, thrown out a few unbound sheaves of oats from his wagon as food for the oxen, and had started immediately to follow Simeon Bryant across the ten miles of prairie and marsh.
The Bryant narrative says that there was an Indian trail passing by Hickory Point and through Pleasant Grove, but that the night was very dark, although the snow-storm was followed by almost incessant lightning. Somehow Agnew made his way across, but perished almost within reach of help.
There have been a few deaths in Lake county the circumstances of which have made them exceedingly pitiable, but none much more so than the death by freezing of David Agnew.
The other of these occurrences is the death of Peder Olsen Dijsternd, a young Norwegian, who was passing through the county in a buggy, with one companion, on his way to a settlement of his countrymen across the Kankakee River south of where is now Momence. Before reaching his destination he was taken sick, and was left by his traveling companion at a home near the Red Cedar Lake to recover or to die. Of the companion who left him nothing is here known. Ignorant as he was of their language the family learned not much from him, but gave him such care as their home afforded. He soon died. The burial was witnessed by the writer of this record soon after his finding a home at the lake, and to him it was exceedingly sad. No kinsman of the dead man present, no countryman present, no one to shed one tear or speak one pitying word. A few pioneers gathered, undertakers in those days were not, and the rude coffin was conveyed to a little mound near the lake shore and the body of the fine-looking young stranger was laid away to rest. The boy who witnessed with a sad heart all the proceedings has in the years of his manhood conducted very many burial services, he has heard the voice of wailing and has witnessed bitter weeping, as tender earth-ties have been severed, but the burial of the young Norwegian stranger remains fixed in his memory as the one example of a burial of an unknown stranger, alone in a foreign land.
Nearly thus was the body of Henry Martyn, the missionary, committed to the dust; and of our stranger's death it might be said as of Henry Martyn's, "no sister's hand, No mother's tender care his pillow smoothed. All, all he loved on earth were far away."
But soon there came in search of this Norwegian an uncle, Peter Sather, a quite wealthy exchange broker, from the city of New York. He learned from the Ball family such facts as were known in the neighborhood, he found the burial place of his nephew, he paid to the owner of the claim five dollars for the little mound, (he could get no title, as all the land of Lake county then belonged to the Government or to a few Indians), and returned to his city home. In the Commissioners' Records of Lake county, January, 1838, that nephew is called a "pauper" whose burial cost the county of Lake thirty-one dollars; but in the city of New York and in his childhood's home in Norway he was evidently far from being penniless. What money or its equivalent he took with him from his uncle's home, and what became of it, probably no one now living knows. He had not lived "a pauper" if indeed thus he died.
[Source: From the "Encyclopedia of Genealogy and Biography of Lake County, Indiana" from 1834-1904. Submitted by Barb Ziegenmeyer]
Five Killed in Indiana.
HAMMOND. Ind., May 13 (UN). —Five persons were killed when their car was struck by a Michigan Central passenger train at a grade crossing near here Sunday. The dead are: James E. Richardson, 49; his daughter, Beatrice, 14; Peter McDonald, 30; Mrs. McDonald, 20, and Miss Helen Eckert, 15. All were from Chicago. [14 May 1928; Paper: Dallas Morning News - Submitted by K. Torp]
On Saturday, August 11th, 1906, two were drowned in the evening, one a boy of eleven years of age, in the Grasselli canal, the other a young man of seventeen in Lake Michigan, off the Lake Front Park in Hammond. The Globe journalist says: "The breakers were running high and the undertow on the beach was exceedingly strong and dangerous." This young man went far out and could not return. ["Reports of the Historical Secretary of the Old Settler and Historical Association of Lake Co, IN From 1906 to 1910"]