History of Lake County, Indiana
OUTLINE HISTORY OF LAKE COUNTY, INDIANA. From 1834 to 1850.
Indiana Territory was organized May 7, 1800.
Indiana was admitted into the Union as a State in December, 1816. At that time, and for several years after that date, the northwestern part was a true American wild. In 1820 the county of Wabash had an area of 8000 square miles with a population, according to the census, of 147. The entire north part of the State, about one-third of its area, had not there. been purchased from the Indians. A very small part of what became Lake county was purchased in 1826, the little fractions north of the Ten Mile Line, but the main part, it might be said all, of Lake county was purchased in 1832. In 1834 the land was laid out by United States surveyors into townships and sections.
A rumor of the desirableness of this region soon went southward into the Wabash Valley and far below the Wabash River into Jennings county. From those older settled parts of the State explorers and persons seeking new locations came, and some from the eastward, in the summer and fall of 1834. There is evidence that some came from the eastward in the summer by the name of Butler, and that claims were made by them and some cabin bodies erected, probably no roofs put on, where is now the town of Crown Point; but for some reason these made no settlement there then or afterward. The log walls were found there by those who came later, but who came to stay.
In September of 1834 a party of five men came from Attica on the Wabash and camped on the bank of the Red Cedar Lake. These were Richard Fancher, Charles Wilson, Robert Wilkinson, afterwards known as Judge Wilkinson, and with him two nephews. Richard Fancher and Charles Wilson were well mounted, the other three men had a wagon and team, and these two rode extensively over the central parts of the county. If they could appreciate nature's beauties those lonely rides must have been delightful. Lonely, these rides are called, as there were no settlers, no human beings to be seen in their explorations, (the Indians were probably then on the Calumet and the Kankakee), and these two men had the open prairies, the groves, and the woodland to themselves. They had first choice of the locations. Richard Fancher selected that little lake, which still bears his name, and the land around it, which is now the Lake County Fair Ground. Charles Wilson selected his location on the west side of that lake, on the shore of which was their camping ground, of which mention will hereafter be quite fully made. To that same lake in October of 1834 came another party from the Wabash, Dr. Thomas Brown, David Hornor, and, probably, Thomas Hornor. These men selected locations for settlement, made several claims, according to pioneer or squatter usage, and returned to their sheltered homes for the winter. These were the explorers of what became the Hornor settlement on the west side of that lake. But settlers as well as claim-seekers came in that summer and fall of 1834.
According to the best authority now accessible, the best, indeed, now in existence, the Claim Register, claims were made or locations selected, in 1834, by the following named persons or for them: in June, William S. Thornburg, Thomas Thornburg, William Crooks, Samuel Miller; in October, Robert Wilkinson, who became Probate Judge and made his selection of a home spot on that stream called West Creek, Noah A. Wilkinson, Noah B. Clark, R. Fancher, Thomas Childers, Thomas Hornor, Solon Robinson, Milo Robinson; in November, T. S. Wilkinson, Robert Wilkinson of Deep River, B. Wilkinson, Thomas Brown, Jacob L. Brown, claim bought of Charles Wilson, Thomas H. Brown, William Clark, J. W. Holton, H. Wells, David Hornor, L. A. Fowler, J. B. Curtis, Elias Myrick, Thomas Reed: in December, W. A. W. Holton, Harriet Holton, then a widow, Jesse Pierce, David Pierce, John Russell, William Montgomery.
Persons made claims, that is the form used by the pioneers,-or selected locations, for their friends as well as for themselves, and there is no evidence that many of these named above actually made settlements in 1834. Those who did settle in this year were: Thomas Childers and family in School Grove, on "section 17," in October; William Crooks and Samuel Miller, probably in the summer; Solon Robinson and family on the last day of October, claim dated November, and spending that winter with him two young men, Luman A. Fowler and J. B. Curtis; Robert Wilkinson of Deep River and family in November.
In January of 1835 settlers were, Lyman Wells and John Driscoll; in February, William Clark, known afterwards as Judge Clark, and family, W. A. W. Holton with his mother and sister, and J. W. Holton with wife and child.
In the spring Richard Fancher with his family came to settle on the shore of the little lake which he had selected on section 17, a noted section for several years, but to his great disappointment he found out before long that on that section had been laid an "Indian float.'' As the year of 1835 advanced settlers came in quite rapidly. In April the "Bryant Settlement" was commenced. The names of these Bryants were, Wayne, David, Elias, and Samuel D.; and with them in this settlement was a sister, Mrs. Agnew. They called their location Pleasant Grove.
In May the "Myrick Settlement'' was made by Elias Myrick, William Myrick, and Thomas Reed; and Centre Prairie was settled by S. P. Stringham and J. Foley. Robert Wilkinson of West Creek also settled on his choice location, and north of him, in what became known as the West Creek woods, Thomas Wiles and Jesse Bond. In the fall of 1835 the large Hornor family came, David Hornor and four sons, Thomas, George, Amos, Levi, a daughter, Ruth, and other children, and Jacob L. Brown, a son-in-law. In this year also John Wood from Massachusetts made a claim, Robert Hamilton settled, Milo Robinson came from New York city, and Henry Wells of Massachusetts began his long residence in what became Crown Point.
The settling of a new region is always a rich, an interesting, sometimes a trying and dangerous experience, whether in planting colonies like those early thirteen on the Atlantic coast a few hundred years ago or commencing, as thousands did in the nineteenth century, in what was called for many years the West, new settlements of white people among Indians and wild animals, the native dwellers on our prairies and in our forests.
The experiences of the pioneers in the prairie belt was different, in some respects, from the earlier life of the settlers in the large forests of Ohio and of southern and central Indiana, for although they built their first cabins in the edges of woodlands or in groves where they had the shelter of trees, instead of being obliged to make clearings in heavy timber thus opening up at first a very small farm, these prairie settlers started at once the large "breaking plows," with six or more yoke of oxen attached, and could sow and plant the first summer after their arrival. And they put up free of any expense all of the grass for hay which they could find time to mow. From a large amount of heavy labor in what is called clearing land they were thus relieved. They had at first rails to split for fences, making as they did the Virginia worm fence, and this was their heaviest work.
It is to be remembered that these early prairie settlers, one family, that of William Ross, in 1833, but not a permanent family, these others in 1834 and 1835, were what were called squatters on newly surveyed Gov-ernment lands, before Lake county had any civil existence. The legislature of Indiana in the winter of 1835 and 1836 divided the territory north of the
Kankakee River, extending from the organized county of LaPorte to the Illinois line, into two portions, one to become Porter county and the other Lake. Porter was organized and the territory that was to be Lake was attached to it to bring it under civil government. It was divided into three townships and a justice of the peace was elected in each. These were, Amsi L. Ball, Solon Robinson, and Robert Wilkinson of West Creek. In 1836, the year of the first justice courts, when three or four cases only were tried, settlers came in rapidly. The names of one hundred and thirteen "settlers in 1836" have been found on the Claim Register.
As many of these names are likely to appear in the biographical sketches they are not given here. It will be sufficient to state that in this year there came the Taylor and Edgerton and Nordyke families, the families of James Farwell and Charles Marvin, the Church and Cutler families of Prairie West. William Merrill and Dudley Merrill, and in September George Earle. These commenced new centers of settlement.
The town of Liverpool, which became Lake county's first county seat, was laid out as a town in May probably or in June of this year. The sale of lots there in July amounted to sixteen thousand dollars. Lot number 107 sold for eighty dollars. The men concerned in this town were John B. Chapman, Henry Fredrickson and Nathaniel Davis. A true "paper city" was laid out, probably this year, at the mouth of the Calumet River, by a company of men from Columbus, Ohio. It was called Indiana City, and was designed no doubt to compete, with the then young Michigan City and Chicago, for the commerce of Lake Michigan. It was sold in 1841, the tradition is, for fourteen thousand dollars. There is no evidence that it had any inhabitants, and actually it was valueless.
July 4, 1836, there was organized at the house of Solon Robinson or in his grove, The Squatters' Union of Lake County. A constitution of four-teen articles was adopted, and attached to that four hundred and seventy-six signatures have been counted. Some of them, however, held claims in Porter county.
In March of this same year a postoffice was established called Lake Court House, Solon Robinson, postmaster, bringing the mail himself or by a deputy from Michigan City and for which he was to have the proceeds of the office. Although letters in those days, coming any long distance, cost twenty-five cents each, paid by those who received them, the proceeds of this office, up to October 1836, were only fifteen dollars.
In this same year was opened the first settlers' store by Solon and Milo Robinson, brothers, who sold, before the spring of the next year, about three thousand dollars' worth of goods, selling the largest amount to the Indians, buying from them fur and cranberries.
By an act of the Indiana Legislature Lake was declared to be an inde-pendent county, separated entirely from the jurisdiction of Porter, after Feb-ruary 15, 1837. March 8, 1837. Henry Wells was commissioned Sheriff, and an election was duly held at the house of Samuel D. Bryant, E. W. Bryant Inspector, at the house of A. L. Ball. W. S. Thornburg Inspector, at the house of Russel Eddy, William Clark Inspector, for the purpose of electing a Clerk of the Circuit Court, a Recorder, two Associate Judges, and three county Commissioners. Solon Robinson was elected Clerk, William A. W. Holton Recorder, William B. Crooks and William Clark Judges, Amsi L. Ball, Thomas Wiles, S. P. Stringham, Commissioners.
April 5, 1837, the Board of Commissioners held their first meeting. They transacted, as one might expect, a large amount of business in starting all the departments under their jurisdiction in a newly organized county. Some of their acts it will be of interest to notice.
They adopted a county seal. They divided the county into three townships and three commissioner's districts, these having the same geographical limits. The number of districts is still three. They appointed J. W. Holton county treasurer and fixed the amount of his bond at two thousand dollars. They appointed Milo Robinson trustee of what was then called the Seminary Fund, the amount of his bond as trustee to be two hundred dollars, and they
appointed him also agent of the Three Per Cent Fund, fixing his bond as agent at three thousand dollars. They instructed the sheriff to prevent any person from taking pine timber from the public land or school lands of the county, and to bring such offenders to justice. It was found on trial much easier for the commissioners to give these instructions than for the sheriff to carry them out. It is an old saying, catch before hanging, and the catching part was what the sheriff found to be difficult.
An amusing instance of an attempt to capture some timber thieves is on record. When the young Chicago was beginning to grow and pine timber was needed, a report reached the county officers that men were stealing valuable trees from off our northern sand hills. A posse was summoned and an independent military company was taken into the service. The party took dinner at Liverpool, and proceeded, it is said, with drum and fife sound-ing,-how could military men march without martial music? - to the place where men had been cutting down the grand pines. But the men had disappeared. Knowing that they were trespassers they did not propose to face, not only the civil but the military authorities of Lake county. It was certainly a novel way to secure the capture of thieves. The county commis-sioners finally paid the amount of the different bills, and perhaps they and the sheriff learned wisdom from experience. The pine timber went to Chicago.
Solon Robinson, who is good authority for those times, wrote in 1847 about Lake county, that the sand ridges along Lake Michigan were "originally covered with a valuable growth of pine and cedar, which has been all stript off to build up Chicago." So, according to this statement, the instructions given by the county commissioners in 1837 amounted to very little.
In October of 1837 was held at Lake Court House, in the Robinson log building, the first term of the Lake Circuit Court, Judge Sample presiding and Judge Clark associate. The other associate, Judge Crooks, does not seem to have been present. There were nine lawyers, and thirty cases for this first term were on the docket. It is reported to have been a very quiet session. The majesty, as sometimes manifested, of human law, coming for the first time into the wild magnificence of nature ought to have quieted human passion.
In this year of the organization of the county, mail facilities were poor while letters were costly. John Russell was sent from Lake Court House to Indianapolis to obtain the sheriff's appointment and he went and returned on foot before a letter could go and return. The postoffice eastward, from which the mail was brought, was then Michigan City, distant about forty miles, and the next ones west, in Illinois, were Chicago and Joliet, each also distant about forty miles.
There was in the county at this time one regular physician, Dr. Palmer. A quite large log building was put up in the summer by the two brothers, Solon and Milo Robinson: it was made later in the year or in 1838 a two-story building, and a few frame buildings were in this summer erected. Many new settlers came in, and log cabins were becoming quite abundant, with their stick and clay chimneys, their puncheon floors, clay plastered walls, and roofs made without nails. Of the eighty-one whose names are on record as "Settlers in 1837," the Claim Register for that year not being entire, the following names are quoted as having been at one time grouped together: "Bartlett Woods and Charles Woods, natives of Winchelsea, England; Hervey Ball and Lewis Warriner of Agawam. Massachusetts; George Flint, Benjamin Farley, Henry Torrey, Joseph Jackson: Henry Sanger, Ephraim Cleveland, William Sherman, A. D. Foster, and, first of the German settlers on Prairie West, John Hack." These were prominent settlers in different parts of the county and their names, with many others of that year, must continue to live in Lake county history.
Religious services were held several times this year at Solon Robinson's house and in the log building at Lake Court House, and at Pleasant Grove, where probably the Methodists commenced a formal organization, the first on record in the county.
These early years, so important in laying foundations for the future, passed rapidly along with their excitements, their adventures, and, to some extent, with their privations, and the date soon came of 1838. As early as 1833 had been opened along the beach of Lake Michigan a route for travel, and another road opened not long after a few miles inland, and four-horse coaches had been put upon the road by Hart, Steel and Sprague, for conveying passengers and mail from Detroit to Fort Dearborn which became Chicago. But this, except furnishing a tavern-stand or two on the lake shore and a ferry across the Calumet, had little to do with the settlement or growth of Lake county. But in the winter before the. summer of 1838 Congress established some mail routes through the county, two of which were of considerable benefit. One was from LaPorte to Joliet, passing through Lake Court House, which was taken by H. S. Pelton, and the other was from Michigan City to Peoria, this also passing through Lake Court House, now Crown Point, and then southwest, passing near the present town of Creston.
SAW MILLS AND BRIDGES.
Lumber is a necessary article for any improvement in building beyond the primitive log cabins, and enterprising pioneers soon commenced erecting saw mills. They seem to have found considerable difficulty in making their
mill-dams sufficiently strong to give them water in a dry season and then to resist the pressure of a freshet. Four of these earliest mills are accredited to the year 1838, called from the names of their builders, Walton's. Wood's,Dustin's and Taylor's. The Wood mill, where is now, at Woodvale, a large flouring mill, furnished the most lumber.
One mill had been put into successful operation before this year, built by Wilson S. Harrison, which in the spring of 1837 furnished oak lumber for fifteen dollars for a thousand feet. The great market place was Michigan City, afterwards Chicago, from which places pine lumber could be obtained. Pine trees grew in the northern part of Lake county, but this was mostly stolen and taken to the market in Chicago.
Bridge-building commenced in this year of 1838, for which work lumber was a necessity. One who looks over the county now, especially in the summer time, seeing here and there a ditch, but very little flowing water, can have no correct idea of our streams in the early days, when free and bridge- less, in the spring and often in mid-summer, the Calumet and Turkey Creek, Deep River and Deer Creek, Eagle Creek, Cedar Creek, and West Creek, were sending off their full flow of water to the distant Atlantic, some through Lake Michigan, and some southward through the Kankakee to the Mississippi and the Gulf. The stream called West Creek, with its wide marsh, its springs, its quicksands, formed, until bridges were built, an impassable barrier for any thing like travel. The horseman was in danger in many places if he tried to urge his horse across. Two bridges were built, in this year of lumber, across Deep River, a short distance northeast of Lake Court House, costing five hundred dollars. These were built by Daniel May and Hiram Nordyke. That bridges were needed across this river then was evident, for in the mid-summer of 1837 a very large horse drawing a buggy, in an attempt to ford the marshy stream, went down, probably into quicksand, leaving only his head out of water, and only by rapid exertion of his driver who plunged at once into the water, was separated from the buggy and helped upon his feet, regaining the dry prairie on the further side.
Over West Creek, near the Wilkinson home, a bridge costing four hundred dollars was built by N. Hayden. Across Cedar Creek, called sometimes the Outlet, near the home of Lewis Warriner, now the Esty place, the bridge cost only two hundred dollars, erected by S. P. Stringham and R. Wilkinson. The one across Deep River at B. Wilkinson's crossing near the Porter county line, built by Amsi L. Ball, cost four hundred dollars.
Thus, in the first year of bridge-building it appears that for five very needful bridges the amount of fifteen hundred dollars was laid out. The money came from what was known then as "the three per cent fund."
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH.
June 17, 1838, was constituted, according to their denominational usage, with nine Baptist members from the two states of Massachusetts and New York, Elder French of Porter county present and acting as Moderator, what was called the Cedar Lake Baptist Church. The meeting for organization was held in the large log schoolhouse which was not then quite completed. Besides this center two other places were selected for holding Sabbath meet-ings, Prairie West arid Center Prairie, but these two other places were soon given up. It may be added that at the schoolhouse of this first Baptist center, public, formal recognition services, according to usage, were held May 19, 1839.
Says an old manuscript, referring to the summer of 1838, "The Methodist Episcopal Church may be considered as regularly organized in the county from this time, forming with Porter county a circuit, and supplied with preaching at stated times.'' According, however, to Conference Minutes the circuit which comprised Porter and Lake was not formed till 1840, but there was a Kankakee Mission formed in 1839, and a Deep River Mission formed in 1835 so that it is probable, as was stated in regard to Pleasant Grove, that there was a beginning of Methodist organization in the county earlier, but not much earlier, than the Baptist organization.
These two bodies of Christians, the Methodist and Baptist, were the strong religious forces in the early years until the Presbyterians made a beginning in 1840, and many more Methodist than Baptist pioneers came into the county. They were successful also in establishing themselves in a few centers which did not change as did the Baptist center, until it became only a pleasure resort. Before, however, that first Baptist church was compelled to disband by the changes which were taking place, it had on its record book the names of nearly one hundred members, forty-two of whom had been baptized in accordance with their usage in the crystal water of their beautiful lake.
Of the earliest Methodist centers, four at least, at one of which a bishop once preached, would not now be recognized as places where people ever met for worship.
This summer of 1838, at the religious organizations of which a glance has been taken, was one of "continued distressing sickness." It is quite sure that, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, more deaths took place than in any other summer of the county's history. It was a very dry summer, called a summer "of excessive drouth."
Yet many improvements were made this year, and other settlers came in. One party came from the state of New York in four wagons drawn by horses, making the journey in four weeks. Among these were the families of Solomon Burns and George Willey, also Harry Burns. They settled on the west side of West Creek, where a little neighborhood was formed com-prising the families bearing the names of Rankin, Hitchcock, Gordinier, Marvin, Burns, Fuller, Farwell, Willey, and later of Graves, Irish, also Blayney, which was an almost inaccessible neighborhood from the eastward until the construction of the Hanover bridge.
THE LAND SALE.
March 19 1839, came that event for which the settlers had been looking and waiting, and yet for which many of them were not ready. The sale of United States lands, including the public lands in Lake county, commenced on that day in the town of LaPorte. The, so called, squatters of Lake were there in large numbers, some of them hardy pioneers, accustomed to frontier life, some of them but recently from New England and New York, who had been taking their first lessons in frontier life, and some of them sturdy Germans, lately removed from the thronging life of Europe into the new freedom and abundant room of this western world, all determined to stand by each other in seeing that no speculator should bid upon a claimant's land. The event in view of which they had organized the Squatter's Union, July 4, 1836, had now come, and they were prepared to fulfil its agreements and its pledges. The impression was strongly made that no speculator should overbid a squatter, and the moral force of the fact that five hundred determined men had decided upon that question, was sufficient. Men were chosen, according to their agreement, to do the bidding, Solon Robinson for one township, William Kinnison for another, and A. McDonald, whose name appears here for the first time in these records, who was afterwards a prominent lawyer, the first one at Crown Point, whose date of settlement is 1839, was the bidder for the third township. No speculators interfered. The record is: "The sale passed off quietly, and the sons of Lake returned peacefully to their homes."
COUNTY SEAT LOCATION.
Another prominent event took place this year, in May, the location of the county seat. The Indiana Legislature appointed the commissioners. They, it is to be supposed, looked over the county. Three places sought the location. These were, the town of Liverpool where so many town lots were sold in 1836, the village of Lake Court House, where already a log court house was built and where Commissioners' Court and Circuit Court had been held, and where the county officers were residing, and Dr. Calvin Lilley's place at the now well known lake.
By some means or by some influence the Commissioners selected Liverpool. Great dissatisfaction resulted from their decision, and the citizens determined to ask for a re-location. Their request was granted. The Legislature again appointed commissioners. These were, "Jesse Tomlinson and Edward Moore of Marion county. Henry Barclay of Pulaski, Joshua Lindsey of White, and Daniel Doale of Carroll county." The same localities were in competition as before, George Earle for one, Solon Robinson for one, and, instead of Dr. Lilley, Judge Benjamin McCarty for the third, having bought the Lilley place, laid out town lots and named it West Point. The Commissioners came in June, 1840. Donations, large for those days, were offered by the friends of each locality. Finally, Lake Court House was selected as the proper place for the county seat of Lake county, those five men who have been named located it there, and there for sixty-four years it has remained. Solon Robinson and Judge Clark, the former setting apart forty acres and the latter sixty in section 8 for the town that was soon to be laid out seventy-five town lots, donated a large public square, and gave an acre of ground besides the square for a court house and other public buildings, also an acre for school purposes. The two men named were considered the proprietors of the town. They donated one-half of the lots and gave additional land. Russel Eddy, who became a prominent resident in 1838, donated ten acres of land and J. W. Holton fifteen. Other donations, some in money, some in work, were also made. George Earle of Liverpool was appointed County Agent. He and the two proprietors re-named the place and called it CROWN POINT. The County Agent and the proprietors sold lots at auction November 19. 1840. The prices varied from eleven dollars up to one hundred and twenty-seven and a half for a lot.
The census taken this year by Lewis Warriner gave for the population of the county, when Crown Point as a town commenced its existence, 1463 inhabitants.
EVENTS FROM 1840 TO 1850.
Without minute details such as an annalist might give, the more important events in these ten years of rather slow growth may be briefly noticed.
Politically, the county was now largely Democratic and in favor of re-electing Martin Van Buren; but there were some, then called Whigs, among these were especially Solon Robinson and Leonard Cutler, who went to the great political gathering at the Tippecanoe Battle Ground, joining in the log cabin and hard cider campaign of 1840, and helping to elect General Harrison. The two men named were decidedly in favor of temperance and took no part, their friends were very sure, in the hard cider part of the celebrations of that year.
Health had prevailed at Crown Point from 1834 to 1843, but in the spring of this latter year scarlet fever came in a very malignant form. A spot was now chosen for a cemetery and soon there were eight burials.
Many sheep were brought in from Ohio this same year, and for a time Lake county was quite a wool-growing region. A few sheep had been among the domestic animals of the early pioneers. Their great enemy was the prairie wolf. After the large flocks came disease spread among them. A few good flocks are still in the county.
In 1844 the wheat crop was injured by rust. The wheat crop of 1845 was considered very good. But for several years in this decade the average price was not more than sixty cents a bushel. It was a trying time for farmers. Many became discouraged. There is evidence from different sources that in these years of depression as many as one-half of the earliest settlers passed out of the county seeking homes in the then distant West.
But some improvements in this trying time were made. Gospel ministers came, churches were organized, buildings erected. Almost as soon as the county seat question was settled and Crown Point was named, so that Solon Robinson felt sure of the growth of his town, he secured the residence of Rev. N. Warriner, a Baptist minister who had been recently ordained at Cedar Lake, built a house for him near his own home, and helped to provide for his support.
In 1843 Rev. M. Allman, a Methodist minister, settled in Crown Point. Two church buildings were erected: one for the Methodist congregation at the crossing of West Creek, the other a Roman Catholic chapel on Prairie West. And, this same year or the next, was built a Methodist church at Hickory Point, on the county line, but in Lake county.
April 27, 1844, was organized, by Rev. J. C. Brown of Valparaiso, the Presbyterian church at Crown Point with eighteen members. The two prominent women of this church at this time were. Mrs. Harriet Warner Holton and Mrs. Richard Fancher. Elias Bryant and Cyrus M. Mason were the first elders. In 1846 Rev. William Townley became the first resident pastor of this church. A church building was soon erected at a cost of three thousand dollars. About the same time, between 1845 and 1847 the Methodists also erected a church building. Cost not now known.
In 1846 sickness again came, and other calamities befell the struggling inhabitants of the new county. The summer was very dry, the weather was very hot. This is part of a record: "Sickness was almost universal. There were few to relieve the wants of the sick or to administer medicine." There were no trained nurses to be obtained in those days, and no money to pay for trained nursing if it could have been obtained. So the members of each family did for themselves the best that was possible. Physicians were few. This is another record: "The summers of 1838 and 1846 are the two most noted for sickness in the annals of Lake. Both were very dry seasons." Besides the sickness of 1846 fields of grain went to waste, for there were no men to do the harvesting. The men and the boys who were able to work were taking care of their sick and performing the needful household work. Only those who passed through that trying year can know how great the trials were. In the present conditions of the county such a time can not come again, even if extensive sickness should again prevail. Increasing the privations of that memorable year, much of the wheat that some did succeed in harvesting was hardly fit for market or for bread, and half the potato crop raised was destroyed by disease. In those years spring wheat was quite extensively raised in the county, and potato bugs were destroyers unknown.
That summer of 1846 passed: a number had died some, perhaps all, sadly missed in what had been bright homes; but the living prepared again to hope on and live on. A very favorable fall and a mild winter followed.
In 1847 there were in the county seven postoffices, five saw mills in oper-ation furnishing oak lumber, two grist-mills, "Wooers mill," which did grinding for the farmers of both Lake and Porter counties, and Wilson and Saunder's. George Earle of Liverpool was also erecting a third at what became Hobart. There were then in the county about fifty frame houses, five church buildings, two brick dwelling houses, and five stores. Two of these were at Crown Point, one kept by H. S. Pelton and one by William Alton. One was at Pleasant Grove, one at Wood's mill, one at St. John. There were in the county two lawyers, six, perhaps seven, physicians, fifteen justices of the peace. There were five local Methodist ministers, one circuit preacher, and one Presbyterian pastor. The Baptist pastor, the first minister of the Gospel residing in Crown Point, had removed to Illinois.
The county officers for 1847, when were completed ten years of organized county life, were the following named men: "Henry Wells, Sheriff; H. D. Palmer, Associate Judge; Hervey Ball, Probate Judge; D. K. Pettibone, Clerk; Joseph Jackson, Auditor; Major Allman, Recorder; William C. Farrington, Treasurer; Alexander McDonald, Assessor; S. T. Green, H. S. Pelton, Robert Wilkinson, Commissioners."
OUR MEXICAN WAR COMPANY.
Lake county having made so grand a record in that fearful conflict for the life of the nation between 1861 and 1865, it would not be just to omit some mention of the deeds of her earlier sons in a very different contest.
May 11, 1846, there was declared by our Government war, stern, and ever fearful war, upon the country called Mexico. Fifty thousand volunteers were called for by the President. Many young men were ready to offer their services, and to join the forces that were expected to reach-there was an air of romance in the expression-the "Halls of the Montezumas."
Joseph P. Smith, a business man of Crown Point, who had been a military man in New York city, was at this time captain of an independent military company at Crown Point, and he with twenty-five or thirty of these men, and others from outside of the county, started for the Avar. This com-pany joined the army in Mexico in 1847. They saw little of what some call the glory of war, little of the glitter of Montezuma halls. They were in no battle. They did that needful but wearing work, guard duty. They were six months at Monterey. Forty-seven of the company died amid the burning heats or on the trying march, and in the fall of 1848 they returned, as Tennyson said of the Light Brigade, "all there were left of them." One of them who had lived through the sickness and death of so many comrades, afterward lived through the sufferings of the Libby prison, and returned a second time, safe from the perils of war, to his home in Crown Point. In that later war record his name will appear.
The year 1849, ten years after the Land Sale, and with it the year 1850, closed up in Lake county the true pioneer mode of life, a life that had its enjoyments and its privations, a life which has been many times described on written and printed pages, but which by the younger people of this gener-ation can be but slightly understood or appreciated; yet which made possible for them and those coming after them the great advantages which are now enjoyed.
Lord Bacon assigned the highest meed of earthly fame to the founders of States, called in the Latin tongue conditores imperiorum. The Pilgrims and the Puritans, the Quakers and Covenanters, the Cavaliers and Huguenots, with many others from the kingdoms of Europe, helped to found the first thirteen states of this Union. Our pioneers founded a county, not a large division of country, but twice as large as that noted region, the ancient Attica, a division of the old Greece, which contained once a large population, seven times as many as we yet have. And these men and women who laid the foundations here are justly entitled to a fair meed of fame, and their pioneer life, up to 1850, is worthy of consideration and of due appreciation. Some of its peculiarities are in detail yet accessible to the present inhabitants of the county. Memorial sketches of many of these pioneers will be found in this work. According to the United States census there were in the county in 1850 seven hundred and fifteen families.
Beautiful, exceedingly beautiful, as this region was in its native wildness, the prairies, the groves, the woodlands, showing very little indication that man had ever been here, only some trails, some dancing floors made of earth, some burial places, it did not prove to be an Eden after the white man's presence began to be felt in its most choice localities. Virtuous in general as the pioneers were, there was so little of society restraint, of civil restraint over them, that sometimes the temptations to do wrong proved too strong for a feeble virtue. But these were rare cases, only a few dark spots, in a generally moral, upright, virtuous community.
When one considers the crimes that are so numerous in these later years, not only in towns and cities, but often in country neighborhoods, it is pleasant to look back sixty years ago upon the quiet, yet active home life, that was spreading out upon the prairies, and to see how secure life and property were, and how fearlessly the young maidens could roam into the wilds in search of flowers and fruits, before tramps had an existence; and if they met some hunter youth, he was sure to be a friend. Now a lone man is to be dreaded and shunned. It was not so then.
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 freez-ing 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 pit-iable. 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.
PICTURES SUGGESTED FOR SOME ARTIST.
At least three beautiful scenes might be placed on canvas showing some few of the many interesting events in Lake county history.
One is an event in Indian life here, and Indian custom; a custom, probably, learned from French missionaries.
The locality is Big White Oak Island in the Kankakee Marsh. The time is January i, 1839. The witnesses and narrators are Charles Kenney and son of Orchard Grove. The circumstances are these: On that Island a French trader named Laslie, who has an Indian wife, has a store. The two Kenneys were looking up some horses, and the night of December 31, 1838, came upon them. They staid at Laslie's place all night. Mrs. Laslie, the Indian woman, kind and thoughtful, treated them well, gave them clean blankets out of the store on which to sleep, and would receive from them no pay.
I quote now from "Lake County, 1872," a book out of print: "The morning dawned. The children of the encampment gathered, some thirty in number, and the oldest Indian, an aged venerable man, gave to each of the children a silver half-dollar as a New Year's present. As the children received the shining silver each one returned to the old Indian a kiss." Surely a beautiful picture could be made from this historic scene, the broad marsh spreading out on each side, southward the line of timber skirting the unseen river, the encampment, the two white visitors, the joyous Indian children, the aged Pottawattomie, who had years before been active as a hunter, now bestowing the half-dollars, the money of civilization, and bending gracefully down to receive the gentle kisses from the children's lips.
The second of these events is a very different scene. It is the turning over of the first furrow on the prairie where was afterward to be the Main street of Crown Point. The time is spring, the year 1835. I quote now from "Lake County, 1884," also out of print:
"A large breaking plow with a wooden mold board had been provided, four yoke of oxen were attached to the plow, and the women and children came out from the cabins to see the first furrow turned in the green-sward of the prairie. Judge Clark held the plow, Thomas and Alexander [his sons] guided the oxen. W. A. W. Holton walked behind to aid in turning over any refractory turf, himself then young and vigorous with that jet black hair, that cares little for exposure, which has characterized the Holton young men; while in front of all, to enable the oxen and boys to keep the line, walked the tall, spare form of Solon Robinson, even then as white-haired as Christopher Columbus when he stood on the deck of the Santa Maria."
The third of these historic events is a widely different scene. It may be called a sacred scene. It is peculiar to Christianity. It is the public recognition, the first in this county, of a Christian church. The time was May 19, 1839. The locality was the Red Cedar Lake, a few rods south of the present Cedar Lake schoolhouse.
The recognition services were on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, and were held in the grove or the lake woodland, with the shade of the young and thrifty oaks over the heads of the assembled people, and far above the leaf crowned treetops the blue May sky, the bright water of the Lake of the Red Cedars sparkling in the sunlight not far eastward, all the circumstances combining to add beauty to the picture. Two aged, venerable ministers of the Gospel were present, the stout built, rugged form of Elder French of Porter county is in full view and the more slender, less vigorous, but yet manly form of Elder Sawin of LaPorte. Elder Sawin has just preached to the attentive congregation, and now, as the camera is adjusted, the brethren and sisters rising from their seats form a circle in the center of the assembly, join their hands, and Elder French in the name of the council of churches there represented gives to them the right hand of church fellowship.
They are seated. Our picture is taken. Other exercises follow. That little band, among them the three pioneer men, Richard Church, Lewis Warriner, and Hervey Ball, other men in the prime of life, some young mothers, and some elderly women, now a recognized church, there in that woodland which gave little evidence that human footsteps had been on the ground before, celebrated for the first time together what is called the Lord's Supper. They "took the sacred emblems of blood stained Calvary." But the picture for the painter's brush is the group of men and women so lately members of large Eastern churches, as they join hand to hand in the open air of the almost untrodden western woodland, to act thenceforth together as a church of Christ.
These three suggested pictures, painted as this writer would paint them were he an artist, taking in the natural beauty that was then around the human actors, would be treasures on the wall of the Old Settler Historic Hall that is to be.
©2007 Genealogy Trails