LAKE COUNTY INDIANA
A SQUATTERS LIFE
In the year 1800 Indiana became an organized territory, before that time it had formed a part of the almost unknown and trackless wilds of the North-West, slightly explored by some adventurous Frenchmen and penetrated for the purpose of traffic by fur traders. As early as 1679 and 1680 there is evidence that French explorers, passed along the border, and perhaps across the very center of what is now Lake county. The first settlement in Indiana was made by the French in 1690, at Vincennes. In 1816 Indiana was admitted into the Union as a State. But the northern part was a wilderness. As late as 1820 it contained only fifty counties, and of these Wabash had 147 inhabitants, Owen 838, and Martin 1032. There was then no La Porte or St. Joseph ; there was no Marshall, or Pulaski, or Steuben; no northern Indiana. Although for four years a State, and containing 147,178 inhabitants, this Lake Michigan region was still the home of the Red Men and the fur traders.
Chicago became Fort Dearborn in 1804, and was a trading post for corn raised by the Pottawatomies in their corn villages on the Des Plaines and in the Fox River Valley, of which their adopted chief, Alexander Robinson, or Chee-chee-bing-way, shipped, in 1809, about 100 bushels ; and also for fur, which the Calumet and Kankakee region furnished abundantly. In 1812 took place the Fort Dearborn Massacre. In 1816 the fort was restored. The fur trade was then vigorously carried on and connection, of course, kept up between Fort Dearborn and Detroit.
By the treaty of the United States with the Pottawatamies in 1828, a strip of land ten miles in width was acquired along the northern border of Indiana, which extends in a narrow strip to the extreme southern limit of Lake Michigan. This was the first land purchased from, the Indians in what is now Lake county. By the treaty of 1832 the remainder of this county was acquired and all which the Pottawatomies owned in the State.
Up to this time there were no whites in all this region except fur traders, perchance some hunters and trappers, and the soldiers at Fort Dearborn. In this year took place the Black Hawk War, and a few white settlers came into what is now La Porte county. A route for travel was immediately opened along the beach of Lake Michigan. Three men, Hart, Steel, and Sprague, started a stage line from Detroit to Fort Dearborn, or Chicago, probably in 1833, and four horse coaches were placed upon, the road. And now the stillness of nature and the repose of wild life was broken. White covered wagons came, with white men, and women, and children, white as to race but brown from exposure, "boys in their sunny brown beauty and men in their rugged bronze," to start new echoes in the wilderness, to lay claim to the beautiful prairies, and plant all over, where savages had reared their wigwams and buried their dead, the seeds of a Christian civilization. In this same year of 1833 a man named Bennett settled with his family on this stage route, in the limits of our county, near the old mouth of the Calumet, then called Calumic, and opened a house of entertainment, a new country tavern. The Old Soc Trail, began also to be traveled about this same year, leading from La Porte to the Hickory Creek Settlement in Illinois, and past Cedar Lake to the Rapids of the Kankakee. It was but a trail, requiring a pioneer's eye, or an Indian's sagacity, to enable one to follow it safely. A family by the name of Farewell, afterwards becoming settlers on West Creek, a well known family among us, then from the Green Mountain State, were endeavoring to follow this trail to Hickory, missed the way, and spent the 4th of July 1833, where Crown Point now stands, amid an unbroken solitude, while a messenger returned eastward for a guide. Mrs. Farewell, therefore, a decidedly superior woman, was the first white woman, so far as is known, ever on this spot of ground, where on festive occasions the crowds now gather. Indian with his pony could not now follow that Soc Trail; but a multitude of movers' teams annually pass along near its track, on the Joliet Road.
In the spring of 1834 another tavern was opened on the beach of Lake Michigan by a man named Berry. The accommodation at these log cabin taverns was sufficiently scanty to show the borders of civilization, sometimes as many as fifty sleeping at night in and around the muddied walls, and the food was flour and coffee, without meat, butter, milk, or sugar, and the price of grain and provisions sufficiently high to satisfy an ordinary landlord, oats for horse feed costing three dollars a bushel at one of these stage houses.
During the summer of 1834 United States surveyors laid out most of the land in Lake county into sections, the range or township lines having been previously run. This party of surveyors camped, for a week in June or July, in that part of the grove now owned by Dr. Pettibones, in the town of Crown Point. One who accompanied this party, J. Hurlburt, an old settler of Porter, remembers no cabin and no settler at that time in any of our central groves. As yet the squatters were not here. He remembers some cabins along the stage road on the lake beach and thinks that Goodrich, in the place of Bennett, then kept the tavern at the mouth of the Calumet. Burnside had this job of surveying from the Government, but the work here was done by St. Clair.
After the surveyors came the claim seekers. There is evidence that either before or soon after that week of encampment just mentioned, one Wm. Butler was on this ground before Solon Robinson came, and made four claims, for himself, for his brother R. P. Butler, for George Wells, and for Theodore Wells. He also erected cabins and departed. I find the existence of three cabins recognized by those who are called Lake county's earliest settlers. I think they were the Butler cabins. I now reach more certain data.
In September 1834, Richard Fancher, Charles Wilson, Robert Wilkinson and two nephews, left Attica on the Wabash, three in a wagon and two mounted on good horses, to look for claims in the newly surveyed northwest corner of the State. They crossed the Kankakee at the head of the rapids, crossed West Creek at a place which was selected at once by Wilkinson for a home, and came up to Cedar Lake. They camped at its head near the old inlet. They found on that sand ridge an Indian burial ground. They kept their headquarters at the lake. R. Fancher and Charles Wilson, being well mounted, traveled considerably over the county. They were at the South East Grove and at all the central parts. The surveyors had just been over the region. They found no settlers. They saw no Indians, but found signs of late Indian occupancy. R. Fancher selected a part of section 17, and his claim gave the name to that little lake. Wilson and the other two made claims near Cedar Lake. Charles Wilson selected that quarter section afterwards bought by Jacob L. Brown and then by Hervey Ball. They saw a black bear in the woods west of Cedar Lake. They stayed about three weeks, broke up their encampment, returned to the Wabash and waited for the spring.
The October sunshine came, the large fields of maize at Indian Town had ripened, when a family from Jennings county, Indians, crossing the Kankakee south of La Porte, finding J. Hurlburt for a guide to show them that central grove where the surveying party had camped for a week, entered, as settlers seeking a home, On the borders of Cake. They passed Porter sand ridges, and the timber that skirted Deep River, they came out on a broad expanse of prairie and looked admiringly round. He who was to give that prairie name, who was to map out the county, count its sections, keep its first records, now stood upon its soil, Solon Robinson, who was afterwards called "The Squatter-King of Lake." I will let him speak for himself here. I quote from "The Cultivator," published at Albany, New York, Vol. vm, page 19 :
"It was the last day of October, 1834, when I first entered this 'arm of the Grand Prairie.' It was about noon, of a clear, delightful day, when we emerged from the wood, and, for miles around, stretched forth one broad expanse of clear, open land. At that time the whole of this county scarcely showed a sign that the white man had yet been here, except those of my own household. I stood alone, wrapped up in that peculiar sensation that man only feels when beholding a prairie for the first time it is an indescribable, delightful feeling. Oh, what a rich mine of wealth lay outstretched before me. Some ten miles away to the southwest, the tops of a grove were visible. Toward that onward rolled the wagons, with nothing to impede them. Just before sundown we reached the grove and pitched our tent by the side of a spring. What could exceed the beauty of this spot! Why should we seek farther ? Here is everything to indicate a healthy location which should always influence the new settler. After enjoying such a night of rest as can only be enjoyed after such a day, the morning helped to confirm us that here should be our resting place. In a few hours the grove resounded with the blows of the axe, and in four days we moved into our new house.
In that same October two, perhaps three, from the Wabash region, also coming by way of La Porte, passed on horseback to the northwest bank of Cedar Lake. There were Dr. Brown T David Hornor, and probably, also. Thomas Hornor.
On the first day of November, Henry Wells and Luman A. Fowler, having left their horses on Twenty Mile Prairie, came to Solon Robinson's tent. They, too passed on to Cedar Lake and found the three just mentioned there. Hungry and tired, they partook of some roasted raccoon meat for supper, lodged "in a leafy tree top," and returned the next day to the Robinson camp. The little party from the Wabash made several claims, on the west side of the lake, and then returned to their homes, to be ready for removing in the coming spring.
There is in my possession the original Claim Register, containing not only a record of the claims, when made, by Avhom, where the settlers were from, with date of settlement, but also the General Record and Constitution of the Squatters' Union of Lake County. This document I have had occasion quite thoroughly to examine.
According to the Register, claims were made in the year 1834 by the following persons:
E. L. Palmer, in April, for himself and for J. B. Cox, L. Cox, and E. Cox; (The timber connected with these was not claimed till December 8, 1836, and they are all afterwards marked "forfeit." They lie in the western tier of sections in Range 10. I conclude that none of these settled in 1534, and in April the sections were not laid off by the U. S. surveyors.) Wm. S. Thornburg, Thomas Thornburg, Wm. Crooks, and Samuel Miller, in June; Robert Wilkinson, Noah A. Wilkinson, Noah B. Clark, R. Fancher, Thomas Childers, Thomas Hornor, Solon Robinson, and Milo Robinson in October; T. S. Wilkison, Robert Wilkison, B. Wilkison, Thomas Brown, Jacob L. Brown, Thomas H. Brown, Wm. Clark, J. W. Holton, H. Wells, David Hornor, L. A. Fowler, J. B. Curtis, Elyas Myrick, Wm. Myrick, Thomas Reed, in November; and W. A. W. Holton, Harriet Holton, widow, Jesse Pierce, David Pierce, John Russell, and Wm. Montgomery, in December.
I find none of these settling in 1834 except Childers, S. Robinson, Crooks and Miller, L. A. Fowler, Robert Wilkison, and Jesse and David Pierce. The fact of the settlement, in this year, of Crooks, Miller, and the two Pierces, rests only on the somewhat uncertain data given in the Register uncertain, because intentions were there recorded as facts, and men then as now could not always accomplish their intentions. The date of the claim in the Register is certain of time of settlement, slightly uncertain.
I have inserted two names as claimants of land in 1834 which I do not find thus registered, R. Fancher and Thomas Childers; but both these were on section 17, upon which was laid an "Indian float." The following is, according to Solon Robinson's Records, the order of settling of the first few families in Lake.
In October, 1834, Thomas Childers and family settled on the Southeast Quarter of Section 17, in the edge of School Grove. His name and that of his wife must therefore stand on this record as the first known settlers in the central part of the county. On the last day of October Solon Robinson and family settled in that point of the timber which now forms such a well known part of the town of Crown Point.
To Solon Robinson must be awarded the honor of being first in Crown Point, and second only, as a resident, in the central part of the county. It is said, on good authority, that he once gave great offense to Thomas Childers by remarking that his wife, Mrs. Robinson, was the first white woman settling in Lake county. The word white was understood to be in contrast, not with red, denoting Indian women, but with dark or swarthy, thus casting a reflection on the complexion of Mrs. Childers.
The third family arriving was that of Robert Wilkinson, who settled on Deep River, where the only ford known in early times was situated. This family settled late in November. In January, 1835, Lyman Wells, and with him an unmarried man, John Driscoll, settled a little south-east of what is now the town of Lowell. Lyman Wells had a wife and four or five children.
About the middle of February, coming from Jennings county, Indiana, William Clark and family, and with them W. A. W. Holton, and mother, and sister, reached the hospitable home of Solon Robinson, making the fifth and sixth families, and increasing to eight the number of men as settlers. I count here eight, as a young man was that winter domiciled with the Robinson family whose name was afterwards well known to the inhabitants of Lake. This was Luman A. Fowler. A few days afterwards the seventh family arrived, the fourth for the Robinson settlement, J. W. Holton with his wife and child. In the spring Richard Fancher with his family reached his claim on the bank of what has since been called Fancher's Lake. Ceasing now to name the families in their order, I insert some of the incidents connected with the winter trip of the Clark family.
The route by way of the rapids, of Sugar, and Bunkum, and Parrish Grove, to the Wabash, was dreary enough and desolate in the early fall of 1848, when I first tried that road to Indianapolis; but what must it have been in mid-winter in 1835. That February was a winter month unusually severe. The wagons drawn by ox teams, which most of the settlers then used instead of horses, had slowly wended their way, bearing one family with several children, the father and mother then, in the full prime of life, the other family a widowed mother with a son who had entered manhood and a daughter also grown up, and having crossed the bleak open prairie north of Sugar they came to the Kankakee marsh. This was u covered with ice upon which night overtook them endeavoring to force their ox teams across. There was no house, and they were unprepared for camping out, and one of the most severe cold nights about closing in upon them surrounded by a wide field of ice upon which the already frightened and tired oxen refused to go further, and not a tree or stick of firewood near them. These families upon this night might have perished had they not providentially discovered a set of logs that some one had hauled out upon a little knoll near by to build a cabin with, and with which they were enabled to build a fire, to warm a tent made out of the covering of their wagons, and which enabled them to shelter themselves from the blast that swept over the wide prairie almost as unimpeded as over the mountain waves of the ocean. The next day, by diverging ten miles out of their course, they reached a little miserable hut of an old Frenchman, who lived with his half Indian family on the Kankakee ; here they stayed two days and nights. Such was the severity of the weather that they dared not leave their uncomfortable quarters, and when they did so they had to make a road for the oxen across the river by spreading hay upon the , ice and freezing it down by pouring on water." The name of this French trader who so kindly gave them shelter was pronounced Sho-bar. He lived where now is Kankakee City, forty miles from their destination. They found at Yellow Head one family. Stayed there over night. Came to West Creek, following a blind Indian trail. The oxen broke through the ice of this stream, and were extricated with difficulty. At length the wagons were brought over, and the trail leading across Lake Prairie was followed up. On different trails Solon Robinson had erected guide-boards, and these voyagers just before dark found one which they gladly hailed : "To Solon Robinson's, 5 miles North." Soon after night-fall they reached his lone but hospitable cabin. There are those yet among us, Thomas Clark and Alexander Clark, who remember well the severities of that winter trip. The pioneers in every part of this country, whether they came amid the snows and ice of winter or the flowers of summer, or, as the family of which I was a member came, amid the deep mud, and crossing the bridgeless streams of December, knew the meaning of privations and of hardships. But all seem to have borne them with great cheerfulness. The hardy came, the intelligent came, men and women mostly young or in the prime of life, and happy, light hearted children. Years afterwards the Pierian Society at Crown Point, some of them descendants of these early pioneers, adopted for their motto, Per aspera ad astra; that is, Through difficulties to success. Then were some difficulties, in the squatter period of our history; and now, as our respected citizen, A. Clark, looks at the young, growing city two miles from his home, hears the whistle of the cars, looks over his well cultivated farm, and at his spring in the meadow that will furnish water daily for a thousand cattle, enjoys the facilities that have come into being since those days of his boyhood, he enjoys with others the success.
I return to the winter of 1834. Four families were on sections 8 and 5, at its close, one was in School Grove, one near Lowell, one probably on Deep River, one on Turkey Creek, and three or four, it is probable, were scattered among the sand ridges of North Township. Gladly would I record all their names on this page of history could I only rescue them from the oblivion which has already come. Some incidents of the first winter are pressing forward for a record.
The oxen lived on browse and a little corn, and that was more than the deer had. But the oxen grew hungry and became lean. Food for the children became scarce. Corn bins and mills were forty miles away. Provisions gave out in L. Wells' family and they made a supper of a big owl, and were on the point of roasting a wolf when a different supply arrived. At a later period this same Wells, returning from a mill in La Porte county, " coming from Wilkinson's crossing of Deep River after dark? missed his course, for there was no path, and got on to Deep River somewhere about south of the Hodgmarc place, broke through the ice, and with great difficulty succeeded in getting his horses loose; and in undertaking to get back to a house on Twenty Mile Prairie, riding one horse and leading the other, he came unexpectedly to a steep bank of the river in the dark and pitched headlong down a dozen feet into the water and floating ice. He clung to one horse and succeeded in reaching the other shore and getting near enough to the house to make himself heard by the loud cries he gave as the only means of saving his life. About noon next day he found his other horse on a little island near where they made the fearful plunge, but it was near night when he found his wagon.
Solon Robinson's account of " the first trip to mill " from his cabin, published in the Cultivator in 1841, Vol. VIII, page 67, was one of those sketches which gave to him his earlier celebrity as a writer.
It is too lengthy to be reproduced here. I give, however, a few sentences. December had arrived. It was found that the supply of food would last five or six days only, when " a trusty and persevering messenger was dispatched " to obtain a new supply. " Never were such appetites seen before as those which daily diminished the fast failing stock of provisions of our little family in the wilderness." The meal was exhausted, "the knife had scraped the last bone for breakfast," on the sixth day after the messenger's departure. A small bag of wheat bran was found. No lard, no butter, no meat, no milk.
'"Bran cakes and cranberries sweetened with honey then were sweet diet. Although the owner of a gun that rarely failed to perform good service, it seemed that every living thing in the shape of game had hid up in winter quarters." "On the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth days, anxious and watchful eyes scanned the prairie by day, and tended beacon fires by night, for this precaution was necessary, as there was nothing to guide the expected teamster home, should he undertake the perilous passage of the prairie just at night fall. It was about midnight of the last day, and I had tired of watching and had laid down, but not to sleep." A sound was heard as of steps on the frozen ground. Soon a voice was heard. "What joyful sounds! But the joy was soon damped, as it became manifest that he drove a team without a wagon. Where is that ? was the first question. Fast in the river a few miles back on the prairie. Do you know we have nothing in the house for your supper ?' 'I expected so, and so I brought along a bag-full; here is both flour and meat.' " Then the hickory logs began to blaze, and soon there was a supper. ' Such scenes of excitement, of pain and pleasure, often occur to the western emigrant." "And it is because the emigrant's life is full of such exciting scenes, and because the days of pleasure are long remembered, when those of pain are buried in oblivion, that induces thousands annually to add themselves to that irresistible wave of emigration that is rolling onward to the Pacific ocean." Many other families had their mill trips in the few next succeeding years, some of which may find their place in this record. If some were hungry, none starved, and no one died during the first winter spent by squatters in Lake.
In the spring of 1835 settlers began to come in more rapidly. In March, Richard Fancher again entered the county, with two assistants, and erected a cabin on his claim. He brought up a load of provisions and goods, drawn by two yoke of oxen, deposited them at Solon Robinson's, and returned for his family. He arrived with them and settled in April. In the same month Wayne Bryant, Simeon and Samuel D. Bryant, a brother-in-law named Agnew, and David Bryant, commenced what was known for years as " the Bryant Settlement." Elias Bryant also joining them in the Fall. To E. W. generally called Wayne Bryant, is attributed the naming of the grove where they settled. His wagon reached a grove in the afternoon. They camped there for the night. In the morning the bright spring sunshine of April shone over the broad prairie lying eastward, and gilded the trees westward, then putting on their green foliage. The little birds, which had been accustomed to sing only for the Indian children and the deer, were no doubt flitting amid the green boughs, and as the white family looked around that morning and listened, they said, " How pleasant. We will stop here." And they gave it the name which it has ever since borne, of "Pleasant Grove." But a trial came upon them in that early springtime. On the fourth of April there came "a most terrible snow storm, the weather previous having been mild as summer, " and the brother-in-law, Agnew, overtaken by night on the prairie east of Pleasant Grove, perished with the cold. This was the first death among the settlers; no places had been selected for burial; and these remains were deposited in a cemetery on Morgan Prairie, in Porter county.
The Agnew family, nevertheless, took possession of the claim and the settlement went on. In May the Myricks came, Elias and William, and Thomas Reed, and commenced the "Myrick Settlement. " Robert Wilkinson took possession of his claim on West Creek; and in the month of May S. P. String-ham and J. Foley settled on Centre Prairie.
Cedar Lake was not forgotten. A party of seven, Dr. Thomas Brown, Jacob L. Brown, David Hornor and four sons, Thomas, George, Amos, and Levi, came from the Wabash region, in the month of September, and camped near the bank on the west side of Cedar Lake. They took up more claims, erected cabins, put up hay, staid about two weeks. During this stay they found a bee tree in the grove a little north of their camp, which tree they cut down. They filled a three gallon jar with strained honey, they filled a wash tub full, and made an ash trough and filled that, all from the contents of this tree, which was estimated to yield at least five hundred pounds of good honey. The honey-bee is known to precede the white man. The early settlers cut a good many bee trees; Solon Robinson speaks of "a dozen honey trees to be cut and taken care of " during his first winter; but few probably yield as much honey as this one on the Brown claim.
This party was fortunate in securing food. Passing out of the county, returning home, they saw on the Illinois prairie seven wild turkeys. They unharnessed the four horses from their wagon, and four of them mounting, gave chase, taking care to keep the turkeys from entering the wood. They captured five out of the seven without firing a shot. They paid two for their meal at the next stopping place. Lacy, the landlord here, was the only settler on the route between Parrish Grove and But-terfield's. His hotel was about twelve feet square. On a rainy night the floor and the very hearth-stone would be covered all over with men seeking repose.
In October, this party returned with their families, and the Hornor settlement was now made. On the west bank of Cedar Lake was Jacob L. Brown, and next north of him was Aaron Cox. In the edge oŁ the grove west was Thomas Hornor, and in the West Creek woods the cabin was situated containing the large family of David Hornor. About half way between the cabin of Thomas Hornor and that of Robert Wilkinson, Jesse Bond settled during this summer, and south of him, Thomas Wiles. There also came in this year Robert Hamilton; John Wood, from Massachusetts, came and made a claim; Milo Robinson from New York city joined his brother Solon in November; and in December, Henry Wells, of Massachusetts, became a resident of Lake.
I cannot find sufficient data for tracing out all the settlers of the summer of 1835 ; yet, the claim register being authority, they were not very numerous; although Robinson's record says, "In the fall of 1835 we had grown into so much importance that the tax collector from La Porte came up to pay us a visit, which was about as welcome as such visits generally are." I return to the Robinson settlement, the spring of 1835. Four families, it will be remembered, from Jennings county, were settled near together.
The prairie sod was not favorable for an early garden, but an old Indian corn field furnished a garden spot which the four families divided out and cultivated, and on which they raised their first vegetables. A breaking plow was started May 12th, and the first furrow turned was across the quarter section where now Main street runs, beginning at the present line of North street and ending on South street, or at the Eddy place. Twelve acres of oats were raised, and some corn and buckwheat. Some of this buckwheat sent to mill by the Clark family, was probably the first grist sent from Lake county. The mill was forty miles distant. The first speculation made was in oats. Wm. Clark and Wm. Holton had bought oats in the spring of '35, in La Porte county, intending them for seed, for fifty cents a bushel. Thinking it too late to sow when they reached their claims, they hauled the oats back and sold them for one dollar and fifty cents a bushel. The price had gone immediately up. Oats, corn, and wheat, then, all sold for the same price.
Warner Holton dug a well. He dug four feet and found water which supplied two families. This well was near the present railroad depot. As the water receded the well was made deeper until in after years it reached the depth of twelve feet.
Not forgetful of their national history in their isolation, this little colony celebrated the Fourth of July, 1835, by going to Cedar Lake and taking a boat ride on its crystal waters. In the fall these settlers saw their first prairie fire, and some of them were quite alarmed at its threatening aspect, A true prairie fire is a magnificent and sometimes an alarming sight. Many a time were the first settlers called out to fight for hours by day and by-night against this raging element, endeavoring, sometimes vainly, to protect their fences, to protect their hay stacks, and even obliged to protect their log cabins. There was then little to obstruct and, with a favorable wind, the fire would sweep along the surface, consuming the tall dry grass, with fearful rapidity. The great hope of protection lay in setting back fires and controlling them before they gained much headway.
The winter of 1835-36 was one of some hardships and privations. As an illustration I go to a family west of Cedar Lake. Six hundred Pottawatomie Indians are camped within half a mile of their little home. The Indians bring venison to exchange for salt pork. They give a large amount of venison sometimes for a few pounds of pork. Venison is plenty; pork is scarce. The winter is nearly gone, the Indians leave their camping ground, the pork is low in the barrel, and two teams start for the Wabas h the great place of supply to obtain more provisions. The winter breaks up. The water rises, as the spring flood comes. The streams are bridgeless. Return is impossible. Weeks pass, and eatables are very scarce. One-half bushel of buckwheat, brought up for seed, is in the house. This is ground in a coffee mill, and made into cakes. The mother eats very little. A son says to her, " Mother, we shall not starve. We can kill a cow if it becomes absolutely necessary." Spring has come. Two of the sons go out with the oxen to break some prairie.
Presently Levi says to his brother, " I am so faint and weak, I can go no further." It seems like the time for giving up. They look off on the prairie far to the south, and lo ! the white covered wagons are coming. Two settlers some miles northward, Bea and Chase, who had seen them too, and were living on venison, hastened down and obtained a half bushel of corn meal before the wagons were unloaded. This was, for that family, a happy day. About two months had passed since the wagons left home to get more food, and no tidings from them came. The joy of that return, and of again partaking of abundant food, one yet living remembers well, Amos Hornor of Ross, the only one left of all the earliest settlers west of Cedar Lake.
Other families had their privations; and other families experienced the great joy of a father returning and bringing plenty.
At the session of the Legislature of Indiana of 1835-36, the territory north of the Kankakee and east of La Porte county was divided into Porter and Lake. Porter was organized and Lake attached to it. Both had been previously attached to La Porte for judicial purposes.
In the spring of 1836 the commissioners appointed to make this division divided the territory of Lake into three townships, North, Centre, and South, and ordered an election for justice of the peace in each township. This was the first election held in Lake County. Amsi L. Ball was elected in North, Solon Robinson in Centre, and Robert Wilkinson in South Township. These justices held office till the county organization took place. According to my authority here, the justice in North had 5 two or three cases, In Centre one, in South none.
Settlers came in this year rapidly. On the east side of Cedar Lake Adonijah Taylor and Horace Edgerton, Horace Taylor and Dr. Calvin Lilley established themselves. At the head of the lake the Nordyke family, Hiram Nordyke, sen., and sons, and sons-in-law, H. Bones and J. C. Batten, made claims ; and also Solomon Russell. On the southwest shore of the lake the two fishermen families settled, Jonathan Gray and Lyman Mann. The Church family, Richard Church and sons, Darling, John, and Charles, and son-in-law, Leonard Cutler, from the State of New York, settled on Prairie West. James Farwell and sons, Major, Abel, and Carlqs, took up claims over West Creek, and a number of others soon joined them. Of these others Charles Marvin yet remains. I name a few others among the many whose names are given as claimants in 1836. John McClean, in the Belshaw Grove; Jacob Mendenhall and Wm. A. Purdy, near Lowell; Moffard, Orrin Smith, and Joseph Morris, in South East Grove; William Merrill and Dudley Merrill near Centreville; three brothers by the name of Greene Sylvester T., Edward, and Elisha, north of Cedar Lake; and three families of Van Volkenburgs, also Cassidy, Prentice, and David Fowler, north of the Robinson settlement. In September George Earle settled at Liverpool.
Squatter life was busy during the summer of this year, erecting cabins in the groves and making little patches of breaking on the prairies. Here and there also fences appeared; yet over the larger prairies few were the signs. of civilization when this season closed.
A Methodist Episcopal missionary preacher named Jones, sent by the Presiding Elder of the Northern Indiana Conference, who was then residing at South Bend, found his way, during this summer, into the county, and preached at the house of Thomas Reed and probably at Pleasant Grove.
The town of Liverpool was laid out, probably, in the spring of this year; and in July lots were sold there amounting to $16,000. Payment was made partly in cash, partly in notes. Bonds were given for the execution of deeds upon the payment of the notes. One of these bonds is now in my possession, binding John B.. Chapman, Henry Fredrickson, and Nathaniel Davis, "in the penal sum of one hundred and sixty dollars, good and lawful money of the United States," there was "wild, cat money " in those days to execute a deed to S. Edwards of lot number 107, one the payment of note amounting to sixty dollars, twenty dollars having been paid in cash. The bond bears date July 12th, 1836, and was signed in presence of George H. Phillips.
On the fourth day of July, in this year, the "Squatters' Union of Lake County" was organized. The following is a copy from the original record:
"At a meeting of a majority of the citizens of Lake County, held at the house of Solon Robinson on the 4th of July, 1836, for the purpose of adopting measures and forming a constitution for the better security of the settlers upon the public, lands, Wm. Clark was unanimously elected to preside over the meeting, and Solon Robinson for secretary. After hearing the object stated for which the meeting was called it was moved that a committee of five be appointed to report a constitution and rules for the government of the members of this Union. Whereupon, Henry Wells, David Hornor, Solon Robinson, Thomas Brown, Thomas Wiles were" elected. After due deliberation they reported to the meeting the Constitution hereto annexed, recorded on pages 4, 5, and 6 of this book, which, after being read by the secretary, was afterwards discussed, examined and finally adopted article by article, being fully approved by a majority of the meeting.
" On motion, the meeting then proceeded to elect a Register and a board of three County Arbitrators, Solon Robinson being nominated Register, and Wm. Clark, Henry Wells, and S. P. Stringham being nominated Arbitrators, were all unanimously elected. "After some further discussion the meeting informally adjourned."
The record says this meeting was held "at the house;" it does not say " in;" and evidently not very many could have found comfortable standing room inside of that small cabin. I am told by an eye witness, that the meeting really was held in the grove, and that over the officers' stand a knife and a tomahawk were suspended, as the emblems of squatter sovereignty, the significant warning of what speculators might expect.
The following is the Constitution then adopted :
"constitution of the squatters' union, in Lake "Preamble. Whereas, The settlers upon the public lands in this county, not having any certain prospect of having their rights and claims secured to them by a preemption law of Congress, and feeling the strong present necessity of their becoming united in such a manner as to guard against speculation upon our rights, have met and united together to maintain and support each other, on the 4th of July. 1836; and now firmly convinced of the justness of our cause, do most solemnly pledge ourselves to each other, by the strong ties of interest and brotherly feeling, that we will abide by the several resolutions hereto attached (and to which we will sign our names), in the most faithful manner.
"Article 1st. Resolved, That every person who bears all the dangers and difficulties of settling a new and unimproved country is justly entitled to the privilege heretofore extended to settlers by Congress, to purchase their lands at a dollar and a.quarter an acre.
"Article 2nd. Resolved, That if Congress should neglect or refuse to pass a law before the land on which we live is offered for sale, which shall secure to us our rights, we will hereafter adopt such measures as may be necessary effectually to secure each other in our just claims.
"Article 3rd. Resolved, That we will not aid any person to purchase his claim at the land sale, according to this constitution unless he is at the time an actual settler upon government lands, and has complied with all of the requisitions of this Constitution.
"Article 4th. Resolved, That all the settlers in this county, and also in the adjoining unsold lands in Porter county (if they are disposed to join us), shall be considered members of this Union as soon as they sign this Constitution, and entitled to all its advantages, whether present at this meeting or not.
"Article 5th. Resolved, That for the permanent and quiet adjustment of all differences that may arise among the settlers in regard to their claims, that there shall be elected by this meeting, a County Board of three Arbitrators, and also a Register of claims, who also shall perform the duties of clerk to the County Board of Arbitrators, and also the duties of a general corresponding secretary. In all elections, the person having the highest number of votes shall be elected.
"Article 6th. Resolved, That the person who may be elected Register (if he accept the office) shall take an oath or affirmation, that he will faithfully perform all the duties enjoined upon him. He shall forthwith provide himself with a map of the county (which shall be subject to the inspection of every person desiring it), on which he shall mark all claims registered, so that it can be seen what land is claimed and what is not; and also a book in which he shall register every claimant's name, and the number of the land which he claims, when it was first claimed, and when the claimant settled upon it, and the date when registered, where the occupant was from, and any other matter deemed necessary for public information, or that the County Board may order. " He shall give persons applying all information in his power in regard to claims or vacant land, that shall be calculated to promote the settlement of the county. He shall also reply in the same manner to letters addressed him on the subject (provided the applicant pays his own postage.) He shall attend all the meetings of the County Board, record their proceedings, and perform their orders. When required by a member, stating the object, hem shall issue notice to the County or District Board, when, where, and for what purpose they are to meet. " Fees: For every claim he registers, twenty-five cents; and he shall, if required, give the claimant a certificate stating the number of the land, and when registered. For issuing notice to Arbitrators to meet, 12 cents. For attending their meeting the same fees that are allowed them. For duties of corresponding secretary no fees shall be required.
"Article 7. Resolved, That its hall be the duty of every person, when they sign this Constitution, or as soon , thereafter as may be, to apply to the Register to have the land he claims, registered (paying the Register his fees at the same time). Where the claimant now resides upon the land which he claims, his claim shall be considered and held good as soon as registered. Every sale or transfer of titles shall be registered the same as new claims. Any person desirous of claiming any land now unoccupied, shall apply to have the same registered, and if he is a resident of the county at the time he applies, residing with, or upon any claim belonging to any other person, or upon any land that has been floated,upon by Indian or preemption claims, he shall be entitled to hold the claim he registers, while he remains a citizen of the county, provided, he shall within thirty days after registering it, make or cause to be made some prominent improvement upon it, and continue to improve the same to the satisfaction of the County or District Board of Arbitrators. Any non-resident who may hereafter be desirous to join this Union shall first sign the Constitution, and after registering his claim, shall proceed, within thirty days, to occupy it with his family, or else make a durable and permanent improvement, either by building a good cabin for his residence, or by plowing at least four acres, and then if he is not able to continue the occupancy of his claim either personally or by a substitute* he shall apply to the Arbitrators, stating his reasons for necessary absence, whether to move on his family, or whether for other purposes; and they shall certify to him what amount of labor he shall perform or cause to be performed within a given length of time to entitle him to hold his claim while he is absent, or for a certain time, which when done and proved to the Register and entered on record, shall as fully entitle the claimant to his claim as though he resided on it. Provided, the Board shall never grant a certificate to extend his absence one year from the date, unless the claimant has performed at least one hundred dollars worth of labor on his claim, and satisfied the Board fully that he will within that time become an actual settler upon it. " Any member of this Union may also register and improve claims for his absent friends, as above provided, if he can and will satisfy the Board (of the county or district), that the identical person for whom he makes the claim will actually become a settler and reside upon it within the specified time. "Any person found guilty by the Board of making fraudulent claims for speculating purposes, shall, if a member, forfeit his membership in this Union, and forfeit all right and title to hold the same, and it shall be declared confiscated and shall be sold as provided for all forfeited claims, in
Article 9th. " Every person requiring the services of the Arbitrators shall, if required, secure to them before they are bound to act, one dollar and fifty cents for each day's services, of each and all other necessary expense of magistrate, witnesses, Register, or other unavoidable expense.
" Article 8th. Resolved, that each congressional township, or any settlement confined in two or more townships containing twenty members, may unite and elect a Board of three Arbitrators, who shall possess the same power to settle disputes (when applied to) within their district that the County Board have. And any member of that district may either submit his case to the District or County Board. The opposite party may object to one or two of the District Board, and call one or two of the County Board, or some disinterested member, to sit in their places, provided he pays. the extra expense so occasioned. All decisions of County or District Board shall be final. "Either of the parties, or the District Board, may require the Register to attend their meetings and record their proceedings. But if he is not present they shall certify their judgment to him immediately, and he shall register it as any other claim. " Any member may also object to one of the County Board, upon the same terms, and require one of a District Board, or some disinterested member, to sit in his place. The same proceedings shall also take place where one of" the Board are interested in the dispute. The District Board may order district meetings, and the County Board county meetings.
" Article 9th. Resolved, That the Board of Arbitrators, shall, as soon as may be, take an oath or affirmation before some magistrate, faithfully and impartially to perform all the duties enjoined upon them, not inconsistent with law, and that they will do all acts in their power for the benefit of members of this Union. " On being duly notified, they shall convene, and if they see proper, they shall make their acts a rule of court before some magistrate, according to the statute provided for arbitrated cases. " They may require the parties in the case to be tried, to be sworn, or affirmed, and hear arguments of parties or counsel, and finally decide which party is justly entitled to hold the claim, and which party shall pay costs or damages. It shall be the duty of the County or District Board where the claim is situated, to take possession of any claim confiscated under the provisions of article seven, or any unoccupied non-resident claim, the claimant of which has neglected to occupy or improve the same, according to the terms and within the time specified in the certificate, and sell the same to some other person who will become a settler on it, keeping the money obtained for it in their hands (unless hereafter a treasurer shall be appointed) for a fund to defray any expense that may be deemed necessary to maintain our just rights or advance the interest of the Union. And if a fund so accumulated shall not be required for such purpose, the Board shall use it toward purchasing land for any needy widows, or orphan children, or needy members of this Union. " Provided that the Board having jurisdiction may extend the time to any claimant holding a certificate from them, or application through the corresponding secretary, if the claimant can give them satisfactory reasons therefor, and they may also, when they have sold a forfeited claim, if they deem it just and reasonable, for good cause thereon, refund to the certificate claimant the amount he had actually expended upon it, and retain in the fund only the overplus that the same sold for.
"Any officer of this Union, or any member, shall be discarded if convicted of gross neglect of duty, or immoral conduct tending to injure the character of the Union.
"Article 10th. Resolved, That every white person capable of transacting business, and making or causing to be made, an improvement on a claim, with the evident design of becoming a settler thereon, shall be entitled to be protected in holding a claim on one quarter section, and no more except, where persons holding claims on the prairie or open barrens, where the Board may decide they have not sufficient timber to support their farm, shall be allowed to divide one quarter section of timber between four such prairie claims.
The Board of Arbitrators may require any person making a claim to take an oath or affirmation that he intends the same for actual settlement, or (if timber) use of his farm. No person settling in thick timber shall be allowed to hold more than eighty acres of timber, but shall be protected in a claim of eighty acres on the prairie.
"Article 11th. Resolved, That before land is offered for sale, that each district shall select a bidder to attend and bid off all claims, in the claimant's name, and that, if necessary, every settler will constantly attend the sale, prepared to aid each other to the full extent of our ability in obtaining every claimant's land at government price.
" Article 12th. Resolved, That after the board of Arbitrators have decided that any individual has obtruded upon another claim, and he refuses to give the legal owner peaceable possession, that we will not deal with, or countenance him as a settler until he makes the proper restitution.
"Article 13th. Resolved, That we will each use our endeavors to advance the rapid settlement of the county, by inviting our friends and acquaintance to join us, under the full assurance that we shall now obtain our rights, and that it is now perfectly as safe to go on improving the public land as though we already had our titles from government.
"Article 14th. Resolved, That a meeting, duly called by the County Board may alter and amend this Constitution.
"Lake County, Indiana, July 6, 1836.
" I do certify that the foregoing Constitution, as here recorded, is a true copy from the original draft reported by the committee, and adopted by the meeting, except slight grammatical alterations not varying the true sense of any article.
"Attest. Solon Robinson, Register.'"
Attached to it are 476 signatures.
A few cases of arbitration occurred in regard to disputed claims. To enter upon land which another had claimed was called " jumping" it; and there were, it seems, a few accidental or intentional "jumpers."
The following extracts from the records will surely be of interest as showing the customs of squatter rule 1
"Aug. 1.2. Notified County Board of Arbitrators to meet August 13, at G. W. Turner's, to decide disputed claim between Sam'l Haviland and John Harrison, on Sec. 13, sw. y2 T. 36, R. 8. Aug. 13. * * They decided that Haviland hold the claim on paying Harrison five dollars for his labor, and that Harrison pay the costs, amounting to four dollars and fifty cents."
Harrison, it is to be supposed, had "jumped" this claim and so was the aggressor.
" 1837, March 16. This day an arbitration was held "between Denton and Henry Miller and John Reed, who had gone on to Millers' claim and built a cabin, and the Arbitrators decide that Reed shall give up the cabin to Millers, and pay the costs of this arbitration, but that Millers shall pay Reed seventeen dollars for the cabin which he has built."
In some cases the costs were divided equally between the parties.
From the decisions of the arbitrators there seems to have been no appeal, in the nature of the case there could be none; and with the decisions the parties appear to have been satisfied. Ten cases of arbitration are on the records.
While improvements were going on during this busy summer every family needed food. The settlers of 1835 had raised provisions sufficient for themselves; but not even in La Porte county had a supply been raised sufficient to meet the wants of new settlers. And on this account " most of the Lake county settlers had to draw their provisions from the Wabash during the summer of 1836."
In the fall the first regular physician, Dr. Palmer, was numbered among the settlers. The nearest physician up to this time resided at Michigan City, where was also the nearest post office until the spring of this year.
In March, Solon Robinson, having made application for a post office, was appointed postmaster, authorized to bring the mail from Michigan City for the proceeds of the office. These proceeds were, up to October 1, $15.. This would hardly pay for bringing it often. The office was named Lake Court House, usually written Lake C. H. The next offices west then were Joliet and Chicago.
The first settlers' store also dates its opening in 1836, established by Solon and Milo Robinson, who sold, during the winter of 1836-37, about $3,000 worth of goods out of a little log hut that used to stand beside the " old log court house." Their best customers were the Pottawatomies, from whom they " obtained great quantities of furs and cranberries" in exchange for goods.
A saw mill was commenced in the fall of this year, on the outlet of Cedar Lake, by Calvin Lilley and David Reed; but the one first in operation was built by Wilson. S. Harrison, which, in the spring of '37, furnished oak lumber for $15 per thousand.
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