Indiana TrailsGenealogy Trails

Newton County, Indiana


At the session of the Indiana Legislature in 1834-35, an act was passed forming the counties of Newton, Jasper, Pulaski, Starke, Marshall, Fulton, Adams, Wells, Whitley, De Kalb, Noble, Kosciusko, Steuben and Jay, of which the following is in relation to Newton and Jasper

" Section 12. That all the territory within the following boundary shall constitute a county to be known by the name of Jasper : Beginning at the southeast corner of Section 33, Township 24 north. Range 6 west, thence west to the line of the State of Illinois, thence north with the State line thirty miles, thence east with the line dividing Townships 28 and 29 north, to the northeast corner of Section 4, Township 28 north. Range 6 west, thence south with the section line thirty miles to the place of beginning.

"Sec. 13. That all the territory within the following boundary shall constitute a county to be known by the name of Newton : Beginning at the southeast corner of Township 29 north. Range 5 west, thence west to the State line, thence north with the State line thirty miles, thence east with the line dividing Townships 33 and 34 north, to the northeast corner of Township 33, Range 5 west, thence south with the range line thirty miles to the place of beginning."

By these boundaries, it will be observed, the original county of Newton included all of the present counties of Jasper and Newton north of the line dividing Townships 28 and 29 north, the townships of West Creek, Cedar Creek and Eagle Creek in Lake County, and Boone and Pleasant Townships in Porter County. In 1836, Porter County was organized, and the year following Lake County, each of which took all the territory north of the Kankakee River. In 1838, Jasper, which had been attached to White County, was organized as an independent county, Newton County being attached for some purposes to Jasper, and for others subject still to White. In the following year, however, the Legislature passed an act relative to the location of the county seat of Jasper, and for other purposes, as follows : Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, That George A. Spencer and Jacob Moyers, of White, and Solomon Hatfield, of Fountain, and Samuel H. Garrison, of Warren, and William Simms, of Tippecanoe Counties, be and the same are hereby appointed Commissioners, agreeably to an act entitled "An act fixing the beat of Justice in all new counties hereafter Laid off." The Commissioners aforesaid shall meet at the house of Robert Alexander, of Jasper County, on the first Monday of June next, and immediately proceed to discharge the duties hereafter assigned them.

Sec. 2. And it s hall be the duty of the Sheriff of Jasper County, either in person or writing, to inform said Commissioners of their appointment on or before the first Monday of May next, and for such service shall be entitled to such compensation as the law requires.

Sec. 3. It shall be the duly of the Commissioners, in addition to the duties assigned them by the act to which this has reference, to examine the counties of Jasper and Newton, with a view of their being consolidated, and if, after examination, the Commissioners are satisfied that the interests of the two counties would be promoted by the union of the same, they are hereby authorized to fix the seat of justice in said enlarged territory, taking into view the peculiar situation of said territory in regard to prairie, timber, water privileges, and the known wishes of the citizens of different parts of Jasper County being attached lo other counties; and the seat of justice, if consolidated, shall be called Newlon.

Sec. 4. If. after examination, the Commissioners shall be of opinion that either county would be injured by the consolidation, they shall proceed to the county seat as provided by law, in Jasper County, agreeably lo its present boundries.

Sec. 5. If, after examination, they shall be of opinion that the interests of the two counties would be promoted by the union of the same, from thenceforth the territory known by the names of Jasper and Newlon Counties, shall be known as Jasper County. This act to be in force from and after its passage. Approved, January '29, 1839.

The Commissioners thus appointed found the plan of consolidating the two counties advisable, and accordingly located the county seat at the Falls of the Iroquois River, with the name of Newton, thus striking the county of that name from the map of the State. In 1840, the county of Benton was formed, taking its territory from Jasper, the latter receiving by way of compensation thirty sections adjoining the southeast parcle, and now principally contained in Milroy Township.

While the obliteration of Newton County was thus complete for the time, there existed a conviction that the vast territory thus consolidated as one county would eventually be divided in some way, and another county formed. The passing years brought increased population to the western portion of this territory, until the dissatisfaction with the remoteness of the county seat began to find expression and influence from the increasing numbers.

Matters ran along until the year 1857, when it became known that certain parties had lobbied through the Legislature a bill for the division of old and the organization of new counties, with the intention of making a new county out of the north part of Jasper County with the county seat on the Kankakee River. It became evident to the citizens of the western portion of Jasper County that if they allowed the scheme to be carried out that their prospects for a new county would be forever hopeless, and although the matter was considered to be somewhat premature, they at once went to work and called a public meeting of the citizens living west of the line dividing Ranges 7 and 8, to be holden at the town of Morocco, at which time it was resolved to at once proceed to get up petitions to the Commissioners of Jasper County, asking to be set off in a new county, to be called by the name of Beaver ; afterward, but at the same meeting, on motion of Mr. Thomas Barker, the name was changed from Beaver to Newton, carrying down to history the friendship of Jasper and Newton, as related by Weems in his Life of Marion.

The petition was signed by nearly every voter in the territory, and in September, 1857, was presented to the Commissioners of Jasper County for their action. The petition was very naturally opposed by the citizens of the other portion of the county, and after about two days' skirmishing the petition was dismissed on the ground that a part of the names were attached before the taking effect of the law. The matter was decided on Tuesday afternoon. The same night petitions were written out and the next day circulated, and on Thursday morning sent to Rensselaer for presentation. The court had adjourned the evening previous to meet the next morning at 9 o'clock, but by some means the Commissioners got wind of what was coming, and two of the Commissioners never came back again during the term. There was no remedy left but to watch the court until the week expired and then go home and wait until the next term.

At the December term, certain parties had got up a counter petition, striking off the territory along the Kankakee River into a new county, and had filed their petition first, intending to hold that as a preventive against any action in favor of striking off the new county of Newton. The first day of the term all parties were on hand, the county of Newton being represented by Silas Johnson, John Andrews, Zacharia Spitler, John Ade and a few others. The opposition was led by Judge Milroy and L. A. Cole, and after a short time spent in consultation the case was continued until Thursday. On consultation of the friends of Newton County, it was determined, as the best line of procedure, to go into the territory asking to be set off as a new county along the Kankakee, and if possible get signatures to remonstrances against being set off as a new county. This was so far successful that quite a large majority of all the voters signed the remonstrances. This strategy was kept as quiet as possible, and on Thursday afternoon, when the case was called up, the opposition had not got wind of it. Judge Milroy presented his petition, following it by a few remarks, after which some two hours were spent in hearing objections and arguments in favor of it, until finally Silas Johnson, to whom had been assigned that part of the programme, stated to the court he thought there had been fatal objections to the petition presented, but that he had another argument against it which he wished to lay before the court, at the same time pulling out of his pocket the remonstrances duly sworn to, which he read and then sat down. There was silence for about two minutes, after which, with but little further discussion, the petition was dismissed. Thereupon the petition for Newton County was called up.

This petition was presented December 7, 1857, and was opposed by a remonstrance signed by upward of 300 voters of the middle and eastern end of the county. The remonstrance was rejected, however, by the Commissioners, who held that those residing outside of the territory proposed to be cut off had no voice in the matter, and granted the prayer of the petitioners, appointing Messrs. Z. Spitler, John Darroch and David Creek a committee to run the boundaries of the proposed county. An appeal was taken from this decision to the Circuit Court, which overruled the decision of the Commissioners and granted an injunction restraining them from entering the order upon their records. An appeal thereupon was taken to the Supreme Court by the defeated party.

In the meanwhile, the persons engaged in the legal struggle had secured the passage of a new law by the Legislature in the session of 1S5S-59, and in the following June a new petition and a new remonstrance was brought before the Commissioners, who rejected both on the ground that the case could not be heard at the same time in two courts, the question having been taken to the Supreme Court on an appeal. The case in court was reached and decided in November, 1859, the decision being as follows

Board of County Commissioners vs. George W. Spitler. Appeal from Jasper Circuit Court. Davison, Justice. The case made by the pleadings is as follows: Under the act entitled " An act to authorize the formation of new counties, etc.," approved March 7, 1857, certain citizens of Jasper County, residing within a certain district in that county, presented to the Board of Commissioners of said county a petition wherein they set forth the boundaries of the district in which they resided, and alleged that such district ought to be formed into a new county to be called the county of Newton ; that the area embraced within the boundaries was as near a square as may be, and would, if formed into a new county, leave 400 square miles in the old county of Jasper, etc. The Commissioners, at their December term, 1857, proceeded to act upon the petition, and upon final hearing appointed a committee of three freeholders, residents of said district, to lay off and establish the boundaries of the proposed new county. And the committee thus appointed having made their report, the same was by the Commissioners duly filed.

After the filing of the report, and before the Commissioners had further acted in the matter, Spitler, the appellee, who was the plaintiff below, filed his complaint in the Jasper Circuit Court, reciting substantially the above proceedings, and alleging that the act of March, 1857, does not authorize the division of a single county by the act of a single Board of Commissioners, acting through a single committee of freeholders ; and further, said act of 1857 is in conflict with the constitution. Plaintiff, in his complaint, suggests that unless prohibited by an order of the court, the Commissioners may, at their next term, enter an order establishing the boundaries of the proposed county and certify their proceedings to the Secretary of the State, etc. He therefore prays that a writ of prohibition may issue, directed to said Commissioners, commanding them not to enter upon their order book an order establishing such boundaries, etc. The defendants demurred to the complaint ; but their demurrer was overruled, and an order granted as prayed for. The act to which these proceedings refer provides that, '' whenever a majority of the legal voters to be affected thereby, in any district embracing an area of not less than 400 square miles, shall desire the formation of a new county, and by a written request petition the Board of Commissioners of the several counties to be affected by the formation of said county, the said board shall appoint each a committee of three resident freeholders in each county of the district embraced in such change, who shall form a Board of Commissioners to lay off and establish the boundaries of the proposed county, and shall report the same to such Boards of Commissioners of the several counties affected by the formation of said new county, at the next or some subsequent session, and upon said report being made, the Board of Commissioners of said several counties aforesaid shall enter upon their order books respectively an order establishing the boundaries of said new county, which shall be by them filed in the office of the Secretary of State." Acts of 1857; 25, 26.

Does this act conflict with the constitution ? It is insisted that the power to organize new counties has ever been exercised by direct legislation, and cannot be delegated. The position thus affirmed is not, in our opinion, well taken. The act of March, 1857, is a general law of uniform operation, to be executed through the agency of the Board of Commissioners, and it seems to us that the power thus conferred, so far as it relates to their duties under the act, is purely ministerial and not legislative. Indeed, the Constitution itself declares that the General Assembly may confer upon the boards doing county business in the several counties, power of a local administrative character."—Art. VI, Sec 10. Under this provision, the Legislature seems to be plainly authorized to confer the power embraced in the act before us. In cases like the present, the taking effect of the law is not the result of any action on the part of the Commissioners. Nor do they decide whether the act is or is not in force ; but simply whether it applies to the case made by the petition which the act prescribes. This is evidently not the exercise of delegated legislative power, but merely the application of the provisions of a general law, to a given case, local in its character. But it is thus argued : The county boundary of Jasper County is fixed by law.—1 R. S. page 168, Sec. 39. And Art. IV, Sec. 21, of the constitution having provided that " No act shall be revised or amended by mere reference to its title ; but the act revised, or section amended shall be set forth, and published at full length," no general law can be made applicable ; and Sec. 39. defining the boundary of said county can only be amended by an act local in its nature, the subject matter being local.

The answer to this is, that Sec. 39, defining the boundaries of Jasper County, is one provision in an act entitled, "An act dividing the State into counties, and defining their boundaries," etc., which is a general law ; and that the act in question does not purport to be, nor is it, an amendment of any law ; but a general, independent enactment, having for its object the formation of new counties. And this court having decided that "the removal of county seats can be made the subject of a general law," there seems to be no reason why such a law cannot be applied to the case stated in the record.—Thomas vs. The Board, etc., 5 Ind., 4. In our judgment, the act of March, 1857, is not in conflict with the constitution.

But it is argued that that act, though it be valid, " does not authorize the division of single county by the act of a single Board of Commissioners, acting through a single committee of freeholders." It says "Whenever a majority of the legal voters, etc., in any district, etc., shall desire the formation of a new county, and, by written request petition the Board of Commissioners of the several counties to be affected by the formation of such new county, etc., the said boards shall appoint each a committee of three freeholders in each county of the district embraced in such change, who shall form a board, etc., to lay off, and establish the boundaries of the proposed new county," etc.

This phraseology thus used would seem to favor the construction assumed in the complaint ; but when the reason and object of the enactment is considered, the intent of the Legislature evidently was that the provisions of the act may be applied to a district existing within the bounds of a single county. Indeed, the words " several " and " each" and " county " and the phrase "Board of Commissioners," in the connection in which they are used in the act, plainly allowed the construction that a district in an old county may be formed into a new county, provided such district contains an area of 400 square miles, and that such new county, when so formed, does not reduce the old county below that area. In this instance, we will judicially notice that the old county of Jasper contains an area of at least 800 square miles, and that consequently it may be divided so as to form two counties, each having the requisite area.

An inquiry is raised as to whether the plaintiff has adopted the proper remedy. The appellants contend that the case stated in the complaint is not one in which a writ of prohibition can be sustained. The statute allows such a writ, but fails to point out the causes for which it may be allowed ; hence for these causes we must look to the common law.

Blackstone says : " A prohibition is a writ issuing out of the courts of King's Bench, Chancery, Common Pleas, or Exchequer, directed to the Judge and parties of a suit in an inferior court commanding them to cease from the prosecution thereof, upon the suggestion that either the cause originally, or some collateral matter arising therein, does not belong to that jurisdiction, but to the cognizance of some other court."

This writ, says the same author, may also be issued to courts of special jurisdiction, as ecclesiastical courts ; when " in handling of matters clearly within their cognizance, they transgress the bounds prescribed to them by the laws of England, as when they require two witnesses to prove the payment of a legacy, a release of tithes and the like. For, as the fact of signing a release, or of actual payment, is not properly a spiritual question, but only allowed to be decided in these courts because incident or accessory to some original question clearly within their jurisdiction, it ought, therefore, when the two laws differ, to be decided, not according to the spiritual, but the temporal law, else the question might be decided different ways, according to the court in which the suit is depending (.3 Blacks. Comm., 112; Tomlin's Law Dictionary, 242 ; 8 Bacon's Abr. [Bouvier's Ed.], 206 ; Bouvier's Law Die, 377 ; 2 Chitty's Gen. Prac, 388).

This exposition of the cases for which a writ of prohibition may issue at common law at once shows that, under our system of procedure, it can only be used for one cause, namely, to command the Judge and parties of a suit in an inferior court to cease the prosecution thereof, upon a suggestion that the cause originally, or some collateral matter arising therein, does not belong to that jurisdiction, but to the cognizance of some other court (Perk. Prac, 489). If this position be correct, and we think it is, the writ of prohibition in this instance was not the proper remedy, because the Board of Commissioners of Jasper County had, in the case pending before it, original and exclusive jurisdiction. Indeed, we perceive no reason why the party, instead of prosecuting the writ in question, did not adopt the usual remedy of appeal, because such an appeal is plainly authorized by express statutory enactment (1 R. S., p. 229., Sec. 31).

Judgment reversed, costs, etc.
Barbour & Rowland, McDonald & Rooche and R. L. Hathaway for the appellant.

This utter defeat of the remonstrants not only decided the legal status of the question, but also put an end to the division of sentiment in the district involved in the action. The general sentiment was that Newton was victorious and should go in peace to the accomplishment of her own destiny. The final action upon the separation of Newton was taken by the Board of Commissioners, December 8, 1859, when the board ordered the following entry upon their records :

Whereas, The action of this court was heretofore so restrained by an order of the Jasper Circuit Court as to preclude the entry of the following order, and

Whereas,The Supreme Court of the State, on an appeal from said Circuit Court, reversed the action of said Circuit Court in said case; it is, therefore, now ordered by this court that the following report, the entry of which was heretofore restrained by said Circuit Court, be spread upon the order book, to wit: To the Honorable Board of County Commissioners of Jasper County, Ind. : We, the undersigned committee, appointed by your honorable body at the December terra, A. D. 1857, for the purpose of establishing and laying off the boundaries of Newton County, Ind,, make the following report: Commencing at a point on the State line between Indiana and Illinois, at the southwest corner of Town 07 north. Range 10 west, at the corner of Benton and Jasper Counties; thence east along the line of said counties of Jasper and Benton, between Townships 5H and 37 north to Range line between Ranges 7 and 8 west; thence north along said range line of 7 and 8 to the Kankakee river; thence west along the channel of said river to State line between Indiana and Illinois; thence south along said line to place of beginning; and hereby establish the above as the boundaries of the aforesaid County of Newton, Ind.; all which we respectfully submit to your honors.
David Creek, President.
Zecha Spitler,                Committee.
John Darroch                February 27, 1858.


The name of the county at this date was a revival of the name originated in 1835. It seems that " The Story of Marion's Men " had just then been published, or that the members of the Legislature especially influential in forming the new purchase into counties greatly admired the heroes of the narrative. It was appropriate that the adjoining counties, at present so similar in size and shape, and so closely related in their early history, should be named for the two Sergeants in this noted band of Revolutionary troops. Sergeant Newton was a compatriot of Jasper, and the two were often united in deeds of daring. One of these occasions is represented as follows : " Like many families of that time, Jasper's was divided on the great question. His elder brother took the side of the English, and served in their army. Out of affection to his brother, and a wish to examine into the strength and condition of the enemy, he resolved, with another patriot soldier. Sergeant Newton, to pay the British a visit. His brother's position enabled him to receive his two friends without any suspicion of their being spies, and they were entertained for two or three days with great hospitality.

" While they were thus engaged, a small party of Americans were brought in prisoners, and, as they had deserted from the British, and enlisted in the American ranks, their doom would have been death. This the brother of Jasper assured him was to be their fate. With them were the wife and child of one of the prisoners. Her distress at her husband's approaching fate touched the heart of Jasper. Confiding his purpose to his friend Newton, they bade adieu to Jasper's brother, and took their leave. They had no sooner got out of sight of the camp than they made a detour, and stretched across the country, so as to elude all suspicion should they meet with any British soldiers.

" It was the custom of the English then to send all the prisoners taken in that quarter to Savannah for trial. At a little spring, two miles from Savannah, Jasper and Newton secreted themselves, awaiting the arrival of the British escort with their prisoners. It had occurred to Jasper that, as they must pass this spot, it was very probable they might rest here for a short time to refresh themselves, and the woody nature of the spot would favor a rescue.

"After some hours' anxious suspense, they saw the escort, with their prisoners, approach; the guard was ten in number, and armed. The Corporal with four men conducted their captives to the water, and told them to rest themselves for an hour, at the same time giving them provisions. The guard then stacked their arms, and seated themselves. The prisoners threw themselves upon the earth in hopeless despair. Near to the wretched man sat his wife and child. Two of the guards alone kept their arms as sentries. As the rest of the men were filling their canteens with water, Jasper and Newton came stealthily from their ambush, seized two of the muskets that were stacked, shot the two sentries, and rushing upon the others, stunned them with the butt of their weapons. Deprived of their weapons the others abandoned the conflict and fled." It was such deeds as these that made each man in Marion's band a hero, and the names of Sergts. Jasper and Newton may well be given a perpetual place in history as the names of the Twin Counties that form the subject of these pages.


It would be difficult to determine who was the first white man to settle temporarily in this county. Something more than one half of its territory was originally a wet, marshy country, inhabited by a vast number of fur-bearing animals, which early attracted trappers. There is but little definite information to be had of this country during that period. The beginning of the permanent settlement was not later than that of Jasper County, but the nearer location of the county seat, for several years after 1839, operated to the disadvantage of this section. Immigration naturally gathered about the county seat, and this western settlement remained at almost a " stand still," and showing only a slow growth up to 1854.

Josiah Dunn and John Elliott are known to have been in the county, on the Iroquois, as early as 1832 ; among the very oldest settlers was an old man Joseph Redding, who came from Ohio, and settled near the Iroquois River, in the western part of the county. He subsequently moved further west. About the close of the year 1832, the Brook settlement was formed by James W. Lacy. G. W. Spitler, Squire Lyons,

Meekins, T. K. Barker and Samuel Benjamin. The latter first settled on the river in the western part of the county, but left on the breaking-out of the Black Hawk disturbance, returning, however, and settling on the eastern side of the county. About this time came, James Cuppy, Jacob Trout, John Meyers, Bruce Dunn and Matthias Redding.

About 1836, Jacob Kenoyer came from Southeastern Indiana, to near Spitler's Creek, and about 1845 erected the first saw mill and corn cracker in the county. It was run by a dam thrown across Spitler's Creek, and stood near the present residence of Zachariah Spitler. Samuel and Frederick Kenoyer came in soon afterward, and Amos Clark and Charles Anderson. These families formed the nucleus for the entire settlement which gathered in the middle-western part of the county. This colony was further reinforced at an early date by Amos White, Michael Haney and Philip Earl.

In 1838, John Murphy came to this region and settled north of the Kenoyer settlement on Beaver Creek. He was a native of Virginia and removed to Ohio in 1808. In 1825, he removed to Indiana, choosing a site on the Tippecanoe River, opposite the site of the city of La Fayette, which was then a wilderness. In 1838, he came to the territory which is now Newton County. At that time, there were but about twelve families in the county, among whom were the families of Bridgeman, Cuppy, Smith and himself in the edge of the Beaver timber, while on the Iroquois there were but a few families—John Lyons, Job Hunt, Frederick Kenoyer, John Myers and a few others. The rest of the county was an unbroken solitude.

The first time he went to Chicago was in June, 1822, when he assisted in driving cattle from Ohio to Green Bay, for the United States garrison located there. It took two months and two days to make the trip. From Piqua, Ohio, to Green Bay was an unbroken wilderness, except a small settlement at Fort Wayne, and the garrison at Chicago. Just after the town of La Fayette was laid out, Taylor and Linton opened a store, and Mr. Murphy engaged to take an ox team and find a road to Chicago for them, by which goods could be bought at less expense than to haul them from the east. In company with two other teams, he proceeded through Parish Grove, to Buncombe, Ill., and thence to West Point. Buncombe, at that time, consisted of four or five log cabins and a French trading post about a mile up the Iroquois River, on the north side. From this point, he had to make his own road, there being no trace to Chicago. The latter place had increased since his first visit to some twenty-five dwellings, but land was still very cheap. Mr. Murphy was offered lots, near where the building stands at $10 each, the payment to be made in potatoes or oats at 50 cents per bushel. Murphy was subsequently joined on the Beaver Creek by James Elijah, John Darroch, David Kestler, Daniel Deardorff, Benjamin Roadnick, Silas Johnson and others.


The regulation cabin seems to have been from sixteen to twenty feet square, daubed with mud, covered with clapboards, a log cut for a window, with a greased paper in lieu of glass, and a stone fire-place, surmounted by a " cat and clay " chimney. Often the cabin had nothing better than a dirt floor. The furniture was such as the settler could manufacture with an ax and auger. Hand tools, when possessed, were always part of the load, and nothing were more advantageous to the pioneer in setting up housekeeping in a new country. Bedsteads were often made by boring a hole in the cabin wall, in which rested one end of a pole, the other end of which was supported by a forked stick in the ground. Upon this was placed impromptu slats, supported by one side of the cabin and this foot-rail, and upon this structure prairie hay was placed. This composed the bed of many of the first settlers, and. though scarcely as soft " as downy pillows" are, sufficed until more elaborate accommodations could be provided. Chairs were blocks of wood, with holes bored in them, in which legs were put; and tables were a packing box fortunately brought with the family, or were constructed of puncheons, split from the tree, provided with legs as were the chairs. These characteristics were true in only the earliest cabins, and were seldom all combined in any one. A few nails and some glass and hardware were occasionally brought in by some rather well-to-do immigrant or thoughtful pioneer, but the other picture had its counterpart in every settlement in the county. But with such inconveniences, the people, many of whom had known something of refinement in older communities, had no time for repining or melancholy, and it is often said by those who survive to the present that they seemed to enjoy themselves more then than to-day. People were more sociable then; all were neighbors for miles and miles about. A man would divide his last crust with another, and loan him anything he had, and to know that a man needed help to raise his cabin or roll his logs was all the invitation he needed. " The latch-string is always out," was the type of the early hospitality. This latch and its string were novelties in their way, and could not have been evolved except from the brain of the pioneer, whose necessities were truly the mother of many inventions. The latch was made in the form of an ordinary barn door or gate-latch, only it was of large size and made of wood. The latch, instead of being outside, was placed inside of the door, and to enable one without the door to raise it a hole was bored a few inches above and a leather thong was attached and drawn through the hole, with one end hanging out. At night, this string was withdrawn, and thus the door was locked in such a manner as to render it difficult for a burglar to pick. When the string hung out, it was taken to mean, " Come in without knocking."

The site chosen for the erection of the earlier cabins was in the edge of the timber. Most of the pioneers who came to this county were familiar with the experiences to be met with in a frontier settlement, but most of them had been reared in a timber country and knew but little of the difficulties or advantages of the prairie. The wisdom of the first settlers in clinging to the line of timber, and beginning their farms by laboriously clearing off a space here, when the prairie seemed to offer a place 80 much easier adapted to their purposes, has been often challenged. But such criticism proceeds too often upon a misconception of the early character of the open country. The luxuriant growth of joint grass. after fall, unless burned over, became a tangled mass that was not easily penetrated. The new grass sprung up and presented the appearance of a beautiful meadow, which, however, was grossly deceptive. The rainfall during the year saturated the ground, and the dense growth of grass, shielding it from the sun, the natural drainage being deficient, the surface for a large part of the year was too wet to till. There was room enough at first in the timber, and. acquainted with its demands, the pioneer wisely began here. This nearness to the streams, however, exposed the inhabitants to the miasmas of which they were the fruitful source. The " shakes " seem to be the inevitable companion of the pioneer wherever he may be, and it may be doubtful whether there is any escape from their baleful presence. The clearing off of timber, or the breaking of prairie sod, which involve the decay of largo amounts of vegetable matter, bred disease, and no settler was considered naturalized until he had experienced the distress of chills and fever. Sickness of this kind was generally confined to the latter part of summer and fall. The cold of winter seemed to destroy the germs of the disease, and there was but little sickness in this season, save a few lingering cases which had become chronic. The spring and early summer were generally healthy, and the old nurses were in the habit of saying that when the resin weed and other yellow flowers appeared it was time to look for ague. Particular localities were more marked than others for the prevalence of this trouble. High water in the spring, which flooded the lagoons and low places along the bottoms, which slowly dried out under the hot suns of July and August, was a fruitful cause of this disorder, and in such localities there was considerable sickness, when in more elevated places it was perfectly healthful.

Against these evils, the pioneer was forced to contend single-handed. Boneset, Culler's physic, and a long list of herbs, of which teas were made, were familiar to every housewife, and were found in every cabin. Doctors were not to be had, or were situated at long distances from the isolated cabins, but when they were to be had within practical distance, the former, impelled by the urgent necessity to practice every economy, led the settler to depend upon the skill of his own family. Such attacks were not looked upon as serious, and were generally deemed the natural way of becoming acclimated. But these frequent attacks made their effects to be seriously felt. The new-comer, who brought buoyant spirits and a fresh, healthful countenance to his new home, soon took on the pale, sallow hue of semi-invalids, and some never outgrew these evil effects. None were spared, and it was no uncommon thing for a whole neighborhood to be prostrated at once, and to be so confined and incapacitated as to be unable to attend to outside duties. Sometimes the whole family would be sick at the same time and only the more resolute left to care for the younger and weaker. But with the clearing of the country, the wider spread of the cultivated area brought about great changes, and the succeeding generations reaped the result of the toil and suffering of the pioneers.


The pioneers brought but a meager outfit of this world's goods, but, strong in faith and hope, expected to increase their worldly store and provide a home in old age. Some came in frontier wagons, drawn by horses or oxen, and some used the more primitive pack-horse as means of migration. Either way was slow compared to the more modern modes of travel; but as they then knew of no other way than that mentioned, unless a river lay in their course, they were content. While on their journey, if away from the settled route, their encampment for the night was made wherever night overtook them. A fire was built by the wayside, over which an iron kettle was suspended, in which the evening meal was cooked. The father's gun through the day provided abundance of fresh meat, for game was abundant, and deer could be had for the shooting. Yet, let the advantages of the journey be the best, it was one of toil and privation. Then there were no bridges over the streams, no fences by the roadside, no well-trodden highway. Each emigrant followed the general trail, but each sought a new track for his own team. This cut the way into innumerable ditches and ruts made by the wheel of the was on or the hoof of the horse or ox. If the season was one of much rain, the swamps they were often compelled to cross would be almost impassable, and the roads heavy. If dry, the roads were rough, so that at its best, the journey could not be said to be pleasant. Under such circumstances, nothing but the necessities and those small in bulk could be brought hither. For farming implements the farmer was forced to depend upon what could be secured at the nearest village. The plows of that time, everywhere, were rude, ungainly tools, and not at all fitted to do the work of "breaking the prairie." As before intimated, the early settlers all sought the timber and cleared out farms. Here the land, thickly shaded, had not produced the heavy, tough grass roots of the prairie, and was comparatively easy of cultivation. The roots of the prairie grass were almost as tough and hard as hickory withes, and the small bar-share, wooden mold-board was not equal to this tougher soil. The question of cultivating the prairie was often discussed, but the conclusion generally arrived at was that this broad expanse of natural meadow was designed for a great pasture-field, and must forever remain such. But the necessity of the occasion developed the heavy sod plow, which, though in comparison to modern inventions seems illy-conceived, nevertheless revolutionized the farming of the pioneer days. This was an immense machine, with a beam ten or fifteen feet in length, a share that would cut about two feet in width, and a mold-board constructed of iron bars. To this giant plow was attached all the team power the farmer could command, and it was no infrequent thing to see six yoke of cattle attached. The sod was found tough, and so tenacious that the share turned out one unbroken strip of earth of several rods' length. Occasionally the stubborn glebe would turn back to its natural position, and the plowman was then forced to lift by hand yards of this unwilling turf. The expenditure of all this labor was generally well repaid the first year, if the sod became thoroughly rotted, even though it produced only a small plot. The second year, a " Gary." or some other kind of two horse side plow was used to turn the dead sod hack again. Besides this, a small side plow, or shovel plow, was subsequently added, which, with the hoe, made up the sum of the farmers' implements, until the harvest, when the old reap hook, the cradle and the scythe and flail came into use. Corn was the crop usually first planted. Some experimented with wheat, but it grew too rank and produced sickness, or else miserably failed under the combined attack of insects and unpropitious weather. Corn was for a number of years the only crop, and furnished food for man and beast. While the sod was being turned over, it was customary to drop the corn in the edge of the furrow which grew and produced an inferior crop. Each settler brought in at first his team and cows. Horses were generally brought first, but oxen were soon found to be more serviceable, and involved a less outlay of capital, and one horse was often traded off for a yoke of oxen, which for years became the motive power of the farmer's business. Hogs were soon secured, and multiplied. These, fattening upon the mast which the timber supplied in abundance, not only afforded the farmer with a good, substantial meat, but also afforded a source of income, which, though not as considerable as now, was of great advantage when a "little money went a great way." Though what he had to sell brought the farmer but little money, it generally cost him still less to produce it, so far as stock was concerned. The wide range of wild grass afforded the most nutritious of pasturage, and this sufficed for his stock with a very little addition of corn.

Source: Counties of Warren, Benton, Jasper and Newton Indiana F A Battey & Co 1883