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Wildlife and Other Oddities of the Culver - Lake Maxinkuckee Area
Timber Wolves of Culver in Recent Memory?

Wolves 01 Wolves 02

Above: two separate issues of the Culver Citizen newspaper (and undoubtedly more, if and when they're found) contain articles about hunters bagging "wolves" in the Culver area during the 1940s. The article at left comes from 1942 and the article at right from Jan. 24, 1945. Both use the term "timber wolves" to describe the animals in question.

So...were there really timber wolves in this immediate area as late as the mid-1940s?

Randy Dickson, of the Purdue Extension Office in Marshall County, was doubtful when I asked him, and began to do a bit of research, turning up some interesting facts.

He noted that "Starke County historical records speak of wolves being killed there during the same general timeframe, and I even found a report of a bear kill there from around 1920 (I’m going from memory)."

An interesting, related discovery Mr. Dickson made included a 1908 report that  "a 695 pound bear, said to be a Grizzly Bear, that had been killing livestock in La Porte and Starke Counties for several years was killed near Dunn’s Bridge." Also, in 1939, "a lone wolf was raiding farms near Brems and Toto."

In his research, Mr. Dickson was able to verify that state-sponsored bounties were paid on foxes in 1894 & 1895 through the auditor’s office, and on wolves through much of the 1840s and 1850’s (the circuit court verified that the scalp was indeed that of a wolf, issued a note that the owner would then take to the auditor or treasurer for payment). Judy McCollough of the Marshall County Historical Society assisted in this research and verified that the pelts of wolves were “worth” $1.50 each – an impressive sum for the mid-19th century," said Dickson.

Dr. George Parker, a professor in Purdue’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources notes that The Mammals of Indiana by Mumford and Whittaker give 1908 as the date of elimination, but...Mumford, in his chapter in the book, Natural Heritage of Indiana States, says that we do not know when the wolf was eliminated because there was common confusion in records with the coyote. Says Dr. Parker: "I doubt that there was a viable population of wolves in the state by the late 1800s based on the widespread habitat loss and intentional killing occurring in the time."

As it turns out, it was common for many small-town Indiana newspapers to confuse coyotes with wolves, and it is almost certain that the animals in the pictures above (which are too small to be normal wolves but just right to be coyotes) are coyotes. Not that wolves have never been legitimately spotted nearby. A "real" wolf wandering southeast from Minnesota was found hit by a car near Fort Wayne in the past 3 years. It had been tagged by the Minnesota DNR.

Thanks to Randy Dickson for all his time and trouble in researching this topic.

Bears of the Bird Sanctuary?

Maj. Dick Zimmerman, in his 75th Anniversary Woodcraft history book, lists bears amongst the wild animals imported into the bird sanctuary woods at the corner of SR 10 and SR 117 at the time of its creation in 1930. If bears were indeed imported (which has not been verified), what became of the local ones is uncertain. The article can be found here.

Indian Ghosts on Maxinkuckee

The Ghost of Lake Maxinkukee - many pioneers reported seeing the ghost of Pau-Koo-Shuck, son of Lake Maxinkuckee Indian chief Aubbeenaubbee. Read more here.

"Sometimes he would be seen in his little canoe, apparently paddling with all his might for the southeast shore, where his father, Au-be-nau-be, had formerly owned a reservation, and while the spectator would be gazing the ghost would instantly disappear in the rippling waves, and would be lost to sight. Turning to the shore again, he would be observed floating about as if in search of something, and then, all at once, would disappear in the earth, and might not again be seen for several nights."

Culver's Embalmed Canine Mascot

John Houghton reports that he first heard of the Easterday funeral parlor's embalmed (or, if you prefer, stuffed) dog mascot while doing research for a series of articles on Culver history in the 1970s (these can be read on our website here). The item came from the July 4, 1907 Culver Citizen newspaper, which reports:

"Chester Easterday has made a successful demonstration of the science
of embalming in preserving a pet dog which turned up its toes the
other day. A very lifelike result has been produced. The animal has
been posed in the position of lying on his forepaws with his eyes
turned sleepily up at the passerby. The body can be kept any number of
years."

Below: the Easterday funeral home on Main Street, circa 1910.

Easterday Funeral Home in Culver - an early photoThe Easterday funeral home was located on the east side of north Main Street, originally a few doors north of the site of Verl's Barber Shop (today Gladie's Deli), and then in the building that today houses Gladie's itself.

Apparently the notion of keeping the stuffed dog on the sidewalk outside the funeral home was based on the thought that it would ably demonstrate Mr. Easterday's skills at taxidermy. No one seems to know if the "body" was indeed "kept any number of years"!

The Mysterious Lady of the Lake

From the Plymouth Republican, Aug. 28, 1879:

"There is intense excitement at Maxinkuckee. A youth 17 or 18 years old named Joseph Potter was fishing Tuesday; his hook became fastened in something beneath the water; when it was loosed and brought to the surface, a lock of a woman's hair was attached. He was alarmed and rowed to the shore, leaving nothing to mark the spot."

"Parties were searching for the body yesterday; but if a woman is at the bottom of the lake no one knows who it is. A strange young lady was seen to put out in a small boat alone one week ago last Saturday evening and it is surmised that she committed suicide or was accidentally drowned, as the boat was afterwards found adrift."

So who was the "strange young lady"? Did she commit suicide or drown? Was the body ever recovered? Was there a body at all? A mystery...

 

 

Shipwrecks of Lake Maxinkuckee!

According to a DNR source: "In 1986, the DNR partially surveyed Lake Maxinkuckee, in Marshall County, and documented the traces of fifteen small to medium sized steam passenger boats dating to the late nineteenth century."

The source article may be read here.

Steam Boat

So, even in a partial survey, fifteen sunken steamboats were found, or at least traces of them, which would make for a fascinating historical treasure hunt. Where, specifically, those boats are located in the lake was not stated, but one assumes the DNR has those records.

When Dog Packs Attack!

Dog Attacks

The story presented here, from the 1978 Culver Citizen, concerns a pack (or multiple packs) of stray or "wild" dogs roaming around and behaving in an aggressive manner. The dog packs mentioned in this article may or may not be the same packs which would go on to become a serious concern in the Burr Oak area a few miles north of Culver. There, at the site of one area waste disposal dump, feral dogs were said to be forming dangerous packs and even attacking humans. One or two children on bicycles were alleged to be have been attacked, and many in the area felt that travel alone and unarmed in the vicinity immediate to the "dump" was dangerous. I have not been able to dig up the articles on this "scare" (and I ought to add that some area residents remain leery of traveling on foot in the former gravel pit area, just southwest of the State Road 17 railroad crossing at Burr Oak, because of the fear of dog packs), but hope to add to this as I'm able.

Culver's Den of Rattlesnakes?

In spite of the intentionally eye-catching heading, Culver's rattlesnake population is nothing to fear, according to those who know snakes.

Snake

The concentration of rattlesnakes is a protected habitat for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake around the former fish hatchery area just west of Culver off of State Road 10. The land is owned by the Culver Town Park, though it is not easily accessible by the public. It is adjacent to the recently-purchased Houghton Lake area being naturalized by the Nature Conservancy.

Above: a Massasauga Rattlesnake

According to the Center for Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and Management's website (here), "there is only one poisonous snake (the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake) in all of northern Indiana, and it is rare and lives in types of wetlands where people rarely go. Only a few are seen each year."

 Massasauga rattlers, first of all, do not nest in large groups. They tend to be solitary and very reclusive. So the odds of running into one are slim...the odds of running into several at once are extremely slim. Their bite, also, is not as poisonous as other rattlers and venomous snakes. The bite, while dangerous, would probably not kill a healthy adult human.

As has been mentioned, the protected habitat is close to (though not easily accessible by) Houghton Lake. Click here to read and see the Nature Conservancy's website on Houghton Lake, including an aerial photo of the lake and area.

Below: several images of the Houghton Lake area, part of the Nature Conservancy district adjoining the fish hatchery.

Houghton Lake 01Houghton Lake 02Houghton Lake 03Houghton Lake 04Houghton Lake 05Houghton Lake 06

More on the fish hatchery:

Fish Hatchery

The Maxinkuckee Fish and Game Club's bass hatchery. The original local fish hatchery was located in the eastern portion of today's "Indian trails" woods near the former site of the Jungle Hotel (there is a small stream running between the Indian trails and the Culver Academy's present-day motels, which once fed the fish hatcheries in the area).

The photo above, however, depicts the fish hatchery that replaced those ponds in the early 1930s. The replacement hatchery was located just west of the intersection of State Roads 10 and 17 south/Thorn Road today, near Houghton Lake just west of Culver. The ponds are still there, are owned by Culver's Town Park, and are one of the few DNR-protected habitats for Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes in this portion of Indiana.

Maxinkuckee Conservation Club Article

Left: A 1940 Culver Citizen article on the Maxinkuckee Conservation Club. The club, according to the article, maintained the fish hatchery just west of Culver of State Road 10 (see the photo/article above), as well as a club house, picnic grounds, grills, etc. The article appears to suggest that the picnic grounds and club house were adjacent to the fish hatchery. Anyone who can confirm or deny this is encouraged to contact us.

Judi Burns' "Did You Know" page contains numerous historical oddities of the Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee area. Click here to read more.