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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
THE PIONEERS A Tribute
"O restless restless race! Pioneers! 0 pioneers!" - Walt Whitman.
THE OLD FOLKS ... those who are still with us to tell us about things as they used to be and what happened in the days of long ago ... a toast to them'.
How we love them and admire them for their "grit" and for their "spunk" to carry on against odds that would have downed the best of us? With minds that are still keen, though the years they have lived may be beyond and on the sunset -side of the prescribed three score and ten, and with memories that scarcely are blunted by the passage of time they still are with us, a dwindling few, to recount for as the story of the vague and obscure years of the early settlements.
Bough, harsh years those were, years of toil and sacrifice and privation but nevertheless happy years for the old folks, when they backward roam along memory's trail and -relive 'them. Happy years they -were, because they were so filled with faith and with hope for the future. Upbuilding years, marking a great age of construction.
Though they had but little to do with, other than strong hearts and hands, those pioneers builded well, and what they accomplished has endured for generations and will endure for many generations to come.
Out of the dim mists of the past; into the dim mists of the future so came to us the heritage they created and so will go on that heritage on and on, no one knows, no one can know, how long.
Today, perhaps we think our times tha hardest. They may be hard, but for all that they are not the hardest. They only seem so. Only by comparison do they seem so, not by comparison with the times of the .pioneers, but by comparison with our own earlier lives when the well-oiled wheels of civilization moved smoothly. We may backward look ... but not far. enough. We do not realize how hard times were ... in those very early days when the pioneers toiled in. the wilderness that the wheels of later days might the more smoothly run.
So, of the pioneers we say today, "God bless them." "And by their works ye shall know then.." - E. R. C.
|BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION|
"Golden opinions from all sorts of people, Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, Not cast aside so soon." --Will Shakespeare
INTRODUCTIONS may be good, bad or indifferent.
Many of them are brilliant; some in interest and style eclipse even the work they introduce. Generally, the best are informal. But those formal, -uninviting affairs are perhaps the most to be deplored. And if this attempt falls into that class, more is the pity. Sometimes, history may fall into the same category with introductions, prefaces and the like.
Readers have been known to skip introdu tions; some of them prefer to ski history, too. There is no wonder therefore, that more are not par tial to history then there are They "act skittish" at the mer mention of it.
Concerning some history, as i is written, and some histories, a they are placed before people b be read, the victim feels oblige to state that Death Valley arid th Sahara can scarcely be drier. bunch of withered dates, an end less collection of names of king and things, a whole mess of bat tles and skirmishes, a few bushel of old-chestnut yarns, all mixe together ... and you had what Well, for one thing, you had whole flock of school childre nearly scared to death. of history Witness for example the Unio Township school statistics 0 1879-80: U. S. History nest t the bottom of the list of subject with only forty-three pupils tak ing it.
History was not human, tha is all. So, let us aim, if we may and if we have the -strength an ability, for less arid history an histories. We may ditch and drai the land to improve farming an oust malaria, ague arid sundr miseries, but may we shun th draining of the Story of the Pa of all its rich juices ... its quip and quirks and humanities.
Uses Pioneers' Stories. In the pert language of th modern journalist, history may b but a "rehash" of a whole trib of other histories, or a descenden in a prolific line from an ancien ancestry, including perhaps Caesar's "Commentaries," the "Diar of the War in Gaul" that so gall ed and irked the callow beginne in Latin. Just the old tales re told, and retold, ad infinitum getting drier and drier with eac retelling. How- much more beauti ful and harmonious are th stories that come from the lips o those who have lived experience in the long ago! Stories told i their own way, in their own words, unaffected, sincere.
Give us the pictures of the past that are painted in the hum ble, homely- words of the peopl of the past. Give us the true pictures. Let those who lived dare and achieved, let them tell us for they speak out of the past it the tongue of the past. And through them the past still live today. So, in a history or a story of the early days, the writer is best a figure unseen, in the back ground, merely a recorder, a reporter. a medium through whom the real makers of history speak. So also shall the writer's aim chiefly to reproduce and preserve the stories, as nearly as possibl in the narrators' own words, words which reflect the spirit and tempo of the times of which the tell.
In many instances, when the last survivors of the struggle and trials and tribulations of the early days are interviewed for the purpose of taking down what they have for record, it cannot be said exactly, in legal phraseology that they are able to "'depose and say," or under oath to testify, or to give "the whole truth and nothing but the truth." No not that. Their way of remembering can be confined to no hard and fast rules, their choice of recollecting the past can be regulated by no set laws or orders. No matter how strictly in the early days they "hewed to the line," now the "chips fall where they may." And the old timers may be forgiven a bit of romancing here and there as they retell the stories of long ago, in their own way. But out of the telling may be gleaned the truth. And after all, what is history but the stream of life?
Details Not Vital.
Perfect dating and placing of events matters so little as compared with the value of the expression of ideas and of the human and social side of events that go to make up the stream of history. We are concerned more in the stream as a wonderful and a beautiful entity, not in the precise where and when of each drop of water in that stream. Though we may not learn or care to learn the history of each atom even if it were possible, we still would know of the whole, consisting of those atoms.
Of little value is a collection of dry, dull facts and figures, without vital meaning or real significance. But it is vastly more important that we become acquainted with the forces affecting conditions which exist today and may exist tomorrow…the influences of the past on the presen st and future.
And since people, infinite more than inanimate things, are the makers of history, the interest is focused on personalities.
In search of new information and in the work of verifying the old, by "check and recheck," the interviewer has gone forth on many jaunts afoot, though oftet aided by friendly "lifts" along the way by well-wishers driving modern "gas-buggies." Along the highways and the byways, in every direction, and to the farthest corners of the townshipthe search led on and on. It was a happy quest, for new tales and reminiscences ever lay ahead, to be brought to light with the joy that comes with discovery. And many new "angles" of old storie were revealed that well repaid the journey down long lanes that led to memory's door. Ever the latchstring, as of old, hung out - ever the keepers of memory’s treasures obligingly opened the stores of fond recollections of the old times that those of later generations may glean perhap valuable lessons therefrom.
It is trusted that readers will forgive those errors, both of comission and omission which sure as fate are bound to creep into any work of this kind. There are times when even the best authorities are at variance and no matter how careful the check may have been on their finding and opinions, the investigator’s summing up may not always prove to be final and conclusive. For that reason, some of the results must necessarily be presented for what they are worth.
Is CWA Project.
The main object has been to collect and preserve the recollections of those who remain to give them, and the as yet unpublished data, or that published which may in time be lost through the destruction of the few extant copies of old newspapers, bulletins, programs, annuals, letters and other records.
The work On this collection of historical facts, figures and fancies was begun through a grant from the Governor's Commission on Unemployment Relief and the Civil Works Administration Project A468 for the Union Township library.
A sudden termination of this grant March 8, 1934 left the writer with fully two months of projected work ahead of him. The grant had been extended to the first of May, and with that continuation in view, new phases of township history were entered into, contacts made and additional material gathered sufficient to warrant several more chapters, including the Civil War records of veterans, a review of old time surveys and boundaries, interviews with all the older residents of the township, a story of the important fires, early burials in the various cemetaries and several other subjects. A great mass of material had been gathered by March 8th. Chapters had been completed, but there remained references, data and the like, chiefly in the form of notes incomplete as to certain details and final check-up.
Perhaps the writer "bit off more than he could chew," but he is continuing the work "on his own to the best of his means and ability, trusting that all shall not have been in vain.
EDWARD R. CORWIN Culver, Indiana March 14, 1934