Return to CUTPL Home Page

Images and text are subject to copyright infringement laws - CUTPL 2016

History Logo

"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"

By Edwin Corwin

I. AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING

"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform." - William Cowper

EVERYTHING MUST HAVE A BEGINNING. At any rate, so it has often been said. There are various species of beginnings, and countless things to have begin­nings, including histories. Since this history of a township goes back one hundred years and more, it might as well go back to the beginning of beginnings. That is a mighty undertaking. And, to tell the truth, the undertaking  can be no more than an attempt, perhaps a feeble one for all that. The Union Township region, together with others all about, is so old that one would contract a headache trying to figure it out.

So why try? Of course, this little patch of earth is as ancient as the great orb designated as the world,  and the beginning of beginnings on this orb of ours is so obscured by the mists of the ages that all one can say here and now, or all of that any layman has ever said, is little better than hit-or-miss con­jecture. Those mists are dense, impenetrable. A jab at them is about all that can be accomplish after all is said and done, we have but borrowed fragments here and there from the wisdom of the sages, to whom we apolo­gize and say, "We take your word for it, gentlemen."

Once upon a time, so the story goes, there was no sign of life anywhere in this region, and all that could be seen was sea and sky. Even those could not be seen; there were no eyes to see. God, the Omnipotent alone was witness of His great works. We have been told that in that very ancient sea at length appeared fishes,  strange denizens, differing greatly from those of today in Maxinuckee and in the in Yellow and Tippecanoe rivers.

Long ages rolled by. Countless myriads of these creatures lived and died, leaving their skeletal remains on the floor of that sea.

Time passed and there came a. great conspiracy, foreordained we prefer to believe, by the Will of God, to prepare the way far mankind. Sun, wind, rain and soil conspired together. Vegetation took root, became profuse. Mighty trees towered skyward. Marsh­land stretched far and wide. As yet, no birds inhabited the trees. But in the damp and foggy world of then, snakes slithered "and crept in the morasses, frogs dwelt on the brink of the waters that covered the greater part of the earth, and insects hummed and droned in the dank air above. And that was Union Township, long, long ago.

Covered by the Sea.

More ages passed. The sea again buried the land and all thereon. Once more, no life ex­isted. So the cycles of change went on. In time, the polar cold crept down from the Northland. A river of ice followed, a mam­moth glacier. It covered the land, scooped out valleys, leveled hills, churned and milled stones to powder, uprooted the new forests that had reared themselves, de­stroyed or drove southward the creatures of the wild, and brought down from the North giant boul­ders of granite, of gneiss and of other metamorphic nature, tokens that remain with us today, telling us of the Ice Age.

The ice melted, and dropped those boulders ... for farmers to fret over and labor with, trying to banish them from their fields. The ice even left whole moraines of them, but they were too much for the farmer.

So ended the Ice Age, with the melting and receding of that vast glacier, which buried this region and extended southward to the Ohio River, covering about three­quarters of the area of the State. So, likewise came another begin­ning, introducing a phase of our story in which we find less to mystify', us regarding the why and wherefore of things, less con­jecture and doubt, less to be left alone for want of what may be termed the truth, and less in the way of :intangibles and obscuri­ties. Evidences were left, remain­ing with us today in Union Town­ship and pointing to what really could have been and might reas­onably have happened. In these parts, we appear to possess tile most enlightenment on the glacial and post-glacial periods, through the geological formations extant, which tell their own stories. They speak of great cata­clysms, stupendous changes. They convince the writer that this immediate region witnessed several remarkable eras from the Ice Age onward: an era of water and de­luge, an era of great winds, an era in which aquatic and semi­aquatic life predominated, and an era in which life on the land fin­ally triumphed, aided and abetted by the living things of the water.

II. ERAS OF THE MANIFEST THINGS

The handiwork of God is manifest in these things. And Paul the Apostle said, in his Epistle to the Romans, "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them ; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.”

ICE HAD BEEN SUPREME in this region for a period, the ex­tent of which baffles the imagin­ation. With the melting of the glacier began the eras of the manifest things, those tangibles that we know today. A deluge must have resulted from the dis­solving of that vast ice sheet. When the deluge subsided there remained great marshes, ' lakes and ponds, rivers and rushing streams, moraines and drifts, and those strange kettle-holes and sink-holes, found in Lake Maxin­kuckee and smaller bodies of water, and in the country 'round about.

The glacier itself left :its im­press on the land. It left, con­spicuously, those numerous boul­ders, rounded and smoothed by the action of the moving ice. The surface of the land, in many parts of this region, was strawn with such boulders, often worn into symmetrical shapes. The early settlers, and the farmers ever since, waged relentless war upon them. Many were removed from the fields, many remained. Of those removed, a great num­ber found their way into the foundations of houses and other buildings, were used far various construction projects, were seg­regated in rock-piles in fence cor­ners and other out-of-the-way places, or were utilized to fill gullies: and "blow-outs" where erosion had begun its devastating work.

Strange as it may seem, there were not many boulders to be found in the lake bottom of Max­inkuckee when scientists not many years ago sought for them, but at the northeast corner of the lake, where there are high shores and practically no beach, were noticed a good many gran­its boulders of various sizes, likewise a few masses of post­glacial conglomerate. Boulders were also seen, scattered here and there, along shore in front of the old Lake View Hotel, where, at the base of a high bluff, no beach was to be found, only short patches of sand.

A great proportion of the State of Indiana is a vast and un­dulating plain of glacial drift and accumulations. There exists a complex system of morainic hills and ridges. The moraines or rais­ed ridges of boulders and various kinds of drift, are to be seen ly­ing "like dead waves upon the surface of the ocean." The rocks underlying are sedimentary and have never been violently disturb­ed by earthquake or volcanic ac­tion. Their position indicates, however, that at some compar­atively recent date in geological history they were "gently lifted into a very flat arch, the crest of which extends from Union County to Lake County," this township being fairly within its range.

The glacier bestowed valuable gifts upon the Lake Maxinxuc­kee region in the form of many kinds of sails, brought down by the ice sheet and deposited about the lake. The soil about the lake, broadly speaking, is composed chiefly of sand, with a few small, isolated areas of clay, generally with a considerable portion of sand intermixed. The soils in the catchment basin of the lake have been classified as gravelly sandy loan,, Marshall sandy loam, Miami sand, Miami clay loam, and muck. The first of these usually contains a high percentage of gravel, and frequently small glaci­al boulders. Numerous small stones are scattered through the subsoil of gravelly or sandy clay. About the lake there are irregu­lar ridges composed of rounded knolls, the sail of which is often quite gravelly. Granite boulders, scattered over the knolls and ridges, are frequently found. De­posits of the drift period cover this area, generally to a great depth. Deep borings, made by geologists nearly fifty years ago, reached no stratified rocks. No such rocks are outcropping. The surface soil, for the most part, varies from muck to a very light, warm soil. Underlying the loamy top-soil are gravels, sands and boulder clays.

Sand Deposit.

In the geological report of the 6tate for the years 1885-86, nearly fifty years ago, W. H. Thompson, assistant State Geol­ogist, says that the beds of the streams in this section "are usually in the grey or bluish till common to our glacial deposits, and are covered with a stratum of washed gravel, sand and boul­ders. The terraces of the Yellow river are very interesting in this county and Starke, especially those composed of a fine yellow­ish sand which appears to be identical with that of Lake Michi­gan. This sand is most prevalent in the southwestern part of Mar­shall county, while it runs in great waves and ridges entirely acropss Starke to the bank of the Kankakee."

"Between the Yellow river and the Tippecanoe there is a low divide in the form of a heavy swell of the drift deposits," Thompson reported. Varying drainage conditions, into one river or the other, are due to "the undulations in the grand mass of the drift, probably caus­ed by recessions of the glacier, or whatever power was urging southward this vast silicious conglomeration known as boul­der till." Nowhere in Indiana is this slow, as it were, and jerking process of drawing back better shown. The Yellow River valley is simply a great furrow be­tween well-defined waves of this glacial mass in which the im­mediate bed of the stream is cut, and from side to side of which it has shifted through the long series of years since the melting of the ice.

Geologist Thompson thought that the superficial deposit of boulders resulted from some agency acting subsequent to the force which urged the great mass of glacial matter down upon Indi­ana. "No doubt this post-glacial, or rather this secondary agency," he said, "was dual, being a com­bination of water currents and floating ice-bergs." The boulders, he found to be more numerous upon the surface of the drift than throughout its mass. Wells and borings supported this as­sumption.

A Glacial Lake.

Maxinkuckee, a typical glacial lake, located near the South­western angle of the Saginaw Moraine, is surrounded by a country in which are found inter­esting evidences of aeolian ac­tion. The era of the winds is a fascinating one. but time and space prevent tarrying and giv­ing to the subject the full con­sideration it no doubt deserves.

The rolling topography of Miami sand constituency, evident in this region, resembles to a large extent, in form and appear­ance, sand dunes, and in all prob­ability much of it was formerly old sand dunes on which plants became established and checked the action of the wind.

Some of the land even now is shifted about by winds. Farmers today are still very much aware of this tendency, and are troubled by wind erosion working havoc on their lands. Sometimes consider­able portions of their land pos­sessions are shifted to other areas, even to adjoining farms, and mostly where the wind-driven sand is least needed. In many cases, farmers have made efforts to halt the further progress of "blow-outs" by means of fills and entanglements of brush, fence wire, junk, and, among other odds and ends, even worn-out "flivvers" that once were the pride of the selfsame farm.

So continued, through un­counted centuries, the eras of the, manifest things, the things that bear evidence today of those long-ago periods of stupendous change.

III. GIGANTIC CREATURES OF ANCIENT TIMES

"Monster fishes swam the silent main, Stately forests waved. their giant branches, Mountains hurled their snowy avalanches, Mammoth creatures stalked across the plain; Nature revelled in grand mys­teries." .... Anonymous

WILD LIFE in the region now called Union Township, as else­where over a vast area of this ever-changing earth of ours, was to a large degree destroyed by the glacier. Some of the creatures existing prior to the Glacial Age, being fleet of foot, migrated southward ahead of °the advanc­ing ice; others, the tardy ones, sluggish by nature and perhaps lacking in decision, were caught and overwhelmed.

After the great glacier had melted, the deluge resulting sub­sided at length. The flowing away of vast quantities of water left a land covered with drift material, furrowed into stream-beds, dotted with lakes and ponds, and much of it in the form of morass. The climate moderated. Aided by the winds and waters, sun and rain, vegetation got a fresh start. And wild life began anew, the kind we know today, birds, beasts, fishes, reptiles, insects, and several strange. creatures that we do not actually know today, but know of, having heard something about them or even seen some of their remains.

After aquatic life had progress­ed sufficiently, no doubt there ap­peared first the fresh-water birds: cranes, geese, swans, ducks, plovers and the like, in the shal­lows and on the borders of the lakes and marshes. In the course of time;' on the firmer and some­what drier land strode huge creatures, cousins of the circus elephant of today and known to us as the mammoth and the mas­todon. The former was a hairy sort of elephant creature, the lat­ter an old timer of the same fam­ily, as old as the hills, it might truthfully be said. Both are ex­tinct now, their peculiar race no more. They are called prehistoric curiosities, for they have been gone probably a thousand years, perhaps many thousand; no one seems to be quite certain.

There were other singular crea­tures, antiques in tile animal line, in Indiana in the days of yore. Some, if not all of them, stalked across the plain or browsed on the Saginaw Moraine here abouts, never dreaming or carin about the future affairs of Unio Township. They had troubles o their own, it seems, and finall gave up the battle for existence One of them, at least, had ver little dreaming or caring ability In fact, its mind may have bee quite a blank, for it was a hug sloth, portly of build but. puny o brain, The creature was as large as a cow. And if it had an thinking power at all, it probably figured, in a hazy sort of way "Better a thousand years of bliss and ignorance than a cycle o man's sway." It is evident that the sloth did not wait for the coming of man to these parts.

Wild Horses.

Also, two species of wild horse roamed Indiana in those queer days. And there was a peccary o wild hog, but this was not so u usual. Some hogs run wild today they are not the peccary kind however. Still another oddity those ancient times was a strange beaverlike beast as large as black bear, whose bones have been found at widely separate spots in this State, 'the far south ern tip, a bit below Logansport, and also east of Union Town ship, just over in Kosciusko County. It is possible that som day someone will gather an arm ful of this animal's bones some where in Union Township. Worse things than that have happened.

Big and strong as these animals were, they all died off, and other creatures, smaller and in sense weaker, survived. Could it have been a case of the survival of the fittest? The smaller animals may have been craftier, more agile and energetic, and perhaps better fitted to outwit their enemies. But who knows? It is mystery.

The race of the giants of the animal world must have been dying one. The finding of skeletons of the mastodon in low, marshy locations has given rise to the supposition that the monster met death by miring in the bogs. Another opinion is that man helped to exterminate them. Some writers have expressed the belief that the first man probably invaded this region before the mammoth and mastodon became extinct, and, "curiously enough,” says Maurice Thompson, "the fact appears that rude spearheads an arrowpoints have been found in the earth covering the skeleton of these monsters; but to one acquainted with the range an effect of such weapons (and surely Thompson was), it seem scarcely possible and not at all probable that elephants could have been killed with them."

Another writer expressed the belief that the mastodon may indeed have been hunted down by the Indians, though there is no record or memory of the fact The mastodon, a near relative of the elephant, developed early and died out in Europe before the Ice Age, but continued to roam about North America till comparatively recent times. "It may have been contemporary of early man at the end of the glacial period in North America," according to the reasoning of Geoffrey. Parsons.

Find Relies.

The elephant developed from a small pig-like animal the size of a pony, and its ancestry has been traced by genealogists concerned in the family trees of zoological tribes, from an origin in Egypt. Before the Ice Age, these ele­phantine creatures reached their greatest proportions, slightly larger than the largest elephants known today, From Africa they spread to Europe, into Asia, thence to America. So it came to pass that the mastodon Americanus became a very early settler of the Union Township region and evidently passed his last days hereabouts. Comparative few remains of the mastodon have been dug up in these parts. In June, 1874, Oscar L. Bland found some relics in a pool in Deep Creek on the farm of his father, Alexander Bland, in the northeast corner of Wal­nut Township, not far from Bour­bon. Some large teeth were unearthed, also other parts of a skeleton, including a well preserved tusk about nine feet long. One big tooth weighed when found, with the debris attached to it, about eight pounds. Later when cleaned, it was lighter, weighing around six pounds.

A much more recent find of mastodon bones occurred in late September, 1929, not far from the location of the mastodon of 1844. A ditch dredging crew were at work about a mile from Wal­nut, Marshall County, in low flat ground on a farm, when their caterpillar dredge scooped up the first of the bones. The scoop threw out a large jawbone with teeth still in it. The next scoopful came up with a huge skull and other bones, which were at a depth of from seven to eight feet. The rest of the bones re­covered were carefully unearthed. There were some mere fragments, but the skull and perhaps nearly half of the original skeleton were a brought forth in a fair state of  preservation. Included in the find were two tusks about six feet long and a smaller short one, several ribs and vertebrae, a fe­mur, two or more tibia, a large section of a scapula (shoulder blade), and many tarsals and other small bones.

This find caused considerable a excitement. Representatives of Field Museum, Chicago, were  soon on the scene of the discovery and saw that the bones were those of a female mastodon, about sixty-five years old, the back teeth having four cusps. At about one hundred years a fifth ridge appears on the crown of the teeth. The small tusk found with the others was thought to be that of a baby mastodon. The great skull measured about forty­two inches long by twenty-two inches wide. Museum officials estimated the age of the skeleton was between 25,000 and 100,000 years. The bones were taken to Chicago, where they were as­sembled and installed in Field’s Museum.