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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
IV. TRACES OF VERY EARLY SETTLERS.
"But on the shores of Time . each leaves some trace of its passage."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
SOME OF THE VERY EARLY SETTLERS of this region were so huge and unique that their remains, when found, are apt to become museum pieces. That certain species of so-called prehistoric animals existed in the Union Township area in the days of long ago is apparent; in fact, it may safely be said that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, such creatures frequented this region eons ago. They left traces; in truth, they left more readable vestiges than did the earliest man in these parts.
Fortunately for those people s interested in the history of very ancient times, the animals of the post-glacial period were larger than the ordinary animals of today. Their bodies were portly and their skeletons big and quite a sight to behold. They died, too, at a period, and in localities or under circumstances, it seems, favorable to the preservation of their remains.
Reminiscences bear out the belief that certain kinds of prehistoric animals roamed this immediate region. Clarence Behmer recalls seeing the bones of a large animal which were uncovered about fifty-five years back, in the north central part of the township. Some ditching was being done on what was then his father's farm and is still the Behmer farm, north of Hibbard. The ditch was being dug 'across low, flat marsh land, where the soil was muck and marl. The bones were found about three feet down, which was, it seems, the depth of the upper layer of muck, for the parts of the skeleton uncovered apparently were lying at the top of the marl bed. A part of the backbone, or sec-tions of vertebrae, comprised the find. The bones belonged to an animal that must have been considerably larger than a cow. Surely, there was no such animal ever bred or used for domestic purposes in those days, over half a century ago.
Those bones found on the Behmer farm were unusual, because the memory of the discovery has survived to the present day. They were a puzzle to those who saw them, and the animal they belonged to, at some time or other, was nameless.
In 1934, as these lines are being written, another discovery of old animal bones is puzzling a few people interested in such antiques. This is another Union Township find. Men were working with a large motor-driven shovel, building a runway for an airport, a Civil Works Administration project, on a hill northeast of Lake Maxinkuckee, when the scoop disturbed the bones that had been lying some six or eight feet below the surface for no one knows how long. One tooth was saved as a curiosity. Other bones of a skeleton were uncovered, but in the grading workmen turned them under again.
Found on High Land.
These relics were found in yellow clay. They were surrounded by it. Above the clay was a layer of sandy loam. The discovery was made on high ground, where evidently no drainage, at least in recent times, could affect the character and contents of the underlying clay deposit. The bones were on a high point of land, overlooking the lake and evidently part of a morainic ridge. The discovery of the bones in such a :locality makes especially interesting the nature of the ground. There were very few boulders found during the construction work, not more than a dozen all told, but all of them were good sized ones.
Among them was a great big one buried about eight to ten feet deep. It was in this association of boulders, buried in the glacial drift of a high ridge, that the bones were found. There may be some significance in this, but since the writer is by no means a geologist, he can only advance the supposition that, like the boulders, the carcass or perhaps only the skeleton of the deceased creature may have been carried to this spot by the glacial lee or by the waters after the glacier drew back.
The fact that these bones were found on high ground and not in muck or marl, as have been the others reported in Marshall County, is intriguing, and brings up several questions: Did the animal die on this spot? if so, how did the skeleton become buried so deeply? Could the creature have been overtaken by the glacier? Or did it succumb !o death before the glacier came? Is it possible as before suggested, that the animal died elsewhere and its remains were transported here, perhaps by flood or by icefloes? And what sort of creature was it, anyway?
After all the supposing, there remains but one definite thing to be done, and that is to consult some authority who knows infinitely more than we do about such relics of the past ages. Action has been taken to solve, if possible, the mystery;, some of the foremost authorities of the country have been asked for their opinions. And before we hear their verdict, let us proceed with a recital of the evidence already before us.
Find Largo Tooth.
At this point, the story of what may prove to be the first authenticated discovery -of prehistoric animal bones 3n Union Township, apparently simmers down to the tale of a tooth. From the bones that were uncovered, one lone tooth was selected and taken as a curiosity to Culver Military Academy, where in due time it found its way to Dr. R. O. Leonard, dental surgeon. Gauging the tooth with understanding eyes, the doctor expressed the professional opinion that it belonged to a prehistoric beast. Furthermore, he asserted that he could not conscientiously perform any dental mechanics on the specimen, simply because he found it to be in an excellent state of preservation and not really in need of any filling or other tampering. The tooth evidently came from a healthy animal; the tooth itself was in a healthy condition.
As compared with the tooth of a full-grown horse, or even a Mule old enough to vote the Democratic ticket, this specimen proved to be much larger and longer and somewhat differently formed. The comparison, of course, is of teeth similarly located in the mouth. Besides, the specimen was found to differ from the teeth of most animals in that the chewing surface is square. Sergeant James Rich, of the Black Horse Troop, who is .familiar with the structure of the jaws of horses and various other animals, expressed the opinion, after (seeing the tooth, that the chewing device of the average horse, similarly placed in the skull, would be decidedly smaller and lighter. This specimen weighs, free of all foreign matter, a little over one quarter of a pound.
This dental specimen of ancient vintage has several marked pecularities: The entire tooth is rectangular in shape. The crown or chewing surface is almost precisely one inch square, and one and one quarter inches, measured diagonally across the crown. The length of the tooth, from the crown to the root tips where broken off, is nearly 31/2 inches on the long side and 2 3/4 inches on the short side. The chewing surface is abraded, the enamel having been almost completely worn off, evidently 'by grinding. The surface has a corrugated or "ripple-marked" appearance.
Only about one third of the crown is left: two thirds at least is abraded. There are two ways for this loss of crown; erosion and abrasion. Surely, in this specimen, Dr. Leonard believes, it is a case of abrasion.
The sides of the specimen are deeply creased. It is a four-rooted tooth, with denuded root ends. All of the ends have been broken or stripped off. The tooth is of a yellowish ivory color, with a ring of umber brown around it at the gum margin.
Comparing the 1934 tooth with the mastodon teeth found near Walnut in 1874, one finds that they differ considerably. Two of the mastodon teeth were almost exactly alike, each weighing six pounds and measuring eight inches long, seven inches high from the paint of the root to the upper surface, and four inches wide. They were further described as having five divisions or separate grinders. The enamel was composed of a mixture of black, white and brownish gray. A third tooth was 41/2 inches long, 3 1/2 inches wide, and three inches high, the roots having been broken off. The weight was about two pounds. But the creature that those teeth evidently belonged to, according to a newspaper account of the time, was "certainly a huge old monster for among other things it had several ribs "almost like the ribs of a mammoth man-of-war ship in size."
The attention of Professor E. S. Riggs of the Department of Geology of Field Museum in Chicago was called to the 1934 discovery, and finally, on the request of Dr. S. C. Simms, Director of the museum, the tooth was sent there for examination and identification
So ends a chapter dealing to a large extent with the tale of the landing field tooth. The tale does not get very far. The tooth remains a curiosity and an object of wonderment. And if the readers will agree to leave the beaten path for a few moments and pay a visit to the Wonderland of the well-known Alice, perhaps by listening intently they may hear that adventurous child inquiring:
"Is it possible that this is a thesis on dental surgery?"
"No," replies the March Hare, frowning, "it is nothing of the kind, merely the tale of a tooth."
"I didn't know teeth had tails," says Alice, with some severity.
"I always say what I mean," says the March Hare, emphatically.
"Then mean what you say," replies Alice. "I never was good at riddles."
|V. SETTLING PREHISTORIC PROBLEMS|
"It turned into a pig," Alice answered very quietly.
. . . Lewis Carroll.
THE 'MARVELS OF THE PREHISTORIC PAST in this region still hold our attention, and before passing on to the historic eras, there are problems to be settled. We find ourselves again in Wonderland, or rather, still there, not having been able to get away. And, being so situated, it is natural that we catch ourselves at the business of wondering about that big tooth that had a tale.
At this point, we are reminded of the conversation Alice had with the Mouse in Carroll's story: "You promised to tell me your history, you know," said Alice . . . "Mine is a long and a sad tale," said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.
"It is a long tail, certainly," said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse's tail.
So we look with wonder at the tale of the tooth that really gave early promise of being a long one, with a happy ending. The tooth actually had a tale, after a fashion, but sad to relate, that tale was cut short when the technicians stepped in and amputated. With the amputation disappeared also the glamour and the romance. But, the March Hare is speaking to Alice, just as he spoke in the book:
"Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?"
"Exactly so," said Alice.
Now, the question was: To what sort of creature did the landing field tooth belong? When found in early March during the work of excavating and leveling a projected airport northeast of Lake Maxinkuckee it was saved as a relic, a curiosity, and finally was sent to Field Museum in Chicago for identification. Early beliefs that it might have belonged to some antique, beast like a mastodon or a mammoth, or even a prehistoric pig were sort of shattered when Professor E. S. Riggs of the museum staff sent sketches, and dimensions of the molar teeth of the mastodon and the mammoth. They did not check satisfactorily with the landing field tooth.
“Let the Jury consider their verdict," says the King.
"We have considered," says the Jury. "The evidence called for something else.. .
"But it turned into a pig," Alice interrupts.
"Hold your tongue!" says the Queen, turning purple.
"I won't!" says Alice.
"Off with her head!" shouts the Queen.
"Let the Jury consider their verdict," the King repeats for about the twentieth time.
"We conclude," says the Jury, in quavering accents, "after hearing the evidence and the expert opinions of the technicians that the tooth didn't belong to a mastodon or a mammoth or even a dinornis. At first we thought it was one of these, but it ain't. It turned into a horse."
"Precisely so," says Alice. "But it might just as well have been a pig. 1 knew I was right all along."
"Then say what you mean," says the March Hare.
"And mean what you say," adds the Mad Hatter.
"Off with their heads!" concludes the Queen.
Is Horse's Tooth.
So, a horse it turned out to be, a big one, maybe a very ancient one, ready for the bone-yard, but at least not quite as ancient as at least supposed. Comparatively modern, it was said to be, and no doubt a friend of white man. It may have been an early settler post-dating the first permanent white settlement in Union Township. It may have been known to those first comers, for its bones were neighborly, having been found not many rods distant from where they established their homes. To stretch a point, it may also have been contemporary with the famous cow that kicked over the lantern that set fire to Chicago. It may have been many other things. Who knows but that it kicked over the traces and refused further to be of economic value to man not long after the rebellious bovine reformer performed a civic favor for the Windy City by permitting the citizens to collect their insurance and build a bigger and better Mid-West metropolis.
"We don't need any more mastodons, anyway," said the technicians. "In this year, 1934, they have become a drug on the market."
"There have been an unusual number of mastodons reported during the past year," said Professor Riggs. "A mammoth might interest us more."
Technicians have been known to play tricks with our prehistoric creatures, turning mastodons into mules, dodos into dickey birds, and even monkeys into men ... and sometimes "back again: Presto chango! History records some marvelous stunts. Cadmus, in olden times, slew a dragon and sewed its teeth; a harvest sprang up in the form of armed men. But that was supposed to be a myth.
Bret Harte once rhymed in humorous vein about a pliocene skull of a man, found in a deep shaft in California. He looked upon the skull and commanded it to speak and tell the wondrous secrets of its past existence. Finally, it did speak, after grinding its teeth together, teeth stained with tobacco juices. "My name is Bowers." said the skull, "and my crust was busted falling down a shaft in Calaveras County, but I'd take it kindly if you'd send the pieces home to old Missouri."
Hereafter, whoever happens to find a horse's tooth that looks old, and maybe is old, should thoroughly question it, and command it to speak. If it says, "This is a horse on you," the inquirer should at first appear cowed, then after a while should write some verses about it and get all the credit for being erudite. And if the tooth says, "I should have been found in a bog, as old bones generally are," just turn up your nose at high ground, dig into the marshes, and you may find a prize.
Mastodon hunting evidently will become tame sport, but it might be well to recognize one when found. It is an extinct mammal, nearly twice as broad as an elephant, although not quite nine feet in height, and is to be found either in the tertiary or more recent deposits. A few remains were found in North America as early as 1705, but not until 1801 was anything like a complete skeleton obtained, when a tolerably whole one was procured from a morass in Orange County, New York. Prehistoric relics were found in Indiana at an early date. David Thomas, who traveled through "the western country" in the summer of 1816, wrote: "We saw the under jaw of a Mammoth, in which the teeth remain."
The mastodon found in Walnut Township in 1874, the bones of which were carefully collected and sent to the Museum of the Academy of Sciences of Chicago, has already been described. Previous to 1874, bones of the mastodon were found usually in alluvial formations (made by flowing water), at a depth of from five to ten feet in lacustrine deposits (formed in a lake), bogs and beds of infusorial earth (containing organic matter).
The food of the mastodon was entirely vegetable. According to
Owen, mastodons were elephants with molars less complex in structure and adapted for coarser vegetable food. Their range was throughout the tropical and temperate latitudes.
Some thought the mastodon became extinct since the advent of man upon the earth, like, the dinornis (a genus consisting of the typical moas) and the dodo. According to Lyell, the period of their destruction, though geologically modern, must have been many thousand years ago.
To learn the really ancient history of this region, one cannot turn to books. Very little is even recorded in written language. It is true that Assyria and Babylon have stories, partly deciphered from strange characters impressed on tablets of clay and partly from inscriptions carved on monuments and statues, but those were highly civilized nations. And however ancient they may be as we compute time, they are modern if judged by nature's standards. Many older races had no written language and left no inscribed tablets or sculptured stones to tell of their life and achievements.
In like manner, we know about animals that lived still more remotely, by studying mainly their hard parts: shells, teeth or bones, preserved for countless ages in the form of fossils. Animals have been preserved entire, in a few exceptional but only where the animals have lived at a comparatively recent date, and were entombed in ice or frozen ground immediately after death. All that have then thus preserved are a few of the mammoth and one two of the woolly rhinoceros. And both of these animals lived in Europe with early man. Many of the bones of the most ancient animals became in the course of time petrified like rock. Incidentally, fossils and rocks both tell us the history of climatic change.
Having devoted no doubt more time and space than could be spared, to the prehistoric phases of our story and having settled, in an amateurish manner, certain prehistoric problems that arose, we come now to the end of those very ancient eras that passed over Union Township's fair land and to the beginning of the historic periods.
|VI. LINKS IN NATURE'S CHAIN|
"All served, all serving; nothing stands alone;
The chain holds on, and where it ends, unknown."
... Alexander Pope
NATURE'S CHAIN HOLDS ON, says the poet in his on Man," and life dissolving vegetates again. "All forms that perish other forms supply."
The mastodon, the mammoth and other prehistoric species of wild life passed out of existence in this region, but there were still others, some of them not so very far removed from the extinct forms, that survived. And were known to early man in these parts, to the Indian, and to the first white settlers. In. 1836, when the first permanent white settlers came to this township, some of our old friends of the zoo were still here, roaming about in their natural state; now they are gone, except for the smaller animals. So it is, through eras of change, that Nature's chain holds on.
When the white man first came to this region, he found the bear, deer, bison, puma, wild cat and smaller animals, also familiar types of birds, snakes and other reptiles, and insects galore. He found the wild creatures in mighty hosts in those days; he found them in swarms, colonies, roosts, and other sorts of communities. He found beasts and birds of prey hunting and fishing to their hearts' content; no licenses were required. Conditions looked mighty good to the incoming white man prospecting for a home. It may be, although history is not clear on this point, that he found the hunting and fishing so good in this region that he said to himself--and maybe to his family also, for the women and children were likewise keenly interested: "This spot suits me. No use going any farther west. We'll just pitch camp here, near these lakes, build ourselves a home, and enjoy a little hunting and fishing while we're about it."
One thing is certain, the pioneer larders were well supplied, and the early comers failed to "pull up stakes" and go on. They stayed and enjoyed the sport. The varmints were either killed off or scared off; at any rate, the settlers made it too hot for them and those that survived sought other hunting and fishing grounds.
The buffalo or bison, it is reported, had totally abandoned this country before 1816, but the elk still remained in many places, The Indian probably made it too uninviting for the buffalo on the rather sparse prairies hereabouts; there were broader plains to the west. Among other creatures, raccoons were found "in great plenty." The pole cat or skunk was very numerous on both prairie and woodland. Br'er 'Possum inhabited the country in large numbers. Porcupines were seen, but they were very scarce. The prairie wolf was numerous, and the grey and black wolves were also natives. Grey squirrels abounded, and there were gophers, prairie squirrels, ground squirrels, flying squirrels, of which there were not many, and fox squirrels, mostly in the southern part of the State.
Elk Found Here.
Deer, elk, wolf and bear inhabited the woods. Prior to 1850, several specimens of the elk were found in the southeastern corner of Marshall County, which indicates that this species of animal was formerly an inhabitant of this immediate territory. The panther was rarely discovered, but the wild cat was numerous. The brown rabbit, one might be sure, contributed radically to the density of the wild animal population in those early days.
It is said that the deer, bear, bison, and many of the present smaller animals, such as the wild cat, lynx, and fox came later than the mastodon.
Twenty years or more prior to the coming of the first permanent white settlers to Union Township, travelers reported an abundance of wild turkeys, wild geese and ducks, prairie hens, crows, hen hawks, of which there were not, however, so very many, and numerous "sandy hill cranes," also a few pelicans and swans.
The first birds, no doubt, to appear after the glacier were the water birds, lovers of the marshes, lakes and rivers, such as the waders, the cranes and others that thrived in an inundated region.
Within the memory of man, the most numerous of all birds in these parts were the wild pigeons. Daniel McDonald recalled a pigeon roost in a dense tamarack swamp not far from Wolf Creek mills, just over the Union Township line. By night, the tamaracks of the roost and also oaks and other trees for some distance away, were full of these birds. The pigeons moved in immense droves or swarms, he said, like, a heavy dark cloud. In flight, they made a great noise, reminding one of a gale passing through the limbs of the trees. The roost became well known, and "people for miles around turned out in great numbers to see the almost miraculous wonder and secure what birds they needed for food." With long poles, they knocked the birds from the branches, and carried them home in sacks and baskets. The birds roosted there in thousands. Under the heavy weight of solid masses of' pigeons, limbs would give way, and hundreds of birds were destroyed in the resulting downfall of branches and occupants. The pigeons are gone now; not one remains. For years after they went, evidences were visible of the destruction they wrought at the roost.
Among the recollections of W. S. Easterday as a boy in Union Township is the memory of seeing wild pigeons, but not many, for by that time they were getting scarce and were soon to be seen no more. His information regarding pigeons in such vast numbers as existed during the early settlements is chiefly in story form. Older folks would often yarn about them. Each year, when they returned from the breeding places in western and southern forests, their ranks would be thinner and thinner, until at last none came and they were but a tradition of the past. The wild pigeon was said to be very "good eating." Mr. Easterday was a bit too late to enjoy such a feast. "We couldn't shoot them," he explains, "with our clumsy muzzle loader, the only kind of gun we had." And the roost had been abandoned.
Remembers Wild Pigeons.
Mrs. Rebecca Robinson remembers the flocks of wild pigeons passing over like clouds when she was a girl. There were also plenty of prairie chickens then. She was well acquainted with them on the farm. Wild turkeys were another sort of game bird that was welcomed to the pioneer table. There were occasions, however, when they might have found their way to the table, but were not welcome. That was when they had eaten ramps, which were called leeks by some people. Ramps used to grow in the thick woods, sometimes covering the ground under the trees. When a man killed a turkey that was rampy, says an old resident, it was thrown away.
While living on the old Voreis homestead farm west of Burr Oak, Mrs. Robinson had not a few wild animal neighbors, some of which no longer exist in this part of the country. Her recollections are of animals seen and of others that she did not see but heard about in the family circle and among the neighbors. There were, of course, no buffalo then. It was too late; they had been gone for a number of years. She never saw an elk. They had become a great rarity in this part of the world. The beaver, too, was a creature of the past. There were some lynx, but they were scarce. Wild cats and panthers were not much in evidence in those days. The most vivid memories of these animals centers chiefly around the scary tale: that were told to the children.
Mrs. Robinson knew the deer particularly well, for they were still to be found in goodly numbers in the township. She was also familiar with the 'possum and the 'coon, sought and found aplenty by the early hunters. The timber wolf, or grey wolf, prowled about the countryside in those days, and still does. Some are to be found in Union Township today. Wolves are still run down and shot, usually in the winter.
James M. Greer in his reminiscences said that the timber wolf did not do much harm, but howled at night in the woods. The dogs kept them away, and the sheep were always shut up at night; some men made a sort of fort for them out of slabs set in the ground. Dens of prairie wolves were also found. In early days, the county paid three dollars each in county orders for wolf scalps, or the skin off the top of the head with the two ears attached. "They would pay taxes," said Mr. Greer. Think of it! Wolf scalps wiping out the tax burden! That is something for citizens of 1934 to ponder! Wolf Creek, by the way, was so called because of the prevalence in early days of black wolves from one end of the stream to the other. The creek originally bore the Potawatomi Indian name for black wolf.
Although Mrs. Robinson recalls seeing the skins of the brown bear, she saw none "in the, flesh." This was a small bear, sometimes called the cinnamon bear. The first settlers saw an occasional black bear, of which the cinnamon is a variety, but like the panthers and catamounts, they were soon killed and driven out by the white hunters and the Indians who were still here.
The red fox is remembered by Mrs. Robinson. This sly fellow pestered the chickens literally to death. There were quite a few mink and otter in those days. There are some mink left in the township today, but the otter is very scarce.
What was thought to be the last buffalo in this section was reported killed some ninety-six years ago by a young Miami Indian. This animal was once numerous on the prairies of the Kankakee, and many of them strayed over into this region, and occasionally still farther east. They preferred a prairie country, however, and their regular runways consequently were on the open plains. The buffalo, strangely, appears on the State seal of Indiana.
The porcupine, a prickly creature: something like the European hedgehog, was reported by early settlers as being quite numerous in this region. Dogs sometimes attached and tried to kill them, but generally got a nose full of quills for their ambitious attempts.
The deer was the most useful animal found hereabouts, supplying both food and skins for clothing and various other purposes. They were much hunted. In the region of Lake Maxinkuckee, they were very plentiful. "They went in families, or droves," according to historian McDonald, "and had regular runways from their feeding grounds to the lake and river where they went to drink. Near these watering places salt would sometimes be scattered, and these cunning animals soon cultivated a taste for this saline substance, and could be frequently found at these 'licks' if the hunter could secrete himself so as not to be, seen. It was not an unusual sight to see eight or ten deer running through the prairies or woods, and the writer, when a small boy, remembers of having seen a drove of twenty, running tandem through an open stretch of ground about one-half mile from his father's house."
N. W. Rector's father had a dug-out canoe on Maxinkuckee one day lie and his brother saw a deer swimming across the lake to Long Point. They gave chase in the canoe, overtook the deer, and got their prey. In the (18)50's and early (18)60's, it was not uncommon for deer to swim the lake,
Had. Insects Too.
Last but not least in Nature's chain so far as we are concerned, are the insects. Less power to them! They must have got their start before the glacier had time to retreat; they grew so strong and numerous-- and so vicious. Maybe it was they that drove the mastodons and mammoths into the bogs to get mired down and give up the ghost; maybe they bit and stung the poor dumb beasts to death. Who knows? At any rate, the 'insects survived to wage war on all comers, flesh, fish and fowl, ever since. Like the poor, they are ever with us, now and forever, world without end.
Insects caused great annoy ance to early travelers, one of whom, Thomas Scattergood Teas (or just plain Tom Teas), tells about them in his Journal of travels afoot in 1821. He was in the wilderness not far from here. "After passing the principal part of the night in continual warfare with myriads of fleas," his story runs, "I was compelled to retreat from the field, or rather bed of battle, about two hours before daybreak." And later, "The mosquitoes (so spelled) and gnats are as numerous here as along the sea shore, and are very troublesome." By sitting in the smoke of a fire which he kindled, he made out to keep off the "musquitoes" at the risk of suffocation. Another traveler told of horses being much tormented with flies, "some as large as the English horsefly and some as large as the wasp." These flies infested the prairies. The mosquitoes (the same, only spelled differently), gnats, fleas and flies are still with us, some of their species, from all accounts, being almost as big as horses.
Several old residents of the township tell tales about the insects in early days. Screens in those times were unheard of luxuries. At the Voreis homestead near Burr Oak, it was the children's task to cut fresh green branches from trees or bushes. These were waved back and forth over the, table during the, meal to shoo the insects away and prevent their getting at the food before members of the, household had that privilege.