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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
XVI. PLENTY FOREST-NO SHINGLE
"There is no record left on earth,
Save in tablets of the heart." ... Ralph Waldo Emerson.
THE EARLIEST PALE-FACED VISITORS to this region, then in the possession of the Indians, found plenty to tell about, but many of them brought with them such meager supplies of notepaper that several potential and fat volumes of first-hand impressions must have been lost to posterity. Anyway, the history of this area goes back into the past, centuries before the white man came, but beyond the last one hundred years, the whole of it, except for a few vague fragments, will without doubt remain forever untold. Scant are the records, even fifty years back. The first settlers left very little in the way of permanent chronicle, the Indians before them practically nothing.
Therefore, much early history was recorded only "in tablets of the heart."
In later days, Henry Harrison Culver undertook to establish an ideal school for boys on the north shore of Maxinkuckee. General Gignilliat, in an informal talk one Founder's Day, spoke of the rock on the school grounds that was Mr. Culver's favorite seat at the time when his dream of a great school was beginning to take tangible form. "Here he used to sit and dream and plan and hold council with his foreman," said the General. "And here he wrote pay checks for the workmen when the week's work was dune. One Saturday afternoon he ran out of checks, but being a man of originality and resourcefulness, and not wanting his men to wait for their pay, he reached over to a pile of shingles and wrote his checks on them. The cashier of the bank down town got the surprise of his life when a lot of workmen filed in with shingles and poked them into the teller's window to be cashed."
There was a great scarcity of shingles, an actual shingle famine, at the time of the first white visitations; in fact, search as they might, it is doubtful if they could have found anything at all in that line in this "neck of the woods," at least not enough to put a decent roof on a bird-house. Shingles were not available for such unutilitarian projects as the recording of impressions and inspirations. As for writing checks, even on available slabs of bark, those early visitors scarcely gave a thought to such a possibility. Oh, yes, in the words of the red man, there was "plenty forest, but no shingle."
A Philadelphian by the name of Teas, in his "Journal of a tour to Fort Wayne and the adjacent country, in the year 1821," closed his description of his wanderings thus:
"And so my paper being also nearly expended,
The account of my adventures shall be ended."
Which is one way of accounting for the lack of early written records.
If a traveler in these backwoods, with a leaning toward authorship, was troubled with a dearth of notepaper, surely those first adventurous spirits who invaded the region; for the purposes of trade or commercial pursuits, or for the establishment of homes, had less, and when their store was gone found it difficult and expensive to obtain more. Whether they cared or not, they kept few records or dates of their comings and goings. Early French military records were similarly lacking. Hence the firsts of this and that, the whens and wheres of military or permanent trading post, settlement or whatnot, are matters of conjecture. No one can positively tell the truth of the actual beginnings.
For many years the lack of wherewithal for putting things down in black and white persisted. Various expedients were resorted to in the pioneer homes and in the early schools. The oldsters will tell of some of the "kinks" and shifts employed in those days to make up for deficiencies. One is reminded at this point of the windows of the log school-house, taught by Ichabod Crane (not in Union Township but in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow") that were partly glazed, and partly patched with the leaves of old copy-books. Necessity is the mother of invention. Colonel Cockrum tells of the dearth of text-books in Indiana in early times, when parents were obliged to cut up a volume, and paste the parts on boards for the different children of the family. Writing paper and materials were far from plentiful in the early settlements. A pointed goose-quill was used for the pen, and the ink for "copy-book work" was manufactured from oak balls saturated in vinegar.
The early days in this section were a great deal like Civil War days in that they often demanded ingenuity in supplying wants on the spur of the moment, as Mr. Culver did when he picked up loose shingles and wrote checks on them. Jack Taylor, a present day citizen of Culver, has a prized possession, a copy of the last issue of the Vicksburg Citizen, published in Civil War days and printed on wall paper. When General Grant laid siege on Vicksburg the supply of print paper was exhausted and the editor used the variety intended to beautify the rooms of a home.
Few Records Saved.
It is to be regretted that so few permanent records have been made of the recollections and reminiscences of the old settlers who, within the past few years, have passed away. A goodly number of these, in the latter days of life, were still keen of intellect, and could have told a great deal about the early days in the township. In fact, their memories went back more clearly to the far days than to the more recent, all he cause of their retention of a live interest in the earlier times which for them somewhat overshadowed events of later years.
As far back as 1858, there was recognized the value of preserving the records of this region, then in its infancy, so far "white occupation of the land is concerned, and a movement was set afoot,” according to Alexander C. Thompson, the historian, “to collect and keep for future generations the historical records of that day.” Unfortunately, however, if a society was formed and data assembled, all trace of the work has been lost.
This much is known, which in itself constitutes local history; a notice appeared in the "Marshall County Republican" of February 15, 1858, reading:
"NOTICE-1st. That a meeting will be held at the school-house in Union Town on the evening of March 4, 1858, to, take into consideration the propriety of forming a society to be known as the 'Antiquarian and Historical society,' for the purpose of collecting as many of the circumstances and incidents relative to the settlement of this region of country from the first settlement by the white man to the present time, that it may be read by posterity, which we believe will be of great interest.
Union Town, February 15, 1858."
Commenting on this bit of information, historian Thompson writes: "Who the movers in the matter were, or whether the organization was effected, nothing can be ascertained. Baylcss L. Dickson, who was founder of Union Town, and one of the earliest settlers in that region, was, probably, at the head of it. Isaac N. Morris, who was something of a historian and a great reader, and who lived near by, was, undoubtedly of those who were interested in preserving the history of that locality, but these early pioneers, and many others who resided here then, have passed away, leaving no record to perpetuate the history they helped to make."
So busy have been the days of growth and construction since that early effort toward the preservation of data, that few have had the leisure to devote to the writing of history. Much of intrinsic value in the way of information regarding the, past has thus been lost; no doubt beyond recall.
It is to the Rev. Warren Taylor, itinerant Wesleyan Methodist preacher, that a great deal of the credit should go for the, preservation of what early records we have. His sketches were reputed to be the first attempt at preserving the history of the county. He wrote statistical and other valuable historical matter, some of which was published in the "Marshall County Republican" in the early part of 1859. Thus came down to us, through subsequent historians perhaps, much useful information that otherwise would have been lost.
Not long ago, a committee of the Indiana Historical Society, in a recommendation toward the preservation of covered bridges, only a few of which remain today throughout the state, called attention to the fact that certain institutions, methods, tools and structures of the Indiana pioneers are fast disappearing. Steps have been taken in an increasing. number of localities for the purpose of saving for the benefit of the future those vestiges of the past that remain to be saved.
John W. Oliver, director of the Indiana Historical Commission, urged in 1921 that historical sites be marked immediately, before forgotten and lost. Marshall County then had but the Chief Menominee monument at Twin Lakes, publicly erected. Markers have been privately placed on the grounds of Culver Military Academy.
"The early settlers who in some cases were eye-witnesses to many of the historical events that occurred in the different communities are rapidly answering their last roll call," wrote Mr. Oliver. That was thirteen years ago. Since then, how many there were in Union Township who answered that call! And how few remain!
In those busy early days, long before the advent of the typewriter and the printing press in this region, few had time to write even if they had been well stocked with materials. What they did inscribe must have been brief and to the point. And, they could have barely begun before they were nearly done and ready for such a conclusion as Thomas Moore has given us:
"Good-bye-my papers out so nearly
I've only room for-your's sincerely."
|XVII. BUT HE TELLS THE WORLD|
"Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication a duty.."
... Madame de Staél.
HOWEVER MEAGER THE MEANS may have been for recording observations and information, those travelers who in bygone days visited this region managed to quite a remarkable extent to tell the world what they had seen and heard on their journeys. The majority of them visited the interior in search of the truth; some of them published it as a duty, others perhaps merely for gain or fame.
A very slim minority of them spread the news as they used to do in the "good old times" in England which Washington Irving tells about, when some cavalier "jogged in through bog and mire, from town to town, and hamlet to hamlet .... beguiling the way with travellers' tales, which then were truly wonderful, for every thing beyond one's neighborhood was full of marvel and romance." Few of them did that. They put their impressions in writing, in the form of books of travel, letters, diaries, and the like.
They told the world in various manners: topographical descriptions, geographical sketches designed for emigrants and settlers; statistical, political and historical accounts; remarks; personal reminiscences, recollections, journals of tours, memoirs, an "excursion," narrative "in the Pioneer west," "a year's residence," a "view of soil and climate," an account of "exploring the rivers and ascertaining the produce and conditions of the banks and vicinity." A foreigner told about "The Americans as they are.,, (Something like creatures in a zoo). And a missionary told his tale in "The Christian Traveler." (Those missionaries were earnest fellows as a rule, also accurate and observing). All in all, the travelers as writers made a pretty good job of it.
It has been said that "many of the first books relating to Indiana were written by travelers whose aim was to tell the Old World what the New World was like. These books are now out of print arid not available for most people. After a lapse of a century and more these descriptions are of much interest from an historical point of view. "Personal estimates of the region vary and opinions were obviously warped in many cases, but the descriptions reflect conditions about which we could today secure information in no other way." Details of spelling, punctuation, etc., differ from present-day forms. These do not detract; on the other hand, they add to 'the charm and quaintness of the works.
Guide to Emigrants.
In 1817 appeared the work of Samuel R. Brown called "The Western Gazetteer; or Emigrant's Directory." This and other similar ones resulted from a demand on the part of emigrants for a history and guide of the western country. It was a big undertaking, well done. An excellent map accompanied the notes.
"In the summer of 1835,'' says McDonald, "an exploring expedition was formed in the southern part of the state for the purpose of visiting the country north of the Wabash river, and if they were pleased with 'the lay of the land' it was understood they were to make selections of homes for themselves and neighbors who had determined to change their place of abode, and make the proper entry in the land office, which was at that time at LaPorte." These primitive explorers went forth, got the desired information, performed the duties entrusted to them, and returned to tell the rest all about it.
Writing to the Indiana Republican, Madison, January 7, 1839, "A Traveler" told of the condition of this part of northern Indiana, particularly Yellow river, Mix-in-kuk-kee lake, so called, he says, by the Potawatomi Indians, and the Michigan road. His expedition crossed the "Kankikee" and followed a trace that led southeast to Yellow river, a large branch of the former, within the country then owned by the Potawaitomis, "and the whole distance between these rivers," he said, "we saw no land suitable for farming, it being mostly wet prairie, or if timbered, with low black oak, and the soil of the most inferior quality. After crossing Yellow river and traveling about four miles we passed a beautiful lake from seven to ten miles in circumference, called by the Pottawattomie Indians Mix-in-kuk-kee. It is surrounded with rolling land of good quality and is formed from springs, and seems to occupy the highest summit between the Tippecanoe and Kankikee rivers. From it flows to the south a large creek, forming one of the principal of the former river, and distant from it about five miles. The lake will probably some day supply a feeder for a canal to connect the Wabash and Illinois rivers. From this lake we proceeded a short distance east and found the line of the Michigan road, on which we traveled to the Wabash at the mouth of Eel river."
The old dowager empress of China once told a Manchu princess who waited on her, that the princess would some day "tell the world about her" and wished the princess "to know the truth” and tell it as she saw it. Although commanded by no dictating dowager, the travelers who at an early date penetrated into the American interior, took it as their duty to tell the world about the mysteries of this far country, and in most cases tried conscientiously to learn the truth and tell it as they saw it.
|XVIII. THE HOMESEEKER LISTENS|
"And what is so strong as the summons deep,
Rousing the torpid soul from sleep?"
... Angela Morgan.
OUT OF THE WEST in the early decades of the Nineteenth Century came a summons; out of the West that was wild came a call. The white man heard it. He listened. Restless, ambitious, discontented with the older settlements, he listened intently. He read the tales of the travelers who had visited that West, beyond the Alleghenies, in the region of the Great Lakes. He gave ear to the yarns of those who had been there and who had returned to tell of the wonders that were in the backwoods. His soul was roused. The West appealed to his adventurous nature and, above all, seemed to be the answer to his desire for freedom.
Despite the scarcity of notepaper and other writing materials on expeditions to the new country, the word was spread more thoroughly than one could imagine; the message "got across."
Affairs had not been progressing very well in the East; certain conditions were far from satisfactory. Perhaps it was high time to be a-moving.
As early as 1787 a group of New England men, including 285 officers of the Continental army, petitioned Congress (oh, yes, Congress was very much alive in those days, listening to petitions, scheming what to do about the soldiers, the unemployed, and others, and in general doing what Congresses usually do) ; they asked Congress to determine, please, the conditions of settlement in that part of the Northwest (of that period) where their bounty lands were to be located. "Their representative, Dr. Manasseh Cutler," writes Katherine Coman, "submitted the conditions that the would-be settlers held essential: political and civil liberty, religious toleration, and the prohibition of slavery.
"The Ordinance of 1787 guaranteed representative government to the people who would inhabit the Northwest Territory, and provided for the ultimate formation therein of from three to five states that should be coordinate under the Constitution with the original thirteen. Thus was it settled for all time that the new colonies were not to be exploited for the benefit of the parent states, but were to become autonomous and coordinate commonwealths. Schools and the higher education were to be maintained by the proceeds of land sales, one section in every township being reserved for its public school. By far the most important clause in this fundamental compact between the original states and the settlers of the territory was the stipulation that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for crime, was to be admitted into the region. Persons already held as slaves were not emancipated, and fugitive slaves taking refuge in the territory were to be restored to their masters; but slavery as a labor system was forever debarred."
The great purchase by the Ohio Company followed the Ordinance of 1787. One million, five hundred thousand acres of land at the mouth of the Muskingum River! So the settlement of the territory north of the Ohio River was undertaken under national auspices, since the difficulties were too great to be mastered by individual enterprise.
This was the background, and this the beginning of that vast westward migration that led to Ohio, then on toward the setting sun... into Indiana. . . to the shores of Maxinkuckee.