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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
XXII. COVERED WAGON TREK
"All the pulses of the world, Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement beat." ..Walt Whitman.
"FROM OVER THE: HILLS AND FAR AWAY," by rough roads and rougher trails, the long trek of the pioneers in their lumbering covered wagons led westward with the "tide of empire." These people ventured much. It has been said that they had nothing to risk but their lives. Their worldly possessions were few. But what they lacked of these was more than balanced by their other possessions: faith, courage, "grit," and ruggedness of physical being.
Through the almost impassable wilderness, these pioneers "blazed the way." They left their early homes amid scenes of civilization, and with axe and gun, they "wended their lonely way," often through unexplored wildernesses, until they came to the place where their future home was to be.
"When the Northwestern Territory was declared opened for settlement, about 1800," says McDonald, "most of them made their way in boats down the Ohio River as far as where Cincinnati now stands and settled in Hamilton, Butler and adjoining counties, and from there gradually found their way into southern Indiana, settling in the river counties.
"Emigration from southern Indiana to Marshall county began in 1835, but it did not commence, in earnest until 1836. In the spring of that year, in the vicinity of Maxinkuckee lake and farther north and east in the direction of Plymouth, the Logans, Voreises, Morrises, Thompsons, Dicksons, McDonalds, Brownlees, Houghtons, Blakeleys, Lawsons, and others, arrived and made a permanent settlement. From this on, the settlement of this region was rapid and permanent.
"The first settlers about the lake came in 1836. Several heads of families came in 1835 and entered lands, and early in the following spring built log cabins, cleared off little patches of ground, planted corn, potatoes, etc., and early in the summer returned to bring their families and take up their permanent residences in Marshall county. They came in a caravan from southern Indiana in wagons drawn by ox teams, on horseback and on foot. They started on their long and tiresome journey on the twelfth of July, and arrived on the east side of Maxinkuckee lake July 26, 1836, just six days after the county had been organized and the county seat located at Plymouth, which occurred July 20, 1836. At that time there were only about 600 white people in the county and about 1,500 Pottawattomie Indians.
"The household goods of the members of the caravan were carefully packed away in the wagons, leaving room for the women and children and the supply of eatables prepared for the journey. The wagons were covered with sheeting for protection against rain and the hot rays of the sun. Fourteen days were occupied in making the journey. The roads most of the way were through swamps and over log bridges, and much of the way was but little better than Indian trails. From Indianapolis the Michigan road was followed. At that time it had only just been opened through this part of the state, and that only to such an extent as to make it passable by cutting down the trees and bushes along the line and bridging over the worst places with brush, poles and logs.
"The country through which the road ran at that time was for the most part thickly timbered, and all along was an abundance of wild game and fruits of all kinds, which the hunters of the little band brought into camp. The lack of pure water to drink was the most serious difficulty they had to contend with, There were seldom any springs along the way and the water far drinking and cooking purposes was mostly from stagnant ponds and small streams which were not much better.
"Every night on the way they camped wherever darkness overtook them, slept in the wagons and under the trees, the cattle and horses browsing about the camp and resting from the day's toil as best they could. The mosquitoes and flies were terrible pests, much more so than people nowadays can imagine."
To the present generation, a covered wagon, such as these first comers used, is a rare curiosity. Very few of the originals are still in existence, and practically all of those that remain are preserved as relics in museums. A typical prairie wagon more than a century old, in the possession of a private collector in this state, is described as consisting of nearly nine hundred pieces of wood, all handmade. The wagon is boatshaped, with water wheels, an early method of construction used to combat high water when streams were forded.
In the long westward trek, Forbes's Road was the usual route across the Alleghenies, although the new Cumberland Road was shorter. "People of means," says Coman, "traveled in the stage coaches, paying a round price for transportation and luggage. Single men might ride horseback at less cost. Families found cheaper and more commodious accommodations in a Conestoga wagon, purchased at Philadelphia to be sold at half price in Pittsburg, or, if their destination lay not far beyond, to be driven on for farm use. Every variety of vehicle, and all types of people, were making their toilsome way along the rough military road. The father may be seen driving the waggon, and the women and children bringing up two or three cows in the rear. They carry their provisions along with them, and wrap themselves in blankets, and sleep on the floors of taverns at a charge of twenty-five cents per family. Other pioneers without the wherewithal to purchase a wagon walked the whole distance, dragging their effects in a one-horse cart or pushing them along in a wheelbarrow.
"Many of the keelboats that floated down the Ohio carried an entire family and all their earthly possessions, household goods, farm tools, cattle, and horses. They landed where chance or caprice might determine, on the Kentucky or Illinois bank, or if the current favored, pushed on to the Mississippi or to the Missouri. It was a veritable race migration, impelled by the love of adventure, by land hunger, by the gambling instinct of the frontier."
With the German emigrants, it was not so much of a "gamble" but more of a "sure thing." Their little communities were staid and prosperous and were located with careful foresight on the most fertile soil and within easy reach of a good waterway. Early travelers testified that the most promising of the pioneers were the Germans. People of other extractions were more venturesome no doubt, which may account for their beating the Germans in claiming Union Township lands. The coming of the German emigrants to this immediate region occurred a few years later than the first permanent white settlement.
Among those brave families from over the seas who pressed on to the "lands of the farther West" was one led by Jacob Frederick and Christiana Stahl. Although they arrived in this region about twenty years later than our earliest settlers, the story of their migration westward is typical of the hardships and perseverance that characterized such treks in the early days.
The Stahls came from Germany. They crossed the Atlantic in a sailing vessel, and landed in New York, from whence their land journey led forth, with only brief stops at Newark, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, until finally a longer pause in the migration occurred in Greenville, Pennsylvania, where the breadwinner of the family found work sufficient to provide food for the way. In other words, "He earned a living as he went." While at Greenville, Father Stahl found a farmer who had "bought a piece of land" somewhere in Sandusky County, Ohio, and in a covered wagon, so Jacob Peter Stahl, the family historian, relates, was about to "go and see it." The farmer graciously invited Father Stahl to go with him, taking the family along, of course. This opportunity was seized upon with gratitude.
"This covered wagon," the historian continues, "thus became, at once, the passenger coach, the baggage car, the Pullman, diner and all in one." A peculiar interest in this wagon became attached especially to Regina, one of the children, for it was she that fell from the vehicle and broke her arm--an extra worry and concern for her mother. In Ohio, Father Stahl bought forty acres of land near Hessville, cleared it, cultivated the soil, and planted fourteen bushels of seed-wheat and a vast amount of toil yielded a harvest of an even fourteen bushels. Such was the reward for all his labors. The boll weevil had taken the rest. Since crops failed, he could but keep on with his day labor away from home until he had earned enough to pay for his seed-wheat. Meanwhile, the family rations were reduced to plain cornbread.
Three years the Stahl family remained there, but with all the accompanying discouragements and the strain on the father's physical constitution, they seemed quite long enough. The farm was disposed of and the family pushed on into Indiana. They stopped at South Bend and at Plymouth, at that time a prosperous little village; then proceeded south on the Michigan Road to a point directly east of the community of "Germany," thence west about six miles to the point of destination.
"This long, tedious journey," says Jacob Peter Stahl, "was begun in the early month of March, and in consequence was attended with snow and ice and slush, altogether too disagreeable for a family of children in a covered wagon. The trip was without striking incident, except that brother Fred and sister Regina, being the oldest children, had to walk much of the way. Not infrequently, also, did they have to ask for a little bread for the ‘babies,' and occasionally for themselves. One other thing: The spirit of hospitality along the way was so poor that often they had to ask at several places even to get privilege to camp for the night. They were often pointed to taverns miles distant ahead, though darkness had already set in. This so aroused Father, that he resolved never, should he ever have a home of his own, to turn aside the stranger from his door, a resolve he maintained to his dying day."
This he did without charge until Mother Stahl insisted that strangers ought at least pay the price of one meal. To this insistence he yielded, and members of the family have known her on occasion "to charge the enormous sum of twenty-five cents." "Charity overdone," remarks the historian.
|XXIII. THE PIONEER COMES|
" `In the woodlands rang their axes, Smoked their towns in all the valleys,
Over all the lakes and rivers Rushed their great canoes of thunder'."
... Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
EVIDENCES OF CIVILIZATION were entirely lacking in the Union Township region when the pioneers came. Wilderness was spread far and wide over the map of this part of America; there was nothing but wilderness. No railroad was to be found within a thousand miles in any direction; there was not even a stage line within forty miles when the first of the white settlers made their way in and began the mighty task of clearing the land, which was thickly timbered and full of undergrowth except that portion of the township known as the "Burr Oak Flats."
There were no white people nearer than the Michigan road, and few there. "The Indians outnumbered the whites two to one," says McDonald. Roads and bridges were at that time unknown in these parts. Trails and traces were the only established routes through the wilds.
It was the Michigan road, according to McDonald, that probably induced many of the early settlers to come here; in fact, otherwise they could hardly have found their way through the wilderness. Nearly all the pioneers that settled in the county up to 1840 came from the south on the line of that road, especially the large colony that settled in Union Township in the region of Maxinkuckee lake.
The story of the arrival of that band of first comers is picturesquely told by Daniel McDonald, himself a member of one of those brave families. "It was late in the afternoon of July 26, 1838," he says, "when the tired and worn out caravan obtained the first sight of the ever beautiful Maxinkuckee lake. The glorious sun was just making its golden setting, and by the track of his fiery car, gave token of a goodly day tomorrow.” It was indeed, as our own `Hoosier Poet' has so beautifully expressed it, “a pictur' that no painter has the coloring to mock." None of them had ever seen a lake before.
"The final stop was made not far east of the lake, near the residence of the late David R. Voreis. It was twilight then. A signal of their arrival in the neighborhood had been agreed upon before they started, and as the ox teams were halted at the end of the journey, a long, loud blast was given on a conch shell, which resounded and echoed and re-echoed through the trees and over the hills for miles in every direction. The night birds began to carol their sweetest melodies and sing their glad songs of welcome. And then the weary travelers listened eagerly for the response. It soon came from the residence of Vincent Brownlee, a short distance farther away in the wilderness." The echo of that response for many years rang loud and clear in the ears of those who had heard it. "It was in one sense a most joyous occasion. The women who had borne the burden and heat of the long and wearisome days and were well nigh exhausted, cried for joy, and even the stalwart men of the party let fall a silent tear that the hardships of the journey to the new country were at an end."
The incident of the conch shell is retold today by Mrs. John C. Butler. The story has come down through descendants of those first comers; it is a tradition that lives on and on in memory, and it is a symbol of the first settlement. At reunions of members of these "first families," the conch shell signal has been repeated, "calling the clans" to the gathering place for rejoicing over a safe arrival. "They blew the conch shell," says Mrs. Butler, "for all the settlers to come together at the appointed place. The Thompsons and the McDonalds were among them, and maybe the Dicksons. Some were already here. These had arrived; their journey was ended. Maybe all the families didn't get in at the same hour. The signal was blown so all could get together. That was July 26, 1836.
"They all camped together for the night where the old spring is, on what was later the Voreis farm. This is now Academy property. The camping place was east of the road that passes along the east side of the Culver Bird Sanctuary, close to where the brook crosses. It was north of the present Road 10."
In advance of these families came Thomas McDonald. In the fall of 1835, he came from southern Indiana and bought a piece of land near Lake Maxinkuckee, upon which he built a log cabin, and in the spring of 1836 brought his family and began the labor of a pioneer in a new country.
Not far distant, in the Wolf Creek neighborhood, there were somewhat earlier settlements. One of the Thompson families located there. The parents of William M. Thompson, who was born in Illinois, were early settlers of that state, having moved there about 1822, Later, they came to Indiana, locating in Madison County, where they resided until 1334, at which time they became residents of Marshall County, settling near Wolf Creek Mill, Green Township.
The Thompsons of the 1836 migration to Union Township purchased a large tract of land near Lake Maxinkuckee. In this family there was a pioneer boy, William D. Thompson, who came to this region at the age of nine years. He was born in Fayette County, Indiana. His father, Lewis, a farmer by occupation, was born in Bracken County, Kentucky.
The first settlement in the Union Township part of the so called "unorganized territory," according to Alexander C. Thompson, was made in 1835. He says that John Anderson's and another family or two were, however, the only ones now known (in 1890), who were here in that year. The county was first permanently settled by the whites in the spring of 1832; but it was not until 1835 that a great movement began by a public sale of the lands at the land office in LaPorte. At the time Marshall County was organized, this was designated as "unorganized territory,” and of course the inhabitants had no representative in the legislature of the state.
It was indeed the bravest sort of venture for these heads of families to bring their "flocks" into such a little known backwoods territory. The question is often asked; "Why did they come?" And the best answer is perhaps: "The desire for freedom and greater opportunity."
Seeking the open door to a more fortunate future, in a new land of opportunity, the pioneer reckoned not so much on the hazards and costs of the migration and the Inevitable hardships of frontier life as he did on the rewards. He came and labored hard, clearing the forest, plowing untamed soil, building homes, barns, fences, and roads, and suffering the poison of the dreaded malaria. Of those who had set out with the highest hopes, many succeeded and many failed, overwhelmed by illness or debt. Some perished, others made their painful way back to the seaboard.
The Kentuckians were the vikings of the migration. "Inured to hardship, impatient of the restraints of civilization, they bartered their chances in the ‘settlements’ for a stake in the wilderness, and pressed to the West, where land was still abundant and cheap. Inspired by the restless energy of their ancestors, the Kentuckians were always on the move. They pined for elbowroom and deemed neighbors less desirable than freedom to trap, to hunt, to pasture their cattle in the open."
|XXIV. THE PIONEER SEES|
"The venerable woods; rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks,
That make the meadows green..."
... William Cullen Bryant.
IT WAS WILDERNESS INDEED that was found by the first settlers when they entered the Union Township region, but a remarkably attractive wilderness, nevertheless, from a scenic viewpoint, and an especially promising wilderness agriculturally. Maxinkuckee was set like a gem in its midst, end beautiful streams wound their sinuous courses through it. Rich soil awaited the plow to produce through the years abundant harvests. It was "God's country." And the pioneer looked upon it and found it good.
The first comers found woods a-plenty, filled with game, and prairies too, with high waving grass in which deer were numerous. This was chiefly a timbered region, interspersed with prairies which were originally regarded as worthless marsh lands, but since then have become valuable through drainage. The timbered lands of the county were in the shape of a reversed letter "E", the open part to the west, the upright body of the letter represented by a tract fifteen by twenty-one miles on the east side of the county; the cross line by a tract six to eight miles wide across the south end, with some smaller tracts in the center of the west side, representing the cross in the middle of the letter. The remainder was made up of prairies and "barrens," not really barren land but light timbered and prairie lands. Some of these tracts or "barrens," according to A. C. Thompson, became the most productive and desirable lauds to be found in the state of Indiana; for instance, the Burr Oak barrens lying from two to three miles north of Culver.
"The heavy timbered," says Thompson, "consisted of all the hard and soft timbers except the resinous; oak, ash, hickory, maple, beech, elm, walnut, butternut, linn, poplar, etc. The 'barrens;' or more open lauds, are variously timbered with white, burr, yellow and black oak, and also hickory. The face of the land is gently undulating, with no abrupt elevations or declivities. These 'barrens' are made up of every variety of soil, the greater portion, however, being the deep rich, black loam of the heavy timbered lands. The burr oak barrens have rich, sandy loam The white oak barrens, clay and sand. The black and yellow oak, light sand soil with clay bottom, The marshes, the richest and finest of alluvium, producing heavy growths of the best hay and also other crops. All kinds of farm products are raised in abundance crops are certain and the yield remunerative." That was as written in 1890.
For many years the destruction of the forests went on. The abuse of economy was great. There remain some few patches in the township that are still well and heavily timbered with hard woods. But the forests are practically gone. Only here and there, in isolated groups, may virgin timber of any sort be found today. Some of the prairies are left also, and some of the so-called "barren land," but these tracts are practically all under tillage or in use for grazing purposes.
Except for that portion of Union Township known as the "Burr Oak Flats," the land was thickly timbered and full of undergrowth.
Union Township was much under water when the first settlers came, vastly more so up until about the ‘80's than it is now. Maxinkuckee and outlying lakes and ponds, some of which are now gone, occupied a sizeable area of the township. One river, the Yellow, no doubt contributed more in those days to the total area of the township under water than it does today. Of the minor streams, there were few of any appreciable size.
Maxinkuckee Indiana's pride, second in area of surface in this state and first in beauty and romance, was then, still is, and ever shall be the outstanding "marine" feature of this part of the world. Thompson says, the county "holds in its extreme southwestern corner that Loveliest of lakelets, the far-famed Maxinkuckee." Authors, poets, artists, song-writers, orators, all have paid tribute to its beauties.
"One of the most beautiful small bodies of water in the Northwest is, without doubt, Maxinkuckee lake," says McDonald. "Surrounded with unbroken forests as the writer has seen it, with the deer drinking of its limpid water without fear of molestation, the wild fowl floating on its bosom, the forest songsters noisy amid the otherwise silent woods on all sides, and the few hardy pioneers with their new beginnings and humble surroundings, scattered here and there within easy reach of it, it was a gem of imperishable beauty."
What a refreshing and inspiring sight this lake must have been to the pioneers when they came, "thinly clad in `home spun,' sick and weary from weeks of traveling with ox teams, over roads that had to be made as they went., breaking an axle here, a tongue there; sleeping on the ground in the night air; fighting myriads of mosquitoes and braving the storms that overtook them on their journey."
Maurice Thompson in 1886 spoke of the lake in glowing terms:
"Max-in-kuck-ee--In many respects this is the most beautiful of the multitude of small lakes with which northern and northwestern Indiana is studded. Its shores are high, beautifully rounded, and clothed with the native forest. The waters are clear and cold. Hundreds of springs flow out from the banks, and many more rise from the bottom of the lake. Very few weeds grow in the water, and there is far less of moss and peaty formation than is common in our Indiana lakes. Here, to a large extent, sand gives place to gravel, and the beach is firm and clean. Nowhere in the United States is there a lovelier body of pure, cold water."
Evermann and Clark commented on the surprising clearness and evident purity of the water of Maxinkuckee as compared with that of other northern Indiana lakes. The water of Maxinkuckee, they found, at considerable depths, exhibited "an indescribable play of transparent green, something like that of an opal in some lights." Also "A remarkable feature of the water is its freedom from mud," due to a large extent to the fact that even after heavy rains the inlets bring in but little water, and because of the general absence of clay, they bring in but little mud.
Although a great deal has been written about Maxinkuckee, and much that is splendid and highly seasoned with words of admiration and praise, it is nevertheless safe to say that no writer has done full justice to this remarkable body of water. It is claimed that Maxinkuckee has had more written concerning it than any other small lake in America. It has been dealt with from almost every conceivable angle.
To describe Maxinkuckee as the first settlers actually saw it would be difficult indeed. Many changes have taken place around the lake since then; a transformation has been wrought. "In its primitive state," says McDonald, "before the forest trees that lined its shores were cut down by the white men who settled there, it was the most beautiful sheet of water anywhere to be found. In the early times deer and other wild animals drank of its rippling waters unmolested. Fish and wild game of all kinds were abundant, and it was indeed a most charming spot." And it is that still.
Lake of sparkling water! It was a thing of beauty to the Indian. Its witching spell has been felt by the pioneer and since by every one in every generation that has had the good fortune to come under its influence.
Maxinkuckee is about twelve miles in circumference, three miles long and two and one-half wide. It is oblong in shape, with somewhat irregular shore lines and some small bays and undulations. "The shores," says McDonald, "present about ten miles of lake front of almost every character of approach; the level beach, the gradual slope, the steep incline, the abrupt bluff, the rounded headland, and these of various elevations, from the water's edge to nearly fifty feet in places. The water is wholly from springs, except the natural rainfall, there being no inlet that may be called such, and the springs of delicious water are found everywhere along the shores.
"The banks are bold, clear, shaded. On the west side of the lake a small strip of lowland gives outlet to the surplus water into a small lake close by, and thence to the Tippecanoe river some miles southwest. There is very little grass, weeds drift, or other unsightly things in or around the lake, and but little brush, trees, loge, or other debris along the shores (today). Flowing wells abound on the north, east and south sides, and the most delicious cool water rushes up to about eight or ten feet above the level of the lake on boring a distance of fifty to one hundred or more feet."
The west and south sides of the lake are more sandy than the east and north. Long Point, a high sand ridge underlain with gravel, continues into the lake some distance in a long sand bar in shallow water. There is but little marshland today contingent to the lake. The largest and lowest marsh is in the southeast corner along the Norris inlet. Several acres of it are too marshy to trespass upon afoot, on horseback or otherwise. Recently this marsh has been partially improved by a sort of canalization scheme. The marsh in the northeast corner of the lake, most familiar to the first settlers, was taken care of by the Academy. By a succession of filling-in processes from year to year, the marshland was replaced with the park like area we know today. Part of this lakeside area was once indented with lagoons.
Some of the surface today is somewhat like that of floating islands, being a thick carpet of soil and interwoven roots above the original swamp. As if set on springs, the cushioned surface sways and undulates to the tread of feet.
There is apparently no bedrock anywhere on the bottom of the lake. The original bed, of the lake, it is indicated, was composed wholly of morainic or drift materials, essentially the same as those that compose the drift of the surrounding land. Marl is an important component of the lakebed. This is apparently composed chiefly of calcium carbonate mixed with more or less decaying vegetable matter and fine sand of aeolian origin.
"Though it is one of the deepest of our small lakes," Geologists Thompson and Lee reported concerning Maxinkuckee about fifty years ago, "it scarcely merits the name of 'bottomless,' given it by many of the people who reside on its shores and allow their imagination to fill the blue depths with wonders. We were gravely told by one that every attempt to find bottom was a failure; by another that he knew that the water was more than 300 feet deep, and by another that he had seen 180 feet of line let down, only 100 yards off shore, and no bottom was found. (Maybe they were `stringing' the Geologists). When we informed them that we did not expect to find any water 100 feet deep they smiled contemptuously. The result of our soundings gave seventy-six feet as the maximum depth."
Maxinkuckee cast its spell over James Whitcomb Riley, the Hoosier poet, who was sufficiently impressed to extol its beauties and charm in verse:
"The green below and the blue above
The waves caressing the shores they love."
Thus he began. We would like to repeat his every line, but we have our limitations.
Says A. C. Thompson: "Lake Maxinkuckee and its beautiful surroundings, its flowing wells and other peculiarities, makes Union township the most noted and interesting township undoubtedly, in the county."
There are a few other lakes, lakelets and ponds in the township, but they have been so eclipsed by the much lauded Maxinkuckee that they are little known except to people of their neighborhood and the fishermen and duck hunters who frequent them. To Maxinkuckee fell practically all of the publicity. On the completion of the Evermann and Clark survey, it was claimed that "The amount of knowledge and information now possessed and made available regarding Lake Maxinkuckee is probably greater than that possessed regarding any other lake in the world," notwithstanding the fact that there are admittedly many gaps in the record.
The ponds and lakes in this region are basin-like, more or less symmetrical, scooped in the clays of the drift. Maxinkuckee, surrounded by a country lying wholly in the glacial region, is typical of the glacial lakes found abundantly in upper Mississippi Valley States, It is a lake admirably adapted to the development of fish life. Deep borings in the adjacent soil indicate that at its greatest depth it does not reach the bottom of the drift. Maxinkuckee's greatest known depth is 89.5 feet, in the "Deep Hole," so called. This is a kettle-hole in the lake basin. There are a good many of such formations in the surrounding country, some of them of considerable depth and with more or less water during wet seasons, while others are less deep and fairly dry. The kettle-holes may have been gouged out by the action of water, but just how has not been satisfactorily explained.
Union Township was once pretty much under water, vastly more so than in late years, especially these very late years of drought. Except for the area that remains under water, there is scarcely any waste land in the township--unless some one should insist on adding the qualifying word, "theoretically."
The first comers saw several lakes and ponds that the present generation knows little about, except from hearsay. An early map, drawn some time prior to 1880, shows the extent of the township's water area. Little Maxinkuckee is outlined, together with a smaller pond trailing off along the outlet stream. The latter pond is now marshland.
West of Maxinkuckee and not far distant were two bodies of water: Lost Lake (not the present one and not Little Maxinkuckee) and Lake Manatau (also spelled Monatua and otherwise). The latter was on the county line, and was partly in Union Township and partly in Starke County, due west of Culver. Manatau is no more. It was drained some years ago. Land owners whose property adjoined Manatau, the map indicates, were William O'Conner, L. C. Zechiel and Samuel Medbourn. A dry lake near by was on the property of Charles A. Allen and William G. Zechiel.
Another map gives the land owners of this one-time "lake region" as William O. Osborn, Earl Zechiel, Claud R. Newman and Nathan Bond.
N. W. Rector recalls when there was water on the old Bond farm, about 1883. This is now the "airport," north of the W. O. Osborn farm. There is a ditch to the west of it. Duck hunting used to be good sport there. Sometimes the duck hunters on Maxinkuckee were disappointed to find game about all off the big lake, but out there plenty of the birds could be found. Some one had a boat: they would row out to an "island," with its clump of vegetation, in the pond, and hunt ducks to their heart's content. This land was under water only a part of the year; it was generally dried up in the summer.
"When we were children," says Miss Edna Stahl, "we used to skate on Manatau. Our family owned part of the land, including that occupied by the lake, now gone. Brother used to trap out there for muskrat and other furbearers. He tended his traps before going to school."
Land owners on Little Maxinkuckee, now Lost Lake, were James Green and David Hawk, according to the old map. There was a pond not far to the west, still in existence.
Southeast of Maxinkuckee, the map indicates a pond on the Washington ("Wash"') Overmyer farm, and northwest two ponds west of T. Houghton's, which the map leaves unnamed. These are identified as Moore Lake and Houghton Lake, one just west of the other. Both are today greatly shrunk and marshified. The property owners about these lakelets were Thomas Houghton, Amos Osborn and Lovina Ulery.
The streams found by the first settlers in this township were the Yellow River, Platt's Run and some small tributaries of the Yellow and Tippecanoe rivers, and the inlets and outlet of Maxinkuckee. A discovery that caused much wonderment was that streams in this region flowed on two distinct watersheds, their waters finally reaching destinations in widely separated seas.
The township's only river is the Yellow, a beautiful stream that flows across the county from the northeast to the southwest. It is the county's principal watercourse. Except for a north bend toward the township's western boundary, it flows the whole breadth and within the bounds of Union Township. Rising in the swamps and marshes of Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, Yellow River finds its way in a wandering course to the Kankakee. It endeared itself to the early settlers, who, if they should wander from its banks, were ever lured back. Its attractions gave rise to the adage that if persons got their feet wet in Yellow River they could never stay away from it any great length of time.
Platt's Run and Wolf Creek are tributaries of Yellow River. Both are small streams, fed by the drainage of swamp lands. Of the two, only Platt's Run is a Union Township stream, but Wolf Creek comes mighty close to being in the same class. Platt's Run rises in the west part of Green and the east part of Union townships. It winds through low land until it empties into Yellow River a short distance below the mouth of Wolf Creek. During the rainy seasons it used to furnish a sufficient water supply to run a saw mill a portion of the time. The creek got its name from Platt B. Dickson, through whose farm it ran. Rising in Tippecanoe Township and passing through a portion of Walnut and Green, Wolf Creek empties into Yellow River near the northeast corner of Union Township. These two streams were especially familiar to the very first of the settlers, who crossed them on the way in.
Although the Tippecanoe River crosses in a short "elbow" the extreme southeastern corner of the county and flows westward close to the southern boundary, it does not touch Union Township, missing it by only a little bit.
If we could only turn the clock back for a glimpse of the township as the pioneer saw it a hundred years ago, what a treat that would be!