Early Settlement of Kosciusko County

[pen-name of Isaiah J. Morris]

Chapter 6

One of the first houses or cabins in the county built by a white settler was erected upon the spot where Joel W. Long now lives and was built by a man by the name of Randall. In 1833 Hon. John B. Chapman purchased Randall's claim, which he perfected before the land sales in 1835. Chapman came to the county in the fall of 1832, bringing with him plough, harrow, etc., but finding no place to winter he secreted his agricultural implements in a "cat swamp" (a cat swamp is a wet, marshy piece of ground, densely covered with willow, elbow wood, swamp roses etc., and contains from the size of a town lot, to several acres) and returned to Logansport. During the winter he was appointed Prosecuting Attorney. His circuit contained all that part of Indiana north of the Wabash including Cass, Miami, Wabash and Huntington counties. In 1833 he returned to the prairie and purchased Randall's "claim" and received the appointment of Indian Agency. The first Post Office in the county was kept at Chapman's cabin and Chapman was the Post Master, he having made the trip to Washington City to secure the route and location of the office, which was established in 1834. In the fall of 1834, or rather at the August election of that year, Hon. John B. Chapman was elected representative to the State Legislature, and took his seat as a member of that body in the following December. It may be inferred from the offices filled by Mr. Chapman, that he was the Caleb Quotem of the territory for at this day, it is hard to determine from the data at command the boundaries of the territory represented by Mr. Chapman, who was a member two sessions. In October 1832 at an Indian treaty held on the south bank of the Tippecanoe river immediately west of the confluence of the Chippawauock creek with the Tippecanoe, at which the territory composing Kosciusko County, together with the territory of several other counties, one authority says fifteen and stretching from the Ohio State line on the east to that of Illinois on the west. Be this as it may at the session of 1834-5, fifteen new counties were formed one of which was Kosciusko. The treaty of October 1832 was dully ratified by Congress early in the year 1833 and as soon as the ratification was known, settlers flocked to the prairie north and west of Leesburg, and might be compared to pigeons pre-empting a newly-sown piece of wheat and in an incredible short period the beautiful, rich and pleasant prairies were all under claim. The lands were surveyed by the government and brought regularly into market in September 1835. All who had taken pre-emptions were required to pay them out during the months of June, July, and August, and all who did not meet their obligations within the time prescribed by law their pre-emptions became void, the land forfeited and subject to public sale at the land office. There was much distress in some counties, particularly in Laporte and St. Jo. The pre-emptors made an earnest appeal to the government for relief and addressed a petition to President Jackson which petition Charles W. Cathcart carried on horseback to the City of Washington, bearing his own expenses, and personally laid the matter before Jackson, who, when fully apprised how the land speculators, sharks, and swindlers were hovering like tigers round the land office, waiting to snatch the land from those who had pre-empted and improved them, assumed the responsibility and withdrew all pre-empted lands from sale, and had the time of payment extended. The farmers whose lands were thus saved being wrenched from them by the "land grabbers" did not forget the kindness of Mr. Cathcart in their behalf, but in after years sent him as their representative to Congress for two or three terms.

On the 7th day of February 1835, the legislature passed a bill forming the territorial bounds of Kosciusko county, and it was named by Hon. John B. Chapman who was then a member of the legislature. The county was organized early in 1836 and the first election was held at Leesburg on the 4th day of April 1836, at which time R. H. Landsdale was elected Clerk and Auditor, both offices being permitted by law to be held by the same person. Joseph Hale and Matthew Springer being candidates for the same office. Arnold S. Fairbrother was elected Recorder, and William Felkner, David Rippey, and William Kelley as Commissioners. James Comstock and Henry Ward [elected] Associate Judges. The machinery of civil government being put in motion the county took its rank among others as one inviting emigrants and offering inducements to business men and industry of all kinds. The climate was then considered as exceedingly healthy, the winters mild and the soil kind, warm and productive. The early settlers were men of energy, perseverance, and proverbial for their hospitality. The narrow, selfish conventionalities of society had no supporters. The latch string of the pioneer's cabin was always out for the wayfarer, neighbor, or acquaintance. He who went to church dressed in home-made jeans and cow-hide boots, or in buckskin breeches and mockasins [sic], carries in his bosom as large an amount of the milk of human kindness as any broadcloth encased carcass with quilted leather boots or shoes no matter where found. It was the habit, indeed it was a pleasure for the early settler to mount his pony take his trusty rifle, and away through the woods by some Indian trail six or ten miles to help a neighbor, no matter whether he had ever received a regular introduction to him or not, to raise his cabin. Friendship, when dressed in kid gloves, ruffles, or scented with the odor of the "night blooming" cereas never has the thrill that flows from an honest, old fashioned hearty shake of the hand, accompanied by an honest open countenance in which there is no guile.

In June 1835 according to some and 1836 according to others, the young corn crop was cut down and completely destroyed by a heavy frost or rather freeze. Corn that had been selling for 25 cents per bushel, at once rose to 50, then 75 cents per bushel. The frost was a heavy blow, both to the settlers and new comers, causing them to bring their corn from the Wea prairie near Lafayette.

The first town within the limits of the county was Leesburg, which was laid out in the summer of 1835, and a sale of lots held in the month of August. The house of Levi Lee was the place appointed by law, for holding the courts of the county, and the Circuit and Commissioners court held their first sessions there. Leesburg improved rapidly and evidently had a long future before it. In March 1840, upon petition of its citizens, an order was passed by the County Commissioners incorporating the town, and for holding an election on the 30th of May. Who the first city dads were, the record proveth not.

Milford was the second town and was laid out by Aaron M. Perrine and surveyed April 10th, 1836. Mr. Perrine was elected to the legislature, but that will appear more fully in the political part of the history. Milford made its growth in a few years when it stood still or nearly so for many years, whether this was from lack of genius and enterprise, or from an overstock of those characteristics, either of which is equally fatal is not apparent, but of late years its improvements have been healthy and permanent, and it is a place of considerable trade.

Warsaw was the third town, and was laid out by W. H. Knott, or rather on the land owned by Knott, in the month of August or September 1836. The town was laid out under and according to an order passed by the Board of Commissioners. The substance of this order was that Matthew D. Springer County Agent, with the proprietors of the East half of the South-west quarter of Sec 8, Town 32, Range 6, East, shall lay out said tract of land into In and Out lots as follows: Commencing at the West line of said land, leaving half a rod for an alley, then a tier of lots 5 rods wide by 8 1/2 long. The streets on the North, East, South, and West of the Public Square shall be 5 rods wide, the other principal streets 4 rods. That the North half of the South-east quarter of Sec.be laid out to correspond with the above, except that the lots may be changed as to length at the discretion of the County Agent. Also the twenty acres belonging to the county on the Southeast quarter of said section. This twenty acres was donated to the county by James Stinson, and is known as the "County Agents Addition" and the N. W.of the S. E.as Landsdale's Addition. The County Agent was authorized to sell as soon as the property came into his hands twenty choice lots at $100 each and ten second choice ones at fifty dollars each.

The first session of the Circuit Court in the county was held in the month of October, at the house of Levi Lee, in the town of Leesburg at which the following gentlemen appeared and served as Grand Jurors, viz., Christopher Lightfoot, Charles Sleeper, Matthew D. Springer, John Erwin, Elijah Miller, Francis Jeffries, Hugh McCoy, Henry Felkner, Aaron M. Perrine, Enos Willett, Jacob Kirkendall, Elijah Harlan, Samuel Stookey, Joseph Metcalf, Aaron Powell, James Garvin, John Knowles and Richard Mason, who for their services were allowed one dollar and fifty cents, each, as such jurors. And the following gentlemen composed the Pettit Jury for the same term, viz., John McConnel, Thomas Harper Sr., John Cook, Andrew R. Williss, Benjamin Bennet, Samuel Sackett, David Philipps, Samuel Harlan, James Bishop, Lake Vanosdoll, Richard Gawthrop, Chas. Ervin, Benjamin Johnson, David Clarke, and James Mason, who were each allowed the sum of $2.25 for their services. Jurors now would think the above sums rather poor remuneration for their services, and a court that would cost no more than $45 for its grand and pettit jurors, would be set down as a one horse court with a heavy discount at that. Judge Everts was the circuit Judge of who mention was heretofore made, and Richard Landsdale Clerk. The Bar was composed of Attorneys from South Bend and Goshen, with Hon. John B. Chapman, Arnold L. Fairbrother, and perhaps W.T 'Vant of this county.

Northern Indianian April 2, 1874

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