Lewis Comer, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Lewis Comer

LEWIS COMER. In writing of the life and works of the late Lewis Comer it must of necessity be difficult to convey adequate idea of the meritorious life of that good man during the half century of time that he devoted to the church and to his people in Porter county, Indiana. His life was one of those simple, calm and gentle ones, utterly without ostentation or display, and devoted heart and soul to the ministry to which the man had dedicated himself as a youth of eighteen years. It is a pitiful circumstance that the life record of such a man should be written for the most part only in the hearts of those who knew him and to whom he gave his best; for such records, though sincere, are but fleeting, as the life of man must be, and this memoir is culled from the memories of those people who knew and loved him and who yet survive him, and are qualified to speak from their innermost knowledge of the man and the minister.

Lewis Comer was born in Virginia, on Christmas day, 1799, and of his parentage, early education and boy life but little is known. In 1830 the young man married Catherine Baum at White Pigeon Creek, Michigan, and in the next year they went to Belmont, Ohio, in which place their first child was born. Seven months later they returned through the forest on horseback to Michigan, and it was on April 19, 1835, that the young couple came to Porter county, Indiana, and settled in Morgan Prairie, where they purchased a farm from London Rose Cabell, a part of which place is yet in the possession of the family, and owned by Mr. Comer's daughter, Mrs. Jacob Fisher.

At that early date Porter county was practically a wilderness. There was but one house located on the site of the present city of Valparaiso, and virgin forests spread over the greater portion of the county. It is known that Mr. Comer officiated at the first funeral held in Porter county, his services being called into action on the Sunday following his arrival and location on Morgan Prairie, upon the death of one Mr. Agnew, who had died alone and unattended on the prairie. Affairs of a public nature were just beginning to shape themselves in the county at that time, and in March, 1836, Mr. Comer was selected as one of the first jurymen to be drawn in the count. In the years that followed he assumed his full share of the responsibilities attendant upon citizenship in a new and primitive region, and his civic life was stainless and blameless, as became a man of his calling and profession. Lewis Comer was ever a hardworking and industrious man. In the early days ministers of the gospel were not inured to affluence, or even ordinary comforts, as is the custom of the present day, and this pioneer of the wilderness felt himself blessed in being permitted to wrest a competency from his little farm by his labors from week to week, seizing what time he might for the preparation of his sermon for the coming Sunday, and ministering to the needs of his people in such manner as he found it possible. Often, it is told of him, his Sunday sermon was prepared during the noon hours while he waited for his oxen to rest and eat.

Mr. Comer was a fiery Abolitionist, and it is told of him that once, after making a strong speech on abolition in Kentucky, he narrowly escaped with his life from a group of enraged traders who resented his fearless speech and would have made him pay the extreme penalty had they been able to lay their hands upon him.

While the greater part of his active life was passed in his ministrations in and about Porter county, the early years of his service were marked by strenuous pilgrimages through the most dismal parts of the country, where he went to preach in scattered homes and villages. The faithful wife, who was frequently left alone at home with the children to care for the farm while her husband went bravely forth to win the people to his beloved cause, has often spoken to friends of their early married life. The roads in that primitive time were usually the merest bridle paths or Indian trails through the woods, and they must cross dank, dank and dismal swamps and ford streams, oft times at peril of their lives. Some of the forest regions were not more than tangled jungles, sufficient to test the endurance and hardihood of the most intrepid woodsmen, but the young couple went sturdily forward on every occasion, secure in their faith and trust in Him who has promised to guard the footsteps of his servants, and always their trust was rewarded in the most unequivocal terms. Wild animals ranged through the woods, and it was not a strange sight for them to come upon a healthy bear sitting upon his haunches calmly surveying the intruders. Mrs. Comer related an interesting incident of their young married life, which is sufficiently unusual to merit a place in this record. It was while they were traveling from Ohio back to Michigan, and they made the trip on horseback, the usual mode of travel in those days, and Mrs. Cornell carried their seven months old daughter, Rebecca, in her arms. While crossing the Great Black Swamp near Sandusky they camped for the night tethering one horse and permitting the other to graze nearby. During the night the tethered horse broke loose and the pair started back over the trail to Ohio. Mr. Comer wakened suddenly to find the horses gone, and without awakening his wife started out to bring them back. Later in the night Mrs. Comer roused up, only to find herself alone in the swamp with her infant child, husband and horses alike missing. She called out but the hoot of an owl was the only response. Dismayed she may have been, but frightened not at all. She waited calmly enough and towards sunrise Mr. Comer returned, but without the horses. There remained nothing to be done but resume the journey on foot, which they did, after bending down some young saplings and tying their saddle bags and luggage to the tops of the trees and permitting them to spring back where they would be out of the way of wild animals or other unfriendly travelers, and they had gone but a short distance when their ears were greeted by the crowing of a lordly Chanticleer. Mrs. Comer averred that she never heard sweeter music in her life, nor ever cared to, for that welcome sound betrayed the presence of a human habitation. So indeed it proved, and they were gladly welcomed by the friendly settlers, one of the men of the household going with Mr. Comer in search of their runaway steeds, while Mrs. Comer and her little daughter were made welcome in the home of their host. Three days later their horses were restored to them by some friendly Indians, who had come upon them in the swamp, well on their way back to the haunts of civilization.

Mr. and Mrs. Comer were the parents of six children. The first born was Rebecca, and the others were Josephus, Samuel, Henrietta, William Henry and Scytheria. The six children, all of whom are now dead with the exception of Henrietta Fisher, married as follows: Rebecca, married Caleb Luther and went to California to live, where she afterward died in 1863. Samuel married Nancy Bryarly in 1860. He later went to the war and died in a hospital at Louisville. Josephus married Harriet Marine and is deceased. Henrietta married Jacob Fisher in 1866 William Henry married Alice King and died in 1872. Scytheria married Heber Stoddard in 1877, and she died in 1894.

Mr. Comer closed his earthly career on January 21, 1876, when death called him from his loved task at the age of seventy-seven years, and in an obituary written by Rev. Lemuel Shortredge, of the Christian church, the following comment is taken, which is especially pertinent to the life and work of the subject of this memoir:

"An old pioneer is gone from labor to rest, -- Elder Lewis Comer, who was born December 25, 1799, and died January 21, 1876. He commenced preaching when he was twenty-three years of age and spent fifty-four years of a useful life in the ministry. When thirty-two years of age he married an excellent Christian woman, Catherine Baum. He was a good husband, an excellent citizen and a preacher of considerable talent. He was converted when about fourteen years of age and united with the Baptist church, but later became a member of the Christian church. He traveled on foot over a large part of the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Michigan and did much good work in cooperation with others in the work of evangelizing the outlying districts. Brother Comer was a good and zealous Christian minister and it is undeniable that he did as much good and perhaps more than any man of his time in the work. He will be happily remembered by the living pioneers of many states where he performed his most successful labors. The last forty years of his life were spent in Porter county, Indiana, and his time was divided between preaching and farming. His memory will not soon fade from the minds of those in Northern Indiana who knew him, and the church in Morgan Prairie will long remember his faithful ministrations and tender exhortations, while innumerable communities will not soon forget how they were in the early days wont to gather in the cabins and hear the words of wisdom that fell from his lips."

Source: Lewis Publishing Company. 1912. History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company. 881 p.
Page(s) in Source: 824-827

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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