Northwestern Indiana from 1800 to 1900A regional history written by Timothy H. Ball . . . .

Source Citation:
Ball, Timothy H. 1900. Northwestern Indiana from 1800 to 1900 or A View of Our Region Through the Nineteenth Century. Chicago, Illinois: Donohue and Henneberry. 570 p.






By prehistoric in this chapter is not meant, before human history on the earth commenced; that early Asiatic, African, and European written history, so many thousand pages of which yet remain; but only before the real American written history finds its sure beginning, dating no further back than to the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Prehistoric in this chapter, will denote not only any traces of man up to 1492, but even up to the time of the first recorded explorations of French and English in this region. So that, to reach our prehistoric period, we will not need to go far back in time.

The early settlers first found the Indians, called sometimes aborigines, in actual possession here, with whom, for some ten years, more or less, they were brought in contact; but they soon found, as they came out from the "thick woods," as they looked over the rich and beautiful prairies, and then over the lowlands and marshes, and viewed the rivers, -- here and there not to be mistaken, they found those singular traces of an unknown people, called sometimes the Moundbuilders. In various places they found these mounds, evidently formed at some time by human hands, one of these, ten feet in height and some forty feet in diameter, being on the Iroquois River, four


from the present town of Rensselear, from which have been taken shells, bones, and ashes. Other mounds were found some three miles north of the present town of Morocco, in Newton County, from which have been taken human bones and stone implements; another in what became Washington Township, in the same county; and yet another on the south bank of the Iroquois near the State line. Other mounds were found north of the Kankakee River, from some of which human skeletons have been taken, over some of which the plowshare has passed year after year, still bringing to the surface human remains; and some are even yet undisturbed. Large trees were found growing on some of the mounds when the pioneers first saw them. They were in shape circular and smooth, and regularly formed, although the wolves had in some of them made their dens.*

The following is taken from Lake County, 1884, page 474: "On the farm now owned by J. P. Spalding, near the northwest corner of section 33, town-
*The writer of this remembers well his first visit to one of these mounds with his father and mother, each on horseback; that father a graduate of Middlebury College, Vermont, that mother educated in the best schools of Hartford, Connecticut, and then 34 years of age; and what an interest they both took in that work of prehistoric man, as they rode up the sloping sides and looked at its smooth, level top, and looked around the landscape from that elevation, himself admiring it with the eyes of a boy twelve years of age. That mother had seen many beautiful and grand New England and Southern and ocean sights, nature she dearly loved, but on such a mound she had never looked before. I am quite sure no spade or plow has yet touched that mound.   T. H. B.


ship 33, range 8 west, are the remains of two mounds. They have been plowed over for more than forty years, [written in 1884] but human skeletons, arrow heads and pottery are still unearthed, as the plowshare goes deeper year by year. The pottery found is of two varieties." These ancient mounds were perhaps used in later times for Indian burial places.

General Packard mentions two mounds near the early village of New Durham, in La Porte County, which were six feet in height.

Hubert S. Skinner, in the history of Porter County says that, "numerous earth mounds are found" there, and that "In the mounds have been found human bones, arrow heads, and fragments of pottery."

Says Mr. William Niles, of La Porte, in his historical sketch of the La Porte Natural History Association: "At one time Dr. Higday got up an excursion to the Indian mounds near the Kankakee River, and secured for the association a large number of flint and copper implements and pottery, and skulls and other bones. He read a paper before the Chicago Historical Society describing this excursion and its results. Some of the specimens were left with the Chicago society." The others, it seems to be implied, are still in La Porte. Very little copper as yet has been found in our excavations.

Returning now south of the Kankakee, in White County, there were found several mounds on what was named Little Mound Creek; these were only from three to five feet high, but at another location there were some about ten feet in height. Fifteen have been counted in White. A full account of the many mounds of this region does not enter into the plan of


this work; but elsewhere will be found yet more particulars in regard to human remains, or prehistoric man.

That the pioneers found not a few Indians here has been already stated, and they found that these true native Americans had villages, camping places, dancing floors and burial grounds, and gardens and corn fields. South of the Kankakee River, in what became known as Beaver Woods, and along the Iroquois and Tippecanoe rivers, they had many favorite resorts, and a large Indian village was found and a favorite dancing floor or ground a few miles north of where the whites started their village called Morocco. Corn fields were found in various places near that same locality.

In White County an Indian village was found half a mile north of the present Monticello, and another five miles up the river, where large corn fields were cultivated. For some reason these Indian fields seem to have been much larger on the south than on the north side of the Kankakee. For one thing, the soil was quite different. A noted Indian trail passed along the bank of the Tippecanoe, crossing it where is now Monticello, and leading from the Wabash River up to Lake Michigan.

In what is now Jasper County many corn fields were found, generally small patches of land, but sometimes in a single field would be an area of ten or fifteen acres. One large field was four miles and another seven miles west of the present county seat of Jasper County. There were groves of sugar maple trees along the Iroquois River, and the first settlers found the Indians along that river knowing how to make maple sugar.


North of the Kankakee, at what took the name of Wiggin's Point, now Merrillville, in Lake County, was found, in 1834, quite an Indian village. It was called McGwinn's Village. There was a large dancing floor or ground, and there were trails, which were well-trodden foot-paths, sixteen in number, leading from it in every direction. The dancing ground, called a floor, but not a floor of wood, is said to have been very smooth and well worn. A few rods distant was the village burial ground, the situation, where the prairie joined the woodland, well chosen. A few black-walnut trees were found growing there, of which very few are native in Lake County, as also there were two or three near an Indian burial place found on the northeastern shore of the Red Cedar Lake.

At this Wiggin's Point burial place the pioneers found in the center of the ground a pole some twenty feet in height on which was a white flag. This was the best known Indian cemetery in Lake County. As many as one hundred graves were there. Some desecrating hands, said to have been those of a physician from Michigan City, took out from the earth here an Indian form about which were a blanket, a deer skin, and a belt of wampum; and with the body were found a rifle and a kettle full of hickory nuts. The pioneers found that some of these Indians had not only the idea of a future life, but that they had received from their white teachers some idea of the resurrection of the body. Some of them preferred not to be placed in the earth, as they were to live again; and some of these early settlers found suspended in a tree, in a basket, with bells attached, the dead body of an Indian child. The writer of this obtained his best knowledge of an Indian cemetery and of Indians lamenting


their dead,
from a sand mound in Porter County, near the shore of Lake Michigan, which will be mentioned in the account of City West.

Besides the Indians themselves, (and some of them were in contact with the settlers for ten full years) and their gardens, where the Indians cultivated some choice grapes as well as vegetables, and their trails, and camping grounds and dancing grounds, these pioneers found, and the later inhabitants have been finding through all these seventy years, flint and stone instruments of various kinds, evidently the work of human hands. A very little copper, not in its native bed or form, they also found. One of the large collections of arrow heads, spear heads, and various small instruments, whose manufacture is attributed to our Indians, is in possession of the present genial and intelligent trustee of St. John's Township, H. L. Keilman, all, some two hundred in number, having been found on the Keilman farm near Dyer, on section eighteen, township thirty-five, range nine west of the second principal meridian.

It seems desirable that some impression should be upon these pages of the real life of the Indians, as near as it can be obtained from such contact as they had with the whites, thus showing what the pioneers found Pottawatomie customs and ways to be. As, besides other camps and gardens, so-called, in the winter of 1835 and 1836 about six hundred had an encampment in the West Creek woodlands, where deer were abundant, and an encampment was there again the next winter; and on Red Oak Island, where they had a garden, about two hundred camped in the winter of 1837 and 1838, and about a hundred and fifty on Big White Oak Island, south of Orchard


Grove, and quite an encampment the same winter south of the present Lowell, and a camp of thirty Indian lodges the same or the preceding winter north of the Red Cedar Lake, and many wigwams along the Calumet, and a large Indian village at Indian Town, it is evident that the pioneers had some opportunities to learn something of their dispositions and ways.

The following is from "Lake County, 1872."

"On Red Oak Island they had two stores, kept by French traders, who had Indian wives. The names of these traders were Bertrand and Lavoire. At Big White Oak was one store, kept by Laslie, who was also French, with an Indian wife. Here a beautiful incident occurred on new year's morning, 1839. Charles Kenney and son had been in the marsh looking up some horses. They staid all night, December 31st, with Laslie. His Indian wife, neat and thoughtful, like any true woman, gave them clean blankets out of the store, treated them well, and would receive no pay. The morning dawned. The children of the encampment gathered, some thirty in number, and the oldest Indian, an aged, venerable man, gave to each of the children a silver half-dollar as a new year's present. As the children received the shining silver each one returned to the old Indian a kiss. It was their common custom, on such mornings, for the oldest Indian present to bestow upon the children the gifts.

A beautiful picture, surely, could be made by a painter of this island scene; the marsh lying round, the line of timber skirting the unseen river, the encampment, the two white strangers, the joyous children, and the venerable Pottawatomie who, long years before, had been active in the chase and resolute as a


warrior in his tribe, bestowing the half-dollars and bending gracefully down to receive the gentle kisses of the children. Such a picture on canvas, by an artist, would be of great value among our historic scenes."

The following incidents, from different sources, are all well attested:

Into what became Newton County in the time of the Black Hawk War, about five hundred Kickapoos came from Illinois and staid for some little time, but gave no trouble to the few whites then there unless whiskey was furnished them.

In the spring of 1837, a party of Indians came to the location of David Yeoman, on the Iroquois, to catch fish. These they took not by means of spears or hooks, but by throwing them out of the water with their paddles. They were economical. They would exchange the bass with the whites for bread and would themselves eat the dog-fish.

North of the Kankakee, near Indian Town, an enterprising settler proposed to plow some ground for planting. To this the head Indian objected, saying that the land was his, and the squaws wanted it to cultivate. This pioneer knew quite well that the squaws would not cultivate very much land, so he said to the Indian man, "I will plow up some land and the squaws may mark off all they want." As he could turn the ground over much faster than could the Indian women, this was quite satisfactory. They marked off the little patches which they wanted, and left a good field for the white man. This incident certainly shows a good side of the Indian character.

As mentioned elsewhere, an early school of La Porte County, the first in New Durham Township, was taught by Miss Rachel B. Carter, the school open-


ing January 1, 1833. As illustrating the taciturn disposition of the Indians, General Packard gives this incident: "When Miss Carter was teaching this school, Indians of various ages would come to the cabin, wrapped in their blankets, and stand for hours without uttering a word or making a motion, while they gazed curiously at the proceedings. Then they would glide away as noiselessly as they came." Other characteristics are illustrated by the following: "Upon one occasion an Indian woman, called Twin Squaw, informed Rachel that the Indians intended to kill all the whites, as soon as the corn was knee high. Rachel replied that the white people were well aware of the intention of the Indians, and taking up a handful of sand, said that soldiers were coming from the East as numerous as its grains, to destroy the Indians before the corn was ankle high. The next morning there were no Indians to be found in the vicinity, and it was several months before they returned.

"An Indian told Rachel, at one time, that they liked a few whites with them to trade with, to act as interpreters, and that they learned many useful things of them: but when they commenced coming they came like the pigeons."

A pioneer could appreciate that comparison, but "like the pigeons" is not expressive to those of this generation, to those who never saw a wild pigeon.

Although for a time, on account of Miss Carter's reply to Twin Squaw, the Indians disappeared, in 1836 "some five hundred of them camped in and about Westville."

The desecration of an Indian grave at the Wiggins' Point has been mentioned. "It is said that one day, after the robbing of the grave, two Indians' armed


with rifles came into the field where Wiggins was at work alone. They went to the grave, and sat down their rifles, and talked. Wiggins was alarmed. He conjectured that avengers were near, and he was in their power. The Indians were evidently much displeased, but finally withdrew without offering any violence. Wiggins, who had claimed this part of the Indian village, allowed his breaking-plow to pass over the burial ground.

"This desecration did not pass unnoticed by the Red men. When, in 1840, General Brady, with eleven hundred Indians from Michigan, five hundred in one division and six hundred in the other, passed through this county, some of both divisions visited these graves, and some of the squaws groaned, it is said, and even wept, as they saw the fate of their ancient cemetery. Thoroughly have the American Indians learned the power and the progress of the Anglo-Saxon civilization, but not much have they experienced of its justice towards them and theirs."

Some other incidents of the life at Indian Town are instructive, taken, as was the last, from Lake County, 1872:

"Simeon Bryant selected that section for a farm, and leaving Pleasant Grove, built his cabin near the village. The Indians at first were not well pleased with the idea of a white neighbor; but the resolute squatter treated them kindly, would gather up land tortoises and take to their wigwams, for which, when he threw them on the ground, the women and children would eagerly scramble; and after he had fenced around some of their cornfields he still allowed them to cultivate the land. This kindness and consideration secured their regard. A father and son from La


Porte County were stopping with this Bryant family while improving their claims, and the daughter and sister, a girl of eighteen or twenty, came out to assist in the housekeeping. She was necessarily brought in contact with the villagers. Among these were two young Indians about her own age, sons of a head man, who were quite inclined to annoy the white girl and play pranks. They would lurk around and, watch her motions, and sometimes when she would enter the little outdoor meat-house, would fasten her in. One day, when she was coming out with a pail of buttermilk, one of these young Pottawatomies stood in the doorway, with his arms stretched across, and refused to allow her to pass out. Reasoning and entreaty were unavailing, and as a last resort she took up her pail and, to the great surprise of the impolite young savage, dashed the buttermilk all over him. He then beat a retreat, and left her mistress of the field, with only the loss of one bucket of milk. Some time afterward an errand took her among the wigwams, and at a time, it appeared, when the occupants had obtained some "fire-water."* Raising the curtain of their doorway, according to custom, to make an inquiry, the young savages sprang up and threatened her with their tomahawks. She stood and laughed at them, and at length, ashamed perhaps to injure the bold, defenceless girl, they let her pass on and accomplish her errand. This she succeeded in doing, and then returned in safety to the Bryant cabin, glad to have escaped the peril through which she had passed. The heroine of these
*The French traders, it is said, did not sell whisky to the Indians, but other traders and some few settlers did sell to them.


incidents soon afterward married, and became an inhabitant of Lake, having now several grown up daughters, and being the head of one of our well known and highly respected families.

"A still greater peril was experienced by Mrs. Saxton, who became a resident on the Wiggins place. Her husband was away, and she was at home with small children. The evening was cold and stormy, and, as it advanced, an Indian called at the door requesting shelter. At first his request was refused, but one of the children pleaded for him; the storm was pelting without, and he was admitted. He was a young man, and unfortunately had with him a bottle of whiskey. He wanted some corn bread. It was made, but did not suit him. He drank whiskey and was cross. An intoxicated man, whether white or red, is an unpleasant guest. A second trial in the bread line was made, using only meal, and salt, and water, which succeeded better. The Indian talked some, sat by the fire, drank. He went to the door and looked out. Something to this effect he muttered, "Pottawatomie lived all round here; white man drove them away. Ugh!" Then he went back to the fire. A little child was lying in the cradle, and he threatened its life. The alarmed mother and children could offer little effectual resistance. But the Indian delayed to strike the fatal blow. At length he slept. Then the startled mother poured out what was left in the bottle, and waited for the morning. The savage and drunken guest awoke, examined his bottle, and finding it empty, said, "Bad Shemokiman woman! Drink up all Indian's whiskey." He then went off to Miller's Mill, replenished his bottle and returned. Sometime in the day Dr. Palmer came along and succeeded in re-


lieving this family of their troublesome guest. The next night this Indian's father came; apologized as best he could; said that was bad Indian and should trouble them no more.

"One pleasant Red Cedar Lake incident may be here recorded. A party of nine, eight men and one squaw, called one morning at the residence of H. Ball, and desired breakfast. It was soon prepared for them, and all took places at the table and ate heartily. At first only the men took seats for eating, but their entertainer insisted that the squaw also should sit down with them. This caused among the Indians no little merriment. They had brought with them considerable many packages of fur, and as they passed out each one took two muskrat skins and laid them down as the pay for his breakfast. They then went into a little store on the place and traded out quite a quantity of fur. After some hours of trading they quietly departed.

"And still further illustrative of the mode of living and customs of these French-taught Pottawatomies, let us look again upon the village and white family at Indian Town.

"A head man resides there called a chief. J. W. Dinwiddie, his father, and sister, are staying with the Bryant family until their own claim is ready for occupancy. The chief keeps a cow, and so do the whites. The chief's wife would bring up their cow, and also would drive along sometimes the other cow, saying as she passed the settler's cabin, "Here, John, I have brought up Margaret's cow. This squaw had quite a fair complexion, was between thirty and forty years of age, in appearance; could talk some English, and was very kind to the whites. The chief's name


was called Shaw-no-quak. Here was also a dancing floor. The Indians would form in a line for a dance according to age, the oldest always first, the little children last. They danced in lines back and forth. The old chief, a young chief, and an old Indian sat together and furnished the music. This was made by skaking corn in a gourd. The song repeated over and over the name of their chief. After the dance they feasted on venison soup, with green corn, made in iron kettles served in wooden trenches with wooden ladles. The white neighbors present at one of these entertainments were invited to partake. This the women declined doing, which the chief did not like. And thus he expressed his displeasure: "No good Shemokiman! no good! no eat! no good Shemokiman woman!" Then he would pat S. Bryant and say, "Good Shemokiman! Good Shemokiman! Eat with Indian!"

The Indians here, on the gardens, and elsewhere, lived in lodges or wigwams. These were made of poles driven into the ground, the tops converging, and around the circle formed by the poles was wound a species of matting made of flags or rushes. This woven flag resembled a variety of green window shades seen in some of our stores and houses. The Indian men wore a calico shirt, leggins, moccasins, and a blanket. The squaws wore a broadcloth skirt and blanket. They "toted" or "packed" burdens. The Indians along the marsh kept a good many ponies. These they loaded heavily with furs and tent-matting when migrating. They also used canoes for migrating up and down the Kankakee. The village Indians lost some eighty ponies one winter for want of sufficient food. Those at Orchard Grove wintered


very well. During the winter the men were busy trapping. Three Indians caught, in one season, thirteen hundred raccoons. They sold the skins for one dollar and a quarter each, thus making on raccoon fur alone $1,625. Other fur was very abundant and brought a high price in market. They trapped economically until they were about to leave forever the hunting-grounds of their forefathers. They then seemed to care little for the fur interests of those who had purchased their lands, and were destroying as well as trapping, when some of the settlers interfered.

One of these was H. Sanger. He, in company with some others, went on to the marsh to stay the destruction it was said was there going on. He went in advance of the others after reaching the trapping ground, and told the Indians they must cease to destroy the homes of the fur-bearers. He was himself a tall, and was then an athletic man, and said he, "Look yonder. Don't you see my men?"

They did see men coming, and were alarmed, and mentioned to others the threatening aspect of the "tall Shemokiman."

One Indian burial-place has been mentioned, the one at the McGwinn village. This contained about one hundred graves. Another has also been referred to at the head of Cedar Lake. This one has not been specially disturbed. At Big White Oak Island was a third. Here were a good many graves; and among them six or seven with crosses. There were probably others over which the plowshare has passed and no memorial of them remains. At Crown Point was a small garden, and on the height Indians seem to have camped, but no burial-place is known to have been found here. A few tomahawks have been found near the present town."


Few of the Indians remained after 1840, except around Winamac, where they lingered till 1844.

To us the Pottawatomies have left their known and unknown burial places, the names of some of the rivers, "and their own perishing memorials and remembrances as treasured up by those with whom they had intercourse." And few of those who saw them at their encampments, on their hardy ponies, in and around their wigwams, and received some of them into their houses, are living now.

It is only justice that the citizens of Northern Indiana, as was written in 1872, should treasure up and transmit to posterity, among their own records, some memories and incidents of the once powerful Pottawatomies.

Although coming in contact more or less with the Indians for ten years, the settlers here were fortunate, so far as any record has been found, in this respect, that no Indian life was taken by a white man. No murder of an Indian by a settler seems to have been committed, although a settler while hunting came near to taking life unintentionally. What kind of justice would have been administered here in case of the murder of an Indian is uncertain.


The early settlers found here some well marked or well trodden pathways, trodden apparently by human feet and pony feet, but not by buffalo feet, to which the name was given of "trails."

This word as often used by hunters and frontier men denotes the slight trace that is left where a wild animal or a man has passed but once, and to follow


such a trail is not an easy matter; but it is also used to denote a narrow pathway that may have been trodden a hundred or a thousand times.

One well defined trail, called the Sac Trail, as made or as supposed to have been made by the Sacs in journeying from their eastern to their western limit, passed across La Porte, Porter, and Lake counties, and as the ground was well chosen it became the line, occasionally straightened in the years of advancing settlement, for the main eastern and western thoroughfare from Michigan to Joliet. To see in one continuous line, living and moving westward now, the Indians that during their occupancy had passed along it, and then, after them, the white covered wagons with ox teams and horse teams that from 1836 till even now have passed along that roadway, would be a sight, a procession, worth going many miles to see.

Southwest a short distance, that is, a few miles from Kouts, two trails coming together, crossed the Kankakee River, at a good river and marsh fording place. Traces of some kind of earthworks, covering four or five acres, were found there in 1836, to which the early settlers gave the name of fort, conjecturing that it was once a French fort, when Tassinong first was named. A well-marked trail came up from the Wabash River called the great "Allen trail," passing near the present town of Francesville, and crossing the Kankakee, probably, at this fording place where the trails just mentioned divided.

These seem to have been the larger trails. From the Sac trail one led off, passing near the Lake of the Red Cedars and across what was named Lake Prairie, to the Rapids of the Kankakee, where is now Mo-


mence. And passing by the old Baillytown one seems to have passed near or along Lake Michigan to Fort Dearborn, now Chicago. Traders, travellers, scouting parties, and frontier-men, passed along these trails before the wagons of the pioneers widened them out with their wheel tracks. 



Transcribed by Steven R. Shook, April 2012


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