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.






Extracts and statements, quoted and abridged, from an address, by Solon Robinson, delivered before the Lake County Temperance Society in the log court house in 1847. Historical. Early settlers. 1. The Bennett family opened a tavern on the beach of Lake Michigan "near the mouth of the old Calumie," the date supposed to be 1832. 2. The Berry family opened a tavern on the beach in the spring of 1834. 3. Four or five families settled as squatters in the fall of 1834: "Thomas Childers and myself in October. He a day or two before me. His claim southeast quarter section 17, mine northwest quarter section 8." November 1, "Henry Wells and Luman A. Fowler came along on foot." Their horses had been left on Twenty Mile Prairie. "Cedar Lake was then the center of attraction for land lookers, and they passed on down to that lake without thinking to inquire who kept tavern there." They found lodging in a fallen tree top still covered with leaves, and had for supper "the leg of a roasted 'coon." They found there David Hornor, his son Thomas, and a relative named Brown, who were looking for claims and who settled in 1835. Wells and Fowler returned next day to the Robinson camp, slept that night on "the softest kind of a white-oak puncheon," bought claims and "two log cabin


bodies built by one Huntley," on the south half of section 8, paying for these claims $50. Henry Wells went back to Michigan for his family. Luman A. Fowler staid through the winter. "During the first winter we had many claim makers but few settlers."

4. "The first family that came after Childers and myself was that of Robert Wilkinson" of Deep River. "He settled about the last of November, 1834."

5. The next family, that of Lyman Wells, with whom came John Driscoll, settled in January, 1835, on section 25, township 33, range 9. April 4, 1835, "there was a most terrible snowstorm, the weather previous having been mild as summer."

Until March, 1836, the nearest postoffice was Michigan City. Solon Robinson then appointed postmaster. His office was named Lake Court House, written usually Lake C. H. Receipts for quarter ending in June, 1837, $26.92; September 30, $43.50. For the next two quarters $57.33, and $57.39. This last the largest amount while he was postmaster. Next postoffice west was Joliet.

"In the spring of 1836 we were attached to Porter County the commissioners of which divided this county into three townships." The county was organized in 1837. Log court house built in 1837. "During the summer of 1837 we had preaching several times at our house and in the present court room."

"The Baptist people at Cedar Lake also had frequent meetings this year, and I think had preaching at Judge Ball's who settled there this year."

"The summer of 1838 was one of severe drought and great sickness."

Muskrats went to houses to seek water. "One of them came into my house and never so much as asked


for a drink of whisky," but went direct for the water bucket.

In 1839 the county seat was located at Liverpool. The seat of justice had been fixed by the legislature temporarily at Lake Court House.

In March, 1839, the land sales opened at La Porte.

In June, 1840, county seat re-located. Contest mainly between West Point at Cedar Lake, and Lake C. H.

"The county seat was then permanently located where it now is in June, 1840."

"There are four principal streets running north and south." "There is a very large common or public square in the center that never can be built upon, and an acre of ground devoted exclusively for the court house and public offices."*

"November 19, 1840, the first lots were sold at auction * * * and from this time the town of Crown Point dates its existence."

"The town is laid out upon sixty acres, twenty acres of Judge Clark's and forty of mine."

A house was soon built in the new Crown Point. "I built it for Elder Norman Warriner in the spring of 1841, and he was the first minister of the gospel settled here, and I believe in the county."

"In June, 1841, three individuals made the first effort to form a temperance society here. Your records will show that it was carried into effect, and the celebration of the Fourth of July with cold water and a picnic dinner was the happiest one to some
*The large court house now in the center of that "public square" shows how little founders of towns can control the future of their towns.      T.H.B., 1900.


three hundred men, women, and children, that I ever saw."

"In the spring of 1842 Mr. Mills built his large tavern house in Crown Point, and opened a store in one end of it and a very bad whisky shop in the other. I cannot say that this improvement has ever improved the morals of the place." In 1842 a frame school house, the first, at Crown Point, was built. In 1843 Elder Warriner went to Illinois. M. Allman came to Crown Point. This year two church buildings were erected, the M. E. church at West Creek, the German Catholic on Western Prairie, the latter having a bell.

These extracts give some of the valuable historic facts contained in that quite lengthy address. One, at least, of those who heard it delivered is living yet, and he has not forgotten the circumstances of its delivery, the interest with which many listened to it then, and the value which, we were then told, would, in after years, be attached to such records.

Fifty-three years since then have passed, and little could that then white-haired man have thought that one of his young auditors would, after many years, look over with interest that preserved manuscript, and make a faithful effort to transmit the facts recorded, as well as a just representation of the one who recorded them, into the coming years of the twentieth century. And not the records of the early years of Lake County alone, but that with them would be combined by his then youthful friend, now gray-haired and well advanced in life, what he could find of seven other counties also; to go down, perhaps, to another generation. What use may be made of what is left by any one in manuscript or on printed page no one can tell; and so one lesson plainly is that we should not write,


however carelessly or hastily, what might harm or do injustice to another.

See in regard to Solon Robinson a notice elsewhere in this chapter.


A Fourth of July celebration was held in the bounds of Starke before the county was organized, in either 1848 or 1849, the locality being near the present Toto. The company could not have been very large. They had a warm dinner. The cabin where they met seems to have had two rooms, they had tables from which to eat, and after dinner they danced. She who, as a young girl remembers the circumstances, was born in 1840, was then living in Pulaski County came into the new county of which her father became a resident, in 1851, and is now a resident in the town of Knox.

A celebration in Jasper County, at Rensselaer, is thus narrated by Judge Thompson: "In 1843 we had a Fourth of July celebration, with a two-story quilting, the reading of the declaration, and a sermon under an old oak standing in what is now Washington street." The first real celebration at Crown Point, which was in 1841, was referred to in Solon Robinson's historical address. One at La Porte in 1837 has been also placed in these records.

In the Standard, the Baptist paper published at Chicago, date July 7, 1900, an account is given of a celebration in Lake County, under the heading, "The Fourth of July in the West in 1848," by "M. J. C." It occupies nearly an entire page of that large and widely circulated paper. It is too lengthy to be reproduced here, but some of those who have read it,


not knowing where that celebration was held, will be readers, it is hoped, of this book also, and will recognize the quotations inserted here.

This was a celebration by a New England family, a family usually numbering from ten to twelve inmates, and for this occasion the Standard story says, "some neighboring families several miles distant had been invited, making about thirty persons in all." Reluctantly omitting the many preceding sentences, the following is quoted: "The resources for preparing a feast in that western home were wonderful. Two large old-fashioned fireplaces could roast and boil, and a 'rotary' stove, brought from Buffalo when moving West, had a capacious tin oven of three pieces, which could be put on top, and seven or eight loaves of bread, or a cake two feet across, could be beautifully baked, the whole top of the stove turning with a crank to bring any part over the fire."

The various sets of dishes are then described, the light blue dinner plates, and the dark blue ones, and the "light brown of beautiful design," and "the big platters and lovely tureens, and the dessert plates of light blue with scalloped edges, and the white china with gold bands,", -- some of these sets "seldom used, and all brought from the East a dozen years before." All mention of the rich dinner and the exercises of the day must be omitted, and one other statement only can be added, that a good display of fireworks from Chicago closed up this memorable day.

The mention of the fireworks suggests this record, that just ten years before this time, July 4, 1838, the oldest brother of "M. J. C." had celebrated his "fourth" with a display of fireworks not obtained in Chicago, but brought from the Eastern home, fur-


nished by a good uncle in New York city when Roman candles were a new invention; and that with his fireworks of various kinds he caused a suspension, for a time, of a Fourth of July dance near by his home; and that, probably, so he thinks, he presented the first display of fireworks ever exhibited in Lake County. Those fireworks his young sister did not see, for it was the year before her bright presence gladdened that Indiana home, that his private celebration was held.

These five early celebrations, each different from all the others, may serve as illustrations of many others in those earlier years.


The following account is taken, with very little change in the wording, from a memorandum found in an old record book, the handwriting of which gives assurance of its perfect accuracy, but whether the incident occurred at her own home near Wheeler, or whether, which is more probable, at the home of her friend who makes the record and who was much interested in bee management, is not certain. This is the record: In 1844 Almira Harris was stung on the temple in the morning by a bee returning to the hive. Her whole system was immediately affected and in a few minutes the flesh was swelled even to her toes, and the skin presented a shining, red appearance similar to the hives or mad-itch, and her face was so swelled that she could scarcely see. She was in great pain, particularly in the stomach, and in a few minutes was unable to sit up, and probably would in a short time have died without a remedy, an antidote to the poison. Several supposed remedies were used in the hurry and alarm of the family, but without any benefit


and having heard that the oil of cinnamon was good for snake bite, some one proposed to try that now. About fifteen minutes had already passed. From appearances she could not have lived but a short time, as spasms were coming on. Three drops of this oil on sugar were given, and the good effect was immediate. The relief from pain was so sudden that it was with difficulty she was kept from fainting. The swelling immediately began to subside but it was two or three days before she entirely recovered.


That along the Kankakee River, near the wet lands, and on the timbered islands or sand ridges, sportsmen and trappers have for many years had temporary homes, has been more than once mentioned. Some records in regard to the wild fowls here and the fur bearing animals will be found in other connections.

A few miles south of Crown Point, when the prairie was open and wild, there were some small marshes where a few hundred wild geese would often stop for a few hours' rest or for forage. It was autumn. Two young men in a wagon drawn by two horses, one reputed lazy but quick enough in his actions when startled, were returning homeward across this then open prairie. A woman was also in the wagon. As they approached one of these small marshes they saw a few hundred geese sitting or probably standing on the newly formed ice. They had with them one double-barrel gun, loaded for geese. The ground near this marsh was rendered quite uneven by small bogs or bunches of earth and grass, formed, no one knows how, and now frozen quite hard. But the temptation was great. One of the young men


took up the gun. The other drove the team along the jolting edge of the marsh. At length, coming within about ninety feet of the wondering geese, the young man with the gun shouted, the geese arose in one black mass, both barrels of the gun were discharged, that lazy horse and the other started on a keen jump, the woman fell from her seat into the wagon, the young man with the gun instantly fell to the bottom of the wagon box, and the other wound the lines tightly around his hands, braced himself against the front of the box, and as the wagon bounded from bog to bog, gave his attention to the horses. He succeeded after a time in checking their fearful speed. The horses were brought to a halt. Then they turned back to look after the results. They found five large, fat wild geese fallen to the ice as the result of that risky shot, a shot which might have caused the loss of limb or life, had not the driver succeeded in arresting the progress of those frightened, plunging horses.

But a hunter or a sportsman will risk much rather than lose the chance of a good shot.


A sheriff of Pulaski County some thirty-five years ago was Alonzo Starr, in 1843 having come from Genesee county, New York, and settling or a farm in Lake County, when in October, 1852, he was married to Miss Ruby Wallace of South East Grove, and after some time removed to Francesville and in 1865 to Winamac and was elected sheriff, which office he held for two terms. He was considered one of the best informed Free Masons, "when it came to the workings


of that order in Northern Indiana." He died in 1898 seventy-six years of age.

In 1872 ten families owned about one-sixth of the area of Lake County; and six families, so near as an estimate could be made, owned one-tenth, in value, of the real estate of the county. At that time A. N. Hart of Dyer held the largest number of acres, about 15,000, which lands were supposed then to be worth a half million of dollars. About 1892 a thousand acres of that land was sold for a full hundred dollars an acre. At that time Dorsey & Cline, non-residents, held as much as 10,000 acres, and G. W. Cass, also a non-resident, held of Kankakee marsh land nearly 10,000 acres. Since then, great changes have taken place through all the Kankakee region and the Calumet region. The Lake Agricultural Company, composed of heirs of General G. W. Cass, a leading member of the company, William R. Shelby of Michigan, still own a large portion of the Cass land.

Of individual owners now John Brown, President of the First National Bank of Crown Point, has 5,300 acres of this marsh land, and W. M. White, a nonresident, has the second largest amount, holding about 1,300 acres. In the Calumet region on Lake Michigan, the Chicago Stock Yard Company hold about 4,400 acres. A few quite large farms remain in the central parts of the county; but several large tracts of land, since 1872, have gone into the hands of many owners.

The, settlements in La Porte County, amid the many beautiful lakes, along the small, rich prairies, and in the dense forest growth of its tracts of choice


timber, made rapid progress. Says General Packard, so generally accurate and reliable in his statements; "In the spring of 1834 the county exhibited marked progress and prosperity. Roads had been laid out in all parts of the county, schools were opened, many broad acres were under cultivation, courts of justice were established, numerous houses were erected in La Porte and Michigan City, modest farm houses dotted the prairies in every direction, and the tide of immigration was rolling in unchecked. The comforts of life were fast being added to the mere necessaries; and contentment and happiness took up their abode in the dwelling of nearly every settler."

The record is that settlers came into La Porte County rapidly in 1834 and 1835; but it should be borne in mind, when reading General Packard's beautiful description of prospering settlers, that settlements in Porter and Jasper, in Lake and Pulaski and White, were only beginning or scarcely even beginning in 1834, and that those pioneers had to pass through many years of privations and hardships before it could be said of them that "contentment and happiness had taken up their abode in the dwelling of nearly every settler," that is, contentment in the sense of having their main wants supplied.

Settlements on the larger prairies, and certainly in Lake County, were not made to any extent by the pioneers.

And the same was the fact in Jasper County. Judge Thompson says, that the prairies in the early days were considered wholly unfit for human occupancy. "The pioneers uniformly settled in or near the groves and along the streams." In 1856, he says, "the dryest season ever known," the people first learned the


value of the prairie lands, even the mucky prairies, and after that year the population and wealth of the county rapidly increased.

In that same year of 1856 a settlement was made near the center of Lake Prairie in Lake County by families from New Hampshire bearing the old and honored names of Little, Ames, Gerrish, Peach, Morey and Plumer, some of them descendants of the noted martyr, John Rogers of Smithfield. Their pastor, Rev. H. Wason, settled in 1857. A school house was built, school and church life commenced, and houses and fences and orchards soon changed the appearance of the late open prairie. In 1870 no range for stock was left. Robinson Prairie, northeast from Crown Point, was nearly all enclosed in 1871, and the broad sweep of that prairie, nine miles across, south and southeast from Crown Point, was for the most part enclosed by the end of the year 1872. As late as 1866 a party of young people endeavoring to reach Crown Point from Plum Grove, spent a good part of one night in vain attempts to find their way where there were no fences, no houses, no works of men to guide them.

The smaller prairies of Porter County, Horse Prairie and Morgan Prairie, and Door Prairie, Rolling, and Stillwell of La Porte, were enclosed earlier.

Settlement and rapid growth, as has been fully seen, commenced in the north part of La Porte County about 1830; but the extreme south part made very little advance until the railroad period opened. That which is now called Dewey township was for some time a part of Starke County, and afterward was a part of Cass township, and was set off as an independent township and named in June, 1860. Much of this


township and the south part of Hanna, the part in township 33, were in the Kankakee Marsh Region, and so gave little inducement for settlers until railroads and ditches opened up this now inviting region. Settlement commenced in Dewey in 1854 and the settlers were mostly Germans. Early family names are: Schimmel, Schauer, Besler, and Lougu. Names of later settlers are, Rudolph, Rosenbaum, Kruger, and Wagner. Much of the land is held by non-residents, as has been the case to quite an extent through all of this valuable region.

The railroads and the ditches, the advance forces in leading on to settlement and cultivation, have made a vast change in the Kankakee Valley since 1850.


As late as 1845 members of the Ball family on the west side of their Red Cedar Lake set up a row of poles, with white flags on the top of each, through the center of Lake Prairie from north to south, so as to enable them to keep near the same line in crossing over that unbroken prairie amid its immense flower beds and its thousands of tall polar plants. It was nine miles across from north to south, and from east to west across the more central part the prairie ridge was high so that one could not see more than four miles off when standing on the general level of the prairie at the north. While this prairie was thus open and was burned over every fall by the fires that came up from the Kankakee Marsh, there was on one winter's morning, to the children and other people who observed it, a strange and an interesting sight. Along the marsh shore line, at the south, on sections 3 and 4 and 5 of township 32, range 9, were groves, or


stretches of woodland, one especially was at that time called the Belshaw Grove. Across the center of that prairie, as already implied, the horizon line seemed to touch the prairie. In the summer it was a line of green grass, miles away; in the winter it was a line of brown, burnt prairie surface, or a line of snow. On this special morning E. J. Farwell, riding over from his home near the Illinois line, announced to the members of the Ball family, living on the northwest quarter of section 27, that groves were in sight, woodlands, all across the middle of their prairie. They looked and to their great surprise, beheld the Belshaw Grove, which some of them had learned well to know, and woodland further west, standing in bold outline across that open prairie line, as though some wondrous power had, the night before, raised them up bodily and set them down in the middle of what was the day before open prairie. They looked and wondered. The scene was grand. The prairie was smoothly covered with a newly fallen snow; the sun came up bright and warm for the time of year; and then and there those favored children had their grandest object lesson on the refraction of light. Before noon of that day those groves disappeared and nothing could be there seen on which the sun was shining but the spotless snow. But, before the sunset of that day came, again those groves appeared in sight and remained until the prairie was covered with the dusk of the evening. Those children never saw those groves in the middle of that prairie again, and they knew, when then they saw them that they were in reality out of sight.

Note -- Illustrating the statement that the larger prairies were not settled by the early pioneers, is the following personal reminiscence:


It was not until 1845, having had a home on the edge of Lake Prairie for more than seven years, and having become quite well acquainted with the central parts of Lake County, that I first crossed the nine miles of open prairie between my home and the southern Marsh border, or Shore Line, I crossed it then on horseback, in the summer time, on one delightful afternoon, with a fair-haired, lovely girl, two years younger than myself, who was entering even then, unknown to any, upon the last year of her short life. She knew the way and I did not. Our horses went over beautiful flower beds that day. We went up to the crests of the long slopes and down into the valleys of that gently rolling prairie -- beautiful it has always been called -- miles away from houses or fences or human beings, with the loveliness of nature around, and over us the protection of God.


Note. -- Of the first settler, at what is now Crown Point, some special statements may justly be made. There are not many living now who know much about him, not any, except a few of his own family who knew him very well. He has a daughter now living in Crown Point, Mrs. Straight, and a daughter in Chicago, Dr. L. G. Bedell, one of the noted physicians of that great city, some grandchildren and great grandchildren living, but few of these were much acquainted with him. Having known him better than most of those now living, and having been intimate with some who did know him well, I have very certain knowledge as to the statements here made.
                                T. H. B.

Born October 21, 1803, in Connecticut, spending


some years in Jennings County, Indiana, he came with a young family into Lake County in October, 1834. His wife was a superior woman, born near Philadelphia. He was active in forming the Squatters' Union, was their first Recorder of Claims, was Clerk of the Circuit Court of Lake County, was general manager of the Board of Commissioners, (there was then no Auditor), and controlled so largely the affairs of the early settlers that he acquired the title of "Squatter King of Lake." He was the first postmaster and continued in office till 1843, and in company with his brother sold goods to the Indians and to the first settlers. "He was affable, familiar, plain, hospitable, kind, and accommodating," enjoying the wielding of influence, fond of gaining celebrity. He became quite a writer, an author, two stories, "The Will," and "The Last of the Buffalos," being among his earliest publications, before he left Lake County. After having a home in Crown Point for about thirteen years he went to New York and was for some time connected with the New York Tribune. He there wrote "Hot Corn," "Green Mountain Girls," and "Me-Won-I-Toc, A Tale of Frontier Life," the scene of which, like that of "The Will," was laid in Lake County and touched the Lake of the Red Cedars.

Besides these few facts of a long and varied life, the following statements are here added; added because by some who did not know him, who never shared the hospitality of his home, who never met with him in temperance work or in literary societies or in building up the life of a young community, his real character has been misapprehended and inaccurate statements concerning him have been publicly made.

He was not a professed Christian man, not a


church member, not what is called a religious man; but he had been too shrewd an observer of men and things, long before he settled in Lake County, not to know and to acknowledge how useful and needful in social and civil life, were the restraints and blessed influence of Christianity. And one of almost his first acts in securing inhabitants for the county seat was obtaining the residence in it of Rev. Norman Warriner from Red Cedar Lake, providing for him and his family a home very near to his own home and providing ways to help in his support. Thus, in the very beginning of the life of Crown Point as a county seat a resident minister was secured through the efforts of Solon Robinson. As early as 1837 his own house and the log building which he had erected for a court house were opened for preaching. Acting in concert with Judge Hervey Ball he was instrumental in the purchase of a library for the village from a colporteur of the American Tract Society. A Sunday school, which his children from its beginning attended, was started in the log court house about 1840 through the efforts of Rev. N. Warriner and the Baptists of Prairie West and of the Lake and of Rev. J. C. Brown and a few Presbyterian women, in which school, after the arrival of Rev. M. Allman in 1843 the Methodists also united. A temperance society was also organized in the court house by Rev. N. Warriner, Solon Robinson, and Judge Ball, in which those of all denominations and creeds represented in the community united. An Evangelical Library Association was formed by Rev. W. Townley, Rev. M. Allman, "S. Robinson, H. Ball, and a few others."

A strong temperance man, intelligent, talented, a fluent speaker and an easy writer, whatever eccentric-


cities of character he may have possessed, and whatever skeptical doubts in regard to Christianity he may have entertained, the founder of Crown Point, Lake county's "Squatter King," did not undertake from even the very first to build up a town on infidel teachings. He was far from undertaking to do that. Whatever unbelief or skepticism there may be in Crown Point it is not to be traced back to any teachings given by Solon Robinson.

Like his hand-writing, which was clear and distinct, much of which written in 1836 with good black ink is now in my possession, so his name is indellibly written, plainly, distinctly, in the history of Crown Point and of Northwestern Indiana; and as the "original projector of a National Agricultural Society," so far as I may be able, having known him quite well from 1837 to 1847, I wish to see that there is done to his reputation no injustice. In closing up his last address to the members of the Lake County Temperance Society in 1847, he said: "And as for myself I will ask no prouder monument to my fame than to be assured that the members of this society will stand as mourners around my grave and, pointing to the lifeless form beneath the falling sods, shall truly say, 'There lies a brother who in this life had an ardent desire to promote the happiness of his fellow creatures.'" In one of his many published articles he had taught: "Happiness and not wealth should be the aim of all, though no man should allow himself to be happy without he is doing some good in the world -- promoting the happiness of his fellow creatures as well as of himself."

Spending many years in New York city, acquiring there quite a reputation as a writer, he at last made a home near Jacksonville, Florida, where he died in 1880, at the advanced age of 77 years. 



Transcribed by Steven R. Shook, April 2012


CSS Template by Rambling Soul