Complete History of Porter County, 1878A history written by Hubert M. Skinner . . . .
This following history of Porter County, Indiana,
was published on January 15, 1878, by Hubert M. Skinner in the Valparaiso
Messenger. It is the most thorough written document covering the history of
Porter County at such an early date; Porter County had only been in existence
for slightly more than 40 years when Skinner's history was published.
Skinner, Hubert M. January 15, 1878. Complete History of Porter County, Indiana. Valparaiso, Indiana: Valparaiso Messenger.
An Introduction to Hubert Marshall Skinner
On January 15, 1878, Hubert Marshall Skinner [born 1855, died 1916] published the history of Porter County, Indiana, for the Valparaiso Messenger, a relatively new local newspaper. He attempted to capture the historical development and culture of the county from the early exploration days of the English, French, and Spanish, to the contemporary period of the history’s publication in 1878. Skinner’s writing is the first major historical work covering the history of Porter County. In fact, pieces of his 1878 history can be found directly quoted within the Weston A. Goodspeed and Charles Blanchard Counties of Porter and Lake, Indiana, published in 1882, as well as in The Lewis Publishing Company’s 1912 History of Porter County, Indiana.
It is believed that a significant portion of Skinner’s Porter County history was written for the 100 year anniversary of America’s independence in 1876. The July 13, 1876, issue of the Porter County Vidette states:
"The history of Valparaiso which appeared in our city on the fourth
of July deserves more than passing notice, and should be in the
possession of every family in this vicinity. No time or research has
been spared to make it authentic in all particulars, and the reader
gets a condensed pen picture of succeeding events that took place
here from the first settlement of the country down to the present
time. The author, Mr. H. M. Skinner, is well known as a historian,
and was probably better fitted for the work than any other person.”
Apparently, not everyone felt a high or worthy regard for Skinner’s effort as a historian. Frances Rose Howe, the granddaughter of the first permanent white settler in Porter County, Joseph Bailly, writes in a letter dated December 27, 1915, to Caroline M. McIlvaine:
“Do you know a certain Dr. Herbert (or Hubert) Skinner who
poses as a historian? He is too funny for any use about our
family. He says ‘he has always taken the greatest in our family.’
If so why has he never called at Bailly Homestead. If I invite
him, he always want to plunge into a wilderness of the Dismal
Swamp variety and come on horseback through a net work of
- Chicago Historical Society Archives
Despite Frances R. Howe’s perception and general disregard for the historian, Skinner was likely to have been keenly aware of the historical developments of Porter County and an able writer of them. Mention of Skinner’s 1878 history is made in the 1912 History of Porter County, Indiana, where it is written that although the Skinner history is a “small work,” it “shows much careful research and investigation.”
It is worthwhile to note that while Miss Howe was a granddaughter of one of Porter County’s most prominent settlers, it is estimated that she spent much less than one-half of her life in Porter County. Her family resided in Chicago during her youth, where her father was a prominent banker. Miss Howe also traveled extensively for long periods of time; for instance, she once toured Europe and the Holy Land with her mother, Rose, and sister, Rose F., during her youth for five consecutive years. She also maintained a winter residence in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Most notably, she was part of a much higher social class that only a handful of Porter County residents could claim. In this regard, Frances R. Howe was likely to be a very disconnected member of the general society and culture of Porter County. Despite their historical distinction in Porter County, there is scant mention of the Bailly and Howe families in the Porter County newspapers published in the 1800s.
Skinner’s Porter County history published here was retyped from a copy obtained from Franklin College, located in the town of Franklin, Johnson County, Indiana. The Franklin College copy was a typescript that was donated to the College by Roger Branegen on June 26, 1968. Several minor errors in the Franklin College typescript have been corrected in this version; most notably the correction of transposed letters in some words. The version of Skinner’s historical work presented here is identical in all other respects to the Franklin College typescript.
Steven R. Shook
January 15, 1878
COMPLETE HISTORY OF PORTER COUNTY, INDIANA
Written expressly for the Valparaiso Messenger, –
By H. M. Skinner.
As the history of New England properly commences with the landing of the
pilgrims upon Plymouth Rock, so that of Porter County, a part of the ancient
Pottawattamie land, opens with the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers upon the sands
of our Northern shore.
Day by day, perhaps week after week, the frail barks of the voyageurs had floated upon the bosom of the Great Lakes, their companies viewing no sail and hearing no sound save the voices of the waves and of the birds which flew overhead. Various were the motives which prompted the voyageurs to leave their sunny France and the Canadian settlements to traverse the unknown expanse of these inland seas. Venerable fathers of the church, with snowy locks and weird, sable robes, bearing the rosary and the crucifix, were among the number and directed the course of the bands. These came to publish to the children of the forest the principles of Christianity and to build up the church in the new-found world. Others there among them who acted from the scarcely less laudable motive of patriotism and endeavored to secure to France and to the King allegiance of the western tribes of Indians. Others, still, came for the purpose of buying furs and bartering with the natives of the lake shore, while some may have been led to join the expeditions from the mere love of adventure.
Pottawattamie land stretched away across the horizon before the voyageur barks, glistening with the hills of snowy sand, and barring their course. The shore belonged to the Miami Confederacy, and formed an important part of the great republic of the aborigines, which exceeded in extent of territory our great State of today.
From the Pottawattamies these voyageurs received a cordial welcome as they debarked from their small boats and reached the shore. The strangers visited their camp fires and their dwellings. They told to attentive ears the story of the Cross. They related tales of the grandeur and power of the King of France. They exchanged trinkets and blankets for the more valuable furs and then with many an injunction as to the importance of preserving and adhering to the true faith, again repaired to heir vessels and sailed to the Northward.
There was no good harbor to be found within our county's limits, and the voyageurs sometimes repaired to the Calumet River and followed up the stream in their little boats, or left their barks in the St. Joseph and traveled over the shore. The names of the leaders of the first expeditions are unknown – are hidden away from the mortal view, perhaps, in the musty old manuscripts in the royal vaults of France. From about the year 1650 the voyageurs came and went, though at first very rarely, in their expeditions to our shores.
In 1672, two men, well known to history, arrived in the region of Porter County, and are supposed to have traversed the northern shore and to have passed down the Kankakee. These were Father Claude Allonez and Father Claude Hablon, the former a celebrated missionary of the upper Mississippi, the latter Father Superior of the Canadian Jesuit Missions.
In the summer of the next year, the oar of the European again stirred the waters of the dark river, as a party of seven explorers, led by the illustrious Father Jacques Marquette, rowed the stream in their canoes, returning from their Mississippi expedition. They landed at the headwaters of the Kankakee, and traveled over the marsh of the St. Joseph, which they reached at a point two miles distant from the site of South Bend. From this point they went to Green Bay. Late in 1674, Father Marquette again started South with two white companions and a number of friendly natives, but he was detained by sickness at the site of Chicago, where he passed the winter. Next year he went south, but his frame was unequal to the tasks imposed on it by his unwearied soul, and he soon found his end was near. Northward with his faithful companions, hastened the dying missionary, who desired to see Mackinaw before it might be too late. But Father Marquette never reached his earthly destination. He passed through our region in his last sad journey, and died upon the wild shore of Michigan, while upon his knees in prayer.
Four years later, in 1679, a famous expedition passed down our historic river. There were a number of celebrated men in this company. First among these was the leader of the band, Robert Cavalier, (Sieur de la Salle) a French nobleman. The famous Hennipin was among the number, as were also the Sieur de la Motte and the Sieur Chevalier de Touti, the lieutenant of the expedition. With about thirty followers these famous explorers in light canoes paddled down the Kankakee, in the fall.
In the next year the commander passed on foot through this county with three companions, to Frontenac (now Kingston), and in 1682, having collected his scattered men, he again sailed down our winding river. The eventful history of LaSalle and his followers imparts interest to all the regions through which they passed. Before the century closed, a number of missionaries, traders and explorers had visited the Indians of this section, and, not withstanding their many discouragements, had baptized a large number and instructed them in some of the arts of civilization. In 1679, before passing down the Kankakee, Sieur de la Salle had erected a fort in Michigan, near the mouth of the St. Joseph and a permanent mission was there established. At this point French traders resorted and bartered with the natives of the region far around, a constant intercourse being kept up between the fort and the region of Porter County.
Chardon, a learned man and one who possessed a rare talent for learning languages, came in 1711 to the St. Joseph region. Chardon was a man of great command and ability, and soon acquired a powerful influence over the Pottawattamies of this vicinity and that of the fort.
He had been among them only a year, when he learned terrible news from his friends at Detroit. They were shut in and surrounded by a large force of Fox Indians. Chardon made a moving and effective appeal to the natives. From various regions round about they answered his call for large parties of the residents of this territory repaired to his post and proceeded against the besiegers. They were successful. Large numbers of the Foxes were killed, many were carried away captives and the rest were obliged to retreat across the lake to Wisconsin.
Such an event as this was well calculated to deepen the mutual regard of the French and the natives, and strengthened the friendly ties which long existed between them.
For years afterward the Detroit war filled the land with its renown. How the old and young warriors parted from their wives and sweethearts, to march to the rescue of the French; how they journeyed over the hills and prairies, and through forests and across the streams; how they scattered the beleaguering tribes like the leaves of the autumn; and this was related like tales of the old crusades.
During the succeeding century and a quarter, while the natives remained in this vicinity, the name of Chardon, was reverently remembered being associated with the glories of the Detroit war.
In 1721, Father Charlevoix came to a fort on the St. Joseph and landed the destinies of the lake shore. Father Charlevoix was exceedingly displeased with the liquor traffic which was carried on by the French and English traders with the natives. When the Indians of this section returned from their trading expeditions, they proceeded to revel in debauchery until the store was exhausted.
The first century of European influence in Pottawattamie land passed away. Nearly all the natives of this region were now to some extent Christianized, and many of the prominent men spoke the French language with fluency, while a very large number were familiar with fragments of French prayers and snatches of song. The surplus products of purchase were regularly carried to the appointed markets and exchanged for trinkets of rum. As a general custom children were baptized and prayers regularly said; but the religion of the Pottawattamies produced only slight restraint upon their customs and mode of life.
The period of the voyageurs is the Heroic Age of the history of this county. Its heroes are more worthy a place in our memory than were the Argonauts of old; and yet, but few of their names are to be found, and these only in musty and unread books. The poet has given us no song for which to sing their praise. But as we view the streams where once their paddles swept, and as we walk the sands once hallowed by their footsteps, we find ourselves involuntarily repeating the words of Puritans, now more applicable than to their own subjects:
“Aye, call it holy ground,
They sail where first they trod.
They have left unstained
What there they found–
Freedom to worship God.”
THE POTTAWATTAMI REVOLT
In the early settlement of this continent, while the English were seizing and
monopolizing all the fair regions of the Atlantic coast, and only permitting the
French to settle in the cold lands of the St. Lawrence or the hot deltas of the
Mississippi, the French conceived a magnificent scheme. By paddling up these
rivers and sailing over the great lakes, they had got behind the English, and
now held the dearest portions of the continent. The distant colonies at the
river paths were connected by a long chain of forts and trading posts, and the
French had the good will of all the natives. This was a great work by the
In 1754, war broke out between the English colonists of the East and the French settlements of the West – a long and bloody war for the supremacy in the New World. In this French and Indian war, as it is called in history, the aborigines joined with the French to resist the encroachments of the British. The seventh year of the war, 1760, was one of overwhelming defeat to the French and resulted in the surrender of all the French possessions east of the Mississippi to the English.
Pottawattamie land thus became a British province. Garrisons of English soldiers were stationed in all the forts which the French had previously held. Traders of both nationalities now appeared among these regions. The French, however, had the advantage of their masters in spite of their reverses. They understood the Pottawattamie tongue and wielded a strong influence which they had acquired by long association with the natives.
They now began to form a grand conspiracy. The great Miami confederacy had been overthrown and divided, and the various tribes were without a common leader. The French succeeded by their secret influence by arousing a strong national spirit among all the tribes of a wide region, and a readiness to rise and throw off the British yoke. Cautiously and stealthily the French intriguers stole through our forest and prairies, and in low and cautious tone plotted with the men of Pottawattamie land. Many a spot where now gleam lights from peaceful homestead windows, council fires were lighted and plottings were conducted beneath the whispering leaves.
Could our trees and our hills tell what they have known in those days of dark conspiracies, what tales could they relate! Half a century had passed since the Detroit war, whose traditions now led the natives to desire a repetition of its military glories.
Soon a great leader appeared among them – Pontiac by name, He was a man of great ability, as his works will show. His love of his men and agreeable French friends was only equaled by his hatred of the English and their domineering ways. His conspiracy was well planned and arranged in secret. A simultaneous attack was to be suddenly made on all the British forts in the West. While the great conspiracy was being formed, the tribes pretended to be well disposed toward the British, and succeeded in concealing their designs and preventing all suspicion over what was being done.
The splendid career of Pontiac is related at length in larger histories. We have here room to record only the events connected with our own region. There still stood an old fort to the north of the present site of South Bend. The fort was scarcely worth the name, since it consisted merely of a rude house of the commander, Lieut. Schlosser, surrounded by palisades. A party of Pottawattamies were detailed to take this post. This section took a prominent part in the enterprise. It was on the 25th day of May, 1763, that the plan was put into execution.
The band of Pottawattamies arrived in he vicinity of the post, and secreted themselves for a time in the woods. Fourteen soldiers were at the garrison and were able to make a strong defense if not taken off their guard. A favorable opportunity was, the gateway being for a time unfastened, at a given signal the party of Pottawattamies rushed into the fort, and once inside the palisades, were masters of the situation.
A wild scene of triumph followed on that eventful evening and the half savage revels were prolonged far into the night. “Fire-water” was seized and freely drank. The hated “red coats” were at the mercy of their captors. This one of the many memorable military exploits of Pontiac's war was a success and inspired a hope of the success of Miami arms in all the confederacy. The warriors of this county returned, elated with victory, from the second of the wars in which our region participated.
Though the great conspiracy was successful in some places, it met with several disasters and was length overthrown, when the garrisons were replaced in power.
THE SPANISH INVASION
For eighteen years after the capture of post St. Joseph, the Pottawattamies
remained at peace with the whites, and prospered, while no event of great
importance, except perhaps, the boundary war, interrupted the quiet monotony of
At the end of this time, 1781, Pottawattamie land was invaded, from a new quarter. From St. Louis came a band of Spaniards under Don Eugenio Pierre to seize the southern lake region in the name of the King of Spain. The march of Don Pierre overland from the Mississippi was made early in the year and amid the storms of winter. The commander seems to have been a bold, daring man, and one well fitted to lead such an undertaking, attended probably, with all the gaudy and brilliant trappings which were the invariable adjuncts of Spanish expeditions, and possessing great tact and skill in influencing the minds of others, Don Eugenio succeeded in inducing a force of sixty Indians to join his band. The Spanish expedition came up the shore of the Illinois river, taking normal possession of all the land through which it passed. It is not improbable that the passage through the Pottawattamies’ land was effected by water, as at that season the Kankakee would not likely have been navigable.
The principal Indian trail lay through Valparaiso – a street is now pointed out as the path – and here it is probable that the Spaniards marched.
The Pottawattamies were informed that the King of Spain was hereafter to be their ruler; but whether they sullenly acquiesced or heartily rejoiced in this overthrow of the British dominion, we are uninformed. The garrison on the St. Joseph capitulated to the invaders, and the flag of Spain waved over the stockade.
The inhabitants of this region now passed under the sway of the third of the great powers who were struggling for possession of the great continent.
Meanwhile, a fourth power was rising in the South. The thirteen colonies of England, east of the Alleghenies, had arisen in a formidable revolution, and were, in a fair way to achieve their independence. Nor did they fight for themselves alone. Virginia sent out armies to reduce all the British forts in the Northwest, and to take possession of the country. Vincennes and Kaskaskia had fallen before the forces of the Republic in 1779 – two years before the arrival of the Spaniards, and Detroit remained the last stronghold of the British in the lake region.
Don Eugenio did not remain at St. Joseph, but returned to St. Louis, expecting that in a final settlement by the different nations at the conclusion of the hostilities, the claim of Spain to the territory would be sustained. Again Pottawattamie land passed under the control of the English, and so remained for about fifteen years. In 1796, on or about the 12th of July, Detroit was formerly yielded by the British to the American garrison, and the region of Porter County, with all the lower lake border, became in reality a part of the United States.
We have thus traced the colonial history of the territory or of our county – a history extending over the space of more than a century and a half – giving the more important events of this period, as we have been able to collect them from the sources of information at our hand. As has been seen, this territory has successively belonged to France, England and Spain, each of which nations has maintained a garrison in the vicinity, and for a time held undisputed possession of the region.
THE BOUNDARY WAR – A legend.
The boundary war, which was fought by the Pottawattamies and the neighboring
western tribes, upon Morgan Prairie, was a struggle upon which the natives of
this section ever reflected with fond pride, as it resulted in the complete
triumph of their strategy and power in arms. For a long time there had been
between this tribe and a neighboring one a dispute as to a boundary line. The
excitement ran high and it finally became evident that only a test of arms could
decide the question.
It was agreed that these battles only should be fought, and the victorious part in two of these should be adjudged the conquering side. Both parties made preparations for the approaching conflicts. The Pottawattamies assembled in large numbers at “Eton’s Crossing” of the Kankakee river, a place of great strategic value, as it commanded the only point where the river could be crossed for many miles up and down the stream. Leaving the greater part of the force at this place, the leaders decided to deceive the foe by a display of weakness, and advanced to the first conflict with but a few followers. They met their adversaries to the north of the Morgan Prairies, and after a short conflict, wheeled about and fled from the enemy who were highly elated at their easy victory.
For the next battle the Pottawattamies strained every nerve. They were to conquer or fall with its tide of success or defeat. It must be the former. With all their force, and full of hope and pride, they again sallied forth from Eton’s Crossing. The enemy were equally sure of victory, and it was this confidence which caused their ruin. They drew up in order of battle on the prairie valley, and a volley was poured forth from the muzzles of their muskets. Many a brave fell on every side and the contest was dreadful. After a sturdy fight, the enemy fled and the victors kept up in hot pursuit. The fugitives passed over the county in their precipitate flight, through forest and prairie and stream. Their pursuers followed up the victory, and followed at the heels of the flying tribe for many miles. Garie’s river was reached and here it was decided that the Pottawattamies should forever remain masters of all the regions east of that point. The old fort which stood at Garie’s river witnessed the parting of the conquering and the conquered tribes, at the place where in future years was to stand the great city of the West, and where, in the much near future, was to transpire one of the most mournful acts in the drama of our history. Back to Eton’s Crossing went the victorious Pottawattamies, where the revels of victory followed the labors of the battle and march. The bodies of those who had fallen were buried near that spot by the winding river, and today are found their remains when a spade turns up the sods of the shore.
As we have seen, the territory of Porter County became the undisputed possession
of the United States in 1796. Seven years later, the government determined to
establish a new fort upon the lake. General Wayne had previously purchased the
natives of the southern lake region a tract of land six miles square, at the
mouth of the Chicago river. Here stood an old dilapidated fort, built, no one
knows by whom or for what purpose. It may have been a fortified trading post of
the French in times long past. Certain it is that a Frenchman named Garis
occupied it for a long time, and save his name to the stream which flowed by,
and the north branch was long known as Garie’s river.
In 1803, the government decided to build the new fort at this point, and entrusted this work into the hands of Col. John H. Whistler, of Detroit. In the same year the troops of this commander passed through the region of Porter County, over the old trail to the Garie fort.
Col. Whistler made the journey by water. A vessel of the United States, the “Tracy,” under Captain Dorr, was placed at his disposal, and in this Col. Whistler and his family took passage and sailed the Great Lakes to the new harbor. This was probably the first sail vessel which ever entered the Chicago river. At the harbor, the vessels partly met the troops who had made the passage by land.
During the next year 1804, the forts rose upon the lake shore and an extensive trading post was established. From the first, Fort Dearborn exercised an important influence upon the region of Porter County, becoming the principal market and depot of supplies. The trails leading to the post became roads of regular travel and numbers were constantly passing to and from the fort.
On the shores of the Calumet and the Kankakee, native trappers and hunters resorted, and gathered large quantities of valuable furs. Upon some of our prairies corn was raised in considerable quantities. These formed the staples of trade among the Pottawattamies and were regularly carried to the trading post at Fort Dearborn.
The transportation of the grain was generally conducted by means of ponies, which were very common among the natives of this section. The corn was packed in sacks, which were woven of bark with no little skill, and which proved to be very serviceable receptacles of goods. Another mode of transportation was by means of canoes over the lake. Lake transportation by this means was long conducted by one Alexander Robinson, who was partly French, partly English and partly Indian in nationality. He was in the employ of John Jacob Astor, the great New York fur dealer, and carried on an extensive business in that line. His headquarters were at Fort Dearborn, but he made long journeys into the regions far around, hunting, trapping, and transporting corn and furs.
One of the most prominent of the Fort Dearborn traders was a Joseph Baies, or Baille, who was associated with Robinson in the agency of Astor. He eventually became known as one of the most widely known pioneers of northern Indiana, and the earliest white resident of Porter County. Col. Whistler and Joseph Baille have a place in history as the founders of the great city of the lakes. The fortunes of the two families were afterwards united, as the son of the builder of Fort Dearborn, upon attaining manhood, gave his hand to a beautiful daughter of the French pioneer and became identified with the early history of Porter County.
Col. Whistler did not long remain in command at Fort Dearborn, but was succeeded by Captain Heald under whose command the most fearful destruction overtook the post. From its first establishment Fort Dearborn became the residence of a number of French and English families, and a little community was thus formed, shut off and isolated from the great world without.
To detail all the events which led to the massacre of the garrison and residents of this post would require more space than we have to devote to this subject. In 1805, an Indian of the Shawnee nation, named Lalewaska, established a town near the present site of LaFayette, and assumed to be a prophet, taking upon himself the name of Opendoor. From the first he was regarded with superstitious veneration by all who knew him, and he passed over wide tracts of country, issuing his divine commands and hurling innuendoes against unbelievers. The influence which he ultimately acquired was immense and far extended. His brother, Tecumtha, was not less famous, and wielded a powerful influence over the native tribes. As war with Great Britain became imminent, British agents and speculators began to encourage the ambitious designs already formed by the two brothers of reclaiming the lands of the Northwest, and establishing in its ancient power and pride the Miami confederacy. A conspiracy was formed, like that of Pontiac, only more open and defiant, and incendiary leaders, Emissaries of the Opendoor, traversed the country, arousing in the natives a spirit of hostility to the government.
THE TWO TRAGEDIES
There were two men who worked with all possible energy to defeat the schemes of
the Prophet and Tecumtha. These were Governor Harrison and the chief Winamac.
The former sent constant messengers from among the French settlers of the South
through all this region, counseling peace and hope through their strong
influence to disarm all hostile feelings. The latter, one of the noblest of his
race devoted all his efforts to securing peace. In May, 1810, an immense number
of Pottawattamies, a large number of whom were only prevented from joining the
Cow Pastures on the St. Joseph and were only prevented from joining the
followers of Tecumtha and the Open-Door by the pleading eloquence of the
For a time, the war cloud passed over, and even Tecumtha did not counsel hostilities; be he waiting for a more favorable opportunity when the British should have declared war. He departed in July for the South, in order to develop his schemes for a great confederacy. While he was gone, Open-Door sent out his messengers to Pottawattamie land, calling upon all the natives to join his standard. A large number of the inhabitants of the region of Porter County formed in the line of march and passed down through the prairies and marshes of Eton’s Ford, and thence to the prophet’s town. Winamac was sent to Governor Harrison with a message of peace and the crafty prophet was now free to effect his purposes.
As the tribes prepared for the war, the wives and children were sent to the North for safety, Many were hid in the caves near the site of the town of Winamac. Others came in large numbers to the Kankakee swamps, and remained secreted in its recesses to await the tide of war. Hundreds of defenseless women thronged the shores of our historic river, and waited through weary days of watching and long nights of pain, fainting from hunger and fatigue, for the return of the braves, many of whom were never to come. The result of the battle of Tippecanoe is well known. With broken ranks and heavy hearts the betrayed and defeated Pottawattamies returned to their homes. Many regretted their acts against the American; but many others were incited by the crafty British to a desire for revenge. Dark grew the prospects of the young nation, and ominous forebodings clouded the future of the defenseless, doomed Fort Dearborn.
Again the Pottawattamies of the southern lake region seemed about to rise to a bloody revolution, as in 1812, war was declared against Great Britain. Mutterings of discontent were everywhere heard. One morning an Indian named Winnemeg, was seen rapidly traversing the lake shore, on the way to Chicago. He bore to the garrison at that place an order from the commandant to leave the fort and repair immediately to Ft. Wayne. It was madness to obey such an insane order, and as Captain Heald read it to the soldiers, they remonstrated, well knowing that they would only invite a massacre by an attempt to pass through the country. Heald, however, had a singular faith in the Indians of this section and determined to place himself under their protection, offering them a large reward if they should conduct him in safety to Ft. Wayne. He called a council from all the neighboring Pottawattamie towns, but appeared among them alone, for the soldiers would not trust the Indians enough even to enter their council circle. They had rightly been informed that a massacre was intended, and when the Captain entered the council, turned upon the party their loaded cannon ready to fire at a moment’s warning. This caused the intended butchery to be postponed.
The Pottawattamies of Porter County were left in great suspense. Many were friendly to the garrison, and knew of their danger. Perhaps Winnemeg, the messenger, had revealed his message to his friends as he passed through. Some of the numbers of the council at Chicago were undoubtedly from this region. One day after the council, a party of fifteen Miamies, with one white, rapidly passed over the trail to Chicago. It was Captain Wells and a party of friends who were advanced to the fort. Wells had heard at Fort Wayne of the peril at Chicago, and started heroically to save his sister, who was with the garrison. No more noble man ever pressed the soil of Porter County.
The scenes at Fort Dearborn at the evacuation beg description. It was upon one of the most glorious days of the year – August 15th. The sun rose over the mirrored surface of Lake Michigan in unclouded splendor and bathed the sand hills in its golden glow. Amid martial music the garrison went forth from the fort upon its perilous journey. Scarcely had gone a mile when the massacre begun. Capt. Wells formed the troops in line where they fought gallantly until two-thirds of their number were killed, when the survivors surrendered with the promise of their captors that their lives should all be spared. The promise was broken. Capt. Wells’s horse was shot from under him, and has he fell, some Pottawattamies ran to finish their work. Winnemeg and Wahansee also ran forward to protect him. As they were extricating him from the saddle, another Pottawattamie stabbed him in the back, and he died in the arms of his friends.
The captives were parceled out among their captors and remained with them a year. After that time, many were led through the country to Detroit, where they were ransomed. Many of the Pottawattamies showed great bravery in defending their friends from injury. The history of the Fort Dearborn massacre, which we have not space to give in full, is one of the saddest pages of history. It will ever be read amid fast and falling tears.
Four years passed away over Pottawattamie land and Indiana became organized as a
state. Fort Dearborn was again garrisoned and the horrors of the dreadful
massacre passed from the public mind. The French still held the ascendancy in
influence in this region, and were held in the highest regard by the natives.
Immense fortunes were now made by the traders with the Indians in all parts of the West, and early in the century two men acting in this capacity became well known and remarkable for their wealth and influence through all the lower lake region. These were M. Joseph Baille and M. Pierre F. Navarre. In accordance with the general custom among traders both married daughters of native chieftains. After traveling through many parts of the Pottawattamie territory M. Baille settled at a place called Bailey Town which is still a well known point in our county while M. Navarre repaired to the banks of the St. Joseph river.
M. Baille (or Bailly, as he was generally called) was a native of France and a devout Catholic; and while he mingled freely among the children of the Forest and adopted many of their rude ways yet he ever retained his French taste and culture and served greatly to advance the state of his ruder companions. His home became the most popular resort of the natives for many miles around, and of French missionaries from all parts of the State. It was in 1822 that he first settled at Bailey Town, and for the next ten years he was the only white man within our county limits. Madame Bailey spoke the French with fluency, but adhered to the manner and dress peculiar to her own nation. When missionaries arrived at the mansion of the celebrated pair, mass was held, and various religious duties performed.
As we have said, M. Bailey was for ten years the sole white person in the county of vicinity. In the extent of his power and influence and in all but in name he was a sovereign. His house was always thronged with guests from his friends of the native tribes, and from among the missionaries and travelers who passed between Chicago and the East. In 1831, a mail line was established between Chicago and Detroit, and the Chicago and Detroit road was marked out. The mail was carried in knapsacks by two soldiers, who traversed the old pathway which the devoted Winnemeg trod with his fatal message to Fort Dearborn. This road lay through the territory of the present township of Jackson, Portage and Westchester and formed the northern trail of the aborigines. It connected with a point near Twenty Mile Prairie with the southern routes which passed over Valparaiso, and over which probably marched the Spanish soldiers of Don Eugenio.
Of all the old native villages, Bailey Town is now of historic interest. Tourist and wandering Indians still pause occasionally to review the grounds, and to accept of the courtesies of Mrs. Howe and her daughters. It is redolent with the memories of the past.
Missionaries from distant France have awakened echoes from its palls and woods by their masses and vespers of half a century ago. Statesmen and warriors of the old times have met here, and at this place center all the strange tales of our gold age. But beyond this, previous to ‘22, and over the long years where history does not reach, associations and events had rendered sacred the site of Bailey Town, which is today regarded by the remnants of its tribes in the far West much as is Jerusalem, by the descendants of her once great people.
So much interest attaches to the history of this first permanent settler and his family, that we have decided to present here a brief account of the Bailey children. Joseph Bailey had four daughters, who were possessed of remarkable beauty and intelligence. They passed their earlier years in the homestead at Bailey Town; but their father was ambition for their future, and determined to give them the advantages of thorough education and culture. As they grew older he determined upon sending them to New York. He purchased a sloop, and was thus enabled to traverse the broad lakes at will; though without availing himself of this highway he would have been shut off from all the civilized world without means of rejoining it. Eleanor, the eldest, took the veil, and was for long years Mother Superior of St. Mary’s Schools at Terre Haute. The second daughter became acquainted with Mr. John H. Whistler, of Detroit, a son of the famous founder of Chicago. Both, at the time, occupied the highest social positions among the people of the West, and were widely known. Acquaintance led to an engagement, and the son and daughter of the famous pioneers were united in marriage. They lived at times in Detroit and Chicago, and then in Porter County, where a section of land was given by the government, to the lady, and they became quite wealthy. Mr. Whistler was at one time the one of our county commissioners.
The third daughter married a Mr. Howe, one of the first bankers of Chicago, and upon his death was left in independent circumstances. After holding for a long time a high position in the society of Chicago, she retires to the home of her youth which is still in her possession. She returned, in 1875, with her two daughters from a European tour of three years. The youngest daughter of M. Bailley was Hortense. She was possessed of remarkable beauty and a finished education. Many of our older residents remember her, as she was accustomed to ride to town frequently to transact business with our county officers. She was married to Mr. Joel Wicker, a leading man of this county in his day. Her dowry was said to have consisted in large wooden measure filled with coins, together with the section of land which was given to each of the sisters. Mr. Wicker was the first to open a store at Deep River. Hortense died many years ago, we believe, at Chicago. Her aged mother survived her until ten or eleven years ago, and was at the time of her death the only remaining Indian of the county.
THE SETTLERS OF 1833
The year 1833 was an important era in the history of this county, as it marked
the advent of the first white families or the East. During this year a stage
line was established over the Detroit and Chicago road, and coaches passed over
the country three times a week. The first settlers to arrive were two brothers
named Morgan, who came early in the spring from Wayne County, Ohio. These
brothers, Isaac and William, located upon the beautiful prairie which had been
the scene of the Boundary War, and which still bears their name. Late in April
came H. S. Adams, together with his mother, his wife and three daughters, and
encamped for a time on what is now Sec. 9, Morgan Township. In June arrived
George Cline of Union County, Indiana, Reason Bell of Wayne County, Ohio and
Adam A. Campbell, of Chautauqua County, New York. These last repaired to Morgan
Prairie, where they were soon joined by others, and the work of the Caucasians
was soon visible in various parts of that section. The settlers encamped until
their rude camps were erected, which was not long as “log rolling” was common,
and mutual assistance was freely given.
The pioneers of Valparaiso arrived this year in the persons of Hon. T. A. E. Campbell and one Peter Pravonzy. The former, a descendent of the Ducal family of Argyll, of England, selected his residence upon the site of our present city. His mansion of today is of the most elegant structures in the county. Peter Pravonzy, a Russian, started a trading post in the fall, selecting for its site a point, in or near the limits of our present town of Chesterton.
Pravonzy’s principal article of traffic was whisky, which he sold at a dear rate to the natives from far around. Mr. Hardesty, a historian to whom the writer is much indebted in the preparation of this work, states that eleven barrels of this “firewater” were disposed of in one winter among the natives, a that while great care was taken to prevent harm from drunken revels of the inebriate wretches yet in one instance a life was lost in consequence or intoxication. One native was stabbed with a cheese knife in a drunken spree.
Mr. Ruel Starr was one of the most noted settlers of this eventful year. He remained in this county until his death, in 1875, at which time he was the wealthiest man of this county.
The settlers or 1833 made many friends among their Indian neighbors, with whom they lived on terms of mutual regard. Some of these pioneers learned the simple Pottawattamie tongue, and this served to deepen their friendship. It is pleasant to contrast this record with the bloody histories of less favored settlements, where deeds of violence have marked long reigns of terror.
THE LAST YEARS OF THE POTTAWATTAMIES
The history of Porter County under he aborigines is told. The great Miami
Republic fell before the Republic of the East, and it became the obvious destiny
of the natives to yield to the strongest race. The cession of the territory of
this county was peaceably arranged in October, 1832, and the Pottawattamies
agreed to relinquish the territory when they should be called on to do so.
Pottawattamie land was one of a number of rudely organized states, belonging to
the Miami confederation, and while represented in all the general councils, was
independent concerning her local laws and government. The chief of the State at
that time as M. Alexandre Robinson, of whom mention has been made. This
remarkable man was of combined English, French and Indian nationality. He was an
able ruler, reflecting in marked degree the characteristics of the three races
to which he belonged and peculiarly adapted to his position. He was elected to
his place of almost absolute power over all the Pottawattamie tribes in the year
One of his most noted acts was the assembling of a general council at Fort Dearborn during the Black Hawk War. Again, in 1836, he assembled his tribe, to the number of five thousand, in Chicago, for the last time. He was known to his people as King Che-che-bing way. The towns of the natives were all much alike, and consisted of very little that was permanent, as the inhabitants were exceedingly migratory in their habits. At times these villages were almost deserted as the old and the young men of the tribe went away upon their numerous trading or hunting expeditions. At other times the places would be thronged by several hundreds, and upon the return of these expeditions would present a scene of gay festivity. The features which gave permanence to the town were the dancing floors, which were carefully prepared for the purpose. The burying ground in the vicinity, and the patches of corn which surrounded the spot. The inhabitants always returned or departed silently and in the night. The squaws and children remained in the town, engaged in various domestic occupation. The leading town in the region of Porter County was at the residence of Joseph Bailly, as we have said. Here the natives for far and wide purchased whiskey, sold their furs and assembled to perform their religious duties. Here, at intervals, cam the devoted Bishop of Vincennes, Right Reverend Father Maurice de St. Palais, journeying all the distance from Vincennes, via Bambonais’ Grove upon horseback. Bishop St. Palais was a splendid man, of commanding and lofty men. The reverence in which he was held by the natives of Pottawattamie land is difficult to conceive. Many hundred thronged to Bailey Town, upon his approach, to be present at the celebration of mass, and as he approached, riding upon his white horse, escorted him to the Bailly mansion. Upon one occasion, after the early settlers had arrived here, Mr. Thomas A. E. Campbell, of Valparaiso, a tall gentleman rode upon a white horse to Bailly Town. He was seen from a distance, and soon it was reported that Father St. Palais was coming. The news spread like wild-fire, and Mr. Campbell found his arrival greeted by a joyful gathering of hundreds of natives.
One mile to the East of the site of Valparaiso was Chiqua’s Town, so named from the chief whose headquarters were there. Being once seized with the ague, an ailment almost unknown to the tribe, Chiqua lay for hours at a time almost submerged in the pond which still remains in that vicinity. Upon losing a favorite son by death, Chiqua refused to ever again to enter the dwelling where they had lived. Skeewah’s Town, another place of residence and rendezvous, named for its principal inhabitant, was located on Crooked Creek, near the site of the late Mr. Wilson Malone’s residence.
On the site of City West, was an old Indian barricade, to which the natives repaired in times of danger from the tribes that passed along the shore. Tassinong, at present a small village in the South-Eastern part of the county, was an ancient village where the French had established a trading post in long years past – before even the Pottawattamie revolt.
Shanoquac’s Town, near the present village of Deep river, was another old village of the natives. Near it was a huge mound, twenty feet tall, and shaped like a sad iron, from the highest point, the sides descend in a regular slope to the prairie. They are about ten rods long. At the apex is an enormous well, twenty-five feet in diameter, and of fabulous depth. The cavity is not yet wholly filled up, though the debris of large clearings have been thrown into it, and it has stood for so many years. Here seems to have been a sort of water-cure establishment, with cavities in the rocks for heating water and steaming the patients. Mr. Simeon Bryant located his farm and built his cabin near this town, and though at first disliked by the natives as an intruder, won their regard by many acts of kindness. A girl of about eighteen years was once stopping with the Bryant family, and was much annoyed by the pranks of the native village boys. Once while she was at the spring house, a young native refused to let her pass out. She dashed a pail of buttermilk over him and made her escape. At another time, while upon an errand at one of the wigwams, she was threatened with death and averted it only by a forced appearance of gaiety and of confidence in them. Madame Shanoquac was, at the time of the early white settlements, about forty years of age, of a fair complexion, and probably of some French blood. She spoke French and English, and was much loved by her white neighbors, showing them many favors. Chief Shanoquac was fond of the dance and had a fine dancing floor. After these entertainments, supper was served, consisting of venison soup and green corn. It was made in iron pots, and was eaten with wooden ladles from wooden vessels.
The lodges of the Indians were constructed of long poles planted in circles in the ground with covering tops, and covered with barks, skins, or woven rush matting which resembled a present style of window blind. The dress of the men consisted of shirts, moccasins, leggings and blankets. The squaws wore shirts and blankets. In many places, the natives owned large numbers of ponies, which were of much use to them. The residents of Shanoquac’s Town lost sight of these in one winter, from scarcity of food. Over the old Sac trail, the Sac tribe passed annually to Canada, where they received pay from the agents of the British government. A number of barricades were found scattered through the county by the early white settlers of this county, as the Pottawattamies were much alarmed by the threats of these annual visitors. We have thus presented an account of Pottawattamie land as it appeared at the times of the earliest immigration to this region.
THE SETTLERS OF 1834 AND 1835
Of the many pioneers who joined the settlers of '33 during the following year,
we can mention but a few. As a class, they were men of sterling worth; and
though not known to history, as the Pilgrims of the Mayflower, yet they were men
upon whom the younger generations may look back as proudly as do the sons of New
England upon the Pilgrim Fathers. Jesse Morgan, the third of the brothers of
this name, took up his residence on the stage road, to the North, and afterwards
kept the Porter County stage house. William Thomas, father of Mr. E. N. Thomas,
now of Valparaiso, came and settled in the vicinity, and was married to the
daughter of Jesse Morgan. Mr. William Gossett came and settled in the northwest,
where is now the post-office of Salt Creek. Early in the Spring A. K. Paine
built the first house in the region of Jackson Township. Hon. Jesse Johnston
came during this year, and took up his residence near the town of Chiqua. He was
our first Probate Judge, Hon. Theophilus Crumpacker, our present Representative,
immigrated from Virginia. Mr. Jacob Wolf arrived during this year, with his
sons, Josephus and John, the former of whom is now one of the wealthiest men in
our county, and the latter, at the time of his death in ‘74 was a citizen of
large wealth and influence.
Jerry and Joseph Bartholomew, whose sons are among the most prominent citizens of today, also arrived in ’34. The Hurlburt brothers, Jacob and David, moved to the vicinity of Twenty Mile Prairie, which was then an inland lake with occasional islands. Mr. William Frame and Mr. A. Stoner repaired to Porter Twp. Mr. Reason Bell, our present Auditor, who was born on the 11th of Jan. ’34, is said to have been the first white child born in this vicinity. His father, Reason Bell, Sr., resided at this time on what is now Section 15 of Washington Twp. Mr. John Fleming of Union Twp. was also born during this year. Hannah, a daughter of Jesse Morgan, the first native white daughter of this region, was born on Feb. 11th. The government surveyors, Messrs. Polk and Burnside arrived during the present year, and the lands lying South of the Indian reservation were laid off in sections. Jen. J. Foster and others laid out the town of Waverly, two miles east of the site of Chesterton, but it proved a failure.
A number of immigrants came in ’35 to this county, several of which still remain. Among them are Mr. Putnam Robbins, of Portage Twp, who came from Massachusetts; David Hughart, now of Valparaiso, came from Virginia; E. P. Cole, now of Liberty, formerly of New York; and Hazzard Sheffield; a Rhode Islander, now of Portage Twp. Among the names of immigrants of this year we find also those of Allen B. James and Peter Ritter, of New York; the Baum brothers of Penn., G. W. Patton, of Ohio, and George Z. Sayler. In this year was the sale of lands at the town of LaPorte. Nearly all men of this county and a number of Eastern men were present, and made large purchases, and those that had held their lands for two years by the loose tenure of squatter possessions, received a better title. During this year, the town of Porterville, on the site of the old Catholic cemetery was laid out, but was never destined to prosper. The Hoosier’s Nest, in Portage Twp. became a promising village at this time. Mr. David Oaks, a fellow student and room-mate of Millard Fillmore in other days, came during the year ’35 to this county. Here he remained until ’74, when he and his illustrious friend departed from earth together. Mr. Oaks was one of the wealthiest, best and most influential citizens during all the long period of his residence here.
THE COUNTY ORGANIZED
In 1836, begins the history of this region as a county. Early in the year, the
General Assembly passed a bill defining the boundaries of a new county west of
LaPorte, and giving to the county, thus formed the name of Porter, in honor of
Commodore Porter, who so distinguished himself in the naval conflict of the war
of 1812. In accordance with this act, Governor Noble appointed Benjamin Saylor,
Sheriff, with full authority to effect the organization of the county. Sheriff
Saylor called an election in March, which resulted in the following list of
officers; Commissioners, John Sefford, Benjamin N. Spencer and Noah Fouts;
Treasurer, William Walker; Recorder, Cyrus Spurlock; Clerk, George W. Turner. On
the 12th of April the commissioners met in their first session, at the home of
Mr. P. Ballard. Mr. Turner and Sheriff Saylor were present. Seated around the
table with a map of the survey before them, the commissioners first divided the
county into ten townships – Pleasant, Boone, Washington, Center, Union, Portage,
Jackson, Liberty, Waverly, and Lake. Waverly and Lake are no longer found upon
our map, but in their places were find Westchester and Pine, Porter, Morgan, and
Essex have since been carved out of other townships, so that the topographical
appearance of our county is now quite different from what it was in that early
day. Of all these divisions, only two, Jackson and Morgan – were named in honor
of early settlers. Having drawn their map in Mr. Ballard’s kitchen, the board
proceeded to levy taxes, and to appoint officers to various post of duty. Two
and one-half percent was the amount of tax levied upon property, and the poll
tax was seventy-five cents. Sheriff Saylor was appointed collector of revenue.
The following men were summoned to appear as jurors, at the approaching term of the circuit court.
Wm. Thomas, Samuel Olinger, Wm. Gossett, Joseph Wright, Samuel Haviland, James Walton, Asabel Neal, James Spurlock, John Bartholomew, Thomas Adams, Reason Bell, Peter Cline, Royal Benton, William Clark, William Trinkle, Robert Wilkinson, J. Todhunter, and W. Snavely.
Wm. Downing, Elijah Castell, Asabell K. Paine, Jesse Morgan, Henry Adams, Lewis
Comer, John Jones, Charles Allen, David Bryant, Solon Robinson, R. Frazier,
Joseph Wiley, Wm. Brim, Richard Hanthorne, Theophilus Blake, Wilson Malone,
Isaac Morgan, Warner Winslow, Adam S. Campbell, Jesse Johnstone, Wm. Frame,
Abraham Stoner, James Ross and John McConnell.
On the following morning, the board again assembled, and ordered an election in all the townships, of Justices of the Peace. The 30th of April was the day appointed. Among the officers appointed by the board were George Cline, Peter Ritter and Adam Ault, the first county Assessors.
The commissioners met again in May, when the Treasurer, Benjamin McCarty, reported that he had as yet received no money. Sheriff Saylor was appointed collector of taxes. Frances Wiley procured a license to retail liquors in Bailey Town, paying therefore the sum of ten dollars. Mr. Samuel Haviland was granted a tavern license at the same price.
The board assembled for a third time in June. Indeed, their sessions were held regularly every month, with but few exceptions, for three years.
In June, Messrs. W. L. Earl, Matthias Dawson, and Judah Leaming were appointed a committee to locate the county seat. There were two towns then existing only on paper, which became rivals in the struggle for this distinction – Portersville, now Valparaiso, and Portervill, about two miles to the west. The struggle was hotly contested. So determined were the proprietors of Portersville to succeed that they offered to the county as an inducement, the streets, the alleys, the public square and every alternate lot, as a gift. This town secured the choice of the committee, and became the county seat in the fall. The first session of the circuit court was held in the house of John Saylor, where the Empire Block now stands. The house was built of rough boards with wall of brick inside. Judge Samuel C. Sample presided, with dignity and ability, and was not at all adverse to imposing fines for many breach of decorum.
Thinking the court adjourned a gentleman once entered the room with a pitcher of whiskey, of which his Honor was very fond. The gentleman was somewhat abashed, but his Honor amended the matters by roaring out: “This court stands adjourned until that whisky is disposed of.” The court room was very small and the jurors passed out to the site of the T. G. Miller building, and held their deliberations under a large burr oak tree. It was a cool, damp morning in fall, and a log fire was started near the council tree. A rain came up before the deliberations were over – The indictments found were few, and for trivial offenses. The first civil cause tried was that of William P. Morse vs. Francis Wiley, on a note. The plaintiff failed to appear and was accordingly non-suited. After a session of three days the court adjourned until the next April.
On the last of October, a town at the county seat was recorded by Benjamin McCarty, and named Portersville.
The earliest buildings were erected about the square. They were not of logs as were the first structures of LaPorte.
With rare enterprise, two mills had been erected upon Coffee Creek by Justice Elijah Castell and Messrs. Brown and Morgan. Lumber was cheap, especially since that of which Valparaiso was built was all stolen. Non-resident speculators had purchased timber lands, and so thoroughly were these men detested as a class that it was deemed almost pious to steal their timber. Dr. Seneca Ball, afterwards Judge and Representative, was one of the first merchants, and built his store at the north-east corner of the square. At the same time Jeremiah Hamill, another incomer, built one where now stands the Hamill House. On the east of the square, Wm. Walker began to build a hotel, which still stands just north of the alley, and Abraham began to build the Valparaiso House. On the south side Wm. Bishop kept store in a house of William Eaton, just east of the alley, and here in 1838 the first sermon was preached by Elder French.
The late John Wolfe, of this county, was once offered, for a steer, several acres now in the heart of Chicago, but refused the offer to his ultimate grief.
About the year, 1836, City West sprang into notice. For ages, perhaps, an old Indian barricade had stood at this point where a winding stream breaks through the mountains of snowy sand. Over the beach had for ages passed the journeying bands of natives from Michigan land to the westward, off from the country of the Illinois to the East, and the palisaded station of the Pottawattamies had guarded the land from aggression by the traveling tribes. This spot was selected by a number of capitalists as a speculative point, and every possible endeavor was made to secure appropriations from Congress, and to enlist in the enterprise of building, the great city of the lakes, the people of the regions far around. Messrs. Hobart and Bradley, two capitalists from the East, were the prime movers in the enterprise, and expended many thousands of dollars. Lots were staked off on the sand; dwellings arose in numbers upon the shore; stores and shops were built, and lighters were constructed. Residents took up their abode in the village by the shore, and anon white sails glistened over the waves. But no propitious gales blew over City West. Henry Clay’s influence was exerted in vain, as the national appropriations were long withheld from the lake harbors.
The village could only depend upon commerce for support, as her beautiful hills were as barren of agricultural wealth as the sands of the African Sahara. Only disappointment was in store or this city by the sea and it became abandoned. Soon not a soul was to be found upon the shore. Silent shops and tenantless dwellings stood in lonely rows like tombs in a city of the dead and the shore knew only the noise of the chiming sea as the waves broke and foamed upon its sands. Occasionally the fugitive criminal, the benighted traveler, the straying party of pleasure seekers sought hospitality of these gloomy structures. Pillagers came and carried off from there all valuables which could be detached; thoughtless boys crushed the glass of the darkened windows; and the wayfarer left fires upon the hearths which caught the timbers and lit up the lake with a conflagration. Soon all was destroyed. Some years after, a pier was built and some traffic in lumber began at this point. Still, the pier stands as the years go by. Fresh timber fall and the waves are wearing away its foundations. It is a pleasing custom of the students and alumni of the High School to resort thither in the summer season, in their picnic parties. Many of them have shown remarkable daring in springing from timber to timber, where the connection was broken and passing themselves above the deep surges. Two sad events are connected with this place. The burial of a chieftainess of the aborigines in 1838, and the death of Erwin Bentley by the explosion of a steam engine in 1869.
[Note: There is no Chapter Twelve in this copy.]
In 1837 the name of the county seat was changed form Portersville to Valparaiso.
The county being named for Admiral Porter, the town was named for the scene of
his celebrated naval battle – The Chilean Valparaiso. Hon. T. A. E. Campbell
designed the county seal which represents the ship “Essex” which Porter
commanded. The word “Essex” could formerly be read on the ship; but the later is
worn by long use, the name no longer legible.
The first court house built during the year, by Solomon Cheny and others. The money for this enterprise was raised by subscription. The building was erected on the site of the Frank Hunt building, west of the square next to which it still remains, and forms now the saloon of Philip Bayer. The building was for years our temple of justice, and was hallowed by Christian worship. A jail was built during this year by Sheriff Saylor, the funds being likewise raised by subscription. The jail was built of logs of oak, and had a frowning and most uninviting look. The first liquor saloon was opened in Valparaiso by Abraham Hall, during the year.
Lake County, which had hitherto been attached to Porter for the purpose of government, now became independent of the latter.
In 1838, the residents of the county were startled by two horrors – the Staves murder and the burning of City West. It was one day in the spring of the year that two men, A. M. Pelton, of LaPorte County, and Francis Staves, his guide, were riding over this county over an old Indian trail. The treacherous guide shot his companion from his horse, and mangled his remains with a bludgeon. His only object was to obtain Mr. Pelton’s money, in which he succeeded. He was in a dense forest, and he had little fear that his bloody deed would be discovered. The body of his victim was covered with brush and his assassin fled. An Indian discovered the body and his tribe immediately revealed the fact to the whites, who determined upon speedy vengeance. Staves was soon captured in Michigan City. His trial was characterized by great interest. Circumstantial evidence was very strong against him, and he was found guilty, and sentenced to be hung. To the last moment he denied his crime and expected a pardon or reprieve, even while upon the gallows. The scene of his execution was the north- west corner of lot #2, block #8 of the original town. He was the only man who ever suffered capital punishment in this county.
During all this year the old stage line between Detroit and Chicago was abolished and a similar one was instituted between LaPorte and Joliet, running through the Vale. The summer of this year was very hot and but little rain fell. The winter which followed was mild and pleasant.
In 1839, two missionaries came to Valparaiso and later established the first churches. These men were Rev. Dr. James C. Brown and Rev. J. C. Forbes; the former a Presbyterian and the latter a Methodist. On horseback they traveled, and endured all kinds of weather. At every house they called, and from every hearthstone rose the voice of Christian prayer. Fr. Brown sleeps beneath the shadow of the great obelisk marble in the old cemetery, but Father Forbes still lives to bless and to admonish the old and young.
LIFE IN THE THIRTIES
Perhaps the most interesting branch of history is that which refers to the
manner of life, and the social customs of the people. Could the younger
generation of to-day view the scenes of early pioneer times their astonishment
would be great indeed. During the 30’s the society of our county consisted of
mingled races. To the immigrants it was a life of novelty and adventure which
opened up before them. The incomers halted their jaded teams, and encamped upon
the prairies until their rude cabins were built. These were low structures and
but few if any elements of beauty. The floors were usually made of puncheons or
split logs. Glass windows were few and small. Chimney were made of sticks and
lined with clay which was mixed and daubed upon them. A low garret was reached
by means of pegs driven into the wall. Of the furniture, there was generally buy
little – a chest, a table, a few chairs, and sometimes a bedstead, which had
been brought from the East, forming nearly all the inventory of cabinet ware.
During the first decade, before the charms of novelty had changed to the
weariness of monotony, and before the grotesque had lost its fanciful character,
and faded into the rude and inconvenient, the time passed merrily away. Until
the organization of the county, law and gospel were equally unknown.
Two or three of the families that had migrated from Eastern cities brought with them many of the comforts, and a few of the luxuries of life, and were the objects of jealousy and contempt of their less favored neighbors. One lady was one day tacking down a carpet in her room when a youth entered and asked her what it “might be.” Subsequently another neighbor sat down before the hearth and commenced spitting upon the floor. As a gentle hint, the hostess pushed the spittoon first to one side and then to another, in hopes to attract the attention of the visitor. After a time he said: “If you don’t take that thing away I’ll be blamed if I don’t spit in it.”
There were but few gatherings of any kind during the early years. When the wives of the settlers called on one another to stay to tea, it was expected that guests and hostess would unite in preparing the supper. One lady, who had no knowledge of Western customs, thought she must entertain the guests which she invited until the tea hour, and the supper was accordingly already arranged in the adjoining room. For some inexplicable cause the company seemed to be offended and could not be prevailed upon to stay until evening. The reason proved to be that they had not been invited to help prepare the supper.
The clothing of the residents was almost wholly of home manufacture. Some articles of cloth were to be purchased at the City of Fort Dearborn, but this fabric was to be prepared at home. The mean wore jeans, and the women wore their dress goods of woolen, and dyed them with decorations of wild flowers. For all its rudeness and want of culture, the days of the 30’s were glorious ones. Bold and honest hearts beat beneath the cloths of jeans. An honest name and an honest life-work formed the basis of truer pride than that which is based upon wealth or social position.
In 1832, the inhabitants of Porter County had agreed with the National
Government, to relinquish their lands and to remove to the westward, and now, in
’40, the time for their departure had arrived. The Pottawattamies submitted
sadly to their fate and turned their steps towards the setting sun.
We have spoken of M. Pierre Navarre and M. Bailey, as friends of the Indian nation. There was another – Alexis Coquillard, of the St. Joseph region who shared their influence among the aborigines. M. Coquillard was appointed by the government to conduct the migration of the expedition. Messrs. Navarre and Bailey were implored by their friends of the forest to accompany them to the West. M. Navarre assented, but in after years returned to South Bend. M. Bailey declined to go, but bade the tribe a tearful farewell and Godspeed.
There was a last gathering of the Pottawattamies at Bailey Town, after which they left for the West. They paused at Chicago and vent their passionate sorrow in a gathering amid loud lamentations and savage orgies. Here was Garie’s river. Here was the scene and spot where had occurred the memorable tragedy of Fort Dearborn, as well as the scene of their victorious march after the boundary war. They did not tarry long at the young “City of the lakes” but pressed on in their march to their new home.
Another emigration expedition was led through this county by General Brady who came from Michigan with a band of eleven hundred Indians. The company encamped for the night upon the Blachley farm in Union Twp. The next morning, being enraged at something, all sprang to arms at a signal from the chief, and threatened a massacre of the whites but were quieted by the General’s threats of vengeance by the government.
Wheat was blighted this year, occasioning the farmers severe loss.
Porter County was Democratic but not exempt from the wild excitement which everywhere attended the campaign of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”
Dr. Brown and Father Forbes were both returned by their churches to the Valparaiso mission, and the Presbyterian and Methodist churches of this city were established.
In 1842, the Presbyterians commenced the construction of the church edifice upon the site of the G. block residence on Franklin Street. Dr. Brown and many of his congregation toiled arduously in its construction, hewing the heavy timbers in the forest and transporting them to the town. It is difficult for us to properly estimate the work of such men. The self denial, virtue and religious devotion of that early day have told effectually upon the community in the after years.
The following winter was terribly severe. Many suffered and died from hunger and cold. 1843 dawned clear and cold, and snow fell to the depth of 12 inches in April.
James Castle started a newspaper, called the Republican. It was only 12 x 6 inches in size, but was a great enterprise in its way for the young county. One year later, the paper passed into the hands of William M. Harrison, and in 1847, Judge W. C. Talcott became part owner.
During the year ’43, was considerable enterprise in building. The court yard square was enclosed by a neat fence and became a popular resort for picnics and donations.
The winter of 1834 was unusually mild.
1846 was remarkable for its general sickness.
1847 was a marked temperance era. Ladies exerted every influence they possessed in endeavoring to arrest the work of intemperance, and in some instances carried hot coffee to the harvest field as a substitute for the more ardent beverage.
During this year, Miss Forsythe, now Mrs. Wm. Wilson, taught a select school of young ladies and gentlemen at the brick church on Jefferson St., since torn down.
In 1847, a number of citizens, at whose head was Captain Joseph P. Smith, ex-clerk and auditor, left for the Mexican War.
The voters of Center Township decided in April, that there should be no license for sale of intoxicating liquors during the year to come.
In 1848, the first lodge of any kind in the county was established – the Che-que-uk Lodge No. 56, I.O.O.F.
In 1849, the first United Methodist Episcopal Church was built at Valparaiso, while Dr. J. G. D. Pettijohn was pastor and John Daniels presiding elder.
SOCIETY IN THE ‘40’s
As the church and state began to claim the attention of the residents of our
county, society became more generally united. True there was too much clanship
and sectarian feeling inculcated, but these instrumentalities were yet very
efficient in uniting the various elements of society into a social union. On
Sunday, it was customary for the people of nearly all the county region to
attend public worship, though it cost them many miles of travel. Judge James
Blair was peculiarly faithful in his observance of the Sabbath, and many will
remember how regularly his large family came to the church, the wagon in which
they rode being filled with splint chairs which afforded them a pleasant mode of
travel. At every house, stopped the devoted pastors, Dr. Brown and Father Forbes
and their successors. Dr. Brown had a large library and his true hearted
philanthropy prompted him to seek opportunities for lending his works where they
would do the most good. In 1843, a large donation party was held at the pastor’s
house in Valparaiso. An immense number of residents of the county were present,
and so thoroughly was the occasion enjoyed and so large were donations made,
that the institution of an annual donation at the residence of Dr. Brown was
continued until the pastor severed his connection with the people here.
Of the Methodist pastors, Prof. Albion Fellows was one of the most admired among the more cultured of all denominations, he being a man of education and rare ability; and yet, he was ill calculated for the pastorate among the rude and unpolished society of his day. Brother Stagg and Brother Forbes were much more successful in awakening religious interest and carrying on revivals.
The political field engrossed the attention of the citizens to an intense degree. Large numbers of “corkisses” were held, and candidates were numerous at every election. The National politics were freely discussed, and the public sentiment was strongly aroused by the queer tricks of Capt. Tyler, after he became President, and by the stirring events f the Mexican war.
Independence Day was always an important occasion among the patriots of Porter, as was also the day of the May picnic in the public square of the town. Whiskey was a very common beverage during the 40’s, and its use was not regarded with as much disfavor as it is now, total abstinence not being regarded and expected of the best men. During the exciting occasion of the trial of Staves, the murderer, the feelings of the participants in the trial, and of the spectators, were so wrought up that the court room was almost deserted about once in the half hour, as the inmates, with His Honor, the famous old judge Sample at their head, stepped out for a “snort” of brandy. The young men of Valparaiso were then, as now, full of their fun, and played many a mad caper by way of a practical joke. A physician, Dr. Moorehead, was accused, perhaps rightly, or raising a buried body from the grave. Pretended proceedings were instituted against him, and he was induced to attempt disguise, to fly to the woods, to lie in the hazel brush and in various ways to minister to the sport of the boys, as he was greatly frightened and desired to effect his escape. An anecdote of a Chicago gentleman is told, which illustrates the speculative spirit of the day. The gentleman was among some others at Judge Anthony’s when his attention was called to a fine piece of ore which lay upon the table. “Where did this come from?” he asked. “From the country a few miles away,” was the mischievous reply of a bystander who proceeded to describe the place. “Do you find any more there?” perused the stranger. “Acres and more acres” was the reply. The gentleman called for his hat and begged to be immediately excused from the company. He repaired to the land office without delay, for a purchase of the gold region.
The decade of the 40’s beheld a great improvement in the manner of life, and the advantages enjoyed by the people of this county, and the work of these years will tell upon the generations of long years yet to come.
With the opening of the new decade, a great enterprise undertaken by the county
– The construction of a plank road to Michigan City. This port, which had been
established in 1831, now contained nearly a thousand inhabitants, and was the
center of an extensive trade. Products were transported thither from regions
thirty miles distant, and as railways were not to be thought of in that early
day a plank road was the best available means of transportation. The undertaking
occupied the attention of our capitalists for about three years, when the road
was brought to successful completion, the whole cost of the undertaking having
been $128,000.00. The circulating notes of the plank road company formed for
many years almost the only currency of the county trade, and were instrumental
in relieving much of the pressure of hard times. Under a special act of the
Legislature, the town of Valparaiso was incorporated, and Obediah Dunham was the
first inspector of elections. The county offices which still stand in the square
were completed. In October, the citizens of the county were much agitated over
the discovery of the body of a man who was supposed to have been murdered, a
little to the west of town. No clue to the deed was ever found.
In 1853, the present court house was built, and Gov. Wright, who visited the county during its construction, pronounced it one of the finest in the State. It was accepted, however, with much dissatisfaction as complaints were freely made that the material used and the construction were not of the best. The cost of the buildings in the square was $15,000.00. The Baptist church of Valparaiso was erected at this time at an expense of $2,200.00.
The year 1853 was marked by the commission of another murder; this time in Pleasant township. Charles Chase assaulted and fatally stabbed William Sweat, at the house of John Berry, in a quarrel about a stolen watch. The murderer made his escape and was never captured.
In 1852 was erected the Valparaiso Seminary, in the North-east part of town. The school was conducted with marked success for a time but subsequently became a matter of denominational contention, which greatly impaired its usefulness. In fact, Porter County was no exception to the general rule in those old days of church quarrels, and it is possible that a trace of these times may yet be seen in our present society. During the next year ’53, the second county fair was held in the court house square. These fairs continued to be in the same place for three years.
In 1856, the political excitement rose to fever hear, and the Democrats, becoming incensed at the course taken by the editor of the “Ranger,” who had gone into the fusion movement, established a new journal known as the PORTER COUNTY DEMOCRAT, a M. Miller being the editor. The existence of this sheet during several years was troubled and unsettled, and it finally ceased.
One evening in the year ’57, the old seminary at Valparaiso was burned to the ground. Times now became quiet, and there was little left for the good brethren to quarrel over.
The year 1858 was memorable era in the history of Porter County. The great Pittsburgh railway was constructed through our borders, opening up a highway to the world without. A large number of men were employed in its construction, and the novelty attendant upon the work was a charm to the quiet community. Week after week, month after month, the army of men were encamped upon the way, and the great work was pushed forward with great rapidity. J. N. Skinner and Ruel Starr were the leading contractors of this region. George Durand was a very skilled manager in the work. At one time, the laborers were on a strike, and refused to go to work when the whistle sounded. They all refused to receive proffered wages, but gave vent to ominous threats and mutterings. The directors were wholly at their mercy, and were greatly alarmed. Durand, however, was equal to the emergency. Seizing a heavy club he stepped out of the directors’ shanty, and roared out: “I’m going to blow that whistle again and if any mother’s son of you don’t go to work I’ll be d----d if I don’t murder him; I will by the eternal G-d.” This speech had the desired effect and work was resumed. During the same year, the Northwestern annual conference of the M. E. Church convened at Valparaiso, Bishop Edward Ames presiding. The conference was largely attended, and was one of the most interesting and eventful gatherings that our county has ever known. During the same year a sad affair occurred at Lake Eliza, in Portage township. Two sisters named Wasser wear bathing in the clear waters, and were drowned to the crushing sorrow of their widowed mother.
The town of Wheeler was laid out by T. A. E. Campbell, the founder of Valparaiso, and named for an engineer upon the railway.
Everybody remembers the wild discord and excitement of the year ’59, when the entire nation seemed rent discord and commotion. In ’59 two colleges were established in Valparaiso and gave the town an educational prestige unequaled anywhere else in Northwestern Indiana. The Valparaiso Male and Female College, one of these, occupied the first year a temporary frame structure which still stands on College Hill. Prof. C. N. Sims was the first president, and conducted the institution with ability and success. Dr. Sims now occupies the leading M. E. pulpit of Brooklyn, and is scarcely second in reputation on both continents to any preacher in America. The Valparaiso Collegiate Institute building was an elegant structure on Franklin street, and the school numbered among the members of its faculty several educators of very wide reputation, among missionaries, authors and others. Professor Wilcox was the principal. Of his reputation it is unnecessary to speak in these pages. The name of Prof. Wilcox will endure longer than will the monuments of brass.
The new decade found Porter County in the possession of a population of ten
thousand two hundred and ninety-five. The melancholy year of 1861 found our
nation involved in the horrors of a civil war, one of the most desolating ever
known to history. Porter County sprang to arms at the nation’s call, and between
twelve and thirteen hundred soldiers were furnished from her homes for the
nation’s defense. Company H, of the Ninth Infantry, was raised in this county,
with R. A. Cameron, Captain, I. B. Suman, 1st. Lieut., and G. A. Pierce, 2nd
Lieut. Of these, Mr. Cameron became Brigadier General U.S.V. in ’63 and Mr.
Suman, subsequently Colonel, was brevetted General at the close of the war. Mr.
Pierce was mustered out as Colonel. General Cameron is at present a resident of
Colorado, and General Suman still resides in Porter County, while Colonel Gil
Pierce is the editor of the “Inter-Ocean” at Chicago. During the entire time of
the war the excitement of Valparaiso was at fever heat, and nowhere was truer
patriotism displayed than in Porter County.
In 1863, the Catholics erected a church in Valparaiso, at a cost of $2,500.00. The membership was at that time about 800. Rev. Father Botti, a learned man, was priest of the parish. During this year and next there was much destitution in the city and county as the result of the war. The first day of January, ’64, was the coldest day that had been known for many years. The town of Kouts was laid out in anticipation of the Pittsburgh, Cincinatti and St. Louis R. R. which was built through the town during the next year, ’65. The scenes of the times are well remembered by the citizens of our county as scenes of heroic devotion and endeavor, which marked the saddest, yet most glorious years of our history. Amid scenes and tidings of heart rendering sorrow, our county passed through the days which tried the souls of men. In 1865 came heaven sent reign of peace; and tried in the fire and proven through suffering, Porter County emerged form the season of war. The splendid block of the Academy of Music, the finest in the county was this year completed, and in the immense and elegant hall was held a fair which was given by the ladies of the Presbyterian church.
The year 1866 was one of the most eventful eras in our county history. It was the centenary year of American Methodism, and in honor of this event our citizens held a centenary fair at the Academy of Music, then called Valparaiso Hall, and also raised the funds for erecting a large boarding hall as an addition to the Valparaiso Male and Female College Building, Rev. Dr. Newman preached in the campus at College Hill upon one occasion and the entire city repaired to the place, all the other churches for the purpose of erecting a woolen factory, and soon the walls of the large mill arose upon the a commanding site opposite the railroad depot, and “Over the Rhine.” A paper factory was also decided upon, and late in the same year the building was begun at the foot of Washington St. Valparaiso was incorporated as a city during this year, and the city council held its first session on Dec. 2nd.
The officers were as follows: Mayor, Hon. Thomas J. Merrifield; Clerk, John B. Marshall; Treasurer, John B. Hawkins; Marshall, Capt. Anson H. Goodwin; Councilmen, T. A. Hogan, Dr. Geo. Porter, J. C. Pierce, Chadiah Dunham, A. H. Somers and A. W. Kellogg. In 1867 the boarding hall of the V. M. & F. College was erected and during the next year that institution passed in the hands of Thomas B. Wood, now American Consul to Buenos Ayres.
On the night of January 15th, occurred one of the most fiendish murders ever known, at Pierce’s Mills. Mrs. Emma Page, sister of Mrs. General I. C. B. Suman, of this county was stopping during this memorable night with her mother, Mrs. Long, having left her husband on account of domestic troubles. The two ladies had been left alone, Mr. Long having gone to a distance on a visit, and invited Miss Frederica Ludolph, a neighbor, to remain with them. Mr. Chauncey F. Page, the husband, knowing of the defenseless condition of his wife and her mother, determined to take their lives. Being denied admission, when he called at the house, he broke open the door and amid the prayers and entreaties of the two defenseless ladies, shot them through the heart. Horrified at the scene, Miss Ludolph, who had been an unobserved witness of all this, drew the covers of their bed over her head, when the murder’s eyes espied one of her feet which had chanced to get uncovered. The sight of a witness to his infernal deed filled him with confusion. Finding herself discovered, Miss Ludolph pleaded for her life, promising never to reveal the horrors of his crime. For a moment he relented, but recovering himself, told her that he was sorry but that she must die. He then drew his revolver and shot her through the head. Again he fired and the ball pierced her arm; a third shot passed through her right knee. The wretched victim now fell to the floor and was dragged to where the corpses lay, while the fiend beat her with a chair until he felt positive that she was dead, when he saturated the bed with oil and set it afire. Miss Ludolph, who had feigned death, dragged her bruised body out from the burning building, where she fell unconscious into the snow which was crimsoned by the blood which flowed from her wounds. A different scene was transpiring at the house of Mr. Eglin Smith, where a party were enjoying a social evening. Discovering the alarm, the young folks rushed to the scene of horror, where Miss Ludolph was found. She was ultimately restored to perfect health. Mr. Page was tried at LaPorte for his crime and sentenced to life imprisonment at the State penitentiary, where he ended his life by his own hand in ’72.
At the opening of this decade the population of Porter County was 13,903. The
year ’70 was one of disaster to the two colleges and ended in their ultimate
overthrow. The Institute was sold to the city to be used as a public school, and
the following all saw the beginning of the last year of the V. M. & F. College.
A Unitarian church was organized at Valparaiso, and purchased the building formerly used by the German Episcopalians – a neat brick edifice upon Washington St. The city and county commenced a series of improvements. The former secured the location of the proposed Peninsular railway through her site, and begun the construction of a high school building, scarcely surpassed in the State of Indiana, while the latter began the construction of a jail at the cost of $28,000. At the time of the Chicago fire Valparaiso made every effort to aid the sufferers by that fearful conflagration. During this year the Valparaiso Messenger was established, and has continued with uninterrupted prosperity to the present time.
In 1872, a very large attendance at the Teachers’ Institute rendered its session one of remarkable interest. Prof. Estabrook, of Michigan State Normal, presided on the occasion. The Woolen Factory, which had for years been the pride of the citizens, suspended operations. The old college building remained silent and desolate, and the Winchell House, the largest hotel in the city of Valparaiso, was closed. A feeling of gloom settled over the community, which was only relieved by the brightened prospects of the following year, when the Pin Factory and the great Normal School was established.
The Pin Factory, at the time of its establishment, was the only one West of New York, and was but one of four in the United States. The Normal began with the small term enrollment of 35, which constantly and rapidly increased until the school became, in less than three years, the largest one in America, having a term register of more than 1,320 names, and an annual enrollment of about three thousand.
In ’74, the Peninsular Railway, now known as the Lake Huron and Chicago was completed to Valparaiso, and its depots were erected in the North part of the city. During the year the High School held its first commencement.
1875 was remarkable for its building enterprise. In the city of Valparaiso, thirteen brick houses were erected. The Opera House was built with lavish expense, and the immense halls connected with the Normal School were completed. The winter was remarkably warm. Indeed, no parallel to such a winter has ever been known. December was as pleasant as May. At a party given on the last evening of the month, the doors and windows were thrown open, and fans were freely used, yet the guests suffered from the heat.
The unwritten history of a community, that which refers to its social events,
would perhaps be the most interesting of all if written elsewhere than in human
hearts. Among the brightest scenes of life are those festivities which mark the
gala days and nights when friends assemble together. Forms which moved in beauty
in the companies of old time, lips which spoke words of wit and words of
kindness, hearts which beat with pleasure, though absent now and no longer amid
the living, still linger in fond memories of those who remain. The social
history of Valparaiso is full of interest to all who have belonged to our city’s
society, and presents many scenes which will long be treasured in memory. We can
expect to give here only a few of the most and almost countless numbers of
social gatherings of the Vale during the years of its history, and shall
accomplish our object if we assist our readers to recall some of the occasions
in which they have participated.
A marked event of the year ’49 was a large and brilliant assemblage at the Gould House. The ladies of the Presbyterian Church conducted the entertainment, with the object of raising funds for new furnishings for the church edifice on Franklin Street. Mrs. Eliza Harrison was then proprietress of the hotel, and in every way promoted the pleasure and success of the entertainment. Rev. Dr. Brown and lady were present, together with Miss Mattie Emery, a guest from Pennsylvania. Gen. Cameron, Warren Mason, Ellis Campbell and others who took a prominent part in the society of that time, were present on this occasion. Coffee was served in abundance. Many person paid for it the extravagant price of one dollar per cup. Several persons were rallied upon which augmented the amount of this beverage disposed of and one whose bill was ten dollars received the soubriquet of the “coffee drinker.”
In 1852, a large party was given by James Buel, now of Chicago. The house was crowded almost to suffocation. One of the guest, General ______, somewhat dampened the enjoyment by upsetting upon the silk trousseau of a leading bride a jar of preserves, which compelled the lady to retire from the company. A large game supper at a public house, about this time is well remembered by many of our citizens.
In the fall of ’54, was a large gathering held at the Eagle House. Mr. N. R. Strong and his lady who was late from Cuba, were there. Dr. Letherman, Captain Marshall, Dr. Brown, Dr. Ball, the Skinners, the Pierces, Mr. Hass, Judge Horton, Judge Blair, Judge Talcott, Senator Anthony, and many other gentlemen with their ladies were prominent among the guests.
The year ’56 was a brilliant one in the society of our city. Night after night for months was a continued series of parties and other social gatherings. Mr. Jerry Pierce was married to Miss Mattie Emery, who had returned from the East. The wedding was solemnized at the church of Dr. Brown, and the reception followed at the pastor’s residence on Jefferson St. Hundreds were in attendance, and never was a company more thoroughly enjoyed. Shortly after, another large and popular assemblage took place at the same residence. In the midst of company, the doctor appeared, wearing a grave face, carrying a cane, which he always held during a wedding ceremony. A buzz ran through the company, “A wedding, I know,” cried one, just as the door opened and into the room stepped Col. Mark L. DeMotte and Miss Christy, who were soon receiving the congratulations of their friends as man and wife. Mrs. Merallier, who lives in an elegantly furnished residence upon the same street, gave a party during the warm weather, at which all the leading people of the town were present. Mrs. Merallier was a lady from Spain, and one who was well qualified to lead in society. Mrs. N. R. Strong, a lady of extensive travel and high accomplishments, had a gathering at her residence on Washington Street. Three brides were in attendance; among them was Mrs. Sophia Hogan.
Another large Levee was held at the Gould House in ’57, at which our citizens turned out en masse. Oysters were served in abundance. Over all the house went the guests, many of them carrying with them their refreshments during the promenade. Ladies and gentlemen from the East created much merriment among their Western friends by preferring the bivalves raw. Prof. Fellows and lady of Fort Wayne were present upon this occasion.
In the summer of ’58, a strawberry party at the residence of Mr. Morgan Crosby was a note-worthy occasion. During the entire decade the pleasant parlors of Dr. Brown were a general place of resort for the town society, who were never tired of assembling at the genial home of the pastor. Parties were given by Mrs. Childs, Mrs. Buel, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Cameron and a large number of people of all churches.
During the war there were but few festivities among the patriotic people of the Vale. A few entertainments were given in public halls for the purpose of raising funds for soldiers’ aids, but the participants frequently appeared with the shade of sorrow and the traces of tears upon their faces. The last, and the most remarkable social assemblage before the war was the celebrated “No Hoop Party” at the residence of Judge Anthony, in ’60. The judge invited to his residence a large number of gentlemen, without extending the invitation to their wives, and the facetious name of the affair was suggested by the general spirit of burlesque with which the enormous distended dresses of the day’s fashions everywhere met. Gil Pierce stepped up to the piano. He was the leading spirit of the evening, and had previously arranged with the ladies of the city for a grand surprise. This was after the supper and the guests had repaired to the parlor. To the horror of the company, he played the “Dead March in Saul.” A confused tramp was heard in the corridor, and before the gentlemen could recover from their surprise, their wives entered grotesquely dressed and without hoops, their long robes trailing through the rooms. The gentlemen looked aghast but accepted the situation and promenaded with the fair intruders. None, however, acknowledged their consorts but all repeated the cynical words: “That ain’t my wife – my wife wears hoops.”
In 1861, the wedding reception of Senator DeForest L. Skinner was given at the residence of H. N. Skinner on Mechanics St., and was a marked occasion. Miss Josepha Crosby, lately returned from college, Rev. Dr. Sims, Miss Lou Benny of Cleveland, Miss Houghton of New York, and many others from abroad were present.
During this year was held the first commencement of the V. M. & F. College, on which occasion a number of visitors from all parts of the State were in attendance, and there were large gatherings of Valparaiso people. The faculties of the Collegiate Institute and the College on the hill were an important acquisition to the city in a social way. Of the former were Miss Taylor, who has for years has since been connected with the best society of Chicago, Prof. Moore, the author, Prof. Wilcox, Miss Loring, the missionary and others. Of the College faculty were Dr. Sims, now of New York City, Miss Houghton, Judge Purnam, B. W. Smith and lady and several more. Mite societies were frequent, and the students of the two colleges, largely attended them.
Gill Pierce was one of the most brilliant wits of the city. For years he kept promising his friends a grand entertainment which would fairly eclipse in the excellence of the refreshments served, anything which had yet been seen. On being constantly importuned to tell what this refreshment would consist in, he as constantly refused to tell until the time of the entertainment approached. He then confidently declared that it would be hash. The gathering occurred in 1865. The house of the Colonel was jammed and the even marked the opening of a new era at the close of the sad season of war. The “hash” consisted of soda crackers spread with mustard, and a tin kettle of beer containing a dipper, was passed around. All partook of these delicacies and the occasion was thoroughly enjoyed.
One of the leading social occasions of the year ’66 was a party given by Mrs. Childs, in honor of the new pastor of the Presbyterian church, Rev. Robert Beer. Many person who had returned from the army were present, and military titles were quite common. Mr. Beer was the recipient, upon this occasion of a fine present in the share of a watch.
The year ’68 was a marked social era. At the residence of A. V. Bartholomew was the brilliant wedding of Lieutenant J. B. Marshall and Miss Mary, the eldest daughter of the household. In the fall occurred the most notable gathering of the year, at Judge Anthony’s when Miss Janet was united in marriage with Mr. Charles Dyer, of Chicago, American Consul to Bristol, and one of America’s most noted artists. The occasion was remarkable for the social positions of the parties, who were identified with the leading society of Chicago and other cities. As they were soon to depart for Europe, an immense concourse of friends were present from this city and from various places abroad. Perhaps the largest company of the year, however, was the reception of Prest. T. B. Wood, now American Consul to Buenos Ayres, at the residence of S. W. Smith. Leading members of all the churches were present. Col. Pierce introduced the game of “ugly mug.”
Miss Ensign, missionary of China, Miss Sibley, from Boston, Miss Reed of LaFayette, Miss Loring, who was about to depart for Turkey, and many others from various cities were present.
The commencement of the year ’70, at the college was one of unusual éclat. During the year was a reception party at Mrs. A. J. Buel’s. Madame Cutlebert, a distinguished Parisian lady, Miss DeValin of Baltimore, Mr. James Buel of Chicago, the indispensable Gil Pierce and others were present from abroad.
In ’71, was a brilliant party at the Hubbard Hunt mansion on Washington St., when this most beautiful residence was the scene of a memorable entertainment.
In ’72, were receptions at the residences of T. H. Eifield, J. B. Hawkins, and others.
In ’74 occurred the reception of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Bryant of Chicago, at the residence of S. R. Bryant, Esq.
The year 1875 was remarkable for its railway and lake excursions and picnics. A steamer for pleasure trips was built on Flint Lake and never lacked patronage. During the winter of ’75 and ’76 were large social gatherings – a wooden wedding at Prof. Banta’s, a centennial party at A. Freeman’s, and a Leap Year Party at the Merchants Hotel – all of which were characterized by unusual interest.
The great Normal School, now the largest educational institution in the United States, had sprung into existence as by magic, and introduced a new element into Valparaiso society. The Opera House and the Academy of Music, during the past season, been open in a continued, splendid round of entertainments, such as is scarcely known in cities many times the size of ours.
The above are but a few of the many notes which might be made concerning the social history of Valparaiso, and have been selected as much by chance as by other means. The real record, the complete record which will never be written except in the memories of those who have belonged to the society of our city.
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
CITY AND TOWN - VALPARAISO
The only city in the county was laid out on July 7, 1836. Until October 1837,
the town was called Portersville. In ’50, it became an incorporated town, and in
’65, a city. The officers have been as follows:
Dec’65 to May’66 – Thos. J. Merrifield John B. Marhsall
May’66 to May’68 – Thos. J. Merrifield John B. Marshall
May’68 to May’70 – Thos. G. Lytle James McFetrich
May’70 to May’72 – Thos. G. Lytle William Jewell
May’72 to May’74 – John N. Skinner James Drapier
May’74 to May’76 – John N. Skinner J. Henry Sievers
May’76 to May’78 – John N. Skinner David C. Herr
Dec’65 to May’66 – Capt. Anson H. Goodwin -----------------------
May’66 to May’68 – (Anson H. Goodwin
(Robert F. Jones
May’68 to May’70 – Robert F. Jones Frank Commerford
May’70 to May’72 – Robert F. Jones
(Richard Lytle John Urbahns
May’72 to May’74 – Wm. C. Sergeant Wm. Fox
May’74 to May’76 – Wm. C. Sergeant Michael S. Harrold
May’76 to May’78 – Wm. C. Sergeant Michael S. Harrold
Under Mayor Merrifield’s administration the city water works were constructed, and the Lake Huron Railway secured to the city by subscription of Fifty Thousand Dollars. During Mayor Lytle’s terms of office, one of the finest public school buildings in the State was erected, and the city schools were established. These are now unsurpassed in Indiana. For Mayor Skinner’s administration a system of economy has been inaugurated, and some the immense city debt paid off. While no measures having large outlay of money have been undertaken, the city has been promptly improved by grading and street work. A fire department, with two [???]nes, a hose cart and ladder car has been established. The city has, moreover been wonderfully improved by extensive building enterprises of ????. The government has from the first been mildly but firmly administered, and exceptional good order prevails. Valparaiso is chiefly prided for her schools. Of these the Northern Indiana Normal School is the largest educational institution in the United States, have an enrollment of nearly three thousand students, and a term record of three thousand, three hundred; the Lutheran school, of about 100. The Valparaiso High School, with its lower departments, numbers seven hundred students and pupils.
Valparaiso contains a large Woolen Factory, a paper mill, a ???? and Mower Factory. Until recently, she possessed a large Pin Factory, the only one west of New York, and one of but four in the United States.
The St. Paul’s is the finest church in the city. It contains a fine pipe organ, and its bell town, a tall structure of Spanish architecture, contains the largest bell but one in Northern Indiana. The population of the city taken geographically, is nearly five thousand. An enormous number of students from abroad, and other transient residents, swell the number to a much larger figure.
Hebron, a pleasant town of about seven hundred inhabitants, is located on the P.C. & St. L. R.R. It contains fine mills, and is an important center of trade. Hebron has a very fine graded school.
This is an active little village on the P.C. and St. L. R.R. in Pleasant Township. It dates from ’64. It is destined to become an important hay market.
This is a station on the Pittsburgh Ry, west of Valparaiso and was established in ’58.
A very lively and enterprising town, is located on the Lake Shore Railway, near the crossing of the Michigan Central. It is on an important line of travel, and has a flourishing trade. It contains a number of stores, a mill, and several large brick factories. Chesterton was formerly named Calumet. It is not far from Lake Michigan, about ten miles north of the County Seat, and contains seven hundred inhabitants. It was laid out by William Thomas and Brothers. St. Peters Church, at this place is the finest in the county.
Was laid out in ’55 by Messrs. Richards and Travel. It now contains nearly six hundred inhabitants. It is not far from Chesterton. Between these towns at the crossing of their railways is
Which was laid out in ’71 by Harry and Hannah Hageman. These three towns, which lie almost contiguous, are gradually approaching one another. They will eventually unite, and form a city at no very distant day.
An old French post of over a century ago, was laid out as a modern town in 1852.
Was laid out in 1856. It contains a mill, and is within a short distance of Malone Station, on the Lake Huron Ry.
Is now becoming celebrated as a summer resort. The lake, nearby, is one of the most beautiful in Indiana, and has a number of row boats and sail boats and a fine steamer. The town contains a fine school building. Many of the houses are old, and the village has not grown much during late years.
BURDICK dates from ’75 and contains a saw mill and wood yards.
SUMAN was laid out in ’75 on the B & O Ry., and at the home of Gen. I. C. B. Suman. It contains a mill and a hotel.
EMMETTSBURG was laid out in ’68, adjoining Valparaiso on the West, and is a beautiful suburb.
CRISMAN is a small station at the crossing.
There are now six railways running through Porter County as follows: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis, in ’65; Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne & Chicago in ’58; Chicago and Lake Huron in ’74; Baltimore and Ohio in ’73; Michigan Central in ’50; Lake Shore and Michigan Southern in ’51.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
OFFICERS – STATE SENATORS
The State Senators were as follows: 1837 to ’39 – Charles W. Cathcart; ’39 to
’41 – Charles W. Cathcart; ’41 – ’43 – Sylvanus Everts; ’43 to ’45 – Joseph W.
Chapmen; ’45 to ’49 – Andrew L. Osborn; ’49 to ’51 – Abraham Teegarden; ’51 to
’55 – Samuel I. Anthony; ’55 to ’59 – Morgan H. Weir; ’59 to ’63 – David Turner;
’63 to ’67 – Ezra Wright; ’67 to ’71 – Firman Church; ’71 to ’75 – Richard C.
Wadge; ’75 to ’79 – D. F. L. Skinner.
The Representatives were as follows: 1838 – Benjamin McCarty; ’37 – Jeremiah Hammil; ’38 – George Cline; ’39 - __________; ’40 – Seneca Ball, M.D.; ’41 – Lewis Warriner; ’42 – Adam S. Campbell; ’43 – Alexander McDonald; ’46 – Harvey E. Woodruff; ’47 – Alexander McDonald; ’48 – Benjamin Spencer; ’49 – Lewis Warriner; ’50 – Wm. M. Harrison; ’51 – Gideon Brecount; ’52 – __________; ’53 – Artilus V. Bartholomew; ’55 – Andrew B. Price; ’57 – Thomas J. Merrifield; ’59 – __________; ’61 – R. A. Cameron, M.D.; ’63 – L. A. Cass, M.D.; ’67 – Gilbert A. Pierce; ’69 – Wm. H. Calkins; ’71 and ’73 – Theophilus Crumpacker.
1836 – Porter and Newton Counties; 1840 – Porter and Lake; 1851 – Porter County.
JUDGES CIRCUIT COURT
Hon. Samuel Sample of South Bend; Hon. E. M. Chamberlin, Goshen; Associates – A. B. Price and H. E. Woodruff, Hon. Robert Lowry, Goshen; Hon. Thomas Stansfield, South Bend; Hon. Andrew L. Osborn, LaPorte; Hon. Hiram A. Gillett, Valparaiso.
COMMONS PLEAS COURT – Hon. H. Lawson; Hon. Wm. C. Talcott; Hon. H. A. Gillett.
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
More than two and a quarter centuries have passed away since the land of Porter
County was first visited by Europeans. There is little left to remind us of the
Colonial days. While the territory belonged to France, England and Spain, it was
peopled by the aboriginal race, with a few missionaries and traders, who have
left scarcely any relics of its occupation.
The natural features remain, in some places, scarcely changed. The waves lash the Northern shore in the same impressive solitude as when Allouez and Dablou landed, or when the fur laden bark of Robinson floated by.
The waters of the Kankakee still sluggishly flow on their dark and solemn course, as when the boats of Cavalier de la Salle and Cavalier de Touty shot over the streams. But between the shores of the North and South, all is changed.
As a county among other counties, ours possesses no remarkabl interest in history. As a land of great deeds and widespread fame, it was in colonial times almost without a rival upon the continent. It is no exaggeration to say that this small isthmus between the lake and the everglades has been a subject of contention among three of the greatest European nations. At times it has occupied the attention of Royal Cabinets and has been rendered prominent by important military expeditions. It was in this vicinity that LaSalle made his discovery of a water route to the Mississippi. It has been the favorite scheme of the Grand Monarque to find a connecting link between the Great Lakes and the Father of Waters, that the barks of his voyageurs might float from Canada to the Gulf. In this design he expended vast sums and tested the heroism of the most gallant explorers of his time. The route to the Mississippi at length was found. The discovered link was our own Kankakee.
On the wonderful career of LaSalle, we can scarcely express too high an admiration. Few men have ever shown such an indomitable will or such devotion to their mission as this hero of the Heart-Break. Scarcely less is this true of his fellow Voyageurs. But a few years after the landing of the Pilgrims, while English colonies were cautiously essaying to hold a narrow strip of the Atlantic coast, entrenched and defended in strongholds, and fearful of taking a step which would separate them from the shore, the lonely and defenseless Voyageurs, as though with hearts of lions and with eagle’s wings, were roving up and down through the continent, a thousand miles to the inland. LaSalle passed through our county in his weary march of 3,000 miles. Here sounded the report from his guns. Here he drank from our streams and springs, and at night lay down to rest his weary frame. Hero, who dids’t thou not mark the spot? It would have been sacred through all generations.
The history of Porter County will be written by a hand less unworthy of mine. The silver plates which LaSalle buried will yet be turned up by the plough-share. The old records will be deciphered and copied by some new Motely or Prescott at Paris and Madrid.
It was eighty years ago today, that the land of Porter County became attached to the American Republic. This is the Centennial Fourth. While I write, the city is resounding with the noise of a glorious celebration, and is decked with flags and emblazoned with armorial designs. A century will pass away, and again will there be at Valparaiso a centennial jubilee. The thousands of joyous faces flushed with patriotic pride, the forms which throng our streets, and the eyes which behold the splendors of our celebration will then be silent dust. Some of our building will stand, dingy and gray with age. Many of our trees will still be witnesses to these days of long ago. But another generation will stand where we have stood, and their old Valparaiso will have passed away forever. So the multitude will come and go; and as we look forward beyond the little span of human life, we realize that this is not our home – that we are but tarrying for a season, soon to resign our places to succeeding generations.
It is not alone that history which commands attention of the world, that endears a land to its people. The less pretentious annals of the quiet neighborhood are of even deeper interest to us when they bring to our minds the dear scenes of home, and the friends of other days.
Porter County is sacred to the memory of LaMotte and Touty and LaSalle; of Captain Wells and Joseph Baille and Father St. Palais; of Dr. Brown and Jackson Buel and Ruel Starr; of John Wolf and David Oaks and Wilson Malone; of hundreds and thousands of others whose life work has influenced in a great or small degree the community in which they lived. The rising generations have much to learn from the sterling integrity and dauntless industry of their fathers. May they profit by the examples set before them in less favored days; and may their children and children’s children advance in wealth and true prosperity until the next centennial will show as great improvements here as has been wrought since the French heroes first sailed to our shores from sunny France.