The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 3, Pages 19-20.


As Compiled By History Class and Instructors For The Vidette-Messenger

Liberty township, a tract now five miles square, lies in the central position in the northern half of Porter county. Westchester borders it on the north, Jackson on the east, Center on the south, and Portage on the west. Coffee Creek runs through the northeastern part and Salt Creek near the western edge. In the southeastern corner about a third of Long lake lies within the township and to the north extends Wauhob lake, both being of glacial origin. The surface is level or lightly undulating, but the hills of the glacial moraine, which form a continental divide, enter the southern boundary in the center and circle north and east around the lakes, passing on out into Jackson township. In Liberty, the north slope of this moraine is more abrupt than in other parts of the county. The altitude at Woodville is one hundred twenty-one feet above sea-level; that at the summit of the moraine, at the old Dillingham homestead on Road 49 is 888 feet. The latter is the highest point in the county, affording a wonderful view over the fields and forest of North Liberty and the spires of Chesterton to the dunes and the sparkling blue of Lake Michigan.

When the white man first laid eyes on the land of this township, it seemed valuable especially because of the hardwood forests which covered the northern and central part. In the northeast and on the west were swampy areas. As the years passed the land has been drained by various ditch projects and the forests have bowed before the axes of the pioneers and their descendants. These two factors have contributed to a gradual shrinking of the size of the streams and lakes. Any one doubting this has but to observe the difference between the banks of our creeks and the present streams or study old maps of the township showing the great millponds which have disappeared. Such maps published as late as 1876 show a great expanse of water in the northwest, spreading over acres of land which are now the fertile fields of August Hockelberg, Daly Brothers and Julius Turk. Anyone looking at Salt Creek, now even in time of flood, can hardly realize that there was once a project for boats to steam down Salt Creek to convey grain and lumber to Chicago by way of the Calumet river.

Early travel was by water, so many of the characters in the pageant of our early history as a county did not pass through Liberty township. But the county was crossed by important trails over which the first white men followed the moccasined feet of the Pottawatomies. The "Pottawatomie Trail" was the north end of a great path from the Wabash river to Lake Michigan and entering Porter county at what is now Baum's Bridge. Passing east of what is now Valparaiso, this trail followed the crest of the moraine between Coffee Creek and Salt Creek and ended at the beach.

That old Indian road, as it sweeps in long curves east of Flint lake, Long lake, and Wauhob, was the route along which creaked the ox-drawn wagons of the first settlers and over which they later sent their grain and produce to Lafayette, to South Bend and to Michigan City. Over this same route was later built the famous "plank road" with its toll-gates and more recently the ribbon of cement which we call "Forty-Nine." Another trail branched from this road of the Pottawatomies going west through southern Liberty on toward Twenty-Mile Prairie and the northwest.

As the years passed, the type of road betrayed the stages of development of the township. First was the trail through the dim light of the primeval forest, worn by Indians on the warpath or on their regular hunting trips. Later French fur traders and missionaries on horseback passed under the shadow of the great trees. And then came oxen drawing wagons laden with simple household articles and the sturdy emigrants from Ohio and New York. Soon these pioneers were sending loads of grain to distant points and making long trips to grist mills where the family flour was ground by water power. The plank road, built between 1850 and 1853, at a cost of about $125,000, was a commercialized attempt to make such intercourse and trade easier. Roads began to be improved as a public enterprise and slowly developed the custom of grading and graveling our pathways, and finally of constructing roads of cement. Liberty is crossed by two such state roads of cement. No. 49 running north and south along the east and, intersecting it at right angles, No. 6. The continuation northward of Campbell street is cement to the point of crossing No. 6. Another strip of cement goes from No. 49 in the neighborhood of the great Wabash bridge on No. 49.

The history of Liberty has been changed by railroads also. First, crossing from east to west, was the Baltimore and Ohio in 1875. Later (1891) a branch of the Wabash was built near the northern edge and the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern crossed the Wabash in the northwest corner of the township at Crocker.

In 1903 an electric road was constructed from Valparaiso to Chesterton, following as a whole the route of No. 49. Intersecting this line near Woodville was another branch from LaPorte to Gary. The electric cars carried not only passengers (school children, shoppers and summer vacationists going to our beautiful lakes), but freight, especially milk. Once milk had been shipped via the Baltimore & Ohio from Woodville and Babcock, then the interurban carried this product of Liberty farms to the city distributor, but now motorized trucks and cement highways have fallen heir to this traffic. The electric line was an important factor in the development of the summer colonies around our lakes, colonies which now have been superseded by permanent homes in the gemlike setting of woods and water along Lake lake and Wauhob lake.

Now over our fields and houses curve the great skyways traversed by the planes enroute from Chicago to Detroit or Cleveland. Here and there at night blink the government signal towers with the sweeping beams of light providing a bright trail through the night from airport to airport for the mighty ships of the air.

Pioneer life emphasized the value of cooperation; the early inhabitants were dependent upon the help of their neighbors in clearing the forest, the log-rollings and the house-raisings. Hence the population tended to center somewhat. The Indians were no great menace unless they had imbibed too freely of the white man's fire-water. This was especially true in Liberty of early times where there were three settlements, the Dillingham in the ast, the Zane in the central part, and the Salt Creek settlement on the west. The grist and saw mill on Salt Creek, built by William Gossett in 1836 was the first in the county and the resort of all our early settlers. Other mills later divided the trade but Salt Creek for a half a century presented a scene of activity around the mill, creamery, store and postoffice.

The railroads caused the other concentrations of population. Where the Baltimore and Ohio cross the old plank road the village of Woodville sprang up, becoming an important shipping point for grain, livestock and wood. The growth of the cities, Chicago and later Gary, provided a market for the products of the great dairy herds that Liberty owned and much milk was shipped from Woodville. For years there was an elevator, stockyards, a creamery and a store at this point, and here concentrated the neighboring population. A few miles west was Babcock, another milk-shipping point with a store and many homes. The Wabash had no stations among its course until at the point where its crossed the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern in the extreme northwest corner of the township. There sprang up Crocker (1893) which now in 1936, is the only town in the township and has a population of 200.

Woodville, Babcock and Salt Creek have lost their activities and their buildings, and a few closely-grouped houses are the only indication to a stranger that thriving communities once were situated there. Such as has been the result of the passing of local milling of grain, the disappearance of our forests, and the extension of good roads, "horse and buggy" days being replaced by a motorized civilization centered in the larger towns.

Parallel to this has been the change in educational advantages. The first school of the township was a subscription school in a log house in the Zane settlement in 1836. The building was erected by all the neighbors and had windows of oiled paper and slab seats. Mrs. Sophia Dye, the teacher, received two dollars a week for instructing her fifteen pupils in reading, writing and arithmetic. The following year Anna Dillingham Lyons conducted a school in a part of her father's house in the eastern settlement. In 1838 the children of the same locality were instructed for two or three terms in a log school house, the teacher being E. P. Cole, the grandfather of Fred Cole, county superintendent of schools in Porter county from 1908 to 1933. In 1837 a school had been started in Salt Creek too.

Martin Phares, born in 1854, four miles east of Gossett's Mill, tells of his school days in South Liberty in a letter published in "Siftings" in The VIDETTE-MESSENGER. This was five miles north of Valparaiso, District No. 1, but may be taken as typical of other schools of the day. The teacher was Aunt Emily Skinner. The building was set in the midst of the forest with no sanitary provisions, no well, no wash basin, towels, or soap. The seats were benches, one on each side and extending the length of the room. For a desk there was built along each wall a continuous shelf, level for ten inches and then sloping downward. Below each of these was a second shelf where slates, books, mittens and mufflers were kept. The blackboard was on the wall opposite the door end of the room. On this the pupils wrote with real chalk in irregular broken lumps, erasing with cloths.

Boys sat on one side of the room, girls on the other. The pupils faced the wall while studying, but swung about and faced the center of the room to recite. Slates were cleaned by the application of saliva and a vigorous coat sleeve. Heat was provided in winter by a box stove set in a tray of sand. This sand not only prevented fire spreading from dropping of hot coals and ashes, but provided a warm hiding place for ink bottles during freezing weather. This school was in session six or seven months, three or four in the winter and three in the summer. Attendance was irregular because larger boys and girls were constantly withdrawn to work. This school was followed by a new one built in 1862, one-eighth of a mile distant. This had a cylindrical stove and desks and seats of modern form made by neighboring carpenters.

School was taught at Salt Creek from 1837 to 1856, but not until the later date was a building constructed especially for that purpose. The Babcock school on the road north of Babcock Station was another of the older schools, being built to relieve the crowded conditions of the Salt Creek school before the Civil War. James Bradley built the new Phares school in District 1. A wooden school had followed a log school at Cole's Corners in 1856, and was in turn replaced by a brick structure in 1877. The first Linderman school was built in 1869 and followed by a more modern one in 1875. The school at Crocker followed the growth of the population in that vicinity.

In 1913, while Charles Turk was trustee, a brick building was erected in place of the Johnson school. A high school was organized at this time. This building now provides a place for the pupils of the township of the first six years. On the opposite side of the road, while Edward V. Gustafson was trustee in 1928, a modern brick building was added for the upper six grades, and the schools of the entire township were consolidated. In this building are science laboratories, modern plumbing, and a large gymnasium which also serves as an auditorium for school and community purposes. Motor buses transport pupils over gravel and cement roads to buildings heated by furnace and hot water and lighted by electricity -- a far cry from the days of the box stove.

Most of the people of Liberty township who have affiliated themselves with churches of the various denominations have been members of congregations outside of the township. Yet that does not mean that Liberty has lacked religious life. Those of the Catholic faith journey to their churches in Chesterton and Valparaiso. The Methodists were the first Protestant organization to touch our people. The first religious gathering took place one Friday afternoon, in April at 2 p. m., when Stephen Jones, a missionary of that church, spoke at Salt Creek at the invitation of Mr. Gossett. Forty people, called together by the blowing of a tin horn by Mrs. Gossett, gathered there. Later a camp meeting was held at Salt Creek and a deepening religious life was fostered. Mr. Gossett erected a church for the circuit-riders with lumber from his mill.

Among these brave men are recorded the names of Beer, Young, Forbes, Posey, Griffity and Colclaster. Mr. Gossett had been so anxious that Salt Creek have a regularly ordained minister that he offered to "bread" the minister's family for a year from the product of his mill. As a result, Rev. Forbes was assigned the circuit which included Salt Creek. Here for many years Sunday school was conducted as it was also in the Cole school and at South Liberty. To these came various Protestant ministers from Calumet and Valparaiso, who usually conducted serves after the Sunday school hour. Before the Civil War a Methodist church was built at the southeast corner of the township, near Kinne's corners. The congregation finally scattered and the building was moved, but a little cemetery marks the spot.

In 1928, a group of those living along No. 49 built the Liberty Township Sunday School, a community Sunday school which has become a center of religious life for the young people of the township. After the consolidations of the township schools, the people of Crocker used the school building of that town for Sunday school and finally bought it for a community church. This has become a vital part of the religious and social life of that community.

In 1930 the Franciscan Fathers obtained a tract of land at the southwest corner of Liberty township, through the help of Judge Fetterhof of Whiting. There they built a beautiful shrine, the Seven Dolors, and later a monastery. This shrine, built of rock obtained from the bed of the Great Lakes, reminds one of those made of volcanic rock in Italy. Among the shrubs and flowers of the beautifully landscaped grounds gleam the Stations of the Cross, where devoted pilgrims may pray. To this resort many people of the Catholic faith, especially those of Slavish blood from nearby Calumet cities.

The population of Liberty township has been a gradual growth as indicated by the following figures: 1860 -- 459; 1870 -- 798; 1880 -- 901; 1890 -- 901; 1900 -- 977; 1910 -- 881; 1920 -- 888; 1930 -- 1,009.

The earliest settlers came from the states to the east, and from more eastern and southern parts of our own state. Those from out the state were largely Ohio people who had come earlier from New York. The building of the Lake Shore railroad bought many Irish and a number settler in Liberty. A map of the township, dated 1876, and showing the farm owners, gives such names as Maroney, Flannery, Kelly, Callihan, Maher, Collins, Clifford, Doyle and Daly. The first quarter section of Daly land in South Liberty was obtained from the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago railroad. Jeremiah Daly had been a contractor working along the road to Valparaiso, which he reached in 1857. Because of the railroad's financial difficulties, Mr. Daly had to accept this land as back pay. Many of the Irish in the north central part of the township have been displaced gradually by Swedish immigrants, Swansons, Johnsons, Olsons, Carlsons and Andersons. The Irish gravitated toward nearby towns. Also before the Civil War came an influx of Germans, particularly in the northwestern section. Here we note on the map such names as Shultz, Rhue, Trowe, Witzel, Huckleberger, Benke, Tofte, Sass, and Lenburg.

The eastern and southeastern part of the township is still populated by descendants of the early American pioneers from neighboring states, the Cole, Dillingham, Hanrahan, Bull, Hughart, Skinner, Tanner, Johnson, Davison, Pharis and Jones families. A few Polish people have come in from similar settlements in Jackson, Pine and Westchester, among these being the Wozniak, Skoronski, Marcinkowski, Buezkowski and Gloyeski families. Of late years there has been an infiltration of people of Slavish blood, descendants of old country farmers who are leaving Gary to live again in rural surroundings. The interurban has caused a dual character in the inhabitants of our township, because, to the earlier agricultural group, it has added many industrial workers from cities of the Calumet region who find happier and more healthful homes in the beautiful surroundings of rural Liberty within reach of their work cities.

The social life of the early days centered around the problems of food and shelter caused by pioneer life, in groups they felled the trees and held log-rollings, house-raisings, and sheep-shearings. Each new home meant a house-warming and weddings were gala community affairs. When orchards began to bear, paring bees were added to the rag-cuttings, quiltings, and wool-pickings. When school houses were built, the became the center of social life where the young people held spelling schools, singing schools and debating societies. Sleigh-ride parties in the winter and trips to pick huckleberries at the marshes along Lake Michigan gave recreation and most neighborhood gatherings were enlivened by the sound of the fiddle as the Virginia reel claimed the attention of the young people.

Then came the years when young men saved their money to buy "shoo-fly" buggies and fast driving horses for the delight of the fair ones whom they were "sparking." Swains delighted in racing their horses to give the girls a thrill, and runaways seem to have been common-place incidents. Quicker transportation has continuously enlarged the area in which young people move socially, and the automobile has done the most toward the removal of this social life from the rural community. Counteracting this is the influence of the farm bureau with its monthly meetings and social program for the farmers and their wives, and the 4-H clubs for the young people. The consolidated school likewise tends to concentrate the social life of the people by the interest created in dramatics, school functions, and especially competitive sports.

The first white men to traverse Liberty township were undoubtedly French. Over the Pottawatomie Trail passed the Fathers Allouez and Dablon and later the brave LaSalle. The natives were sympathetic with the French, but after the French and Indian War the territory became English in 1759. After the Revolutionary War our land was part of the western land claims of Connecticut. In 1800 was organized the Northwest Territory. In 1816 Indiana became a state and six years later the first white man's cabin was erected in the township immediately north of Liberty. Ten years later a treaty with the Pottawatomies opened Porter county lands to settlement.

In 1934 Owen Crumpacker came from Union county, Indiana, settling on land in the neighborhood of what is now Woodville and No. 49. He returned a year or so later to LaPorte county. Soon after his coming William Downing, Jerry Todhunter and Elijah Casteel settled in the township. In 1835 E. P. Cole, Peter Ritter and Thomas (Beehunter) Clark arrived. Asa Zane and Ira Biggs built the first houses of the Zane settlement in the same year, and David and William Hughart built a home in Liberty.

In 1835 also took place the first sale of Porter county lands at LaPorte. Speculators bought up a great part of the land in which became Liberty township because of the heavy timber growth there. These lands they held to sell later at a great profit. To insure buying at a low price and then making the land so attractive that people later would pay an advanced price, they devised the following plan. They would contact promising prospective buyers who came to the auction and bribe them not to bid by giving them a quarter section of land. These who obtained land thus would improve their acres, and thus make an investment in Liberty land look even more attractive to newcomers. The land sharks thus got the land at their own price, and a great part of the land of the township was owned by these speculators. Settlers looked elsewhere for more reasonable farms and Liberty was slowed in development.

In 1835 at LaPorte, the commissioners who had control of all the land west of LaPorte county between the Kankakee river and Lake Michigan to the state line divided the territory into three townships -- Waverly on the north, Morgan on the south, and Ross of the west. (Ross township roughly corresponds to the present Lake County). This marks the beginning of civil government locally in our county. On January 28, 1836, the County of Porter was organized by act of the assembly. In April the first board of commissioners was gathered in Valparaiso and there established the limits of the civil townships. Liberty was constituted as it is at present, except that in 1853 the northern tier of sections was added to Westchester. April 30 was set as the date for the first township election. This was held at the house of Daniel Kesler, and elected for justice of the peace, Peter Ritter. Jerry Todhunter signed the returns as inspector and John Sefford, Joel Crumpacker, William Snavely and Solomon Habanz as judges. At the spring term of court following this election, Daniel Lyons was made first constable. Peter Ritter, Samuel Olinger and William Thomas were appointed to lay out a road from Casteel's mill on Coffee Creek to Gossett's mill on Salt Creek. (This road approximates the present road running east and west past the Liberty Center school.)

At the first election the following people voted: Peter Ritter, Thomas J. Wyatt, William Downey, Daniel W. Lyons, Joel Crumpacker, Joel Welker, John Sefford, M. Blayloch, Frederick Wolf, Richard Clark, William Calhoun, Isaac Zane, Owen Crumpacker, Hiram Snodgrass, Jerry Todhunter and Solomon Habanz. In addition to these the following pioneers had arrived: John Dillingham, William Gossett, George Hesing, John White and Cornelius Blachly.

The first death and the first wedding in the township concerned the same family. In the autum of 1835 some Indians had imbibed too freely of liquor at Bailly's trading post, and set out to be annoying. They arrived at the cabin home of David and William Hughart, and, beating upon the door with their tomahawks and yelling in their drunken frenzy, they tried to force an entrance. The Hughart brothers were away hunting and their wives were in terror. They got the door barred and climbed into the loft. When the men returned the Indians had just left, but Mrs. Hughart died soon after as a result of the fright and shock. The following June William Hughart married Elizabeth Zane.

In 1836 William Gossett (who had previously filed for land in Westchester township) began the erection of a saw and grist mill at Salt Creek on the east bank. This was the first grist mill in the county and made it possible for early settlers to avoid the long trips of forty or fifty miles to get grain ground. Such crowds came with their grist that some had to wait three or four days for their turn. With the first lumber sawed, William Gossett erected a frame house which was later used as a church. Also in 1836 Samuel Olinger erected a saw mill on Damon Run. This is the creek which flows through the land of Edward Esserman, a short distance south of Liberty Center high school. This mill was later sold and long since removed. Traces of the dikes of earth that made the dam may still be seen as you look east from the road between the homes of William Ruge and Mrs. Mildred Swanson. In 1837 Daniel Lyons was married to Anna Dillingham, William Calhoun to Sarah Sefford, and George Humes to Sarah Crawford. A chair and wheel factory was started on Spring Creek by Abraham Snodgrass, but soon abandoned.

In 1838 other troubles developed about land claims. At the time of the treaties with the Indians the government had granted small tracts called "floats" to various individual Indians. Land sharks bought these floats for little from the Indians who seldom lived upon their claims. After settlers had built upon the land and begun to cultivate it, the shrewd speculators would appear and demand that the squatter buy their claims at a fabulous price or else move at once. In either case the landsharks made many, for, if they sold, they sold at a substantial increase, or, if they got the land, they also gained possession of the improvements the unlucky settler had made. Such a settler was William Crawford, who located in the northeast part of Liberty. He sold his claim to William Snavely. But in 1838 Peter White claimed the land and called upon the sheriff to force Snavely off. The sheriff came with a posse but during Snavely's violent resistance to eviction, a man was wounded and Snavely surrendered. This was known as the "Snavely War."

The years that followed are the ones most lost to history. There were of course no telephones, no daily papers, no railroads or even good roads, and each little community lived largely to itself. For years the grain and livestock that was sold had to be driven to Michigan City and what buying was done was usually there. The women spun and wove cloth, and the wants of their families were simple. Shoes were made by local shoemakers to order, and usually lasted over a year. Kerosene lamps succeeded the candles, and stoves followed the fireplaces, but still the men were busy cutting the woods and clearing more and more land. Mrs. F. Hockelburg, Sr., in telling of her own early days in the township in the eighties, said they worked so hard and were so far from their churches, they often forgot when Sunday came around. Many of the homes were still made of logs. The roads were rough, and trips to the mill in a lumber wagon were as tiring as earlier trips on horseback had been. The women had great difficulties in churning in the summer because few had cellars. Butter was packed in great tubs and carried to the small neighborhood stores.

The schools had meager equipment and the teachers were paid modest salaries. From some of the trustee books we collect the following items about school and teachers: In 1879 John Nichols was hired to teach a sixty-day term for $1.25 a day, beginning April 9. He used McGuffey's Readers and Harvey's English Grammar, and had twenty-seven pupils. B. S. Wise at the same time, was fired for $1.65 a day his final report stating that the school had no maps and no dictionary. Martin Phares was hired in 1880 to teach the Babcock school for $1.40 a day. His final report says, "Miserable blackboards, miserable seats, miserable doorlocks, miserable pump, excellent windowblinds, excellent doors, excellent stove, excellent fence, excellent yard. Maps one and two fractions. No dictionary. Seats (loose and lame) one and one-half."

Emma Hill in the same year reports her school grounds badly rooted up by hogs, no dictionary, one dipper, one broom, one water pail. The next year was better for Emma Hill had two maps, and Pearl Elliott one dictionary and two erasers. The same year Viola Wrus of Salt Creek school had a "chart for infants." A. Hinesberger got a bell and Susie Skinner blocks to illustrate cube root. By 1895 feather dusters and wash basins join the list of usual equipment. In 1896 one school with thirty-nine pupils had a set of Chamber's Encyclopedia and thirty-six books in the library, ten maps and twelve erasers. Quite often at this time the list includes a sprinkler. Best of all in 1896, School No. 8, at Crocker, had an organ and a library of fifty-four books. The state schools had been standardized in 1881 and now all were using books of the "Indiana Series."

At Salt Creek (the Indian name for which was Ween-tah-gi-uck or deer lick) the miller, William Gossett, had prospered. In 1844 he erected a new mill on the west bank of the stream, but died before its completion. The mill was successfully operated by Skinner, Fifield, Robbins and Stafford. In ????, McPherson and Meyer had a general store but this was soon abandoned. In 1858 Salk Creek had a postoffice. The postmasters mentioned were John Beck, John Millar, Abram Stafford and George Wheeler. In 1866 Cruthers started a store upstairs over the mill. He was followed by Robbins and Miller and George Wheeler.

At various times Salt Creek was the home of Practicing physicians, Dr. E. J. Jones living there from 1851 to 1857 and Dr. Hiram Green in the four years immediately preceding the Civil War.

In the Gossett cemetery, north of Salt Creek, lie many of those most intimately connected with the settlement. Among them is the grave of Henry Batton, a Revolutionary War soldier. His son was a major in the War of 1812. His grandson, Henry Hageman, married Hannah Gossett. Their daughter is Mrs. John Busse of Porter. The final resting place of this patriot should be a shrine for the liberty-loving people of our county.

In 1865, W. D. Cruthers, Dr. Stanton, Abram and Peter Stafford began the building of a steamboat twelve feet wide and thirty feet long. It was intended to convey lumber from the mill to Chicago, but after being run up and down the creek a few times, it sunk in the Calumet river. Thus failed another ambitious commercial enterprise.

A creamery had been established here also and farmers began to bring their milk instead of laboriously churning butter for their own use and to sell. Mr. Trowe operated this for a long time, but finally moved away. Some of the buildings so used in early days are part of the dwelling property of the late John Tofte just east of Salt Creek. In later years the mill was owned and operated by the Blachly family and then by Mr. Tratebas. News items from Salt Creek in the Vidette of the late decades of the century reflect the busy community life with its Sunday school, its store, and social activities. That has all disappeared as have the mill and the dam which once made a great lake nearby.

This section was gradually filled by hard working immigrants from Germany, and many of the names now current there show this. They have been patient, industrious, and frugal and their descendants today are some of our finest citizens and most prosperous farmers.

Other mills throughout the township were operated by Cromwell Axe, Hunt and Kellogg, Brown and Sellers, David Long and Long and Wondes.

In the Zane settlement still lived the descendants of the Phares family. The Hugharts have moved over the line into Center township. Norman Tanner (father of Schuyler Tanner) had been a conductor on the "underground railway." Calkins Brothers, Thomas Johnson, J. S. Bradley, S. Lansing, T. Skinner, A. B. Crook, E. W. Fury and T. Bull now hold land in the central and south-central part of the township. Art Hanrahan's home, just east of Campbell street road, is one which still is operated by descendants of those original owners. His grandmother, Mrs. Crook, told many interesting stories of the early days.

Mr. Crook had been renting land in LaPorte county where the wheat crop had failed because of the rust. He came to this neighborhood in the fall, attracted by the hills covered with timber in contrast to the swamp and lake of Twenty Mile Prairie. Land which he later bought was occupied by a settler, who had made a log cabin which had not been 'chinked' or 'dabbed.' Mr. Crook bought the land with the understanding that the cabin would be finished. In the following January Mr. Crook brought his family to their new home, only to find that the cabin was unfinished. In sub-zero weather they put up a stove and hung blankets around it to attempt to keep the children warm, but they froze their feet. Deer ran through the dooryard and Indians were frequently seen. This cabin was of wood, with slab shingles and wooden hinges and latch for the door. When the January thaw came, the Crook family hastily chinked and dabbed their new home. This log cabin may still be seen on the Hanrahan place where it has been made into an ice house.

Just up the road east is another interesting home, that of William Schmell. Mrs. Schmell, who was Matie Bull, has preserved many beautiful and interesting relics of the pioneer days of her ancestors. Her home is built on the farm where her parents started house-keeping in a log house, and she has a spinning wheel, a reel, and many beautiful pieces of furniture which date from that early day. One mahogany table, of which she is particularly proud, was brought by her father from New York. Her father had a great apiary, as many of the older settlers will remember. He was physically disqualified for the Civil War, but his father, Colonel Bull, was in the War of 1812. His grave is in the Kimball cemetery in the southwest part of the township. Mrs. Schmell told of early school days in the Phares school, where one of her teachers was S. McClure, later owner of McClure's Magazine. She told of his delight in a relative's baby whom he handled upon his knee, commenting that he liked "new babies that were not so red." (The particular baby was the Arthur Hanrahan whom we know.)

The Dillingham descendants still occupy the land and house owned by their progenitor, the Welshman, John Dillingham. Mr. Dillingham and his family came in their wagons from Ohio, two of his sons and a daughter riding the horses and driving the stock through. One of his daughters was married to E. P. Cole, another Ohio pioneer who came here at the same time. Another daughter was married to a Mr. Wauhob from whom Wauhob lake takes its name. His son Olcott lived at the summit of the hill on No. 49, which overlooks the intersection of No. 49 and 6, a home marked by tall pines such as everywhere mark the homesites of our earliest pioneers. His son, Isaac Dillingham, is remembered by many in Porter county, he having died quite recently. The first John Dillingham opened his home to travelers, for there were no inns in those days. The first school of the neighborhood was taught in his house by his daughter. The women of the time used to do their washings down by Wauhob, at a place where the bed was sandy. Here too the men washed their sheep.

E. P. Cole, a son-in-law of Mr. Dillingham, was another leading man in the eastern settlement. He settled on section 19, finding Indians on his section when he came. They were friendly, often giving presents to the children. His four sons went to the Civil War. John and David lived to return, the former to become the founder of Woodville, the latter to move to Nebraska. Jackson Cole came home ill from the army and died six months later, never having left his room. Giles Cole contracted measles in the army and while still ill was sent on a raid. He caught cold and died, being buried with six hundred others at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. Mrs. Ada Freer, John Cole's eldest daughter, was four years old when her father went to war. She told many interesting facts about her family. Her grandfather bought much of his land for from nineteen to thirty cents an acre. Her grandmother used to put some of the children before her on the saddle and ride horseback to Sunday school in the Phares neighborhood. Arvilla Osborne taught a private school for Mr. Cole's children and later became the wife of his son, John Cole.

John Cole was mainly responsible for the location of Woodville on the Baltimore and Ohio. He owned a great part of the land surrounding, and built an elevator, store and other buildings there. A postoffice was established there in 1881. A big trade in grain and livestock was developed, and carloads of wood were shipped to Chicago over the railroad. In The Vidette of February 27, 1891, we see this item: "This part of the township is losing its former appearance; All the large timber is being removed from the forests. Three saw mills are in operation within hearing of Woodville." Later this item: "Seventeen cars of wood have been sold to Chicago by P. J. Lindell, 130 yet remain." On January 15, 1891, we read among the Woodville items: "Two young men from Chicago are engaged in making wooden shoes," and on April 23, 1891, "The young shoemakers have returned to Chicago." On June 4, 1891, appeared this: "The former forest of O. Dillingham which but a year ago was the habitation of maple, oak and walnut is now a field of corn."

Charles LaHayne of Crocker, 81 years of age and physically and mentally alert, is Crocker's first citizen. He talked in a delightful way about older times. His father was an early comer (1864) to the township, paying five dollars an acre for his land, although the Witzels had paid only seventy-five cents. Charles was the oldest child. The country about Crocker was called Whippoorwill Prairie, because the woods echoes with the songs of those birds. Deer ran through the country in great herds and prairie chickens were abundant. In the summer men and horses were subjected to great danger from rattlesnakes that abounded in haying time especially. Men were often stung as they reached down for scythes which they had laid on the ground.

North of town stretched the great marshes toward Porter -- the resort of thousands of wild fowl in summer and excellent skating in the winter. Every spring Indian bands passed through to the "sugar woods" at Waverly. The squaws were apt to ask for whatever clothing of the white women suited their fancy, especially bright calico dresses and straw hats. A half-breed (Indian and French) came to the elder LaHayne to chop wood every winter. He was quick and skillful with the ax, often cutting two or two and a half cords a day. He was a sailor on the lakes in the summe. He was called Moses Thomas and was well known by many, because in later years he lived in a cabin on Mr. LaHayne's farm. At eighteen Mr. LaHayne helped with track work on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad when it passed through. He later worked as brakeman on the famous Stafford steamer, rides made exciting by the use of long poles to get the boat around the curves. The steamer was not a paying proposition, it being especially expensive to pay for getting it through under the bridges on the Calumet at Tolleston. Abe Stafford was something of an inventor and later turned his attention to threshing machines. Mr. LaHayne said he had western fever like other young men of this time and wishes to farm somewhere away from "among the stumps." He went west looking at land, but the hot winds and grasshoppers of Kansas convinced him that Indiana was better. He sowed wheat among the stumps and when harvest came went through with his cradle, his wife binding behind. Finally he used a binder where the stumps were not too thick.

Charles LaHayne attended the old Salt Creek school walking through the woods to the south, very often with a lunch of cold pancakes and syrup. Later he attended the Babcock school. He particularly remembered Mrs. Hayes, Miss Massey, and Miss Hayden at the former school, and Miss Kate Stokes, Miss Pelham and Martin Phares at the latter. Mail was carried once or twice a week by ox-team between Salt Creek, Porter and Calumet. When the Wabash railroad came through, it was thought that the new town would be named LaHayne, but the elder LaHayne was away at the time and the place was called Crocker after the surveyor who laid out the village. Mr. LaHayne attributes his health at his age to temperate habits with clean living and a wise amount of work -- moderation in all things in other words. He paid a tribute to the religious ideals of his parents' home, where the bible was a much read and dearly beloved book.

In Crocker also reside a couple who were the occupants of the first house in town, Mr. and Mrs. Pillman. Mrs. Pillman was Maude Babcock and added many interesting stories to the saga of the Babcock school. She paid glowing tribute to the character of one teacher, Kate Stokes, who was there nine terms or three years. When it was too hot in school, the children made a brush shelter out doors. Miss Stokes wore the same dress for two years and walked to Valparaiso every Sunday to sing in the choir at the Catholic church. At night she taught Charles Benke and helped his father with a further education in return for her board. Boys whom she saw drifting and without a definite purpose, she inspired to make something of themselves, giving of her own time to get them to go further in their studies. She warned and inspired and was due the credit for the success of more than one of her scholars. One of these was Newton Yost, who later became a teacher in Liberty township.

Her discipline in the school room was severe, usually emphasized by throwing the pointer at an offender. "One day," laughed Mrs. Pillman, "her aim was bad and she struck me by mistake." I was hard to comfort for that because you see, I had received the prize for being the best-behaved girl in her room." Miss Stokes became a nun, Sister Theodosia of the Sisters of Charity in Hammond and died only very recently. Mrs. Pillman spoke with feeling of the memory of that teacher of long ago who was so interested in the life and character of the young people about her that she poured forth her service without stint. Mrs. Pillman was a tiny baby when her father went to the Civil War. From her one can glean many stories of Babcock and Crocker. She, too, went to school to Martin Phares and was one of those to welcome him on his return here two years ago. She remarked that a person who could keep pupils of so many ages happily and studying together with so few helps to make learning attractive was a real teacher. Many of those who were operators and station agents at Crocker return again and again to renew their friendship with "Mother Pillman," for her home was always the center of home-like influences in those early days of the town.

Mrs. Marion Ashton is also 81 and spent years of her married life here in Liberty at what is now Clevendale, later at Triple Spring farm and finally at her present home just east of the high school. She told of her husband's participation in the Civil War. Their children attended the Salt Creek school and later the Johnson school. Mrs. Ashton spoke of the fine work of Clara Jones at Johnson school, and at the Sunday school held there. (Clara Jones married Harry Atchison and died this June). Miss Beer, Miss Farrell, Mr. Crull and Mr. Pennock were other well-remembered teachers. Sickness was a dread scourge in the early days, for doctors were few and hard to get. There were no bans on public funerals for those dying of contagious disease and epidemics spread apace. Mrs. Ashton lost three children within a few days from diphtheria, an experience only too common in those days. Mrs. Ashton is active still, busily plying her needle every day in dainty sewing. Her brother Joseph Watts makes his home with her, and his beautiful garden is an example to many younger gardners.

Probably the most exciting even in Woodville was the terrific wreck there November 12, 1906, when two trains had a head-on collision. The engines were a mass of twisted steel, and forty-one persons were killed, many of them being emigrants from southeastern Europe.

Even though communication was slow and difficult, Liberty was alive to the political problems previous to the Civil War. A study of the returns from presidential elections leads one to the conclusion that the majority were Whigs. In 1860 the township voted seventy-two republican and forty-two democratic. The rift between the two parties widened steadily, being 105 to 44 in 1872, and 195 to 74 in 1880. It is interesting to note that Liberty was still republican in the democratic landslide of 1933.

Liberty contributed its share to the armies that fought for the union. The records are incomplete so many a brave "boy in blue" will be unmentioned. Abner Sanders bade goodbye and marched down the road to meet his company at Woodville from whence they went to Calumet to entrain for the front with the rest of Company B. His son, William Sanders, was but two years old at the time. Abner Sanders never returned, dying of wounds at Cheat Mountain, January 3, 1861. James Bradley entered the army from Liberty with the Twelfth Indiana Cavalry being mustered out at Vicksburg at the close of the war. Hiram Green, a physician from Gossett's Mill, went to Chesterton where he recruited a company. He was lieutenant and later captain. John C. Cole was a private in Company E, Seventy-third Indiana Vaolunteer Infantry, and became a sergeant. Miller Blachly, Jonathan and Benjamin Biggs served with Company C, Ninety-ninth Cavalry. Charles Bull was with Company 20, Twentieth Infantry; Andrew and David Cole were in Company E, Seventy-third Regiment.

Robert Lansing served with Company E of the Ninth Regiment and William Tillotson to the Ninth Indiana Volunteers Infantry and later to the Seventy-third Indiana. He was in Libby prison. Samuel Phares belonged to the Tweflth Cavalty and the 127th Indiana Volunteers. A. C. Fodsick was a surgeon with the Fifth Cavalry and later an officer with the Ninth Infantry. Marion Ashton was in Company I, Seventeenth Regiment. William Kipling and A. Babcock also served.

Discharges recorded in the court house in Valparaiso give an incomplete story of Liberty's participation in the World War. Axel Lundberg died in camp from influenza; Fred J. Lorenz, Albert Skoronski, Carl Dalke, Ed Blanke and Arthur Slont were in France. Hans Christianson, Roy Linderman, Clarence Pillman, William Berndt, Ed Dalke, Thure Carlson, Albion Olson, Ross Johnson, Earl Ashton and Benjamin Biggs were also in the army gathered at President Wilson's call.

Liberty township holds today a position as enviable for location as it once had for fine lumber. Its fields are still profitable for agriculture. Its proximity to the great populations of Chicago, Gary and Michigan City afford a ready market for the products of its soil and its dairy herds. The cement and gravel roads afford the most splendid facilities for travel for business or pleasure. As the Calumet region continues to develop Liberty still offers homesites in rural surroundings with city advantages in transportation, light, heat and power. Crocker in the northwest corner has now over two hundred inhabitants and the possibilities of great growth. The Wauhob lake colony developed by the Dillingham heirs and the Long lake territory offer attractive places for homes.

The people of Liberty are keenly alive to the world about them and progressive parts of every worthwhile county activity. The school system has kept abreast of the times. A resident of our township, Balthazar Hoffman, is joint representative from Lake and Porter counties at Indianapolis, and is prompt to speak in behalf of the needs of his home community. At the crossroads of the county stands Liberty, busy in its local development, proud to have many of its sons and daughters happy to till the ancestral acres and make their homes there, and just as proud of those whose interests and talents draw them out into the wider circles of the state and nation. As we look back over the hundred years we gain a deep respect for the industry and courage of those who wrought through this time with heart, hand, and brain to change a wilderness into a home for their children's children.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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