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 4, Page 16.




My parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Johnston, came to Porter county in 1834. The first land they owned was on "Horse Prairie" near Boone Grove. There were Indians here then, and one time when my mother happened to be alone, one came to the house and demanded "Fire Water", (whiskey). My mother had none as the family did not use it, and the Indian did not believe she had none, and was very angry at being denied, and seeing a gun hanging on the wall, sprang for it, but my mother reached it first, and drove him away.

My parents sold that place and bought one a mile east of Valparaiso on the LaPorte road in 1851 from John Seeley Wallace who had kept a tavern there. Many peddlers traveled over the roads in those days carrying a variety of dry goods, among which were some fine linens. Also a tin peddler, passed through every year. And in the spring came the fish peddler, selling large white fish that were very good. He passed twice a week in the early spring.

The first school I remember was on Samuel Campbell's place and was built of logs. We had dirt roads in those days in times of mud, we walked on the grass by the fences. After some years the Valparaiso Male and Female College was built. We went to school there. Miss Helen Houghton taught what was called the "primary department", which children of various ages attended. The schools were not graded as they are now. The leading teachers at the college made announcements of mornings at chapel where we met before classes opened. They advised the pupils to be saving and not spend the money their parents toiled for on "vanities", but to put both their time and money to good and useful purposes. Pupils were not supposed to attend gay parties and were reprimanded if they did so. There were no shows in those days to distract the minds of the pupils, and I think people attended church more strictly than some do now. When I was in my "teens" the last wing was built on the college. It was used as a boarding and rooming addition for girls. Miss Emma Hicks was the "matron". There the school sometimes held a reunion where supper was served. Mothers cooked nice foods to serve and I remember seeing a nice big cake, with an American flag outlined on the frosting in colors. Another one had a big bunch of raisins on the stems, which were placed in the center of the cake top. In the school there were two large study rooms where lessons were learned, and there were two recitation rooms where professors taught and heard the lessons.

We were very proud of our school and of our teachers. They did all in their power to help their pupils. There was a music room and room devoted to art. There were guests who entertained us at times. One gentleman came at times and sang. One of his songs in particular was listened to with pleasure by both old and young. The title of the song was "Just Twenty Years Ago." We always had prayer and music, as well as announcements at chapel.

Some of the old settlers (The McCools', the Robbins'. The Fairchilds' and many others) came to see us and sometimes men who were on jury duty stayed there over night. There were not many placed in those days where rooms were furnished transients. But old friends did their best to make things comfortable for them.

Covered wagon were on the roads daily driven by people who were moving out to the great west. They often camped in my father's woods, by the road. On one wagon was a signboard, which said "Kansas or Bust." A few months afterward it returned with the word "Busted" on the side of the wagon. Many gypsies traveled on the old LaPorte road also. They were sometimes rather persistent in their desire to tell fortunes or to be given something.

In one of our fields we used to find what I then called "cannon balls." They (I am told) were aerolites, left there in the rain of fire about 1844. When we broke one it smelled of sulphur, but was from mainly. We also found many arrow heads. There was said to be an Indian burial ground just west of the house. Once when repairs were being made on the road at a bridge by the old Howell home, (O. P. Barrow's home now) an Indian skeleton was dug up. People often rode to town in "lumber wagons" in the old days. Carriages were not for "all the people" in those days. And no one dreamed of such conveyances as "autos" then.

Neighbors were very kind to help each other in sickness or to sew carpet rags or help make quilts in those days. Also men helped each other raising log cabins, etc.

When the Civil War broke out many of the young men enlisted, some of whom came back glad to see home once again. My brother, William, answered the call for the first "hundred days service." He came back with his lungs very weak but he was determined to conquer the weakness and used to go to the woods and practice holding his breath as long as possible, taking deep breaths and after a few days he would come in the house and stand before the clock holding his breath as he did outside, then taking deep breaths again. He finally conquered the lung trouble. My four other brothers also served in the war. Two of them lost their lives while in service. There is a G. A. R. man (Elijah Culver) who used to live here and enlisted in Co. C 138 Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He lives in Iowa now, and is 93 years old. His people lived here but moved to Kansas many, many years ago. One of his sisters, Amanda Culver, taught school in this county. He is the last living member of that family. His last sister died at Mulvane, Kansas, this spring, aged 89 years.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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