William Frederick Howat.

A standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet region (Volume 1) online

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besides a dwelling house and barns, built kennels and brought from
England some sixteen very choice hunting dogs of different varieties
and other choice blooded English dogs, also some Alderney cows and
some horses, obtaining also a black bear and some foxes, and seemed to
be laying a foundation for an English counti-y seat.

"The Parker brothers made a very favorable impression, but for
reasons not made public disposed of their costly establishment, and
probably returned to England. Their place (the name Cumberland
Lodge being retained) went into the hands of some business men of
Chicago, some of them very gentlemanly, who kept it up for many years
as a sportsmen's clubhouse."

Drainage and Ditches

Although the drainage of the Kankakee region was commenced as
early as 1854, under the State Act of 1852 providing for the draining


of swamp lands, little progress was made until thirty years afterward,
when the steam dredges got to work. Even now there are probably not
to exceed a hundred miles of ditches, the construction of which was
paid for by a general assessment on the benefited lands. The main
courses are known as the Singleton Ditch (named from W. F. Single-
ton, formerly agent of the Lake County Agricultural Society), the
Ackerman, the Griesel and the Brown ditches. As a result of this
drainage considerable areas of rich lands have been brought into use
and successfully cultivated to both vegetables and grain. But, taken
as a whole, the Kankakee region is the nearest to nature of any portion
of Lake County.

Denuded of Tiiviber

The Kankakee Valley has a main elevation of 90 feet al)ove Lake
Michigan and 160 above the level of the Wabash River. Some portions
of the lands which lie therein are so raised above the general surface
of the bottom lands that they were often entirely surrounded by water
and were called islands. Notwithstanding the artificial drainage, this
still holds good to a considerable extent. The most prominent of these
old-time islands in Lake County were Beach Ridge, Red Oak, Warner,
Fuller, Brownell, Lalley, Curve, Skunk, Long White Oak, Round White
Oak, South, and Wheeler. Originally they were covered with a heavy
growth of timber, but the farmers living on the prairies north of the
marshlands stripped them for building purposes, fencing and fuel, and
the natural growth has never been replaced. As late as the '80s hauling
timber from these islands and from the ash swamp further east was the
farmer's winter harvest in the Kankakee region. It was called "swamp-
ing," but is a thing of the past; and most of the old-time "islands" are
now cultivated and productive farms.



Ajsr Historic Short-Cut — Indian Trails Through the County — La
Salle and His Braves — History and Conjecture — The Potta-


Trader Chief — Peaceful Indian Life of the Calumet — Mc-
Gwinn's Indian Village — Burul and Dancing Grounds — How
They Lived, Dressed and Moved — Lost Interest in Economy —
Pioneer Stores in the Kankakee Region — Remains of First Set-
tlers AND Travelers — ^Yielding Skeletons and History — Was This
a Message from La Salle? — Relics and Collections — The
'Cheshire and Youche Antiquities.

"What is now Lake County was along the primitive highways of
travel, which were rudely traced before the coming of the white man,
between the populous Indian regions of the Northeast and the North
and that grand western outlet toward the Mississippi, the Valley of the
Illinois. To use a homely illustration, when you "cut across lots" you
instinctively select the path of the easiest grades — the line of the least
resistance. So it has always been with the migratory routes across the
United States, or any other country, whether selected by Indians or
whites, afoot, horseback or in wagons; whether by canal builders or
railroad engineers. It is the old story of a study in the saving of
labor, which is at the ba.sis of progress and civilization.

An Historic "Short-Cut"

What is now Northwestern Indiana — and to a noteworthy degree
Lake County — was a very important section in the Great Short-Cut
from the lands of the Chippewas and the Iroquois, from the territories
of the Sacs and Miamis and Pottawatomies, to tbe prairies of the Illini
and the Sioux.

As Lakes Erie and Michigan obtruded themselves southward from
the Great Chain and the most populous and fertile districts of the East
were in a latitude not far from their southern extremities, while the
teeming prairies of the West lay in substantially the same zone, it was



inevitable that the continuous migrations induced by wars and racial
pressures should be along the comparatively easy grades. By water and
by land, generation after generation, these migrations poured along
from East to West, and no strip of soil has been more ceaselessly worn
by foot of man and beast than that which lies between the foot of Lake
Michigan and the banks of the Kankakee.

Indian Trails Through the County

The most famous Indian route wthin the present limits of Lake
County was known as the Sac Trail, and crossed Northwestern Indiana
(LaPorte, Porter and Lake counties) in a generally southwesterly direc-
tion to Joliet, which marked the western limits of the Sac country.
From the main Sac trail a branch struck southward near the Lake of
the Red Cedars and across Lake Prairie to the rapids of the Kankakee,
at the present site of Momence, Illinois. Another trail came in from
the east and hugged the shores of Lake ^Michigan, leading to Fort Dear-
born, afterward Chicago. The last-named was much used by the Potta-
watomies. Indians, traders, travelers, scouting parties, military expe-
ditions and frontiersmen passed along these trails before the wagons of
the pioneers widened them out with their wheel tracks.

La Salle and His Braves

It is an unprofitable matter of conjecture as to how early the dusky
children of the Upper Lakes region commenced to make tracks across
the country bordering Lake Michigan on their way toward the INIis-
sissippi Valley, or when the Iroquois and other eastern tribes begun to
push in along their own trails.

But it is quite certain that the intrepid and executive La Salle, with
his companions and followers, was the first white man to test these
Indian trails, which even in his time (1680) were old. The waters and
the marshes of the Kankakee, alive with water fowl, muskrats and mink,
must have been a welcome sight to the chevalier, who had as sharp an
eye for the fur-trade as for exploration and discovery. AVe also remem-
ber how he united the tribes of the Ohio and Illinois valleys against
the invading Iroquois, and it must have been largely along these trails,
not far from the southern shores of Lake I\Iichigan, that the Miamis,
Pottawatomies and other tribes of the Middle West migrated, to after-
ward gather in the Valley of the Illinois under La Salle's leadership
and make such an effective stand against their fierce enemies of the East.


LaSalle in the Lake Region


History and Conjecture

Lake County was a part of New France until 1763, when the Treaty
of Paris gave it to England — with considerable other territory. Soon
after the War of the Revolution residents of the old Atlantic States
commenced to long for the country beyond the AUeghenies. The regions
south of the Ohio first engaged their attention for purposes of settlement,
although the great territory northwest of the Ohio to the Mississippi
River was blocked out as part of the domain of the United States in 1887,
soon after the close of the Revolutionary war. The organic act under
which the Northwest Territory was organized provided that that great
domain was never to be divided into more than five states ; which accounts
for Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin — and no more.

There is every probability that there were both French and English
fur stations in the Calumet and the Kankakee regions; in fact, certain
venerable Pottawatomies, who were in the Calumet region when the first
whites located, asserted that tradition had it that in La Salle's time the
French traders had a post on Deep River near what was afterward the
site of Liverpool, at the union of that stream with the Little Calumet.

The Pottawatomies in a IVIajority

When Fort Dearborn was established just around the southernmost
loop of Lake Michigan, the Pottawatomies were in the decided majority
throughout all the adjacent country of Northeastern Illinois and North-
western Indiana, and thus they continued until their wholesale departure
from the Hoosier State in 1836.

Shaubenee, the Great

Until that year the Pottawatomies were familiar to the few pioneers
who had located within the present limits of Lake County, and several
of the most famous chiefs of the tribe were well known to them and
closely associated with the primitive history of Fort Dearborn and
Chicago. Shaubenee, who for twenty years was head chief of the
Pottawatomies, Ottawas and Chippewas, was a grandnephew of Pontiac,
the famous Ottawa, and a contemporary of Tecumseh and Black Hawk,
Born in Canada in 1775, when twenty-five years of age he accompanied
a hunting party to the Pottawatomie country and married a daughter
of the principal chief of that tribe, whose village stood on the site of
the Chicago of today.


When forty years of age Sliaubenee was war ehief of both the
Ottawas and Pottawatomies, and was next in command to Tecumseh at
the battle of the Thames. When Tecumseh fell, Shanbenee ordered a
retreat, whch concluded his warfare with the whites. He was deposed
as war ehief, but continued to be the principal peace chief of the
Ottawas, Chippewas and Pottawatomies. Shanbenee died in Grund.y
County, Illinois, on the south bank of the river by that name, in 1859,
being eighty-four years of age. Although he never lived in Indiana, his
name and fame were high among the IndiarLs of Lake County.

Robinson, the Trader Chief

Alexander Robinson, or Chee-Chee-Bing-W^ay (Blinking Eyes), as he
was known in the Indian tongue, was not as great a man among his
people as Shanbenee, but is closely related to the wild life of the Calumet
region before the civilization of the whites became planted therein.
Thei:e is said to have run through his veins blood from Indian, French
and English sources. He was able and enterprising and in 1809, while
still a young man, he was in the employ of John Jacob Astor and engaged
in the transportation of corn around the head of Lake Michigan, as well
as the purchase of furs. This grain was raised by the Pottawatomies
and was taken to Chicago for sale and export in bark-woven sacks on
the backs of ponies.

In August, 1812, while engaged in these occupations, he was making
a canoe voyage to Fort Dearborn, when some friendly ]\Iiamis hailed him
from the shore and warned him to avoid that post, as "it would storm
tomorrow.'' On the 15th of that month occurred the Fort Dearborn
massacre, for which the Pottawatomies are responsible. But the warning
of the Miamis fortunately saved Robinson from any portion of the
stigma attached to that horrible affair, as he left his canoe at the mouth
of the Big Calumet and passed the succeeding winter in hunting and
trapping in the Calumet region. In 1825, the year before the Pottawa-
tomies ceded all their lands in Indiana to the General Government by
the Mississinewa Treaty, he became the principal chief of that tribe, and
four years afterward married a woman of the Calumet region who was
three-fourths Indian. At that time there was no more widely known
character in Northwestern Indiana or Northeastern Illinois than Alex-
ander Robinson. His headquarters were at Chicago, his journeys for the
purchase of furs extended as far south as the Wabash River, and his
word was law with the now peaceful Pottawatomies.

"It is claimed that he, as a Pottawatomie chief, evidently a trader
rather than a warrior, called together an Indian council at Chicago

Vol. 1 -2


during the Black Hawk War (1832), and it is said that in 1S36, when
the great body of this tribe met for the last time in Chicago, received
their presents and started for the then wild West, this trader chief
went with them. But, like Shaubenee, who also went out to see his
people settled in their new home, he soon returned and passed his last
years on the Des Plaines River." The claim is made that Robinson
was one hundred and four years of age at the time of his death — in
many ways a remarkable man — a veritable link between the restless,
migratory red man and the more settled and patient white man.

Peaceful Indian Life of the Calumet

One of those home-loving, patient, observing whites who came to
Lake County during the keenly impressible period of early boyhood and
remained wdthin its bounds until his life was closed by an active old
age, has written of this transitional stage of humankind: '"The writer
of this article had an opportunity to visit the Indian wigwams on the
shore of Lake Michigan in the summer and fall of 1S37 — to see the
squaws at their work, the children at their play, the fires in the centers
of their frail structures and the hunters as they returned from a suc-
cessful chase. He saw their roasted venison and had an opportunity to
partake of it. He saw their large birch-bark canoes and the Indian
boys of his own age spearing fish. He often saw parties of Indian men
and squaws, with the pappooses in their blankets behind their mothers,
riding on their ponies one after the other in true Indian file ; and he
saw some of them in the attitude of mourners beside some graves at a
little Indian burial ground. Something therefore of the reality of
peaceful Indian life not far from the banks of the Calumet he has seen.

*'A similar life, with some quarrels and strife, some scenes perhaps
of war and bloodshed, we may suppose the Red Men to have passed for
the two hundred years. For them the Calumet Region must have
been peculiarly attractive as furnishing so many muskrats and mink for
fur, so many fish and water fowls for food. The opening of a channel
from the Calumet between the present Wolf and Calumet lakes, by
pushing their canoes through a soft and muddy region, is attributed to
the trapper Indians who were here nearly a hundred years ago. This
gave them a new and shorter outlet to the great lake. Of the number
of Pottawatomies who claimed their special home along our fifty miles
of river channel no accurate estimate can now be made. The probability
is that there were only a few hundred. ' '


McGwinn's Indian Village

Until the white man's era fairly commenced in Lake County, the
regions around Red Cedar Lake and along the Kankakee River were
also favored haunts of the Pottawatomies. Away from the northern
and southern marshes they cultivated corn and grapes to some extent
and few there were who were not experts at the gathering of maple
sap and its manufacture into syrup and sugar. As late as 1834 they
had quite a. village south of Turkey Creek, at what was known as
Wiggin's Point; now Merrillville. It was then called McGwinn's Village.
It contained a large plat of smooth and well-worn ground for dancing,
sixteen trails leading from it in all directions. A few rods distant was
the village burial ground, the best known Indian cemetery in Lake
County, wliicli at the' time it was first observed by white settlers con-
tained about one hundred graves. At its center was planted a pole about
twenty feet high from which fluttered a white flag. The site of the
village and cemetery seemed to be well chosen, being at the juncture of
the woodlands and prairies. A few black walnut trees grew there, very
few of that variety being native to the county. It has been suggested that
the black walnut may have had some special significance, or sacredness,
to the Pottawatomie mind, as several of these trees were also found near
an Indian cemetery on the northeastern shore of the Red Cedar Lake.

Burial and Dancing Grounds

At Big White Oak Island, in the Calumet region, was another large
Indian cemetery. At Crown Point was a small garden and on the heights
Indians often camped, but no permanent village or burial place is known
to have been established in that locality.

As a rule wherever there was a village a dancing ground and a burial
ground were found; both were necessary for the gathering of any con-
siderable number of Indians and the founding of anything resembling
permanent abodes.

The dances were usually according to settled custom. The Pottawa-
tomies would form a line according to age, the oldest first, the little
children last. They danced in lines, back and forth, and the music was
furnished by an old chief, a young chief and a venerable Indian, who
sat on the ground and shook dried corn in gourds. The song which
accompanied these rattlings repeated the name of the principal chief
over and over. After the dance all feasted on venison soup and green
corn, stewed in iron kettles and served in wooden trenchers with wooden


How They Lived, Dressed and ^Ioved

The usual cainping places of the Pottawatomies in Lake County-
were along the banks of the Calumet rivers and the shores of the lakes,
at the groves in the southern part of the comity and on the islands of
the Kankakee region. When they cultivated gardens and raised com,
fruits or vegetables, they lived in well-constructed wigwams. These
were made of poles driven into the ground, the tops converging, and
around the circle formed by the poles were wound flags or rushes. The
Indian man wore a calico shirt, leggins, moccasins and a blanket ; the
squaw, a broadcloth skirt and blanket. The Indians along the Kankakee
marsh kept a good many ponies, which, when migrating, they loaded
heavily with furs and tent-matting. They also used canoes for journey-
ing up and down the river. During the winter the men were busy-
trapping, usually camping in some of the groves bordering the marsh;
Orchard Grove was one of their most popular "winter resorts." If
the winter was very severe they suffered accordingly, getting short of
provisions and losing many of their ponies.

Lost Interest in Economv

In the early times the Pottawatomies not only trapped large numbers
of muskrats and mink, but many raccoons, which they sold for over a
dollar apiece. It is said "they trapped economically until they were
about to leave forever the hunting grounds of their forefathers. They
then seemed to care little for the fur interests of those who had purchased
their lands, and were destroying, as well as trapping, when some of the
settlers interfered." As we shall see, the white trappers knew on which
side their bread was buttered, and for many years after the last of the
Pottawatomies left the country were even able to eat cake from the
profits of the fur trade drawn from the Calumet and the Kankakee

Pioneer Stores in the Kankakee Region

The trade of the Kankakee region, and the constant travel through
it of trappers and traders, induced several Frenchmen to open stores
on the best known islands. On Red Oak Island there were two stores
kept by French traders named Bertrand and Lavoire, both of whom
had Indian wives. At Big White Oak one Laslie, a Frenchman also
with an Indian wife, kept a store ; and there were others.

As a rule, the most friendly relations existed lietween these French-


Indian merchants and traders and the pure white pioneers of the Kanka-
kee region. A father and son of the latter class, who remained over night
at one of these stores, having been delayed while searching the marshes
for stray horses, tell of a pleasant New Year 's morning which they passed
at the store on Big White Oak Island.

The neat Indian housewife gave them clean blankets out of the
stock, and treated them courteously and so generously that she refused
to receive pay. New Year's morning of 1839 dawned. The native
children of the encampment gathered, some thirty in number, and the
oldest Indian present, a venerable man, gave to each of the little ones
a silver half dollar as a New Year's gift. That was their custom.
And more and more touching — as each child received the shining silver
it repaid the old wrinkled Indian with a kiss.

Remains of First Settlers and Travelers

,The most striking evidences of primitive life found in Lake County
have been discovered in its southern sections. Within the last seventy
years various ' ' finds ' ' have been made by old settlers, in the prosecution
of every-day improvements, and the plowing of the soil, which have
been of interest not only to local antiquarians but to archaeologists of
national reputation.

The first noteworthy deposits to be discovered were near the north-
west corner of section 33, township 33, range 8 west, in the vicinity of
Orchard Grove. There, in the late '40s the trappers and pioneers found
two mounds. As .soon as the plow bit into them, they commenced to yield
their contents — human skeletons, arrow heads and pottery ; and the work
of exhumation and discovery has gone on from year to year.

On the northeastern shores of the Lake of the Red Cedars, under
the shelter of a large bluff, is the old Pottawatomie burial ground, of
which mention has been made. How long the Indians had lingered and
died in that vicinity "history saith not." But to the story.

Yielding Skeletons and History

In October, 1880, two young men whose father lived near Lowell
and had purchased a mill site at the head of the lake commenced to make
excavations for the foundations. The spot selected was a little mound
on the lake shore, sloping eastward, westward and southward, with a
gentle declination northward. At that time a railroad was being built
along the westward shore of the lake, the beautiful and sunny knoll had
been the camp of a gay party of tourists the summer before, and every-


thing seemed to breathe of today. On the edge of the southern slope,
a few feet from the water line, there was a winding line of burr-oaks.
The old Indian cemetery was ninety rods east of the mound.

The young men had not plowed two feet under before they struck
a mass of human remains and soon turned up about a dozen skeletons,
a few rodent bones and some large shells. A few days afterward T. H.
Ball, whose youth had been spent on the west side of Cedar Lake, accom-
panied by his son, who had made various archaeological explorations
and studies in the far West, visited the locality and made further search
under the first of the burr-oaks. Let him tell what he found then, as
well as thirty years before : ' ' Soon he found a piece of lead ore, bearing
the marks of having been cut by some instrument, then a single arrow
head, and next an entire skeleton. One large root of the oak passed over
and seemed to press hard upon the skull, and another large root passed
between the lower limbs.

"The waters of the lake were flashing in the bright beams of the
warm October sun, the leaves of the oaks and hickory trees were just
beginning to assume their gorgeous autumn hues, when the bones, the
framework of this human form were unearthed. When and amid what
circumstances had that form been there laid in earth ?

' ' The head of the skeleton was eastward. The tree was soon removed
and under its roots was found another skeleton with the head toward
the west. And not far away was soon afterward another unearthed.
In all twenty were exhumed.

' ' From three counts of the rings of annual growth, that scrubby tree
was found to be about two hundred years old. The circumstances indi-
cated that the burial took place before the tree began to grow. We
find, then, man at the Red Cedar Lake more than two hundred years ago.
The size of the bones, the jaws well filled with teeth, indicate that these
remains were all of men between twenty-five and forty-five years of age,
not quite six feet in height; and from the want of order in the burial,
the promiscuous heaping together of the bodies and the absence of
tomahawks, arrow-heads and other weapons, it is inferred that these
were vanquished warriors, members of a tribe where lead ore existed,
and who in a stern conflict fell before the valor of the dwellers by the

Online LibraryWilliam Frederick HowatA standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet region (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 44)