William Frederick Howat.

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

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lake. No drier soil, no more sunny spot could have been found for
burial ; and so the bones remained undeeoiuposed.

Was This a IMessage from La Sal"le?

''About 1850 there was taken from the heart of a majestic oak grow-
ing on that bluff which has been mentioned, a little instrument called a


nail. It appears to be composed of steel. Outside of it in the tree were
layers of wood, counted one hundred and seventy. The shaft of this
little instrument is round, the point end is edged, not pointed ; the head
on the top is flat and very smooth, and besides this surface it has twelve
"small plane sides, each smooth and well wrought. This nail is of fine
workmanship and it takes us back to about 1680.

"Before 1665 a few adventurous traders had passed into the great
wilds west of the Great Lakes. In that year the first Jesuit missionary
passed into these wilds; and in 1673 Marquette, Joliet and five other
Frenchmen passed in two canoes down the Wisconsin River into the
Mississippi. In December of 1679, La Salle with thirty-two persons
in eight canoes, passed from Lake Michigan into the St. Joseph River,
across the portage into the Kankakee and down that river into the
Illinois. On March 2, 1680, with three Frenchmen and an Indian hunter,
La Salle started on foot to travel across the country, over prairies and
through woodlands, for the northeastern limit of Lake Ontario, distant
some twelve hundred miles. With the energy of a soul upon which
despair never settled, he shouldered his musket and his knapsack and
commenced, with his four companions, the long land journey.

"From his leaving an Indian village near the present town of
Ottawa, on the Illinois River, there is of his journey no record. Our
lake would seem to be directly in his line of travel. It is not improbable
that his party encamped for a night upon that wooded height. But why
insert the nail in the oak?

"It is recorded that before he left the portage in December, 1679,
letters were fastened to trees to give information to other Frenchmen;
and what more natural than that, camping here on the border line be-
tween prairie and woodland, before entering the dense dark forests,
wdiich, surrounding a few small prairies, stretched across Indiana and
Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, he should nail to a tree a record of
his journey thus far eastward — a letter for some of his friends in case
he should never reach his destination? The paper perished. The
polished instrument remained in the wood for one hundred and seventy
years. Of the presence here of La Salle, who spent most of the year
1683 in the Illinois country and around the Great Lakes, or of some
other Frenchman, let us infer that it bears witness."

Relics and Collections

This historic relic was long in possession of Mrs. M. J. Cutler, of
Kankakee, Illinois, a daughter of Judge Hervey Ball, so many years
prominent in Lake County. She also owned a beautiful specimen of


wrought copper taken from a wolf hole in Hanover Township. What
are believed to be genuine Indian pipes have been found near Lowell,
Plum Grove and Southeast Grove, and beautiful arrow heads have been
unearthed in several localities in the county. One of copper, discovered
in St. John's Township, is apparently molded, having three small notches
on each side.

One of the large collections of arrow heads, spear heads and various
small implements, the manufacture of which is attributed to the Indians,
was gathered and owned by H. L. Keilman, of St. John's Township.

The Cheshire and Youche Antiquities

The first considerable collection of American antiquities in Lake
County was made by W. W. Cheshire. It consisted of 300 specimens
of stone implements, mostly axes, and about one hundred arrow heads.
Some of the arrow heads of chalcedon and agate are very beautiful.
Mr. Cheshire moved to Washington City, and portions of his cabinet
were obtained by the Crown Point Public School and J. W. Youche.

The latter, who is a son of the late Hon. J. W. Youche and grandson
of Dr. J. Higgins, of Crown Point, has been continuously adding to his
collection until it is now the most complete in the county.

In 1911 various prominent citizens of Hammond raised $500 for the
purpose of securing the Youche collection to the public library of that
city. As the relics are said to comprise the most complete private col-
lection of the kind in Indiana, it is fortunate that it is thus preserved
and protected.

In a letter to Dr. W. F. Howat, then as now president of the library
board, A. M. Turner, the spokesman of the subscribers, presents
. the following valid reason why such a collection should be housed in
Lake County : ' * For the same reason that Lake County is fast becoming
the industrial center of our country because of its geographical location,
so it was the favorite camping and meeting point of the American
Indian ; hence it was that no county in the State furnished so fertile
a field for the relic hunter, and, as early as the '50s, W. W. Cheshire,
superintendent of the Crown Point schools, county superintendent and
county clerk, began the assembling of the instruments used by the
Indians in their daily duty and their warfare. He enlisted every
teacher and scholar and all the people of the county in this effort. After
his departure from the county the work was taken up by J. W. Youche,
who spared no time or expense in adding to the collection. In my
judgment this collection will increase in interest and value with age,
and should be to the public library of this city a most valual)le volume
of historical interest."



The White Trapper Supplants the Red — Extent of the Fur Trade
— The Kankakee Trapping Region — Calumet Muskrats and Ducks
— Crops Which Crowded Out the Fur Trade — Home Builders
Displace White Trappers — Lake Shore Routes and Travelers —
Through Northern Lake County in 1834 — Virginian-Afraid-of-
the-Lake — The Famous Long Pole Bridge — Old Baillytown —
Other Early Stage Routes — Traveler Settles Into Solid Citizen
— Another Traveler Finds the First Resident Farmer — Inn
Keepers Along the Beach — Ross, the First Substantial Pioneer
-^James Adams, Noted Government Messenger — Public Lands
Surveyed — Settlers of 1834 — Solon Robinson and Crown Point —
The Original Butler Claims — A Hamlet Born — Main Street
Lined Out — Disappearance of the Old Robinson House — Founder
OF Wiggins Point — Plowing Up the Old Indian Cemetery — The
Bryant Settlement and Pleasant Grove — Other Settlers in
1835 — Solon Robinson's Historical Synopsis — Lake Courthouse
Postoffice — County Organized — Indiana City — Liverpool
Founded — George Earle, a Real Promoter — The John B. Chap-
man Titles — John Wood and Woodvale — Settlers Around Red
Cedar Lake — Hervey Ball — Baptist Pioneers of Lake County —
First Baptist Society Formed — Lewis Warriner — Recognized as
Cedar Lake Baptist Church — First Methodist Mission — Crown
Point Methodist Church Founded — The Churches, Cutlers and
Rockwells — 1837, Also a Busy Year — Ebenezer Saxton Succeeds
Jere Wiggins — ]\Ierrillville Founded — The Browns of Eagle
Creek — Settlement of the West Creek Neighborhood — Some
English Settlers — German Catholics of St. Johns Township —
German Lutherans op Hanover Township — Early Sawmills and
Bridges — 1838, First Year of Bridge-Building — Coming of Samuel
Turner and Wife — Judge DAv^D Turner — Squatters' Union
Protects Settlers.

As we have seen, the oldest business prosecuted in Lake County
which reached the importance of a commercial stage comprised trapping



and the trade in furs. Indians, Frenchmen, Englishmen and Americans
all were engaged in it at different historic periods, and in the early
portion of tlie nineteenth century altogether.

The White Trapper Supplants the Red

Before 1840, when the Indians completely disappeared from the fur-
bearing regions of the Calumet and the Kankakee, the white trappers
had gradually been supplanting the red men. They had better canoes,
warmer blankets, more secure tents, and both they and their ponies
were in a higher physical condition and able to withstand the severities
and changes of the seasons ; furthermore, the white trappers, like others
of their race, were more systematic and persistent in their work, and
looked at the trade through the eyes of ambition — as something more
than a bare means of subsistence. Thus the red trapper gave place to
the white.

Extent of the Fur Trade

This trade in furs continued profitable until the middle '80s. An
old resident of the county, who had thoroughly investigated this phase
of pioneer life, writes thus in 1884: "For the last fifty years, in the
fall and spring, some of this class of men have been along this river
(the Calumet). The amount of fur taken can only be estimated. It
can never be fully known. One trapper and his son caught this last
fall some fifteen hundred muskrats and mink. The same trapper has
taken in one trapping season, including fall, winter and spring, about
three thousand. From twenty thousand to forty thousand have Deen
taken in a sea.son in past years by the different trappers. The number
of these animals living along a few miles of this river is surprising to
those who have never investigated the habits and ways of wild animal
life. It was estimated by those who had experience as trappers that
in the fall of 1883 there were forty thousand rats on the lands claimed
by the Tolleston Club Company.

' ' The number of rats and mink trapped and speared in the last fifty
years along this fifty miles of river in our county would, if actually
known, be quite astounding. The annual value of the fur taken here
would be, at a low estimate, five thousand dollars ; and at this rate, for
fifty years, the amount would be, for Calumet fur alone, two hundred
and fifty thousand, or one-quarter of a million dollars !

" (The income from the immense quantities of ice shipped from this
river every year cannot here be estimated.)



"To leave for a few moments the Calumet, the intelligent citizen of
Lake will remember that we have along our southern border, on some
twenty miles or more of the Kankakee River, and on fifty square miles
of that noted marsh, a still richer fur-producing region even than this
which has just been noticed. And when it is recalled to mind that in
the days of the early pioneers, Deep River and our three large creeks
and the Lake of the Red Cedars were all abounding in these fur-bearing
animals; that not only muskrats and mink, but many otter and some
beaver used to be found here, and large numbers of raccoons — the state-
ment having come to some of those pioneers that three Indians caught
here in one season thirteen hundred raccoons, which they sold for sixteen

Typical Pioneer Cabin

hundred and twenty-five dollars — and that our small marshes were
then, as some even yet continue to be, the abodes of the muskrat — it
will be evident that it would be difficult to find in all that then was called
the West, a richer fur-bearing region than was included in the present
county of Lake.

The Kankakee Trapping Region

"Venturing still to continue this digression, it may be stated here that
in the Kankakee trapping region of our county there are two rows of
trapper grounds; the lower one along the Kankakee River, the upper
comprising wet marsh land that does not lie on the river. One of the
trappers on this upper range, whose claim covers some two square miles


or twelve hundred and eighty acres, obtained from his grounds fifteen
hundred and forty rats in one season. Taking the two lines of trapper
camps across the county, the annual yield of Kankakee fur may *be
placed at thirty thousand muskrat skins and several hundred mink skins ;
the muskrat skins, at an average of fifteen dollars a hundred, making
four thousand live hundred dollars received by these trappers each year
for muskrats alone. Some eighteen years ago, mink skins were sold for
ten dollars apiece. Now they do not sell for more than one dollar apiece.
Five thousand dollars annually is not a high estimate for the Kankakee
fur of the county; and this, for the fifty years now past, would make
another quarter of a million of dollars, which, added to the value of the
fur in the Calumet Region, makes a fair income as received by the
trappers, with but small outlay in capital for the annual outfits.

Calumet Muskrats and Ducks

"We now return to the Calumet Region, and while we may not
make the acquaintance of the individual trappers who here spend several
months each year, we see how abundant are the fur-bearing animals and
how remunerative is the employment. Muskrats, the trappers say, are
quite prolific. One pair will have three litters in a year, averaging six
in each litter. These would amount to eighteen. Then the three pair
in the spring litter would each have ordinarily a full litter of six each.
This will make eighteen more, or in all thirty-six, as the increase from
one pair in one year. One pair would thus produce, if left undisturbed
by mink and trappers, more than thirteen thousand rats in three years.
These animals, the trappers say, have houses of three kinds — breeding
houses, feeding houses and excrement houses. The first are compara-
tively large ; the other two varieties are smaller.

"It may be added that fowlers find the Calumet Region attractive
as being a great resort for water fowl. There have been shot here, by
a very few sportsmen, three thousand ducks in a season. Two wagon-
loads of ducks have been sent away from one of the noted sportsmen's
resorts on the river, each load containing six hundred ducks, the result
of two days' shooting. Further figures have not been obtained; but
these are sufficient to show the abundance of water fowl in that trapping
region. The Grand Calumet, being now navigable to Hammond, and
likely to be made as far as Clarke (north of Tolleston), this river channel
will in the future bear the white sails of commerce where the mink
paddled in the grassy brink; but the Little Calumet may yet continu<-»
for many yeai-s to invite the trappers as in former days."


Crops Which Crowded Out the Fur Trade

The trapping and spearing of the lusty muskrat and the warj^ mink
may have been somewhat adventuresome and picturesque, and the
opinion of the writer of the foregoing account seems to be that the
profits of the trade were something enormous. But at tlie time he
wrote, other industries of Lake County had so far overshadowed it as
to crowd fur out of the list of really commercial products. In 1882-83,
for instance, the following conservative estimates were made, as to the
annual quantities and values of the county's principal products:


Corn, bushels. 1,158,132 .$463,252

Beef cattle, head 8,000 400,000

Timothy hay, tons 35,293 358,930

Oats, bushels 1,000,000 300,000

'Butterine, pounds 3.000,000 300,000

Mixed hay, tons 30,000 300,000

Sand, cars 23,000 275,000

Stock cattle 8,000 240,000

Milk, gallons 785,000 223,125

Hogs, head 16,526 165,360

Horse-s shipped 1,500 150,000

Butter, pounds 544,529 136,149

Wool, pounds 26,553 79,749

Potatoes, bushels 150,000 75,000

At the time mentioned the ice harvested was bringing in $35,000
every season, and even eggs, $25,000. Over two hundred thousand pounds
of cheese were being manufactured, valued at $22,000, and the crops of
berries, mainly gathered from the Calumet region, brought more than
$18,000 to the pickers. The 4,397 dozen chickens raised and sold
realized an income of $13,191 every season— $3,000 more than the pro-
ceeds derived from the sale of all the fur-bearing animals in Lake
County; the clover seed crop, one of the least profitable agricultural
products of the county, was about on a par with fur as an income

From all of which it may safely be inferred that the fur-bearers were
back numbers as commercial animals of modern times and were mainly
interesting as reminiscences.


Home Builders Displace White Trappers

But Indians, lialf-savage French traders with Indian wives, and
uneasy white trappers, were to give place to real settlers and home
builders. The change was gradual; there are always overlapping edges
to all such transformations. In Lake County the mixed red-and-white
period, during which the Indians were vacating their lands and lakes,
and the whites were coming to examine and occupy them, was from
1832 to 1840, Notwitlistanding the treaties at the Mississinewa in 1826
and Tippecanoe in 1832, the Pottawatomies were not eager to get beyond
the Mississippi, and although most of them left in 1836, some lingered
as late as 18-40, and in Pulaski County they were even more sluggish
than in Lake. AVin-a-mac, its county seat, was originally an old
Indian town, and its beautiful position on the Tippecanoe River, with
fine hunting and fishing grounds adjacent, so endeared the locality to
the Pottawatomies that they could not be induced to vacate entirely
until 1844, when the white man's town was fairly planted.

Lake Shore Routes and Travelers

In the early '30s that dirty little village just around the western
bend of Lake Michigan called Chicago — which had, in years past been
the headquarters of the Pottawatomie domain — was so coming into notice
as a center of the white man's fur and grain trade, as well as a future
railroad town, that emigrants from the East were drifting thither in
hundreds, by way of Western New York. They hugged the shores of
the lakes as closely as possible, which necessarily brought them through
Lake County.

As early as 1833 a route of travel had been opened along the beach
of Lake Michigan, and another, not long afterward, a few miles inland.
Four-horse coaches had been put upon the road for conveying passengers
and mail from Detroit to Chicago.

The first traveler along these lake shore roads who became associated
with the history of Lake County was James H, Luther, who, in 1834,
when he first viewed the country, was a youth of nineteen whose father's
home was said to be in Porter or Laporte County. Some years after-
ward he married into a Lake County family, "settled down" and
became a prominent citizen.

Through Northern Lake County in 1834

Mr. Luther has left a very interesting account of the Calumet region
at the time when the first white settlers were squatting upon the red


man's lands in Lake County. He says: "In company with the Cutler
boys of Laporte County, I traveled with ox teams upon the beach near
where Indiana City was afterward built, to Chicago and Fox River,
Illinois, which was then called Indian Country, was unsurveyed and
occupied by Aborigines. Our object was to make claims and secure
farms. I was then nineteen years old.

"We returned in the spring of 1835 for teams and supplies. After
the grass had grown so that our cattle could subsist upon it we, with
an elderly gentleman from Virginia by the name of Gillilan, who had
a large family of girls, three horses, a schooner wagon filled full, started
"West, and this time struck the beach at Michigan City. Our camp
was on the beach where, back of the sand ridge, were extensive marsh
lands with abundant grass, upon which we turned our cattle, consisting
of eight yoke of oxen and one cow. In the morning, when hunting up
their oxen, one was mis.sing. They found him mired in the marsh and
almost out of sight. They succeeded in getting his legs out of the mire
and. then rolled him about five rods to ground upon which he could stand.

Virginian- Afraid-of-the-Lake

"We only made about three miles on our way that day. We finally
reached the Calumet, now South Chicago, without further accident, and
went into camp. That region was then all a common, with plenty of
feed. A small ferry was then used there by the single inhabitant living
on the north side of the river in a log cabin. After considering the
matter well and consulting with the ferryman, we concluded to drive
into the lake below and go around the river on the sand bar. After
studying and getting our bearings, we hitched our friend's lead horse
before the ox teams and I, as pilot, led the way and succeeded in getting
the ox teams nicely over. Our Virginia friend and family came next.
They had never seen so large a body of water before, and were very
timid in spite of all. The only danger was in getting too near the river,
not in getting too far into the lake. I hitched on to them and started
in. They were scared and screamed, and begged me to get nearer land,
which I presume I did, and the wheels began to sink in the softer sand
near the river, and we were stalled. The boys on the other side hastened
to us. I dismounted into the cold liquid to my armpits; could hardly
keep the precious freight aboard our wagon. But the oxen came, were
hitched on, with my horse to lead, and we pulled out all safe and well

"This was exciting. AVe boys feared nothing, but it was awful to our
Virginia friends. But they soon cooled off, settled on a claim near ours,
and were happy.


The Famous Long Pole Bridge

"1 drove teams between Chicago and Laporte up to the fall of
1836 and did not know any other way but via the beach. I have not
traveled along that beach since 1836 (written in 1884), but in the spring
of 1837 I started from Valparaiso for Milwaukee. I intended to take
the regular beach route, but missed it and came upon what my friend,
Bartlett Woods, speaks of as the 'ever-to-be-remembered-by-those-who-
crossed-it' Long Bridge over the Calumet River, at the mouth of Salt
Creek, built of logs and covered with poles. I had far more fear in
crossing this than I had in getting around the mouth of the Calumet
River. ' '

This rather remarkable bridge, he thinks, was built l)y Porter and
Lake counties in 1836. His father, James Luther, was the commissioner
of Porter County for building it. Constructed of logs and covered with
poles, it was commonly called the Long Pole Bridge, and probably many
supposed that nothing but poles entered into its construction. It was
sixty-four rods in length.

In the same spring of 1837, James H. Luther returned from Chicago
to Porter County by stage, and he gives his line of travel as ' ' along the
lake banks to the Calumet, which we ferried, thence to the Calumet
again (where Hammond now is), thence the road ran on between the
Grand and Little Calumet rivers, via Baillytown, to ^Michigan City."

Old Baillytow^n

Baillytown was originally a trading post or fur station, named prob-
ably a dozen years before young Luther ever saw the country, the keeper
of the post being a Frenchman named Bailly. It w^as about five miles
from the mouth of Fort Creek and when the first whites commenced
to come into the country was quite a rendezvous for the Pottawatomies,
who came thither to exchange their peltry for goods. About 1834
Bailly made a feeble attempt to plat the place, but no lots were ever
bought by white settlers, and it was never more than a trading post and
an Indian settlement.

Other Early Stage Routes

Besides the beach route, which was evidently the first main-traveled
road between Michigan City and Chicago through Northern Lake
County, faint traces yet remain of the two other highways which were
used in the days of the early stages. One passed not far from the


present Hessville, in Lake County north of the Little Calumet ; the other
south of that stream, by way of the Pole Bridge and the early Liver-
pool, along the high sand ridge where now are Highland and Munster.

■ Traveler Settles Into Solid Citizen

Mr. Luther's glimpses of Lake County, while he was teaming between
Laporte and Chicago, induced him to spend some portion of 1840 at
Southeast Grove, on the charming banks of Eagle Creek. At least he
found a pretty young wife among the daughters of the well-known

Flint family of that locality and brought her back with him to Porter
County. In 1849, however, he became a resident of Crown Point, where
he engaged in the hotel business, made fortunate investments and be-
came a citizen of property and influence. He was also generous, sym-
pathetic and kind-hearted. The people liked him and trusted him in

Online LibraryWilliam Frederick HowatA standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet region (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 44)