William Frederick Howat.

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

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their private and public affairs. In 1860 Mr. Luther was elected county
auditor and ably held the office for eight years. Naturally he was inter-
ested in any record of the development and changes of the region with
which he was so long identified; so that the Old Settler and Historical
Association of Lake County had no more earnest or active member than
he, and he continued to contribute to its archives almost to the day of
his death in his eightieth year.


Ajstother Tb^vveler Finds the First Resident Farmer

A second traveler, and perhaps the first to pass through the county
of which he afterward became a resident, was James Hill, of the well-
known military family of Kentucky. His father, William, was a captain
of militia in that state and died in 1822, The son, then twelve years of
age, made his home with the family of James Lloyd, and in 1827 they
moved to Decatur County, Indiana.

In February, 1834, James Hill made an exploring expedition into
the new Indian purchase of Northwestern Indiana. He found a few
white families therein, saw many Indians in their wigwams and, coming
into what became Lake County, he discovered just one settled family —
that of William Ross, who had established a home in the woodlands west
of Deep River, southwest of the present Village of Hobart. He had
known the Rosses in Decatur County, but not finding the leafless oaks,
the snow-covered prairies and the Indian wigwams sufficiently inviting
to induce a lone young man to settle then and there, Mr. Hill returned
to Decatur County, married, commenced farm life and deferred his actual
settlement in Lake County until 1853. During that year he bought a
half section of land in Cedar Creek Township near what afterward
became Creston. There he lived for many years, a good, patient, kindly
man and the father of such sons as William J. Hill, a successful and
forceful character of the Far West, and Dr. Jesse L. Hill, a well-known
practitioner in the earlier days of Creston.

When young Mr. Hill met his older friend, Mr. Ross, at that cabin
home on the banks of Deep River, the family had been residing in that
locality for about a year. The year of the Ross settlement was there-
fore 1833.

Innkeepers Along the Beach

Prior to that year, no whites with white wives, and possessed with the
Anglo-Saxon ideas of family life, had made their homes within the
present limts of Lake County, with the possible exception of a Bennett
family who, in 1832, opened a tavern on the beach of Lake Michigan
"near the mouth of the old Calumic." Their little wayside inn stood
upon the site of Calumet City of the old paper town of Indiana City,
near the mouth of the Calumet.

Soon after the coming of the Ross family, another log-cabin stage
hotel was opened on the lake-shore road by the Berry family. The
house was afterward kept by Hannah Berry, and the name is preserved
in Berry Lake.


Ross, THE First Substantial Pioneer

It is William Ross, therefore, who is generally honored as the first
substantial pioneer of Lake County. His family were not all with him,
as he was a man of middle age with sons and daughters of mature years.
Mr. Ross raised a crop of corn on Terra Coupee Prairie in the summer
of 1833 — the first in the county. His death, some years afterwards,
was occasioned by injuries received by the falling of a bee tree.

James Adams, Noted Government IMessenger

Another early traveler who passed through Lake County was James
Adams, who afterward became a resident of Ross Township. He was a
New York stage driver on the road opened in 1833 from Detroit to
Chicago. The most exciting trip M-hich he recorded was that of January,
1837, when he was sent from Detroit to Fort Dearborn by Governor
Mason of Michigan and General Brady of the United States army
as a messenger bearing the order for the transfer of the soldiers stationed
at the latter post to the Detroit garrison. It was at the time of the
Patriots' war in Canada. The sleighing was good and the young man
(he was then about twenty-three years old) determined to make a record;
as he did. General Brady had furnished him with good fur gloves
and other specially warm clothing, as well as with pressing instructions
to have the best horse furnished him at each stage house. The stopping
places where he could change horses were from twelve to fourteen
miles apart ; the entire distance was 284 miles, which, if possible, he
^•as to make in twenty-four hours.

^Ir. Adams left Detroit at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and reached
the fort at 8 o'clock the next morning. Allowing for the delay in
'•hanging horses, his record of ten miles an hour M^as quite remarkable,
and made Adams considerable of a hero in the Calumet region. In
1842 the famous horseman, while still a yoiing man, left the road in
favor of a good farm in Ross Township, but although faithful and
useful for more than half a century thereafter, his life run along
smoothly and evenly. He had a schoolhouse named after him, just east
of ]\Ierrillville, .and was accorded other local marks of respect.

Public Lands Surveyed H5970G

In the summer of 1834 several United States surveyors ran their
lines through what is now Lake County (then unorganized as a civil
body), blocking out congressional townships and sections, and making


it possible for white emigrants seeking locations to fix them definitely
and get them recorded legally. In 1828 the Government had purchased
from the Pottawatomies the ten-mile strip on the north line of the
State of Indiana which extended to the extreme south bend of Lake
Michigan — which is on section 35, township 37, range 8 (Calumet Town-
ship). By the treaty of 1832 the remainder of the land held by the
Indians in Northern Indiana was acquired and, as stated, the land
surveys were prosecuted in 1834.

Settlers of 1834

In June, 1834, William B. Crooks and Samuel Miller came from
Montgomery County and selected a timber and mill claim near the home
of William Ross not far from the mouth of Turkey Creek. They appear
to have dissolved business partnership, and more than half a century
afterward the foundation timber of Miller's Mill could be seen in the
clear water of Deep River. Mr. Crooks became somewhat prominent
in public matters, serving as one of the first associate judges of Lake
County, elected in 1837.

In October, 1834, Thomas Childers filed a claim on Deep River;
Solon Robinson, Luman A. Fowler and Robert Wilkinson took up land
on the banks of the same stream, in November of that year, and in
December, Jesse Pierce and David Pierce filed their claims on both Deep
River and Turkey Creek.

Solon Robinson and Crown Point

Of the foregoing Solon Robinson was by far the most important
character in connection with the early development of Lake County,
being in many respects its strongest citizen. He w^as of an old Connect-
icut family, but left his native state early in life, married in Ohio and
while still a young man became a resident of Indiana. In October,
1834, he loaded his wife, two young children and his household goods
into an ox-cart and an extra wagon, and, with two other young men
wlio liad probably been neighbors in Jennings County, started for
Northwestern Indiana. The roadway, except Indian ti'ails, ended in
Porter County, but he found there Jacob Hurlburt to guide him to the
newly-surveyed land Ijang yet further west.

Just before sunset on October 31, 1834, the leader of the party
having crossed a beautiful belt of prairie, reached some skirting wood-
land. The next morning he decided to make that locality his future
home, and from that November morning until 1850 his name is closely


interwoven with the founding of many Lake County institutions which
have materially contributed to its growth. So fully was he concerned
with the land affairs of the central portions of the county that he was
called the Squatter King of Lake. In company with Luman A. Fowler
and a few others he founded the Town of Crown Point and did more
than anybody else to obtain for it the county seat in 1840. He made
the first map of the county which was at all reliable, showing, besides
the usual features, what portions were prairie and what woodland, and
on July 4, 1836, organized the Squatters' Union, of which he w^as elected
the first register of claims. ]Mr. Robinson was an early justice of tlie
peace, the first postmaster in the county and, with his brother, Milo
Robinson, opened the first store for settlers. Although very practical,
he was fond of writing, and had quite an agricultural turn of mind.
As early as 1837 he commenced contributing to the Cultivator, an agri-
cultural journal of prominence, and in 1838 proposed the organization
of the American Society of Agriculture. For years he continued the
work of organization, both through the press and extended travel, and
it is believed that his efforts had a direct bearing on the inauguration
of the Grange movement. He also wrote a number of stories and was
at one time connected with the New York Tribune, having spent many
of the late years of his life in the metropolis. When quite advanced
in years he went to Florida, where he died in 1880 in his seventj^-
eighth year.

One of ]Mr. Robinson's old friends described him as "affal^le. familiar,
plain, hospitable, kind and accommodating, enjoying the wielding of
influence and fond of gaining celebrity." Although not a professed
Christian, none did more than he in the founding of early eburches
and Sunday schools and the inculcation of temperance and general
morality. These acts were in line with one of his life codes which he
laid down in one of his many published articles: "Happiness and not
wealth should be the aim of all, though no man should allow himself
to be happy without he is doing some good in the world — promoting
the happiness of his felloAV creatures as well as of himself."

The Original Bitler Claims

Previous to ]\Ir. Robinson's arrival on the site of Crown Point, and
even before the claim register of the Squatters' I^nion was in force (in
June or July, 1834), William Butler made four claims on what is now
the townsite of Crown Point — one for himself, one for his brother (E. P.
Butler), one for George Wells and the fourth for Theodore Wells. He
made claims, but no settlement, and evidently engaged a man to put up


some cabins to make his titles solid. Mr. Robinson states that the day
after his arrival he was greeted by Henry Wells and Luman A. Fowler,
and that within the next two or three days they bought claims (Butler's)
and two log-cabin bodies built by one Huntley.

A Hamlet Born

.V liamlet was soon born on this section 8, for in January and Febru-
ary, 1835, some other families joined Mr. Robinson from his home county
of Jennings — the Clark family, seven in number, headed by Williani
Clark; the two Holton families, also seven members, whose fathers were
J. AY. and W. A. W. Holton ; and the Robinson family, a third collection
of seven. This community of twenty-one persons, which was massed
on sections 5 and 8, comprised three married men and four married
women (one a widow), live young men and two young ladies, four boys
and three girls — elements which promised well for the growth of the
little colony of Crown Point.

Main Street Lined Out

Earl.\- in the following spring the first furrow was turned on the
prairie which was afterward to be Main Street, Crown Point. This
is the picture, as painted by eye witnesses : A large breaking plow with
a Avooden mold board had been provided, four yoke of oxen were
attached to the plow, and the women and children came out from the
cabins to see the first furrow turned in the greensward of the prairie.
Judge Clark held the plow; Thomas and Alexander (his sons) guided
the oxen. AY. A. W. Holton walked behind to aid in turning over any
refractor}' turf, himself then young and vigorous, with that jet-black
hair that cares little for exposure, which has characterized the Holton
young men ; while in front of all, to enable the oxen and boys to keep
the line, walked the tall, spare form of Solon Robinson, even then as
white-haired as Christopher Columbus when he stood on the deck of
the Santa Maria.

Disappearance of the Old Robinson House

Before taking formal leave of Solon Robinson (for his name will
repeatedly appear in various portions of this history) we must make note
of the final disappearance of the old log house which was so long his
home and the center of the many activities M'hich made Crown Point
sucli an attractive place before the northern portions of the county com-



meuced to develop so prodigiously. The account, which is found in
one of the "Reports of the Historical Secretary of the Old Settler and
Historical Association," is as follows: "'As the month of November,
1902, draws to a close, one of the old landmarks in Crown Point
is disappearing from view. This is the old log house built by Solon
Robinson, which has been standing northwest of the northwest corner
of the public square on Court Street back of a row of large locust trees,
beyond the memory of most of the present inhabitants of Crown Point.
Having siding on the outside, perhaps some did not know it was built
of logs. This house has a history such as belongs to no other in Crown
Point, and now that men are taking down the building is a titting time



ox I'lJKsKXT Main Street, Crown Poixt

to commit to the Art Preservative, as some one has called printing, some
of tliis history. 'Here,' as the record says, 'at a meeting of a majority
of the citizens of Lake County, held at the house of Solon Robinson on
the fourth of July, 1836, was organized the Squatters' Union of Lake
County. '

"In 1837 the house was opened by its hospitable owners several
times for the preaching of the Gospel until a more roomy place was
provided by the erection of the log Court House. For some years it was
the home of the Robinson family, the father and mother, two sons and
two daughters and often various guests, and there the youth and beauty
of the early Crown Point sometimes met for dancing and for visits and
other social entertainment. They dance in larger rooms now. But the
varied forms of life which were in and about those log walls for the


first twelve years after the logs were formed into a dwelling place for
man cannot be expressed in a few printed words; nor can the life of
forty 3^ears afterward. ' '

Only a part of the old building was removed in November ; so the
other record is this: "^londay, ]\Iarch 2, 1903 — Today the remaining
part of the Robinson house was removed to make way for the printing
office soon to be erected on this spot by J. J. Wheeler, whose wife is a
granddaughter of the old house-builder. And so the spot where for
many years stood the bright home of the Robinson family, where
ministers of the Gospel have l)een welcomed, where births and deaths
have occurred and where the young and the aged often have met, is soon
to be the home of journalism, the abode of printing presses, and the day
home for those who do type-setting and press-work, and hope to enrich
with printed thought thousands of living homes.

"As quite certainly the first printing in Lake County was done
by Solon Robinson, and on this very spot his little printing office was
kept, it seems peculiarly appropriate that in this office should be found,
with his home a few yards north, Fred Y. Wheeler, a great-grandson
of Lake County's first printer. And before finally leaving in our historj'
the home spot of Crown Point's first settler, it may be added that
another great-grandson, Harold H. Wheeler, and a great-granddaughter,
Miss Josephine Lincoln, the one clerk of the Circuit Court and the
other an assistant in the clerk's offiee, pass this spot daily on their way
from their own homes to the Court House."

As none of the pioneers of Lake County presumed to question the
authority of the Claim Register, the editors of this work do not go behind
its returns. From its records it is learned that besides the Clarks and
Holtons and others who settled on the site of Crown Point in the winter
of 1835. the following located later in the year: In March, Richard
Fancher and Robert Wilkinson, with two nephews, migrated from the
Valley of the Wabash and settled on West Creek and northeast of Red
Cedar Lake, the Fancher claim including the present county fair
grounds. Elias Bryant, E. W. Bryant, Nancy Agnew (widow) and
Jeremiah Wiggins arrived within the month.

Founder of Wiggins Point

Mr. Wiggins located his claim south of Turkey Creek on a wooded
point of land, which was long known as Wiggins Point. An old Indian
viUage preceded it, and as the founder of Wiggins Point died in 1838,
his name disappeared in favor of Centerville and finally of Merrillville.


Plowing Up the Old Indian Cemetery

Although the Indians had transferred their title to their lands, still
they lingered, and seemed especially loth to abandon their burial grounds
to the ravages of the white settlers. Wiggins' claim embraced the large
cemetery already mentioned and the Pottawatdmies were very indignant
at the desecration of one of the graves which was robbed of its sacred
relics for a private collection. It is said that one day after the robbing
of the grave, two Indians armed with rifles came into the field where
Wiggins was at work alone. They went to the grave, set down their
rifles and talked very earnestly. Wiggins was naturally alarmed; but,
although the Indians were evidently much displeased, they finally with-
drew without ofi^ering any violence. Wiggins, who had claimed this
part of the Indian village, then allowed his breaking plow to pass over
the old burial ground.

This desecration did not pass unnoticed by the Red Men. In 1840,
when General Brady, with 1,100 Indians from Michigan, passed through
Lake County quite a number visited the ruined graves, some of the
squaws groaning and weeping as they looked upon the violated home of
their dead. A pathetic illustration of the rougli "over-lapping" of the
lives and customs of two diverse races !

The Bryant Settlement and Pleasant Grove

Of the five Bryants, who commenced the Bryant Settlement in the
spring of 1835, few of them seem to have made the locality a permanent
home. Some of them gave the place the name of Pleasant Grove, by
which it was most generally known. David Bryant moved to Bureau
County in 1838 ; resided at various times in Missouri and Ohio, but finally
died in Lake County at the house of his daughter, ]\[rs. William Fisher,
then living at Eagle Creek.

Simeon Bryant only remained a year; then mov(Hl to Indian Town,
near Hebron, Porter County.

Samuel D. Bryant soon returned to his Ohio home, but after a few
years was dra^vn back to Lake County, bought a farm south of Southeast
Grove in 1854, and spent his last years thereon.

Elias Bryant died on his Pleasant Grove homestead.

E. Wayne Bryant seems to have done the most for the county. As
early as the faU of 1836 he provided a room for a school, where the chil-
dren of the settlement were taught by Bell Jennings, "a very excellent
man." He also aided in starting a Sunday School for the children in
1838, and had already put a crude grist mill in operation. Soon after


loL-ating he boug'ht some hand millstones of Lyman Wells, and in the
winter of 1836-37 "rigged up" a horse-power attachment, by which
corn and buckwheat were ground for the neighborhood. This little mill
continued to grind for two or three years and at one time there were
under cover, waiting to be ground, over three hundred bushels of grain !
This was one of the earliest mills of any kind to be put in operation
in Lake County.

Other Settlers op^ 1835

In May, 1835, eame Elias Myrick, William Myrick, Thomas Reid,
S. P. Stringham and Aaron Cox; in June, Peter Stainbrook; and in
November David Hornor, Amos Hornor, Jacob L. Brown, Thomas Wiles,
Jesse Bond and ^lilo Robinson, brother of Solon.

The first to make claims on Red Cedar Lake were various members of
the Hornor family, who had come from the Wabash region. Certain
members of the family always insisted that they first "squatted" in the
fall of 1834, but the first record presented by the Claim Register makes
the date November, 1835, as given heretofore. David Hornor was the
father; Amos Hornor, a son. The former returned to the old home in
Tippecanoe County, while Amos Hornor, then about twenty-three years
of age, located in Lake County.

After the return of his father's family to the Wabash, Mr. Hornor
resided for some time at Crown Point, where he married his first wife.
His final home was at Ross, where he died in 1895, in his eighty-third

The Claim Register records the settlers for December, 1835, as being
John Wood, Henry Wells, William S. Thornburg, R. Dunham, R. Hamil-
ton and John G. Forbes.

Solon Robinson's Historical Synopsis

As a sort of commentary on the foregoing, and a partial synopsis,
the following is abridged and ciuoted from one of Solon Robinson's his-
torical addresses:

Early Settlers: — 1. The Bennett family opened a tavern on the
beach of Lake Michigan "near the mouth of the old Calumic."

2. The Berry family opened a tavern on the beach in the spring
of 1834.

3. Four or five families settled as squatters in the fall of 1834:
' ' Thomas Childers and myself in October. He, a day or two before me.
His claim southeast quarter section 17 ; mine, northwest quarter sec-
tion 8."


On November 1st "Henry Wells and Lunian A. Fowler came along
on loot." Their horses had been left on Twenty Mile Prairie. "Cedar
Lake was then the center of attraction for land lookers, and they passed
on down to that lake without thinking to inquire who kept tavern there.'''
They found lodging in a fallen treetop still covered with leaves, and
had for supper "the leg of a roasted coon." They found there David
Hornor, his son Amos and a relative named Brown, who were looking
for claims and who settled in 1835.

Wells and Fowler returned next day to tlie Robinson camp, slept
that night on the "softest kind of a white oak puncheon," bought claims
and "two log cabin bodies built by one Huntley" on the south side of
section 8, paying for the same $50. Henry Wells went back to Michigan
for his family. Luman A. Fowler staid through the winter. "During
the tirst winter we had many claim makers, but few settlers."

4. "The first family that came after Childers and myself was
that of Robert AVilkinson of Deep River. He settled about the last of
November, 1834."

5. The next family, that of Lyman Wells, with whom came John
Driscoll, settled in January, 1835, on section 25, township 33, range 9.
April 4, 1835, "there was a most terrible snowstorm, the weather pre-
vious having been mild as suunner. "

Lake Court House Postoffice

Until March, 1836, the nearest postoffice was ]\Iichigan City. Solon
Robinson was then appointed postmaster. His office was named Lake
Court House, written usually Lake C. H. Receipts for quarter ending
June, 1837, $26.92 ; September 30th, $43.50 ; for the next two quarters,
$57.33 and $57.39, This last, the largest amount while he was post-
master. Next postoffice west was Joliet.

County Organized

"In the spring of 1836 we were attached to Porter County, the
commissioners of which divided this county into three townships. ' ' The
county was organized in 1837. Log court house built the same year.

' ' During the summer of 1837 we had preaching several times in our
house and in the present (1847) court room. The Baptist people at
Cedar Lake also had frequent meetings this year, and I think had preach-
ing at Judge Ball's, who settled there that year."

"The summer of 1838 was one of severe drought and great sickness."
Muskrats went to houses to seek water. "One of them came into my


house and never so much as asked for a drink of whiskey, but went
direct for the water bucket."

In 183!) the county seat was located at Liverpool. The seat of
justice had lieen tixed by the Legislature temporarily at Lake Court

In ]\Iarch, 1889, the land sales opened at La Porte.

In June, 1840, county seat re-located. Contest mainly between West
Point at Cedar Lake and Lake C. H. The county seat was then estab-

Online LibraryWilliam Frederick HowatA standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet region (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 44)