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Title: Early Land Prospecting on the Wabash
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This story is rather out of place in the series at this time and should have been written in connection with articles telling of the sale and settlement of the lands in this vicinity, but as it contains many points of interest to some of the older families and gives a glimpse of things as they were at that time I am going to include it here.

It was thoroly advertised over the eastern states that the land in the Crawfordsvilel District would be opened to entry on the 24th of December, 1824. The various expeditions that portions of the United States Army had made into the Wabash Valley had given the soldiers an opportunity to see some of the settling of the country which was to be opened for settlement. Some of the soldiers had marched with General Scott, some had marched with Wilkinson, some had come with Hamtramck, and some had come with Harrison and Hopkins and all gave glowing accounts of the rich soil and splendid possibilities awaiting the settler in the Wabash Valley. These accounts inspired many persons who intended to take up or buy land from the Governor to make journeys into the new territory to locate their claims or the land they would purchase. In one instance at least quite a large company of men from Warren and adjoining counties in Ohio, left Lebanon, Warren County, Ohio as soon as their harvest was over, the grain stacked and corn laid up, and came to look over the lands for entry in the Crawfordsville District. This was in the autumn of 1824.

Henry Campbell, Steven Covert Berry Whicker, Alfred Fisher, and several others came into this vicinity landing in what is now Fountain county about the last of August. They made their headquarters with Enoch Farmer with whom they were acquainted and who had squatted on land that is now the Robert Milligan place. When Warren county was afterward organized the first court was held at the home of Enoch Farmer. He had the county named Warren for Warren county, Ohio, from which he had come, and tried to have the county seat located on his farm. He laid out a town which he called Warrenton for the county seat of Warren county. While he was privelaged to christen the county he could not overcome the opposition from Williamsport and the county seat got away from him. Warrenton never amounted to anything and the plat was vacated in after years.

This colony of land-seekers had known Mr. Farmer of Ohio. The four men that I have named went from Mr. Farmer's place with a band of Potawatami Indians, Topenibee being the chief of this tribe at that time. Among those Indians were some who were cousins to Alfred Fisher and Berry Whicker. These Indians were really Shawnees or Miamis, and when the Potawatamies came down from the north they hunted with them, so the land-seekers joined the Indians' hunting party and marched from Kickapoo thru what is now Warren and Benton counties, making their first stop at Beaver Lake. The blue stem grass grew so high in Benton county that one of the party rode out oa few feet into the blue stem from the party on the Indian trail and the rest of the party passed without seeing him. My grandfather (Berry Whicker) was riding a large strong horse and he could tie a blue stem over his head , sitting on his horse, so tall was it in Benton county. There were a few Buffalo, may deer and a great many wolves in the prairies of Benton county, and the white men in this party thought that the prairie would never be taken up. ALfred Fisher took up his claim near where Pine Village is and Henry Campbell took his claim in the Bethel neighborhood east of Attica. My grandfather afterwards came back and settled in the Bethel neighborhood but did not take up land at that time.

When they left Beaver lake they went to Chicago and stayed around Chicago for a week ro more and from Chicago they started on thir home trip, stopping at South Ben. Steven Covert took land from the government adjoining the town of South Bend; soon afterwards he moved onto this land and raised his family there.

The woods about Mr. Farmer's place were filled with timber wolves, panthers, and bears. There were a great many wild turkeys and deer in this locality and the Wabash river was full of fish.

Henry Campbell and Alfred Fisher came back in December to Crawfordsville and registered their claims and soon afterward moved on to them. Mr. Covert moved on to his claim near South Bend about the same time.

I am of the opinion that Topenibee and the Indians who were related to Mr. Covert's wife had something to do with their locating at this time on the St. Joseph river, as Topenibee's home was Topenabee, on the St. Joseph river at Michigan. The Shawnee prairie attracted their attentin on account of its beauty. It was interspersed with timber, small tracts of prairie and with a great many ponds of water.

This party spent most of their time with Mr. Farmer because of the fishing along the Wabash and the splendid opportunity to hunt while they were in this locality. Mr Farmer was enthusiastic as to the future of the west side of the Wabash and he thought that some day the vast prairies of Benton county would be settled and that their products would come to some town along the Wabash to be shipt.

Soon after Henry Campbell settled in Bethel neighborhood east of Attica many of his friends and relatives came into that locality. Isaac Waldrip, a brother-in-law, and later his brother. Jonathan Campbell, another brother, settled in Jackson township but his wife and some of his stock died there of milksick, and he moved to the Bethel neighhborhood where his brother and sister had settled. There were only a few of the party that made the trip to Chicago and back thru South Bend. Some of the Birchs and Colverts were in this party, having come into the year before. Jesse Birch took up the land where Watt Morgan now lives, and his brother took up the Clayton Todd farm land near Bethel.

The prospectors who made the trip to Chicago saw no land that they considered as valuable or desirable as the Wabash Valley, with the exception of Covert. On the trip to Chicago there were a hundred Indians or more in the party and only a few of the white people, and the Indians killed what game they used for food until they reached Beaver lake. Beaver lake was at this time a beautiful body of water, very clear and rather shallow, a delightful place for the Indians to hunt, fish and bath. It was one of the principal camping grounds of the Potawatami Indians, and with the exception of the visit with their friends along the Wabash the white men who were with this party enjoyed the stay at Beaver lake better than all the rest of the trip. The Wabash Valley was considered a long, long way from eastern Ohio, whether they came down the Ohio to the Wabash or whether they drove thru the dense woods and mirey swamps where they could see the shy deer by day and hear the scream of the panther by night. It was a long journey but the pioneerswho had come to take a look at this promised land went back with accounts of promising and delightful as did the spies of old, who had gone into the Canaan. They could tell the story of the wild grape growing in profusion, of the wild plums and berries and the Wabash Valley impressed all who saw it as a land flowing with milk and honey.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001108
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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