Among the first mechanics in this section were John Geiser, blacksmith; S. P. Haines, carpenter; F. J. Borck, tanner; Fred Forshey, shoemaker; and Joseph Bender, cooper. But these trades, useful as they are, were of little value to the possessors, as the building of log cabins occupied their attention. Our fathers were called to log cabin raising for ten miles around. I have gone four miles myself to such "raisings."
I call to memory my boyhood days of 1844, 1845, etc., regarding threshing grain. I have driven oxen day after day tramping out grain until Mr. Edwin Randall and Mr. Bronson brought the first thresher to this country. It was a common eight-horse power, the machine attached to it being a frame about four feet square, with a cylinder inside and a piece of canvas or sheepskin hanging to the front so the grains of wheat would not put our eyes out as we separated the straw from the wheat. I have also reaped wheat with a sickle many a day and can show my old sickle yet - also the scars I cut on my hands with it. What a decided improvement since then. Time will bring roses, but first must come buds.
About the year 1841 my uncle, Peter Weimer, went hunting one mile northwest of Avilla and shot a big deer. He threw down his gun, jumped astride the deer to cut its throat, whereupon the deer jumped up and ran away with Uncle Peter, finally throwing him off and hurting him considerably. About a month later my father shot the same deer and on close examination found that Uncle Peter had, on the former occasion, shot a prong off one of the antlers and the shock had caused the animal to fall. I have the antlers yet.
Now a little something for the boys. When I was a lad about ten years old, J. W. Haines and I were chums and we would go squirrel hunting with clubs. One of us would stand in a fence corner near the woods with a club while the other would drive the squirrels out of the cornfield. Then the fun would begin, pounding and threshing right and left until both were exhausted.
Now they told me a thorough excitement to bring on a good perspiration would break up the ague so I tried it on. I began chasing squirrels from 9 o'clock to 12, when I had eight squirrels and no more shake for years. All the weapon I used was an ox-gad and plenty of perspiration.
I well remember the raising of the
mission cross at St. Mary's Church, as I was then 20 years of age. The
inscription on the cross translated into English was, "Whosever shall
persevere to the end shall be saved." About thirty year ago I was in
Missouri, and near Tipton, that state, I found a familiar mission cross bearing
the same inscription as this. Further particulars later."
Avilla News May 4, 1893
"While my father was working for Dan Bixler at what is now Kendallville, in the early days he was driving the cows through the chopping one evening, and they suddenly shied sidewise out of the path. Looking to see the cause, father saw a large bear coming straight toward them. Father got behind a tree and as the bear got even with the tree father jumped out, struck the tree with a club, yelled with all his might, and the bear scampered back toward the lake. The bears would come up after corn and pumpkins in a field adjoining the choppings. Father returned to the house and told of his adventure.
Mr. Bixler had a good old flintlock musket carrying about an ounce ball, and he determined to have that bear. One moonlight evening soon after this he hid behind a big log near the path that came from the lake. Bruin soon came waddling along, and Mr. Bixler took careful aim and fired. The bear whirled around and took for the lake, and Dan returned to the house, saying, "I fixed him." The next morning they went out to investigate and found the bear dead in the path.
Now in those days of 1837 to 1840 the Indians were camped on the north banks of Bixler Lake. In 1838 I was born in the old Henderson house south of Henderson Lake, Kendallville, and father had rented William Mitchell's farm. In June 1839 while father was in the cornfield with three of his chums - Albert Wilson, Fred Bodenhafer and Joseph Axtell - there came a storm across the lake. The men hurried to the house and father rushed to shut the back door toward the lake. But it lifted off its hinges, and the force of the wind threw him and the door back into the house, burst out the south door and played havoc in general. Father grabbed me and ran outdoors, mother followed, and they stood against the side of the cabin until the storm passed. It blew everything out of the house, out of the cupboard, from under the bed - from everywhere. Four pieces of queensware alone were left - a sugar bowl, a teapot, a cream pitcher and a butter plate, and the latter was sticking to the ceiling by the butter in it. All the valuables in a chest that was blown from under the bed were scattered over the cornfield. The boys left the house and ran to the far end of the field, where they took shelter under some oak trees. Before the storm ended the trees were down and the boys were without shelter. When the storm ended the scene was a desolate one - everything was gone. The chest had contained clothing, $300 in notes, etc. Father and the three boys hunted in the field and there found everything except one $100 note. For supper that evening they had to borrow. This was the remarkable storm that caused the windfall on the Bender farm northeast of Avilla where about ten acres of timber was blown to the ground.
We sometimes talk about late springs. In 1839 or 1840 my father made sugar in May, there being a deep snow on the first of May, causing sap to run well.
One season late in the spring when the sap began to taste "buddy", my mother was "finishing" sugar and it would not stay down in the kettle. She had considerable trouble paddling, as we called it, to keep it down. Just then two big Indians came into the camp. Leaving their rifles standing against a tree, they approached and told mother what to put in the kettle to keep the sugar down. But she could not understand their language so one of them went to his gun, took something out of the patch box and threw it in the sugar, and she had no further trouble.
In 1841 we moved to Avilla on the farm that Ignatius Meyers now owns. I was then three years old and don't recollect much for myself, but mother has told me she would lay me in a sap trough while she hoed corn, for we had no cradles or cribs. I was raised in a cornfield - not a pumpkin, but in a sap trough. Further particulars I will give later."
To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.