John Conklin 
To Settlers Index 

Editor National Banner, Ligonier, Indiana:

As I have been noting the items of the old settlers, I thought I would give you a brief sketch of my early days in Indiana, hoping that it will interest some of your many readers. I left Ohio in the year 1835 and came to the state of Indiana. I was quite a boy in those days, and did not think I was a man, as the boys do now at the age of sixteen, and an “old Bach” at twenty one. My father was a poor man and was crippled in the war of 1812, and I worked for him as a dutiful child until I was twenty five years of age. Then I thought I would commence and do something for myself. About this time, my father moved to Iowa, and I thought I would stay here, as I had two brothers that were large enough to help the old gentleman; so packing up, father and mother, brothers and sisters, they all started for the West and I was left here alone. Alone, did I say: No, not alone, for, thank God, I always had plenty of friends wherever I was. Well, you know the Good Book says that man must have a “help meet,” so I got me a young wife and then life commenced in earnest. It wasn’t then as it is now a days - we had no father to set us up in business, so we “set ourselves up. ”Yes" I only had twenty dollars in my pocket, but we were both well and hearty and provided with plenty of good pluck. I worked out, receiving forty and fifty cents per day, and bought some corn on Elkhart Prairie for one dollar per bushel, and glad to get it at that. And here let me tell you how we commenced housekeeping. We moved into a shop owned by Esq. Baughman. Its dimensions were 14 feet square, but it was plenty large enough to contain all our furniture, which was not the finest in the world; however, it was good and durable, for I made it myself. My bedstead had one leg, and was corded up tight with linn bark. We ate our first supper off from a clap board, but as that was a little too primitive for comfort, I went to work the next day and made a table. My stove was a big hole cut in the side of the house, about 8 feet wide, and the pipe was run up with sticks and mud, and inside, was a nice big “nigger head” rock and – more mud. Our cooking utensils consisted of a little bake oven which we managed to convert as occasion required, into a mush kettle, tea kettle, stew pan, a frying pan and sometimes a coffee pot. Other furniture we had in proportion. My “chattles” consisted of a 3-year-old heifer, a present from my mother-in-law, a pig which weighed about one hundred pounds and which I bought and paid for by clearing up an acre of heavily timbered land. So you see I had a cow, a pig, a few chickens, and, as you may suppose, I felt pretty rich. You will still bear in mind that I had twenty dollars in money; so after awhile I took that and bought me a little piece of land, making thereon my first payment, and continued to work at the rate of fifty cents per day to make the next payment when it should become due. Now, perhaps, from the fact that I only paid twenty dollars down on my land, you will think that it was a very small piece, but it contained 68 acres and made me a home. But I was not quite satisfied with my location, as I traveled for another piece of land one mile from the first one. It was right in the woods, but we were not easily frightened, so taking my wife I moved onto my new place, camping under a big beech tree in the thickest of the timber, where the woodsman’s ax had never sounded, and the spice brush and pawpaw were so thick you could not see three rods before you, and wolves howling on all sides at twelve o’clock in the day. I soon saw the necessity of constructing a house, so I cut and hewed my logs, and in two weeks had a regular jubilee. A large log heap answered the purpose of a stove to cook by, and a table was built twelve feet long and three wide; on this was spread the eatables for our neighbors who had come to assist at the “raising.” We called everybody a neighbor then, who lived within a radius of 5 miles. Well, we got our house up that day and “moved” into it the same night. I’ll tell you, reader, we had hosts of friends, and all willing to “pitch in” and help one another. Of course, we felt proud enough of our new house, and, although it could not boast of any very great architectural beauty, it would afford us a comfortable shelter, and a home.  Then commenced the clearing up. I chopped down the trees and my wife helped to pick up the brush. Remember, I still had to work out by the day to make a living; but when my day’s work was done I would come home, where I always found plenty of good cheer in the substantial supper and a smiling wife, and then we would work until 10 or 11 o’clock at night picking up and burning brush; but I want your readers to bear in mind that we obeyed the divine commandments, working six days and resting on the seventh. Sometimes we would go to church, but preachers were scarce in those days and “meetin’ houses” scarcer. And this reminds me of a little story which I will relate. One Sunday morning, as my wife and I were lying in bed a little later that usual, all at once the dog commenced making a great fuss and flew out of the house. I jumped up and went to the door, and the first thing I beheld was a big wolf in the yard, looking hungry and ferocious enough to devour our whole domicile. Now, what could I do under the circumstances? I had no gun, and to attack him with an ax or a club, was a matter I did not care about undertaking. But I remembered that Squire Johnson had moved in a quarter of a mile south of me, and, furthermore, that he was the fortunate owner of a rifle; so, beating a retreat through the south door, which would bring the house between me and the wolf, I ran as fast as my legs would carry me, secured the gun, and returning the same way found the wolf still occupying the position he had taken when I left, no doubt waiting for me to come out when he would finish me at one meal. But I had no such intention of gratifying the desires of his wolfship, but opening the door, raised the gun to my shoulder, pulled the trigger, when, bang went the gun and over went the wolf. Securing the scalp and hide, I took it to Albion, where I received five dollars and fifty cents for it. Of course I was wonderfully elated with my success, and came home feeling like a rich man. Not “elated” as some men would have become by the invisible spirit of drink, but because I have five dollars and fifty cents with which to help my family, a sum of money which in those days was not to be “sneezed at”. This was the last wolf killed in the neighborhood, and the last I believe, in the township. Ligonier, when I first saw it was a very unpretentious town, containing in all, two houses. I assisted in clearing off the ground of the old grave yard and aided in building nearly every house and fence on Perry prairie, and also helped in clearing a large part of the ground. The manner in which we cleared the ground was thus:  As will be remembered the “oak grubs” were as thick as they could stand. We would first chop them down, then take ten yoke of oxen and one span of horses, and hitch them to a big plow that would run one foot deep and three feet wide. Everything ready, the word to start would be given and then it was hurrah boys - whip ! - crack !- smash and the way those grubs would get out of the way was a “caution to earthquakes”. In this way I helped clear up the farms of Andrew Engle, Adam Simmons, and Judge Wood, where John Spackeen now lives. In my own neighborhood I helped build the first church and the first school house that was built in my district, and could tell my readers many more things, but do not want to worry their patience. However, I will take this opportunity of saying that I have always worked hard for an honest living and have always tried to deal honestly with everybody. I never brought suit against a man and was never sued but once in my life. I am now fifty-six years old and never carried a watch or a revolver, or fired one off. In fact, I never carried concealed weapons of any kind - never was afraid of being hurt, and never had any disposition to hurt anyone. I never had a fight or became intoxicated on spirituous liquors. Moreover, I can say what few men can - I reside within five miles of a railroad but have never been inside of a railway car. I have a pleasant little farm five miles southwest of Ligonier, the same that I settled on 25 years ago, with the same log cabin standing on it, almost as good as ever. I have my “ups and downs” in this world, but my family never heard me swear an oath in my life, although I am not, in the orthodox sense, a professing Christian. But between good luck and bad luck my lot is life has been as fortunate as the majority of mankind. Now I think I will stop, and if any man of the same age can say more, I would like to hear from him.


Noble Notes:  First rule of tinkering - Save all of the parts.