I am very much interested in those two letters concerning the first settlers of old Noble County in and around Albion. The first letter I read was in a June number, dated the 24th, written by Elmer E. Prickett of Albion. Now I don't want to dispute anything Mr. Prickett has said about all those county houses that this county is said to have had before the present court house was built in 1889, but I never heard tell of a court house burning down in the town of Albion that burnt nearly all of the county records, but there was a court house and jail in old Augusta that burned down and not only part, but all of the records were burned, and all the titles they ever got was when they moved the court house. I think it was old Port Mitchell, one of the oldest towns in the county at the time.
Mr. Prickett spoke about the taxpayers paying their taxes in Sparta before Augusta was established. I don't think that is correct, for my grandfather, Joseph Beal, came to this county in 1834 and purchased land four miles north of the old town of Wolf Lake, known for years as the Joel Vanderford farm, but, of course, long since has passed into the hands of children and grandchildren. Joseph Beal always paid his taxes at Augusta while he lived.
Joseph Beal, with three sons and one daughter, came from Franklin County, O., sometime along towards the fall of 1834. When they came through the place that is now Wolf Lake all that was there was one large log house covered with clapboards, fastened down with eight poles, puncheon floor, with a manager and his family in it. They took care of immigrants coming from Ohio and other places. This cabin was a store, post office and tavern. They had beds piled up from the floor to the ceiling (no bedsteads.) They were very accommodating when anyone came along that would stay and buy land, for there were only 37 white families in the county.
The county was made up mostly of Potawatomi Indians. They were not dangerous and made up with the white people and traded with them. My Grandfather Beal had lots of dealings with the Indians. He learned the Indian language.
Mr. Beal and family had a very hard time the first winter. They put up a tent in the woods and warmed themselves by a log heap. My mother said she stood in snow two feet deep with nothing on but a flimsy woolen dress and rags tied around her feet for shoes. After her father started trading with the Indians he bought her a pair of Indian moccasins. My mother told me there was three weeks that they did not have a bite of bread. Of course, they had meat, for the country was full of wild game.
The second summer, 1835, Mr. Beal and two oldest boys, William and Allen, put up a log house with a clapboard roof and stick chimney.
There were no schools in the county. All the school my mother got in Indiana for several years was when a lady teacher came to their house three or four afternoons a week and gave her and one brother that was three years younger than mother lessons in reading and writing. Then there were a few log school houses built. The seats had no backs and were so high that her feet didn't touch the floor by six inches, and there were no desks. The school houses were also used for churches.
After my mother was older, her father used to take her to Wolf Lake, and here one time she saw an old wagon box half filled with apples with a yoke of oxen hitched to it traveling from Fort Wayne to Goshen. There was a stick about three feet long stuck up inside the endgate with a large yellow apple on the end and a sign, "Apples for sale." A little barefoot boy, about five years old, took after the wagon when it left and ran about a mile to get an apple and came back empty-handed. The roads were rough and he got his feet blistered. This little fellow was C. R. Wiley, who for 20 years was in the merchandise business in Wolf Lake. He was also postmaster and trustee for several terms, and in the early nineties was nominated and elected by a large majority for county auditor. Mr. Wiley died before his term for auditor expired. I can't tell you how long the ox team with apples was in getting to Goshen, or how long it was on the road, but I'll bet a dollar to doughnuts that one of our very best automobiles on these good roads would have beat it there by several minutes.
Now about Mr. Baker's letter, the California man, he spoke about old Bill Hill getting out of the Albion jail. Why Bill Nye's boomerang mule would have smiled to look at such a jail as Albion in those days. I saw that jail. My mother wanted to see a jail bird that was in it, so she took me with her. I was only nine years old, but old nature gave me a wonderful memory and I am right here to say that the Augusta jail must have been a much more substantial jail for they kept a man in that jail who was sentenced to be hung for killing a man in Rochester. His name was John Lethner. Also they kept a ringleader of a horse thief gang in the same jail. His name was McDugal. They never got out until they were taken out to be hung.
Lethner was taken a short distance east of Augusta. He was swung from a tree, but there was a platform and trap door all fixed up substantial. My mother showed me the tree when I was nine years old. She said there were more than 1500 people witnessed the hanging. They came from Ohio, Illinois, southern Michigan and different points in Indiana. All executions were public in those days.
McDugal, the horse thief leader, was hung at Diamond Lake, and hung on a tree very close to where the Ligonier people have their pleasure resort. McDugal was buried somewhere between Rome City and Wolcottville. So you see this old county has the distinction of swinging up its criminals, and old Wolf Lake has the distinction of having the horse thief den stables and the tavern.
In 1853 my mother went to Columbus, O., after her mother, Mrs. Catherine Beal. In those days there were no railroads so she took a passenger boat on a canal to Columbus. After she got on the boat the conductor asked her where she was from and she told him, Indiana. He asked her from what part. She told him Wolf Lake, Noble County. Then he asked her how close she lived to that horse thief den. She said about three-fourths of a mile. She says she felt quite shaky as he looked very suspicious to her.
The horse thief den was located a quarter of a mile west of Wolf Lake where the Leesburg, Fort Wayne and Goshen Roads meet. The stables were filled with stolen horses and was located right in the forks of the road. After McDugal was hung, the gang was broken up. It was claimed they had kept over 30 head of stolen horses. Their tavern stood on a hill just above the stables.
I asked my mother how the court house and jail at Augusta were burned. She said a jail bird had set it on fire.
I was naturally a very inquisitive little girl and always wanted to know how the first emigrants here lived and got a start.
Fort Wayne got its name from the old Indian fort built there and from General Wayne. After the peace treaty was signed between General Wayne and the Indians there was a specified time for them to leave this part of the country and when they began to leave they took with them several white children. My mother and the other good neighbors helped to hunt around lakes and woods for three days for a little boy between two and three years of age. His name was Noe and his people lived two and one-half miles west of Kimmell. They never found the little fellow. Five Indians were seen going through that locality the same day the lad came up missing.
If there is a man living in the town of Kimmell by the name of Dell Noe, he is a relative of this little boy.
My mother, Miss Lettecia Beall, stood on the spot where Ligonier stands when there was not an improvement on the ground. Elkhart River came half way up the banks and was so deep and rapid that it would have drowned a horse anywhere along its course. There were only two houses there, both log cabins with stick chimneys and old-fashioned fireplaces with dog irons in them to hold the wood up and a crane fastened up inside of the fireplace to hold the kettle on.
Now please take notice. This was the way all the log houses were built. No cook stoves at all. Every family done their cooking in and around these fireplaces. One of these houses was on the north bank of the Elkhart River, the other on the south. There were no bridges over the river. They had a temporary bridge but high water swept it away and there were no boats. They had a rope fastened cross the river. One man lost his grip on the rope and went down the river. He was found the next day.
Rochester, a little town southeast of Ligonier, had a dam, a grist mill run by water, a store, post office and two or three log houses.
At this time Port Mitchell had a dam and two mills. One was a grist mill and the other made bats and rolls out of wool. A store, post office, tavern and a few dwellings made up the town.
My mother said at this time Albion did not have any improvements but was just in the state of nature.
Miss Lettecia Beall, the subject of this sketch, was born October 5, 1823 and came to Indiana when but 10 years old. She was in her 90th year when she quit the shores of time. She lived to see many changes so you see this letter goes back further than either E. E. Prickett's or J. M. Baker's, the California man. I think it will be a very good letter for our money-mad, pleasure-crazy people to read. It will give them an idea of when we started, especially our fathers and grandfathers.
In just a few more days the writer of this sketch will be living on borrowed time and as I don't never expect to pay any of it back, I will borrow all Old Nature will lend me.
The first time I looked at Old Sol, the lifegiver of all, James Buchanan was elected president of the United States, so the solar influences were strongly in favor of Democracy, and it must have had a wonderful influence over me too, as I have always found my most congenial friends in the party that was then coming into control. I have taken a Democratic county paper for over 30 years and expect to take the same the rest of my time. I am soon contemplating on being in southern California and may write you something from there.
Helen Kimble, Albion, Ind.
Noble Co Democrat August 1926
Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he'll believe you.
Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he'll have to touch to be sure.