In our first article, we wrote how Indiana became an organized territory in 1800, and a state in 1816. The surveyors finished their work in Lake County in 1834, and were followed very quickly by the arrival of the hardy homesteaders.
In September 1834, the first homesteaders in the Lake Prairie area came to Lake County to look for claims in this newly surveyed northwest part of Indiana. Robert Wilkinson, Richard Fancher, Charles Wilson, along with Wilkinson's two nephews, T.S. Wilkinson and B. Wilkinson, came at this time. Two of five were mounted on horses and three in a wagon as they crossed the Kankakee at the head of the rapid. They crossed West Creek where Robert Wilkinson selected a place for his home.
By coincidence there was another homesteader named Robert Wilkinson who staked his claim in November 1834 in the Deep River area. In the Claims Register it was noted that the Robert Wilkinson that came to Lake Prairie was from Attica, Ind.
Wilkinson and his party rode to the Cedar Lake area, where Charles Wilson staked his claim, while Richard Fancher made his selection at the southern edge of Crown Point, near the lake in the County Fairgrounds which bears his name. This group explored many parts of the county, saw a black bear at Cedar Lake, and came upon the Indian mound on the Sandridge on the north side of the Lake. They stayed three weeks and then returned across the Wabash.
Wilkinson's claim is on record for March 1835, although he waited until May of that year to take possession, there-by missing the terrible snowstorm on April 4th. We would assume that pioneer Wilkinson agreed with other homesteaders who wrote about the Lake Prairie region one called the area "the gem of the prairie region of Indiana" and said "it possesses perfect beauty." In his book, "Lake County Indiana 1834-1872," Rev. T.H. Ball described the area "to the south of the prairie a belt of marsh and meadow land 5 to 6 miles in breadth, with islands of timber bordering the Kankakee river."
It is said Wilkinson was raising the walls of his cabin, log by log, with the assistance of his son Noah, and his wife, while twenty stout Indians looked on. When a great effort was needed to raise a large log, the Indians just stood around and laughed and refused to help the tired settlers.
An historian wrote in 1872 that Wilkinson's claim was on what was then called the Charles Marvin farm. After talking to Mr. Harold Lindemer and Mrs. Cordula Schutz, both who had lived in that area, we find that it is now the Dr. George Stuppy farm on 185th and Calumet near Hadders Road and that the Schutz family lived on that farm for a number of years.
After that terrible snowstorm of Apr. 1834 which Wilkinson missed, the following two summers were very wet, and then in the summer of 1838 there was a severe drought and great sickness. Solon Robinson, pioneer of Crown Point, wrote in his log that water was so scarce a muskrat entered his cabin to drink from the water bucket.
In 1837, the year Lake County was organized, at the first August election, Wilkinson was elected first Probate Judge in Lake County. He held this office for several years.
In 1838 bridge building began in Lake County. Two bridges were constructed northeast of Crown Point, one over Cedar Creek, and one over West Creek near Judge Wilkinson's home. The bridge over West Creek was built by N. Hayden at a cost of $400, and the money was used from the "three percent fund." The total amount of taxes collected in Lake County in 1837 was $2,002.77.
Judge Wilkinson and his family lived in this area until 1849, when he moved to Missouri. His son, John B. Wilkinson, returned at the time of the Civil War, and was a mail carrrier between Lowell and Crown Point. The Judge left the Lake Prairie area before the "New Hampshire Settlement" of 10 New England families in 1855 settled south of the center of that beautiful prairie. I have not been able to find later history of the Wilkinson name.