This is the first in a series of monthly columns on local history authored by Richard C. Schmal, an active historian and member of the Three Creeks Historical Association. With the renewed interest in “roots” and genealogy, the articles are both timely and interesting.
It seems fitting that the first of a series of history columns should be about our earliest settlers, the homesteaders.
Before these hardy pioneers arrived, very few white men were in the area. The French were here as early as 1679, and, of course, the Indians, especially the Pottawatomies, who had been here for many years before.
Indiana became an organized territory in 1800, and a state in 1816. After the treaty with the Indians the final purchase of the land took place in 1832. After surveying was completed in 1834, the homesteaders came.
It was October 1834, a month of good sunshine, when these pioneers started to come to our county with their white covered wagons, horses and oxen. One of these early settlers had this to say about his arrival in the area: “It was October 1834 when I first entered the Grand Prairie. It was about noon of a clear delightful day when we emerged from the wood, and for miles around stretched forth one broad expanse of clear open land.”
He also wrote that he could see in the distance the pretty groves where they later would build their cabins.
The first of the homesteaders in this part of Lake County was Thomas Childers, who, with his wife Sarah and their family, settled in School Grove early in October 1834. To be the first arrival was harder as settlers always helped to build cabins for their neighbors.
The Childers cabin was about two miles north of Schneider and, according to the Claims Register, was on the Southeast Quarter of Section 17, near what is now 221st Avenue. All of these brave people bore their hardships with great cheerfulness, but the early years were hard times.
The winter of 1834 the Childers family was in School Grove; John Driscoll near Lowell; Jesse Pierce at Deep River and David Pierce at Turkey Creek with a few other scattered in the northern part of our county. They found the winter a terrible one. The oxen were hungry, food for the children became scarce and the flour mills were forty miles away in LaPorte County.
One family made a supper of a big owl and were roasting a wolf when a supply finally arrived. All game seemed to have hidden from the hunters guns.
Though they were hungry, no settlers starved and not one died the first bad winter in this area. They recorded in their logs the following: “1834-1835 exceedingly severe weather, and on April 4, 1835 a most terrible snowstorm.”
In the Centennial Edition of History of Lake County 1934, the names of Thomas and Sarah Childers were included as those present at the home of William and Elizabeth Wells for the purpose of organizing the Lowell Church of Christ. This meeting was called in January 1842.
Nathan Coffenberry of Sherburnville, Illinois, was called to preach and to assist in organization. Also at this meeting were J.L. Worley, Simon and Sarah Beadle and Jane Holmes.
Rev. T.H. Ball’s history included a Civil War record and under “The Roll of Honor, The Indiana Volunteers” was found the following: John Childers, 73rd Regiment, Company A, Died at Nashville, Tennessee December 3, 1862. We are assuming this soldier was a relative of Thomas, but not his son.
The Thomas Childers family is now well represented in the area, though many are scattered around the country. His great-grandchildren numbered in the thirties. His grandchildren were Andrew, Milford, Cyril and Sarah Ann. His son John lived on a farm near Lowell.
Tracing the history of Thomas up to the present time through one family line, we find the following: Thomas and Sarah Childers; their son John Childers, married to Elizabeth Trump; John and Elizabeth’s daughter, Sarah Ann (Sadie), married to Edwin Carstens; Sarah Ann and Edwin’s daughter Joan, married to Neil C. Swanson; Joan and Neil’s son, Neil Jr., married to Diana Watts; and Neil Jr. and Diana’s 2 1/2 year old son Kurt Swanson. The Jr. Swanson’s and son Kurt live in Country Haven Subdivision west of Lowell.
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