The southern part of Lake County, Indiana, is formed by three townships, namely, Eagle Creek, Cedar Creek and West Creek. Eagle Creek township is on the east, Cedar Creek township in the central part, with West Creek on the west along the Illinois state line; the Kankakee River forms the southern boundary of all three townships. These lands by the river were favorite ground of the Pottowatomie Indians.
The three townships came into being when the old South Township was divided in 1839. Eagle Creek township is in the southeast corner of Lake County, with prairies and groves to the north and the marsh and bottom lands of the Kankakee River to the south. An area known as Red Oak Island in the southern part of Eagle Creek Township was a camp of 150 Indians who cultivated grapes and corn.
Historians claim the earliest settlers of Eagle Creek township located in South East Grove. This Grove and Plum Grove were locations of some of the pleasant homesites for these hardy pioneers of English, Scotch and Irish ancestry.
Joseph Morris was one of the early pioneers of the Eagle Creek area who settled in 1835 on the eastern edge of South East Grove. George Parkinson, Orrin Smith and Orlando Servis arrived in 1836, and George Flint and William Ketchum followed in 1837.
Other pioneers were Rev. Thompson, Alexander Brown, the Wallace family, William and Thomas Fisher, John Crawford and John Cochran. Other family names we find dating back to the same years are Turner, Kenney, George, Bryant, Hughes, Dunn, Black, Pearce, Dinwiddie, Ross, Handley, Brownell, Kingsbury, Benjamin, Durland, Boyd, Donnaha, Henderson, Rinkenberger, Nethery, McGill, Post, Rich, Sergeant, Coplin, Simpson, Wornhoff, Garvey, Temple, Abramson and Spitzer.
In an earlier column we mentioned the old school house at South East Grove, located near the cemetery, where the community gathered often.
A debating society met in the old school house, and with the help of Joan Steele of the Three Creeks Historical Society, we have a record of minutes of some of the meetings. The debating society was made up of young people in the area and was named the "South East Grove Elite."
Following are minutes of Jan. 10, 1880: "The meeting was called to order by the retiring president, and by request, E.W. Dinwiddie acted as secretary. The president elect was absent, the vice president took the chair. Very few being present, the program for January 10th was postponed till January 24th." (No doubt there was a bad snow storm on Jan. 10, 1880).
Jan. 17, 1880: "Call to order, roll call, literary exercise by Milroy Temple, Tom Turner, Mary Boyd, Jay Doak, Alice George, Roy Doak and John George. Debate resolved that the state of Indiana should pass a compulsory education law. For the affirmative: Charles Benjamin, Leroy Doak, M. Zeisness, Jennie Tolcott. For the negative: W. George, M. Brown, James Boyd, Edith Brown. The judges decided in favor of the affirmative."
Jan. 24, 1880: "Debate resolved that farming is the peer of all professions. (Most of the same young people mentioned took part, but the page with the outcome was missing).
In some of their other minutes are listed declamations, essays, songs and select readings by Will Erb, Henry Bliss, Emma McCoully, John Wilson, Alex Turner and Joergan Roehlk.
To show just some of the problems and trials of the early days, we have a story told by Judge David Turner.
David was the son of Judge Samuel Turner, who settled near the bank of Eagle Creek. The family later moved to Crown Point. Judge David Turner settled in Eagle Creek in 1838. It was written that he told this story to Z.F. Summers about 1850.
He told of how he and friends made a trip to Chicago with his first harvest of wheat. There were three wagons, each carrying 30 bushels of wheat and drawn by oxen.
The first night the oxen were lost at Cedar Lake, and not found until the next evening. A wagon tongue was broken in the area of what is now Dyer, Indiana, and while the wagon was being repaired, the oxen were again loose to trample and eat a farmers pumpkin crop.
They then were mired in the swamp on the way to Thornton, Illinois, where another wagon tongue gave away. After a bad night in the rain and mud they reached Blue Island, Illinois, then discovered in the morning that the oxen had helped themselves to some corn near by.
They arrived in the Chicago area and camped where Randolph Street is now. On their return the oxen again were in trouble eating corn and cabbage. The Eagle Creek travelers reached home weary and faint, clothes soiled and worn, and after paying damages along the way, realized less money than when they began their trip nine days earlier to sell the wheat. This story was in a 1934 Centennial Edition of a newspaper loaned to us by Gra. Petzinger of Dyer.
Some of the men of the Eagle Creek area serving in the Civil War were: George Kingsbury, Adrian Durland, George Post, Henry Peterson, Hiram Peterson, Orlando V. Servis, George A. Servis, John Helmich, Aaron Hale, and the three McKnight brothers -- Alexander, David and James. These soldiers belonged to a group from Eagle Creek who went to war in a Porter County regiment. Other Civil War soldiers were Charles Morriss, Andrew Dilley and Moses Meeker.