It was spring of 1835 and many homesteaders were entering the prairies and groves of the newly surveyed area which would become Lake County in 1837.
These hardy pioneers came by horseback and by wagon pulled by horses or oxen. Soon small settlements were started, especially in the area east and north of the present town of Lowell. They were called Southeast Grove, Plum Grove, Orchard Grove and Pleasant Grove.
Pleasant Grove began early in the spring of 1835, near what is now 161st St. and Hendricks St. Some readers will know that this is the area of the Jones School House.
There is much early history written about the pioneer settlement of Pleasant Grove, as many of our farmers and businessmen were the early settlers there. In the spring of 1835, while Richard Fancher and his two aides were erecting a cabin on his claim at Crown Point, Pleasant Grove was being started.
On the 4th of April, Agnew lost his way on the prairie in that terrible snowstorm, and, overtaken by darkness, perished with the cold. This was the first death among the settlers. Agnew was buried on Morgan Prairie in Porter County. His wife Nancy took possession of the claim.
In 1836, new settlers were arriving at Southeast Grove to the east. In these early years, and as late as 1840, bands of Indians would come into the settlements, erect their dwellings, remain as long as the hunting was good, and then move on.
They were usually in groups of 25 to 50 and had their ponies and dogs. Generally they were peaceful and they visited the Wayne Bryant family often.
In 1847 a store was erected at Pleasant Grove. This was one of five stores in the county. The same year five saw mills were erected, one of these being the McCarty Mill built at the site of the present dam at the store nearby Lake Dalecarlia.
McCarty's Mill was sold in 1864 to Melvin Halsted, the founder of Lowell. A store is believed to have been located near the mill and two grist mills operating at the time were Woods Mill at Deep River and Wilson and Saunders Mill.
One of the early pioneers wrote that they found many honey trees in the Pleasant Grove area, some yielding several hundred pounds.
In T.H. Ball's "History of Lake County," there is mention of the Jones Schoolhouse in 1859. It is mentioned in a list of Sabbath Schools and shows 30 members attending. It is our guess that the Jones Schoolhouse, a brick structure now privately owned, is about 75 years old.
We know the first building was a one room frame and the newer school was a two-room brick. The Samual D. Bryant claim, 1835, was just north of the school and later was owned and farmed by Henry Jones.
D.R. Merris first settled in Plum Grove, coming from Ohio by oxen, and in 1840 bought at Pleasant Grove and built a cabin later in 1841. A frame house was erected by A. Clark in 1840, and a frame barn in 1843 by John S. Evans.
Pioneer Merris was by trade a carpenter and built the Methodist Church at Pleasant Grove in 1851 at a cost of $500. Merris later moved to Hebron.
Ephraim Cleveland, another early settler in the Grove, was a Justice of the Peace and a Methodist class leader prior to his death in 1845. His son, T. Cleveland, became a lawyer in Crown Point and the owner an editor of the Crown Point Herald newspaper.
Rufus Hill settled in 1839 with his large family, which included Richard Hill. The Clifford Hill's and daughter Thelma Hill of Lowell were a part of this family.
Prior to her death a few years ago, Thelma Hill presented the Historical Assoc. pictures & a log of Richard Hill's trip to Mammoth Cave, Ky. in 1897. Mr. Hill, accompanied by 4 friends, went to Ky. with three horse drawn covered wagons.
Mentioned in the log are names "Sid" and "Cal." It could be that the "Sid" was Sid Hayden, who lived near Pleasant Grove.
A census of Lake County, taken in 1850, listed a population of 3,991. In the weather reports written in the logs of the pioneers we find the following for 1852: Feb. and March - mild, rain each month; Feb. - muddy; March - cold; April 5 - snow all day. Cold and backward spring. No grass. May 1 - little grass for the cattle.