In the book "Our Government, Indiana, written by Sheldon Davis and Clarence McClure in 1922, is found the following description of rural America: "The typical American rural community has been much more like the New England towns than the French village. It spread out so that it is often composed entirely of isolated homes with their collections of farm buildings.
"Because farms have been larger than in Europe, the American farmer has remained near his work instead of dwelling in a farmer's village as is a common practice in most of the world. Vigorous immigrants from the older colonies and states poured into the central agricultural regions,"
The Lake Prairie area of West Creek, Lake County, Indiana, is the type of community described in that book, and the early settlers there were some of the "vigorous immigrants." This month we tell you some of the early history of the Lake Prairie community.
We quote from the book "Lake County, Indiana 1884" by Rev. T.H. Ball, and from a story written by Nannie Wason Ames: "Lake Prairie has been called the 'Gem of the County', and it certainly well deserves the fair name. Twenty-five years ago (1859) Professor Mills of Wabash College stood on a knoll on Mr. Peach's farm, and looking around till his eyes met the woods that encircle the gently rolling land, said, I have been thirty years in the west, and have been in every county in the state, and never but once have I seen so beautiful a view."
Ames wrote that many left the area only to return to say, "there is no place like this after all."
She further describes the area as she viewed it in 1884: "As far as the eye can reach, may be seen comfortable houses and farm buildings, orchard and shade trees, with here and there a bordering of deep green osage; while still farther in the distance the tall windmills point out the homes beyond the range of vision.
"Not an acre is unfenced, and but few are unfit for cultivation. The soil is good and best adapted to corn, oats and grass. The one landmark of earlier days was the 'Lone Tree,' a brown oak, that was still standing in 1884 on the farm of Cyrus Hayden. Stories were told of men lost on the trackless prairie, who came to the tree, and were able to find their way."
We previously wrote of the first settler, Robert Wilkinson, who came in 1835, and of George Belshaw, who settled in 1836 in the Lake Prairie area on a farm later known as the "Tarr Place."
In 1846 James Palmer came from St. Joseph County and bought 320 acres of land and built a house about a mile north of the Lake Prairie Church, which afterwards ( in 1851 ) was owned by Abram Ritter.
In 1884 the son of James Palmer, A.D. Palmer, ran a store in Creston and lived for a while just north of his father. George and Abram Ritter, brothers, came about 1851. George Ritter entered land later owned by T.A. Wason, Edwin Michael, E.P. Ames, E.N. Morey and T.P. Morey.
In 1850 Jacob Baughman moved from Ohio with his family and entered 320 acres later owned in 1884 by Frank Plummer, Jay D. Baughman and Abiel Gerrish. About the same time, A.G. Plummer came from New Hampshire and bought a large farm. Just on the edge of the prairie lived E. D. Foster.
In the southwestern part of the prairie lived Calvin Taylor, who died before 1884; John Michael, who moved later to Coldwater, Michigan; and John Green and Joseph Jackson. H.R. Nichols and Oliver Fuller were also among the early settlers of Lake Prairie. In 1884, H.R. Nichols still owned the farm he settled on, though he lived in Lowell for some years.
Harvey and Henry Austin lived near the Nichols farm on land later owned by Wesley Pattee. James and Amos Brannon came to Lake County in 1843. Two settlers well known in the area were Peter Burhams and Marshall Barber, a brother-in-law. In about 1880, Burhans moved to Crown Point. His sons, Charles and Alexander, remained on the farm. Near neighbors to the Belshaw farm were George Ferguson and Mr. Sherart.
In 1855 and 1856 several families came from New Hampshire and settled near each other. These family names were Abiel Gerrish, Capt. Thomas Little, Samuel Ames, Peach, A. G. Plummer and E. N. Morey, all old New England families forming which was often called the "New Hampshire Settlement" at Lake Prairie.
The following was taken from a column written in 1884 by Joseph A. Little, son of Capt. Thomas Little, and was reprinted in a 1934 Lake county Centennial Edition of a Lake County newspaper loaned to us by Grant Petzinger of Dyer: "Do you wonder that we are jubilant on this semi-centenial day (1884). Just out of the woods financially, some coming from oppressed lands, some from sterile rock-bound but dear New England hills, with some from nearly every state who sought here their fortunes, are in possession of comfortable, if not permanent homes, surrounded by lands, which , if tickled by the plow that runs as smooth as the keel of a vessel, will laugh a crop."
We will included more of Joseph A. Little writings in future stories.
Thomas Little bought land owned by a Mr. Barker; Abiel Gerrish bought land from Jacob Baughman and from A.G. Plummer; Samuel Ames and E. N. Morey purchased their farms from the Ritter family; and Henry Peach bought his farm from E. Knisley, who moved west but later returned to a farm on the state line.
Henry Peach died in 1858, and his was the first grave in the Lake Prairie cemetery, west of Lowell at the north junction of Indiana State Rd. 2 and US 41. Mrs. Morey's father, Dr. Thomas Peach, came about 1860.
In 1857, Rev. Hiram Wason, also a native of New Hampshire, came from Vevay, Indiana, to become the pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church which had been organized the year before with twelve members. He bought land from A.G. Plummer. He was pastor at the Lake Prairie church until 1864.
More will be written about the people and places of Lake Prairie settlement in future columns.
In time for your Thanksgiving dinner plans, we are including in this month's column a recipe taken from the book "Housekeeping in old Virginia, 1879" which Albert Labahn of Lansing, Illinois, loaned to us. The recipe follows:
TO COOK A WILD TURKEY
If the turkey is old, after is dressed and washed inside thoroughly with soda and water, rinse it and plunge it in a pot of boiling water for five minutes. Make a stuffing of bits of pork, beef, or any other cold meats, plenty of chopped celery, stewed giblets, hard boiled eggs, pounded cracker, pepper and salt, and a heaping spoonful of butter. Work this well and fill the turkey. With another large spoonful of butter, grease the bird, and then sprinkle salt and pepper over it. Lay it in a pan with a pint of stock or broth in which any kind of meat has been boiled. Place in a hot oven. When it begins to brown, dredge with flour and baste, turing often so that each part may be equally browned. Put a buttered sheet of paper over the breast to prevent dryness. When thoroughly done, lay on a dish, brown some crackers, pound and sift over it and serve with celery or oyster sauce.