During the annual meeting of the old Settler and Historical Association of Lake County held at the Crown Point Fair Grounds in 1889, pioneer historian Rev. Timothy H. Ball gave quite an oration to the children present. (By 1889 nearly all of the surviving pioneers of the 1830's and 1840's were quite elderly -- Rev. Ball, who came to the area with his parents in 1837 at the age of 11, was 63 as he spoke.)
He began: "Beloved children, representatives of the descendants of the pioneers of Lake, some of you grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those pioneer settlers whose names nave already become historic, representatives also today of some three thousand children in our county -- it is a privilege to speak to you in regard to the heritage those early pioneers left for you.
"I am to represent, therefore, those men and women, venerable in age, a few of whom yet remain among us. We are leaving, we are to leave you, this county with its present great resources. We found it almost a wild. We shall leave it to you a wealthy portion of this great Commonwealth of Indiana.
"When the pioneers came here, they found Indian trails and dancing floors, Indian gardens and burial grounds, Indian ponies and Indian life. I have been in an Indian canoe on the Lake of the Red Cedars, have seen them eat and trade; and there are some still among us who have seen them in their wigwams and on their hunting grounds." [He described the wilderness that the first pioneers saw in those early years of our county, 500 square miles of land and water.)
"We found here the prairie and the woodland, the lakes, the marshes and streams. These were then free and bridgeless streams -- we have put bridges over them all. We have built dams and have erected mills. The muskrats make their home in the marshes -- we have turned many of them into meadows and cornfields.
On the southwest side of Cedar Lake, where over a large area the sandhill crane waded, where the largest boats of the lake passed, and the best fishing was found, we have made dry land.
"Through the great Kankakee Marsh, where lived the muskrats and the mink, we have cut long ditches with steam dredges and have opened up thousands of acres for pasturage and farming. We have fenced up all the once wild prairie, where the deer bounded, and the wolves galloped leisurely along, where the cranes danced and the prairie hens had their nests undisturbed, where the wild flowers of such rare beauty grew, there are orchards, and gardens, barnyard and dwelling houses and the wild life of the prairie is no more." [Rev. Ball would likely look in great wonder at the large herds of deer now in Lake County.]
"We have planted 25 towns and villages [by 1889] where there were only Indian wigwams and gardens. We have built 48 churches and 100 school houses. We have dug some 3,000 wells of water. We found only nature here, but we will leave to you marks on the soil which no coming years will erase.
"Lake County has been made first in the state of Indiana in railroads, first in exporting beef, first in the great oil refinery now being erected at Whiting, first in exporting hay, raising horses and in the general prosperity and intelligence of the people. There are now some eighteen thousand people, about half living in the towns and villages, the other half on the rich and well-cultivated farms.
"Now all these farms, orchards, pasture lands, towns, villages, manufacturing interests, industrial pursuits and schools, all this civilization and prosperity, we shall leave as a heritage to you, the children of this generation. You will succeed a generation of busy workers, of intelligent people who will leave you wagon roads and railroads, bridges and fences, and the results of the outlay of a large amount of money and labor making what we call fixed capital in the land.
"The property in Lake County was assessed for taxes in 1888 at nearly nine and one-half million dollars. Do you see how differently you will enter upon life compared with your pioneer ancestry? You will have no court house, no public buildings to erect, few churches, few school houses to build, no prairie sod to turn over, few fences to make, few houses to build. All these things have been done for you by those who struck the first blow here with the axe, erected the first log cabin, built the first bridge and the first mill, tired the first brick, sowed the first grain and reaped the first harvest.
"Can you see, beloved children, and through you I speak as to the three thousand, can you see how much has been done for you by the two generations that have come before you here? Soon it will all be yours, for rapidly we are passing away."
Rev. Ball finished his oration to the children of Lake County in a loud voice: "SHOW YOURSELVES WORTHY OF THIS INHERITANCE."
The same sentence was large and bold when he printed this lecture in his History of Lake County, Ind., published in 1904.
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