During the early 1830's, plans were being made for a new county composed of parts of Porter and Newton county. It would be called Lake County. Many arguments included the site of the new County seat. Proposed sites included Cedar Lake, Liverpool and Crown Point. Liverpool was chosen in 1837 when the new county was formed, though it was soon moved to Crown Point when political and financial pressures proved that Crown Point was the better and more central location for the new county seat.
In 1837, because the mail and communications were very slow, pioneer John Russell was sent to Indianapolis to obtain authority to hold an election and for appointment of a sheriff, pioneer Henry Wells. Russell went by foot and arrived ahead of the mail.
The first elected officers of the county were William Clark and William B. Crooks, associate judges; Amsi Ball, Stephen P. Stringham and Thomas Wiles, county commissioners; W.A. Holton, recorder; and Solon Robinson, founder of Crown Point, county clerk. The first assessor was John Russell, and the Justices of the Peace were Peyton Russell in North Twp., Horace Taylor in Center Twp., Milo Robinson at Cedar Lake and E.W. Bryant in South Twp. (now the Three Creek Townships).
That same year (1837) Solon and Milo Robinson erected a log building which was used for several years as a courthouse. In 1840 an act was passed for the relocation of the county seat to Liverpool, and a small building was erected there. But some appointed state commissioners selected the Lake Court House in Crown Point as the proper place for the county seat.
About that time political excitement was running high, as a presidential election was coming on. About that race, historian Timothy Ball had this to say:
"That contest was very exciting and was characterized by demoralizing proceedings hitherto unknown in the United States. It was the 'Log Cabin' and 'hard cider' campaign.
"A larger political gathering took place at the Tippecanoe Battle Ground (near Lafayette). To this, Solon Robinson, Leonard Cutler and some other zealous Whigs of that day went down, across the country with, I think, a four-horse team and flying colors. They had the credit of going and returning without becoming demoralized. They at least claimed that credit. The majority of our citizens of that day were Democrats and in favor of Martin Van Buren."
The politicians of that day also played "musical chairs" with the officers of the county ten years later in 1847 as follows: Henry Wells, Sheriff; H.D. Palmer, associate judge; Hervey Ball, Probate judge; D.K. Pettibone, clerk; Joseph Jackson, auditor; Major Allman, recorder; William C. Farrington, treasurer; Alex McDonald, assessor; and S.T. Green, H.S. Pelton and Robert Wilkinson, the county commissioners.
The Old Timer's grandfather, Adam Schmal, a pioneer since the age of nine, was elected Lake County Commissioner in 1857 and again in 1862 and was elected Lake County Treasurer in 1867.
The office of probate judge was abolished in 1851, along with the office of associate judge.
The counties of Lake and Porter formed one state representative district until 1850, and in the first election in 1837, J. Hammel of Porter County was elected, followed by Lewis Warriner of Cedar Lake in 1839; then A. McDonald. David Turner was selected in 1855, A. McDonald in 1857, Elihu Griffin in 1859, Bartlett Woods in 1861, D.K. Pettibone in 1863, Bartlett Woods in 1865, H. Wason in 1867, E.C. Field in 1869, and Martin Wood in 1871 and 1873. Two of the early state senators were David Turner and R.C. Wedge.
A young lawyer from Crown Point, Charles F. Griffin, served as Indiana Secretary of State from 1887 o 1891.
Most of the early political history of the Town of Lowell began at the time of consolidation in 1869, when the first three members of the Town Board were elected along with one clerk and one treasurer. George Mee was president of the board in 1869, and George Waters became the town clerk.
The Old Timer was privileged to scan through some old records of the treasurer. Among the interesting items posted in the old ledgers: "Paid M.A. Halsted 70 dollars [in 1869] for 'Pound'; 2 well buckets, 2 dollars; 1 chair, 60 cents. 1872 -- a bill allowed for a team [of horses] to go to Crown Point, 3 dollars; ten dollars was given to John Hack for services as trustee for one year."
D. Powers was trustee president in 1872, followed by Jacob Baughman. In 1881 the Town Board members were John Denney, J. Baughman and John E. Davis. In 1883 the account of Treasurer C.C. Sanger was examined and signed by trustees Melvin Halsted and Martin Schur.
Some notations through the years show that some of the Town Board members were paid five dollars for a year. In 1881 the pay was 12 dollars, and election workers were paid $1.50. Another salary in 1881 was 22 dollars paid to Perkins Turner, who served as town marshal, while John Leary received two dollars per month to light the street lamps.
By 1883 Melvin Halsted, John Denney and Martin Schur each received 12 dollars as trustees.
L.W. Ragon (owner of The Lowell Tribune) was town clerk in 1899, after Peter A. Berg in 1898. Charles Childress received 20 dollars as caretaker of the cemetery in 1899. One interesting notation in the old ledger was an ordinance in 1899 giving the specifications for a wooden sidewalk. Town officials were listed in the 1909 Directory of Lake County as follows: A.S. Hull, president; H.F. Carstens, trustee; Edwin J. Pixley, clerk; H. M. Johnson, treasurer; and Charles Belshaw, marshal. On the School Board that year were William Sheets, president; Davis Driscoll, secretary; and William Love, treasurer.
The job descriptions have changed and the salaries of those early officials have multiplied many times over the years, something modern politicians can't argue about.
Martin Van Buren (D), elected 1836, was the first to serve during our area's pioneer years of 1834-1844. The 54-year-old made it clear that he "intended to continue to work in the shadow of former President Andrew Jackson with equal ability and success." At his inaugural speech he claimed great prosperity for the U.S., but soon economic storm clouds darkened as the banks suspended payment of gold or silver for paper money. He asked Congress to establish an independent treasury system that was slow in coming. Though many of his policies were not acceptable, he was able to avert a full-scale border war with Britain and Canada.
In the 1940 election, Van Buren was soundly defeated by William H. Harrison (W), popular soldier-politician, well-known for his military defeat of Chief Tecumseh at the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Nearly a million more voters went to the polls in 1840 than in 1836. Harrison's term was short, for he stood in a downpour during his lengthy inauguration speech, and died of pneumonia April 1841, the first President to die in office, his term only a few weeks. -- Politicians and speculators were not very busy in this area during the years before.
When Vice President John Tyler learned about Harrison's death, he rode from his home in Virginia to Washington. He was sworn in as the 10th president the next day, April 16, 1841. Tyler soon vetoed many measures sponsored by Henry Clay. All of his cabinet resigned except for Daniel Webster. Tyler was expelled from the Whig party and nearly impeached. He then filled his cabinet with conservative Democrats. His main success was in the field of Foreign Relations. Tyler told friends that his becoming president was "a bed of thorns which afforded me no repose." Tyler later became a member of the Confederate Congress and was denounced in the North as a traitor. He died in Virginia in 1862.
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