It's generally described as beginning on the east on the Ohio State line and then running south along the Ohio River to the mouth of the Wabash River where the two intersected and then northerly along the shore of the Wabash River to Vincennes and from there a straight line north to where the map line intersected the east and west line. The east and west line was determined to be ten miles north of the southern most shore of Lake Michigan. So the westerly line of Indiana ran north out into Lake Michigan. And ten miles north of the southerly shore of Lake Michigan. Then the north boundary runs back east to the Ohio State line.
So the inhabitants of Indiana met in convention on June 29, 1816. And they formed a State and accepted the authorization by the United States Congress of this Territory. They named our State Indiana. It was a part of the Indiana Territory and wasn't a part of the Indian territory . . . the Indiana Territory. Then after they did that, Congress had to approve it. So our United States Congress approved and ratified the forming of the State of Indiana on October 11th of 1816.
Our first capital, as you know, was at Corydon, Indiana and then the state was divided into counties. Provided for government through the counties. Counties set up townships and Lake County here the West Creek, Eagle Creek and Cedar Creek were known as South Township. On May 9th, 1839, the county commissioners of Lake County divided the South Township into three Townships: making it West Creek, Cedar Creek and Eagle Creek. They did this significantly because there was a creek running north and south through each of these Townships. West Creek was named West Creek because the creek going through the west township here was the most westerly and it was named thereafter.
West Creek Township is the largest township being over sixty square miles: twelve miles in length from north to south and five miles east and west, making a total of a little over sixty miles because the Kankakee River has some bends in it makes it a little more than sixty miles.
The first settlers that came here in West Creek Township seemed to settle over on West Creek in an area where Route 2, it was formerly called State Road. The road that runs from State Line easterly to 41 where Route 2 now is through Belshaw and on easterly. This seemed a trail or a covered wagon road for the early pioneers going westerly. Anyway, they seemed to settle over on near the intersection of West Creek and what's now known as Route 2 or the old state road. Among the first settlers that settled there was a Robert Wilkinson who came on March the 5th, 1835 and later on he was known as Judge Wilkinson because he was appointed probate judge in the township. Others were John Kitchel, Nehemiah Hayden, Adin Sanger, and Nehemiah Spalding. They came in 1937-38, I mean 1837. Peter Hathaway came the same year in 1838. Silas Hathaway came the following year 1839. On November the 23rd 1841, my great grandfather William Sanders settled in West Creek Township on the what's called Tattle Street Road. It's now 205th Ave. Somebody, Mrs. VaNada was asking me how it got that name. I don't know unless my great grandfather was a tattler and told a lot of tales. Anyway that's what it's been known to me all my life is Tattle Street until the county named it 205th Avenue.
Other early settlers were Daniel Pulver and George Belshaw and Mr. Palmer and I might add that in 1839 there were only fifteen voters in West Creek Township. One of the requirements of this part of this Enabling Act was in order to be a voter you had to be a male (women couldn't vote) had be over twenty-one and you had to show a receipt for payment of taxes. That's rather odd but that was part of the provisions.
Amongst some other early settlers were Simon Beedle, George Ferguson, John Michaels, Joseph Jackson, Alfred and Lyman Foster, Alvin Taylor, Paul Dodge, William Tabor, Johnson Wheeler, John Jones, Hiram Gilley, Reuben Chapman, Worthington A. Clark, Major Henry Torrey, Thomas Wiles, and John Green.
In those days, all of the territory south of the old State Road was part of the Kankakee marsh. Most of it was under water. There was an abundance of wild life and game. And there were lots of Indians around. I remember my grandfather telling me about the Indians stealing the infant daughter of David and Elizabeth Pope. Indians went in the house and took right out of the cradle where this little girl was sleeping beside her twin brother and took off with her. And they took her to their camp two-three miles away. And when the child was missed, the Indians were immediately suspected. A posse was formed. They went to the Indian camp and when they saw the posse coming the Indians knew that they were after the white child. They took this child and kept passing it from one Indian to the other. It was a novelty to them and they were fondling, petting and kissing and loving this little white child and didn't want to give it up. However, they did give it up without any resistance and never caused any real trouble with the white settlers except they had a habit of stealing and begging but no violence according to the information I could find.
The first birth occurred in the family of Robert Wilkinson. It was named William Wilkinson but it didn't live very long and died a short time after birth.
The first and only post office West Creek had was established in 1839 with Robert Wilkinson as postmaster. It was known as the West Creek Post Office was kept open until about 1882 when it was then discontinued. Wilkinson was the Postmaster until 1855. Major Torrey and a Mr. E. Farley each held the postmaster job for several years. This post office was kept in various homes throughout the area and was moved about. I guess everybody knew where to go get their mail or send a letter. I don't know what the postage was then. I imagine it was probably a couple of cents.
The first store in West Creek Township was kept by a Joseph Jackson. He had to get a license from the County commissioners. Cost him a fee of five dollars to have a grocery store.
The first election was held in the house of Robert Wilkinson in 1836. There were three votes cast in this election. One by Robert Wilkinson, one by Thomas Wiles, and one for Jesse Bond. They were all running for Justice of the Peace. Wilkinson received two votes for the office, Thomas Wiles received one vote. Wilkinson was declared elected by a majority of one vote as Justice of the Peace.
In those days, West Creek Township was almost completely agricultural. Furs were very abundant for a source of revenue. And, sooner or later, the frontier trapper and hunter became a flourishing farmer and a stock raiser.
As I said before, the land from the Kankakee River north to the ridge . . . what you call the Belshaw Road Route 2 was all under water and was a great place for all kinds of fur: mink, muskrat, and beaver. It became a great shooting and trapping area. A fellow by the name of Mr. John Hunter, who was in fact a hunter and trapper, he spend about ten years living on island to island on Kankakee marsh and spending his time hunting and fishing. In 1869, he finally bought six acres of land which was called School Grove Island. Now this was just north of Schneider where old 41 goes north out of Schneider makes a curve and then goes west and goes on north. There was a ridge along there those were some islands in the Kankakee valley or Kankakee marsh. Then he after he bought those six acres known as School Grove Island he built a house there. And then, sooner or later, a lot of hunters, trappers, sportsman started coming out here from other areas particularly from Chicago and the game was so plentiful there they just had to let their guns cool off because they could shoot so many ducks and geese. They had to let their guns cool off. Anyway, there was a fellow by the name of Heath and Milligan who came out there and they bought this island and then they built a better home there called a hunting lodge. And then there was some speculators from England who came here. And they bought this island and then they erected a very nice lodge and they had hunting kennels there and barns and they imported from England pure blooded hunting dogs and horses and some choice what was called Alderney cows. And it wasn't long before this place became an attraction of the United States and people came here from all over the world to this hunting lodge. And it was then named Cumberland Lodge. And it bore the name Cumberland Lodge until it was destroyed by fire. It was bought by John Schneider and his wife and they lived there. And then, I think it was 1946 the Cumberland Lodge caught on fire and was burned.
West Creek Township was known for its fine horses, fine buildings and also had the blue ribbon for temperance because there were no saloons or whiskey shops in West Creek Township. There wasn't much industry here. An Aaron Brooks came here. He bought a hundred head of Durham cattle. He settled down on the property that Joseph Hayden had. Later on he built a steam sawmill which he ran for several years. Then it was sold and he moved away. And about the only other industry other than farming was a cheese factory that Wellington Clark had on the State Road again within a half a mile of the Illinois-Indiana State Line.
The first school house in West Creek Township was in a small log school house that was built in 1838. It was built upon the east bank of West Creek on the south side of what is now Route 2. This house was naturally a log house was about 14 x 16 feet in size. The seats were made of slabs. A rough board was placed on pegs across one end of the room to serve as a writing desk. The materials and labor were contributed by the people who lived in the immediate vicinity. And the two principal books used was the old Tyne English Reader and the Testament. They remained the main books used for study. The patrons of this first school were the Spaldings, Jacksons, Farleys, Brooks, Kitchels, Spragues, Greens and Wilkinsons. Some of the teachers were O. W. Graves, Mrs. William Belshaw, Edward P. Farley. This school house stood there about ten years and after that school was held in the various homes throughout the neighborhood.
As West Creek became more inhabited, the area east of West Creek became more families, more children. It was then that my granddad, my great grandfather built a school house on Tattle Street. I don't know, how many knows where Tattle Street is? Pretty near all of you. Anyway, the Sanders Cemetery is located on Tattle Street. And this schoolhouse was on the south side of the road across from the cemetery. He furnished all the materials bore all the expense of the erection of this school with the exception of one dollar. It again was made of logs and it was used for about thirteen years at this location. It was then that he decided that they needed a bigger and better schoolhouse. He started to build another school house there but before it was under roof and sided I guess he got some complaints from the inhabitants of the area they thought the schoolhouse should be further north. So before it was completed, they all got together and moved this school house about a mile north which is on the Belshaw Road. It was near where the old Oakland School house as I remember it was built. But it was west of there. It was quite a nice school house. Some of the teachers there were Richard Parsons, Ruthann Graves, Jonathan Wheeler, Harriet Jones, and Maria ----- [Bundridge]. It stood there for quite some time and [was] used for school purposes about twelve years and then it was sold to William Belshaw. And William Belshaw made several additions to it and occupied it as a dwelling house. Later on a new school was built which I knew as Oakland School a little further east and on the south side of Lowell Belshaw Road.
As far as religion, it seems that the Methodists were the pioneers of the township establishing religious services. As early as 1840, services were held in private homes with a Reverend Halsted being the first minister. The first Methodist Church was built in 1844 and it was a frame house, of course, it stood until 1869. This was located about forty rods north of what is known as Route 2 now the State Road and it was there right where the cemetery is at this time about forty rods north of Route 2. At about that time, one acre was deeded for cemetery purposes and that cemetery is still in existence at the same location. Among the first members of the Methodist society were the Kitchels, the Hathaways, Sangers, Haydens, Spalding, George L. Foster, Sarah and Alfred Foster. Many of these people coming long distances to attend church.
In 1857, the Lake Prairie Presbyterian Church was organized with the Reverend Wason as pastor. This society met in the schoolhouse until 1872 when a new frame church was erected at a cost of $1,500.00. That was located at the same location where the present Lake Prairie Church is. Used to be the Lake Prairie schoolhouse where I went to school. This church was located in an area called the Hampshire or Yankee Settlement due to the fact that a large colony of New England people had settled there at one time. A considerable portion of the people in the neighborhood, however, were Congregationalists. But they assisted in building the church from the fact that the Presbyterians were in the majority and it was always known as the Presbyterian Church.
The German Methodists had a church located in the northeastern part of the Township about two and a half miles from Creston. This was built in 1855. They were a very strong society and regular services were maintained. The principal members being George and Andrew Krimbill, Mr. Beckley, John Maginot. Mr. James Feringer was the minister.
West Creek Township continued to be mostly agricultural and in the year 1905 the New York Central Railroad was completed. From this railroad sprang the towns of Schneider, Belshaw, and North Hayden. And with it grocery stores, blacksmith shops, grain elevators, residential buildings followed. More particularly huge elevators were built. The Gleaners Farmers elevator was organized in North Hayden in 1912 as a coal sales business. The original directors were E.O. Sutton, Cyrus Hayden, William Bruce, Otto Dahl, and John Lindemer. The first elevator was run with a one cylinder Fairbanks Morse engine.
As the area became more occupied, business grew by leaps and bounds. They kept building bigger and better and more stronger motors. In my time, Walter Ira Einspahr ran the North Hayden elevator. I remember them so well. Walter Einspahr meeting an untimely death in 1948 when he was an accident on an icy highway. I think he was going to Momence. Where? Decatur, Illinois?
The Belshaw Elevator was originally organized right after the railroad was built and it was known as the F. C. Brown Grain & Hay Company. It was a partnership with other members being Henry Hathaway, Charles Bailey, and George Bailey. In 1917 it was sold to . . . it was called the Lowell Arbor and Gleaners on a reorganization and Fred Dahl was made the manager of it. In 1943 the directors and stockholders voted to sell all the shares of stock to Fred Dahl and he and his sons, Fred H. and Harold have operated the elevator up to the present time under the name of the Belshaw Elevator Company. In 1946 they purchased the Wilbur Lumber Company which was across the railroad track in Belshaw. It was later destroyed by fire in 1954 and then they replaced it with a larger building on the same site where a more complete line of building materials were handled.
The Schneider grain company was operated as a partnership with a A. R. Falter and F. W. Drew as partners beginning in 1941. It was moved to its present site in 1958. I don't know what the operation of it is today.
The Straton Grain Company was located just north of Schneider and it was known for its huge storage of grain capacity. They also had some other elevators in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and St. Joe, Missouri.
In those early days, prior to 41 all these roads . . .most of them were dirt and a few of them were gravel. The erection of US Highway 41 started in the late 20's and was made of cement. I remember some comments that they would bankrupt the country making a cement road. The road was going to pot. But somehow today we don't have anything but cement roads we're still operating although I sometimes wonder how close we are to bankruptcy nationally. We go into debt every year days . . . of big prosperity . . . where it's going to lead I hate to think of it. Never the less, that's how our life is today. Everyone is in a hurry to rush here and rush there . . . get this done and get that done. Everybody is asserting and demanding their rights and getting them. Don't misunderstand me, I'll defend anyone's right to the limit of the law. I'm old fashioned enough to think that along with those rights goes corresponding duties of every individual to the society in which he lives. Today bad moments bad feelings about everyone getting so many rights. Us poor people, we don't have any rights we just pay the bills. It's irritating and frustrating and I'm concerned about it.
I have some very fond memories of some nostalgic feelings about my early days in West Creek Township. We lived just a mile south of Lake Prairie School. We were just a little over a mile therefore we weren't entitled to have any bus. So we had to walk to school and I remember one of my first jobs was going to Lake Prairie and building a fire in a pot bellied stove sweeping out the school room before school started. I was paid the huge sum of three dollars a year from Rena Dahl. Who, bless her heart, passed away very recently. I didn't know it until it was too late. We had the two rooms. The first four grades in one room and the other four in the other room. The students that got to sit close to the stove smothered to death and those away from the stove froze to death.
I have very good fond memories of Thuel Hayden the teacher in the other room. Who, incidently, gave me a real good shellacking and thrashing one day. Something that they are not permitted to do to kids in school today. The parents say don't hit my little Johnny. They can't even expel them from school without giving them notice of the charges they have against them and an opportunity for a hearing. That's where some of our things are going and I'm concerned about it. Anyway, my biggest worry was that my dad would find out that Thuel Hayden had given me that good shellacking and then I would have gotten a real one. But I was lucky and fortunate that he didn't find out about it until quite sometime later and I was saved a real good shellacking.
When I came here tonight I was just astounded and amazed to find this school the way it is. I graduated from Lowell High School in 1929. I think I was the first class to graduate after they built the new gym. That was really something. Today I'm lost around here. Lost as I started walking around here. Anyway, it's just some good memories of good old Lowell High.
A lot of you that are here tonight that once busy life sort of . . . sort of forget . . . you don't really forget you just lose track of it. The a . . . you stop to think that when my great grandfather came here in 1841 a lot of your ancestors they had the oxen and the horse and the hard way of life. And then thinking about what life is today with our modern conveniences . . . all things that have been perfected since then: electricity, the television, radio, airplanes, nuclear power . . . what's it going to be in another hundred and fifty years. I would hate to guess. We have come so far in the . . . in our Bi-Centennial two hundred years. And, oh, my wife was in Europe last spring and she thought it was such a great place with the old buildings and so forth. How great they were particularly the British because she comes from England. Her mother and father come from there. And I says, "Heck, this country has done more in two hundred years than they've done in two thousand over there so what are you talking about." So what will happen here in another two hundred years? Frightening. Think about it. If we go as fast as we have the last two.
It's been a joy and a pleasure spending a few moments with you. I know I haven't had any words of wisdom. Probably I would like to ask some of you here if you have any thing to add to it. I know Harold Sutton back there Mr. Bailey probably have a host of things that I wasn't available to me. So I'll yield the floor to anyone else that wants to tell me some of the real history of West Creek Township.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Earl Bailey:
You also mentioned William Chapman who is the early settler. I have two different reports. One says he came to Lake County in '84 and the other one says he came in '36. .............................................. Luke Chapman was my great grandfather by marriage. My great grandfather passed away about '38. ............................................... Reuben Chapman later married John Bailey's widow. So he was my great grandfather by marriage. ...................................... George Foster's grandfather's up in the timber and the place where they built the cabin is still evident. We claim that the Indian trail runs across the north part of our farm on that high ridge through the timber right past Grandfather's cabin down across the river. State Road 2 was laid out pretty much along that same line but not keeping the same bearing all the time.
Now one story that my father handed down to me. Great Grandfather was a hunter and a trapper. The Indians were still here. He came on an Indian . . . An Indian had a little hatchet .................................. chopped a tree down and got five coons. So the Indian threw one to the straw and one to Grandfather one to the straw and one to Grandfather and he looked at this other one and didn't know what to do ........................... so he took the fifth coon. He laid them all down so their tails would be all together ..................... he got ahold of the five tails and threw them over his shoulder and walked off following him carrying his little hatchet. Now you say the white people settled here .............. Now at that time, ............... the Indian paid no tax and the women did all the work. Now look at it.
[Talked of the Cumberland Lodge, asked questions of Barbara Peterson (nee Schneider). Could not hear Barb. The boat house is still there. The lodge had 21 rooms.]
The other story that I thought of was I was reading an article about the first white man in the area but he lost his oxen and all trying to cross the water somewhere where the stream was swollen along the Kankakee and he said he spent the winter with a Frenchman. So I concluded from that the Frenchman wasn't white. Has anyone else something to add?
I thought the first settlement was west of Lake Prairie. You said it was somewhere near State Road 2 at West Creek. I thought the Wilkinsons were farther north. The Methodist Church gave the West Creek Cemetery to the Township.
[Various members of the audience spoke but couldn't hear them on the tape.]
Go to Richard Schmal's Pioneer History column entitled "West Creek Township -- Revisited" for further information.
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