Source: North Manchester Journal, February 23, 1893
PIONEER SKETCHES. Some Interesting Reminiscences from the Life and Experience of Early Settlers.
One of the earliest of the early settlers in this vicinity was Daniel Swank, father of Daniel and Jacob Swank, both well known citizens of this place. The old gentleman has been dead many years however and is only personally remembered by a few of the older people. Another son, Martin Swank, who has been for several years and now is residing at Cerre Gordo, Illinois, writes as follows of his recollections of the pioneer days of the country:
"Daniel Swank, my father, came from Montgomery county, Ohio, in August, 1836. I was 16 years old the week we landed at Richard Helvey's cabin on the spot where Thomas Cook now lives. We were one hole day in traveling from Freshour's to Helvey's about eight miles, but that was good headway to make and chop out the road before us. From Helvey's to the land where we were to make our home was all woods and brush, no road. I remember the little field or cleared patch on the bank of the creek near where the graveyard is now situated. As we came near we discovered the Indian squaws and children gathering their green corn as they had a town or camping place there. George Ruse and Jacob Ruse each had brought a four-horse wagon load for us. In the same company was a Mr. Baker who was bringing Frederick Weybright's family and household goods to the promised land. As we unloaded the wagons, the Indians crowded around in plenty but were not warlike. They seemed to take a liking to father, for they called him "Heap big smoke man." Some of us began cutting and making clapboards for a temporary home and in one day's time we had a wigwam about 9x20 feet roofed and floored. When our uncles and friends came to start on their return to Ohio, was the trying time. I remember one of our uncles telling father to not let his family starve in this spot and "Just to send us word and we will come and move you back." We begun building a house 24x18 feet. In four weeks it was finished and the family moved in. About that time Lizzie, now Mrs. Harwick, was born. Mrs. Knoop, wife of Michael Knoop, officiated as midwife. My recollection is that there was no doctor in the country at that time. I will revert back to things that transpired earlier in our attempts to settle in this country that I had not in my mind when I began this letter. Father had come to Fort Wayne in 1835 and bought his land and took a notion to come out the next spring and build a house that he might have a house to move to. But after we had come as far as Newport an accident to one of our horses which came near defeating that project. Five of us packed provisions and tools on one horse and came. The Wabash river was high enough to swim the horse with me on his back. An Indian ferried the party and plunder across at 25 cents apiece and we came to where North Manchester now is the same evening. Peter Ogan camped with us that night. He had just arrived. The next day we went up to father's land. Dick Helvey lived above the village but we could get nothing to eat of him. Comstock had not come to the country yet, neither had Michael Knoop. We did but little at house building. Father and Uncle George Swank started home via Fort Wayne, myself and the others were to meet them at Marion. Before we started back we assisted in raising Ogan's cabin, the first in the town. It stood near where Williams' drug store is now. I will take up the thread where I broke off at getting into our two-story log house. The times were rough enough indeed the first years. Father took bilious fever and came near dying, and the family were all sick except mother and myself. The Weybright family was all sick and had nothing except what the neighbors brought in. Father informed Weybright's brother that this family was starving and sick and in a week or two after he got the letter the brother came bringing a wagon load of provisions and clothing. In the meantime one of the boys had died and there was no one to help me prepare the corpse for burial. I made a coffin and buried the boy on the Knoop land. While I was digging the grave Mother Knoop and son George came but both took sick before I had finished the grave. It was the time of the day for their "shake" to come on. I buried the body and went home to have my chill."
Mr. Swank soon had raised wheat to sell but where to sell it was the question. A friend of the family tells us of a trip that he made in company with a neighbor to Michigan City and Fort Dearborn. To get salt was the prime object of the undertaking however. On their arrival at the first named place they could sell their wheat but could not buy salt, consequently the trip had to be lengthened to the "fort," now very much better known as Chicago. They obtained the coveted article and had salt to sell to the neighbors on their return. Such incidents illustrated the indomitable will and courage possessed by the early settlers of this country. The writer of the above sketch, Martin Swank, now lives at Cerre Gordo, Illinois, in his 73d year, surrounded by his children and possessed of a goodly portion of this world's goods. We have omitted much of his letter pertaining to family mention but give what is of general interest.