EARLY YEARS OF MILLERSBURG –
LATER NAMED COLLAMER IN 1863
EARLY DAYS IN INDIANA by J.A. Willits
[Copy of manuscript in files of the Center for History. Note: Minor corrections and editing were made, with several spelling and grammar errors still intact, reflecting period authenticity.]
Ellis Miller started his general store early in the 1830s. The town and post office was named Millersburg after him. In 1850 he took in partnership his brother-in-law Christian Harter, who lived on his farm about one mile east of town. This farm years later became the property of Hugo Logan, who lived on it for several years, then moved to Columbia City. The name of the new firm was Miller & Harter.
In 1849-50 Ellis Miller and Nathan Williams built the grist mill, saw mill and dam. Williams was a practical miller and had charge of the grist mill. He had four children, William Osborn, Jesse, Ann and Viola. The boys helped in the mill and learned the trade. The owned and lived in the large house on the north bank of the river west of the road crossing the river and facing the mill on the east. (This house was built for two families, now known as a duplex; there is where my brother Edwin E. Willits was born in 1859.) I might add that the two boys became fine millers, Osborn or Os as he was called, years later worked for Liggett & Mealy in their mill at Columbia City for many years. Up to 1861 the grist mill was used for custom grists only. On September 19th, 1861, my father, John M. Willits, contracted to purchase Mr. Williams’ interest in the mill property. The consideration was $2500.00 possession at once. There was a flaw in the title that had to be corrected by law, before a perfect title could be issued. Before this was accomplished Mr. Williams died. The administrator, Richard Vanderford, carried the terms of the contract, and on Jun 22nd, 1864, a perfect deed was issued to father. The land was described as “Eighteen and 88/100 acres, upon which was erected a grist mill and a saw mill. Also a certain Three and 50/100 acres tract adjoining, same on the north, running to the road that leads from Millersburg to Springfield.” I have both the contract and deed now. The deed has a 50¢ stamp with George Washington’s picture on it. The Mill yard and feed lot was located on the larger tract. Father also purchased from Mr. Miller one half interest in the land that adjoined these tracts and running east to the Harter farm, and extending from the Springfield road to the river. This made Father’s holdings of all mill properties the same as Mr. Miller’s.
As my father and mother figured quite prominently in the life of Millersburg, I had best give something of their background. While I can trace Father’s ancestry back before the Revolution war by means of old documents I possess, I will only start at his birth.
Father was born at Lisbon, Ohio in 1828. His father, James Willits, and family in 1839 traveling by canal boat, disembarked at Fort Wayne, Indiana and settled at Swan, in Allen County. Engaged in general merchandise business. My mother, Mary Glass, was born in Columbia County, Ohio in 1835. Her father, Mathias Glass, with his large family also traveled via canal boat to Bluffton, Indiana in 1840, settled on 320 acres of heavy timber land south west of Bluffton about 5 miles. I have cousins who are now living on part of that land.
Father and Mother were married in a little church at Huntertown, Allen county, in 1853. Traveling in a buggy they set out for Fort Wayne on their honeymoon. About two miles out of Huntertown while passing over a corduroy road through a tamarac swamp, a wheel came off the buggy and rolled into the swamp and disappeared. Unable to find the wheel after careful search, father walked back to Huntertown after another wheel, while mother held the horse. They took up their residence at Columbia City, and immediately joined the Grace Lutheran Church. I have their certificate of membership. The minister was that good and Godly man, Father Wells. At that time the church building was a small frame, which was later moved south of the then Kepner hotel, the Masonic building now stands on that location. This frame building was used by the “Church of Christ” for many years. The present magnificent brick church at its old location.
Father engaged in general store business with Mr. Swiheart, who owned the grist mill that afterwards belonged to the Tuttles for so many years. The store was located in a one story building across the street north of the Pennsylvania Depot. Mr. Swyheart went broke and his creditors fastened on the store business. Father to avoid years of litigation took Mr. Swyheart’s note for $600 for his interest in the business. The noted was never paid, I have it now. In 1856 father entered the employ of Miller & Harter in Millersburg. Mr. Harter died in 1859 [sic: 1867]. Father with the financial help of Mr. Miller purchased the interests of the Harter heirs.
The firm name was changed to Miller & Willits. Mr. Miller was not in good health, so the management of running the business fell upon father. Soon after the civil war started the government appointed father food administrator for their territory. His duties were to encourage food production, especially wheat and other grains. And to grind as much flour as possible. Father immediately started the mill running day and night. This he kept up with the exception of the summer of 1868 when the new dam was built, until his death on April 24th, 1872. I might add that the flour was marketed in New York. Packed in barrels and hauled to Columbia City and stored in the Pennsylvania depot freight house until 100 barrels had accumulated, it was then loaded in a freight car and shipped. I have numerous invoices covering the near ten years, showing the price received for the flour. They ran from $10.00 to 12.00 per barrel. Frequently barrels of corn meal and buck wheat flour were shipped in the car.
The quarter block of land upon which the store building stood was Mr. Miller’s private property. His large two story house was on the south half of the land. In 1866 Mr. Miller built the two story and basement building that stands today and is still used for business. The one story building in which the business had been conducted so long was moved west and attached to the new building for a ware house.
This same year father purchased the nearly new five room story and half house with a mansard roof that was located half a block north of the store on the east side of the street. A two room log cabin was on the alley south of the new house. Father used this as extra storage for the business.
In the early 1860s this part of Indiana was still in the pioneer stage. Most of the land was covered with the timber that years later made Indiana famous for its fine quality. The greater part of the cleared land was thick with stumps, few fields were entirely free of them. Thus making it hard to cultivate. Wheat and other grains was cut with cradles, and around stumps cycles was used. Most farmers tramped out the wheat on feed floors with horses. Few had wind mills and screened the wheat by letting the wind blow out the chaff. The mill screened the wheat for flour. Usually corn was shelled at the mill for corn meal.
Tamarac swamps were plentiful, large and small and dangerous as usually there was sink holes of quick sand.
Around the edges of swamps grew masses of blackberries, and huckleberries bunches. In the swamps cranberries grew. Wild plums, grapes, elder berries, mulberries, and black and red haws were in abundance. As for nuts: hazel, hickory, walnut and butter nut was so plentiful they fairly dared you to gather them in. Game was plentiful. Quail, pheasants, ducks, geese and an occasional flock of wild pigeons, some wild turkey, rabbits, squirrels of all kinds and an occasional deer. The streams were full of fish. The fur bearing animals were: mink, muskrat, coon, opossum, skunk, fox and wolf.
Father was no hunter, he did not even own a gun. He did enjoy fishing however. Not having time to fish with hook and line, he had Isaac Sisk make him two set and one dip nets. When the river was up and water roily he would set them. His favorite place was on the south side of the river a short distance above the dam. As fish always swim upstream when the water is roily, he set the nets with the mouths facing downstream. He would visit the nets always early in the mornings, Ed and I with him. The bulk of the catches would be Red horse and Suckers. Other varieties were Bass, cat fish, pike, sun fish, hook fish, perch and Eel. The catch was usually large, at one time it nearly filled a tub. What we could not use ourselves we gave to neighbors. One time Ed and I got quite a thrill when a huge pike was among the catch. It weighed over eleven pounds. Jack Hueston built a small dock with a forked post to rest the net long pole on, at the foot of the island below the dam. Here he and father would use the dip net. It was more exciting than the set net because of the danger of the fish escaping.
Isaac Sisk made all kinds of fish nets and was kept quite busy. His wife made rag carpets and wove cloth. They lived in a two room log cabin on two acres adjoining our land on the west.
When the civil war was over and the soldiers commenced coming home, the young men married the girls they had left behind. In making homes most of them cleared spaces for log cabins in the timber of their father’s farms, using the trees for the cabins. When they were prepared neighbors would gather and erect the cabin in one day. The roofs covered with three foot shingles made in the woods, usually of ash because they split even and easy, they were evened up with draw knives, using what is known as a WOODEN HORSE. Marie if you ever saw Paul Striggle work in his cooper shop you know what I mean. The cabins always had the huge stone chimney with a mantel, above which hung the long barrel squirrel rifle, with its powder horn, bullet and cap pouch and string of bullet patches. Many of the soldiers brought their army Springfield muskets home with them. These were large bore and was used as shot guns. They had a kick like a mule. The floors, windows and doors made from lumber sawed from logs taken to the saw mill, usually ash, poplar and walnut. When the house was finished the young couple would begin clearing the land for cultivation. Great trees that today would represent a little fortune was fallen in log heaps and consigned to the flames. Little did they dream they were reducing to smoke and ashes the finest crop the land would ever produce. And this was going on all over this part of the country. Small as I was I can clearly remember the smoke clouds that hung in the air in every direction from town. As I write this a scene comes to my mind that is a true picture of the typical pioneer family of that day. Dave Myers owned the land that is south and west of the town, across the bridge and running along the river. Their large log cabin home was located about half a mile from town. The family consisted of Mr. & Mrs. Myers, Sue, who had just married Mark Hanley. Stella a girl of about 17, Hank a young man in his early 30s and Bill about 30 age. I can close my eyes and see the inside of that cabin just as plain as if it was yesterday. The cabin was one room. In the center of the west wall was the huge fireplace. In each corner of the room was a bed made of cedar wood, large round upright posts with round sides and ends with hooked wooden pegs in them. A rope laced from peg to peg side to side and end to end. On this the straw tick and over that the feather bed. Close to the middle of the room was a long table made of boards on top of turssels, at the sides and ends wooden benches where people sat while eating. There was no ceiling except the roof, the ceiling joist was round poles across which hung bunches of seed corn by their husks, great bunches of tobacco curing. Saddles, harness, clothing and numerous other articles rested there. In front of the fire place sat grandma Myers the mother of Mr. Myers, close to her sat Mrs. Myers each in a hickory homemade rocker, each smoking a clay pipe of home cured tobacco. Grandma was knitting while Mrs. Myers was watching the Dutch ovenr covered with coals where bread was baking and the iron kettle hanging from the crane and suspended over the flames in which was meat. Bill, Ed and I were sitting on the benches at the table shelling yellow corn for corn meal.
The winter of 1867-68 was very severe, ice froze in the river to a great depth and the snow was deep. Late in March it suddenly turned warm and a continuous rain fell. The snow melted and the river flooded. The water covered Dave Myers land up to the hill. The river rose within a few feet of the river bridge, which was supported by piling driven into the river bed. The ice broke up on the river and great cakes came racing down together with the trees and brush gathered by the high waters threatened to carry the bridge away. Quickly a group of volunteers gathered on the bridge with spike poles, hand spikes, axes, crow bars and black powder to ward off the danger of jams of ice and timber. Prominent among the volunteers was Perry Ward. When a jam threatened against a piling, with one end of a rope tied around his waist and two men on the bridge holding the other end, he would lower himself on the jam and with hand spike or ax break it up. His great strength and agility enabled him to do this. All the men was kept busy with the long spike poles steering the huge cakes of ice under the bridge or cutting limbs off trees that were too long to go under it.
The whole town seemed to be gathered on the north bank of the river anxiously watching their men fighting to save the bridge. Mother with her umbrella with Ed and I beside her was there. Father, Jack Huston and the two millers were working to avoid danger to the mill. The upper head gates together with their heavy timber supports was washed out and carried towards the mill. By means of hooked spike poles they drew them towards the bank, put chains around them, hitched horses to them and pulled them on the banks. The rushing water going around and under the mill. Fortunately the great danger to the bridge only lasted that day as the most of the ice and trees had been carried down the river. However a crew of men with lanterns tied to the bridge watched through the night. When the water receded the bridge was badly out of line, and the entire filling and piling at the south side of the bridge was washed out. The dam was all gone except the foundation, as was the bulwarks on each side. The upper head gates together with the heavy frame timbers were gone. The upper race was badly damaged. Mr. Miller and father decided there was nothing else to do but build all this new. At the same time as the mill had to lay idle, to install the new bucket system instead of the old paddle, and to install new burrs, elevators and other improvements. First they had to have new timbers for all this and as the saw mill had not been much damaged and as there was enough water to furnish power for the saws. They had Spurgeon and Banty with helpers work day and night to get them out. It must have been early in May before the timbers were out and the weather settled that they could get to work on the dam. Spurgeon & Banty acted as engineers, and that they were as good building dams as they was houses and furniture was demonstrated, for the bulk of that dam still stands after 90 years has passed. Of course the top of the dam has been massaged a few times, but the dam itself is doing business at the same old place. The lower head gates and the timbers of the upper race was torn out allowing the water of the river to flow under the mill and down through the lower race. As soon as the river was sufficiently low an army of men, teams of horses, mules and oxen got busy tearing out the old dam. The gravel and rock were scraped back for a distance of a 100 feet or more, the old timbers were floated down the river and scattered along the bank, to be hauled away by the people afterwards for firewood. Every thing was removed to bed rock, upon which the new dam was started. Along the north bank of the river about where the summer cottages [Conservation Center] now stand. In which long slender ironwood grew in great quantities, also cattails grew here in profusion. I wonder Marie if you ever saw and remember this marsh? I used to visit it often to secure the long stems of the cattails for arrows. These iron wood were so hard they would turn the edge of an ax and so they used saws, they had to be sharpened often. The trees wo9uld sink so they had to be towed down to the dam on rafts. They were placed in rows on the river bed with gravel in between rows, up to the apron of the dam. And there they are today, I warrant just as solid today as they were when placed there. The apron was made of logs secured from the thick woods that covered the east end of the mill property. Trees free of limbs and straight and long as possible. These were squared in the woods and floated down the river and placed in position. Upon these logs the dam was built and finished with the sawed timber, part of which was covered with rock and gravel. I was then about six and half years old, day after day I mingled with a number of boys along the north side of the river watching the army of men, teams of oxen, mules and horses busy at their different kinds of activities. I sure got a kick out of it. The lowering of the river above the dam had left some of the north bank exposed, or rather river bed, leaving hundreds of mussels scattered in the wet sand. I noticed one of the large mussels moving, it must have been 3 inches long and 2 wide, it had opened up and was standing on its edge, whether it was feeding or moving for deep water I don’t know, I ran and grabbed it, in some way I got the forefinger between its shells and it closed on it. I did some yelling. Ed ran the blade of his barlow knife between its jaws and twisted and opened the shells enough so I could free my finger. The sharp edges of the shell had cut the finger pretty bad. Ed tied it up with my handkerchief and I started for home.
By the time the dam was finished the upper and lower head gates had been built and mill equipment installed. And again the mill proceeded to grind day and night. The new dam made this the most powerful water system on Eel river if not in the state. You Marie no doubt have seen many times so I will not describe how the lifting of the lower gates sent the water with all the force of the river behind it dashing against the buckets that set the iron spindle whirling that furnished the power for all the machinery in the mill at will. But I do want to tell you about how all this was utilized in my father’s time. Of the three sets of stone burrs, one was used to grind corn meal and buckwheat flour. One or the other was used in the day time for custom grists and at night with the other burr for grinding flour to ship. Except on Saturdays when at times the custom grists were so heavy all burrs had to be used. These grists varied from two to 10 bushels of wheat. I can hardly refrain from describing how the wheat or other grain go into the mill in raw state and come out in the finished state but you no doubt have been in the mill many times and have seen it in operation. The barrels in which the flour was packed for shipping was made by Paul Striggle, he had the help of the two older boys, Joe and Fritz. There was Dave and Willie who also helped, especially in the vats that seasoned the wood. He also made all kinds of barrels. As I remember he received 30 cents each for flour barrels. The capacity of the mill was from 25 to 30 barrels of four per day of 24 hours. Father and Mr. Miller each had a team of horses they used in hauling flour to Columbia City to ship. Ten barrels was a load, and usually there was a load of merchandise on the return trip, so each team rested every other day. When flour accumulated Bail Butler or Paul Striggle’s teams were pressed into service. The flour was stored in the Pennsylvania freight house until 100 barrels had accumulated then it was loaded in a freight car and usually shipped to New York. I might add here that Jack Hueston worked for father for several years and up until father’s death.
Mr. Miller died in 1860. He had been married twice. His second wife was much younger than he. She gave birth to a son three months after his death. It was named ELLIS after his father. By his first wife he had a son Elias, at this time about 24 years old. He was attending college at Ann Arbor, Michigan. (By the way his roommate was Thomas Edison, who years later became famous for his Electric discoveries.) Martha, around 20 and Ora 17 years old. At this time the two girls were attending college at Wabash, Indiana. Father purchased Mrs. Miller’s interests in the business. I have the contract of purchase. Mr. Ed Harter, son of Christian Harter, purchased the children’s holdings. Thus father owned the majority of the business. The name of the firm was WILLITS & HARTER. This same year father traded the house with the mansard roof to Mrs. Haynes for the 32 acre tract of land adjoining the town on the east. It had on it quite a large two room log cabin with a tumble down lean-to on the north side. Also a large frame barn. And what I valued most I think, was a dandy 4 acre orchard located just north of the cabin. On the north side of the east room of the cabin was a large fireplace made of stone, with swinging cranes on each side. Mother used these for cooking while the carpenters repaired the lean-to for a kitchen. The east room was very large. Well do I remember father and Mother’s bed with its rope springs, straw tick and feather bed located in the north east corner of the room, the trundle bed pushed under the bed during the day and pulled out at night for Ed and I to sleep on. Mary Ellen, the hired girl, used the second room. Jack Hueston had his quarters on the second floor of the store building, among the boots, clothing and other bulky merchandise.
Father had his idea of how he wanted the new house built, and had Mr. Spurgeon draw up the plans. On the north side of the land was about ten acres of timber that had never been cut over. Mr. Banty and Mr. Spurgeon selected and cut logs consisting of walnut, poplar, ash, and cherry for lumber for the house. Jack Hueston hauled the logs to the saw mill. Banty & Spurgeon sawed them in the desired shapes, then stacked the lumber into a dry kiln on the side of the hill on the mill land just south across the road from the house site. They placed a stove under the kiln, running the pipe out on the south side. It was Ed’s and my duty to see that a fire was in the stove at all times, using knots as much as possible to hold the fire longer. Long oak logs were hauled in from the woods and left to dry out. At least 40 feet long and straight . By this time Mr. Banty had build a work shop on the back of his lot in town, so after the lumber was kiln dried it was moved there and the carpenters set to work making the doors, windows, window frames and siding out of poplar, the flooring out of oak, finish out of ash, stairs, railings and wainscoating out of walnut. The dimensions were of oak and in rough. What I am trying to put across is, that the finish work was all done by hand, now it is done at the mills. Furthermore all the lumber that went into the house, except the shingles and lath, was taken from the property, and not a know was in it. Altho the house is now 88 years old, it stands today seemingly as good as ever. As soon as the weather permitted early in the year of 1870, Jack Hueston with the team plowed and scraped the dirt out for the cellar. John Kennedy and Pat Butler leveled it up and excavated the trenches, for the walls. Tom Seymore and his brothers Sam and Bill did the mason work using rock. The rock was secured from the river bed below the dam. It was hauled by Jack Hueston and Bail Butler, Perry Ward helping lead the wagons.
Tom Seymore was a big jovial man, always singing the popular songs of the day. “We’ll hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree”; “John Brown’s body lies smouldering in the grave”; “Home sweet home”; etc. It seemed but yesterday when he would call out: “Mort: Mort: bring on the mort, make it rich or I’ll throw it out”, always making music out of it. He and his brothers also did the plastering. They lived north of Springfield (South Whitley now) on a farm. In the meantime Spurgeon & Banty were squaring the oak logs for the framing. Using broad ax and adz. It was a particular job, as they had to be straight and true. They were squared to eight inches. Mr. Spurgeon marked the patterns for the mortises. Mr. Banty used the sit down machine with its two inch bit to bore the holes, Mr. Spurgeon followed with his sharp two inch chisel. They placed the foundation forms binding them with mortises and tenens with wooden pins. Then laid the floor joist. And put the side walls together including the studding. Now everything was ready for the raising. The day was beautiful. Mother and Mary Ellen had been busy for days preparing for the eats. The carpenters made tables out of the house lumber in the front yard. People began coming early, in wagons, buggies, horse back and walking. Father and Mother were amazed at their numbers. The field north of the barn was filled with rigs. Not only did the men and women come but they brought their families. And again to mother’s amazement they nearly all brought something to eat. Nor was the immediate neighbors all that came. Father Wells, the Thorps, and the Scantlings from Columbia City, the Haldermans and Clevengers from Larwill. The Edwards, the Combs and Dr. Merrimans and Dr. Arnolds from Springfield. They were all there and enjoyed it.
They raised the front wall first, and it sure was heavy. It was forty feet long and twenty high, with its eight inch frame work filled with studding. But the army of men made light work of it. Henry Banty stood on the foundation joist and directed the work. At each heave men raised the top side of the wall, wile another row of men stood at the base to place the tenens in the mortises. While others placed pieces of timbers under the wall so the men could get a new hold at each heave. When the top wall got higher spiked poles were used. When the wall was upright and tenens settled in the mortises on the foundation beams they were made fast with wooden pins. The wall was held upright by braces fastened to the joist. In the same manner the west wall was raised and made fast to the main wall with 4 feet 4 inch pieces set catacornered from beams to uprights then fastened with wooden pins. And so they proceeded all around the house. By noon the entire walls were set and leveled.
That dinner or rather banquet will always live in my memory. Everything in shape of food was in evidence. Roast turkey, chicken, duck, beef, ham and every kind of vegetables. Cakes, pies, puddings and jams of endless variety. And bread I did not know so many kinds could be made. Coffee and milk was the principal drinks. There was not enough room to seat only about half the people so there was two sittings, or even three for the children had to wait to their impatience. But there was a plenty of food, in fact much left. Every one bowed their heads as Father Wells arose and asked the blessing. In the afternoon the inside walls were erected, the second floor joists and roof rafters were placed under the direction of Banty & Spurgeon. By five o’clock the people began to leave, declaring they had a fine time. There was no accidents to mar the day except one little incident. The two Thorp boys being from Columbia City were not used to nuts, found some walnuts that Ed and I had mashed the outside hull but had not picket out, commenced cracking the nuts between stones and eating. Seeing which Ed took them in the smoke house where we had several barrels of walnuts, hickory nuts, butter and hazel nuts told them as well as other children to help themselves. The Thorp boys ate so much they got violently sick. Fortunately Dr. Miller was there on hand to give them aid. They did not have any appetite for any thing further to eat so missed out on the feast of good food.
I am afraid I did not give a very clear picture of the saw mill Father & Miller had installed. The new bucket water system same as the grist mill. The shoot descended direct from the round deep body of water just north of the upper head gates (known as the old swimming hole) the fall down the shoot was about ten feet, like the grist mill it had all the power of the river behind it. The saw was up and down, much like the cross cut. It was so arranged so that two or even three saws could be used at a time, which was rarely done as there was danger of being pinched and breaking the saws. Perry Ward was the head sawer, his helpers varied, as the mill was not busy all the time, but just as logs came in. In case like building of the house Banty & Spurgeon helped they were very particular how the lumber was sawed especially the poplar lap siding which was twice as thick at one edge as the other and required continued changing on the carrier as well as true. They also were particular about the finish stuff. This sawing was not as fast as the circular saws that came later, and even later the band saw that is so popular today. Again I want to call your attention to the immense power of this particular water system.
Henry Banty & John Spurgeon got busy on the carpenter work. The nails of that day were vastly different from the endless variety of today. Even the finish would split any board except the heavy dimensions. So on the siding, floors and finish work small bits were used to start the nails, which was always counter sunk. These holes had to be puttied by the painters, who also did the glazing. The two Hathaway brothers did the painting with the occasional help of Frank Butler. It was late in the summer before the building was finished and we moved in.
I can’t pass up this building story without telling of the many thrills I had throughout its building, from beginning to the end I was always Jonnie on the spot. Making a nuisance of myself. Asking questions, why they did this, why they did that. My pal Bill Ward with me much of the time. They are happy memories.
The country made fast progress since the soldiers came home. Lands had been cleared. The stumps of the new land was burned out with brush heaps, dug around and pulled out with oxen or blown out with black powder. The same treatment was given to stumps in the older land. The result more crops were grown. Corn often made seventy five bushels to the acre. Wheat, buck wheat, flax all were produced in such quantities the mill could not use it all up, so a market had to be found for them. Before father realized it he was in the grain business. As Columbia City was the nearest shipping point it meant the employment of more teams, also more warehouse room. 1870 was a big year for flax seed, and use was made of the Harter bank barn second floor for storing and sacking it. They went a step further and bought hogs. Father had a tight fence made around the field north and west of the barn, taking in the creek and thicket, so the hogs had plenty of water and shade. There they mobilized them until he had a car load or two. He experimented on feed. Potatoes were plentiful and very cheap, he cooked potatoes and mixed it with shorts in barrels and let it sour. It was a success. Also he experimented driving hogs to the rail road instead of hauling. With a big bunch of hogs and Jack Hueston in front with a lead of corn, Bail Butler, Joe Striggle and Alex Goff with their teams behind they started. When a hog tired or lagged they put it in a wagon. Jack Hueston moving slowly kept dropping shelled corn, this kept the hogs moving. They made it to Tom Prichards the first day, this was half way. Then to Columbia City the second and loaded the cars the third. It proved to be expensive as the hogs lost weight.
Upon thought I find I have not told of other improvements on the old homestead, and no doubt you Marie remember them well. Just west of the house father had a well dug, John Kennedy and Pat Butler did the work and walled it with stone. Mr. Linch the pump maker made the pump, entirely of wood and installed it. The water was pure and cool and never went dry. In the front yard Banty & Spurgeon built a fence that I always thought a beauty. The posts were of tamarac as they resist decay. The palings were 1 ½ square and about 3 feet long made of poplar, all painted white. Back of the house was the old smoke house, back of that father had an ice house built, which no doubt your father used. The two story log cabin was torn down and made into wood.
In 1871 the Eel River Rail Road began building out of Butler. The line ran from Butler to Logansport. James Collins was the President. Father entered into a contract to furnish bridge timber and ties needed between Springfield and Liberty Mills. He invested $1000 in stock, in the company (I have that stock now). During the winter of 1871-72 there was a great deal of snow making the hauling of logs easy on sleds. Father hired a cutting gang and many teams with sleds. He spent most of the time with the cutters and haulers, leaving the balance of the business to Ed Harter. Nearly every night he would come home with frozen feet. Ed and I would bring in a tub of snow to put his feet in. Father was a very strong man and kept going into the woods. Finally he caught cold but did not stop, it got worse and was taken down with lung fever. (It is known as Pneumonia now.) Dr. Miller was the physician, he called consultation Dr’s Merriman and Edwards of Springfield and Dr. Linvill of Columbia City. He sank into a coma and died less than a week after he took to bed. The funeral was held in the new home of which he was so proud of. Father Wells was the minister. He was buried at Columbia City; he now sleeps in the cemetery along the side of Eel river along with my mother and four brothers. I am the only one left and it don’t seem possible that so many years have passed since then.
Father left no will. Mr. Abe Collett was appointed administrator by the court. Sam Havens guardian for Ed and I. Both were farmers. Mr. Havens was the finest gentleman I ever met, he treated Ed and I as if we were his own sons. Either because of the slowness of the court or the inefficiency of Mr. Collet and Ed Harter or both, nothing was done about the rail road contract. At the time of father’s death the road had pulled into Springfield. Father had already delivered piling bridge timber and ties on the south bank of the river where the bridge was afterwards built. And had sawed timber stacked in the mill yard ready to deliver. Besides the mill yard was filled with logs. It was a time contract and because the rail road was unable to secure immediate delivery they canceled it and let a new one to Jack Peabody. Nothing was ever done about the lumber or logs in the mill yard or along the bank of the river. They lay there for years, a total loss. Father and Harter had erected the Elevator on the Mill property besides which the road afterwards ran and it was used for many years afterwards. It was late in the summer of 1872 when the rail road reached Millersburg.
Just a word about the change in the name of the town: In 1863 the government changed the post office name from Millersburg to Collamer. At the same time they appointed father postmaster instead of Ellis Miller. I have his commission before me now. It is dated November 4th, 1863 and is signed by the postmaster general, Montgomery Blair. The town however held onto the name of Millersburg until the rail road named the station Collamer in 1872, when the town gradually became known as Collamer. At the same time the name of Springfield was changed to South Whitley.
I have mentioned the tamarac swamps and marsh lands but have said nothing about the bad roads. This was especially true when the frost was coming out of the ground. Then it was impossible to haul loads. In fact a good team had all it could do to pull an empty wagon. At such times many rode horse back. Frequently the woman folks would ride to town to trade, often bringing a basket of eggs, butter or other commodity. Wearing a long black riding skirt and riding a side saddle, they would ride up to the mounting block north of the store, dismount, step out of their skirt, leave it on the saddle and descend the steps of the block to the ground. Of course some one connected with the store helping the lady and tying the horse.
The swamps and marshes caused much sickness. In the summer time ague and malaria was very bad. Many a time I have heard one man address another with: “How are you John, Bill or whatever the name might be”, to be answered: “Not so good, I’ve the two days shakes and have just come to town after pills and quinine.” Quinine was packed in one ounce bottles and sold for $3.00. The store sold the quinine in any quantities, weighing it on a very delicate even balanced scale. They carried pills and quinine in large quantities, they were as staple as sugar. They also sold other patent medicines.