Source: NMHS NEWSLETTER August 1989
The Prairie Lives by Dr. L. Z. Bunker
General Tipton, writing in this area in the 1830’s told us, “the Prairie begins on the west bank of the Tippecanoe River and extends uninterrupted to the Rocky Mountains.” No more than 25 miles or so from the Tippecanoe ourselves, we can consider ourselves at the beginning of the prairie.
Many of the lovely prairie flowers still bloom in this area. A little search on the back roads, near out-of-the-way ponds and meadows will show us these. All of these, except the lady’s slipper, have been seen blooming near North Manchester in the past several years.
In the spring we see pussy willows, buttercups, anemones, spring beauties, Dutchman’s breeches, violets, purple, blue, yellow and white, crow’s feet, dog tooth trillium, mayapple, hepaticus, and the illusive lady’s slipper, our true American orchid.
Come summer there are wild roses, butterfly weed, cardinal flowers, ironweed, many asters, daisies, water lilies, tiger lilies, turk’s cap lilies, jimson and occasionally the several-foot-high Kansas gay feather with its lovely lavender flowers. All this on a background of innumerable grasses, sedges, and native hay.
In damp wooded areas one still finds pennyroyal, ginseng, and yellow root. Several plants brought to this country by the Pilgrims, such as bouncing Bet, butter and eggs, and some wild roses, are not included in this list, for they have spread all over the country.
Do not damage the roots of these lovely native flowers in whom the prairie of our forefathers lived on.
Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1992
Save the Wetlands!
By Ladoska Z. Bunker, M.D. Ret.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Bunker has provided the Newsletter with a number of articles, some of which have shown an abiding interest in the ecology of our area. This is her most informative natural history to date and shows its impact on the economy and quality of life of Wabash County and northeastern Indiana.
The continued discussion of the need to “save the wetlands” brings many thoughts to mind: how they affected the environment; their gradual decline and its results: and lastly what can be done about this!
As the glaciers melted 10,000 years ago great areas of water, eventually forming rivers and creeks and small lakes were formed, and drainage patterns persisted until the present. At the discovery of America the present area was warmer and wetter than it is today. Great flocks of parrots ranged over the Midwest; effigies are often found in Indian relics, birdstone, pipes, etc. There was a great profusion of birdlife, small animals, fish and aquatic life, insects, and snakes. Some of the fauna and flora remained in the country until the past 50 years or so.
When the pioneers came to Wabash County in the late 1820’s and following, they found a great stand of timber. Besides hardwoods, there were trees thriving on water: beech, sycamore, cottonwood, ash, willow. There was also brush: hazel brush, witch hazel, blackberries, elderberries, and brambles.
When Peter Ogan came to the site of North Manchester in 1836 he found the Eel River to be 131 feet wide and ten to 15 feet deep but with some shallows. He built a water-powered saw mill at the south end of what is now Mill Street, the site of the present North Central Coop. A grist mill was built at the same time. The latter was soon sold to Joseph Harter, Sr., pioneer, and moved to the area of the Wabash Road where a new mill was build, powered by a huge dam, originally built of felled trees and stones. An earlier dam at the first installation was later washed away.
The same raised the water level, and for many years almost everyone along the river had a boat. A steamboat plied the river as an excursion boat for several years, and later several citizens had gasoline launches. The creeks along the river were deeper then, and there were springs over much of the town, as well as numerous artesian wells.
As late as 1880 there was a large pond at the northwest corner of Mill and Fourth Streets and another in the west end of town. All over the countryside there were small creeks and rivulets. The Indians had lived near water, and one can find their stone artifacts in these washes. Old maps of the county show small streams that have long since dried up.
Millions of board feet of lumber were cut in upper Indiana, some of it exported to Europe or absorbed in the nation’s building boom as it expanded West. When the railroad was built in 1871 south from Warsaw to North Manchester, its route was through almost continuous timber. Much of this was huge; four-and-a-half to five feet on the stump, the last great stand before the beginning of the prairie on the west bank of the Tippecanoe River, about 25 miles west of here. As late as 1915 or so, there were huge stumps in Heckathorne’s woods, the present Briarwood neighborhood, where great trees had been cut. The area was still heavily timbered with lovely ponds and water trickling about.
A tile factory was operating on the river west of North Manchester in the 1870’s, and a great effort was made to drain the land with underground ditching. Surface ditching, such as prevails in Benton County in western Indiana, was not used here, but there were occasional large ditches to receive the water from the smaller drains and where these crossed roads, culverts had to be built. Land was continually being drained and new acres put into cultivation as the timber was cut and other changes occurred.
Many small fur-bearing animals survived the destruction of the forests, and the sale of animal pelts of mink, coon, muskrat, skunk, an occasional fox, and rarely a badger continued into the 1950’s with one or two fur buyers in each community. A search in December 1991 for a fur buyer revealed one in Peru, Indiana. Fur was caught by local trappers, dried and sold to be shipped to the American Raw Fur auction on the east side of New York City to be auctioned off to processors. Mink raising and the opposition to the use of animal pelts has also helped to reduce this business.
A visual loss as the result of the country’s drying out is the dying out of many beautiful wildflowers and plants. From the early spring when skunk cabbages’ green shoots appeared in icy ponds, followed the golden buttercups, then iris (flags), arrowhead, lythrum, cattails, and many thriving in damp areas, such as mints, horehound, etc. Many trees flowered in the spring: redbud, locust, rarely a chestnut, and catalpas. In the dampness wild strawberries, followed by blackberries and raspberries, elderberries, wild gooseberries, and in the swamps huckleberries grew profusely.
Many people drove buggies to the Disko area, 10 miles west to pick huckleberries, a small blue berry made into pies and jelly. The huckleberry swamp was a great bog with deep sinks. A man who drowned in the huckleberry marsh was said to have come up in Manitou Lake in Rochester. This was the area of swamp rabbits, a cunning little bunny about half the size of a cottontail, and many aquatic birds.
Going back to the denizens of the wetlands, the river was full of fish; big bass, 10-15 pound catfish, both blue and yellow yard-long carp, and large and soft-shelled turtles, the last especially vicious.
There were many insects and occasionally a plague of waterbugs which came up from the river at night and were known to have covered North Manchester’s Main Street! Toads and frogs were common, the latter often hunted for “frog legs.” Moths and butterflies abounded along with beetles and wild bees. Bee trees, full of honey could still be found in wooded areas.
As summer progressed more flowers appeared: whole fields of red clover grown for hay, wild roses, daisies, cardinal flowers, mustard, and later many varieties of asters, Queen Anne’s lace, and joe-pye weed. The flowers and herbs of the pioneers were already disappearing by the early 1900’s: lady’s-slippers (American orchids), black cohosh, elecampane, trilliums, and shooting stars thrived in very wet soil and were less common.
Birds have been called the “litmus paper of ecology.” Birds that thrived on the wetlands were reduced in numbers first: cranes, herons, ducks of many varieties, waterfowl, coots, migrant geese, and rarely a loon with its wild cry at night. It has been 40 years or more since the author has seen indigo blue birds, buntings, a shrike, or a scarlet tanager. Catbirds, thrushes, orioles are uncommon anymore. When did I last hear a phoebe? Purple martins are seen only at intervals and for game birds once common, there was no quail season for hunters in northern Indiana in 1991. Bird-like, if not birds, the little flying red squirrel, once common, has just about disappeared.
One by one the sights and sounds and scents that were so pleasant are vanishing forever as the country dries out and their existence becomes impossible.
But there is a remedy. In the wake of dambuilding in the years after the Depression, the Ten Killer Dams and a series of holding lakes were built in northeastern Oklahoma, a depressed area that was nearly semiarid. The author was first in this area in 1952 when some fishing areas had been opened, and there were plans for the great Lake of the Cherokees, the Tulsa to Arkansas River Barge Canal and other projects. I was again in the area in 1956 and 1960, and it was unbelievable in the change. An area where earlier trees were about 25-30 feet high, the blackjack oak, now flowers and bushes were all about, and I saw Virginia box growing in Nottawa, Oklahoma, as handsome as any in the Old Dominion. Retention of water and changes in evaporation had changed its water cycle, and there was now moisture and growth where there was once drought and dust.
We are fortunate that we can stop our changing water cycle before it is too late and without such heroic efforts, great areas flooded, etc. as was needed in Oklahoma.
We can restore unproductive areas to earlier wetness; stop farmers from taking water from rivers and creeks for their own irrigation (the water belongs to everyone); reduce the overuse of water; stop contamination of ground water from poisonous dumps; and build holding areas in old river beds and areas of little value.
There is no doubt that areas to be flooded should be carefully assessed, the owners compensated (but this is no problem), and an equable settlement should be arrived at.
Increased productivity, better growth, reduction of overall
heat and dust can be expected.
Better economic situations have followed in areas of the south and southwest
where water control has been carried out; fishing and resort areas, catfish and
rice farming are a few examples.
Our way is clear: immediate study, earnest effort, and total cooperation should
bring us worthwhile changes…before it is too late!
Newsletter, November 1998
Source: NMHS Newsletter, November 1998
A History of the Herbert L. Taylor Audubon Preserve during the five generations of the Taylor Family
by Jay A. Taylor
The Herbert L. Taylor Audubon Preserve contains the remaining acreage of a woods that was enjoyed by five generations of the Taylor family.
When George W. and Elizabeth Taylor and their son, Robert F. Taylor with wife Molly and eight children sold their small farm and truck patch respectively in Arcadia, OH. they bought 156 acres of land east of Liberty Mills, IN in 1903. More land was needed for the younger family would soon have a ninth child. The older Taylors moved to a home in Liberty Mills, and the younger family moved into a 5 room, story and a half, bungalow style house which was enlarged that year with a two story addition providing four more rooms and a partial basement for root storage. That improved house still stands about midway along the south edge of the farm.
The 156 acres was located in two counties and 4 separate quarter sections bounded on two sides by roads. The Eel River was the north boundary. There was 25 acres of woods on the farm. It is the history of the woods about which I write.
In a sense the woods and river along it were always a community place. By crawling over two fences and walking 1/8 mile from the east
edge of Liberty Mills anyone was able to crawl through the fence and enter the woods. Thus in mushroom season most days would find several persons turning over leaves looking for morels or elephant ears. Others came to view wild flowers. This writer remembers meeting Rose Martin hunting mushrooms one spring day. She stopped to show him how to create whistles from the green limb of a pawpaw bush. She tapped the bark to loosen it; slipped off the bark and opened up a sound chamber. Then she slipped the bark back on and adjusted the length of the out end of the twig to change the pitch of the whistle.
Now and then a man or boy would trap fur bearing animals or fish along the banks of the river. Bert Cordier kept a row boat in the back water of the Liberty Mills Dam and frequently "pushed" his oars to tend traps or fish along the edge of the woods.
Many winters the Taylor families were kept in honey by watching "bee trees" that were cut on a morning when the temperature was 20 degrees or lower. The honey was taken to the house to be extracted. About 1950 Byron Taylor had spotted such a tree west of the drainage ditch near the river. I was home for the Thanksgiving break from college on a morning that was cold enough to stop normal activity in the hive. The family owned a two-man Mall chain saw like those developed by the Army Corp of Engineers for use during the Second World War. It had a 36 inch cut. I was operating the saw by holding handle bars projecting out from the engine like the handles of a wheel barrow. At the other end was a single handle held by brother Robert J. Taylor. We had started well below the opening used by the bees and were cutting off blocks of stove wood while watching for evidence of honey. Finally in the middle of a cut bees began to appear. They were sluggish enough to offer no trouble until my partner lifted up his end of the saw with a jerk. Several bees landed on my face which was warm enough to inspire them to go into the fight mode. After two days with swollen eyes I shared the joy of honey with the rest of the family.
The woods had about 500 sugar maple trees in 1904. There was an abundance of elm trees, and in 1924 hickory elm became one of the main timbers in the barn erected to replace one lost by fire that year. During the 1932 syrup season the fuel for syrup making came from the woods supplemented by discarded ties from the adjacent railroad. A
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wood lot was always important for fencing, gates, framing lumber and fuel.
When Byron Taylor moved to the farm in 1932 the woods took on added importance. As Robert F. Taylor grew older he had not actively pursued live stock husbandry. Soils were quite depleted and only a few acres could be pastured by live stock. White oaks were cut, taken to the mill, sawed and used for fence posts to carry lots of three-strand barb wire fences. White oak, although as dependable as any in the woods, still were bound to rot off at the ground level within approximately ten years. A variety of trees were also cut to create a crib approximately 16 x 20 by 7 foot high on which wheat and oats straw was blown at each threshing time to create a tramp shed and winter protection for cattle. The cattle tramped the straw during the winter and in the spring it was spread on the fields to provide fertilizer. Additional fences required gates, and these were created by taking logs to be sawed into rough lumber. The gates were heavy, but serviceable.
A gravel pit was dug along side the drainage ditch in the woods to provide gravel for improvement of the drives and lanes. A variety of Indian artifacts were uncovered as many loads of gravel were used.
The river was the summer bath tub for the males of the family. Until professional trash removal became a reality the river bank was the depository for broken dishes, tin cans, discarded fencing and Fords, as the relic on the west end of the woods still attests. Black raspberries and blackberries were plentiful enough along the east edge of the woods to provide for eating and canning. Walnuts and butternuts were available in the fall of most years.
The sugar camp was opened in 1905 by Robert Taylor. He borrowed $65.00 from his oldest son, Grover, and with other resources purchased an evaporator, pails, spiles and constructed a building in which to carry on the operation. From 1932 until 1939 during the author's contact with the sugar camp about 650 pails were hung. Syrup was made each year from the smallest quantity on a poor year of l50 gallons to the most prosperous year when 515 gallons of syrup were made.
Lack of fuel became an issue, since 40 gallons of maple sap had to be evaporated to create one 12-pound gallon of syrup. The adjacent railroad was so poorly maintained during the depression era that it provided few discarded railroad ties suitable for fueling the evaporator. The Erie Railroad had a very aggressive maintenance program each summer but ties were supposed to be stacked and burned. Section bosses, however, were quite cooperative. With the gift of a couple of gallons of syrup, they let the Taylor crew "steal" discarded ties left near the fence a day or so before burning. The family during the August lull in farming boarded a team adjacent to the track section being improved, acquired access and trucked the discarded ties back to the farm. Once the process was established the goal was to dry them for 18 months. By cutting a 16-inch block out of the center the two ends were the proper length for the fire box of the evaporator. In later years those two cuts on each tie were made with a special heavy duty saw blade. After 50 cuts the first blade was removed and a second one installed. While the crew ate lunch the sawyer, usually Roy Taylor, sharpened both saw blades for another 50 cuts each. The properly cut ties were split in about six to eight pieces during December and January and placed in the attached woodshed of the sugar house.
Making syrup was a very labor intensive procedure. The holding cistern, evaporator, pans, pails and all had to be scrubbed at the beginning of the season. Only hard maple trees were tapped. Trees were drilled for one to four spiles depending on the size of the tree.
The best sugaring weather happens when nights are significantly below freezing and days are warm enough to bring sap up the tree trunk. The north side of the tree was avoided because many days it would not be warm enough for sap to flow. A good tap during a good run would drip about three gallons of sap a day
Extensive rain or thaws required pails to be removed, and rehung if/or when proper sap-producing weather returned. In the author's memory there were times the evaporator ran 24 hours a day except on Sunday for two weeks at a time. In 24 hours approximately three batches of eight gallons each would be finished off, strained and sealed in gallon cans.
A kerosene lantern was the only illumination in the early years.
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With the cloud of steam always rising from the process this left much to be desired at night. During the last few years of operation lighting was much improved with a Maytag washing machine, two cycle engine belted to a six volt auto generator and storage battery to provide power for two bare bulbs. A lantern was still required as a back-up for the wood shed or in case the mechanical apparatus failed.
These descriptions may make the operation sound like a dreary time of drudgery. A great deal of socializing took place during the syrup season. Evenings and week ends saw a fairly constant flow of visitors to watch the evaporation process and visit. Sunday school classes came to watch. Friends would come by car and on foot to watch, chat and sample hot maple syrup. Since samples were free from a common dipper the unsuspecting person was usually warned that fresh, warm, maple syrup didn't always proceed through the digestive system in an orderly fashion.
In the strict religious home only "Old Maid" and "Flinch" were allowed as card games to be played in the farm house. At the sugar camp when the younger Taylors were giving their dad a break a wider variety of card games were only interrupted to stoke the fire and skim off the foam and pump up sap from the cistern. Inquisitive visitors even seemed to enjoy working the cistern pump to bring sap up to the tank from which it automatically flowed into the evaporator pans.
Much of the marketing was to local customers. Some kept a running order for the "first run," because they wanted light colored, mild flavored syrup. Others didn't mind later runs which were a darker color with more intense flavoring. Occasionally larger quantities of syrup were wholesaled or sold by family members in distant locations. This was an important cash crop during a period when cash was scarce. Rex Lukenbill, Elkhart, who often spent time helping his grandparents remembers hearing his grandma, Mrs. Robert R. Taylor tell that in 1918 the syrup run was so good, and so much syrup was sold at $1.50 per gallon that the farm was required to pay income tax for the first time.
Robert F. Taylor acquired the entire farm in 1923 at the death of his father. He experienced uninsured losses that left him with a large mortgage even after he retired. In 1939 he sold the 80 acres of land
with the woods to Minear Lumber Co., Warsaw who especially wanted the maple and other hardwoods. That sale cleared the rest of the farm indebtedness.
Byron Taylor, who rented the farm beginning in 1932 continued to farm. In addition he bought the hardwood tree tops for $200.00 and sold hundreds of cords of fine stove wood. In 1942 the Minear Co. wanted to get out of the farming business and sold the 80 acres to Byron Taylor. Two years later he bought the 76 acres from his father and once again the entire property was under the ownership and care of the Taylor family
The sugaring house was no longer needed and was razed. The south half of the woods was so decimated that it was returned to farm land.
When Byron and Hazel Taylor needed care the farm was exchanged for life care at The Peabody Home in 1971. The woods and certain areas in Kosciusko County were not needed by the new owner, Dean Buyers, who then offered two parcels for sale. He encouraged a member of the Taylor Family to buy the land. Herbert Taylor cherished the woods and purchased it and the easement to access it.
As Herbert became increasingly incapacitated he donated the woods to the Tippecanoe Audubon Society. Once again it is being increasingly used as a woods where young people learn about the environment and where people of every age can find inspiration and enjoyment.
Manchester Owns Hidden Treasure----Koinoinia
By Elizabeth L. Hendrix
Source: NMHS Newsleter, August 1992
From College Avenue to County Road 650 East, from one man’s dream to a retreat and environmental center---that’s Koinonia.
Nearly 30 years ago a small group met for prayer and study. One of the group, Hubert Newcomer, suggested that it would be wonderful to have a family retreat center and that a piece of land suitable for such a facility was for sale because of tax indebtedness.
The idea caught fire, and 12 families who facetiously called themselves “disciples” scraped together $250 each to secure the 80-acre farm which went on the auction block for $9,200.
The next few years were spent sprucing up the area and caring for the property. When the old Oaks, a Quonset hut on College Avenue, was scheduled for razing to provide a parking lot, the disciples bought the building and built a foundation at the retreat center on which to place it. Close scrutiny revealed, however, that the Oaks had paid its dues and was not in condition to continue as a family lodge. Undaunted, the disciples stretched their finances still further and erected a lodge on the foundations built for the Oaks, not as expansive as it is now, but adequate for families’ weekend retreats. There are rumors that mothers of teenagers held slumber parties there!
As other families became interested, T. Wayne Reiman, professor emeritus of Manchester College, suggested that the retreat be called “Koinonia,” which means Christian fellowship or body of believers. The Japanese translation is “Garden of Goodwill.”
As time passed the disciples grew older, as disciples do, and some moved away. It became increasingly harder for the few able-bodied friends to manage the upkeep and improvement of the facility.
In the original charter three options were established for the disposal of the property, should htat be a necessity. One was to offer it to the college, which they did, and Manchester College acquired Koinonia in 1975.
Dr. William Eberly, chairman of the Natural Science division of the college, said he had been hoping for such a facility for years to give practical experience to biology and environmental students, especially students training to be teachers in those areas.
Koinonia Environment and Retreat Center is an 80-acre facility with a five-acre lake and hardwood and pine forests. The College has improved the lodge facilities, has planted a ten-acre arboretum, and is in the process of establishing a prairie area.
In 1989 Manchester College created the position of Environmental Education Coordinator. Barbara Ehrhardt, a Manchester College graduate, fills that position and reports that the facility has been booked nearly every day. The public schools of three area counties bring students to the nature center to enjoy an outdoor educational experience geared to their specific curricular needs. Ehrhardt’s hopes are “to develop the potential of Koinonia so that it reflects the goals of Manchester College and to develop quality environmental education for Manchester students and the children of the community.”
She is excited about the grandparents’ program which she is initiating. She states that the expanding program is limited only by finances. In her vision of the future is remodeling the lower area of the lodge, creating additional educational programs, and developing ski trails