KOSCIUSKO COUNTY —In January of 1966 the Kosciusko County Historical Society was formed. One hundred sixty-five persons attended the first meeting held at the courthouse. From that beginning fifty years ago, the society has grown to nearly 500 members and has become the caretaker of the Old County Jail (now a museum), the Chinworth Bridge (Greenway Trailhead), and the Pound Store in Oswego (oldest commercial building in county). But the society does not only preserve historical sites, they also are the caretakers of the official county records, and business, family and personal histories.
Peter Warner was the first to settle in the county south of the Tippecanoe River, and erected a saw and flouring mill on that stream, a couple of miles west of Warsaw. His place soon became a general resort for the new settlers, and a sort of headquarters for all. The two nearest flouring mills–in early days they were called “grist” or “toll” mills–was known as Wylands’ in Elkhart, and Comstocks’ at Liberty Mills. As a consequence, the Warsaw mill supplied some people with flour, but most with corn-meal. Most persons, instead of going to the mill to get their corn ground, did it themselves by pounding the grain in a wooden mortar.
Life for the first settlers was coarse and hard. In fact it was a common thing for the pioneers to exchange work one with the other, and for a long period there was actually no money in circulation, everything of a commercial nature was done by barter. Individual notes given by one neighbor to another for six, eight, ten or twenty-five dollars, were used in place of currency. Of course the few merchants the town traded for everything the farmer produced, and in settling up the farmer would give his note and it would thus become negotiable paper.
The log-cabin was predominant, followed soon by the more aristocratic hewed log-house, and if it were a double hewed log-dwelling place, it was even more aristocratic. The log-cabin gave way to the frame or brick farm residence.
The county was an exceedingly wet in the springtime. High water and marsh land could be found in every section. The timber of the northern portion was known as “barrens” or “oak-openings,” while the more southern portion was given over to thick woods. There were few regularly laid out roads. The custom was to drive a team wherever hard ground could be found while hunting for a place to cross the marsh to the next drive through the woods.
The first settlers, as a rule, were poor, spending all they had to get hold of a piece of land. A farmer, having moved to this region with a team of his own, would quickly clear a sufficient amount of ground to raise a crop to subsist his family. Hunting and fishing aided the food supply. As a luxury, there was maple sugar.
The pioneer farmer would trade his products to the merchant for goods, getting 6 cents a pound for his butter, two cents a dozen for eggs, five cents a pound for country cured ham. The first regular meat market in Warsaw was opened by Jacob Boraman. It was in a small frame building, just south of what was known as the first tavern (101 E Center St.). Round steak was four cents a pound. The meat market was supplied by the owner buying an occasional quarter, sometimes a whole half of a beef, from the farmers who brought it to town for sale.
The Historical Society’s 50th anniversary event, Passport to Kosciusko County, is a free activity for the whole family. Pick up your passport at the Old Jail Museum or any library in the county then go on an adventure of discovery as you navigate our county finding historic sites, enjoying festivals, and participating in events. After you have enjoyed at least 50 items (there are more than 90 in the passport) bring your passport into the Old Jail Museum to be entered into a drawing for prizes. Three winners will be awarded when the State torch is in Warsaw, Sept. 29.