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.
Palestine located eight miles southwest of Warsaw was surveyed on the banks of Trumble’s creek in April, 1837, by George Bumgardner. The plat of the village was filed May 3, 1837, by Islam Summy. The creek is now known as Trimble creek. It flows northwestward from Palestine Lake and enters the Tippecanoe River. The location of Palestine was determined by the mill site. There was fall enough in the creek to maintain a head of water sufficient for running the grist mill most of the year. The first mill in Harrison Township was the one at Palestine built by Islam Summy in 1838. It was a primitive, burr mill for grinding grain and also for sawing wood. Grist mills were essential for the early settlers to have their grain turned to flour for the family and feed for stock. During the 1860’s and 70’s the village was a lively place with grocery stores, drug stores, a saloon, a blacksmith shop, a doctor’s office and a post office.
Daniel Underhill in 1836 had the first general merchandise store at Palestine in a log cabin. The first post office in the township was at the home of James Wooden but during the early part of Van Buren’s administration (1836-1840) it was moved to the village of Palestine and Islam Summy was appointed postmaster. The earliest settlers in and around Palestine were James Wooden, Andrew Sell, Thomas Romine, Daniel and John Underhill, Thomas Reed, Joseph Shively, William Blue, Islam Summy, and Christian Sarber. These all came between 1834 and 1836. In 1857 the Methodist church building was constructed at Palestine. Prior to the construction of the building the congregation had their services in a blacksmith shop.
In 1870 Palestine was on a star route out of Warsaw. A horse-drawn hack (taxi) went to Palestine and Beaver Dam daily. Ezra Uplinger had a general merchandise store in Palestine and sold liquors. The selling of wines and spirituous liquors in general stores was then common all over the county. Adam Horn had a drug and grocery store.
The early 1880’s marked the beginning of the decline of the village as a trading center. Palestine is only one of several communities which had its future changed by railroads coming through the county. Others were Kinsey, Monoquet, Oswego, Clunette, Millwood, Beaver Dam, Orion, Charlottesville, Wooster, Packerton and Hepton. The coming of the Pennsylvania railroad in 1856 sounded the knell of such villages as Monoquet and Oswego. The coming of the Nickel Plate railroad in the early 1880’s made the towns of Sidney, Claypool, Burket and Mentone and undermined Kinsey, Palestine, Dodgertown, and Beaver Dam as trade centers.
Paved roads came to Palestine about 1926 when a great deal of road building was being done by the county. The Vandermark Road, built in 1917, began at the west edge of the village and continued into Mentone, was one of the first hard-surface roads in the county. Elmer Vandemark was the first man in the county to deliver mail in an automobile.
The history of Palestine is of a peaceful village on the shores of Trimble creek and Palestine Lake. People have moved there to live in quietness far removed from the noise of the city.
The Kosciusko County Historical Society has two books published for our 50th anniversary, That’s Life and Schools of Kosciusko County, 1835-1975. That’s Life contains short stories of interesting people, places and events in the county and is available at the Old Jail Museum for $18.16. Schools of Kosciusko County, 1835-1975 will be available in September for $37.50 plus tax (Pre-order your book now. Supplies are limited). Contact the society for more information, (574)269-1078.