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, business, family, and personal histories.
Politics in early days in Warsaw, in fact throughout the entire United States, was divided between Whigs and Democrats, the Republican party had not yet come into existence. The Whigs had a majority of around one hundred and fifty votes so elections were close. The Democrats quite often succeeded in electing an officer or two, but as a rule the Whigs were generally elected.
In the early days it was customary during every Presidential campaign for both sides to erect a pole in the public square to fly a flag representing the party. It became necessary in 1848 to guard the poles at night to prevent them from being pulled down. Fist fights were numerous as each party tried to steal the other’s flag.
A story is reported of a man by the name of Lowery, who in the early days of political shenanigans, procured a cannon, or rather an instrument to make a noise. When it was loaded with a quarter of a pound of powder and well “tamped in” with plugging, it made a noise almost as loud as a six-pounder. It was fixed to a piece of oak two feet by ten inches and was very heavy, requiring two men to move it. Lowery was a Democrat and consequently this cannon, nicknamed “Old Mother Lowery,” was always used on Democratic days. This angered the young Whigs and they resolved to steal the cannon away from Lowery.
The cannon was stolen several times and would remain in the hands of one party and then in the other. On one occasion “Old Mother Lowery” was fired off all day long by the Democrats, which infuriated the Whigs. That night the Whigs determined to steal the cannon. Quietly they approached the site where the cannon stood and discovered one guard was not around and the other one was sitting on the gun sound asleep. Two stalwart men very gently and cautiously raised the sleeping guard up enough so that the gun was slipped out from under him and a chunk of core-wood was substituted. “Old Mother Lowery” was once more in the hands of the Whigs much to the dismay of the democrats.
In the nation there was much antagonism against foreigners holding office, and before the Whig party broke up, another party, designated as “Native Americans,” was forming. Many newspapers advocated the new doctrine that none but Americans should hold office, at least so far as national affairs were concerned. The new party assumed the name of “Know-Nothings,” and under that name went into the campaign in Indiana in 1854.
The Know-Nothings was a secret organization, and met at any point designated by the officers. In Warsaw it frequently met in Richhart’s tanyard. Other meetings were held downtown or in private residences. The Know-Nothings were victorious in the 1854 election but soon dissolved. It was a freak of a party and did not possess enduring principles. It was followed in 1855 by the organization known as the Republican Party. In 1856 the first Warsaw Republican meeting was held.
The principle advocated by the Republican Party on the topic of slavery was, “no interference with slavery where it already existed, but that there should be no more slave territory; that freedom was national and slavery sectional. In the first election held after the Republican Party was formed, the majority for the Republicans was 460, showing very clearly that many Democrats had taken a stand with the new party.
The Kosciusko County Historical Society is celebrating its 50th year in preserving county history. Help support the Society’s efforts by becoming a member. Send name and address along with $25 for a family membership to KCHS, PO Box 1071, Warsaw, 46581. With your membership comes our quarterly publication, The Thaddeus Magazine, which contains fascinating stories of our county’s history.