Friday, April 22, 2016

Canal Boats,Miami Tribe and Pioneer Day Memories

Memories of Nathan Stackhouse of Anoka, Indiana, Cass County.

Nathan Stackhouse (1848-1939) was a member of one of Cass County, Indiana's pioneer families. He was born in 1848 in an area that became the Purdue University campus at West Lafayette. He came to eastern Cass County as a toddler, a year or two later. Before he died he was interviewed by the local newspapers and I, for one, as a historian, am so glad that he was able to share the following snippets of local history.

A Canal packet boat.
Nathan's uncle, Joe Cuppy, was captain of a canal boat - the "Americus" -  and Nathan was thrilled to ride on it because he was allowed to ride on the roof where he could get a great view of the passing landscape. "The mules slowly plodded along the tow path in front of us and in our floating through the towns of West Logan and Logansport, including our trip across the Eel River on the aqueduct at what is now 5th Street. We finally got off the boat at the lock in Miami Township and met a wagon pulled by oxen which took us across the Wabash River to my grandmother's house."

George Winter painting "Indians on The Eel River" 1850

People crossed the river at other points but the very best and only real ford of the Wabash between Logansport and Peru was the old Indian ford between what is today Cass Station bridge and the eastern end of Country Club Island. The ford stopped being used only after bridges were built at Lewisburg, 18th Street and finally Cass Station.

The correct name for Country Club Island is Cedar Island. Nathan's wife's Uncle was the first white man who owned it, buying it from the US Government, which had of course obtained it from the Native Americans.

Vintage post card image of a cliff at Cedar Island, Logansport, Indiana

Cedar Island was a favorite place for family picnics. Large numbers of people from the city of Logansport would go to it on Sundays in carriages, buggies and canal boats. For a time there was a baseball diamond at the west end of the island. Later Charles Bowyer grew a watermelon patch on the site and even later it became home to Soloman Brandt's fine chickens and dogs.
Much later the Country Club bought it and converted the west end of the island into a lawn and built a clubhouse.

The "cliff" is about 30 feet high and is plainly visible from Cass Station Bridge. Solid limestone - it overlooks the ancient Indian ford.

Nathan in an interview in 1938 - his 90th birthday - "I distinctly recall the Indian trails of the area. I used them for many years before any wagon roads were built."

It might be good to mention here that one of Nathan's friends was Gabriel Godfroy, a Miami Tribe leader, son of Chief Francis Godfroy.

Gabriel Godfroy

Chief Francis Godfroy (1788-1840)

"The Miami liked my family, especially my grandmother, very much. One of the trails led from the Mississinewa valley Indian towns past Pipe Creek Falls to the south side of Logansport. I often saw parties of as many as 15 to 20 Indians coming down this trail, sometimes on horseback, mostly on foot. They always marched in single file and at a dog-trot pace. Sometimes they brought their hunting dogs along."

"Sometimes the Indians would camp near to our home. Often they would dismount their ponies and command them to return to the Mississinewa country. The ponies were well trained and would follow the lead pony that had a small bell around its neck."

Nathan continued, "When the Indians were making a long trip they sometimes brought a cow or two along with them. My grandmother would send me out with a pail to get some milk. They not only let me milk their cow, they would insist that I fill the pail to the brim."

Though he never knew where they went after crossing the Wabash River, Nathan remembered an old Indian trail that led from near Onward to this ford at Cass Station, because just east it crossed a trail that passed his own home. He told of seeing mothers carrying babies on their backs, swaddled onto early type baby carrier.

Golf course - Logansport Golf Club

Most of the area of the Country Club - later the Logansport Golf Club - which now serves as a beautiful golf links was formerly a vast checkerboard of ponds, swamps and rocky hummocks.

More from Nathan's interview - "Though the Indians as a whole ceased living in Tipton Township a few still lingered and one fellow even worked for us for a long time. His name was Bannion, but we called him 'Billy'. He was short, but muscular and strong as an ox. He had long black hair which he wore tied back or braided. I think he liked us because we were a music-loving family, and he certainly loved music. He would play the fiddle for hours on end for our enjoyment. But he was a good worker and valuable to have around the farm.

Photo images courtesy Miami of Ohio

We knew and understood the Miami - understood much that was meaningless to our less informed neighbors. For example, we knew that if the Indians were wearing red handkerchiefs around their foreheads they were on their way to visit somebody. That is, we knew they weren't out on a hunting expedition."


"One time the Miami were planning a big barbecue near Peru (Indiana, in neighboring Miami County) but were having trouble gathering enough steers to roast for the occasion. They came down into our region to hunt for steers. Judge (David) Dykeman, who had several on his Washington Township place - Dykeman's Spring - cheerfully donated a steer to them. Gabriel Godfroy and one other Indian came to get this steer. We helped them lasso and load it. As a reward for our assistance, we were guests of Gabriel Godfroy himself at the gathering."

Nathan Stackhouse lived out his days in Tipton Township, Cass County, Indiana. He died in June, 1939.


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