On the high ground on the west bank of the Rock River,
where it enters the St. Joseph, was an active Fur Trading Post consisting
of a double log cabin manned by French traders, Gibson and Cassoway.
More families arrived, the Hoffmans, Millards, Bowmans, Lelands, Prutzmans, Moores, Fishers and many more. They lived in their wagons or temporary shanties made of saplings and bark until trees were felled and cabins built. One family used bed sheets to make a tent and when it rained the baby was put under a tin washtub!
Jacob McInterfer died in 1831 and Michael Beadle bought and completed the unfinished saw mill. One of the first buildings, a grist mill was a necessity with new families arriving daily. He also opened a crude grist mill on the Rock River.
Philip Hoffman cleared and broke up fifteen acres of land, planted corn, buckwheat, and put in a peach orchard - no easy task in the middle of the woods. It was necessary to girdle as many trees as possible, stripping off the bark in broad band, completely encircling the trunk. The trees would die quickley, shed their leaves and then, with luck, enough sunlight would come in to make it possible to raise some crops. Later the dead trees were felled (without chain saws!) and great bonfires were built.
The settlers found daily life challenging. The frontier was new, dangerous and unknown. The land was untouchable with no roads, fences or buildings. There were bears, wolves, deer, wild turkeys, and pigeons. In the summer, day and night, the danger was great plagues of mosquitoes filling the woods as they rose in great clouds. Until the land was cleared, swamps drained, and newly broken sod planted, malaria, chills and fever affected almost all of the settlers. To add to their difficulties, the livestock wandered unhindered, and at night the wolves would creep near and howl their mournful cry. There was always the never ending fear of the Indians who at that time outnumbered the pioneers
The pioneers encountered difficulty when they tried to raise wheat and rye on the raw, virgin soil. Corn was much easier to grow. There were no gardens; emphasis had to be on staple crops. Many of the pioneers had used all of their money to buy land. At $1.25 an acre it was a golden opportunity, but this made them land poor with very little ready money to buy even the necessities.
The arrival of settlers, speculators, businessmen and others created a demand for lodging and meals. In the fall of 1833, Burroughs Moore traded a yoke of oxen for six acres of land. He build a small hotel, one and a half stories. From time to time he added to the hotel almost creating a shanty village (site of L & M Jewelry).
The first stock of supplies was brought to the area for retailing by Joseph Smith and John Bowman who opened a small store on the east side of the Rock River (site of First National Bank). Simultaneously, Moore and Prutzman opened a store. Their first stock of goods became frozen in the harbor at Lake Michigan. In the spring they hauled the goods overland at the cost of seven shillings per hundred weight.
The great tide of immigrattion needing food made the St. Joseph River a necessary means of transportation - bringing goods into the territory and produce out. A barrel of sale in 1831 - 32 was a good trade for forty bushels of wheat.
In 1833 Burroughts Moore originated the "ark." the arks were simply two cribs, 40 by 16 feet, constructed of bottom timbers, six to seven inches square with posts at the corners and along the sides. They were spiked together and covered with square fronts. The arks were anchored by what the rivermen called "growlers," several stakes large enough to be struck down in front of the cribs to retard the motion. They found that nothing but flour could profitably and safely be carried on these boats. An ordinary ark could carry 400-600 barrels of flour at a price of 15 cents a bushel. The first ark, loaded with wheat, traveling down the river stopped at Constantine. The tail board was pulled off and some of the wheat lost. As they continued on to Elkhart, Indiana, the same misfortune befell them and they lost more wheat. Down river, more wheat was lost when they broke a hole in the bottom of the ark. What was left of the cargo was lost when they hit shallow water near Niles.
Many of the arks were wrecked along the way and their cargo dumped into the river. Arks were never brought back up-stream. They were either sold for the lumber or allowed to drift out into Lake Michigan. Elisha Millard was a very capable captain who brought many a cargo successfully down-stream. Washington Gascon built the first keel boat naming it the "Kitty Kiddungo." Keelboats took 100 barrels of flour to Chicago where farmers received $13.00 a barrel.
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