Westchester Township

Porter County

            Westchester Township is the historic ground of Porter County. Here the first settlement was made. Here civilized and savage joined hands and trod together the paths of peace. Here white and red were blended under the azure sky that bends its dome over all races and nations.

            In 1822, a solitary ‘pale face’ was seen by Indian eyes as he wended his way through the wilderness round about Lake Michigan. He walked without fear, for the red men knew him as a friend. Safety and a warm welcome were before, while weary leagues stretched away behind him towards his white friends. In his pocket was the following:

 

To All Officers Acting Under The United States:  Detroit, 15 Mar 1814.

            The bearer of this paper, Mr. Joseph Bailly  (Ba-ye), a resident on the border of Lake Michigan near St. Josephs, has my permission to pass from this post to his residence aforesaid. Since Mr. Bailly has been in Detroit, his deportment has been altogether correct, and such as to acquire my confidence; all officers, civil and military, acting under the authority of the American Government will therefore respect his passport which I accord to Mr. Bailly, and permit him not only to pass undisturbed, but if necessary yield to him their protection.

                                    H. Butler

            Commandt. M. Territory and its Dependencies, and the Western District of U. Canada.

To all officers of the A. Government.

 

            During the war of 1812, the person to whom this passport was granted was taken prisoner by both the United States and the British soldiers, but did not enlist in either army. In his wanderings, he sought safety and opportunity to trade with the Indians. As the Indians slowly retired before the ‘Star of Empire’ rapidly rising in the East, Joseph Bailly, the French Canadian trader, followed. In 1822, he halted on the north bank of the Calumet, in what is now Porter County. On the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 27, Township 37, Range 6 west, upon a beautiful bluff he constructed on unhewn logs the first cabin that was raised in the county. The Calumet here is clear and has high banks. It is here very unlike itself throughout the greater part of its course; for little more than a mile farther down begin the marshes and crooked course. Here this solitary settler drew around him the natives from whom he purchased furs and other articles, for which he paid them articles of use and ornament. His business increased and his buildings multiplied until, in 1833, there were six or eight log cabins clustered about the first one that was built. The place is spoken of in ‘A Winter in the West,’ by a New Yorker, published in 1835.

            Monsieur Bailly had wooed and won an Ottawa maid and brought his bride to reside at the post on the banks of the Calumet. Here they reared a family of four beautiful and accomplished daughters. Eleanor, the eldest, ‘took the veil’ and was for a number of years Mother Superior of St. Mary’s in Terre Haute. The second daughter married Col. Whistler, a resident of the county; the third married MR. Howe, a Chicago banker, and now, a widow, resides with a maiden daughter upon the old homestead. Hortense, the youngest, married Joel Wicker, who was the first merchant at Deep River, Lake County. They had besides these four daughters, a son, who was born in 1817, and died in 1827. The whole family were devout Catholics and maintained their worship in the wilderness. For ten years, Joseph Bailly (this name is often incorrectly spelled Baille) and his hired Frenchmen were the only white persons in the township. The trading business was a species of barter, for the only money of the frontier was the skins of fur-bearing animals. A mink skin was usually $1, and raccoon, muskrat and other skins were some fractional part of a dollar. The values were, as they everywhere and always are, relative, and the various kinds of skins fluctuated in value as paper money does. The furs and other articles bartered from the Indians were transported to the lake and coasted to Mackinac in what were called Mackinac boats. These were row-boats, usually about thirty feet long. In ‘Wau-bun, or The early Day in the Northwest,’ by Mrs. J.H. Kinzie, these boats are described as having in the center a framework of slight posts supporting a cover of canvas, with curtains at the side that could be raised or lowered after the fashion,  perhaps, of those of a modern summer car. These small craft was run by man power and were forced to follow the sinuous shore line. A day’s travel in one of them was from river mouth to river mouth, whether the distance was short or long.

            As prosperity followed industry, Mr. Bailly found means to gratify to some extent the refined tastes that had so long feasted upon nature unaided by art. In 1830, a guitar added its mellow notes to the orchestra of nature, and, in 1836, the pioneer piano found its way with much difficulty to this frontier home. This instrument is still in existence. Mr. Bailly bought a large amount of land and planned to found a city. In 1834, the first lots were surveyed and some of them sold; but the death of Mr. Bailly in 1835, followed by the panic of 1837, caused the plan to be abandoned by his heirs. Bailly Town is now known only in history and tradition. The old homestead is preserved with great care by Mrs. Howe and her daughter, Miss Frances R., who live a life of refinement upon the sequestered spot, surrounded by the antique and the picturesque. Miss Frances R. Howe, and her sister Rose, who died some years since, have devoted their lived to the church, and their religious writings are quite widely read by Catholics. Here the family chapel that was built about 1826, and used for some years as a kitchen, is kept as a sanctuary and repaired to daily by mother and daughter for purposes of worship. The bell is rung as if a congregation were to convene at its call; and here the ‘two or three gather together’ to fell the presence of the Spirit. This chapel is of logs, and by its excellent state of preservation indicates that it is able to stand the storms of half a century yet. Here stand the old home, built in 1834 of logs, but now looking younger that it did years ago tot the casual glance, because of the mask of weather-boarding that it wears, and with which the ‘mistress of the Manse’ seeks to save it from the ravages of time. Standing near are other buildings hoary with age, among which is a log hut in which the Indians used to store their property for safe keeping in the care of Mr. Bailly. Many heirlooms are here carefully preserved, among which are a bread pan or bowl made of the knot of a tree which has already seen its threescore and ten, and still seems just as good as new; a number of carved wooden ladles showed the Indian eye to beauty as well as sue; a hexagon patchwork quilt sixty years old and bright enough to grace a spare bed, attested alike the industry and frivolity of our grandams. Half a mile north of the house is the family cemetery in which are interred the Catholic members of the family. Here, in 1827, Mr. Bailly buried his only son, a lad of ten years, and to his memory he erected a huge cross of oak timber some thirty feet high, and which towered above the surrounding forest, inasmuch as it was on a knoll or knob of land. Travelers used to see this cross in the wilderness, and often it was the first indication to them of the vicinity of civilized persons. Beside this cross, he built a small log cabin which he called the chapel, to which he obliged all the family to repair on Sundays for prayer, for the purpose of forming in them the habit of going somewhere out of the home for worship, so that when churches came to be established they would not feel like staying away from services. The above mentioned cross bore this inscription: To-day, my turn; to-morrow, yours; and also Jesus Christ Crucified; have mercy upon us.

            For almost ten years, Joseph Bailly was the only white settler in what is now Westchester Township. In 1833, Jesse Morgan and his family came. In 1834, came William Thomas, Sr., and family, William Gosset and family, Jacob Beck and family, John Hageman and family, John I. Foster and family, William Frame and family, Pressley Warnick and family, Elbanan Ranks, Alfred Marvin, Mr. McCoy, William Coleman and Mr. Abbott. In 1835, a mulatto named Landy Gavin, who had paid $600 for his freedom, and who moved later to Michigan City, came and settled here. In the same year, Eli Hendricks, R. Cornell and others came. In 1833, a French fur trader located at what is now Sand Creek, of Morgan’s Schoolhouse. His currency was of the liquid form known among the Indians as fire-water. Of this, it is said that he bartered away eleven barrels in one winter; and it is further stated that only one death resulted directly form this large quantity of liquid fire. This death was the result of an affray.

            The first birth of the township was in the Bailly family. The first child of unmixed Caucasian blood was Hannah Morgan, who was born in 1834. The first death among the whites was that of the son of Joseph Bailly, in 1827. The second death was probably that of the father, who followed the son ten years later. The first place of worship other than the fireside and the groves, was that already spoken of as being erected in 1827 by Mr. Bailly upon the death of his son. Mr. Bailly here gave religious instruction every evening for a time to some Christian Indians, translating to them from the French a history of the Bible. The book that he used is still in existence. The first marriage was probably that of Esther Bailly and John H. Whistler, which occurred in 1836. They were married in Chicago, but came here to live. The second was Samuel Thomas and Lucille Hale. There was a tradition among the Indians that at a remote date, Marquette, or some other of the early French explorers, had a trading post near the mouth of Fort Creek or Wau-caw-gi-ink, as they called it. Here, in 1834, could be seen a burying-ground, and the indications of a battle that may have been fought years before. Here the old stage line crossed, and it is said that a stage sunk in the quicksand here, in 1836, and never was taken out. Here, in 1833, Mr. Joseph Morgan witnessed a funeral dance and feast of the Indians. It was upon the occasion of the death of the wife of Ching-wah (Lightning) one of the principal chiefs. About one hundred Indians assembled and danced and feasted in such style as, according to their ideas, befitted the occasion. Up to 1833, Western travel kept to the beach of the lake, fording the mouths of the streams. In 1831, a mail route was established from Detroit to Fort Dearborn. This ran through Jackson, Westchester and Portage, or rather through what now constitutes those townships. The mail was carried in knapsacks upon the backs of two soldiers until 1833, when stage coaches began to run over this line tri-weekly. Converse & Reeves were the first contractors on this route. Jesse Morgan settled on this route on Section 6, and kept the Porter County Stage House. In 1832, the soldiers going to and from the Black Hawk war passed over this route. The first election of this region, then a part of Waverly Township, was held on Saturday, April 30, 1836, in the town of Waverly, with William Gossett as Inspector. As already intimated, this region was formerly a part of Wavery Township.

Source: Counties of Porter and Lake, Indiana. Historical and Biographical. Weston A. Goodspeed, Historical Editor. Charles Blanchard, Biographical Editor. F.A. Battey & Co., Publishers, 1882.