Monday, May 9, 2016

Seward Arnold Discusses the Chatsworth Train Wreck, Oliver's Grove, and Indians

Seward Milton Lobdell Arnold was my Grandfather's Uncle.  He was the youngest child born to Amos and Lora Johnson Arnold. I knew Seward.  He lived in Roberts when I lived in Roberts.  Seward lived to celebrate birthday number 103.

The following is a very interesting article (probably from the Paxton Record) with Uncle Seward reminiscing about his visits to Germanville Township.


The odds on finding someone who had experienced life in the Chatsworth area and was still around to tell about it are about a thousand to one, according to the Census Bureau statistics.
But Seward Arnold of Roberts, who was born on May 17, 1881, remembers much about the area in the late 19th century -- and likes to talk about these times.
"Chatsworth was considered to be an important commercial center when I was a boy," Arnold said. "At that time, the area had few roads, so we just followed traces and took horses pretty much as the crow flew.
"My father made plenty of trips to Fairbury to haul coal, and the family also shopped in Chatsworth. I can't remember 1883 specifically, but I went everywhere in the wagon from the time I was an infant, so I'm sure I was in Chatsworth in 1883.
"I can remember playing baseball on the diamond southeast of town in 1888 when I was seven. I really liked to pitch, and I used to travel around to pitch for several teams. In 1888, I can recall a bright, warm afternoon when I played on the Chatsworth diamond.
Arnold can remember another incident a year earlier than that - the Chatsworth train wreck that made the community an unwilling paragraph in the history books.
"We had a six-passenger buggy then, and we drove out to the site as soon as we heard about it.
"The cars were piled up more than twenty feet high in the ditch, with lumber scattered all over. Women were standing around crying, and men had long poles to pry at the cars and at one of the engines lying beside the tracks.
"While we were there, the engine got moved enough so that the crews could remove three bodies that had been caught underneath.
"I didn't take away any relics of the wreck, but people were cutting off pieces of things and selling them already that day.
"Mostly I remember the crush of people, so many of them crying, and pieces of the cars scattered all over. I was just six at that time, but I never forget how awful it was."
Arnold plowed the last 30 acres of prairie sod known to be in the territory, about two miles southwest of Roberts. The field had five buffalo wallows in it. I took two horses and a small plow, and I had a file to keep the plow sharp. It took more than a week to get it turned over.
"Prairie sod had what we called 'redroot' all through it. Redroot grew big as our arm and was tough. It would throw a walking plow right out of the ground.
While it was not uncommon for a boy to be given farm chores in these days, Arnold did a lot of growing up at the age of 13.
"I had a brother who got TB in 1894, and Dad took him to New Mexico. I ran the place, but then Dad had always thought that kids had to learn on their own. I cared for 565 acres and had three hired men.
"I hauled limestone for the foundations on some of the buildings - and I hauled lumber and the other things we needed in order to keep up the operation."
While on these travels, Arnold went past Oliver's Grove many times before 1900, and occasionally shot ducks at the pond.
"That grove had many of the best hardwoods in the area. People used to think up ways to steal some of the timber.
"Revilo Oliver told me that people were always coming into the area for trees - and they didn't want to pay for them.
Arnold also remembers that horses sometimes got away from their rightful owners in those days. "One man said that he hoped he would be turned into a snake after he died so that he could come back and bite everybody who had stolen things from him," Arnold said.
Arnold remembers the site of a large Indian council house near Turtle Pond, and says that almost a hundred tents were pitched there at one time when the Indians gathered.
"By my time, of course, the Indians been moved to Missouri and Iowa, but many of the log huts were still around down by the pond and near Germanville.
"The bogs just southwest of Turtle Pond were scary. Gas came up from fissures in the ground, and the sod shook like jelly when you bounced around.
One favorite story of the area is that two hunters decided to stop for the night in the bog area, and told each other about the Indian curses put on the Turtle Pond territory as they built a fire. According to the legend, the heat caught the escaping bog gas afire - with the hunters running hard to get away from the flames zipping after them along the ground.
Indeed, the entire area south of Chatsworth is said to be loaded with curses put on by Indians. The Oliver's Grove area was a good place for Indians, what with the water, wood, and wildlife.
After General William Henry Harrison swept most of the Indians out of eastern Indiana in 1807, some of them found their way to the Chatsworth territory - and weren't too happy when white folks began moving in after 1820.
So the Indians began casting jinxes all over, making an 'X' on any spot thought to be sacred or for Indians only. On 'X' was a bad sign, and some spots around Turtle Pond had as many as four 'X' marks as warnings.
By 1832, Indians had supposedly built log formations, stone piles, and signs to ward off spirits and bad people.
The Indians were treatied away from Turtle Pond - although it is said that some of the tribal leaders came back to visit as late as 1845.
It is also said that the Indians buried some important tribal relics in the Turtle Pond area, and that the displaced natives snuck back to Chatsworth years later and destroyed the signs of the sacred burial ground, the worship area, and the clues to the secret buried materials that whites weren't supposed to see.
Arnold can't attest to much of this, because he wasn't there. But he recalls the huts, and he can still remember bits of relics that were scattered around.
At any rate, the Turtle Pond area is filled with bogs, woods, legends, and mysteries - many of which will always remain so.

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Irish Settlement Road