HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
TOWN OF INDIAN FIELDS
This town occupies a central position in Tuscola County, and comprises township 12 north, of range 9 east. The Cass River flows in a southwesterly direction through a portion of the township, crossing sections 2, 3, 10, 16, 15, 17, 19 and 20 in its tortuous course.
There are two villages in the town, Caro and Wahjamega, the former being the county seat.
The first settlement in the township was made north and west of the Cass River, and the work of development has been confined to that region until a recent period. The soil of this part of the town is rich and productive, and the labors of thirty years have covered its surface with valuable farms and farm improvements.
A lack of much needed facilities for transportation was, for many years, a great inconvenience to farmers in this region, but in 1878 that want was supplied by the completion of a railroad from Vassar to Caro, it being a branch of the Michigan Central Railroad.
That portion of the township lying south and east of Cass River acquired the title of the “Bad Lands of Indian Fields,” and being thus stigmatized were avoided by the people of desiring to purchase farming lands. As a consequence, a large tract of land in that part of the township has remained a primeval wilderness, save where the lumbermen in days gone by had cut the valuable pine scattered through the forest, or where the fire king in his rage asserted supremacy, and left only weird charred skeletons to show what the pass had been. More recently attention has been directed to this neglected region, and a better acquaintance with its real character is removing the prejudice that has existed against it. The land has an undulating surface and the soil is generally a sandy loam with clay subsoil. There are patches of hemlock timber, then beech, basswood, ash, elm and sugar maples. The scars upon the latter tell of sugar making by the Indians. Further to the south is an interesting point which was visited by the editor of the Caro Citizen and described by him as follows: “Leaving the meandering forest road we strike the new road, recently finished, and go due south, down a steeper descent than any yet passed, down into a ravine, at the bottom of which is a small creek of living water which sparkles in the light and musically, murmurs as it flows around a bluff and passes out of sight. From the point we go up on the brow of the ‘Hog Back,’ and find the result of one of Dame Nature’s curious freaks in a sort of thumb projecting from the hill, and thickly studded with fine large trees. Standing at the top of this knoll one sees two creeks meeting at its base, forming one, and toward their respective head waters blending away in the distance like slender threads. The sides of this knoll are precipitous and covered with trees averaging about two feet in diameter. This spot is an interesting one and is situated at or near the section corners of sections 10, 11, 13 and 15. Near these section corners are three creeks of living water which finally unite and form quite a stream.”
The beginning of development and settlement in this portion of the towns is very recent, being due to and dating from the advent of the railroad in 1878. It constitutes nearly three-fourths of the town and has as yet but few settlers. The lands having been generally located for pine were thus withdrawn from market until the merchantable pine timber was removed. This having now been done the land is again in the market and at prices to encourage purchase and settlement which are rapidly resulting. On the State road running east there are at this time but three settlers; but the roads are being opened and the lands being taken up for farms. This section of country lying, as it does, in the triangle formed by the railroads and thus having three convenient outlets for its products, has a choice of markets for its farm produce and for the hard wood and other timber required by manufactures.
DERIVATION OF NAME
The name Indian Fields is rather an interesting one, and one that is calculated to awaken curiosity concerning the early history of the locality. The Indian ever has been and ever will be an object of and interest. The ear never tires of listening to recitals of the deeds, incidents and traditions of this strange race. There is a fascination about an Indian mound that is capable of drawing people long distances for no other purpose than to uncover bits of human skeletons.
That Indians inhabited the territory of which we are now writing is well known. On the south bank of the Cass River, and near the center of the township, was an Indian village, and in that vicinity they raised corn and potatoes. This ground came to be known as the Indian Fields, a title that was very naturally suggested and adopted when the town came to be organized and christened.
There is no Indian history associated with this county possessing any marked peculiarities or interest. The Indians who visited and inhabited this region belonged to the Chippewa nation. Incidents of their history and the Skull Island massacre are given in the early history of the Saginaw Valley, to be found upon another page in this work. It is a tradition among Indians here, that two battles were once fought with the Ottawas, at the present site of Wahjamega, and also at the high banks in the town of Almer.
The Indian village was once visited by General Cass, while he was territorial governor of Michigan, for the purposes of treaty.
Where the hotel at Wahjamega now stands was evidently a place used for the construction of canoes, bow arrows, etc. On the river bank, near by, were found large quantities of flint arrow heads, when the ground was first plowed. There were also graves, enclosed with cedar pickets. The deposit of arrow heads would seem to confirm the tradition of a battle having been fought at that point.
At the time of first settlement in this town there were but two Indians in the township, claiming residence. The others had been transferred to their reservation, but these two refused to go. Their names were Kin-ne-whip and Koc-a-chese. In subsequent years one and another drifted back to the spot of their birth, or of tender associations, until quite a colony has been formed. Many of them have good farms and homes, and are industrious in their habits.
transcription and digital photographs by Carol Szelogowski
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