|GEOLOGY, TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY.|
WELLS COUNTY lies about forty one degrees north of the equator, and therefore to the inhabitants of the county the north star appears forty-one degrees north of the horizon. It is also about eighty-five degrees west of Greenwich (London, England), and eight degrees west of Washington, D. C. Difference of time, therefore, between standard and local, twenty minutes, the local being that much in advance of the standard. The county belongs to the northeastern section of the State of Indiana, being bounded on the north by Allen County, on the east by Adams County (the State of Ohio being next east of Adams), on the south by Jay and Blackford counties, and on the west by Grant and Huntington counties. It extends north and south twenty-four miles, and east and west on its south boundary twenty miles, and on its north line fourteen miles, comprising nine municipal townships, or nine whole and three half Congressional townships. Square miles, 372. Northern Indiana is covered with what is called in geology tile drift, consisting of gravel, sand and clay, deposited by water when it lay under that element. The "lake region" was one great lake, covering Northern Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, as well as Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc. The dip of the underlying strata in Northern Indiana is generally westward, but in Adams and Wells counties it is nearly northward, and about eight feet to the mile. The recent drilling for natural gas at Bluffton developed the following strata, counting from the surface downward: Drift, 12 feet; water limestone, 16 feet; Niagara limestone, 44 feet; crystal limestone, 23 feet; blue limestone, 15 feet; crystal limestone, 185 feet; Clinton group, 75 feet; shale, 395 feet; slate, 285 feet; Trenton group, 150 feet; a total of 1,200 feet. Although most of the subsoil in this part of the State is gravelly, good brick clay abounds in many places, so that brick can always be made convenient to the place of building. Good limestone for foundations, bridge abutments, etc., also abounds along tile Wabash, Salamonie and St. Mary's rivers, near the surface, and even cropping out in places.
South of the Maumee Valley is a terminal moraine, which is the summit of the watershed dividing the waters of the Ohio from those of Lake Erie, known as the St. John's Ridge in Ohio, extending westward into Jay County, Indiana, where it is known as the "Lost Mountains." The elevation of this ridge is nearly 350 feet above Lake Erie. The boulder clay is thicker here than in any other part. of Northeastern Indiana. In Jay and Wells counties, scattered promiscuously, are found many specimens on top of the drift, of streaked and grooved boulders, the rounded and polished surfaces, often on the upper side, demonstrating that they had been ground and polished at a higher level, and then frozen in ice, transported, and dropped from the melting ice.
Another expansion of the torrid zone drove the ice further north, leaving the great lake basin filled with water, which covered Upper Canada, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the northern portions (about half) of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Wells and Jay counties have other superficial ridges, knolls, mounds, etc., the origin of which may be easily accounted for by anyone familiar with the effects of winds and currents. Comparatively, these accumulations of sand and gravel are recent. Underlying them, and above the coarse gravel resting upon the bed-rock, is a thick stratum of fine clay, which is the foundation of the agricultural resources of this region.
The surface of Wells and Adams counties varies from level to gently undulating, the level being inclined to have a swampy appearance; but as the land is generally high above the rapidly running water-courses, it can be thoroughly drained, and ditches and tile drains are in rapid process of construction. The southeastern portion of this section, as before noted, is much the highest, and therefore the streams run in a northwesterly direction.
The largest stream is the Wabash, which runs northwesterly through Harrison, Lancaster and Rock Creek townships, Wells County. The second in size is the St. Mary's, draining the most of Adams County. Third, the Salamonie enters Wells County about a mile west of the center of the south line, and leaves the county a mile west of the middle of the north line of Jackson Township. Rock Creek rises in the western portion of Nottingham Township, flows a little west of north through Liberty and Rock Creek townships, emptying into the Wabash in Huntington County. Six-Mile Creek drains the eastern portion of Nottingham Township, and empties into the Wabash about three miles above Bluffton; and Eight-Mile Creek rises in the eastern part of Jefferson Township, and flowing a little north of west, leaves the county at its northwestern corner.
There are no lakes in Wells County except two small ones in Jackson Township, and they are growing smaller, the larger one comprising now only about forty acres.
When the white man first entered this region he found it covered with a dense growth of deciduous trees, consisting principally of white, burr and black oak, white elm, basswood (lin), ash of two or three varieties, beech, sugar maple, hickory, yellow poplar and walnut. The last mentioned, being time most valuable, has been nearly all cut out. Yellow poplar is becoming scarce. Two or three specimens of sweet gum were noticed in early days. Most of the other trees mentioned above are valuable, and are still abundant, owing to the lateness of the introduction of railroads. Hence the business of getting out railroad ties, staves and heading and hard-wood lumber is now in its prime; but for some reason not well understood the oaks are dying out to a limited extent.
The blackberry is the most valuable of the wild fruits in this section. About eleven miles south of Bluffton a few years ago there were 320 acres of blackberry in one piece.
Cultivation has introduced weeds from the East to supplant, in a great measure, the native herbs. The first introduced were the dog fennel or mayweed, jimson-weed, cocklebur and smart-weed; but as no plant can hold a spot of ground beyond a limited number of seasons, some of these have given way to the ragweed; and this, in turn, will shortly have to yield the situation to the sweet clover, a more welcome visitor than all, as it is a prolific source of honey, and has no disagreeable feature. The ox-eye daisy, a weed too omnipresent in the East, is beginning to make its appearance here, but as it flourishes only in a gravelly soil, those farmers who have only a clay soil need not fear its approach. Dandelion, white clover and blue-grass carpet most of the ground, the two latter plants being of great utility to man.
The largest and most conspicuous animals found here by the early settlers were the following: Black bear, in limited numbers, and soon killed off. Rarely, in later years, an individual or two might be seen straying along here from Michigan. The Virginia deer, in great abundance. The last seen in this region was about twelve years ago. Panthers, a few, and terrible. Wild cats, of two species, occasionaly [sic]. Beaver and porcupine, rare, in the very earliest day. Raccoons, once abundant, are now rare. Opossums came in between 1840 and 1850, became common, but a severe winter a few years ago killed off what the dogs and hunters had left. Foxes, once common, are now seldom seen. Wolves, at first numerous, were all killed off many years ago. Ground-hogs, or "wood-chucks," were never plentiful, and are so scarce now that seldom can one be found. No otters have been seen for many years, though they were frequent in early days. A few muskrats remain. Wild hogs, that is, domestic hogs escaped and running at large until they fully attained the savage state, were common in pioneer times. In a few generations these animals became as furious arid dangerous as wolves.
In primeval times there sometimes occurred a "raid," when squirrels, pigeons, etc., would migrate across the country in incredible numbers. About the year 1855 there was a squirrel raid here, eastward in its direction.
Wild turkeys, once plentiful, are now rare.
Some accounts of hunting scenes, and the experiences of early settlers with the wild and savage denizens of the forest, we will give a little further on, tinder the sub-head of" Reminiscences," in the chapter on "Early Settlement."