Story Contacts:
Johanna Herring
Wabash College Archivist

Artifacts from the Council Grove Minutemen in the Wabash College archives.


Winter 1999

From Our Archives

Numerous documents in our archives attest to the lawlessness of the “Wabash Country” during the College's infancy. Shown here are artifacts from the Council Grove Minute Men, the citizenry's early attempt to bring the rule of law to the Montgomery, Tippecanoe, and Fountain County region.

The Minute Men formed in response to an epidemic of horse thievery in the 1840s, “when so many horses had been stolen that half of the growing crops were necessarily abandoned.” Failure to prosecute thieves led to vigilante justice.

“With nine out of ten thieves promptly lynched without judge or jury, something had to be done” a member of the group recalled in 1898. The association's membership, a pamphlet issued by the Minute Men declared, included “the best men in the community and represented all the vocations in pioneer life.” There were secret passwords and signs, and any member who played cards, gambled, or used liquor “to excess” was expelled.

The success of the Council Grove Minute Men in catching thieves caused other associations to be formed. An umbrella group called the National Horse Thief Detective Association was organized in 1893.

Artifacts—including handcuffs, a ballot box, badges, and a gavel—from the group that started it all rest in the Wabash College archives.

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