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Chad's Garden, November 19: 1820 Tippecanoe County Vegetation & What the Barrens Originally Looked Like

We take a look back at original Tippecanoe County vegetation based on pioneer accounts & land surveys & reconstruct the original fairgrounds barrens.

Posted: Nov 19, 2018 6:48 PM
Updated: Nov 19, 2018 9:21 PM

I have completed this map of 1820 Tippecanoe County vegetation.  I did not distiguish wet prairie, dry prairie or wet, swamp forest, etc.  I kept it confined to two groups..........either prairie or forest.

"P", uncolored areas were tallgrass prairie when European settlers arrived. Solid green areas were forest. I did not color in over the town & city names, however, even if it were originally forest.

There were buffer zones of oak-hickory barrens & savanna, however between these areas of forest & treeless prairie in many areas.

Some names of communities are based on original vegetation.  "Shadeland" was named for the shade there of the forest, as the Wea Plains just west of there were treeless all the way to West Point.  "Ash Grove" was named for a grove of ash trees in a low, wet area on the edge of an area of forest on 43 north of Battle Ground.  There were a few oak-hickory groves on the prairie, like the one just out of the range of this map, "Round Grove" on 231 just north of the White-Tippecanoe County line.  There were originally a few prairie groves between Purdue Animal Sciences & I-65 as isolated patches of oak emanating from fingers of forest extending from the Hadley Lake & Little Pine Burnett & Indian Creek areas.

Also, the old oaks & hickories at Salem Courthouse apartments, the farm south of Harrison High School, the Cumberland Park area, Veteran's Home, Central Catholic Grove & former fairgrounds trees, are all remnants of oak-hickory barrens..........a transition zone between prairie & forest that can be seen as a reconstruction at Celery Bog now.

So what did the fairground oaks originally look like around 1820-1830?

Probably very much like this...................with Durkee's Run forest in on the north side of the barrens, these oak barrens crept out into Wildcat Prairie, which extended all the way through the 26 corridor, around the mall & all the way to Subaru.  There were some fingers of oak-hickory around Veterans Memorial Parkway & some barrens & small, open oak groves were Ivy Tech is currently located.

This a very rare painting of an actual prairie scene west of Logansport in the 1830s by George Winter:

So............fairgrounds & edge of neighborhood just to the south & southeast of it 1820-1830:

Some of the oaks cut down probably were exactly like this when Andrew Jackson was president, growing in the prairie grass with the forest nearby.

The White & Bur Oak acorns I collected are rooting well in the nursery beds.  I even have a batch of Bur Oak acorns in the refridgerator.  Still going to get some Northern Pin Oak acorns (Quercus elipisoidalis) from the southernmost native one I have ever found (near Klondike) on the edge of an an oak-hickory woods.  All the acorns I currently have are from oaks that sprouted 1810-1850.  The Bur Oak I collected from is calculated to be 179 years old (germinated in 1839).  A large Shagbark Hickory I found & collected nuts from came out to 200 years old (based on calculating its diameter at 4.5' & the appearance of the bark, branches, height & width.......the oldest hickory I have found in the county yet.  I would have germinated in 1818.  It still cannot beat that White Oak on the far northside of the fairgrounds that had a trunk about the width of the front of a Ford Ranger.  It dated back to 1810.

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