Portrait Picture  of Chief Little Turtle

Little Turtle, who ceded millions of acres of land to the United States in 1832, out of which Pulaski County and Kosciusko (without the z) County were created in Indiana.

.... Missing Pulaski Village Map

Layout of Pulaski on the west bank of Tippecanoe River in Pulaski County, Indiana. St. Joseph's Catholic Church was built on the other side of the river.

.... Pulaski County Map

The Indiana General Assembly created Pulaski County in 1835 and the county commissioners changed the twelve townships in it from numbers to names. Pulaski and Indian Creek were names of villages in Indian Creek Township (Township 29).


by Edward Pinkowski

Like a lesson in school, nothing has done more to save its share of a Polish hero of the American Revolution than Pulaski County, Indiana. Actually, before it began its official existence on February 7, 1835, Little Turtle, who ceded millions of acres of land to the United States, knew more about the heroes from Poland -- Pulaski and Kosciuszko -- than the average reader of American history.

First, in 1780, Little Turtle, the leader of Miami Indians, defeated the military forces of Augustin de la Balme, whom Casimir Pulaski met in Philadelphia. Secondly, in 1798, when Little Turtle was in Philadelphia to discuss the terms of a treaty, he visited General Kosciuszko in a boarding house at 3rd and Pine Streets, now the Kosciuszko National Memorial, and spent a few hours in Kosciuszko's room exchanging gifts.

Little known is that I bought the house in the 1960s and changed the deed to make it impossible for a future owner to do anything but turn it into a shrine to Kosciuszko. With the lobbying support of the Polish community, including the Polish American Congress and the Polish press, the U. S. Congress appropriated nearly half a million dollars in the 1970s to restore Koszciusko's last residence in America.

When the public visited the historic home and saw the exhibits of General Kosciuszko, it realized that the shrine literally brought Kosciuszko's name out of hiding. It was one of a kind in Philadelphia. Not even the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York could match it. However, the biographies of Kosciuszko written by two Polish authors in recent years missed the point.

Ironically, every February the length of a walk of officers of the Eastern District, Polish American Congress, and a crowd from the Kosciuszko House to a restaurant for swearing in ceremonies is longer than the Pulaski parade today in Philadelphia.


No matter how much the interest in General Pulaski wanes, Pulaski County, Indiana, and other places named after the fighter on horseback from Poland remain. Without singing the praises of the Polish hero, the cornhuskers in Indiana -- few, if any, of whom are Polish -- have lived longer with the typonymical name than millions of Polish immigrants.

For generations the people of Pulaski County, Indiana, have seen the name of a Pole on their courthouse in Winamac, in their tax bills, town halls, newspapers, and schools. The county paid each volunteer, first $25 and then $100, to enroll in the Union Army during the Civil War, and each outfit from the county htook its name wherever it fought. In every election, whether county, state, or presidential, there were returns from Pulaski County. Make no mistake, the name was made to stay in Indiana.

Instead of Michkinikwa, Mish-e-ken-o-quah, or whatever it was, the Indian name of Little Turtle, the committee of the Indiana General Assembly named one of the counties it created Pulaski and another Kosciuszko, although the spelling of the last one was too hard to pronounce and spell. Two of the 92 counties in Indiana today are still Pulaski and Kosciusko (without the z). Of all the Polish place names in the United States, these two counties are the closest to Chicago.

The legislators left the organization of Pulaski County up to a time when it had enough settlers to vote for candidates to fill county offices. The first county commissioners -- elected May 13, 1839, one for one year, one for two years, and one for three years -- decided to establish the county seat on the Tippecanoe River, 78 miles southeast of Chicago, and gave it the name of Winamac, a distinguished leader of the Indians in the Battle of Tippecanoe. They also changed the townships from numbers to names. Not one of them thought of naming Township 29 the same as the county. Two for the price of one? No, sir!


How strange that so many generations have lived in Pulaski County. Indiana, and never hung a painting or set a bust of General Pulaski in the courthouse. The post office in the village of Pulaski, in Indian Creek Township, was not even named the same way. The history of the village is generally overlooked.

Its name dates back to November 1855 when David Short, who built a dam across the sluggish Tippecanoe River at the same time, laid out a village of 36 lots and placed Pulaski on the map. Tippecanoe Bottoms or Short's Dam would have been a more fitting name. To his credit Short stuck to Pulaski and attracted the attention of the Indiana Gazeteer, the bishop of the Fort Wayne diocese, and many other bodies, not to mention the settlers themselves.

For the first time in the corn belt Indiana had a county and a village named Pulaski. The bridge built in 1855 across the river at Pulaski played a major role in the growth and development of the region. Business of all kinds flourished. Pulaski County abandoned its old, hewed-log courthouse and built a new brick one in 1862, with Pulaski in bigger letters on the facade of the building. During the Civil War, more soldiers came out of Indian Creek Township than any other township in Pulaski County. Neither the number of servicemen in wars after that nor others who shook the dust of the place from their feet are known to the writer.


Looking at Pulaski from two sides -- the hero himself and the toponym -- has never been done. The Polish population, including the newspapers and histories it reads -- too little, of course -- has a vested interest in General Pulaski. All Poles, however, don't know the exact dates he was born and died. To remind you -- and encyclopedias, too -- General Pulaski was born in Warsaw on March 6, 1745, died on Captain Bulfinch's ship on October 15, 1779, and was buried, first secretly on Greenwich plantation in the dark hours of the same day, and then, ceremonially in 1853, in a public square of Savannah.

A few nuts -- without seeing the evidence produced since 1996 when Pulaski's bones were plucked out of a brick vault in Savannah, Georgia -- believe in the hoax that Pulaski was buried at sea.

Thank God that the Polish press, or what remains of it, has presented much of the evidence, albeit sometimes in condensed form, to its readers. Unfortunately, newspapers, including one on Long Island on its last legs, suf fer for lack of readers and advertisers. Still, speakers and letter writers, or what remains of the dumbbells, continue to spread outdated stories of Pulaski. Old, made up, and erroneous repeats of them deserve the waste basket.

Remember this, without DNA, Dr. Charles Merbs, who has solved hundreds of murders by the study of human bones, solved a 200 year-old mystery and found proof that Pulaski was not buried at sea. Yet someone refuses to believe it. Wow, the study of bones worked when DNA failed!

Whatever false stories are printed, particularly in the bilingual newpapers from New York and Chicago, the inhabitants of Pulaski County, Indiana, trust their namesake. They worship it. mouth it daily, and find nothing wrong with their address. Trust? That's all that counts.

"May Pulaski countians," wrote Dick Dodd in the Pulaski County Journal, April 5, 1962, "forever enjoy the heritage of liberty and freedom for which the namesake of their county gave his life."

Editor's note: The author visited Pulaski County, Indiana, Sept. 16, 1968, including St. Joseph's Catholic Church, across the river from Pulaski, and picked up the illustrations from Google.