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Hoosier Hunting Grounds or The Beaver Lake Trail
Written by Bill Bat, 1904
            The Family History Division is pleased to announce the republication of “Hoosier Hunting Grounds, or The Beaver
 Lake Trail.”
Written in 1904 by Bill Bat, aka John Alter of Union Township, Jasper County is a work of fiction, based on
 fact, which depicts the life of trappers, horse thieves, counterfeiters, Indians and the wildlife of our area in 1840.

            Former Family History Director Jim Robbins, to whom the book is dedicated, suggested that we reprint this book
 because of its accurate description of the Beaver Lake Country, which included Lake, Lincoln, McClellan, Beaver and Colfax
 Townships in Newton County, as well as bordering townships of Jasper County, specifically Union Township, where the
 author grew up and walked the Indian trails, hunted and trapped in the Beaver Lake Country.

            From the first chapter, Mr. Alter draws the reader in by detailing a trapper’s cavern; the flora and fauna of Beaver
 Lake; the antics and anxieties of hunting and trapping as a lifestyle; to sitting amongst the Bogus Island counterfeiters while they
 listen to a man named Barker deliver a sermon on living a “straight and narrow” life.

            The characters are of mixed heritages, all coming together in several seasons sharing their own stories of horse thieving,
 honor and friendship.
            Josie (Pullin) Zacher, a descendent of John Alter, has an original copy of the book, which had been leather bound, and
 included a drawing on it’s cover of the homestead of the Alter family, which was dated 1912. We have reproduced that cover
 in paperback form.

After reading the book, several members of the Family History Division felt the book revealed very vivid pictures in the reader’s mind, and decided to enlist the help of local artists to illustrate several of the events in the book.

            Mary Krueger, Greta Taylor, Mary Turnbull, and Ruth Warrick were sent copies of the book, which they read, and
 submitted the original artwork for illustrations in the book. Members also indexed the book of places, even though many of
 those mentioned in the book were merely landmarks, not actual towns. Descendents of John Alter have added family pictures
 and biographical sketches of John Alter, adding to the authenticity of the book.
            If you are a fan of the tales of Bogus Island, curious about the lifestyle, layout of the land, of the residents of the Beaver
 Lake Country, this book will be a definite asset to your collection of local histories.

            Pick up your copy for $15.00 each, tax included. If mail orders are needed, there will be a shipping and handling charge
 of $5.00 for each book. Send your check payable to the Newton County Historical Society, P.O. Box 303, Kentland, Indiana
 47951. Contact the Newton County Historical Society at 219-474-6944, or email for additional
 information. There are a limited number of copies available.
About the Author

Written by William O. Henry

    Bill Bat was the pen name of John Edward Alter, known to his friends and family as “John E.” He was born on Valentines Day
 morning, February 14, 1853, at Davissonville, Walker Township, Jasper County, Indiana, located on the Pinkamink River, the first
 child of Isaac Van Ausdall and Eliza (Willet) Alter.
   Isaac’s two brothers, David and John, came to Jasper County in the 1840’s with two yoke of oxen looking for good prairie farm
 ground. They settled along the banks of a small creek and planted several acres of wheat. Returning home in the fall, they
 reported success. Isaac and David returned the following year, built a sod shanty, and stayed. Isaac’s father, Rev. John Alter
 moved his family to Carpenter Township, Jasper County, in 1848. Rev. John and Charity (Van Ausdall) Alter had moved their
 family from Westmoreland County, PA to Greenfield, Hancock County, IN, in 1835. Charity died in 1836 leaving John with eight
 small children ages 3 to 14. The family moved in 1841 to Howard County, IN. Rev. John Alter was a Methodist Protestant
 minister and as a circuit rider traveled across a wide area of northwest Indiana. 
    Isaac V. Alter and Eliza Willet married in Jasper County on Christmas Day, 1851. Two and a half years after John E. was born
 they moved to Crawford County, WI, near the Mississippi river. John E. started school in a log schoolhouse on Buck Creek. Five
 years later Isaac and Charity and their family, then including sons John E., George Spitler (born September 27, 1855), and Amos
 Hubbard (born January 2, 1859), returned to the village of Rensselaer, Indiana, where they stayed for a while with Moses B.
 Alter. Isaac “traded” ground located about a mile south of Rensselaer in Marion Township, with Caleb C. Hopkins for a lot in
 Rensselaer on August 9, 1862. Isaac put up a steam-powered mill on Curtis Creek, about four miles west of Rensselaer. The
 family lived in the area and John E. attended school at the Mallot School. Isaac bought property from Samuel Chesnut on
 November 13, 1863 in Union Township, and a water powered mill and 8 acres on the Iroquois river adjacent to the first purchase
 in Union Township, Jasper County, from David and Phebe Nowels in January 1864. The mill was located on the west side of CR
 N 700W just north of where it crosses the Iroquois river. This area was John E’s home for the rest of his life. Isaac and Eliza had
 three children after returning to Indiana: David Simon (born August 3, 1861), Isaac Franklin (born June 3, 1864), and Mary Louise
 (born April 6, 1873, died August 3, 1882).

    John E wrote in a later account of his boyhood in Union Township, “My chums were Joseph “Zip” and Jonnie Guss, Billie Bull,
 Steve and Jim Comer, Andy Ryan, Bert Braskett and my brothers. Zip Goose, as we called him, was the main guy, the side
 partner in most of my exploits. He was a good shot, an expert trapper, could climb trees like a squirrel, and knew every pond, sand
 hill, and Jack Oak flat from Tailholt (Davissonville, in Walker Township, Jasper County) to Beaver Lake.” The knowledge he
 gained from this association must have proven invaluable in writing “Hoosier Hunting Ground”.
    John E. became a schoolteacher and taught for 20 years, teaching in the winter and farming and helping in his father’s mill in the
 summer. He studied civil engineering and surveying under the tutelage of his uncle Lewis S. Alter. His engineering studies were
 of practical value, as he served as deputy county surveyor, and subsequently as county surveyor for three terms. During his last
 term, the question of building gravel roads came up and through his scientific knowledge he was instrumental in getting this public
 improvement well started. In 1916 he was one of the board of engineers employed by the trustees of Union, Newton, Barkley, and
 Marion townships to plan for the improvement of the ditches in the area. 
    John E. was small of stature and very active. His daughter, Iva, later recounted, “I never knew a man who could keep his pace
 for a day walking over the fields while surveying.” He was known as a fine musician, public speaker, and actor. He played the
 fiddle, French harp (harmonica), jaw harp, bones, and organ. He wrote parodies of songs for special occasions and wrote and
 produced plays. He knew the names of fish, birds, trees, and flowers and enjoyed telling others. As his daughter Iva put it, “He
 had a way of maneuvering everyone about him into activity, but he led the way. He lived to be almost 83, a man of courage and

    John E. Alter was united in marriage with Harriett “Hattie” McColly (born April 24, 1853, died September 7, 1947), the
 daughter of Clark and Mary (Hance) McColly. John E. and Hattie had five children: Harry Edward (born February 2, 1876,
 died September 1, 1876), Iva Letona (born September 25, 1877, died April 23, 1962) married Joseph Pullins July 26 1903,
 and was a life long resident of Rensselaer, IN; John Cecil (born March 30 1879, died 29 May 1964) worked in the western
 states for the National Weather service; Charles Leslie (born November 22, 1881, died December 20, 1955) married Electa
 W.“Lettie” Willis April 8, 1906, resided in California; and Fern (born November 1, 1887, died August 3, 1980) married
 Arthur McAuly June 28, 1908, resided in the Oakmont, PA area. John E. Alter passed November 12, 1934.

    John E. Alter belonged to the Indiana Literary Guild, and the 1916 History of Jasper and Newton Counties describes “The
 Hoosier Hunting Ground, or Beaver Lake Trail,” as a romantic story. His book is told in a very interesting form, the base is of fact
 and authentic in every degree.” Sources: Information in this biography comes from notes and writings of John E. Alter, Lewis S.
 Alter, Iva (Alter) Pullins, and volumes of genealogy and local history information researched and collected by my parents, William
 C. Henry and Betty Jane (Alter) Henry. Many thanks are due to those who made this information available.William O.
 Henry, April 20, 2008

Mission Statement: It is the hope of the volunteers and members of the Newton County Historical Society will bring together those people interested in the history of Newton County, and will promote an understanding and appreciation for the people and community of  Newton County through research, preservation, restoration, education and publications. 

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