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The Jack Wickline story

Shown is Burrow's Camp circa 1909.

John "Jack" Wickline was born in 1889 near Pittsburgh, Pa. In the early 1900s, Wickline moved to LaPorte County along the Kankakee River.

Wickline was proud to be a trapper and hunter of the old Kankakee Marsh. In 1967, he gave a interview to James Jones of The Vidette-Messenger which was printed as a six-part series about his life on the Kankakee.

Wickline described seeing the Kankakee for the first time: "The Old River and marsh was alive; ducks and geese had returned by the thousands; There was so many it would remind you of drifting clouds, Muskrat houses were just a few feet apart, every little sand hill was crowded with Sand Hill cranes and ducks and geese were building nests in the marsh areas."

Wickline soon met a man about his age named Frank Slater. They became fast friends and decided to partner up. After building a cabin, they commenced to set up their trap lines and establish themselves along that stretch of the Kankakee.

In May, 1915 Jack and Frank decided to go to Missouri. "The weather was beautiful, the air was warm and the Spring rains were over. It was time to get going. We packed everything we need in the three boats for the trip–guns, a small keg of powder, traps, cooking utensils, my squirrel dog, a tent, our clothing and some small items. We saluted the old cabin goodbye and headed west down the Old River."

They would usually spend a couple of days at each stopping place "just fishing and watching nature at its best." One day "we could see from a distance several houses located on the south side. Paddling up to a boat landing we tied up and went ashore. This time we were at Burrows Camp."

Burrows Camp was where Dunn's Bridge is now located. Jack and Frank liked the spot and they decided to stay. "The following day we started looking for a location to build a cabin. We found an ideal spot a mile and a half west of Burrows Camp–it was called Swamp Gate."

The two hired out that summer, anticipating the trapping season. Fall finally came and "it was now time to set traps. Trapping was always the best in late Fall–the nights were cool and fur was on the move. Nothing in the world was as great as drifting on the Old River taking rats, mink, coon and skunk out of your traps." One morning Jack and Frank were at Burrows Camp and heard about the plan to ditch the river and drain the marsh.

Jack said: "In the Spring of 1916 there was a floater being built down the river near Baum's Bridge ... I decided I'd go down there and try to get a job ... They hired me for an oiler ... Yes, I helped destroy my own paradise."

Returning from the service after World War I, he moved to a farm near Tefft and lived out the rest of his life there and died in 1968 at 78. Jack lived during the time when the Kankakee Marsh was in its full glory and later witnessed its destruction when the marsh was drained.

He summed it up best: "Farming had taken over, thus ending one of the world's greatest hunting and fishing areas that ever was created."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.


Community Coordinator

Annette is Community Coordinator for The Times. She has been with the paper for two decades. A resident of Hobart, she graduated from Purdue University with degrees in English and German.