Local Lore

Charles Leroy Eddy as Robert Glass Cissne (The Fiddler) of Bootjack in a performance of “The Spirit of the Dunes” on Aug. 25, 1916.

Indiana became a state in 1816 and Michigan City celebrated its 100th birthday with a Centennial Homecoming on Aug. 21-26, 1916. Continuous vaudeville was offered every day of the event at various “platforms” (locations). A six-episode pageant entitled “The Spirit of the Dunes” was offered on Friday, Aug. 25, at 4 p.m. Episode Two included a portrayal of Robert Glass Cissne (The Fiddler) of Bootjack. Portraying Cissne was Charles Leroy Eddy (well-known violinist of the County).

Cissne was born in Holmes County, Ohio, in 1811, his ancestry dating back to the Huguenots of France, who fled from persecution in that country to free America in the mid-1700s and settled in Pennsylvania. The Cissne Family history is a “thrilling” one including the struggle for American independence and of the pioneer hardships of the severest kind. His grandfather, Joseph, when a lad of 10, was abducted by the Ottawa Indians during one of their raids into Pennsylvania and carried to the headquarters of the tribe on the Maumee River in Ohio, where he was adopted as the chief’s son and held in captivity for about five years when he took advantage and returned to his parental home. Cissne’s mother, Jane Glass, had a most eventful history. When Jane was 15 years old, in 1793, the family consisting of her father and mother and three children started out to find and build a home in the forests of Kentucky. On their way through Ohio, their camping place was attacked by Indians during the night. The father and one of the children were killed while the mother with Jane and a son, Robert, aged 10 were carried way. The mother was never heard of afterward but Jane and her brother were taken to the Ottawa village on the Maumee. She was later smuggled away by a French fur trader and taken to Detroit where she lived with a family named Hurt and where she later married John Cissne (becoming the parents of Robert Glass Cissne).

When Robert arrived in St. Joseph County he was a “vigorous” youth of 20. He was a good violinist and played for many of the pioneer dances throughout this region. He was the chief musician at the first ball given in South Bend on Christmas Eve, 1831. He played also in La Porte, Michigan City, Valparaiso and all through the rural districts between. His services were in great demand as for a time he was the only violin player for many miles around. He found employment in the erection of a dam and later he helped construct a tannery. He then moved to La Porte County to the junction of roads known as Bootjack. During his first year of residence in La Porte County, he assisted in transporting the outfit of a French trapper and fur trader over the St. Joseph-Kankakee portage (probably the last journey of the kind over that famous passage between the two rivers).

On Nov. 6, 1836, he married Anna Miller. They “took up housekeeping” in La Porte County, but two years later, moved to Iowa. They did not stay long, not liking the area, and returned to Northern Indiana, locating on a large farm south of Mount Pleasant in St. Joseph County where Anna died Jan. 25, 1887, at the age of 70. They had 11 children. Robert died March 20, 1906, at the age of 95 years, and is buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in St. Joseph County.

Local Lore is a regular column by La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz.

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