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The subject of this review has spent his entire life thus far in Hancock county and is today numbered among the enterprising farmers and leading citizens of Center township. He has attained an enviable position in the community, gaining a high reputation, which comes only through the avenue of correct living and as the reward of faithful and persistent effort. He is a progressive farmer, keeping abreast of the time in everything pertaining to agriculture, and his methods as tiller of the soil, together with his industry, economy and thorough understanding of business principles, have brought to him a large measure of success. He is now the popular and efficient trustee for Center township and as an official has demonstrated superior tact and ability in the discharge of his functions and the management of responsible affairs which have come to him in the line of duty.
Mr. Hagans was born in Center township, Hancock county, on the 14th day of May, 1862. His father, John Hagans, was a native of Ross county, Ohio, his mother also having been born there. Her maiden name was Nancy Frost and she and her husband were united in the bonds of wedlock some years after their respective parents became residents of the Hoosier state. When fifteen years of age John Hagans came with his parents to Hancock county, Indiana, the date of the family’s arrival being about 1830. His father, James Hagans, settled in Center township and a little later bought forty acres of wild land some five and a half miles north-east of Greenfield. Subsequently he sold his original purchase and bought an eighty-acre tract about three-fourths of a mile to the northeast, and it was on the latter place that Eli Hagans first saw the light of day. James died near Greenfield, aged seventy years.
John Hagans grew to manhood in Hancock county and after his marriage cleared up and developed a good farm in section 15, Center township, where he made his home until 1872. In that year he disposed of the place and purchased a quarter section about one and three-quarter miles further west, the greater part of which was improved, and on this farm he spent the remainder of his life, dying on the 9th day of February, 1881. He made valuable improvements upon his farm and in addition to the home place owned property in Greenfield and one hundred acres of good land in Harrison county, Missouri. He started in life poor, but by industry and successful management acquired a comfortable competence, largely in real estate, much of which is now in possession of his descendants. He preferred the humble sphere of the private citizen to any honors or emoluments which public position could confer, consequently he never entertained any ambition in the direction of official preferment. He was decidedly Democratic in his views, and, like all good citizens, took an active interest in political affairs, voting his sentiment regardless of fear or favor and upholding his principles with a tenacity of purpose that inspired the respect not only of his party friends, but also of those who held views diametrically opposed to his own. His wife is still living on the home farm, having reached an advanced age, and she is well known and highly respected throughout the county.
Five children were born to John and Nancy Hagans. Richard, a well known resident of Center township, now running a large dairy and doing a very remunerative business. In the younger days he taught school for some years and made a creditable record as an instructor. James is a successful farmer and stock raiser of the same township and one of the representative men of his neighborhood. Eli, the subject of this review, is the third in order of birth. The next two were twins by the names of Emanuel and Amanda, the former dying when less than a year old; the latter married John H. Reeves, who lives on and manages the old homestead.
Eli Hagans was reared on the home farm and received his education in the common schools. He remained with his father until the latter’s death, after which he took charge of the farm and ran the same for one year. He then rented land in Center township and farmed in this way with encouraging results until purchasing a small place of his own in section 15, a short distance southwest of the old homestead. Mr. Hagans went to work with a will and bought his farm to a high state of cultivation, making many valuable improvements and establishing the reputation of a painstaking and enterprising agriculturalist. He continued to cultivate his farm for a period of ten years, meantime adding to his original purchase until the place increased from forty to one hundred and three acres, its present area. Mr. Hagans started out in life empty-handed, but has surmounted all obstacles and pushed aside the barriers that obstructed the pathway to success. He had both capacity and ambition to better his financial condition and how well he has succeeded in this laudable endeavor his present high position in the ranks of agriculture and the position he occupies in the public eye bear eloquent testimony. In the fall of 1900 he was nominated by the Democracy of his township for the office of trustee and in the election which followed he defeated a very popular competitor and entered upon the discharge of his official functions with the best wishes of the people irrespective of political ties. The better to devote his entire attention to the trusteeship, which of late years has become one of the most exacting of public positions, Mr. Hagans turned his farm over to other hands and took up his residence in Greenfield. That he has proven worthy of the confidence repose in him by his constituents is fully demonstrated by the careful and impartial manner in which he has thus far discharged every duty coming within his official sphere. He looks after the public interest with the greatest concern and has inaugurated a number of measures for the benefit of the township, besides carrying to successful completion a number of movements which originated with his predecessor. Sound business abilities, discriminating judgment, keen discernment and the tact to reduce his ideas to practice are among his most prominent characteristics and his official record thus far presents no mistakes, but on the contrary all of his acts have met with the unqualified approval of the people of the township. Center township has twenty teachers employed in fifteen buildings, there being two graded schools, Mohawk having two departments and Maxwell with five. Seven hundred pupils are enrolled and nearly all teachers here had training in college or normal schools. They are enthusiastic, holding the required number of institutes, and on section of the county shows greater interest in educational work on the part either of teachers, pupils or patrons. That such interest id kept on the increase is shown by the success attained by a student of this township carrying off first honors at the county oratorical contest in 1901, each township being represented by its best pupils. For twenty years these contests have not brought honor to this township, but after special preparation, encouraged by the trustee, as is already noted, the first honors were won with ease and to the great satisfaction of all residents of the township. Mr. Hagans believes in most thorough work in the school room and demands such preparation on the part of his teachers that insures the best results. His well-known interest in educational work and thoroughness in the training of his own children was a guarantee to all the residents of the township that the schools would prove more beneficial under his direction.
As a politician Mr. Hagans has been a potential factor in the ranks of the local Democracy for a number of years, his counsel having great weight with his party associates and his influence contributing much to the success of the ticket in several hotly-contested campaigns. In conventions his voice is heard with no uncertain sound and as a planner and worker he is skillful, yet never resorting to anything that can even remotely be construed into anything dishonorable. As a neighbor and citizen he is a splendid type of strong and virile manhood, earnest in all he does and seldom failing to carry to successful issue anything which he addresses himself to. With an indomitable will and courage he has steadfastly pursued his way and not only overcome the difficulties in his path, but accumulated, a handsome competence. To the poor and needy he is ever ready to extend a helping hand, yet his aid is ever accorded quietly, frequently none but the giver and receiver knowing to the beneficence.
Mr. Hagans was married February 9, 1882, to Miss Jennie M. Radcliffe, daughter of William and May (Pilkingter) Radlciffe, of Madison county, a union blessed with three children, Clara E., a student in the Greenfield high school, and who spent two terms in the State University, and is now preparing herself to become a teacher; Mary N. and Carroll Fern, the two younger, now pursuing their studies in lower grades.
Mr. and Mrs. Hagans are popular with the best people of the county seat and number their friends by the score. Honorable and straightforward in all the relations of life, true to family and friends and to the best interests of his city and native county, Eli Hagans is justly numbered among the most honored and valued citizens of Greenfield.
source: Biographical Memoirs of Hancock County B. F. Bowen, Publisher, Logansport, Indiana, 1902 Pages 250-252.