JENNINGS COUNTY, INDIANA
Bigger Township was taken from Vernon Township in 1840, it was named for Samuel Bigger, who was Indiana's Governor from 1840-1843. Judge Bigger was a proponent of internal improvement and better schools, his views were appealing to many of the settlers who were coming to the area at the time.
The Township when it was originally formed included 30 square miles, bordered on the south by Jefferson County, east by Ripley County, west by Vernon Township and north by Campbell Township. In 1940 the Township decreased dramatically when the U.S. Government took land for Jefferson Proving Ground. The little town of Benville disappeared and many residients lost their homes and farms. In the early years the Township was covered by virgin timber especially the southwest section around Needmore.
Very early settlers arrived in the early 1800's while the Indians were still in the territory, James Needham built his cabin near where the Big and Little Graham Creeks come together. James Hughes settled a little past the forks of the Graham. William Callicott just a little west of what is now the Graham Baptist Church. By the time the Township was formed many people were already settled in the area.
The early settlers lived in fear of the Indians, the forest was home to wolves, panthers and bears. Game was plentiful and made putting meat on the table easier but wild animals often raided the livestock so a bounty was paid by the County for killing a wolf.
Some of the first landowners listed and recorded at the Jennings Courthouse were: William McClure-1816, John Hughes-1817, William Harbinson-1819, William Hiclkin-1819, John Hicklin-1821, James Spaulding -1822, James McGuire-1820/1822, Joel Linder-1824, Arariah Merrill-1824, Robert Torbett-1825, Robert Crouder-1826, Isom Boashear-1826, James Mitchell-1826, Noah Bland-1826, Samuel VanCleve-1826, Hugh Gordon-1826, William Utter-1827, William Thorn-1829, Benjamin Merrill-1829, Isaac Hughes-1832, Asa Jones-1832, Osborn Bland-1836, Samuel Stott-1836, John H. Johnson-1836, Joseph W. Smith-1837, Thomas Brown-1837, Thomas Ramsey-1839, John W. Smith-1839, Azariah Merrill-1839, Jacob Wildman-1848, James Cook-1848.
John Anderson Sr. purchased land in Section 28 in 1838, William Fawcett in Section 3. Thomas Egan built his cabin in about 1840, this cabin had a dirt floor with a stump in the middle of the room with boards nailed on top which was used as a table.
A John Dolan lived in the area and was an early owner of what is known as the Milhous farm, he sold it first to Samuel Shaw and was an advocate of religous freedom. In the years 1854-1857 Samuel Neill, George and Joseph Passmore, Charles Murphy, David Silver and many others moved to the area. The Quakers who moved into the area were an asset to the community being hard workers, religious and promoters of education. Probably the most famous of the Quaker families in Bigger township was the Joshua Milhous family. Joshua and Elizabeth Milhous moved to Bigger township in 1854 from Ohio, their farm was about three miles from the present Rush Branch Church. Mrs. Joshua (Elizabeth) Milhous was the Quaker minister of the Hopwell Friends Meeting, and also superintendent of the Friends Centennial Sabbath School, later known as the Harmony Hill Sunday School. Joshua Milhous died in 1892 and is buried in the Hopewell (Quaker) Cemetery. Joshua's son Frank Milhous who had continued the family nursery business after his fathers death moved to California in 1897, his daughter Hannah Milhous grew up in California and married, becoming the mother of Richard Milhous Nixon, the U.S. President.
Between 1858 & 1859, Thomas Conboy, Sr., Starkeys, Spencers and Mixes and other families from Switzerland County, Indiana came to the area.
The Madison paper printed as a bit of news in the winter of 1852-53 that Abe Partlow of Bigger Township killed 17 deer, wild game such as deer, wild turkeys, squirrel were very plentiful at the rime. Large Poplar, Oak and Beech grew in abundance.
Four of the most successful people in the area were John H. Cox who later moved to Sheridan Indiana, he gave his six sons $30,000.00 and ended up worth over $1,000,000.00. Jefferson Woolman worth $1,000,000.00 when he died after being injured in a train wreck on his way home from New York City. Frank Stratton, who gave a part of his wealth away. Anna Johnson who during WWI got to visit Egypt and Jerusalem and other cities.
"FORKS OF GRAHAM" later known as San Jacinto--was always the largest village in Bigger Township, with a maximun population of 50 people. Storekeepers were: Eagan in 1855; Isadore Manowitch in 1860; Taylor Stribbling, Ben Cox, Albert Johnson, Will Holmes, Charley Holmes, Dick Brooks, Vernnon "Bud" Brooks and Sam Temple. There were once six doctors in the village. Dr. H.D. Walker, Dr. A.W. Newton, Dr. Jonathan Spencer, Dr. Morton Neill, Dr. Nathan Kendrick and the very popular Dr. William A. Wildman. In the old days the Justice of the Peace was called "Squire" these included: John Hayden, W.R. Hughes, W.D. Morris, J. Johnson and W.W. Anderson.
The following were Blacksmiths in the Township: Charles Goldsborough, Jim Craig, Ed Semon, Ben Hand, Joel Hogden, James Shuck, Arch McMillian,Walter Beach, James Alford Stewart and Charley Stewart.
The first saw and grist mill, was owned by Linsey Stanley. It was torn down in 1898 and the K of P Hall built where it once stood. Businesses were located on the lower floor of the K of P Hall, Hare and Custer had an implement store where they sold farm machinery, pleasure vehicles, and hardware. Mr. Hare's business outgrew the original building and he built the Hare building which was later called the Holmes building. His business then outgrew this building and he moved to Butlerville. Harold Sawyer had a garage there where he repaired autos. Charley Stewart refinished and repaired furniture in the building while his wife Tessie, ran the telephone exchange upstairs. The upstairs was made into an apartment where several people including the Stewarts, Lester Sullivans, Don Brooks and many others have called it home. Richard (Dick) and Barb Brooks were the first to operate a grocery store, followed by Vernon (Bud) and Dorothy Brooks and Sam and Shirley Temple. Maude Cole had a branch of the North Vernon Library in her home, anyone could get a library card and take their favorite book home to read. Later Sue Fields Holmes operated the library branch at her home. Lenore Holmes Austin had a milinary shop and "did" permanents at her parents home. A general store was located in a small frame building with a "lean to" attached which was used for the ware-room and owned by Taylor Stribbling. The Post Office was located in the corner of the store next to the window.On Saturday's Linsey Stanley's saw and grist mill ground corn for the full day, and the village was filled with pioneers who brought their grist, it was also on Saturday that the weekly mail came in on horseback from Dupont.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE REPUBLICAN written Benville, Indiana, January 3, 1900.
I presume that a great many of the readers of your paper who do not know of Bigger township other than by name and therefore I believe a short write-up of its facilities and business will not be out of place at this time. Geographically, Bigger township is in the southeast corner of Jennings County; it is bounded on the east by Ripley County, on the south by Jefferson County, on the west by Vernon township on the north by Campbell township; it is six miles long (north and south), and five miles wide (east and west) contanng thirty square miles; is situated in town 6 north and ranges 9 and 10 east. It is crossed from northeast to southwest by Big Graham creek, which is joined from the east by Little Graham at San Jacinto, which is the voting place of the township. San Jacinto is beautifully located in the broad and fertile valleys of Graham creek and is surrounded by some of the finest farms in Jennings County. Its business interests are; Carson Bros., general store; Hare & Custer, dealers in farm machinery, pleasure vehicles, and hardware; James H. Shuck, horse shoeing and general blacksmithing; Gabe Peterman, dealer in timber; Dr. William A. Wildman, physician and surgeon. Here located are also Graham Baptist Church, Pleasant Valley Lodge No. 391 I.O.O.F., and Graham Valley Lodge No. 356 K. of P. It is also the home of Rev. Nelson Johnson, known to Baptist people all over Southeastern Indiana.Hyde P.O. is located two miles north of San Jacinto, in a rich farming district, and is surrounded by as comfortable homes and good farm buildings as may be found anywhere. Its business interests consist of: Thomas Conboy general store, and stock shipper; Arch McMillan, blacksmithing; E.T. Carson, dealer in timber, lumber and ties; McDowell & Farren threshing machine, corn shredder and sawmill; John M. Heid, sawmiller and manufacturer of the famous Heid Buckwheat Flour; Mix Bros., contractors and builders. Here is also located the Rush Branch M.E. Church. Benville is located on the county line, three miles east of Rush Branch (Hyde), and is surrounded by good farms and comfortable homes. E.H. Burton dispenses general merchandise and buys country produce; Ed Semon does general blacksmithing; Joseph Ralstin & Son are sawmillers and also operate a threshing machine, a corn shreder and a clover buller; U.E. Smith is a contractor and builder and also raises barns for other carpenters throughout the country. Bigger P.O. is three miles southeast of San Jacinto and is the home of many industrious farmers whose surroundings bespeak prosperity and happiness. John B. King is postmaster and general storekeeper; L.F. Giddings deals in timber; Robert Sullivan is agent for fertilizer; Benj. P.H. McIntire is thresherman and sawmiller. Our schools are second to none in the country; church and Sunday school facilities good, roads above the average, and when our 8.19 miles of pike now under contract are completed we will be able to travel in almost any kind of weather. With these surroundings and with the present prosperity, which we think will continue, we are a happy and contented people.
A SUBSCRIBER article was in the Republican-January 12, 1900
This information on Bigger Township has been gathered mostly from the book "Memories of Bigger Township" which is for sale at the Jennings County Historical Society and has many pictures of people and places in years gone by. I will do look ups in the book, if your family is from the area this book would be a good one to purchase. Sheila Kell