Among the farmers of Johnson county, Indiana, who believe in following twentieth-century methods is John Wesley Ditmars, of the vicinity of Franklin township. He comes of a splendid family, one that has always been strong for right living and industrious habits, for education and morality, and for all that contributes to the welfare of the commonwealth. Such people are welcomed in any community, for they are empire builders and as such have pushed the frontier of civilization ever westward and onward, leaving the green, wide-reaching wilderness and the far-stretching plains populous with contented people and beautiful with green fields; they have constituted that sterling horde which caused the great Bishop Whipple to write the memorable line, “Westward the course of empire takes its way.” John Wesley Ditmars, than whom there is no more successful or enterprising agriculturist in Johnson county, and who is the owner of a fine farm in Franklin township, was born September 5, 1852, in this township, and is the son of Cornelius L. and Caroline ( Banta ) Ditmars. Cornelius L. Ditmars was born July 17, 1825, in Somerset county, New Jersey, and is the son of Garrett and Sarah ( Verbryck ) Ditmars, also natives of that state, Garrett being the son of Peter Ditmars; Sarah Verbryck Ditmars was the daughter of Major William Verbryck, a veteran of the Revolutionary war. The family emigrated from New Jersey to Warren county, Ohio, in 1830 and in 1836 came to Johnson county, Indiana, where Garrett bought a tract of land on which the timber had been partially cut and a log cabin built. Because of the fact that Cornelius Ditmars was compelled to go to work at an early age he was deprived of very much early education, his only schooling being gained at a subscription school taught in a log cabin by an indifferent teacher and with the most primitive equipment. In 1846, about the time he attained his legal majority. Cornelius Ditmars was hired by George King for a year at nine dollars a month, but a few months later began working on the construction of a pike road at seventy-five cents a day, and later went to work in a saw-mill at eighteen dollars a month. He and his brother, Peter, bought eighty acres of land with their savings and planted it to wheat. They were successful and continued to make money for a few seasons. The next year Peter moved onto a farm of his own and Cornelius worked for his brother, William. A little later Peter married and was given one hundred and sixty acres of land by his father-in-law, and Cornelius went to work for Captain Banta, with whom he worked early and late, giving most faithful service to his employer. In 1850 he married the daughter of Captain Banta. For seven years he managed the latter’s big farm, the Captain having moved to Franklin. In 1866 Cornelius Ditmars bought one hundred and sixty acres of the present home farm and moved onto it two years later and has resided there ever since. He has been very successful in his agricultural labors and has added to his acreage from time to time, one of his farms being managed by the subject of this sketch, John W., and another is now owned by William S. Cornelius Ditmars’ first wife died, leaving four children, namely: John W., Belle, William S., and Emmeline, who died at the age of four years. For his second wife Cornelius Ditmars married Catherine Alexander, who died shortly after her marriage, leaving one child, Olive D., now Mrs. Dungan, who lives in the Hurricane neighborhood. For his third wife Mr. Ditmars married Mrs. Jennie Graham Voris, who is still living. In politics Mr. Ditmars is a staunch Republican and has always taken an active interest in political matters. His church relationships are with the Hopewell Presbyterian church. Of his children, William S. is the father of two, Carter C., who is married, and Jane, who married a Mr. Denning, one child being born to the latter union. To Belle ( Ditmars ) McCaslin have been born two children, Herbert and Caroline.

The subject of this sketch attended the district schools and Hopewell Academy and Hanover College, thus obtaining a fair practical education. When twenty-five years old he married and settled on his present farm, to which he has given his undivided attention. In 1877 he erected a fine farm residence, modern in all its departments, and remodeled the house in 1907. The farm also contains good, substantial and commodious barns and other buildings such as are needed on an up-to-date farm. The buildings are all attractive in general appearance and the residence is surrounded by splendid shade and fruit trees, presenting a very inviting prospect. Mr. Ditmars is the owner of sixty-three acres and also farms two hundred and twenty acres of his father’s land, thus comprising nearly three hundred acres of land. He has planted eighty acres to corn, fifty-three acres to wheat and sixty-three acres to clover and hay. He handles from eighty to one hundred hogs annually, feeding a fine herd of Jerseys and also gives some attention to cattle, buying and feeding from fifty to sixty head annually. He has found the handling of live stock a very profitable department of farm work and is considered an excellent judge of all kinds of live stock. Politically, Mr. Ditmars is a Republican, serving efficiently as a member of the township advisory board. Religiously, he is a member of the First Presbyterian church at Franklin, while his fraternal membership is with the Free and Accepted Masons, in the workings of which order he takes a deep interest.

In 1877, John W. Ditmars married Harriett Ong, the daughter of Oliver Ong. She died in 1881 and in 1887 Mr. Ditmars married Etta Graham, and to them have been born two children, Marie, and Edith, who is the wife of Iliff Brown, a successful farmer in Shelby county, this state, and they have one child, Iliff I. Mr. Ditmars has long had the best interests of this locality at heart and has sought to advance them in whatever way possible. His career has been characterized by untiring energy, uncompromising fidelity and an earnest desire to advance himself in his chosen vocation. He is quick of perception, forms his plans readily and executes them with alacrity, at the same time winning and retaining the high esteem of all with whom he comes into contact by the honorable course which he has pursued.

Branigin, Elba L. History of Johnson County, Indiana. Indianapolis, IN: B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc., 1913, pp 712-714.

Transcribed by Lois Johnson