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Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882


By: John Paul Jones

Bloomfield Township- Physical Description - Natural Resources - First Entry of Land -
Names of Early Settlers - Life in the Backwoods - Wild Game - Mills, Stores, Blacksmith
Shops, Etc.- Villages - Organization of the Township - First Officers - Educational and
Religious Interests.

    At the May term of the Board of Commissioners, in the year 1835, an order was made creating a new civil township, comprising Congressional Township 37 north, of Range 10 east, to be called Bloomfield, and attaching Congressional Township 36, lying on the south, for judicial purposes. This provisional condition relating to the 
latter township continued until 1837, when a seperation was made, by the erection of Township 36 into a distinct civil organization called Johnson; this left Bloomfield independent as a township, lying east of and along the central line of the county, running north and south, and about one mile north of the center. It is bounded on the north by Lima and Greenfield Townships, on the east by Springfield, south by Johnson, and west by Clay. The physical features of Bloomfield present no very striking characteristics; however, it's surface is somewhat diversified, and, in common with other portions of the county, it has, along it's water courses and near it's lakes, considerable marsh. The southern portion, and extending into the central part, is quite rolling, and in some places hills of some elevation present themselves. The north part of the township is level, and of a sandy though productive soil. The most considerable stream that crosses its territory is Pigeon River, entering the township from the east, near the northeast corner, with its general course westerly across Sections 1 and 2, then to the northwest, passing out about one mile east of the center; it has several, though quite small, tributaries, joining it as it passes across this township, which serve to drain the surplus waters in the vicinity. Fly Creek is a tributary of Pigeon River, but is independent so far as it bears relation to this township. It has several branches that largely form the natural drainage system of the township, and the two main streams have been, since the early settlement, of great importance, not only to this township but to considerable of the surrounding country, by affording excellent water privileges, which have been improved and utilized for driving machinery, principally for saw and grist-mills, but in some instances for other purposes. Fly Creek and it's branches run to the north, forming a junction into one stream in Section 8, and
passing through Section 5, across the north line of the township, and emptying into Pigeon River in Lima Township, just northwest of Ontario. There are three bodies of water, wholly or in part within the township, of sufficient magnitude to entitle them to be classed as lakes; these are Fish Lake, Sloan Lake and Cline Lake, the two former
being in the southeastern part. These lakes are the resort, in the proper season, for those in quest of piscatorial sport, as they have within their waters a goodly supply of fish. The lands of Bloomfield were surveyed in July, 1831, by George W. Harrison, Deputy Surveyor, and soon after thrown open to settlement; they were principally covered with a dense forest, consisting largely of oak, beech, hickory, ash, elm and walnut; but the richness of the virgin soil was soon detected by the experienced eye of the venturesome pioneer, and the advantage of securing a land-holding within its borders was appreciated, as shown by the rapidity with which purchases were made, the greater portion being entered in the years 1834-35 and '36. The first tract purchased from the United States was entered at the Goverment Land Office in Fort Wayne, March 13, 1833 by Hugh R. Hunter, being the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 1, and now owned by Pitt Cook and Noah C. Fair. Only two persons in the township have the distinction of owning and still residing upon the land originally entered by them; of these Jacob Tidrick is by far the earliest. November 5, 1835, he purchased of the United States the southwest quarter of Section 7, where he now lives in the enjoyment of his possessions, the title to which would not be difficult to trace. Hezekiah Hoard, though purchasing later, forms one of the twain; in 1851, he secured from the State the northwest quarter of Section16, it being a part of the land donated by the General Goverment for school purposes; this tract he still owns and forms a portion of the well-cultivated farm on which he lives. John D. and Manley Richards entered the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 13, twenty-five acres of which is still owned by Manley Richards. The first white settler in the township was,  probably David Hanson, who came in 1833, and settled on the north-east quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 26.

    In the beginning of the year 1836, there were but thirty families resident within the limits of Bloomfield. These were Caleb Jewett, Hart Hazen, a Mr.Townsend, Peter L. Mason, Amasa Durand, Ira Hays, Almon Lawrence, Curtis Harding, Palmer Grannis, Jacob D. Groves, Rev.Thomas B.Connolly, Joseph Welch, George D., Samuel and Daniel Carl, George Cooper, William Hern, Sr., William Hern, Jr., Moses J. Hill, Moses Newell Hill, Washington Adams, Elihu Champlin, Solomon Scidmore, Alanson N. Dewey, Levi Green, John Davidson, Joseph Davidson, Joseph Richards, Selah P. Benham and Thomas Newell. None of these are now living in the township; thirteen died here, and the others moved away, some to the Far West; the widows of three of them, however, are still residents here, Mrs.Harding, Mrs.Davidson and Mrs.Durand,  now Mrs.McClaskey. This locality received the most of its immigration- as did the greater portion of the county- from the States of New York and Ohio, and a few from Virginia and Maryland. Among the earlier settlers, and those coming in prior to the year 1844, besides those already given,  may be mentioned  Zopher L. Scidmore, who was elected Sheriff of the county in 1854, and performed the duties of the office in a satisfactory manner; Norman Weir. Elijah W.Weir, Andrew Kilbury, Moses Marvin, Aaron Hill, Ivory Crandall, James D. and John R. Crandall and a Mr. Green, who located in the eastern part of the township; John Y.Clark, Christian Roop, and his sons Joseph and Benjamin, the Parkers, William and Hiram Jacobs, the Mattoons, in the central and southern part; Joseph Richards, Jacob Hoagland, Jacob Tidrick, Francis M. Price and John Preston in the northern part; Daniel Sargent, Ira Church, Joseph and Jacob Mills and Reuben Hays in the southern part. George Holmes, Alexander Holmes, John M. and William Wigton, in the town of LaGrange.

    The coming in of each family meant the erection of a cabin and another opening in the forest by the felling of the timber for a clearing, and a preparation for crops. These clearings for the first year or two were usually limited to an acre or so planted to corn and vegetables with perhaps a patch of oats and wheat. To be successful in those days in raising grain and "garden truck" required eternal vigilance to protect them from the depredations of the wild turkey, deer, raccoon, squirrel and other pestiferous animals with which this county in the early day was fairly swarming. However, these, though pests in this respect, served a valuable purpose in affording almost the entire supply of meat to the settlers. In common with the experience of all frontiersmen in the settlement of a new
country, the early settler here was subjected to many hardships and privations, and ofttimes the most heroic fortitude was required to overcome the seeming insurmountable obstacles. The products from the little patch of ground in the clearing, and the game that was brought down by the unerring rifle, afforded subsistence for the family. The spinning-wheel and loom supplied the cloth for clothing and household purposes, save, however
where the prepared deerskin and the furs from the fur-bearing animals were utilized. Luxuries were obtained at great cost, and many times at no small sacrifice. Groceries and the commonest kinds of merchandise were in those days catalogued as luxuries, only to be indulged in in the most sparing manner. Trading posts were miles away through dense woods, without road or perhaps trail. Danger was upon all sides; wild beasts were prowling
around, maddened by hunger; impassable swamps impeded progress, unbridged streams were almost insurmountable barriers, and only to be crossed- except by fording- with the possibility of the faithful horse and its rider being carried down by the rushing waters. The Indians, though generally friendly and harmless in this locality, were not always to be trusted, and to be intercepted by them was attended with an uncertainty as to results. The
traveler without guide, and perhaps compass, was liable to lose his way and be overtaken by darkness; these and many others were the surroundings to be taken into consideration when about to start upon a journey. In those days, the nearest trading-point of any considerable importance was Fort Wayne, Toledo, Hillsdale or Michigan City. To these points grain was hauled for marketing under the most trying circumstances, and at prices so insignificant the farmer to-day would not consider it sufficient remuneration for the mere transportation to market over the best of roads. Yet, with all of these impedements to be surmounted, there was real and unalloyed happiness to be found in the pioneer's cabin. In those primitive days, their wants were of the simplest kind and in keeping with their surroundings. Society was upon a common level; the only passport to a membership was good character; even the want of this was not always taken into consideration. For the young man or the young woman to go to church barefoot was no disgrace; for whole families to eat, sleep and live in one room was the rule, and to be in the enjoyment of more than that was the exception. The influx of settlers necessitated home industries, and a
demand for milling facilities was among the first and the most important. In all communities, and upon all occassions, there are those, prompted partly by gain and partly by an accommodating spirit, who are ready to supply the wants. Saw-mills in various parts of the township were built at an early time. The first of these was put up by Daniel Harding in the year 1835, in Section 17, and though a rude affair was a great convenience to this advance guard of civilization. The Van Kirk Mill was built quite early on the farm now owned by Christian Miller, a short distance south of LaGrange; it was erected by Peter Prough, now a resident of Clay Township. Among others were Newton's Mill, built by Otis Newton, of Lima Township; Green's Mill, now owned by Jonathan Dorsey; and Hill's, all on Fly Creek, on the old Fort Wayne road.

    Ira W. Brown built the first steam saw-mill, on his farm, about three miles east of LaGrange, and Jeremiah Outcalt the second, a short distance south of Brown's; these are still in operation. Whilst these mills have been a great convenience to the community, and a source of profit in most cases to their owners, the effect of their existence is plainly manifest by the denudation of the land of the best timber afforded by the magnificent forest trees that once covered the township surface.

    Other callings of a lesser nature were prosecuted to meet the growing wants of the neighborhoods, and here, as elsewhere, the tastes of the people were not altogether agricultural. Some had learned trades before coming, others being handy at almost anything to which they might turn their efforts. They usually gave attention to such
occupation as would offer the best remuneration, and subserve the interests of those about them. David Hanson, the first settler in the township, was the first to manufacture brick, not only in the township, but in the county. Joseph Welch was the first cabinet-maker and undertaker, thus providing for the convenience and comfort of the living and the recent burial of the dead. Contemporaneous with the early saw-mills was Levi Green, the first
carpenter; and before the development of "bog iron" as an industry in other parts of the county came John Hardy, who operated at the forge as the first blacksmith. Caleb Jewett was the first shoemaker to provide for the wants of the barefooted denizens in his time. Moses J. Hill, as a physician, is said to have been the first administrater professionally for the sick.

    New communities, as well as old require a civil organization and officers to execute the behests of the sovereign people and conserve the peace. Bloomfield having been organized into a civil township, an election was ordered to be held at the house of  Moses J. Hill, on the first Saturday in June, 1835,  for the purpose of electing a Justice of the Peace. Mr.Hill was appointed inspector of said election, and was also elected as said Justice. A division of the township was made into two road districts. All the territory west of the middle line of Range 10 comprised the first, and all east of said line comprised the second district. William Hern was appointed Supervisor. The first general election for the township was held April 3, 1837, at the house of Abel Mattoon, on the southeast quarter of Section 21. Solomon Scidmore, John Davidson and Horace Bartine constituted the election board. Jacob D. Grove was elected Justice of the Peace; George D. Carl, Constable; William Hern, Jr., Inspector of Elections; E. W. Weir and Daniel Carl, Overseers of the Poor; Joseph Davidson and Alanson N. Dewey, fence-viewers; John Davidson, Hiram Babcock and Marvin J. Hill, Supervisors. The young people in the primitive years of the township, in some essential particulars, were not unlike those of later times. Whilst in those days the young men and women were not constantly being "mashed" on each other at first sight, as expressed in the modern vulgar vernacular, yet there were genuine love affairs; and the courting, though from the very nature of the surroundings conducted under difficulties, was earnest and with a proper purpose in view - that of marriage and a prospective home, where each could be a source of aid and comfort to the other. Among the first legitimate results of these mutual admiration scenes in the township was the marriage of Moses N. Hill and Nancy Martin, January 28, 1832, by Luther Newton, one of the Associate Judges of the county; Washington Adams to Miss Laura Hill, who were united by S. Robinson, a Justice of the Peace, at Lima, August 9, 1832. The license for the marriage was issued on the 18th of the same month, and was the first issued after the organization of the county; Elijah W. Weir and Amy Hern, by Rev. T. B. Connelly, May 16, 1836.

    [In May, of the year 1836, William C. Tillman, proprietor, employed a surveyor,  and laid out twenty-four blocks of Twenty-four lots each, and nine blocks of twelve lots each, on the north half of Section 1, Bloomfield Township, and named the village thus founded Burlington. The proprietor was something of a speculator, at least he was a shrewd man, for, it is said, he had a large, beautifully colored plat of his village made, showing that it was
located on the bank of the Pigeon River, which was represented on the plat as being of sufficient size to be navigable by the largest vessels. Armed with this map, and loaded to the muzzle with glowing metaphors in praise of his village, Mr.Tillman went East, and there exhibited the plan of his western town, and succeeded in selling lots (corner ones) to some six or eight families, and inducing them to move West to the village.When these families reached what their imaginations and the promises of Mr.Tillman had pictured as a fine growing village, they found the site to be in a swampy place, and half of the lots covered with water. The disappointment and dismay were complete. Not an effort, with one exception, was made to colonize the place, but all left for some other locality. One man made arrangements to build a house, obtained some lumber, and perhaps got the frame up, but soon abandoned the attempt, and the prospective Burlington was left to the sole habitation of the snakes, birds and batrachians._ED.]

    The village of Bloomfield, now more generally known as "Hill's Corners," is in the eastern part of the township, on the old Fort Wayne road, and was platted on the southeast quarter of Section 23, by Moses J. Hill and Ivory Crandall, September 14, 1836. It bid fair for a time to become a flourishing town, and was a rival for the location of the county seat; but not succeeding in that, and the railroad having been located through LaGrange, it failed to meet the expectations of its projectors, and still remains but a mere hamlet.

    The church interests of the township have principally centered in LaGrange, the several denominations maintaining organizations there affording more satisfactory opportunity for the people in the country to worship according to their belief than could be secured in any other way. In the early days of the settlement of the country, itinerant preachers of various denominations visited the township and dispensed the gospel at the cabins of the pioneers in the good old-fashioned way, when people cared less for the style and more for the benefits derived than at the present day. Some attempts to maintain church societies have been made in the township, but with little permanent success. In 1835, the Rev. Thomas B. Connelly, of the Methodist Church, organized what was called
the Bethel Church in his neighborhood, in the east part of the township, with seven members- himself and  wife, Jacob D. Groves and wife, Joseph Welch and wife, and Mary Groves. In 1852, this society built the Bethel Chapel, which was constructed of hewed logs, which was used by them for a place of worship until it fell into disuse for church purposes. Mr.Connelly was a native of Maryland, and came to this county in 1835, settling on a farm about four miles east of LaGrange. He was described, by one who knew him well, as the embodiment of goodness, and as having "preached more sermons and visited more sick persons than all the other ministers combined."  The school opportunities of Bloomfield Township are on a par with those throughout the county, and varying in no essential particular from the regular district school system. The first schoolhouse in the township was built of logs in the spring of 1838, on the southeast corner of Section 23. The school was taught the ensuing summer by Miss Almira Crandall, now the wife of Ebenezer Hill, and living in the township near Hill's Corners. Malcolm Burnett taught the school the winter following. Among the earlier teachers in the township were Rev. T. B. Connelly, John Rhodes, R. C. Blackman, Miss Griffith and Miss Weir. The number of schoolhouses and schools now in the township, exclusive of the town of LaGrange, is nine; pupils enrolled, 169 males and 150 females. The school buildings are generally neat and commodious, and are furnished with school furniture and apparatus of the modern style, the schools generally being conducted in a satisfactory manner. 

Volunteer transcription by Pati Blowers May. Material for transcription gathered by Barbara Henderson.

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