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Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882


By: R.H. Rerick

Clearspring Township- Introductory-Topography-Early Appearance of the Country-The Coming
   of the Pioneer-The Settler's Home-Rollings and Raisings-Industrial
   Development-Incidents and Statistics-The Teacher and the Preacher.

     In the beginning of this century, the beautiful country now covered with fertile farms and meadows and woodland, which is called Clearspring, was a  terra incognita to the white man. The Indians alone roamed through its unbroken forests, hunting the game and refreshing themselves at the springs that made this locality so attractive. The country presented no peculiar advantages to the farmer, as a whole, though in the southwest there lay the eastern part of that broad and extremely fertile opening, called the Haw Patch. The remainder of the thirty-six 
miles was a rolling country, covered by forests of beech, oak and maple, which were to be felled before the 
fertile soil would yield its riches to the patient pioneer. Cleraspring and Eden were at first one township, and their fitness for such a union was shown by the first settlement. The best lands in each township lie near the line seperating them, and this fact invited settlement about the Haw Patch, while the swamps to the east and west 
kept those sections backward in their development. The first settler in Clearspring was not bound down by sectional lines. He rose above township limitations. His log-house, at least, was raised precisely upon the town 
line, and he could bid defiance, as it was jocosely remarked after the division of the towns, to the constabulary of either. Anthony Nelson, this first settler, came into Indiana from Ohio in 1829, and located first in Elkhart 
County, and then came to this township and entered two eighty-acre lots in 1831, which he occupied the next 
year, and has ever since lived upon. Mr. Nelson is now eighty-five years of age. One of the next comers was 
Dr. David Rogers, who was in the township in 1833, from Wayne County, N.Y., and entered 1,280 acres of
land in this township and Eden, as a speculator. He spent much time in the township, however, and for the last fifteen or eighteen years of his life resided here almost continually, collecting herbs and roots for medicine, and attending to a considerable practice as a physician. He also made a business of selling extracts, essences, etc., in the East, and traveled a great deal for that purpose. He collected his simples in all parts of the East, as well as 
here. He was a man of many eccentricities, and a real "naturalist." He would often spend the summer in a cave or 
in a slight shed, preferring to have nothing more artificial between him and the canopy of heaven. His house, a sort of adobe contrivance, was on his land in Section 22, but he lived much of the time with his neighbor, Erastus Nelson. Dr. Rogers died in 1871, and was buried on a little hill near his home, overlooking the Haw Patch road, where there is a fine shaft of marble bearing the inscription: "Dr. David Rogers, born June 2, 1786, died February 24, 1874, aged eighty-five years eight months and twenty-two days. He was the friend of the invalid,
and gave medicine without money and without price."

     He left a will dated March 7, 1868, by which he bequeathed the remainder of his lands lying in this county, consisting of eighty acres in Clearspring and one hundred and sixty in Eden "to the Commisioners of the county of LaGrange and their successors in office forever, in trust forever, for the use and benefit of the orphan poor, and 
for other destitute persons of said county."

     Norman Sessions settled on Section 27 in 1834. He was married to Minerva Gaines, of Eden, by Justice William McConnell, February 8, 1835. This was the first marriage in the township. His first child was, it is thought, the first born in the township, and also the first one to die. It was buried in a lot then donated (1837), by Elisha Pixley, for a burying ground. Mr. Sessions himself died at the age of thirty-two, in March, 1841.

     In 1834, John Sprout settled at first with Anthony Nelson upon the line, but afterward moved upon Section 19, where he died in 1878. Nathan Bishop of North Carolina, sometimes called the first settler, came April 12, 1834, with his young son Robert, and nephew, Robert H., and entered upon land in Section 22. Nathan Bishop, a Free-Will Baptist, was the first preacher in the township. He held services at his home for many years, and organized a society which met there, but gradually died out. In addition to this work, Mr. Bishop preached 
at various places throughout the town. He died March 3, 1850. His eldest son Robert, who was born in 1799,
still lives on the old farm. In the early days he was the only blacksmith in the town, and, with his father, built and worked the first tannery in that vicinity. James Gordon, a son-in-law of Nathan Bishop, came with him and had the honor of sowing the first wheat in Clearspring, on Section 28, and of being the first mason. Amos Newhouse, with his son John, settled on Section 32, in the spring of 1835, and began clearing the large farm, which he occupied until his death in 1875. He was a native of Virginia, and is remembered as a quiet and industrious man.
A half mile from Mr. Newhouse's estate lies the farm upon the county line, which John S. Gibson, after living at the Haw Patch a short time, occupied in the same year, and at this date still lives to enjoy.

     Elijah Pixley was another settler of 1835, from Union County, Ind., and began here his farming life upon Section 28, where he lived until his death in 1874. Upon his land were located the first schoolhouse, the first burying ground and the first church in the township. His sons Edward and James Pixley have since been 
residents of Clearspring. The year 1836 was the time of increased immigration, and many of the best citizens coming that year were able, at the time of the Centennial celebration of the nation, to commemorate the
fortieth anniversary of their settlement. Among these was Charles Roy, who came with his family upon his land 
in Section 22, near the center of the township, on the 20th of June. Mr. Roy has always been an energetic man, and has made valuable improvements. He was the first to raise fruit to any great extent, and early had a nursery 
of 700 trees, and an orchard of ten acres. He was also one of the first to raise mint and distill the oil, and came
to do an extensive business in this line. Simeon Crosby came from New York and settled in the west half of Section 34, but died in 1839, three years after his arrival. A daughter, Sarah Crosby, was one of the first 
married in the township, then a part of Eden, being married to John Hubbard, September 12, 1836, by Rev. James Latta.

     Nicholas Lowe and wife came from Maryland and settled on Section 29, where he came to possess 300 
acres of land upon which he and his son, Rev. Thomas H. Lowe, now reside. Ernestus Schermerhorn, of Syracuse, N. Y., was in the township at this time, and bought land in the northeast, but did not settle until 1839.
He died forty years later, February 8, 1876. Willard Hervey came in this year, at first to the home of Simeon Crosby, whose daughter he married in 1839. This lady, when Miss Sebrina Crosby, had taught school in
Amassa Durand's house, north of LaGrange. It is told of her, as an instance of what the pioneer girls had to endure, that at one time, when living at home, and her father dangerously ill and without any remedy or doctor 
near, she walked through the forests the whole distance to Lima, about fifteen miles, to bring Dr. Jewett, the nearest physician. Most of the journey, an Indian trail was the only road, and at one point she had to cross Buck Creek, which was swollen with floods, and only partially bridged with logs. But she pulled off her shoes, and jumping from log to log, made the passage safely and brought the doctor to her father. In 1836, October 3, William Dallas, of Ohio, settled in Section 26, on the present land of Norton Kinnison. He had with him his sister and fourteen motherless children, of whom, Samuel, Lorenzo, George, Joseph and Levi are now well-to-do citizens of the township. His home was near the Elkhart River, near where it emerges from a group of lakes, of which the most eastern lie partly in the township. These four bodies of water, the largest of which
is called Dallas Lake, are the only ones in Clearspring, and occupy but about three hundred acres. Mr. Dallas at once began to utilize the water-power of the river, and in 1837 built a grist-mill near his home. This was a considerable undertaking for a man in his circumstances, and in such a remote place. But his perseverance carried it through, and it was soon completed and ready to grind the grists of the few farmers for miles around. Before this 
time the wheat had been carried to Goshen, Ontario or Van Buren. "Uncle Billy's corncracker," as it was called, was of a very primitive and simple construction. The building, built of  whitewood logs, was so low that the man who put the grain in the hopper had to make a humble passage beneath the rafters. There were  no castings about the mill; all was wood except the mill-stones, and of these there were but one pair, and the millstone shaft, a flat 
bar of iron. A bolt only was necessary and that was soon supplied, but there were no cog-wheels or belting, and consequently this had to be revolved at first by hand, a process which required a good deal of muscle. Sometimes the patrons of the mill were called on to assist in this operation. The mill had a capacity for grinding about fifty 
bushels in twenty-four hours, but never was called on for such an extraordinary business. To this mill men came with their grain from the whole neighborhood (and neighborhoods were large in those days) in ox carts, on horseback, afoot or in canoes. It was an accommodating institution, run by one of the most accomodating men 
that ever blessed a new community with his presence.

     Three or four years later, Mr. Dallas built a saw-mill near by, which, after his death, was run by Van Kirk until the dam broke, about 1851. "Uncle Billy" Dallas, as he was familiarly called, died many years ago (in 1847), but his many virtues still live in the memory of the old settlers.

     Others, who came in 1836, are James Haviland,who built the first barn; Henderson Potts, the first disciple of Crispin; N. P. Osborn and David Ray.

     We have named those who were here by 1836, and, by common consent, are called the "old settlers"- at least the earliest settlers. Among them, however, should be included Hawley Peck, born in Connecticut in 1810, who bought eighty acres in Clearspring in 1836 but did not come until 1838, when he concluded to settle here, and bought 160 acres more, and in 1844 commenced improvements upon it. He has done much for the advancement of the township, and his large family of sons and daughters (now grown to manhood and womanhood) are among the best people of the county. Charles S. Sperling, now eighty-nine years of age, the oldest man in the township, settled, in 1843, upon Section 4.

     After 1836, the immigration proceeded rapidly, and the many settlers since then we cannot name except as 
they were connected with the events of the general history of the township.

     As the tide of population came in, the price of land rose, and the low price of $1.25 that the Government 
asked was increased to $3 or $4 in 1836 and to $8 or $10 two years later. With this change, the price of 
products decreased; but in the earliest years the contrast with the present was not very marked. Wheat then was worth $1 per bushel; corn, 50 cents; oats, 37 cents; butter, 37 1/2 cents; soft soap, 37 cents per gallon; hogs, 
$10 to $14; cows, $30.

     The Indians were removed before 1840 and the white men left in undisturbed possession. The Pottawatomies were, however, not in any way troublesome to the pioneers. There were a great many of them in the township, especially in the south, where they had a camping ground on a high ridge, now known as the "Hogback."  They were agriculturalists in a small way, and raised corn on low ground near the ridge. But they were very 
conservative in their farming. One year a party of them planted corn on the farm of Anthony Nelson and were very much opposed to his plowing and harrowing the ground; but, when he came to mark out the patch in rows, their disgust was unbounded. The chief Kookoosh, however, was wise enough to respect the pale face's little eccentricities in farming and kept his men at work, and they succeeded in raising a very good crop. Another old chief was one of those few red men who justify the poet's account of  "Lo, the poor Indian!" He seemed to see "God in the clouds and hear him in the wind," and at every meal, before he would partake of any food, he would invoke the blessing of the Great Spirit. The Indians were always ready for a trade with the pioneers, and would exchange venison, cranberries, moccasins and trinkets for vegetables and whatever the white men had to 
spare. A famous spring on the farm of Charles Roy, known as Clearspring, whence the township derived its name, was a great resort for the Indians, and there were many other springs, such as Indian Spring, south of the first named, which their trails passed.

     In March,1837, the Commissioners set off from Eden Township the territory now known as Clearspring, and ordered an election at Elijah Pixley's, on the first Monday of April. In accordance with this, some fifteen or twenty voters met at the appointed place, and proceeded to vote for township officers. The records cannot be found, and, consequently, a full list is impossible, but it is believed that the first Trustees were Ernestus
Schermerhorn, Willard Hervey and Elijah Pixley, and the first Justices, William F. Beavers and Norman Sessions. N. P. Osborn was chosen Clerk, and received $3 for his year's service. The Trustees were paid 
$2.25 each for the first year. Beavers was soon after, June 23, married to Mary J. Cummins, of this township.

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

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