1882 COUNTIES OF
LaGRANGE and NOBLE INDIANA HISTORICAL and BIOGRAPHICAL
Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882
By: R.H. Rerick
Eden Township-Physical Features-The First Settlers-Incidents
of Their Life In The Woods-
Erection of Mills,Stores,Etc.-Valuable Statistics-The "Haw Patch"-
Township Officials-The Growth of Education and Religion-
The Sycamore Literary Society
The southeastern quarter of Eden Township is
included in that broad area of fertile country which the early settlers
called the Haw Patch. About one Congressional township of land in LaGrange
and Noble Counties is embraced in this tract, which is distinguished throughout
by a rich soil, freedom from marshes, level, or very gently rolling surface,
and a perfect adaptability to successful agriculture. At the opening of
the country to settlement, it
was densely covered by beautiful forests, in which sugar maple and
black walnut were most abundant, and remarkably free from small growths,
except hawthorn and wild grapes. The abundance of the hawthorn was the
most striking peculiarity of the region, and gave rise to the name by which
it is so widely known. Now that the forests and the hawthorns have vanished,
the region has taken on another style of beauty, and is made doubly
attractive by spledidly kept farms and elegant residences, where every
comfort possible has taken the place of
the hardships of log-cabin days.
This is the Eden of the township. But to the
north and west lie the great marshes which are the sources of the two forks
of the Little Elkhart. These marshes furnish a great deal of hay, and are
the home of an abundance of game, but are, nevertheless, a dreary waste,
and it is likely irreclaimable for some time to come, at least.
Persistent efforts are being made to drain them, but the continual
drying of the country in general will probably prove to be the most efficient
aid in their improvement.
To the west of the Big Marsh lie a few sections
of good land, but with a soil which contains more clay than
that of the Haw Patch.
No lakes or streams of any value are found
within the township.
There is some dispute about the first settlement
of the township, but the here given is believed to be the
correct one. This is, that the Latta family were the first in
Eden. In 1830, Robert Latta, who lived near Urbana, Ohio, came to
Goshen to bring medicine and stores to his son, Johnston Latta,
who was then a practicing physician in that settlement. While at Goshen,
the elder Latta heard from surveyors who had been through LaGrange
County of the fine Haw Patch land, and he visisted it on his return, and
it seemed to justify all the
praise he had heard. He had a good farm in Ohio, under cultivation,
but he longed for new forests to conquer. Accordingly, in the spring of
1832, leaving his Ohio home, he came to the Haw Patch, with his wife and
daughter, Achsah. His log house was built on Section 26. In the
fall of the same year, William McConnel, of Ohio,
settled in Section 35, south of the Latta home, with his wife
and sons, James, Alexander, Thomas C. and William
A., and a daughter, Mary Ann, who was married November 17, 1835,
to Isaac Spencer. The
McConnells had a remarkable leaning for public affairs, and
since then there have been few matters of public interest in and about
the Haw Patch in which they did not have a prominent part. The other well-known
family which preceded them was not less public-spirited, and, as was very
natural, a rivalry soon arose. There were special reasons for this. Latta
was a whig, and McConnell a Democrat; the former was a Methodist,
the latter a
Presbyterian. The contest early showed itself in the purchase
of land, and the result was that each was the owner of about eighteen eighty
acre tracts, which was considerably more forest land then was profitable
in those days. Much of it was afterward given away. Eighty acres were given
as pay for one man's work for a year, and a job
of rail splitting was the consideration for another considerable piece
of land. In 1841, Dr.Johnston Latta
moved to the Haw Patch, giving up his practice, and lived upon the
old homestead until his death, in 1873, at the age of sixty-five. His widow,
Martha L., still lives here, adjoining the farm of her son, James
The McConnells, in later years, were more prominent in Noble
than LaGrange County history. They have now
no living representative of their name in the township. But the family
graveyard still receives, from time to time,
some descendant of the old pioneer. It is a suggestive fact that this
family burying place lies just across the road from the site established
for similar purposes by Robert Latta, and where he now rests. The
first burial in the former yard was of Thomas C. McConnell, who
died in 1836, at the age of twenty-six. Here, also, lie William McConnell,
who died at his home south of Eden Chapel, April 13, 1848, aged sixty-seven;
Agnes, his wife,
died in 1851, aged sixty-six; their sons, Alexander and William
A., and others of a later generation. The eldest son, James,
of considerable note in Noble County history, died at Albion, June 2, 1881.
In 1832, as near as can be ascertained, William Dempsey, of Ohio,
and his young wife, came to the township and lived on land in Section 35.
He died about thirteen years later. Early in the next year, Nehemiah
Coldren, another Ohio man, settled in Section 13, and in 1837 his brother,
Harvey, on the same section. Sibyl, the wife of Nehemiah,
in 1848, and he in 1871, at the age of seventy-one. Harvey Coldren
died seven years later.
There also came in the spring of this year,
Laban Parks, with his family, including an eight-year-old son, Harlan,
who recently died upon the old farm on Section 25. Before his settlement,
Laban Parks and Anthony Nelson had come over from Elkhart
Prairie, where Parks had been since 1830, and viewed this country
over before there were any marks of the presence of white men. Laban
Parks died in November, 1870. A few
months after Parks had settled, Anthony Nelson followed,
and built his log house a short distance west,
upon the Clearspring Township line. The first part of his house was
built in Eden, but an addition was soon made
in Clearspring. Kensell Kent, of New York, settled in 1833,
and was one of the early owners of the land on which Slabtown now flourishes.
He moved to Iowa, and died there in 1879. Reuben McKeever, of Virginia,
was living in 1833 on Section 27, but in later years emigrated to Iowa.
During this year or the next, Samuel Curl, of Ohio, a son-in-law
of Robert Latta, moved to the Haw Patch, and settled on Section
35, and his brother, John Curl, at the same time on Section 26.
Samuel Curl died in 1863, and John Curl and family removed
from the township. About 1834, Obed Gaines, of New York, built
his cabin, in which early elections took
place, a quarter of a mile north of Sycamore Corners, on the township
line, but was not long a resident. He was
the only settler who raised hope for sale. In October, 1834,
Mrs. Elizabeth Ramsby, a widow lady, with her
family, moved upon land in Section 27, where her son, John S. Ramsby,
now resides. Mrs. Ramsby died
upon the old homestead November 12, 1869, aged eighty years. John
S. Ramsby settled here in 1835, and besides being a wealthy farmer,
has become noted as an admirer of the chase. Deer and bears in the early
days, and foxes and coon of later years, furnished the sport. The marsh
has been an unfailing source of game. Bears of course have long since gone.
Thirty years ago, Mr. Ramsby captured three, but since then only
a straggler now and then has appeared. Deer were very numerous at the first
settlement, so much so as to be troublesome. The pretty animals had a great
fancy for pawing up the young wheat with their dainty hoofs, and meddling
with the husked corn before it was put away. But they soon vanished before
the hunter. Trapping in the marshes,
especially of the little animal of bad repute and valuable hide, coon
hunting, and following the hounds after
"Reynard", have been sources of much recreation and no little profit
since the first settlement of Eden. But to
return to the settlers.
On the 1st of October, 1835, John Thompson,
from Ohio, reached the land upon which he has since lived.
He bought his farm from Mark Cahoon, who had been upon the land
long enough to make a little clearing, and who, after marrying Ann Modie,
a member of another early family, in November, 1835, moved further west
after Mr. Thompson's arrival. The price paid for this land was
$4.37 per acre, a little below the average price of land partially improved.
Wild land was held at double the Goverment price. Mr. Thompson,
soon after his
arrival, was called upon to administer justice as Squire, and, besides
township offices, represented Noble and LaGrange Counties in the Lower
House in 1841. In those days, the people's law-makers had to make
journey to Indianapolis on horseback, and undergo great tribulations
on the road for the sake of legislative honors, at a salary of $3.00 per
day. Mr. Thompson was afterward (1856-60) a member of the State
Senate for two terms, and has always been prominent in political affairs.
James Taylor, another old settler, came with Mr. Thompson,
and entered land in Section 23, where he died in 1880. His widow still
lives upon the farm. William Parks, a brother of Laban, settled
on Section 27 in 1835, and joined in the emigration to Iowa about fifteen
years ago. Orvin Kent was at the Haw Patch in the spring of
1833, and bought land. He was here again in
1835, but did not settle permanently until 1847, after his marriage
in Ohio. He then built a home upon his land in Eden, at Sycamore Corners.
Mr. Kent has for a number of years lived in Clearspring, but his
two places of residence are upon the town line road. Mr. Kent has
always been interested in the welfare of the Haw Patch,
and has done much in aid of its social and material improvement.
The whole number of householders in Eden, in
the fall of 1835, was fifteen, and the men, women and children all told
In 1836, William Collett settled on
the Haw Patch. His son William C. Collett, was in later years prominently
identified with the Granger movement in Indiana. The other son, Jacob
Collett, married Anna May Swart, who has the distinction of
being the first born in the township. They removed to Iowa. In 1837, John
Denny, his wife Mary, and sons, settled on Section 35, where
Mrs. Denny yet resides, at the advanced age of eighty-four.
About this time, the settlement of the region
west of the marsh began. Robert McKibben settled here in
1836, but moved West in 1850; John and Andrew Funk in
1837; in 1838, David Carr, who moved to
Ligoneer and died there, and Thomas Short, who still resides
on Section 6. John Prough settled on Section 18
in 1842. In the same year, William H. Poyser and John Poyser
settled in this neighborhood, but the former removed to the Haw Patch eight
years later and now lives on Section 27. After 1835, the settlement of
township increased rapidly, and this department of the history will
not permit any extended notice of the later comers. It is mainly in the
first settlers that all feel an interest. Their comings and goings and
haps and mishaps are worthy of note, while similar occurences of to-day
concern few besides those who are immediately interested.
Eden Township was organized in November, 1832.
Its formation was the second division made in the county, being a subdivision
of Lima Township. But this township, as the order of the Commissioners
read, was to include "all that tract of territory south of Township 37
and west of the range line dividing Ranges 9 and 10;" that is, it
included the present townships of Eden and Clearspring and ran south of
Ligoneer. LaGrange County then included part of Noble. The election was
ordered to be held at the house of John Hostettler, who lived near
the county line, in Perry Township, on the first Monday of April, 1833,
for the purpose of electing two Justices of the Peace.
Who these first officers were cannot be said
from the records. Township records of that time have vanished
and the county records are silent. William McConnell, however,
is claimed to be the first Justice of the Peace. The earliest record to
be found of his official acts is of the marriage of Minerva Gaines
to Norman Sessions, February 8, 1835. John Thompson was elected
and served as Justice a short time after he settled here.
On the 7th of May, 1833, the Commissioners
made a further division of the territory, setting off that portion of Eden
south of the Elkhart River as Perry Township. At a later date, all the
Noble County territory was seperated. At the March term, 1837, Clearspring
Township was set off from Eden, and that date may be taken as the official
beginning of the township as it is now defined.
In 1845, the Town Clerk, Mr. John
Thompson, made an entry nunc protunc, and noted, as his apology,
that it got out of place in copying, for no books had been provided
by the Trustees, as required by the State,
"until the present time, March 1, 1845." Before this the proceedings
of the Trustees had been jotted down loosely, and all the notes made before
1842 were lost. On June 6, 1842, the records show the township was divided
into four road districts, with Anthony Nelson, William Swartz,
Silas Longcor and Andrew W. Martin as Supervisors. The elections
were ordered to be held at John Thompson's. The Trustees elected
in 1842 were Robert McKibben, James Taylor and Mahlon
Hutchison. John Thompson was elected Clerk and held the place
after this for four years. The Trustees were then paid $2.50 for their
year's services and the Clerk $2. In 1844, there were five road districts,
and a tax of 10 cents on the $100 was levied for township expenses. The
Trustees of this year were John Poyser, William Collett and
Luban Parks; and then followed, in 1845,
Thomas Fisher, W. H. Poyser, John Denny; 1846,
John Poyser, John Denny, William Collett. Thomas
Short was elected Clerk that spring, and served ten years. From 1847
to 1850, it seems that William Collett, Peter Prough and
Jacob D. Poyser held the trusteeship undisturbed. In 1850, Peter
Prough replaced by
William Swartz. John Poyser, William Swartz and
John McDevitt were elected in 1852. At the November election of
this year, the polls were located, by ballot, at the Denny Schoolhouse.
For 1853-54, the Trustees
were John D. Stansbury, John Thompson and James Taylor.
At this time, the school fund received from the Auditor amounted to $356.70.
In 1854, J. D. Stansbury, William H. Poyser and David
Sutton were Trustees; 1855, J. D. Stansbury, Harlan Parks,
Hiram I. Parks; 1856, Harlan and H. I. Parks and E.
Gerber; 1857, H. I. Parks, John Poyser, James
Tumbleson; 1858, H. I. Parks, William Walker,
Nehemiah Coldren. Orvin Kent was Clerk this year. This
was the last triumvirate in the trusteeship. Since then one man at a time
has been found able to take care of the township business. D. B. Carr
held the office in 1859 and the succession has been: James Mearl,
S. S. Keim, 1865; John L. Short, 1866; John W. Lutz,
1869; Milton Rowe, 1874, William Roderick, 1878; W. L.
Sipe, 1880. The Justices of the Peace since 1840, when
records begin, have been: Leonard Wolf, 1840-45; Anthony
Nelson, 1841; John Poyser, 1845-50, 1850-52, 1855-63, 1872-76.
(John Poyser is emphatically the Squire of Eden.) William T.
James Tumbleson, 1847-50, 1852-56, 1870-74; Peter Prough,
1866-70; Jacob Crusen, 1873-77; John J. Arnold, 1876-80;
Isaiah Immell, 1878-82; Samuel Stutzman, 1881.
In the year 1880, at the time of taking the
census, and according to the returns, there were then residents of
the township the following persons who had reached the age of seventy-five
or over: J. J. Bontrager, seventy-five; Mary Denny, eighty-three;
Leah Morrill, seventy-five; John Thompson,seventy-seven.
Volunteer transcription by Pati Blowers May. Material for transcription
gathered by Barbara Henderson.
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