1882 COUNTIES OF 
LaGRANGE and NOBLE INDIANA HISTORICAL and BIOGRAPHICAL

Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882
 

EDEN TOWNSHIP
Part 1
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 Norman Latta.
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, died 
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 the 
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 numbered seventy-two.

     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 the
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. B.
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. McConnell, 1845-47; 
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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