1882 COUNTIES OF 
LaGRANGE and NOBLE INDIANA HISTORICAL and BIOGRAPHICAL

Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882
 

EDEN TOWNSHIP
Part 2
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 almost impassable swamps running through the township from the north to south have prevented the building of many important roads. The Indians even left the swamps severely alone, and made wide detours to avoid them. Their trails, which were the first highways, ran from the northeast to the southwest through the Haw Patch, from Clearspring to Ligonier. These trails, of course, were only passable in places for walking or riding, 
and they were so snugly lined by sunflowers and stinging nettles, as high as a man's head, that travel was not at all pleasant. But the country about Haw Patch was so free from underbrush that roads were easily made. The first 
one was the Goshen Road, which wound without regard to anything but convenience and the shortest cut from Benton and Millersburg, south of Big Marsh to Salem, and up by the Latta Farm, passing north of the present
Sycamore Corners, and on to Clearspring and LaGrange. One of the earliest regularly established highways was the State road, laid out several years before 1840, from Perry Prairie to White Pigeon.

     In the spring of 1832, Benjamin Gale, William McConnell and Robert Latta viewed a road to run from 
the southwest corner of the county to Lima. This was afterward known as the Haw Patch road. These and later roads did not adhere to section lines at first, but have been since changed for that purpose.

     Life in Eden before 1840 was from all accounts less enjoyable than existence in the earlier Eden about the 
year one. The weeds seemed to defy the farmers; they choked the grain and covered everything. It is said that horses and cattle were often lost in them. As if the weeds were not enough, the birds were innumerable, and they flocked to the little wheat patches, making music all day long and helping themselves for reward. Between the 
weeds and the birds, "what shall the harvest be,"  was a serious question. But in a few years the condition was changed, the wheat acreage began to yield twenty bushels, and the corn as much as fifty bushels, and the crops 
on the Haw Patch since then have been wonderful. There was no mill in the township and the grist had to be 
taken to Dallas' Mill in Clearspring, to Steinberger's in Noble, or to Jonathan Wayland's and other mills 
near Benton, in Elkhart County. The journey with fifteen or twenty bushels of wheat to Benton from the Haw 
Patch would occupy one day, and the next day would be taken up in the return. The earliest trading was done in Goshen and Lima, except such as was done at home with the Indians, who were always anxious to exchange something for "shuma"-silver coin.

     The first birth in the county is believed to be Anna Mary Swartz, who was born about 1837. She was 
married to Jacob Collett and now lives in Iowa. A child was born to William Dempsey very early, which may contest  the claim; and Sophronia, daughter of Nehemiah Coldren, afterward the wife of  William Walker, of Lima, was at least one of the very earliest natives of Eden.

     In September, 1836, the County Commissioners selected the house of Obed Gaines as a voting place, and 
the first Presidential election in the township was held there in November, 1836. Norman Sessions was Inspector. There were fifteen to twenty votes cast, and of these the Democrats had a large majority. The 
township has usually had a Democratic majority of one or more ever since then, though during the life of the Whig
party it sometimes carried an election.

     The resident physicians who have practiced in the township have been Dr. John Brown, who lived near "Slabtown", and died  in 1851. Dr. Waller, of about the same period; Dr. Abner Lewis, who lived some time 
at Sycamore Corners and then moved to LaGrange and finally West, and for the last twenty years, Dr. John M. Denny, who has his office at the old Denny homestead on Section 35. The township, especially about the Haw Patch, has been healthy since the fever and the ague days of the first settlement. There have been seasons which were exceptions, however, notably the epidemic of erysipelas in 1850.

     A widely-spread gang of horse-thieves and general outlaws, in an early day, made the Haw Patch an unsafe and disagreeable place. To these marauders the Haw Patch was indebted for a reputation as a lawless locality, which it required many years to overcome. Horses would be taken and sent out of the county by regular lines,
along which the thieves and their harborers were permanently stationed. Finally, the reign of crime became 
unendurable. The citizens organized themselves in police associations and resolved to take the law into their own hands. The Regulators for Haw Patch and vicinity organized March 1, 1858, at the residence of Francis Ditman, in Clearspring, with the title of the Clearspring and Eden Detective Police. The President was Abner Lewis, and the Vice Presidents, Charles Roy, Francis Ditman, William Gibson and William Denny. John McDevitt was chosen Secretary and Hawley Peck, Treasurer. Then there occurred the great parade at Kendaville by the Regulator companies, when an immense crowd had gathered, and one of the criminals was seized and soon after hung near Diamond Lake, in Noble County, and his body taken back to his wife. The criminal class was awed by the determined spirit of the Regulators; arrests were speedily made, and in a very short time the country was quiet.
Since then, the feeling of peaceful security has been disturbed only during the era of tramps.

     The Latta family were Methodists and the McConnells Presbyterians, and this determined the 
denominational lines of the early efforts toward church organization. The first society to be organized was the Methodist, which had its meeting place at the residence of Robert Latta, Sr. James Latta, who had been for some years an itinerant preacher, and had settled in Perry Township, was the one who most frequently conducted
the meetings. Among the members of this pioneer church were, besides the Lattas, Samuel and John Curl; Laban Parks, wife and daughter; Elizabeth Ramsby; John Thompson and wife, and James Taylor. Rev.
S. R. Ball was Pastor in 1835, and Revs. Robertson, Boyd, Harrison, Posey and Allen, Dowd, Storex and Forbes, followed in very nearly the order given. In 1842, the society, aided by general contributions, built a frame meeting-house on Latta's land, called Eden Chapel. A graveyard was opened west of the old chapel about
this time, on an acre donated by Robert Latta. The first buried here was a child of Judge Stage. The grant of land was afterward enlarged to two and one-fourth acres. The old church was, after many years' service, torn down and a neat frame chapel, capable of seating about 300 persons, was erected on the west side of the churchyard, and dedicated in 1866. The building cost about $1,500. and was built by James Tumbleson. The churchyard is surrounded by a handsome wire fence, and the house and its surroundings kept in a manner which
is in itself an index to the wealth and refinement of the neighborhood. A camp-meeting was also held for many years at a grove on Mr. Latta's land, and largely at his expense. He was generous in support of religious enterprises. The church is at present included in the Wawaka Circuit and Rev. James Johnson is the preacher 
in charge. There are some fifty members enrolled.

     The Presbyterian Church was organized at the house of William McConnell, of which his family and Denny's, and the Cavens of Perry Township, were the earliest members. Rev. James B. Plumstead was the first minister, sometime before 1835. Rev. Christopher Cory also preached at this place in 1837 and 1838. The society was not long lived, and the members were gradually drawn into the congregations of Salem Church and Ligonier.

     The Baptist Church had a society, formerly meeting first at Sycamore Schoolhouse and then at Horner's. But since the death of Harvey Coldren, its most prominent member, the society has had very few meetings.

     A Methodist Episcopal society was organized west of the Marsh in the winter of 1842-43, and met at John Poyser's house. The early members were John Poyser, Thomas Elliott, Andrew Elliott, John McKibben
and Isaac Sparks and their families, and Susan and William H. Poyser. The membership was from Elkhart 
and LaGrange Counties. The congregation also met at the Eden Valley Schoolhouse, until their chapel was built in 1856. This building was erected by James Hart, and was, in dimensions, about 32x45. Rev. Lamb, of
Goshen, was one of the earliest preachers, and it was included in the Goshen Circuit. During the war, when feeling was very intense and persons were divided in opinion about where preachers should draw the dividing line between politics and patriotism, a split was made in the church, and a considerable number, including some of the Virginian settlers, organized a Lutheran Church. This new society built a brick church just over the line in
Clinton Township in 1877. The old meeting-house is still in use by the Methodists.

     The Amish Mennonite Church was organized in 1854 by German-speaking residents in the township. Before 1842, the settlement by members of this denomination had been begun by David Kurtz, John Hartzler, Isaac Hartzler and Gideon Yoder. Later comers were Isaac Smoker, in 1843, and David Hartzler, in 1845. About 1860, a frame church was erected south of the village, on the county line road, and here Bishop Isaac Smoker and Revs. Joseph Yoder and Joseph Kaufman were the earliest preachers. In 1870, this building was torn down and moved to Sycamore Corners, and a handsome brick church was erected, with a seating capacity of 300, at a cost of $2,000. The curch was dedicated by Rev. John F. Funk, of Elkhart. The district now includes all of the Haw Patch, and contains something over one hundred and thirty members. The present preachers in charge are Bishop Smoker who has now served in this church forty-two years, and Revs. Jonas Hartzler and George Buller. The Amish people are in greater numbers in the northern sections of Eden, owning, in fact, all the upper half of Eden, east of the West Fork of the Little Elkhart. In this part, the first Amish settlers were John Bontrager, Christian Miller, Sr., and Joseph Yoder, about 1844. Most of this territory is included in the Newbury District. The other leading German denomination, the German Baptists or Dunkers, is represented by a flourishing society, organized in 1866, with a present membership of about one hundred and fifty. The society
erected a commodious frame meeting-house at Haw Patch Village, in 1870. Rev. David Bare is the minister at this time.

     The first school taught in the township was in the winter of 1834, when Kensell Kent organized a school in a log cabin a half mile west of Denny's Corners, at which the few children in the neighborhood found instruction.
The big boys in those days were as unruly as in modern times, and a disturbance at one time arose in this school which compelled the attendance of a number of them at the court in Lima for several days. The first schoolhouse was a log building at Denny's Corners, where school was taught by Robinson Ramsby in 1836. Old Mr. Lucky, about 1837, also taught in this schoolhouse. It was a primitive affair; one end of the building was a fire-place; there was nothing in the way of a chimney but a hole in the roof, and the rest of the building, it seems, was the hearth. Pins were put in the logs of the wall, and slabs laid on these were the desks. The seats were 
made from slabs, and were, of course, without backs. Achsah Kent, now Mrs. Nathan Frink, was one of the earliest teachers here. After the log house, there was a frame built upon the same spot, which has been gone some twenty years, and the location of the house to take its place was on the east line of Section 26. A house was early built on the east line of Section 26, where school was kept for fifteen years. The site was then changed, and a 
brick house was built at the corners south in 1877, called the Haw Patch Schoolhouse. The Horner Schoolhouse, on Section 13, was built several years before the war, a rough frame, and was rebuilt about 1870.

     About 1840, the first schoolhouse was built over the marsh. It was a log house in Elkhart County,near the chapel. Here Thomas Short was one of the earliest teachers. In 1845, the Eden Valley Schoolhouse was built within the township on John Aker's land. A new house has since been erected. In the old house, Margaret Bean was one of the first teachers. Noble County has built two schoolhouses within the limits of Eden, attended
mostly by children of this township. The Sycamore School District, with the house in Clearspring, but including a portion of Eden, was organized in 1842, when Mahlon Hutchinson was one of the trustees. The district receives its name from a tall sycamore of the Haw Patch, which used to stand at the corner until it was mischievously girdled.

     From the latest school statistics it appears that the township has 288 children of  school age, 190 of whom are in attendance each day upon the schools. The length of  school is 142 days on an average. Nine teachers are employed at $1.55 and $1.39 per day. The revenue for the past year was $4,823.67, and the value of the school property is put at $5,890.

     An important movement in the direction of popular culture is the Sycamore Literary Society. This was started about seventeen years ago as a debating society at the schoolhouse. But in 1878, a wider field of usefulness was chosen, and a more permanent organization effected and a charter obtained. Ira Ford and J. N. Babcock conceived the idea of the society's obtaining a hall for its exclusive use, and the other members went into the 
project enthusiastically. The old Dunkard Church, then for sale, was bought, torn down, moved and rebuilt, in 1879, upon land at the "corners," donated by Orvin Kent. The building as refitted is 30x52 feet, and affords a good auditory for 350 persons, and contains a stage and scenery. To do this work, the society borrowed $500 and was aided by donations. The debt is being paid from the proceeds of entertainments. The society at 
present has over forty members. J. N. Babcock is President and E. E. Stutsman, Secretary.

     There are but few industries in the township besides farming and stockraising. But two permanent saw-mills 
and one grist-mill are in operation. The first saw-mill and grist-mill were built near the center of the township in 1854, by Benedict Miller. The flouring-mill had two run of stones and did a fair custom work, but both mills were long ago burned down.

     In 1877, John and Amos Schrock built a grist-mill with two run of stones, and a large saw-mill on Section 9,
at which a great deal of custom work has been done. The mills were sold in 1881 to Tobias Eash. The only business place in the township is Haw Patch Center or Haw Patch or "Slabtown," as it has been variously called. The most popular name for  some time has been Slabtown, which the saw-mill has the credit of giving the origin 
to. This point was early selected as a site for trading. William McConnell, the first Postmaster kept a small stock of goods near by at an early day. Timothy Hudson, Jr., kept a store on the Clearspring side of the street quite early,and also ran an ashery. The saw-mill, which is the most important part of Slabtown, was built by William 
and Timothy Hudson in 1856, and moved and rebuilt in 1874, by John Keim, who still runs it. About 1871, Jacob Crusen built a store in Slabtown, which was destroyed by fire two years later. John Keim then rebuilt upon the lot in 1877, and in this building a general store was kept by Samuel Holland for a short time, and, since he retired, Mr. Keim.

     In 1878, a building was erected by Thomas Trittapoo, in which another store has since been kept. John Peck, in 1877, made a substantial addition to the place by starting a well-equiped wagon and blacksmith shop. A large harness shop and fine brick residence were erected, in 1881, by J. Zook, on the Clearspring side, at the place of the old Hudson store.  These business places and the Dunkard Church are the only public buildings in 
the village. "Slabtown" has never had the distinction of being platted, but that is among the bright prospects of the future. The neighborhood expected speedy prosperity and a great impetus to the growth of the country when the Canada Southern Railroad extension was surveyed through here in 1872. There was talk of railroad shops being located here. Thomas H. Gale, of Michigan, purchased over a section of improved land at high figures, as a speculation, and the road seemed certain to come, but the panic of 1873 came instead, and there is now little 
hope of a railroad through the Haw Patch.

     During the dry season of 1871, at the time of the Chicago fire, there was considerable danger to buildings 
near the marsh, and great loss in way of fences and timber. About nine-tenths of the timber in the township was injured by the fires which swept over the swamp. Almost the entire marshes were burned over, and nothing but deep ditches, aided by persistent fighting of the fire, could check its course. That season of fire by night and 
clouds of smoke by day will long be remembered. But those few years, when the marshes needed some water, were exceptions. The great problem has been, generally, how to get rid of the surplus of water collected in these vast bogs. The first effort at drainage was the State ditch in the Big Marsh. Johnston Latta, at about the same time, a little before 1850, commenced the first private ditching, in the face of considerable discouragement from 
the neighbors, in the eastern branch of the swamp. The viewers and surveyors on these early ditches had a hard time of it in the trackless and bottomless bogs, and among the poison sumach. Since then, considerable attention has been paid to the drainage of the marshes, under the various laws of the State; and it has perhaps resulted in as much litigation as drainage. In fact, however, a great deal of land has been reclaimed. A larger ditch than has
ever yet been dug is being surveyed on the line of the old State ditch, and is to be paid by assessments.

     The Eden of to-day is happy and prosperous. Part of the land is yet uninviting, but it is nowhere so bad as in 
the "New Eden" Dickens settled Mark Tapley upon; a great portion of it is a beautiful garden, if not a paradise; at least, as near one as any spot in Hoosierdom. As for the people, they are intelligent, enterprising and cultured, and with a decided penchant for large farms and comfortable or even elegant homes, where a generous hospitality is always found.
 



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

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