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 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.
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
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,
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
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,
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,
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
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
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,
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,
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
Clinton Township in 1877. The old meeting-house is still in use by
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.
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
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
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
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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