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Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882


By: Weston A. Goodspeed

Greenfield Township- The First Settlement on Pretty and English Prairies-The Gage and Langdon War-Appearance of Industries-Villagers of Vistula and Lexington-The First School and Teacher-Educational Growth-Revival of 1840-Religious Societies-The Spiritualists 

     It is said that John Anderson built the first frame house in the township in 1833; his frame barn was erected 
the following year. Mr. Wolgamot probably built the second frame dwelling. It is said that Hiram Anderson, whose birth occured in the fall of 1830, was the first white child born in the township. Samuel Bradford, the present County Clerk, was born in Greenfield in April, 1832. He claims to be the oldest male person living whose 
birth occured in LaGrange County. Some dispute has arisen over this mooted question, and the old ladies should immediately proceed to settle the discussion by public announcements from official sources. The first marriage in Greenfield was that of Samuel Gawthorp to Ellen D. Wolgamot in the fall of 1830. They were married by Samuel Stewart, Esq.,who lived just across the line in Michigan. Not long afterward, Mrs. Gawthorp died, her death being the first. The following persons had passed, in 1880, the age of seventy-five years: Mary Blaseus, seventy-six; Cyrus Fillmore, seventy-eight; James Pollock, seventy-nine; Jane Scripture, eighty; John 
Troyer, seventy-five; Caroline H. Wheeler, seventy-five; Brewster Barrows, seventy-five; Laura Fillmore, seventy-six; Ruhama Taylor, eighty-two; William Wheeler, seventy-nine. Benjamin Reed has reached the 
age of seventy-four years.

     Late in the autumn of 1830, the squatters living near Lexington took possession of a vacant log cabin that was standing a short distance southwest of the village, fitted it up with desks and seats, and employed Miss Jane M. Clark (afterward Mrs. Judge Prentiss) to teach a three-months' term, paying her $2 per week, and giving her the doubtfully enjoyable privilege of boarding around. This worthy lady, who is yet living, said her enrollment of scholars was about sixty. The school is remembered as an excellent one. Miss Clark also taught in the same house the succeeding summer. The cabin was thus used until about the year 1836 or 1837, when a large frame schoolhouse was erected in the village, the greater portion of the expense being borne by members of the "Community of Saints." The building was divided into two rooms, and was to be occupied by all religious
denominations. This school immediately became (with the exception of the one in Ontario) the best in the county. From 1838 to 1845, the enrollment was over 100. Two teachers were employed, or as some say three, and the school was graded. Daniel Graham afterward the President of Hillsdale College, was one of the teachers. Good wages were paid, and none but good teachers were employed. After 1845, the school began to decline in importance. The frame house was used until about 1854, when it was displaced by another frame, which was 
used until the present brick was erected about eleven years ago. It is said that George Green was the first 
teacher in the first frame schoolhouse. Other teachers in the same house were William Hopkins, Mrs. 
Catherine McKinney and John Wylie. Hiram Smith, of Mongo, taught in the old log house, as did a young minister named Merrell. A log schoolhouse, or rather a vacated log dwelling, near the residence of William Anderson, was devoted to the uses of education as early as 1839. It was displaced a few years later by a frame house located at Mr. Anderson's orchard. This was used until about twenty-four years ago, when the large district was divided, and two houses were built. One of these is yet standing. The other was destroyed by fire, and a better one has taken its place. In 1836, a log schoolhouse was built near the cemetery, at what was then known as Gale's Corners. This was perhaps the first real school building in the township. The house was well attended 
for many years, good teachers being employed. Families living on the southern half of Pretty Prairie sent their children to this house. During the winter of 1836-37, Otis Shepardson, Jr., taught a term in a vacant dwelling, located near Samuel Parham's orchard, the house having been abandoned by a Mr. Switzer. The following families sent to him: Norton, Littlefield, Smith, Miller, Howard, Waite and others. In about the year 1838,
a frame schoolhouse was built at the northern extremity of Pretty Prairie, the first teacher being Willis R. Jervis. This neighborhood soon had an excellent school. After the old house had been used many years, the district was divided in spite of bitter opposition on the part of some, and two houses were built, both being used until five or 
six years ago, when each district was supplied with a fine brick structure. The township was at first (about the 
year 1833) divided into two school districts; but the dividing line is not remembered. In 1837, another district was added, and a little later still another. School was taught as early as 1840 in a vacated dwelling near the residence 
of Benjamin Reed, the house being used for a number of years. Finally, in 1845, the "Scripture Schoolhouse" 
was erected. A little later another house was built farther east on the same road. The first schoolhouse in the northeastern part was built in about the year 1840. It has been succeeded by several others. The house two miles west of it was built later.

     In 1840, a great revival was held at the Pretty Prairie Schoolhouse by Rev. Messrs. Posey and Lewis L. Allen, ministers of the M.E. denomination. A few meetings had been held before, but no excitement was created nor class formed. The revival began, Rev. Posey preaching in the morning and Rev. Allen in the evening.
Sinners were stubborn and defiant, and, for a time, it was hard work for the ministers. At last two men living in 
the neighborhood, who had stubbornly resisted the overtures of mercy, were taken violently sick and both died within a few days of each other, one declaring on his death-bed that he was going to hell and the other that he expected to reach heaven, blessing his family in the moment of parting and advising them to seek salvation. The 
two ministers, Posey and Allen, were present to comfort the dying men with the consolations of religion. The circumstances connected with the death of the two men produced a profound sensation in the neighborhood, of which the ministers immediately took advantage. The result was the most successful revival ever held in the township. Some sixty were converted and seventy-five joined the society that was then organized. Meetings were held in the schoolhouse until 1856, when the frame church was built at a cost of about $800. Rev. Posey was 
the first minister in charge, Rev. Enoch Holstock the second, Gehiel Hart the third. The church was built by subscription, the location depending upon the greatest amount subscribed. Those east of the church gave the 
most, and selected the spot where the church now stands. The society has not since been as strong as it was at first. Only a portion of the time has Sunday school been conducted.

     The Presbyterians commenced building a frame church at Gale's Corners in 1837, but did not finish until the following year. Rev. Christopher Cory, an excellent man and an earnest Christian, who made himself known for miles through the backwoods, organized the society with the following membership: Orrin Howard, Aaron Cary, Aaron Thompson, Jonathan Upson, Amasa Norton, wife and daughter, Osias Littlefield, Ansel Dickinson,
Jacob Vandeventer, Samuel Brown and family, and others. Good work was done by the society, but it 
became so weak, in about 1853, that it finally agreed to turn the house over to the use of other Christian denominations and have it moved to Lexington. This was at last done. The Methodists obtained such a control of 
it, after a time, that a law-suit resulted; but they lost the judgement, and the house is devoted to the same uses as before the suit. The Spiritualists have occupied it, under protest of the more orthodox denominations.

     The "Community of Saints," under the leadership of Rev. Samuel Bradford, held meetings in the 
schoolhouse at Lexington for a series of years. Mr. Bradford was a man of great personal magnetism, with 
noble ideas of life and its duties, and with an incorruptible integrity of purpose that gave a serious feature to everything he did. His meetings were always well attended. His death, in 1844, ended the life of a truly great man. His society died with him. The Congregational Brethren have a small class in the village at present. Some six or eight years ago, the Amish built a small frame church in the northwestern part, at a cost of about $900. A small society gathers there to worship.

     In about 1850, Elder Jacob Berkey organized a German Baptist society in the neighborhood southwest of Lexington. Meetings were held at residences and schoolhouses until about ten years ago (1872), when a large frame church was erected, at a cost of $2,500, the building being completed a year later. The society first started with about forty members and was then scattered over a territory that has since been divided into four society districts. In 1863, the organization comprised about one hundred members. Elder Berkey remained Pastor until about 1860, when Elder George Long succeeded him, continuing nine years, at the end of which time the 
society, for a few years, was without a regular Elder, though Rev. Peter Long was in charge. Elder David M. Truby assumed the pastorate in 1874, remaining until 1880, when the present minister, Elder Peter Long,
succeeded him. The present membership is about 144. A Sunday school was conducted three years, beginning some five years ago. Short lived societies of other religious denominations have been organized in the township.

     There are many Spiritualists in Greenfield. The subject was first developed, in about 1850, by the celebrated Fox sisters, of near Rochester, N.Y., and others, who announced to the world that the spirits of the departed could be communicated with through "mediums." The success of their operations soon became known in Greenfield, and many were convinced of the truth of their pretensions. Gossip was indulged in, until finally a 
medium from abroad came into the neighborhood and gave a public exhibition of the truth of his opinions. Many were converted to the new faith and, although no written creed was adopted, yet a society was partially formed, and "circles" met regularly at residences and schoolhouses. Several interesting "mediums" were soon discovered 
in the neighborhood. Mrs. (Barr) Hopkins proved to be a "divining medium." Others were "rapping" or 
"writting" or "healing mediums." The Barrs, the Hopkinses, the Gillums, the Herns and others were prominent 
in the new organization. They finally began to meet in the church at Lexington, which had been intended for any religious denomination; but they met considerable opposition, though they were successful in having their right to the church established. They then held rousing meetings in the church, securing persons from abroad well qualified to present their faith, practically and theoretically, to large audiences. Many converts were thus gained. It is only within the last few years that the early interest has declined.

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

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