Search billions of records on


Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882

Town of LaGrange
Part 1

By John Paul Jones

Town of LaGrange-(Part 1) First Plat-Early Residents-The County Seat Question-Appearance Of 
The Village Thirty-Eight Years Ago-(Part 2) Former Mercantile Establishments-Gradual Growth 
and Developement-Industrial Enterprises-(Part 3) Secret Societies-Present Business Occupations-
(Part 4) Outline Sketch of Religious and Educational Interests-Cemetery.

               The location of the town of LaGrange, in the geographical center of the county, would seem to indicate that it's projectors were men of shrewd forethought, who had in view the possibility of its becoming, at no distant day, the most eligible point for the location of the county seat, as in the early days of the county the strife and efforts put forth by the citizens of different localities to secure that coveted prize and distinction, were not unlike the 
record in that respect of most other counties. The tract of land comprising the original town site was purchased of 
the United States by entry, at the Government Land Office, in Fort Wayne, in the year 1835, by George F. Whitaker and Theodore Craft. Joshua T. Hobbs subsequently purchased an interest, and thus became one of the proprietors of the town site. It is situated in the south half of Section 19, and was platted on the 18th day of 
June, 1836, by Reuben J. Dawson, William F. Beavers, George F. Whittaker and James McConnell, none of whom are now living. Mr. Dawson resided in DeKalb County, Ind., and represented his county and that of Steuben in the State Senate in 1850, and was afterward Judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit. He took an active and prominent part in politics, and was a Presidential Elector on the Democratic ticket in 1856. Mr. Whittaker was a merchant at Lima. Mr. Beavers resided in the southern part of the county, and was for several years County Surveyor. James McConnell, the last survivor of these original proprietors, died at Albion in 1881. He was a resident of Eden Township, and was, at an early day, one of the County Commisioners. The original town was laid off into lots 66x132 feet, with a public square, 132x2801/2 feet, streets 66 feet in width, and alleys 16 1/2 feet 
wide, crossing each other at right angles; the names of the streets being Mountain, High Detroit, Poplar, Walnut, Sycamore and Canal, running north and south; Lake, Steuben, Factory, Michigan, Spring, Lafayette and Wayne, running east and west. Detroit became the principal business street, and still retains that prestige. The original proprietors donated several lots to the county, the present site of the courthouse being a portion of the gift, which was originally the public square. The terms of the grant were as follows: 

     "The public grounds designed for and donated to the county from the time of the commencement of the use of 
the same for the purposes of holding courts and transaction of other judicial business thereon, and to continue the property of said county of LaGrange as long as the same shall be occupied as aforesaid, after which it shall revert 
to the original proprietors.
     "The proprietors hereby reserve to themselves the right to divert the stream of water which passes through the town, to any place not to exceed one-fourth of a mile from its natural channel, for the use of mills and other machinery."

     The town site was covered with heavy forest trees and a thick undergrowth of prickly ash, interspersed with briers and shrubbery. The ground was burned over the first year, which was the means of destroying the undergrowth; the large timber was cut down and the inhabitants of the new town would generally engage in the 
work of clearing and burning the brush, old and young joining in the work at convenient spells, some in one part
and some in another, and often continuing until midnight. This afforded amusement and recreation, instead of 
croquet and such other fashionable diversions of the present day. Shadrack Carney, now a resident of Clay Township, claims to have felled the first tree in preparing to clear off the public square. That work was done by contract with the commissioners, who unfortunately required all the trees to be cut down, thereby depriving
the public of the benefit of the fine shade which this primeval forest would have rendered. A portion of the public square and grounds extending to the south and east for some considerable distance was wet and swampy. A stranger, to travel over the solid ground that now exists instead of the mire, could hardly realize that such could 
ever have been the condition. Removing the primitive growth and filling with other soil has wrought the change.

     Isaac P. Grannis and Thomas Clark built the first two dwelling houses; they were constructed of logs, one of which was used as a boarding house for the accomodation of Mr. Grannis, who was one of the sub-contractors and workmen on the court house. The other was occupied by the Clark family, who were of a migratory disposition, fond of hunting and fishing, and who, after a few years, removed to the Far West, where they 
expected to find game more plentiful. The first frame building was a storehouse erected by William Wigton, on 
the northeast corner of Detroit and Spring streets, opposite the southeast corner of the courthouse square. This structure served as a general resort for nearly two years. It was occupied by  C. B. Holmes, who kept a general store, consisting of dry goods, groceries, hardware and an assortment of such goods as was in demand in those
early times. Here, also, was the post office, which Mr. Holmes was instrumental in causing to be established, and who officiated as the first Postmaster. Some idea of the magnitude of the business transacted in handling the mails 
at this office for the first quarter may be formed through the receipts for that period, which amounted to the munificent sum of $1.08, quite in contrast with the receipts for the quarter ending September 30, 1881, which
showed an aggregate of $644.42. Mr. Holmes seems to have been almost indispensable to the community, for about this time he was elected to the office of the Justice of the Peace for Bloomfield Township. At the period of commencement of the growth of the town, the country was but little else than a vast wilderness, though settlements had been formed to some extent in various localities in the surrounding country, and additions were constantly
being made. Yet the farms that had been cleared for cultivation were but mere openings in the vast sea of forest 
trees that covered the surrounding territory, and game of a great variety was to be found in the immediate vicinity.
So plentiful were deer, that it is related that Ans Clark, who prided himself upon his expertness with the rifle, killed, in one day, seven of these animals, and so close to the town that every shot could have been heard at the public square. But a change was to come over the place in the new order of things.


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

On to Part 2

Return to 1882 History Index

Return to Home Page

Graphics from-