Search billions of records on


Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882

Part 1

By:Weston A. Goodspeed.*
    *Portion of the facts were compiled by John P. Jones, J. C. Kinney and others.
       Lima Township-The Pioneers-Catalogue of Early Settlers-The Red Race-First Land 
   Purchased in LaGrange County-Interesting Incidents-Founding of Lima
   Village-Outline of its Growth-Manufacturing Interests-Village of Ontario-
   Its Industries and Developments-The Lima Seminary-The LaGrange 
  Collegiate Institute-First School in the County-Education and Religion

     Lima Township justly enjoys the distinction of having been the site of the first white settlement in LaGrange County. Benjamin Blair, Nathan Fowler, Jason Thurston, William Thrall and Jonathan Gardner located within the limits of the township prior to the spring of 1829, and it is quite certain that the first three were residents of the township in 1828. Benjamin Blair, who moved from Ohio to Southern Michigan in about August,1828,did
not remove to Lima Township until November or December of the same year. During the interval he selected his land, now the Craig farm, a mile west of Lima Village, and erected thereon a small log cabin. At the time his family moved into this unpretentious domocile, the families of Nathan Fowler and Jason Thurston were already occupying a small log dwelling situated on the north side of Crooked Creek, and almost directly north of Lima.
Both families, though small, were occupying one small room - the only room in the dwelling. To render the situation more trying at the time the Blairs appeared, a small child of the Thurston family died, and its corpse was lying in the cabin when the Blairs first occupied their new home. This was, unquestionably, the first death in the township. In 1829, there came, among others, Moses and Ica Rice, William Gardner, Arthur Burrows and very likely several others. Among the earliest were Lemuel Fobes, John Hewett, John Kromer, Thomas Gale, John Gardner, Miles Bristol, Mr.Horning, Mr.Sinclair, Nathaniel Callahan, Frederick Hamilton, T.R. Wallace, David Smith, Daniel Fox, Almon Lawrence, Micajah Harding, Moses Price, Andrew Newhouse, Clark Classon, William Leverick, Daniel Davis, Lewis Switzer, William Adair, John Adams, John and Asa Olney, Nathan Jenks, John B. Howe, Christopher Cary, George Egnew, Oliver Classon, Nehemiah Coldren, Luther Newton, Elisha H. Shepard, Matthew Hall, Joshua T. Hobbs, Samuel P. Williams, John Jewett, Andrew Crawford, David Jewett, Cornilius Gilmore, Nathan Corwin, Robert
Breckenridge, Stephen Corwin, George Latterar, William McCoy, Lorenzo Bull, Benjamin Corder, John C. Kinney, Robert Hamilton, William Hamilton, Jacob Sidener, Michael Riley, Jonathan Stephens,    Sylvanus Halsey, E. A. Brown, Abbott Fleming, John Trask, Sydney Keith, John G. Lewis, Peter Miller, Samuel A. Howard, Jesse Ingraham, Hiram Harding, Enoch Layton, Joseph Leverage, Augustus Hewins, Seth Tucker, William Whitney, JohnTaylor, Thomas Lock, Ralph Herbert, Merriam Fox, Joseph Keir, William A. Mills, C. K. Shepard, Emilius Bartholomew, Richard Ferry, Joseph Kerr, T. J. Spaulding, L. P. Hutchinson, Jeremiah C. Robble, Isaac Wallace, William T. Codding, Robert B. Minturn and Dickinson Miller. Some of these men did not reside in the township except, perhaps, for a short time.
     It is a matter of regret that the names of  all the earliest settlers cannot be given. No one seems to have had either time or inclination to keep a record of early events, and the familiar proverb, "What is everybody's business is nobody's business," is thus verified. For an indefinite period preceeding the occupation of the county by the whites, the site of the village of Lima was a well-populated and widely known Indian village. Here large numbers of Pottawatomies had congregated for many years, as was shown by the well-cultivated garden near by, and the large number of deeply-worn trails which seemed to center from all directions upon "Mongoquinong," as a local point. Not withstanding the ravaging effects of time, some of these trails may yet be seen in the vicinity of Lima; and 
where the village now stands, especially the northwestern part, the corn-hills hoed up by  the Indians more than half a century ago are yet easily traced. The old settlers say that, growing from the sand in the western part of the village was quite a large orchid that had been planted either by the Indians or the French traders, or (who shall say not?) "Johnny Appleseed." The trees, though seedlings, furnished, in some cases, excellent fruit. From reliable authority, it is certain that Mongoquinong Village contained an Indian population of several thousand before the white race had entered Northern Indiana or Southern Michigan. While, so far as known, the French traders erected no store building at the village, nor perhaps established no constant trading-point there, yet it is certain that the French were often there with Indian trinkets and supplies, strapped in packs on the backs of ponies. These traders were accustomed to travel from village to village, remaining several days at each point, where their goods were displayed in some rented wigwam, and sold or traded for all kinds of valuable furs. As the Indian's standard of the measure of values differed essentially from that of the trader's, and that of the latter was in all cases used, it is not to be wondered that the red men were fleeced to an almost unlimited extent. As the settlers began to appear in Northern Indiana, the Indians began to scatter and retire, until, in 1828, perhaps no more than about thirty wigwams were standing at Mongoquinong. Even these had been removed somewhat farther west, and scattered for some distance along Pigeon River; in truth, the place scarcely looked like an Indian village. The large population seemed to have been parceled out among the number of lesser chiefs, and to have been thrown out upon their own resources, as small bands were to be found every few miles, on every stream. Mrs. (Blair) Eno says that her father, Benjamin Blair, during a portion of the year 1829, permitted Ica Rice to sell whiskey to the Indians in the cabin of the former. One day a very thirsty Indian pledged his blanket for a drink of whiskey. The blanket was thrown for safe keeping upon the roof of the cabin, but after a few hours it had mysteriously disappeared. The Indian had undoubtedly taken it, and thus succeeded in getting his liquor for nothing. To make good the loss, Mr. Rice poured two or  three pailfuls of water in the barrel. This was the beginning of quite an extensive barter with the Pottawatomies at the village. The trade was carried on through the years 1830 and 1831, in a small building that had been built for the purpose. Mr. Rice sold whiskey, blankets, beads, tobacco, powder and lead, or exchanged them for furs. The Indians were peaceable, except when inflamed with passion while under the influence of whisky. An Indian one day became so incensed at  Mr. Rice that he raised his rifle and fired at him, but luckily missed the mark. They were consummate beggars, and were often extremely skillful in their efforts to secure coveted articles from the whites. They would quietly enter cabins without warning or invitation, seat themselves usually on the floor and light their pipes. In cold weather, they were often permitted to roll themselves in their blankets and sleep upon the floor by the fire until morning. Sometimes the floor was covered with them. Many interesting incidents might be narrated if space permitted. No serious out-break ever occurred, though an occassional knock-down would take place. At the time of the Blackhawk war in 1832, the Indians were somewhat excited; but this was owing to the possibility of their being drawn into the fray, not against the whites, but against the Sacs and Foxes. In about the year 1839, the Indians were removed, and were not after-ward seen at Lima, except an occassional straggler who had sorrowfully returned to view for the last time the happy home of his youth.
     The following were the only tracts of land in the county entered during the year 1831, all in the present Lima Township:

  Name                      Sec.        Twp.        Range          Location          Acres          Date                 Pat. #
William Gardner         24           38               9                   N.E.1/4            160            March 31              568
Robert Hamilton        13           38               9               N.1/2S.E.1/4         80             March 31              569
Same                            13           38               9               E.1/2N.E.1/4         80             March 31              570
Daniel Fox                   13           38               9               S.1/2S.E.1/4         80              March 31             571
Same                            36           38               9               W.1/2N.W.1/4     80              March 31              572
Benjamin Blair            25           38              9                N.W.1/4             160              April 29               649
Frances Blair              26           38              9                E.1/2N.E.1/4         80              May 7                  658
Frederick Hamilton    25            38             9                W.1/2N.E.1/4        80              May 7                  659
William Thrall             25           38             9                 E.1/2N.E.1/4          80              May 16               665
William Thrall  and
John Gardner           } 24            38             9                 S.E.1/4                 160              May 28               720
John Gardner              28            38             9                W.1/2N.W.1/4      80               May 28                721
Nathaniel Callahan     17            38             9                W.1/2S.W.1/4       80               June 13                921
Asa Olney                    18            38             9                 E.1/2S.W.1/4        80               June 13                922
Ami Lawrence             18           38             9                 E.1/2S.E.1/4           80               June 13                923
Obadiah Lawrence       18           38             9                 W.1/2S.W.1/4        80              June 13                924
John Cook                   17           38             9                 E.1/2S.W.1/4          80              June 23                 934
Richard Smart             17           38             9                 W.1/2S.E.1/4          80              June 23                 935
John Olney                  19           38             9                 E.1/2N.W.1/4          80             June 27                 940
Peter Prough and
Jacob Sidener             12           38             9        {fraction'l Section}     100.30          Oct. 10                  1065

     "At the session of the Board of Commissioners of the county,commencing May 14, 1832, it was ordered that the county be divided into two townships, all the territory west of the center line of Range 10 to constitute a township known as Lima, and all of the territory east of such line to be known by the name of Greenfield. BenjaminBlair was appointed Assessor for Lima Township. At the same session an election for township officers was ordered held on the second Saturday in June of the same year. Lemuel Fobes was appointed Inspector of the election. Micajah Harding, Sr., and William Adair were appointed Overseers of the Poor; Andrew Crawford and John Jewett, Fence Viewers; Clark Clossen and Andrew Crawford, Constables. The township was divided into four Supervisor districts in January, 1833. Daniel Harding, William Thrall, Arthur Burrows and John Jewett were appointed Supervisors. As the other townships were created, Lima was gradually cut down to its present size and shape." *J.P.Jones 

     Thomas Gale and George Egnew each had a store in the township before goods were sold in the village of  Lima, except by the Rices. As the establishment of the Rices could scarcely be called a store, these were the first two in the township. Both men kept a few notions and groceries and a small stock of dry goods. How long Mr. Egnew continued is not remembered, but Mr. Gale, some time during the year 1833, removed his stock to what 
is now Lima. He increased his goods until they were probably worth $1,500. This was the first well-patronized store in the township. In October, 1834, the village of  Mongoquinong (now Lima) was laid out by John Kromer, Surveyor, and Moses and Ica Rice, proprietors. Lots to the number of 286 were laid out, and eighty-four of these were given to the county in consideration of having the county seat located there. A public square was donated, as were also two acres in the southern part for a cemetery. In April, 1836, Samuel P. Williams, who was destined to figure prominently in the affairs of Lima, laid out an addition to the village on the north. He laid out twenty-four blocks of ten lots each, two blocks of sixteen lots each, and three blocks of eighteen lots each, and also donated a block for a public park or square. The growth of Lima between 1832 and 1838 was very rapid, and it even continued to grow and thrive until the county seat was removed to LaGrange, and various branches of business had sprung into life there. As soon as the county seat was established at Lima, lawyers and constables and judges began to appear. John B. Howe, one of the clearest and most profound thinkers ever in Northen Indiana, appeared in 1833, and began the practice of law. Old settlers tell the writer that John B. Howe had no equal at the Lima bar in early years for lucid, cogent and logical argument. In the presentation of a legal proposition, no matter how intricate and baffling, he could make the simplest auditor understand him. If any doubts existed as to his unusual ability in this particular, they would at once be removed by the perusal of his publications on the subject of that blindest and most complex of all questions -- finance. There is not a superior thinker in the county.
     The presence of such men at Lima could not but result in benefit and general prosperity. This will more clearly appear as the reader continues. Among the men who have sold goods of various kinds in Lima, have been in nearly the following order: Ica Rice, Thomas Gale, Jonathan Woodruff, George Egnew, Seth Tucker, Jonathan Stevens, Gale & Woodruff, John Cook, Woodruff & Kellogg, Albert Powell, Nathan Merriman, Elias
S. Swan, Gale & Williams, Delavin Martin, Harrington Bros., King & DePuy, William M. Holmes, Mr. Case, Kinney & Powell, Richard M. Fury, H. W. Wood, Hobbs & Gardner, S. M. Cutler, JohnTrask, Powell & Haskins, Hill & Morrison, Nichols & Smith, Woodruff & Morse, Morrison & Beecher, Jewett & (somebody), Mr.Kane, Joseph Wright, J. R. Kirby, H. J. Hall, Mr. McBride, Mr. Wicker, Barber & Wolcott, Durand & Shepardson, Jewett & Rawles, Rawles & Hull, A. Atwater, Mr. Searing, Mr. Shoop, A. W. Beecher, Cooper & Thompson, Stephen Cooper and others. One of the best (if not the best) stores ever in Lima, was kept by Gale & Williams, and afterward by Samuel P. Williams. It was opened in the spring of 1837 with a general stock valued at $20,000. The goods were purchased in New York, shipped by the Erie Canal to Buffalo, transported by vessel to Michigan City, and then hauled in wagons to Lima, the freight bill alone amounting to $3,000. In 1839, Mr. Williams purchased his partner's interest and continued the business on a gigantic scale until 1853, when he sold out to Jewett & Rawles. Owing to the scarcity of money in early 
years, sales were usually a sort of barter, and from this fact merchants were compelled to take certain kinds of produce for their goods. Mr. Williams took large quantities of pork, wheat, butter, eggs, etc., shipping the same by wagon to Eastern markets. Live hogs were bought, butchered and salted during the winter months. Running accounts were opened with all the settlers whose credit was good, and a large proportion of the pay was taken in
the products of the farm. Merchants usually went East twice a year for their goods, and necessarily had to buy at one time enough to last them six months. Mr. Williams at one time bought nearly $25,000  worth of goods. It is impossible to tell all the hardships met by the settlers owing to the lack of money. They often came with the most pitiful stories to the merchants in hope that the later would assist them. Merchants made their calculations to lose a certain percent of their sales. Lima was the center of a trade extending over a tract of country fifty or more miles in diameter. One day, Philander Isbell, of Noble County, a young man who had married but a few months before, came to Mr.Williams, told him in confidence that he had no money, nor property that could be readily converted into money, stated soberly that he expected an increase in the family soon, and must have a few necessary articles for the prospective mother and child. Becoming satisfied that the young man had told him the truth, Mr. Williams gave him what he wanted, to the amount of about $10. A year or two later the supplies were paid for, and nothing further was heard of the affair, until a short time ago, when Mr. Isbell, who is yet living, related the circumstances to Mr. Williams, and said that it was the greatest favor he ever received from anyone. Thousands of instances, showing the trials of early years, might be mentioned. The other early merchants of Lima had an experience similar to that of Mr. Williams. Delavin Martin had about $12,000 worth of goods, and several others owned nearly as much. In 1829, Moses Rice erected a small log dwelling in the southern part of what is now Lima. This was the first. Arthur Burrows was licensed to keep a tavern in 1833, it being the first in Mongoquinong, as Lima was then called. Mr J. P. Jones says the name was changed by special act of the Legislature in 1833 or 1834. Court was held in the houses of  Thomas Gale, Arthur Burrows, Moses Rice, Mr. McNeal, David St. Clair and perhaps others. The land upon which the village stands was held jointly by the Rices and Jonathan Gardner, and was purchased of the Goverment August 29, 1832. Not more than eight or ten families resided in the village in 1832, but within  four years the population had reached over two hundred, and in 1840 was probably about three hundred and fifty. The population probably at no time reached 450. Nathan Merriman opened a tavern in 1835. The old court house was used as a tavern after 1844, for a time, by Dr. F. F. Jewett; it was finally destroyed by fire. Henry W. Wood and Warren Lee kept the Lima House where the Kingsbury House now stands; it was burned, as were all the buildings on the east side. The loss was about $10,000. The present block on the east side was erected in 1860, by Samuel P. Williams, John B. Howe, Samuel Burrows and G. J. Spaulding, at a cost of some $18,000. Howe and Williams built the Kingsbury House at the same time, at a cost of about $8,000. Mr. Crandall conducted this house before it was purchased by M. Kingsbury. Among the Postmasters have been Thomas Gale, George Egnew, J. Whittaker, C. Ward (a man who robbed the mail and was prosecuted), John Moore, S. M. Cutler, J. S. Castle, F. F. Jewett, Mrs.Wicker, A. C. VanArnum, Mr. Strong, A. M. Kromer, W. H. DePuy, Mrs. L. Wicker. Among the physicians have been Elias Smith, B. Smith, Mr. Alvord, J. McCelvy, C. A. Montgomery, George Dayton, Mr. Hughes, George Palmer, C. C. Holbrook, W. M. Fox, Mr. Parish, Mr. Bossinger, T. J. Hobbs, Mr. Sanger, William McCue, Mr. Goodrich, Mr. Griffith, Charles Thompson, F. F. Jewett, G. P. Fletcher, Mr. Pary, Whitefeather (an Indian Doctor), Mr. Jones, Mr. Arnold and Mr. White. Cornelius Gilmore is said to have been the first blacks-smith. The old jail is yet standing on the southwest corner of the square. The Cooper store building is quite an old one. The brick block on the north was erected in 1878. Its proprietors are C. S. Atwater, A. W. Beecher and the owners of the bank.

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

On to Lima Twp. Part 2

Return to 1882 History Index

Return to Home Page

Graphics from-