1882 COUNTIES OF 
LaGRANGE and NOBLE INDIANA HISTORICAL and BIOGRAPHICAL

Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882
 

MILFORD TOWNSHIP
 

By: Weston A. Goodspeed

Milford Township- Long List of Pioneers-Conjectures as to the First Settler-
First Township Election-A Backwoods Burial-Hunting Experiences-The Regulators-
The Underground Rail- Road-Mud Corners and South Milford-The Educator and the 
Moralist- Manufacturing Interests.
 

     To Milford belongs the credit of organizing the first company of Regulators in accordance with an act of the State Legislature, approved in 1852. On the 12th of September, 1856, the following men and others assembled 
at the Bullock Schoolhouse to affect an organization, and devise some means to bring horse-thieves, counterfeiters and other criminals to punishment: J. L. Bullock, Alanson Hill, Orrin Fuller, Zopher Case, George W.
James, J. P. Case, Jacob Hill, William Hill, Ebenezer Hill, Isaac Carpenter, Charles Cochran, Phillip Helmer, Stephen Shearman and John Shearman. Mr. Bullock was chosen President, Alanson Hill, Vice-President, and Orrin Fuller, Secretary. The latter, and perhaps others was appointed to draft a 
constitution, which was done, it being presented and adopted on the 20th of September, 1856. This company 
did very effective service in this and adjoining counties.

     Milford was the home of Benjamin B. Waterhouse, a native of Connecticut, though reared in Oswego County, N. Y. He was one of the noblest and kindest-hearted men that ever lived. From his earliest years, his 
soul shrank in repugnance from that so-called "divine institution," known as human slavery. His conscience cried out against the wrong, and, at last, led him into prominent connection with a well-traveled line of Underground 
Railroad. He lost no opportunity to assist runaway slaves on their way to Canada, and his house at last became a noted harbor, and was known to colored people far down in the Southern States. The first noted station south of his house was at the Whitfords, in Allen Township, Noble County, while the first one north was at Orland, and 
the second at the residence of John Waterhouse, twelve miles south of Coldwater, Mich. A volume might be
employed in which to tell all the incidents connected with the career of  Mr. Waterhouse as an Underground Railroad agent. He had a covered buggy, or carriage, in which the slaves were placed, when not too numerous 
(in such case a wagon was used) and a blanket thrown over the heads of the blacks), and conveyed to Orland,
and there delivered to a wagon-maker named Clark, or to Mr. Barry and one or two other trusty men; hence they were taken on to the house of John Waterhouse and other places north. Some hypercritical persons have said that his carriage stunk terribly of the negroes who rode in it. It is safe to say that Mr. Waterhouse helped 100 runaway slaves to escape. His neighbors did not molest him, though some were much opposed to what he was doing. It is said that David Randall went out one morning with his hoe on his shoulder to dig potatoes. He had scarcely begun, when a gigantic negro came swiftly from the woods a short distance away, and approached him. Mr. Randall saw instantly, from the weary appearance, torn clothing, haggard face, and indispensable 
bundle of clothing of the colored man, that he was a fugitive slave. Thinking to try the fellow a little, Mr. Randall called out, "Look here! You are running away from your master. You turn right around and start back for the South, or I'll report you." It was no fun for the desperate colored man, for he thought Mr. Randall was in 
earnest. He looked fiercely at the settler for an instant, and then cooly laid down his stick and bundle, took off his ragged coat and placed it on the ground, doubled up a pair of fists that looked like sledge-hammers, and then started for the settler, exclaiming, "Massa, ye'd better got yerself ready; I'se a comin'. "The settler, in alarm,
instantly protested that he was only fooling; and the fugitive desisted and went slowly back and put on his coat. Mr. Randall directed him on his way, and the determined fellow was soon out of sight.

     After the enactment of the fugitive slave law, in 1852, Mr. Waterhouse worked harder than ever for the slaves. Early one morning, during the autumn of 1853, Augustus Whitford of Noble County, brought five or six fugitive colored men in a wagon to the residence of  Mr. Waterhouse. As they were to be taken on to Orland by Mr. Waterhouse without delay, Mrs. Waterhouse and daughters hurriedly prepared them a substantial breakfast. This they dispatched as only travelers know how and soon they were again on their way, reaching
Orland in a few hours. At this point the whole party, including Messrs. Clark, Barry and others, of Orland,
were seen by men who reported the violation of the law to Dr. Marsh, a Deputy United States Marshall residing there. The slaves were taken on to Canada by the Abolitionists without molestation. The owners of the slaves became aware of how the latter escaped, and learned the names of Mr. Waterhouse and those at Orland who had assisted him. They therefore, in the fall of 1854, had these men arraigned before the United States Circuit Court at Indianapolis for a violation of the fugitive slave law, Mr. Cyrus Fillmore, brother of ex-President Fillmore, appearing as one of the prosecuting witnesses. Mr. Waterhouse was found guilty, and sentenced to pay a fine of $50 and to be imprisoned for twenty-four hours. The imprisonment was remitted or avoided, but the fine was probably paid. This action of the court did not deter Mr. Waterhouse one iota from frequent future violations of the (to him) odious law.

     About this time, strong anti-slavery meetings were held in various portions of the surrounding country. One 
was held at Orland, which, at that time, contained many Abolitionists. Miss Whitford, of Allen Township, Noble County, an enthusiastic Abolitionist and a lady of excellent heart and character, was present and sang, with great power and effect, the song, one verse of which is :
     "The baying hounds are on my track;
        Old massa's close behind
      And he's resolved to take me back
        Across the Dixon line."

     A large meeting of the same nature was held at Brushy Chapel, Springfield Township about the same time,
Miss Whitford being present and singing the same and other appropriate songs.

     Mr. Waterhouse was a sincere and ardent Methodist, and took his position regarding slavery because he thought that Divine approval would sanction such a course. May his name be written with those of  "Old" John Brown and Owen Lovejoy.

     During the autumn of 1836, Col. Cochran built a dam at the outlet of Long Lake, and over a short race erected the first saw-mill in the township. The mill was provided with a "flutter-wheel" and a "sash saw." It has changed owners many times and has been subjected to many alterations, but it is yet in operation. George Bassett, at an early day, made shingles by horse-power. He turned out a considerable quantity, finding a ready sale in the neighborhood. Smith & Chaffee built a steam saw-mill about thrity years ago. It was a good mill. 
They also manufactured shingles. In 1848, the Plank Road Company built a steam saw-mill at South Milford, which, under a change of owners, has been in operation since. It has done a vast amount of sawing. A Mr. 
Baxter conducted an ashery in the southern part for a series of years.

     Quite a little village grew up at Mud Corners at an early day. F. B. Masey erected a store building there 
about the year 1845. He had probably $3,000 worth of goods. Wright & Barry soon succeeded him. They erected an ashery, and for several years manufactured more than twenty tons of pearl-ash per annum, the greater portion of which was shipped away to market. James Knight began the erection of a brewery at the place,
but abandoned the project before the building was completed. George W. Hatch built a tannery there; he 
bought hides, but retired from the business before any leather was finished. William Knight conducted a blacksmith shop there; Judge Seeley the same. William Dunn was Postmaster there, and it is said the office 
paid the official well. The place saw its brightest days about thirty years ago. The road past the corners and on down into Springfield Township was at that time known as "Brain street," from the number of Judges and other officials who lived thereon.

      In 1856, John A. Bartlett and Francis Henry, owners and proprietors, laid out forty-seven lots on Section 32, and named the village thus founded South Milford. There were four or five families living in the village at the time it was laid out. In about the year 1852, Wildman & Taylor opened a good country store. Jonathan Law was in the partnership in some capacity. Lambert and Rowe appeared with a stock of goods a few years before the last war broke out. Other merchants have been Hamlin Brothers, Dr. Gower, Austin, Jenkins, W. W. Miller, Hamilton Trindle, and the present partnership, J. N. Strayer & Co. The Bartlett Brothers owned 
the old store building. They erected the first hotel building. Theodore Upson is the present owner of a wagon 
and carriage shop, which is doing an excellent business. Orrin Fuller was in the same business about twenty 
years ago. Wildman & Taylor removed their store in about 1857. Fuller and Francis owned a good store at 
an early day. Dr. Diggins located in the village in about the year 1854, but did not remain over a year. Dr. John Dancer appeared in August, 1855, and has since remained practicing in the village and surrounding country. He 
is one of the substantial men of the place. Dr. White was in two years, coming in 1869. Dr. Broughton was in three years. Dr. Robinson was in a year and a half. Dr. W. A. Nusbaum appeared with packages and powders last March. The present population is about two hundred. In 1880, the following persons had passed the age of seventy-five: Clarissa Dyer, seventy-eight; John Fought, eighty-seven; Kalzamon Gunn, seventy-nine; Isaac Heywood, eighty-eight; Jacob West, eighty; Mary Fiandt, eighty-nine; Valentine Groh, seventy-nine; Betsy Gunn, seventy-nine; Peter Sabin, eighty.

     Schools started up at a very early day in Milford. The first school building in the township was erected during the autumn of 1836, by several of the settlers in at that time, among whom were the Cochrans, the Goodsells,
the Turners, the Butts and others. Orris Danks taught in this house during the following winter, some twelve scholars attending. Danks was a long-limbed, eccentric Yankee. He had a good education for the times, and the 
backwoods children regarded him as a marvel of learning and greatness. Of course the Yankee was equal to an emergency of that kind. It did him proud. This schoolhouse was located at what afterward became known as 
"Mud Corners," named so from the extremely muddy place at the crossing. The old house was a substantial  one, and was used until not far from the year 1854, when another was erected at the same place by Capt. Barry and 
Judge Seeley. The walls were built of cobble stones and mortar, and the building became known as the "Mud Schoolhouse." Some say that this schoolhouse (built as it was of mud and stone) gave name to the place, but this 
is a mistake, as the locality was known as "Mud Corners" long before the building was erected. The "mud" house was a poor concern, as the boys soon picked it in pieces with their jack-knives. In this manner an extra door was
soon made at one corner, and then the building became dangerous, and another was built. Not far from the year 1840, a log schoolhouse was built in the western part, near the Cases. In about the year 1838, a log schoolhouse was built about half a mile north of South Milford. This was probably the second school building in the township. The Baileys, the Fitches, the Sturgises, the Bassetts and others, sent to this house. Two terms of school 
were taught before 1840, in a building near the saw-mill owned by Col. Cochran. Immediately afterward, a log schoolhouse was built in the Perkins neighborhood. The Cochran school building was erected about twenty-five years ago. The one near the Kinsman saw-mill was built in about 1843, and the one two miles east of it not far from the same time. In those early days, schoolhouses followed the settlers- no regard being paid to their location- just so far apart. Wherever a sufficient number of children were found, there was the spot for a log schoolhouse. The first school structure in South Milford was a frame building, now used as a dwelling by J. A. Bartlett, and was erected in 1854. Miss Hartsock was one of the first teachers. The house was built wholly at the expense of the townspeople, no assistance being received from the Township Trustees. Good schools were held in this house, which was used until five years ago, when the present brick building was erected. The township is at present provided with good schoolhouses.

     A small Baptist society was early organized at the residence of Col. Cochran. Elder Bailey, of Angola, preached for the few families that gathered there. The society survived but a few years. As early as 1838, a Methodist Episcopal society was organized at Mud Corners by Rev. Thomas Conley. Among the early 
members were B. B. Waterhouse and family, John Searl, wife and daughter, Capt. Barry and wife, John Barry and wife, Jacob Butts and wife, the Trowbridges, Hiram Hunt and others. In a short time trouble arose in the society, and a division occurred, one faction going northwest and building the Brushy Chapel, and the other remaining at the old schoolhouse at Mud Corners. After a few years, the latter scattered or died out, but the 
former has endured until the present. A Church of God society was organized in the southwestern part about thirty-five years ago. It was instituted, it is said, by Elder Martin, who became the first pastor. Subsequent
pastors have been Elders Hickernell, Thomas, Logue, Blickenstaff, Sands and Bumpus. In 1848, the 
society numbered some thirty members, and soon afterward exceeded that number, reaching about fifty in 1860.
In 1864, the frame church was erected under a contract of $1,000 with W. W. Lovett, the building committee being David Lower, Jacob Sturgis and Jacob Adams. The total cost of the building was about $1,200. The society numbers some sixteen members at present. Sunday school was organized at an early day, Alexander
Meleny being the first, or one of the first, superintendents. It was an excellent country Sunday school for many years. Quite a strong Methodist society was early organized in the Cochran neighborhood. It flourished for some eight or ten years. The Church of God society in the northeastern corner had its origin many years ago in the old schoolhouse. Here the members continued to assemble until some questions arose regarding the use of  the schoolhouse, when it was thought best to build a church, which was accordingly done not many years since. The society is not very strong numerically, though it is doing good work. Some of its best members live in Springfield Township.


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

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