of the North Manchester Historical Society, Inc.
VOLUME XIX, NUMBER 1 (FEBRUARY, 2002)
This building was built with the assistance of local money late in 1908 to house the Dewitt automobile production facilities for V. L. DeWitt. The autos were of the high or buggy wheel type, at that time there being many who argued that would be the coming and the future type of cars. The first car was turned out in April of 1909, and The Journal of that date said it was a beautiful machine, all made in North Manchester; engine, body, upholstering and top, each part being the work of an experienced specialist. Capacity of the shop was estimated at four cars a day. Before that production was reached the public begn to look with disfavor on the high wheels and the dream faded. A fire a short time later made a nightmare of the dream. Ironical as it may be, three of the cars had been exchanged for fire insurance.
The business was closed out and the building was repaired for a
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handle factory for the Baldwin Tool Works of Parkersburg, West Virginia. During this restructuring the top floor was removed. Jack Lennon was in charge. But ere long all the available ash timber hereabout was used and the handle factory machinery was moved away. For a time Lennon continued , making golf clubs, but the supply of hickory, too, was limited and the business was soon abandoned.
Again the building was refashioned and it became the site of Kenton Priser's Chrysler Products Agency. By 1976 Pudge Egolf was making a replica of the original DeWitt auto buggy there. Then after extensive renovating, the building became the home of Kirti Shah's Custom Magnetics, Inc.
John Simonton, Sr. and a group of relatives came to Chester township from Preble County, Ohio at a time when there were only a few other settlers here Richard Helvey and James Abbott, Sr. had settled in 1834 and Peter Ogan probably had built his cabin some time in 1834 on the banks of the Eel. The Simonton party arrived here October l, 1835. They came overland with wagons and brought their possessessions. Early records tell of at least these persons in the group and there may have been others: John, Sr. whose wife, known only as Elizabeth was not the mother of his grown children who had died in Ohio; Jacob, his oldest son and family; David and John Jr. both married; and daughter Elizabeth. Robert Johnson Calhoun father of young John's wife and his family were also in the party. They may have been neighbors of the Simontons since two of their daughters were married to Simonton sons.
The group spent the first night on the south side of Eel River probably near Riverside and next day continued up river to the 160-acre farm the elder John Simonton had entered at the Ft. Wayne Land office two years earlier on October 14, 1833. This was the fifth entry in Chester township and may been entered from Ohio, sight unseen. It is the southwest quarter of Section 26, township 30, Range 7 East. later known as the Peden farm.
Young Elizabeth and George Hapner soon married the first couple married in Chester township. Their license was issued by the first county clerk at Wabash December 20, 1835 and they were married by William Caldwell, justice of the peace, January 2, 1836. Each of the younger Simonton men obtained several plots of land in the area east of Manchester.. and around Clevengers Corner, though some was in Lagro township The Elder Simonton was a man of middle age when he came to Chester township and was content with his original l60 acres. Johnson Calhoun., known as Robert obtained 80 acres east of his son-in-law, John.
The three Simonton brothers became early merchants in Liberty Mill, but were essentially farmers and continued to live on their land.
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John, Jr. was probably the first to carry mail regularly between Lagro and Liberty Mills. He followed a trail out of Lagro past the Catholic cemetery and straight north to the plank road that John Comstock built from Liberty Mills to Huntington, a route long known as the Mail Trace Road. It is said John made the trip by foot and was a day going to Lagro and a day returning. One account says the county commissioners appointed John to view and establish a road between Lagro and Liberty Mills and that he reported on the Mail Trace route. At least, the road was cleared of brush in 1838 with the energy of the Simontons, the Abbotts, John Comstock and others and the Lagro people in their area. Not all the big trees were cleared until 1844.
According to tradition the four Simonton men and James and George Abbott were the first to make a trip with a wagon and oxen from Liberty Mills to the Turkey Creek prairie country in Koscuisko county and to the Wolf Lake mill in Elkhart county, then the nearest place where flour was milled and seed wheat and other grain was available. It took them several days to make the trip. Part of the way had to have brush and logs cleared from the trail.
The first death in the family was the daughter of Jacob and Leah Simonton born October 2, 1832 in Ohio who died July 4, 1839. There was no cemetery so a spot was selected on the southwest corner of her grandfather's farm. It was just north of where the east-west road should be and just east of the north-south road. A few years later a child of Joshua Simpson, who lived just south of the Simontons, died and was buried on the northwest corner of the Simpson farm just a rod or two south of Mary Simonton's grave. So a cemetery was started. There was no road then. There were more burials through the years and when the road was established it jogged north three or four rods, then east about fifteen or twenty rods and then south to the section line again.
Simonton set aside a half acre of ground for cemetery purposes and also a site for a church. Simpson similarly donated a piece of his land and the width of the road added to the amount in the original cemetery site. Still later land to the south was donated or purchased. Simonton stipulated that the people of any denomination should have the use of the church for the purpose of holding funerals. This
condition was accepted and a log building built that was used as a school house during the week and as a church on Sunday. In 1844 Elder Joseph Roberts organized a class of the Christian faith at the home of Isaac Robbins, who had entered the land north of the Simonton farm. The congregation wanted a meeting place. On April 10, 1847 the half acre for the cemetery and an acre for the church was deeded to the Wabash county Commissioners for the church and cemetery.
A frame church was built in about 1858 and about fifty years later the more recent church was built. When the Pleasant Grove Cemetery association was formed in the 1930s, the cemetery was deeded to this association. It is still under their ownership. Many Simontons rest in the Cemetery. Leah Simonton, born October 29, 1812 and died October 2, 1851 just 29 years to the day after the birth of her daughter Mary, and they lie together.
John, Sr. died August 30, 1852, at the age of almost 72. His wife, Elizabeth, died May 8, 1851 at the age of 57. Both are buried on the lot north of their granddaughter and daughter-in-law. Jacob later remarried and moved to Iowa where he became a circuit court judge and gained a state wide reputation for fairness and keen judgement. David and his family also moved to Iowa. Elizabeth and her husband moved to near Kalamazoo, John, Jr. led an active life. He at one time was township assessor. His outspoken opinion was the only thing that kept him from being one of the jurors that convicted John Hubband of the murder of the French family in that famous trial. The judge questioned Simonton as to whether he had any opinion about Hubbards' guilt. He replied that he had and when asked his opinion he said, "He ought to be stretched up by a rope and left there until the little ducks pick his toes to pieces." The judge may have had the same opinion but it disqualified John as a juror.
John and Martha Simonton were the parents of eleven children. They were David, Sarah Ann, wife of Martin Huffman, Harriet Rittenhouse, Lavina, wife of William Keller, Jacob, Mary Jane, wife of John Cuppy, Mahala, wife of Ben Nordyke, John C. who died in Nebraska, Robert, Perry and Charles or Charley.. Both Charley and Perry were dwarfs and created considerable attention. Perry was born
May 4, 1860 and Charley September 6, 1862. As children of the Civil War period, they were involved in many patriotic gatherings and political meetings. For many years they were part of a drum and bugle corps and Charley and Perry, marching along with their snare drums were a special sight. Others who were members of the drum corp at one time or another included Charles Felter, S. W. Clevenger, William Feagler, John Cox, W. S. Billings, W. H. Ballenger and Charles Thompson.
Charley Simonton survived as the last of his generation and one of the last children of the early settlers. If you look carefully at a map of Chester township you may note Simonton Creek which took its name from the owners of the land through which it flowed. This was a normally placid stream which flowed into the Eel River west of the Pleasant Grove church just north east of North Manchester. But in early days it was especially feared because of the swift current. On one occasion it went on a rampage and washed out two bridges. So we don't need to look far to find reminders of the Simonton family - especially a cemetery and a creek - even if other memories fade.
All information related to industries in North Manchester in this issue is based on and follows William E. Billings material compiled for the News-Journal in 1950.
There are several industries which operated in North Manchester for a time which might bring a smile today - definitely activities of another time.
Dr. Stauffer's factory for making his famous horse remedy was at his home in Riverside and was started in the early 1890s. At first he had difficulty with the process and burned a chicken house and another small building to the ground when the medicine boiled over the kettle. He then invented the cold mixing process and was able to supply the demand safely. At his death in 1911 the formula was sold to an attorney Lon D. Fleming and the medicine was made in a distant laboratory. But the death of Mr. Fleming following and then there were many calls for Dr. Stauffer's Balsamic Oil which could not
Dr. Stauffer was the first graduate from the Chicago Veterinary College. And for many there was clear evidence of the effectiveness of his remedy. For one example: About 1902, a woman from the country drove a good horse to town. It was taken with a severe attack of colic and the crowd that gathered thought it was going to die. Dr. Stauffer was out of town. J. A. Cook was in the crowd, but had not yet gone far enough in his veterinary course to legally dose a horse. J. B. Williams, the veteran druggist was called and with a long necked bottle administered the Balsamic Oil. In a few moments the horse shook himself and grabbed a whisp of hay from John Cox's hay wagon which was passing by.
So long ago that even an old timer hesitates to set the date Naz Bussard on West Third Street ran a lye making plant and did not have to lie when he said it made good lye. Wood was the almost universal fuel and Mr. Bussard developed a good business by gathering the ashes people threw away. These ashes were put in a "V" shaped hopper, rain water allowing to leach through and the result was sworn to by the old fashioned housewives as far superior to the famous Lewis Lye of a later period. Bussard was in a way a benefactor, making a product from what otherwise would have been an unsightly nuisance and making lye for all the soap making activities of the time.
This factory was on East Seventh Street opened about 1919 by Mrs. Mattie Miller and Mrs. E. G. Butterbaugh. The product was a type of bonnet in demand by members of the Church of the Brethren and the selling territory was the whole of the United States. Individual shipments in large numbers were made by mail. Eight hundred to a thousand bonnets would frequently be sold just prior to an Annual Meeting of the Church. At the death of Mrs. Miller, Mrs. Frank Swigart came into the firm. Business continued very good until about 1935 when demand decreased and the business was closed.
Shortly after 1900 Eli Isenbarger in connection with J.W. Strauss
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started the Hoosier Skirt Factory on West Main Street, just west of the Pennsylvania railroad. Thousands of sateen petticoats, gorgeous with tucks, frills and ruffles were turned out. Many women were employed to operate the power sewing machines. Rush orders for ten thousand or more at a time were not uncommon. But women changed their tastes, as women have always claimed the right and almost overnight quit wearing petticoats. For a time canvas gloves were made but that field was already overcrowded. The factory was idle for a time, was damaged by fire and then torn down.
About 1950 Verling Landis was rummaging through old "stuff " in the Landis drug store building and found nearly a gross of cartons, each containing a gross of penholders bringing to light a forgotten North Manchester industry. According to Mrs. Etta Browne, sister of George Burdge who operated the drug story on this corner for many years, about 1895 Mr. Burdge backed a man named Warren in the pen manufacturing business. The penholders were made of spiral wrapped paper and the nibs were fastened into the holder in such a way they could not be replaced with new points. Fine pointed Spencerian pens were used and samples of them are just as bright as the day they were inserted into the holders. They were made in the front room of the second story drug store building. Whether fountain pens put these penholders out of business or perhaps Mr. Warren simply moved on to greener pastures is not clear but evidently Mr. Burdge was left holding many unmarketed pens. They can be frequently found about town in old collections - reminders of the Warren Manufacturing Co.
The Hot Springs letter which appeared in the Newsletter of November, 2001 p. 12 was written by Andrew B. Miller and sent to Amos B. Miller, his brother.... Thanks to a faithful reader who corrected this.
Later, Amos B. Miller was appointed the administrator of the estate of Andrew B. Miller after his death in California in December, 1897. Andrew is buried here. The Andrew Millers purchased Lot 15 at 106 S. Elm Street in 1882.
Liberty Mills celebrated its centennial on Sunday, September 5, 1937 celebrating the l00th anniversary of the platting of the town by John Comstock. Several Native Americans who were descendants of Indian chiefs such as Little Turtle, Francis Godfrey and Little Charley attended and told stories of the customs of their fathers. Comstock was not the original owner of the land on which Liberty Mills stood even after the whites had wrested it from the original owners. James Abbott entered the land at the land office in Fort Wayne in 1833 and moved to it in 1834, His home was a bit north of the town that was later plotted.
Mr. Abbott sold ten acres along Eel River to a Mr. McBride with the condition that McBride would build a grist mill. That was the most urgent need of any settlers and the nearest mill was at Waterford on the Elkhart river close to Goshen. It was a long ardous journey through the swamps and woods and many trees had to be cut to make a passage through But McBride did not build the mill and in the meantme John Comstock have moved into the vicinity. Comstock was a man of comparative means and seemed to have ambition. A study of the river revealed it had excellent possibilites for water power. So Comstock bought out McBride and built a dam and established a mill near where the Rittenhouse mill was at a later time. In a short time he established a saw mill, and later a carding mill, a tannery and a distillery. It is likely that he had a small store before he platted the town in 1837.
The original plat had 98 lots three blocks wide east and west and four blocks long north and south. The north and south streets were First, Second, Third and Fourth and the east and west streets were Main, which extends through the business section, North, Wall and Wabash. The east end of Wall street connected with the angling road toward Collamer. Later 37 lots were platted north of Wall street to near the right of way of the railroad and extending a tier of lots east of Fourth and north of the Collamer road. Part of those lots later became part of the school yard.
The early bridge across the river was to the northwest where the later iron bridge existed. However business establishments began to
increase into the north part of town nearer the bridge and business was being taken from the downtown section, largely controlled by Mr. Comstock. Soon he became interested in converting what had been a ford and a ferry during high water, into another bridge. First a crude bridge was built. Then it was replaced by a covered bridge in the early seventies. This covered bridge was replaced by a river bridge and a race bridge - both build at the same time. The highway to the west which angled through Mr. Comstock's farm and past the family cemetery he created also may have influenced the location of the bridge.
John Comstock in his day was easily the biggest and most influential business man and farmer iin Northern Wabash county. He was a member of the State Legislature and a probate judge and was progressive in many ways and as stubborn as an ox in others. When the canal was built through Lagro he maintained a warehouse at Lagro and attracted business men to Liberty Mills faster than to North Manchester. However, he could not stand competition, and because of his buying power, could undersell those who dared compete with him. Some of the early business men came to North Manchester. In fact, it was not uncommon in telling the history of an early North Manchester business man to mention that he first located in Liberty Mills.
Mr. Comstock was active in getting a plank road built from Lagro to the north part of the county, no doubt thinking it would be routed to Liberty Mills. When he found it was to be routed to North Manchester, he sold his warehouse in Lagro and wiped the town off his business map. He then headed a company that built a plank road from Liberty Mills to Huntington and the route of this road still exists in places today. Robert Carson, who had married Sarah Comstock, a daughter, kept the toll gate at the east edge of Liberty Mills. The Comstock residence, called the toll house, later became the Wayne Rittenhouse residence.
An early map of Liberty Mills, drawn shortly after the Detroit and Eel River railroad was built, shows an elevator, depot, switch tracks, saw mill, three stores and two shops, all located on Second street in the north part of town. At the corner of Second and North street was an
L-shaped hotel and there were two doctor's offices, Dr. Banks and Dr. Lent Lower. Earlier Dr. Peter Bender had practiced there, but later moved to Laketon. Dr. Lower moved to North Manchester and built what was later the office building of Dr. Worth M. Walrod, and the residence property to the north on the northeast corner of Second and Market.
On Main street was the Post office in the west part of town, the R. Carson general store, a drug store, groceries and other retail establishments. A church had been built and also the school on the site of the later building. Some distance to the south was the grist mill and along the race and between the race and the river were the other businesses belonging to Mr. Comstock.
In later years there were two factories operated by brothers. Ed Rittenhouse operated the grist mill and also manufacturered seed sowers. He powered the entire business by water power until in later years when he generated electricity with water, not only for his mill but also the light for the town. In the north part of the town near the railroad was a factory operated by Freeman Rittenhouse who manufactured shovels and other hardware. Later he moved this factory to Akron and it came into other ownership.
James Abbott from whom the Abbott families in this locality traced their ancestry, was born in South Carolina, the son of a Revolutionary soldier. Abbott was a member of General Wayne's army when the Indian Confederacy was broken in the battle of Fallen Timbers in Northern Ohio and after the treaty of 1826 which opened Indiana land to settlement north of the Wabash river, he decided to try his fortune in the land he helped win from the Indians.
The first school was taught in a log cabin by Miss Harriet Tullis and in 1841 a building was constructed that lasted until 1872. In that year a large two story building was built - a combination school and town hall. Part of the cost was paid by Liberty Mills people directly for the privilege of having a hall. This building endured until 1903 when it was dismantled and the building still standing was built on the foundations of the old.
Why did not Liberty Mills with its early advantages over North Manchester, not become the largest town in the north part of Wabash
county? The answer seems to be largely that it was a one man town in the period when foundations were being made for later growth. Men who could have helped shape the town to a larger development, gave up in disgust and moved out. Mr. Comstock or his daughter, Mrs. Carson, owned or controlled most of the land about the town, and thus could control its expansion. By the time Mr. Comstock's influence had declined, North Manchester had the edge in various industries with free enterprise and competition prevailing, with an alert business citizenry eager to attract new industries and promote the expansion of the town.
The above was written at the time of the centennial in 1937 by an anonymous writer. It presents some material not found in detail in previous writings but we have no clue so far of its authorship. Please supply any further details you know or respond to the editor regarding the perspective on the growth of the Liberty Mills.
To the Honorable Board of Commissioners of Wabash County.
In conformity with your order of September (Term?) we your commission appointed to view, mark and locate a road leading from Lagros to Eel river and after being duly sworn we proceded to view, mark and locate said road commencing at the Lours Lock in Lagros running a Northwest direction until it intersects the line dividing sections twenty-seven and twenty-eight, then turning North bearing through the center of Township twenty-eight, Range seven east, also through Township twenty nine range seven to Township thirty of the same range following the section line in Township thirty between sections thirty-three and thirty-four about one hundred and eighty rods then turned in a Northwest direction till it strikes Eel River at R. Helveys, a distance of aboout two hundred rods. Nov. 2 1835
We Benjamin Inyard, Daniel Ballinger and Philimon Rundles, the ________ above named hereby certify the above to be a true copy of our proceedings as such.. Signed..
Reading not always guaranteed especially the name of the Lock... and one word unreadable.
Joseph Harter built the water powered flouring mill southwest of town in 1839 shortly after he and his family, including a married son, Eli, came to town . They built a dam made of stone, brush and earth across the Eel River and started in the milling business. They rebuilt it in better working order in l843 so it was capable of grinding good grade of flour and business went well In 1852 Joseph sold out to his sons, Jacob and Joseph B. They sold to Peter King in 1852. The Daniel Strauss family came into the business in 1879, along with Henry Arnold. Strauss sold his interest in 1886 to his sons, J. W. and Erwin. Erwin sold his interest to J. W. in 1893.
During part of this time the firm operated an uptown feed store but about 1906 J. W. Strauss disposed of his interest in the mill and opened a new feed store and feed mill uptown. This competition eventually caused the milling firm to close its uptown store. Others acquired an interest. Isaac Shock secured a part interest about 1872 and sold his interest to Samuel Hamilton in 1884, who sold, in turn, to Jesse Tyler in 1886. Others who secured interest during the next few years were David Hamilton, A. D. and I. E. Gingerick and John Isenbarger. Noah Garber came in about 1906 and Paul Isenbarger became active in management.
In 1920 the business was incorporated, with capital at $57,000. Stockholders were Bland and Paul Isenbarger, A. B. Palmer, W. S. Humke, Daniel Sheller, Henry Reiff, William Jennings, George L. Allen, G. L. Shoemaker, J. K. Lautzenhizer & Co. F. P. Kircher, Frank, Cora and Ed Reelhorn, W. C. West, J. H. Miller, H. E. Lautzenhizer, A. L. Bollinger. E. W. Gresso and Hugh L. Kennedy. Ditto Flour was for a time the leading product under corporation management.
Cade King bought the mill June 2, 1922. November l3, 1923 the Mill burned. Reiff, Dohner and Paul Isenbarger asked a receiver to apply $17,000 insurance to the debt of King and the action was settled out of court. King rebuilt, taking into the company Hugh Miller and Samuel F. Bowser. But they were unable to meet their obligations and it passed into the control of the State Bank of Warsaw in 1927 and to Indiana Power Company in 1929. This company sold the machinery
and razed the building. The Power company bought it to prevent the site from being used to generate electricity.
Thus ended the life of a ninety year old industry . After holding the land for several years, the Power company sold the land and dam to the Town of North Manchester with the condition it could never be used as a site to general electricity , Part of the site was later leased by the Heinold Hog Market.
Those of us with pale faces are relatively recent settlers along the Eel or the Kenapocomoco River. Long before our time the most important Native American center in the great Northwest Territory was Kekionga where Ft. Wayne now stands. Rivers were vital for trade and transportation then and here was a commanding location where the St Joseph and the St. Marys united to form the Maumee a variation of the name Miami. Many of the tribes met at Kekionga but the dominant tribe for generations was the Miami.
For more than a century before there were permanent white settlements, French and British traders were carrying on an extensive trade with the Native Americans and the Eel was one of the important highways for that trade. As the struggle for the possession of the land became intense the Eel was still one central focus. At least four major battles were fought on its banks and Eel River villages and the Eel River Indians supplied many of the personnel. That included the great chief Meshekinnoquah, the Little Turtle.
At a point where the river was no longer navigable for canoes and small pirogues either the French or the British helped build a trading post where the trappers and hunters could bring their furs. Kekionga was only about fourteen miles from that point. And by the same portage the traders could move into the interior. Chief Little Turtle no doubt spent a lot of time there. His sister, Tacumwah had another trading post on the north side of the river and some distance away. After the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 the U. S. government built Little Turtle a house at this Eel River post and he spent most of his last years there. It was a large double log house and he lived in comfort attended by black servants. He went to the home of his son in law
Capt. William Wells in Ft. Wayne where he died in 1812.
About two miles south of Columbia City route 9 crosses Eel River,, Just south of the river is an elevated piece of ground known in early days as "The Island." Then it was about 300 acres of land bounded on the north by the Eel and on the West, South and East by very swampy land . There the Indians could retreat and defend themselves from enemies. Sometimes their primary enemies were the Potawatomis and sometimes the whites.
Below "The Island" Eel River becomes larger with the addition of the waters of Mud Creek and Blue River. For about sixty miles there were no major villages because of the conflict between the tribes but many boats were on the river and important trails followed the river. It was a land of abundance. Lots of nuts, berries, maple syrup for the making , and an abundance of wild animals and fish in the river. There were other villages of note: Chief Pierish on what is now the Manchester College sports field, one mile below Roann, at Stockfale a village called Niconza, or Squirrels village, a Potawatomi chief. Opposite the present town of Chili was a Miami village with Chief Captain Flowers
One of the most important villages in all of Indiana was about seven miles from the mouth of the Eel not far from the town of Adamsboro where for a century or more the Miami town of Kenapecomaqua was a threat to all white settlement. The early settlers came to know it as one of the most dangerous which sent out bands of raiders to descend on frontier settlers. It was captured after a battle led by General Wilkinson in 1791 and the head of the village, known as the Soldier signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. This village later became known as Old Town on the Eel.
Below Old Town, near Logansport, the adventuresome Eel flows into the Wabash, to continue its journey on to the sea.