In November, 1832 the first election was held in the area now included in Wabash County. Jackson electors received fourteen votes and Clay electors twelve. At that time what are now Huntington and Wabash counties were known as the Salamonie Precinct attached to Grant County for general purposes.
During this time a Capt Elias Murray, at La Gro was elected a Justice of the Peace and while he was a Grant County Justice a Joseph McClure and Elizabeth Keller concluded to get married and sent for the Captain to perform the ceremony. That part of Wabash County lying west of the line between Ranges 5 and 6 was then included in Miami County and Capt Murray was aware of that fact. He also knew that the bride lived in Range 5. He refused to perform the ceremony unless they would come within his jurisdiction. Accordingly, the entire party, bride and groom, with the fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers and friends of them present, mounted their horses and came this side of the range line, where, under heaven's broad canopy and the shadow of a tree, the first marriage was solemnized within the limits of Wabash County. The survey of the land lying between the Wabash and the Eel rivers was made in 1827 immediately following the ratification of the treaties with the Miami and the Pottawatomie Indians made at Paradise Springs. The Survey of the land north of the Eel was made in 1828. After these dates lands were subject to purchase and were purchased only after the survey was completed. This was a requirement of the treaty made in 1826.
The first purchase in Chester Township was made by Bryant Fannin on the 1st of October, 1833 of about one third of an acre now a part of North Manchester.(Township 30/ Section 32) Later that same month John Simonton bought 160 acres, Jacob Neff bought 200 acres and John G. Nelson over 300 acres in northern Chester township. In 1835 several purchases in southern Chester township were made.
In 1833 Samuel McClure, Jr. and his brother Robert, cut the first state road through Wabash County. The road began at "the twenty-mile stake" in Wabash County, went from there to Wabash and from there to the Eel River near North Manchester. The first wagon road ever laid out in the County was one running from Anderson in Madison County ... and the ground upon which the treaty of l826 were held. It was located and cut during the early fall of 1826 by Peter Ogan, Helvie and Rogers. The author comments that "In pioneer days the roads were almost bottomless, except during the winter when the mud was solidified by frost."
In the period from 1843 - 48 the Underground Railway by which so many slaves were piloted through Indiana from the Southern States to reach safety in the North was very active. What follows is an interview by a PLAIN DEALER reporter with Hon Daniel Sayre the postmaster of Wabash.
"There were three stations on the underground line in Wabash County and two that I knew of in Grant County. They were Charley Atkinson's near Jonesboro; Mose Bradford's near Marion; Fred Kindley's near New Holland; A.A. Peabody's at La Gro; Maurice Place's at North Manchester. I never knew the route from North Manchester. Place kept it a secret, and while it happened occasionally that a fugitive was captured between Jonesboro and North Manchester, I never heard of one being overtaken after he reached Manchester. There were very few of the early pioneers that would hide a runaway slave, and the professional slave hunters from Kentucky who rode through the country on horseback and armed with big revolvers were universally execrated. Indeed, so bitterly hostile were the people that the slave hunters were quite fearful of their safety. Of course, they had their confederates among us, who made money out of the information they gave the hunters, but these too, were held in general contempt.
How did you get the fugitives unobserved through the county? Well, it was mainly done by traveling at night. There weren't any roads to speak of, just simply a path marked out (we used to call them trails) and by traveling an indirect route we were able to dodge any pursuers. The county was so sparsely settled that we were in little danger of meeting anybody. I helped a party of twenty slaves once, to North Manchester, who were being closely pursued, but our superior knowledge of the country enabled us to pilot them safely. We had to take a different route for it, however. The party consisted of young men, principally, although there were three women, one of whom had a babe in her arms. At another time, seven fugitives were taken through LaGro in a big Pennsylvania wagon, ostensibly loaded with lumber, but with runaways stowed away between the lumber and the wagon bed.
I lived in those days on what is now known as the Straton farm, north of LaGro. One morning, just before daybreak, I was awakened by a knocking at the door, and getting up found a black man, about forty-five years of age, who stated that he was a runaway, hungry and tired. I gave him a loaf of bread and part of a boiled ham, telling him where to conceal himself until the following night. In less than an hour afterward, two rough looking riders, with horse pistols in their belts, called me out of the house to inquire if I 'had seen anything of a runaway nigger.' I told them I had, when they demanded to know which way he went. Throwing both hands up, one pointed to the right and the other to the left, I answered, 'that way!' One of the riders then drew his pistol, and said: 'D-n your soul, if you don't tell me which way he went, I will shoot you!'
My rifle hung near the door of my cabin and I had it in my hands in a jiffy. Drawing a bead on the ruffian, I said: 'Now, d-n you, if you don't leave these premises in sixty seconds, I will kill you.' Both were arrant cowards and the way they hustled off the clearing was ludicrous. I was never molested afterward. That night I went through the woods with the fugitive to Manchester where he was given over to Place's charge, and eventually made his way to Canada.
I don't recall the arrest of anyone in this vicinity for aiding runaway slaves. It was well known that Kindley, Peabody and Place were connected with the Underground Railroad, but so adroit were they that no proof could be secured to warrant their arrest. There were a good many of the old citizens actively enlisted in the work of helping runaway slaves, but nobody knew of it. The scheme was to pilot the poor wretches to a 'station' where they were placed in charge of another 'conductor' and nobody ever knew of your connection with their escape except the station keeper.
Wabash PLAIN DEALER, Sept. 2, 1880
More than forty years ago there came to Wabash County a gentleman named William McKimmey, who built a cabin in the vicinity near where Lincolnville now stands. (southeast Lagro township) Besides being a farmer he was a practicing physician; was a man of fine educational attainments; belonged to the 'Society of Friends', or 'Quakers' and devoted a portion of his time to preaching their peculiar doctrines. He was also for some time County Surveyor of Wabash County.
Not many years subsequent there came into the neighborhood a gentleman named Jacob Nelson, who built a cabin not more than one mile from Dr. McKimmey's. Mr. Nelson was a man of discreet judgment, possessed of fine conversational powers and a member of the Christian Church. On one occasion Dr. McKimmey and Mr. Nelson 'locked horns' on their religious views. The contest was a hot one-fine arguments produced, pro and con. Spectators took sides. Much interest and zeal were manifested by both parties, and at the end of the debate or dispute neither party was satisfied. Dr. McKimmey, after passing a sleepless night, early next morning visited the cabin of Mr. Nelson, and opened communications with: 'How art thou, friend Jacob? I have come to see thee this morning. I am not more than half satisfied with our little spat of yesterday. We manifested too much combativeness. We did not by any means exhaust the subject, but, I think it is much better that we remain friends than follow this subject any further in this war-like manner.'
Here Mr. Nelson stopped the doctor and clasped his hand with the remark: 'My friend, you have spoken my sentiments exactly.'
The doctor again resumed: 'I have been thinking of a plan, friend Jacob, that would obviate all this difficulty, and that plan is as follows: That all our future communication on religious subjects be in writing, and we now pledge never to mention the subject orally to each other; and that each will deliver his communication in person to the other, but said communication is not to be opened or read while both parties are present. This, I think,' said the doctor, 'will obviate all feelings in the future.' The proposition was immediately assented to by Mr. Nelson.
Everything being satisfactorily arranged, the Doctor started for home. He had walked but a few steps when he turned around and said: 'Friend Jacob, I will be at home on second, seventh day, and any communication thou mayest have on thy mind to make to me, will be gladly received, in writing, on that day.' Mr. Nelson replied: 'As thou livest, I will surely see thee on that day.' And thus these two neighbors parted fast friends, and the subject of religion was never again mentioned in each other's presence.
However, on the appointed Saturday evening might have been seen Mr. Nelson, wending his way to the Doctor's, and after inquiring as to the health of the family, and examining the fine young orchard of apple trees and grape vines, discussing the merits of each; then, after a short pause, taking from his coat pocket several pages of closely written foolscap paper carefully folded, Mr. Nelson handed the same to the Doctor and started immediately by the nearest route for his home. Without delay, the Doctor adjourned to his house to examine the first communication of this silent debate, now fairly inaugurated.
In due time the Doctor returned the visit to Mr. Nelson, and delivered to him his response to this first communication, in the same quiet friendly way pursued in the first instance. In a like methodical way, the debate was kept up between these two tried and trusted friends every few weeks through a series of years. While each of these disputants in his own way labored to controvert the arguments presented by the other and present his own with all the vigor of honest conviction, it does not appear that finally any material change was wrought in the opinions of either, though no doubt eminently satisfactory to both, since they labored with a common purpose to promulgate the truth.
The writer of this sketch has examined the manuscripts of each of the opposing advocates, which, were they printed, would make a fair-sized volume, and in his opinion, would compare favorably with most of the religious discussions now published.
These pioneers, once well known and still remembered in the vicinity where they lived and wrought, have for more than twenty years been sleeping in the silent 'City of the Dead' at no great distance from the present domiciles which in life they honored by the endearing name of home. They are dead, yet their worthy example lives after them.
Henry Heeter, son of Sebastian Heeter and his second wife Elizabeth RARICK was the first of eleven children born to this couple. He was born in Pennsylvania on 19 July, 1796. He no doubt received his name from his maternal grandfather, Henry Rarick. It is assumed that Henry Rarick and his wife Catherine came to Ohio from Pennsylvania the same time that Sebastian and his family came. They are both buried at Ellerton, Montgomery Co., Ohio. He died 18 January 1817 at the age of 62 and she died Sept. 1829 at age 74.
Henry Heeter lived with his parents and came with them to Ohio about 1813 or 1814. Henry would have been 17 or 18 years old and was with them until he was married to Hannah VANIMAN. She was born 13 Dec. 1800. She was the daughter of John and Catherine (MARTIN) Vaniman. John Vaniman was born in England and came to this country at an early age.
Henry Heeter and Hannah Vaniman were married 9 May 1819. It is believed they lived on the Vaniman homestead or somewhere near. It is known their first child Abraham was born there. They had a daughter Catherine who died 11 Feb 1828 and is buried in a cemetery nearby. Then Hannah's father, John, died 22 October 1823 and according to John's will, each of his sons and daughters was given 80 acres of land except for Hannah Heeter and she no doubt received an equal amount in money as Henry Heeter then purchased land two miles north of New Lebanon 7 August 1825. Three years later on 25 October, 1818, Henry Heeter purchased 80 acres across the road. He purchased it from John Musselman for $210. Henry and Hannah's last eight children were born while they lived here.
On 10 December 1851, Henry made sale of all his personal property. On 24 December 1851, Henry sold all of this land except six acres for $8000 and moved to Chester Township, Wabash County, Indiana. He was more than 54 years old when he made this move and started all over again. Sometime in the latter part of January 1851, he arrived in Indiana, the weather being very cold. At this time he was living in a cabin and in February 1851 he was still living in a cabin and in a letter to his son in Ohio, he quotes some prices: corn 28cents a bu, potatoes 25cents per bu, two ten foot logs very large for 25 cents. three at 25 cents, two cherry logs at 60cents, wheat 60 cents.
In March 1851, he purchased twelve head of cattle for $75.00. Five of them were milk cows and he sold one milk cow for a $10.00 gold piece. In July the same year, he was harvesting his wheat crop and he had four cradles (working). He was paying $4.50 an acre to have land cleared. Living in those days and time was very simple.
Henry complained many times of bad roads and the problem of transportation. Those living at that time could not travel very far in the winter time. When he traveled from his home in Indiana to see his son and daughter in Ohio, it was a three-day journey.
Sometime in the first of the year 1854, Henry Heeter bought a new mill for $400. The story is told that when Henry's son-in-law Jacob Ulery, was thinking about getting ready to buy a threshing machine, Jacob Ulery's father and Henry Heeter went to see Jacob and tried to talk him out of it. When they left they asked Jacob what he was going to do. He said, "I am going to buy that threshing machine." I have heard it stated before that it has always been a characteristic of the Heeters and their descendants to own or operate heavy machinery such as saw mills, steam engines and threshing machines. When the first electric traction car ran from Dayton, Ohio to Richmond, Indiana in 1898, it was operated by Allen Heeter and in later years there was another Heeter who was on the same road.
The last year of Henry's life his house caught on fire and burned down. They had gone to meeting (church) and when they came home, it was gone. He had another one constructed and they were living in it by the fall of 1859. It is also to be noted that this house burned years later after Henry's death.
Throughout Henry's life, as he lived in Indiana, he never forgot his mother. Many times he would make inquiries about her welfare. She outlived him by more than seventeen years.
Henry Heeter was always concerned about the welfare of the members of his family and also his friends. He often wrote about the Eel River country and his home in Indiana. His life came to a close 2 October 1860 at age 64 years. His wife Hannah survived him more than 25 years. She died 10 April 1886. They are both buried in Indiana.
Note: Both Henry and wife are buried in the Old Cripe cemetery, Wabash Co.
In February, 1841, as a number of old settlers were wending their way toward Wabash, they discovered about one and one half miles west of the town the tracks of a bear that had crossed the canal the night before. A party of hunters started in pursuit. They followed the trail as far as the brakes of the Eel River, where they ascertained that another party had taken the trail and followed it ahead of them, and that the advance party were mounted, followed by a large pack of dogs. On the afternoon of the next day, Uncle Anthony Keller, then living in a cabin on the present site of Rich Valley, while standing in his door, observed a black object approaching, which he afterward learned was no other than a huge bear. The animal passed by him without changing its course. As soon as the old gentlemen could recall his scattered senses, he seized his rifle and started after the wayfarer, intent on securing the game. Judge Keller and his two sons living nearby on the hill, attracted by the excitements of the occasion, soon joined him in the chase. Jonathan Keller was also one of the party that participated in the enterprise and did his part to make the pursuit interesting.
The bear, it seems, had travelled under the pressure of an active pursuit for twenty-four hours, and from force of circumstances, (was) tired and considerably demoralized. In that condition he was soon treed by the dogs. The tree in which he sought refuge from his pursuers was situated nearby and a little west of the canal lock known as the Matlock lock. The pursuing party was not far behind bruin when he reached the objective point. Uncle Anthony was not long in securing a satisfactory position, where he could see the fugitive distinctly, and in less time than it takes to describe it, a well-directed bullet from his trusty rifle brought his bearship down fatally wounded. In this condition he was immediately surrounded by the dogs, but an offensive stroke from his heavy paw sent them to a respectful distance, wholly indisposed to renew the combat. The bear, however, was finally killed, and taken to Anthony Keller's residence, where it was dressed.
Not long after a number of Indians approached on horseback, the same party who had the previous evening taken the animal's trail. They were followed by a pack of jaded dogs, whose condition clearly indicated their interest in the chase. Uncle Anthony and his companions being fully convinced that the Indians, having been the pursuing party, were entitled to a large share of the booty, if not the whole of it, and so, generously proposed to make a complete surrender of their rights. This proposition was unsatisfactory to the Indians, and they accordingly declined to take all. However after a short interview, in which the rights of all parties were canvassed, a compromise was effected, and the dead bear divided equally between the Indians and white people, all of whom, being conscious that they had acted the honorable part toward each other, expressed their satisfaction and soon departed for their respective homes, well pleased with the excitements of the chase and the division of the spoils. It only remains to say that the Kellers enjoyed a rich repast in discussing the merits of numerous slices of "bear's meat" so opportunely placed within their reach, not so much that there was any necessity for the indulgence of their appetites for "wild meat," but especially because of the desire inherent in the disposition of pioneer men to have it said, feeling assured of its truth, that they had in the course of their experience eaten bear's meat, and had participated in the killing of the animal from whose body the tempting morsels had been taken.
(Editor's note) I hope you too (as I do) enjoy this story for two reasons. First, the story itself as an example of good relations between the two groups and second - the special style of pioneer writing.
The North Manchester Historical Society has taken little notice of family history in the Newsletter or in its programming. And yet family history may be the most important facet of history; through family history, history really comes alive and assumes reality. The history of farming is the history of families who worked together to make a farm support them. The history of wars is really the history of members of a family who went away to soldier, were killed or came home wounded or perhaps survived to tell stories of their experiences.
Beginning this year the Historical Society will attempt to add this important part of history to its agenda by doing three things. Some stories of families will appear in the Newsletter beginning with this issue with a short article about the Heeters of this area and some information about one line of Millers. Second, we will add some programing for our meetings about family history and/or about "doing" genealogy. You will be encouraged to begin to write the story of your family if you have not yet done that. Third, we will start exciting projects of beginning or of completing a family tree.
Genealogy is a major activity for thousands of people in the United States. It is not only an interesting hobby but it is also an important legacy for the older to provide for our younger family members. And genealogy is a special way to study history.
We are especially fortunate here in Manchester to have the Public Library and the College Library right here. Each has a special collection of materials to assist in studying family history. The Ft. Wayne Library with some of the best resources in the United States is close by. Many families can make amazing progress toward putting together a family tree without making any long journeys at all.
On the other hand, perhaps you can plan a family vacation which will include searching out the house where your grandpa grew up, or the first house your parents lived in as newlyweds. Or you may become a cemetery searcher and experience the tug at the heart of finding five little tombstones together in a row -all buried the same summer, or the thrill of finding on grandmother's stone her family name which you never knew before.
It could be a brand new way to become fascinated by history.
The following is an essay required for graduation from Gilead High School in 1933. It was written by Beulah (Smith) Ewing (Mrs. James O.), daughter of Asa and Clara Eldora (Baker) Smith and aunt of Barbara Amiss. It was hand written, of course, with careful margins of l 3/4 inch on one side and 3/4 inch on the other side of each page. The first part of it was included in the February newsletter. The entire essay is printed here for clarity.
It was after the coming of the white people, that our great grandparents who settled here, cleared the land and built the first dam across Squirrel Creek to furnish power for the grist mill, which was built by Benjamin Musselman in 1836, one could get a sack of corn ground by leaving it long enough, but if one needed a load of corn or wheat made into meal or flour, he would have to go a great distance to some other mill. The mill at Niconza was only a corn cracker with bowlders taken from a nearby quarry for mill stones. Later the mill was designed for the milling of wheat. This mill like many, other backwoods mills in early days required a hand-bolt to sift the bran out; moreover, in some instances the people at home had a sieve made out of a deer skin, punched full of fine holes with which to further refine the flour. However, many biscuits have been made out of the flour which was ground at this private establishment. How long it stood and performed its humble service we do not know. In 1841, the mill was sold to H. Carington. There had been many revival meetings held in this mill, as there was no church near by at that time.
One of the first industries of this humble little village was the cabinet shops of Joseph Miller. Mr. Miller also made coffins for a number of the pioneers, one of which was made for Mr. Mathias Moyers wife, in 1836 by splitting puncheons from a white, walnut log and then hewing them down into boards - there being no saw mill here at that time. Her burial was the first that took place in the Moyer cemetery which was situated south of Niconza. At the present time it is known as the Baker cemetery. Mr. Moyer was one of the first settlers in Miami county.
In 1838, a pottery was founded by Elias Slagle, who discovered a deposit of clay which was suitable for the making of earthen ware. The first saw mill, being of the upright type, was built by John Bowers and was run by water power. The grist mill and saw mill utilized the same dam.
The village of Niconza had a postoffice and only one general-store. We are not able to obtain exact data about the date when the postoffice and store started. The history of Wabash county shows a postoffice there as far back as 1837, but no name as to who the first postmaster was. A man by the name of Ream, as we are told, was for some time, one of the first postmasters; later, he sold out to David Smith, who managed both the postoffice and the store. After Smith had built a new house, the work of the postoffice was carried on in one of the front rooms of the new house, and any one who wished to send a letter could drop it thru a slot in the weather boarding into the mail bag in side for immediate delivery. This building stands today and you may yet see how the mail was slipped thru the slot into the inside of the building. The building is used as a farm storage house. The mail was carried from Wabash on horseback to Stockdale, then to Niconza, and on to Harrisburgh - now called Disko. After the Eel River Railroad - now named the Pennsylvania was built and Roann, in 1860, became a town, the mail was carried from there every other day. The mail route has been, until recently, far away from any railroad track, the nearest point having been Roann, which was some eight or ten miles distance. However, the people of this vicinity were amazed to learn that another railroad company was starting to build a line directly from Chicago, thru Harrisburgh and on to New York. The postoffice was removed from Niconza to Disko in 1876. Henry Clingerman, who is now sixty nine years old, was the last one that carried the mail. Mr. Clingerman owns the land on which the quaint Squirrel Indian Village - later called Niconza, stood. But in the march of progress the village failed to keep up with the procession and has perished entirely, or remains only as a shadow of what it once was.
During the month of March, 1842, in the days of log cabins and hard cider where the only public places of note were barns, school houses and the sawmill to worship in, with a membership of nine, which proceeded to draw up and adopt a constitution for a Baptist church and also determined or selected a name for the church. They derived its name from the Indian Village called Squirrel Village or Squirrel Town - the name of its chief, "Squirrel," which in the Indian tongue is called "Niconza".
On July 16, 1840, there was a remarkable meeting at Musselman's saw-mill which proved the begining of a work of grace throughout the whole region, the membership growing from nine to thirty two. But it seems as yet they were not quite ready to organize, fearing that they were not able financially.
On March 25, 1853, an acre lot was deeded to this organization by Andrew Onstott. The church which was built during that year was a frame structure. Many a protracted meeting has been held within this church in past years, and cherished seasons of grace and revival have been enjoyed.
A new house erected in the summer of 1899, and dedicated on December seventeenth, of the same year. The house itself is a frame structure with a seating capacity of three hundred. The church enjoys the very best of leadership and a more generous and wide awake type of people cannot be found elsewhere.
(copied without corrections)
Michael Miller was born in Lancaster County Penna and at the age of about ten he floated down the Ohio with his parents and family to Kentucky. After about seven years they moved into Ohio and later to Montgomery County Ohio. His first marriage was to Salome Cramer and they had 12 children. His second marriage to Elizabeth Brumbaugh added ten children. Many of these children moved to Indiana... and at least six sons of Michael and Salome moved to Wabash, Miami or Huntington County. So many of the descendants of this line are known to many of us.
One of these six was Michael Miller born in 1817 who came to North Manchester. His first marriage was to Charity Maurer and they perhaps had three children. His second marriage was to Phoebe Bigler and they had l5 children. Several - perhaps six - died young, and one, Malinda, was blind from the age of nine months.
A son, Amos, was born March 12, 1849, married Sarah E. Cupp. and lived in North Manchester. Their oldest child was Bertha Cupp Miller who married Levi Neher and had one son, Levi. She became well known for several reasons. Her book, AMONG THE GIANTS, a story introducing six common failings became popular in the late 1800's. The copy in the College library is one of the fourth edition. It was unusual for a woman to be a minister at that time and she actually served as a pastor for a time.
Sarah and Amos' second child was Ida who was well known for her marriage to Otho Winger, long-time president of Manchester College. They were the parents of two sons.
Edith was the third daughter and was never married, specially known for caring for the Wingers near the end of their lives.
Their youngest child was LeRoy who married Olive A Deardorff. They were the parents of five children. LeRoy managed a phone company and later owned and operated a golf course. They moved away from North Manchester.
Corrections or comments on this family are welcome.