of the North Manchester Historical Society, Inc.

The Wabash-Erie Canal 1832 - 1876

by Ferne Baldwin

Ft. Wayne, Indiana lies just a few kilometers east of a continental divide. The Wabash-Erie divide is between the Ste. Marys and the Wabash drainages just west of Ft. Wayme. Water flowing into the Little, Eel, or Blue Rivers flows to the Wabash and down to the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico. Water entering the Ste. Marys and St.Joseph rivers flows up the Maumee and into Lake Erie.

The relative elevations of towns in this area had an impact on the construction of the Wabash-Erie Canal. Fort Wayne is 790 ft. above sea level and 197 ft above Lake Erie, Lagro is 720 ft. above sea level and 147 ft. above Lake Erie and Wabash is 687 ft. above sea level and 114 ft. above Lake Erie.

The geological formation which caused the rivers to flow in opposite directions from the vicinity of Ft. Wayne was the original reason for locating a canal in this area. The six-mile portage from the Ste. Marys to the Little Wabash was the only thing that prevented free passage. After the Erie Canal was built in New York state, the waters from Ft. Wayne could reach the Hudson River. Boat trips were advertised from Toledo to Manhattan and from Lafayette to Manhattan.

The Congress of 1823-24 was eager to open up lands in the Northwest Territory and authorized the state of Indiana to "survey and mark" the route of a canal to connect the Wabash, the Miami(Maumee) and Lake Erie. So in 1828 the Indiana Legislature formed a Board of Commissioners of the Wabash and Erie Canal.

The survey was undertaken after serious consideration. Two years before this time a survey had been done by a corps of United States engineers under a Colonel Shriver. The mosquito infested swamps proved to be deadly and all the men of the survey party became ill and Colonel Shriver died.

The clearing was to be l75 feet wide according to the contract and required a tremendous amount of grubbing. "all trees, saplings, bushes, stumps and roots shall be grubbed and dug up at least sixty-four feet wide, that is thirty-four feet wide on the towing path side of the center and thirty feet wide on the opposite side of the center, together with all logs, wood and brush of every description shall be removed at least twenty feet beyond the outward line of said grubbing on each side, and on the space of twenty feet on each side of the said grubbing all the trees, saplings, bushes and stumps shall be cut down close to the ground so that no part of any of them shall be left more than one foot in height above the natural surface of the earth, and shall also, together with all logs, brush and wood of every kind be removed entirely from said space."

The first earth was turned on February 22, 1832, as the Commissioners met in Ft. Wayne. Contracts were let for the various sections of the canal.
Bidders and Commissioners met in Wabash. Clearing and grading were begun, trees cut down, stumps pulled out, all underbrush hauled away or burned and all without bulldozer or steam shovel. Pick axes and shovels were the common tools. It was not easy to get enough workers and that delayed the project. The contractor went to New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland to persuade men to come west to work for $13.00 - $16.00 a month. Many of the men were Irish who had worked on canals in the East.

The Irish were divided into two groups of about equal numbers. The Protestants worked on the southwestern end of the line and the Catholics on the northeastern end of the section between Lagro and Wabash. Their families were with them. Although some were considered "worthless" most were hard-working individuals. The groups had fought each other while working in the East and there was real trouble from the beginning. There were beatings and a few were killed. Threats were made: burning the cabins or harming the women and children.

Violence worsened as the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne came near(site of a battle in 1690) and leaders encouraged the workers. They were determined to settle once and for all the question of which side would be driven out of the territory.

From the 4th of July to the 10th in 1835 there were constant alarms. Very little work was done as each side prepared for a final battle. Each day workers armed themselves as a report would circulate that the other side was marching to fight at the supposed point of danger.

David Burr, Commissioner and contractor in charge of this section from Wabash to Lagro told how he found one army several miles south of his home in Wabash marching in orderly fashion, well armed with picks, axes, shovels, pistols and knives, with not a single drunken man among them. They argued that they were forced to fight since the civil authorities would or could not protect them and they wanted to work peaceably.

With difficulty he was able to persuade them to wait until he could talk to the other side. He went to the eastern end and found about 300 there also fully armed and in a strong military position. It took some very fervent persuasion to convince the Catholics to consent to appoint persons to devise terms of peace and suspend hostilities until the results of a meeting could be known.

In the meantime, the people at Huntington were afraid for their lives and property and they sent to Ft. Wayne for the militia. A company was formed at once and went to Huntington by boat. Another company was formed at Huntington. But the citizens of Lagro were also fearful and sent to Huntington for troops. Mr. Burr that the militia available would not be enough so he sent to Logansport for further assistance. The two volunteer companies from Logansport met the Lagro troops and marched together back to Lagro. Two magistrates, an associate judge and the sheriffs of Wabash and Huntington county came together, about 200 workers were arrested and eight ringleaders were hustled off to Indianapolis for safe keeping. No jail on the canal line was considered safe enough to hold them. Eventually they were set free on a writ of habeas corpus.

Militia companies were organized in Wabash, in Lagro and in Huntington and Justices of the Peace were commissioned. The cost of controlling the riot and maintaining order was paid by the state since state work was involved and the work of building the canal went forward.

In June 1837 water flowed into the canal at Lagro and moved slowly toward Wabash. Many people followed. The first vessel to reach Wabash was one made of a sap trough. The owners old horse was tied to the boat with a grape vine to provide power. Colonel Hanna and Colonel Wm. Steele were passengers.

Soon after the "Prairie Hen" arrived with almost a hundred passengers and within minutes the "Indiana" with both freight and passengers with a German band for entertainment. The band led the crowd to the Treaty Ground where a picnic was held. That evening a ball held above Colonel Hanna's store brought a fitting close to the first "Canal Day."

North Manchester's Neighbors -- towns of this area
Continued from the August 1994 Newsletter

Silver Lake

Silver Lakeville was the original name given to North Manchester's northern neighbor when it was surveyed and platted by Jacob Paulus in 1859. Jacob and his brother, Daniel, were Silver Lake's first merchants. They sold general merchandise out of a log house and Daniel was the first postmaster with the store doubling as a post office.

The first drug store in town opened in 1868 under the ownership of ElishaWorley. Four years later Dr. Daniel E. Terry became the first physician to serve the community.


Claypool dates its origin to May l0, 1873 when the town was drawn out by John and Nelson Beigh. The name comes from a postoffice which had operated in the area on a farm owned by Joshua Caldwell since the 1840's.

The town enjoyed steady growth and had a brick school by 1878 and a United Brethren church in 1884. The Grangers, an agricultural reform group operated a store there in the 1880's.

South Whitley

South Whitley is the oldest town in Whitley County being platted by Joseph Parrett in 1838. The community was named Springfield and that remains its legal name even though it is never used.

The Parrett family dominated South Whitley's early history. John Parrett opened the first hotel in town in 1837 and David Parrett was named the first postmaster in 1837 also. David served as a school teacher during summer months.

South Whitley enjoyed the services of five physicians and one lawyer by 1875. Robert Emerson opened one of the first area newspapers in 1887 calling it the Whitley County News.


Servia was originally known as New Madison but had its name changed when the Erie Railroad arrived in 1883. The name was changed to Servia because Indiana had another Madison which caused great confusion to the railroads and postal clerks. At one time the Servia depot and railroad provided the main source of income for the community. The depot became an important shipping base for milk produced in the area.

For many years a school was operated for elementary students who later transferred to Chester for junior high and high school classes. The area is now part of the consolidated Manchester Community School system.

Servia once rested its fame on an annual liar's contest which doubled as an annual homecoming event for former residents. Contestants came from neighboring communities and states for the good company and humorous tales. At the same time the liar's contests were being held other events also took place to amuse the considerable crowds which visited the town.


The town of Urbana was laid out by James M. Wright, William Richards and Samuel Willman. It was surveyed by James L. Knight and recorded by William Steele, recorder of Wabash County. A sawmill and a shoe shop were the first businesses. Several years later a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop and a shoe shop appeared. The settlement was not very successful until the railroad touched it in 1874. This was the Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan.

After the completion of the railroad, Charles Miller built a depot. Simultaneously he was a merchant, grain shipper and postmaster. In the early 1880's the town had saw and grist mills, two resident physicians, two meeting houses (the Evangelical and Brethren) and perhaps 30 dwellings and about 150 people.


The small community of Collamer, on Indiana 14 west of South Whitley, was surveyed by John Arnold and the plat filed by R. Miller in the summer of 1846. The name given was originally Millersburg. The site was selected because of convenient location to the Wabash and Erie Railroad and the Eel River.

By the 1880's it was a thriving town with a gristmill, a sawmill, two general stores, a drug store, a boot and shoe store, a grade school, a Christian Church, a physician and a post office.


Sidney was born in the fall of 1881 when the east and west branches of the Nickel Plate Railroad met a half mile west of town. In the first year, Gus Boltz built a sawmill -- the first business house in the area. Later that same year Dan Snell built a home and Radcliff, McNamara and Co. opened Sidney's first general store.

Things picked up for the town in 1882 with the arrival of Frank B. Moe and his hardware store along with William Klingel's harness shop. Medicine also came to Sidney that year, with Dr. T. A. Lancaster opening a general practice which lasted until 1886. Drs. S. C. Loring and G. B. Hoopengarner also setup shop in Sidney with the latter opening the town's first drugstore.

E.M. Radcliff was the first Sidney postmaster in 1882 when the federal mail system came to the then-booming Indiana town.

By the mid-l880's Sidney sported a pair of general stores, a post office, two sawmills, two doctors and a school with two teachers and l00 pupils.

As the railroad prospered in the last decade of the 19th century, so did Sidney. Two new doctors had arrived in town -- Dr. J. L. Warvel and Dr. T.
Dorsey. And William Fifer's bottling works was busily turning out soft drinks. By 1890 three churches and two saloons courted the populace of the town. And with a population of over 300, Sidney entertained itself with a town band and an amusement park.

In the midst of this sprawling community Harley Ulrey operated a private detective agency and Strauss Hardware opened its doors. At the turn of the century, the Sidney Courier struck up its weekly presses.

Sidney was incorporated in August of 1914 and the first town board members were Fred Grisso, William Mendel and E. P. Tridle. The first town clerk was Adam Grisso and Melvin Doub was the first marshal. The first new industry entering the newly incorporated town was Knox Pickles and Preserving Company which employed about 35 persons.

A. T. Ronk operated the first monoply in Sidney with his power plant. Built in 1917, the plant sold power to the town. Sidney obtained its first motorized fire fighting vehicle in 1926 --a Model T. Ford driven by fire chief Fred Jellison. As the railroad diminished in importance through the 20th century, Sidney also lost its "boom air." It has become, over the years, a closely-knit family town with a single general store and without Knox Pickling and Preserving Company. In 1973 the old section of the school was razed leaving a newer rear section standing. The town's high school basketball team had been swallowed years before by consolidation.

And so, Sidney is left clean and quiet along State Road 13.

Former towns - Rose Hill, Elko, Bolivar, Newton and Massilion.

Towns such as Rose Hill, Elko, Bolivar, Newton and Massilion are now little more than a memory for the oldest citizens of the area.

Elko once existed on the Lagro-Chester Township line about four miles east of Urbana on St. Rd. 16. The town was first called Pleasant View but the name changed with the establishment of a post office. The first business in Elko was a blacksmith shop which was established around 1869.

No signs of the community exist any longer as the last building burned to the ground in 1935 on the night before Thanksgiving.

Rose Hill was a railroad town located on the Wabash-Kosciusko county line in Pleasant Township. The town originated as a post office when the Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan Railroad was built through Wabash County in 1872. At one time there were about ten houses, stores, a blacksmith shop, saw mill and grain storage area.

As many as six passenger trains a day used to go through the old community. Passengers wishing to board the trains at Rose Hill would flag down a passing train and get on board.

The village of Bolivar was located south of North Manchester east of the
overhead bridge on Highway 13. Except for the railroad there wasn't much activity in Bolivar but at one time a post office, a store, a church and
several homes were located there.

Another railroad town called Newton was located in Pleasant Township at the junction of the Erie and the Penn Central Railroads. The town was
established in 1883 and had a railroad round house, a tower, two hotels and a depot.

Not much is recorded about Massilion which was located in Pleasant Township on or near the Lukens Lake road west of Laketon. It was platted on Nov 21, 1839 by Michael Rugh and J. Shellenberger but it apparently never became settled.

Cecil Eiler - Home from the North Woods

By Suzanne Eiler Miller

Note: Two years out of high school in 1924 Cecil Eiler (1902 - 1991) started a small battery business in North Manchester. The same year he purchased a lot at 110 W Main and built Eiler's Service Station, a business he operated successfully until WW II. He joined the local Fire Department also in 1924 and would later retire as Chief of the Township Department.

"Tell me a story." When Dad ("Cec" Eiler) arrived home from one of his trips to the North Woods, the first thing I wanted him to do was to tell me a story about one of his adventures.

I loved the way Dad looked when he came home from one of his hunts. No movie hero showing at the Ritz or Marshall could match his dark good looks or could any script have more drama than his stories of the great north woods in the early 30's. "He's home!" would ring through the Red Brick (201 West 3rd -now being restored by Allen D. White) as he would drive up, the deer strapped to the side of the Hudson. He would almost run into the house, throw down his stuffed duffle bags, set his rifle in the corner of the kitchen just back of the front kitchen door. There was an aura of pine woods, adventure, wild scent about Dad that would thrill any young child's heart. And his appearance! He had a disarming grin that suggested he knew more than he was telling that only whetted my appetite to know more. He would riffle his black hair back from his forehead and run his hand over his growth of prickly black beard. He still wore layers of wool trousers he tucked in his high-topped boots. The shirt of his long underwear I could see at the open neck of his shirt and at the ends of his turned-up sleeves.

"Tell me a story." I begged Dad from the moment he would come home. Between the living room and the dining room in the Red Brick was the 'register', a wide seat with grating that brought the warm air directly up from the furnace below. This is where I would sit while Dad would tell me of his adventures. How the moose charged and he barely escaped before he shot it with his 30-06. Or when they found Old Nels dead in his cabin deep in the woods. Or when Chum, the Indian guide, gave him pelts and porcupine quills to bring home to Susie as gifts. He transported me to a far-away world that held me spell-bound and still does.

News would spread that 'Cec was home", and soon friends would begin to arrive. We would gather around the big table in the kitchen and Dad would tell his tales to everyone. Mother (Mae) would perk coffee and begin frying the sourdough buckwheat cakes everyone relished. Friends, take a deep breath. Just imagine the aroma: coffee/sourdough/buckwheats, old hunting boots/newly tanned pelts/fresh air as the door is opened and closed. Neighbors came to look at the deer, count the points on the rack and Dad would tell the details of the shoot until it was all told.

Next day Dad would take the deer to Fred Flook on West Main to butcher and package. I would go with him as he delivered these packages to his friends. He always shared his game. One year he entertained all the business men at the Young Hotel. Mabel Dunbar prepared the venison dinner and served her famous angel food cake for dessert. Another year he had the firemen. Mother had a smorgasbord, a popular way of entertaining at that time. And Harry Leffel kept good humored accounts of many of the anecdotes in the NEWS JOURNAL.

I wish you could all remember with me those venison dinners Mae Eiler served at the Red Brick flavored with stories of the North Woods.

Wabash County History- Chester Township

Continued from August 94
Materials in this issue are taken from History of Wabash County Indiana 1884
T. B Helm Author & Editor. Everything in this issue comes from the section on Chester Township which was prepared by Mr. L. H. Newton.

During the first twenty years succeeding the period at which the settlement of this township began, great changes took place in the general aspect of the country and important public improvements were instituted and carried out. The nearest grist mill was forty miles distant on Turkey Creek, in Elkhart County, and to this point the first settlers were compelled to carry their grain to have it ground into flour or meal. It was probably in the year 1837 that John Ogan erected a little mill on the bank of Ogan's Creek, but it was a small affair and in all its appointments it was primitive in the extreme. He did not attempt to make flour, and his mill did not rise above the dignity of a "corn cracker." Still, while it was the only mill in this region, it served a very useful purpose.

 In 1839, Joseph Harter erected near the later site of the Strauss & Shock Mill, the first flouring mill in the neighborhood. Originally it had but two run of buhrs, one for wheat and the other for corn, while the corn buhrs were simply large boulders...taken from the river and dressed down. In 1843, however, Mr. Harter remodeled his mill, increasing its capacity, and making it equal to the best mills of that period.

Saw mills were among the industries early established, and filled an important place in the community. The first was erected about the year 1838 by Peter Ogan, very near the later site of the Clapp & Jacobs Saw Mill, in the south part of Manchester, and on the bank of Eel River. Some time subsequently, Mr. Ogan added a run of buhrs and conducted a limited gristmill trade. In later years, after several changes of ownership, this mill was purchased by J.B. & J. Harter and soon afterward ceased to exist. Damages were entailed upon surrounding property by the dam at this mill k, and it was purchased by the brothers Harter with the express intention of abating the nuisance peaceably.

Another saw mill was that built in 1839 by Anthony Clever at the mouth of a small creek about half a mile west of John Heeter's residence. At Liberty Mills some time in 1837, John Comstock erected a saw mill, and at this place sawed and dressed the lumber for a large flouring mill which he erected at that point in the following year. A carding mill and distillery soon followed and the incipient town of Liberty Mills began to wear a look of industry and importance. The flouring mill drew its trade from a radius of sixty miles around and enjoyed a lucrative share of the public patronage.

In 1850, Mr. Comstock erected a new mill building, removing the carding machinery to the former flouring mill building, and conducting a profitable trade in the carding of wool for his neighbors within a circuit of forty miles or more. Latterly, however, the woolen mill was destroyed by fire and was never rebuilt. The flouring mill stands about twenty rods south of the building originally erected for that purpose. Until 1866 Mr. Comstock continued to operate it, but in that year sold it to C. T. Banks and Co.

The distillery was erected in 1839 and, in the language of one of the sons of the proprietor, "it was a flourishing and damnable enterprise." He would send his sons with wagon loads of whisky to surrounding towns as far as Mishawaka, Warsaw, and other places. As the boys grew up, however, each begged to be released from all connection with the distillery and its products, a request which was promptly granted. Gradually, Mr. Comstock became impressed with the idea that the traffic was of questionable propriety, and said: "I will let that distillery rot!" He had repeated offers for it, and could have sold it to splendid advantage; but to all these propositions his answer was a decided negative. So the distillery remained inoperative until, in the natural course of events, it crumbled to decay.

Gold Fish

by L. Russell Long

The l930's are most remembered as the days of the depression, but another phenomenon occurred then also. This was a fad among people of having gold fish ponds in their yards. These ponds became very popular in North Manchester early in the thirties and the fad lasted two or three decades. To my knowledge that last active pond belonged to Dewayne Garrison on West Fourth Street. It was eliminated in the late sixties.

The ponds came in all sizes, shapes and descriptions. Some even included islands. Most were complete with lily pads and lake moss, and in addition to fish, included tadpoles and polliwogs. Charles "Dutch" Ruppel, who live on West Second Street, had what was perhaps the most elaborate. He had a rock garden that stretched along the back side of his home and and continued for several feet along his lot line. A waterfall tumbled down rocks at about the center, forming a curved stream six to eight inches wide. This stream emptied into a large pond that reached halfway across his yard.

Next door, his sister, Rose Long, had a coffee-cup shaped pool. Where the handle would be a projection occurred, forming a miniature bench complete with a high and low diving board. On the opposite side a zoo complete with animals and ceramic people circled a third of the way around the pond edge.

Other ponds were scattered throughout the town. Two I remember were owned by Bill Hatfield at the corner of main and Sycamore and Otto Parmerlee on South Market. Both were fairly large for private pools. The Parmerlee pool was kept fresh because it had the unique benefit of a flowing well as a source of fresh water.

Since the ponds were fairly shallow, wintering the fish required large indoor aquariums. DeWayne Garrison solved this problem by placing his fish in the pool housed in the Thomas Marshall school during the school year. This pool was lost when the gymnasium was added to the building since it was in the alcove that gave way for the new hallway.

Another pond of note formed the centerpiece of the formal garden at Oaklawn Cemetery. It was located in the sunken area of what was at that time, the northeast corner of the cemetery. The pool has long since been filled in, but the outline is still visible today.

Thus, another phenomenon has passed from the scene. Goldfish can, however, still be seen in park and zoo ponds. The closest I know are in the sunken garden in Huntington.