Source: Helm, History of Wabash County (1884), pp. 339-340


Mr. Stratton was born in Sussex County, N.J., September 27, 1812; was taken in his early childhood to Beaver County, Penn., and five years later (March, 1818) to Wayne County, Ohio, north of Wooster, its county seat, marrying there Mary Shellenbarger December 24, 1835. They moved in 1838 to the Wabash region, settling near the northern line of Wabash, and a few rods in the edge of Kosciusko County, owning and farming lands in both counties, having purchased there 240 acres. In 1848, he changed his residence into La Gro Township, near Hopewell Church, and, after making his home on that farm twenty-six years, they came to Wabash City, where he still remains. Mr. Stratton has been a member of the Methodist Church fifty-six years, joining it in Wayne County, Ohio, when about fifteen years old, and a local preacher in the same connection since 1857, in former days doing much in the preaching line, but since coming to Wabash having mostly ceased his labors in that behalf. Mr. Stratton has been not without honor among his fellow-citizens, having been for several years Township Trustee, as also County Commissioner for six years, etc. He has uniformly taken a strong and leading part in education and other matters wherever his residence has been. His worthy and beloved wife died in February, 1875, shortly after removing to Wabash. They have been the parents of twelve children, four boys and eight girls; ten grew up, six have been married, and seven are living now. As to politics, he was raised a Democrat, and remained such till 1853, since which he has been a steadfast Republican. His name is found to be frequent and prominent in the "records" of the Methodist Quarterly Conferences of the La Gro Circuit, to which he belonged during so many long and fruitful years. As Sunday school worker, as Steward, as Trustee, as local preacher, his labors in connection with the church of his choice for the souls of men, and for the accomplishment of good to the human race, have been many and long-continued; and it is to be hoped that they have been not without a measure of success, through the gracious blessing of the "Lord of the Harvest."

"When I came to the region, Eel River Valley was almost an utter wilderness. I traveled through portions of it east of Manchester for fourteen miles without seeing a solitary cabin or a single settler, the wild and trackless forest being wholly unbroken. Turkeys and deer and black and gray wolves and bears were very plenty. Rattlesnakes had been exceedingly abundant in dens among the rocks in the bluffs of the rivers and creeks. One den was near Rattlesnake Springs, half a mile above the town of La Gro, in the bluff on the north side of the river and the canal.

There was one also on the Salimony River, near Dora, in South La Gro. Michael Minnick, the first settler (perhaps), when he first drove into that neighborhood with his wife and children and wagons, containing his household goods, with also some other men in company, undertook to fix a camp for themselves, but they found the rattlesnakes so numerous that they moved forward again; but, trying once more to make a camping place, they still found the rattlesnakes in possession, and this time they began the warfare of human against reptile life, and resolutely killed eighteen; sleeping finally in their wagons, instead of making, as had been their custom, a resting place upon the surface of Mother Earth. West of La Gro, where the canal bends round the point of rocks, John Russell, who was and is one of the earliest pioneers of La Gro Township, and who worked for years upon the canal during its construction, says that in blasting the bluff there during the winter they came upon an immense den of rattlesnakes, and that they loaded them, stiffened and benumbed with the severe cold as they then were, with the rocks and dirt, and dumped them 'by cart-loads' into the embankment of the canal." (In Pennsylvania, at one time, where was an entrance and a place of exit for an incredible number of these fearful and venomous monsters, the people built a huge fence around the mouth of the den, thus enabling the settlers both to confine and to destroy the hideous creatures. See also the account of the "rattlesnakes' den," in the bluffs of Rush Creek, near New Holland, in South La Gro.) Mr. Stratton says further: "I never was a hunter; I never shot at a deer but once in my life, killing that, however, instantly. I once chased a young fawn for a long time, catching it at last when nearly worried down. I came upon the little creature suddenly, when it sprang nimbly and started to run, and I after it. It ran in circles, and I followed in pursuit, when at last it sprang against a log and stumbled and fell, and before the frightened little thing could recover itself, I seized it and held the creature fast.


"One morning early, I left my cabin north of Manchester, in company with Joseph Noftsker and John Shellenbarger, my wife's oldes brother, to show them the country.
We passed on through the forest, some three and one-half miles, to the place where now stands the Butterbaugh Schoolhouse, then however, all heavy woods being on the Wabash and Kosciusko county line. While standing and viewing the forest, we heard a rustling, and looking in that direction saw four bears, an old she bear and three cubs, or young bears (as large as middling-sized dogs); passing along in a course which would bring them within a short distance of where we were standing, but southward from the spot at which we were, they came on until they were perhaps fifty yards away; we had no gun, and might well enough have let the group pass unmolested, on the principle of 'Laissez faire,' 'you let us alone, we let you alone.' But not so; we sprang toward the bears, yelling with all our might, suddenly the old mother bear turned her face toward us and squatting upon her haunches and throwing up her fore paws, she sat thus, with her mouth open; as much as to say, 'Come on if you dare.' Her cubs meanwhile 'treed' instanter, all climbing the same tree; this done, the old bear trotted off as fast as she could waddle. Well, we wished to kill the bears, so, leaving the other two men to watch the game, I went, mostly 'on the run,' to Samuel Bussard's, who lived (and still lives) about a mile distant, for a gun and for more help. I found Mr. Bussard, as also Samuel Hammond, a neighbor, there, the latter on horseback, and they were greatly elated by my story. Mr. B. snatched his gun, ready loaded, and his ammunition. Mr. H. giving me his horse because I had become exhausted by running, started with his neighbor, and together they hurried, running like scampering school boys, skipping and bounding over logs as they went, eager to reach the spot. The two who had been watching the bears said that the old one had come back once to find and rescue her cubs, but had been frightened off again. Our plan was to shoot and cripple one of the young fellows in the tree, and having brought him down to pinch and tease him to make him squeal, and thus cause the mother to come to his relief, so as to get her, too, within range and reach of the gun. That part of the plan however, did not succeed. Mr. Bussard took the first shot, because he was the owner of the gun; Noftsker shot the second time, because he wished to be able to tell his neighbors when he got back to Ohio that he killed a bear; and Hammond drew trigger the third and last time, and every shot killed a bear. Mr. Buzzard's shot killed one of the cubs dead--dead--dead. It did not even struggle nor move a particle after it struck the ground. Noftzker, taking the rifle, drew up, and he, too, made a sure shot, and his game fell lifeless to the earth. Hammond took a slow and cautious aim, and drawing trigger, down came the third also, and he, too, was dead. None of them made any noise, and we saw no more of the old bear. The hides of the young cubs were quickly stripped from the dead bodies, and the carcasses were left to rot upon the ground, or for the poor old mother to drag away, and we went on and finished looking at the land.

"When I came first from Ohio to look for land in Indiana in the winter of 1838 (January), I traveled during the trip on foot 700 miles; starting from Wayne County, Ohio, north of Wooster, I came on through Central and Northwestern Ohio to Perrysburg, on the Maumee River, above Toledo, Ohio; thence to Fort Wayne and Huntington and westward, selecting finally the land which I afterward entered. Returning to Fort Wayne, I passed on to St. Mary's and onward through Western Ohio to Twin Creek, below Dayton; thence to Lewisburg and so to Piqua and Wappakonetta and Fort Findlay, and thence home to Wayne County, Ohio. The jaunt took something more than a month, being performed on foot of course, since (as the Irishman said) that was decidedly the 'natest and chapest' way of getting about."

Mr. Stratton settled afterward north of Hopewell Church in (North) La Gro, and for many years was a pillar in society, being one of the chief leaders in all that was good and excellent in the region of his residence.

He still owns the farm near Hopewell upon which, during so many years, he maintained his home and reared his large and happy family.

Ed: For a later account about Mark Stratton written by Clarkson Weesner, History of Wabash County, II (1914), and based on information supplied by Stratton's daughter, Gene Stratton-Porter, click here.