Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: NMHS Newsletter, VI, No. 4 (Nov 1989)

“Pioneer, Preacher, Abolitionist: Bryant Fannin Brings the Word,”
by Michael R. Hayes [Descendant of Bryant Fannin]

Bryant Fannin preached the first sermon in North Manchester. That was on a fall morning in 1835 in the cabin of Peter Ogan (Ogan was the founder of North Manchester).

The Fannin background originates in Virginia, where Bryant Fannin, Sr., was born on October 28, 1791, in what is now Tazewell County (then part of Wythe County). His grandfather was Bryan Fannin (1735-1765), and his father was Ackerless Fannin who died around April 10, 1812, in Wythe County. Bryant married Rachel Pearson on May 31, 1814, and they moved to Russell County, Virginia, and purchased land, which they sold in 1817.

We next know that they had their first son, Jesse, born November 9, 1820, in Wayne County, Indiana, and purchased land there in a section which would later be southeast Madison County. The family grew with the birth of Deborah (March 6, 1825). Rachel (March 9, 1830), and Washington (probably about 1831).

Different historical references had placed Bryant and Rachel in Wabash County between 1833 and 1836. However, a son, David, was born in Chester Township on February 20, 1833, so the family had arrived by then. Bryant purchased his first piece of property in Chester Township on October 1, 1833, a portion of section 32, lying on the south side of Eel River. The tract is immediately east of the old Second Street bridge and on the north side of the road. The river has changed course since that time: it is believed that in earlier times the river flowed considerably west of where it is now, so that land was triangular. Old timers did not recall what Bryant did with this land.

In 1841 Bryant and his neighbor, John Spenser, formed an organization of Christians or Disciples of Christ, meeting at the Fannin cabin and later at the Walters Schoolhouse on Gospel Hill, at the southwest corner of the intersection of Singer Road and County Road 1100 North. The group then moved to a building on the west side of Main Street and just north of the village store in New Madison (Servia of today). The building was later moved across the street and formed the main part of Luella Felabom’s house.

Bryant’s family continued to grow in 1834 with the birth of daughter. Polly (who died in infancy), and a son, John, was born in 1836 (he died in 1850). Another son, Bryant Jr. was born July 6, 1837.

When Bryant’s wife, Rachel, died in 1839, he married Harriet Nichols in early 1840. Harriet’s daughter, Dimey, had married Bryant’s first son, Jesse. It was not unusual for a man to remarry as soon as possible to help raise his family.

Fannin was a preacher for over 40 years, going wherever he was needed and never asking money for his services. He was an ardent abolitionist and one of four conductors on the “underground railway” which helped runaway slaves escape to Canada. Maurice Place was another conductor.

The homestead was about a quarter mile east of the Krisher Cemetery on County Road 1100 North along Pony Creek and just west of Singer Road. He walked to Fort Wayne to get the deed to his property, signed by Andrew Jackson and dated September 2, 1834.

Bryant Fannin, Sr., died on January 8, 1881. He had told his friends that, when he crossed the River Jordan, his right arm would rise in the casket. Funeral services were held in the morning. The mourners went to lunch and, when they returned to the church for the afternoon burial, they saw that Bryant’s right arm was raised. He was buried in Krisher Cemetery. Harriet died in January 1886 and was buried with Bryant. Rachel, buried in another cemetery, was reinterred in Krisher Cemetery along with several other Fannin relatives.

The spelling Fannin apparently was changed to Fanning by Bryant’s descendants.

Source: T.B. Helm, History of Wabash County (1884), p. 290-1:

JESSE FANNIN, farmer, P.O. North Manchester, was born in Wayne County, IN, November 9, 1820. His father, Bryant, was born in West Virginia, and his mother, whose maiden name was Rachel Pierson, was born in South Carolina. The parents settled in Wayne County, IN, about the year 1817, but both died in Wabash County. Jesse, the subject of this sketch, settled in Wabash County in 1836. At the age of 26 he purchased his first land, fifty acres, and now (1884) has a farm of 220 acres. He was married, February 10, 1846, to Dimey Nichols. This marriage was blessed with seven children, six of whom are now living, viz., Harriet, wife of Thomas Steel; Samuel B., married to Nancy Clark; Lydia, wife of Jesse Tyler; Dimey, wife of William Martin; Leonard and George. The parents and three of the children are members of the Christian Church. Mr. Fannin is an ordained minister of that denomination, and is Chaplain of Chester Grange, Patrons of Husbandry. In politics, he is a Republican. His grandfather Fannin was Captain of a company in the Revolutionary war. Mrs. Fannin departed this life June 9, 1881.