Source: T.B. Helm, History of Wabash County (1884), p. 285
ELDER GEORGE ABBOTT, minister, Liberty Mills. George, son of James and Catharine (Tillman) Abbott, was born September 18, 1816, in Preble County, Ohio. His father was a native of South Carolina, and his mother a native of Tennessee. His parents located in Wabash County, Ind., in 1834, and were the first permanent settlers in Chester Township. His father entered 160 acres of land on the present site of the town of Liberty Mills, and subsequently added enough adjacent land to make 400 acres, lying in Wabash and Kosciusko Counties. He sold the land where Liberty Mills is now located to John Comstock, donating the mill site upon condition that the latter would erect and operate a grist mill there. Prior to this he had offered the same site to Alexander McBride, who failed to comply with the stipulation. Mr. Abbott was a self-made man. At the age of eight years, he was "bound out" to a slave-holder in North Carolina, with whom he remained until eighteen years old, running away from his master at that time, and escaping into Tennessee, where he was married, in 1799, to Catharine Tillman. In 1805, he removed to Preble County, Ohio, where he purchased and improved a farm, and reared ten children. In 1834, he came to Wabash County, where he and his wife remained until death. About 1861, he sold his farm for $4,000, after which the parents made their home with their son George. Mr. Abbott, Sr., served under Gen. Wayne in the war of 1812, and his father served in Revolutionary war. From his family, including his own children and grandchildren, no less than thirty soldiers were furnished for the Union army during the late rebellion, and half of this number sacrificed their lives in defense of the flag. In 1810, Mr. Abbott, Sr., was converted under the preaching of Rev. George Shiedler, of the Christian Church, and was soon after chosen Deacon of the church, holding that office until his decease, at the age of ninety-one years. Elder George Abbott, his son, and the subject of this sketch, was in his seventeenth year when he came to Wabash County with his parents, and has borne a full share of the trials incident to pioneer life. In August, 1839, he was married to Miss Nancy Barrett, then the only white girl in Chester Township. She was born in Kentucky. Her father, Jesse, died when she was quite a small girl, and her mother married Richard Helvy, who came to Wabash County in 1829, and is thought to have been the first white settler in this county. He tilled the ground where the town of La Gro is now located. In 1845, Mr. Abbott was ordained a minister of the Christian Church, and has ever since labored in this capacity. He is in the Eel River Conference, consisting of thirty-two churches, of which number one-half have been organized through his instrumentality. He was reared a farmer, and has always followed that occupation in connection with his ministerial labors. He has preached for thirty-two years in the church near his home, and has been instrumental in adding more than 2,000 members to the denomination which he represents. In politics, he is a stanch Republican, and has participated in all the campaigns of that party. He made his first speech at the Congressional Convention in favor of the late Judge Pettit for Congress. During the late war, he rendered very efficient service, at his own expense, in securing volunteers for the Union army, and among those whom he enlisted were three of his own sons--Lewis, Levi P. and Mahlon. Lewis was in the Forty-seventh Indiana Regiment; was at the storming of Island No. 10, and died from the effects of exposure in the rifle pits. Levi P. was in the same regiment for more than three years, serving until the close of the war, and participated in twenty-one battles and skirmishes. Mahlon was in the One Hundred and Thirtieth Indiana Regiment, and joined Gen. Sherman in Tennessee. At Marietta, Ga., he was overcome by the effects of forced marches, and died. He was buried in the soldiers' cemetery at that place. Mr. Abbott and wife reside in North Manchester , Chester Township, where they have witnessed the growth and development of a county. Of the eight children born to them, four are not living, vis.: Levi P., Sarah J., David and Francis M. Mr. Abbott is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Source: T.B. Helm, History of Wabash County (1884), p. 275
In August, 1839, George Abbott and Nancy Barrett were united in the bonds of matrimony by John W. Stephens, the first Justice of the Peace in the township [Chester], at Mr. Stephens' house. it is a fact worthy of note that Mr. Abbott was the first young man in the township, and his bride the first young lady. He was about eighteen years of age when he came here with his father, James Abbott, and Miss Barrett was about the same age when she accompanied her step father, Col. Helvy, to these wilds. The friendship of their early days ripened into love, and for a period of more than forty years they have enjoyed a happy wedded life. They now reside in the town of North Manchester, honored and respected by all who know them.
Source: T.B. Helm, History of Wabash County (1884), p. 257
REV. GEORGE ABBOTT
The Rev. George Abbott drove the first ox-team from Manchester to Goshen. The trip took a week to get through. They went to Turkey Creek Prairie by an "Indian trail." In going through the woods where the logs were too big to cut away, they cut the smaller logs and rolled them up to the large ones and thus bridged them. In going along the marshes, the grass was very tall, as high as a man could reach sometimes. They had a scythe and fork and mowed two swaths, leaving a place unmown wide enough for a track, and then, with the fork, beat down that standing strip and pitched the long mown grass upon the unmown strip, thus making a kind of "grass pike."
Mr. Abbott married Nancy Burritt [Barrett], step-daughter of Richard Helvy. Mr. Helvy resided three years at La Gro and Nancy helped hoe three crops of corn at La Gro, before it was a town (1831-33). Mr. Helvy lived in the "brick house," and in the cabin by the "spring." Mr. Abbott had eighty acres when he was married, and what else? A cabin seven or eight feet high and a blanket at the door, under the flap of which he used to shoot deer and wolves. His wife had a skillet, and a Dutch oven and a stew-pot. Their first bedstead was two logs placed in the corner with some clapboards laid on the top, and after that a "corner post" bedstead with linn bark twisted for a cord.
"Nearly everybody drank whisky then. At La Gro, Robert Hurley, who thought he could outrun everybody, wanted to try a foot race and offered to bet a gallon of whisky against any man in the county. They got me to try it and I beat him.
"He followed me to Wabash Town and, while there, insisted that the race should be repeated. Court, lawyers and all went out to see the race, and I beat him again and the whole crowd helped drink the whisky."
Source: Wabash Public Library File
SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND LABORS OF THE REV. GEORGE ABBOTT
Born in Preble county, Ohio, Sept. 18, 1818.
Deceased March 30, 1894. Aged 76 years, 6 months and 12 days.
He was the son of James and Catherine Abbott, both belonging to the Christian Church. When George was born he was nursed and dandled upon the lap of a Christian mother. In 1834, when George was seventeen years old his father moved to Kosciusko county, Ind., where he helped his father clear up a farm in the green woods.
He was married to Nancy Barrett August 24, 1838 and immediately moved to Chester township Wabash county, four miles east of North Manchester and commenced making a farm for himself.
In 1842 he and his wife, Nancy united with the Christian Church and George immediately commenced preaching, and was ordained in 1844. He then entered more fully upon the work of the ministry. Although the county was new and the pay very meager, he undertook the task of clearing up a farm and preaching the Gospel, preaching nearly every Saturday and Sunday.
He was present at the organization of the Eel River Conference and attended every session for fifty years.
During his ministry he received many donations in books and acquired quite a large library. Among others were five volumes of Benson's Commentary on the Bible. Those books were given to him in his early ministry. The writer does not remember the donor.
At Rev. Abbott's death those books fell to his youngest son, David Abbott. David Abbott gave them to his son, C.B. Abbott to do with as he thought best.
Written by David Abbott; presented to the Wabash County Historical Society by C.B. Abbott, 416 South Park, Casper, WY., April 14, 1929.
ED. NOTE: Rev. Abbott's five volumes of Benson's Commentaries were donated by C.B. Abbott to the Wabash Co. Historical Museum.
Source: History of the Eel River Christian Conference (1936), pp. 69-71
ELDER GEORGE ABBOTT
This great and good man was born in Preble county, Ohio, September 18, 1817, and died in North Manchester, March 30, 1894, aged 76 years, 6 months, and 12 days. He was the son of James and Catherine Abbott, both of whom were members of the Christian church. When George was 17 years of age his father left Ohio and settled in Kosciusko county, Indiana, where together they cleared a farm in the green woods. He was married to Miss Nancy Barrett in 1836, and immediately moved to a place four miles east of North Manchester, where he began clearing a farm for himself. Under the ministry of Elder Peter Banta in 1842 he and his wife united with the Christian church. He at once entered the ministry and helped lay the foundation for the organization of Eel River Conference in 1844. At the fourth session of this Conference which was held at the Pleasant Grove church in 1847 he united with the Conference and on January 20, 1849, at a called session of the Conference at the same church, he was ordained to the full work of the ministry. His ordaining committee consisted of some of the ablest men in the Christian church a that time and were as follows: Revs. Hallet Barber, Joseph Roberts, James Atchison, Joseph Spencer and Squire Wood. After his ordination he entered fully upon the work of the ministry. The country was new, the people poor, his salary a pittance, yet he pushed forward. For the first three years of his labor as a minister, he received twenty-five cents in money. He organized some twenty churches within the bounds of the Conference. His last great work in organization was at Huntington, where he and his life long companion in the ministry, Rev. Peter Winebrenner, organized and laid the foundation for the present fine and prosperous church. His last appearance in Conference was at Wakarusa in 1893, when he preached the ordination sermon, when Rev. Columbus C. Tarr was set apart to the ministry. Rev. Abbott never wanted for a place to labor. If not called to some particular place, he went out and made for himself a place.
He was disliked by some because of his tendency to fight for his beloved principles, but was extremely tender hearted and sympathetic, often shedding tears for people in their afflictions. He contended earnestly for the name "Christian" and frequently said, "I would [rather] be called a devil as a Newlight." He had a number of debates with opponents of his faith, most prominent of which were the following: First, with Rev. Douglass in a barn near Markle, Indiana, the subject being "The trinity and Pedo Baptism." The second one was held near Galveston, on "The Kingdom of Christ on earth." Abbott affirming and the negative was taken by an Advent restitutionist, Carbala, by name. The third occurred at the Paw Paw church with a Disciple minister. The design of water baptism figured largely in the discussion.
They also discussed the same subject debated with Carbala. His fourth was held at Ashton, Illinois, with a Rev. Stephenson, a Seven Day Advent restitutionist, the subject being the one discussed with Carbala, and another in West Virginia where he and his co-worker, Rev. Winebrenner, put the Advents to flight. Abbott never was defeated. In defense of Bible truth he was a power in the hands of God.
His wife died in March, 1888, leaving four children, four having preceded her. On December 18 of the same year he took to wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Bennett, who was a member of the Merriam Christian church, and with whom he lived happily until his death. His dying words were these: "Brother Winebrenner, I have considered my past life and feel satisfied with it. Had I my life to live over, I should wish no change in it. If I erred in any way, it was an error of the head and not of the heart. I was sincere and conscientious in all my preaching and discussions, presenting what, with all my heart, I believed to be strictly in accord with God's word, and with this I am satisfied."
He was one of the promoters of Union Christian College, and was a friend of that institution until his death. He had a large part in organizing the Indiana State Christian Conference. He was always in demand as a speaker at reunions of the soldiers of the Civil war, fraternal organizations and picnics, his wit and eloquence always pleased his hearers. He was the president of Eel River Conference in 1862, 1864 and in 1869, and was a member of its official Board for many years. He served the following churches as pastor and many of them he organized: Antioch, Clear Creek, Eel River, Kelso, Leesburg, Millwood, Millersburg, Merriam, Oak Hill, Olivet, Purviance Chapel, Paw Paw, Pleasant Grove, Spring Hill, Swayzee, Sparta, Salamonie, Thorn Creek, Sugar Grove, Benton, Coessa, Servia, Waterford, Wakarusa and Huntington, and was Conference missionary at Huntington, May to September, 1891. He also served churches in the Northwestern Conference, Northern Indiana, and Western Michigan, Indiana Miami Reserve, and Eastern Indiana Conference.
In the presence of nearly 1,500 people, his funeral was conducted from the Pleasant Grove Christian church, where he united with the church, where he was accepted into Conference as a licentiate, where ordained. The funeral was conducted by his life long friend and co-laborer in the ministry, Rev. Peter Winebrenner, assisted by Elder Thomas Whitman and Rev. J.F. Ullery. His body was interred in the cemetery adjoining the church. "Though dead, he yet speaketh."
Source: Steve Jones, "Pioneers' writings revealed a harsh life," in Marion Chronicle-Tribune, January 22, 1989 (Wabash Public Library file)
Pioneers' writings revealed a harsh life
The ebb and flow of the average man's daily life in Wabash County 150 years ago was, in later years, duly recorded by many old-timers. These county pioneers are the people who weathered the storms, cleared the land, built their cabins and raised their families in Wabash County.
In their writings, it is evident that life was often harsh, but it was a life filled with conditions shared by all.
The Rev. George Abbott, Liberty Mills, was a member of the Wabash County Pioneer Society. At the society's meeting on Oct. 5, 1882, held at what is now the Wabash City Park, Abbott recalled coming to Wabash County in 1834.
"When I first came to this county, it was almost an unbroken wilderness. I came first to Lagro, where they were then digging the canal. In March, 1834, I settled at a point on the north side of the Eel River, one mile above the spot where North Manchester now stands. I have helped to make all the roads in the county, and drove the first ox team from Eel River to where Goshen now is. The trip occupied a week, and was accomplished with the greatest difficulty. We went through brush and grasses of enormous height, besides climbing over vast numbers of logs. We cut the smaller logs to make a path, and bridged with the larger ones.
"In the wet lands of Kosciusko County we had much trouble, and it was difficult to keep above the surface. It was a very hard march, and the way seemed impassable at times, but it was a ground-hog case. We had to go, as we had to have bread.
"It was a hard life, you think, but I enjoyed it, and would love to live it over again. I enjoyed that life better than I do now with all the luxuries and conveniences of the present age.
"We did not realize that there was any hardship about the life....If we had a peck of corn meal and a trusty gun we could rest contented, and in the morning could go out and kill a deer or other game before breakfast.
"There was not much choice of girls in those days. They were all good, and there was no suspicion in regard to their virtue. When I settled in Chester Township there was but one boy and one girl there, and the two afterward married. That is myself and my wife.
"Three years before La Gro was a town, she hoed three crops of corn on the hills near La Gro. She was the best boy her step-father had....When my wife and I commenced housekeeping we had a rude log cabin, with a blanket for a door, from under which I could shoot wolves at night. We had an iron skillet and a Dutch oven. Our first bedstead was made by laying pieces of timber across two logs, and we thought we were resting splendidly. We enjoyed it. After awhile we thought we would make a raise, so I took some saplings for posts, and used twisted bark for a mattress. The bed was fastened to the wall. We then thought we were living splendidly. Fancy a young couple of today occupying a bed like that. Why, they would rather go to the bad place than try it.
"...If any men deserve honor, it is those who first made a home in this country.
"As I told a person who once sneered at the old settlers, it is the enterprising men who came first, and fools and mud-heads came after.
"The brightest minds, the best talents, and greatest ingenuity ware carried by those who dare to go forth and open a new country," wrote the Rev. George Abbott, one of Wabash County's true pioneers.
Source: Steve Jones, "George Abbott was among first settlers," in Marion Chronicle-Tribune, March 8, 1987 (Wabash Public Library file)
George Abbott was among first settlers
Wabash County pioneer Rev. George Abbott, speaking in 1882, said this about his wife: "she was the best boy her step-father had." Abbott was talking about the rigors of pioneer life in the county in the 1830s and 1840s.
When Abbott's wife was a girl, she lived near Lagro, and as pioneer girls did, she worked along side her brothers and step-father in the fields.
"Three years before Lagro was a town, she hoed three crops of corn on the hills near Lagro," said Abbott.
When Abbott arrived in Wabash County in the early 1830s, workers were just digging the Wabash and Erie Canal bed and, the county was, "almost an unbroken wilderness."
In March, 1834, Abbott settled on the north bank of the Eel River about a mile above the present town of North Manchester.
He helped build the first roads through northern Wabash and southern Kosciusko counties, and drove the first ox team from the Eel River country to the present site of Goshen to a mill, "the trip occupying a week, and accompanied by the greatest difficulty."
Abbott said during the journey, they passed through "brush and grasses of enormous height, besides climbing over vast numbers of logs. We cut smaller logs to make the path, and bridged with the larger ones. In the wetlands of Kosciusko County we had much trouble, and it was difficult to keep above the surface. It was a very hard march, and the way seemed impassable at times, but it was a groundhog case. We had to go, as we had to have bread. There was no getting around it," Abbott said.
When Abbott and his wife married, they were two of only a sparse number of settlers in Chester Township.
Abbott built a log cabin for his bride, "with a blanket for a door, from under which I could shoot wolves any night. We had a few cooking utensils, consisting of an iron skillet and a Dutch oven. Our first bedstead was made by laying pieces of timber across two logs, and we thought we were resting splendidly. We enjoyed it.
After a while we thought we would make a raise, so I took some saplings for posts, and used twisted bark for a mattress. The bed was fastened to the wall. We then thought we were living splendidly," he said.
Abbott recalled a day in Lagro when he ran a foot race.
"In those days everybody drank whisky. It was no disgrace then. I was conceited about my speed of foot, and one Sunday evening ran a race with Bob Hurley at Lagro for a gallon of whisky. I won the race and was followed by him to Wabash, anxious to get up another race. This was arranged, and Judge Coombs and all the court adjourned to see the race. I won again, and I think the entire court assisted in drinking the whisky. There was not much business then, and they had to have some kind of recreation. This was one of their pastimes," Abbott said.
Abbott went to Elkhart to see the first steam locomotive pass through northern Indiana. "When the iron horse came snorting in, I was alarmed, and ran forty rods, fearing that it would run into me," he recalled.
Abbott cherished his pioneer memories and experiences.
"It was a hard life, you think, but I enjoyed it, and would love to live it over again. I enjoyed that life better than I do now with all the luxuries and conveniences of the present age. We did not realized that there was any hardship about the life. In those days, one was not afraid if he laid down with $100 in his pocket there would be no bread in the house for him in the morning. If we had a peck of corn meal and a trusty gun we could rest contented, and in the morning could go out and kill a deer or other game before breakfast," Abbott said.
Abbott praised the pioneers who settle Wabash County. "If any men deserve honor, it is those who first made this country."
As I told a person who sneered at the old settlers, it is the enterprising men who came first, and fools and mud-heads came after.
"The brightest minds, the best talents, and greatest ingenuity are carried by those who dare go forth and open a new country," said Wabash County pioneer Abbott.
Source: North Manchester Journal, January 7, 1886
The name of George Abbott is announced as a candidate for the nomination for Representative for Wabash county, before the coming Republican convention. Mr. Abbott is well known in this community. He was a Union man at the time when an outspoken friend of the soldier was needed in some places in this country. Four of his sons went out in defense of the principles of free government, two of them never to return. He is a pioneer in the county and has been a minister of the Gospel for thirty years or more. He is known and respected in every calling and station that has been his province to fill. He needs no recommendation from us as a candidate for the office of Representative, and he is fully capable of taking care of the interests involved.
Source: News-Journal, February 8, 1940
PIONEER REMINISCENCES by Harry L. Leffel
The second marriage in Chester township, and the first genuine romance of Chester township residents was that of Nancy Barrett and George Abbott, later the famous Rev. George Abbott of Civil War days. They were married in 1838 instead of 1839 as most historians record it. Their marriage license was issued at Wabash by Col. William Steele August 18, 1838. Oddly enough the marriage return made by Justice John W. Stephens gives the date of marriage July 22, 1838, 27 days before the license was issued. That is undoubtedly an error, and the marriage likely occurred on August 22, 1838. Stephens was the first justice of the peace in Chester township.
Nancy was the stepdaughter of Col. Richard Helvey. She was born in Kentucky June 5, 1817. Her father was James Barret, and he died when she was a young girl. Her mother later married Col. Richard Helvy, the first permanent settler in Chester township. They lived for a short time at Indianapolis and then about 1830 or 1831 Richard decided to come to Wabash county where his brothers, Joel and Champion, already were established. Helvy located in the brick building in Lagro that the government had built for old Chief LaGros, and operated a small trading post with the Indians, who retained the land south of the Wabash river.
Nancy was one of the first agriculturists in Wabash county. in later years she told how she hoed corn on a plat of ground cleared by her step father and this ground is now a part of the town of Lagro. She said she tilled the corn during the summers of 1831, 1832 and 1833.
One well may wonder what were the thoughts of Nancy as she trudged up and down the corn rows, scraping a little loose dirt around the young corn, dodging the stumps, and striking the hidden roots with her hoe. Did she wonder about a "Prince Charming" and from whence he would come? For girls thought of marriage at a young age in those days and the greatest disgrace for a girl was to be an "old maid." There were so few eligible young men in the county at that time that she may have regretted leaving Indianapolis, the new state capital.
Helvey saw an opportunity to establish a trading post along Eel River and trade with the Pottawatomie Indians, there being a village on what is now the Manchester College football field. Accordingly March 1, 1834 he entered a 50 acre tract, known as the northwest fractional of Section 33, township 30, range 7 East, this being a part of the farm now owned by Harvey Cook, immediately north of the College football field. June 10, 1835 he entered 63.20 acres, the west part of the northeast quarter, and on October 13, 1835, he obtained a 57 acre tract known as fractional lot 3. There near the site of the old Indian cemetery, he built his cabin. More of Col. Helvy will be told in another story, as this story deals with George and Nancy Abbott.
Young George was a son of James Abbott, Sr., and was born in Preble county, Ohio, October 18, 1816. The elder Abbott entered 76.70 acres in section 22 Township 30, range 7 East, part of this land being the site of Liberty Mills. There is a tradition that the Abbott family stopped at Lagro for a short time, and that is logical, for Lagro was then the rival of "Wabash town" as the principal metropolis of Wabash county. it is possible that young and Nancy became acquainted there. At any rate the Abbott family moved to the land at Liberty Mills in the summer of 1834, and thus became a "near" neighbor of the Helvys. James Abbott was a veteran of the war of 1812. He was born in North Carolina in 1776 and his father dying when he was a boy of eight, he was bound to a slave owner. He ran away at the age of eighteen, went to Tennessee, and in 1799 married Catherine Tillman. His father was a Revolutionary war veteran, and thus it is no wonder that history records that thirty of his descendants were soldiers in the civil war and that nearly half of them had given their lives for their country.
James Abbott had come under the influence of the Christian church, (New Light), and was a deacon. The Abbott, Helvy, Peter and John Ogan families participated in the first religious service in the township, held in Peter Ogan's cabin in North Manchester. That was in 1835 and Bryant Fannin conducted the service. Thus with so few settlers it was only natural that George and Nancy should be attracted to each other and that she found in him the Prince Charming of her dreams.
Possibly the things they had with which to go to housekeeping would seem crude to the young sophisticated married couple of today. But they at least had a farm. George had entered an eighty acre farm, the east half of the northeast quarter of section 36, township 30, range 7 east, which is four miles east and a half mile north of North Manchester. Whether or not a cabin was built before the marriage is not known, but at any rate if not before, a cabin was built immediately, for in those days the young married people did not go on living with the old folk until "they could get established." The Abbott cabin was located on the Huntington-Goshen road that went through Liberty Mills, and later became part of the plank road Judge Comstock built from Liberty Mills to Huntington. The late George Forst owned the farm for a number of years and Ira Cox now owns the place.
In this little cabin they started their long married life. It was of necessity primitive and conveniences were few. It is said their first door was a leather hide. There was always the dread of wild beasts or drunken Indians, although Indians soon left this part of the country. However the young couple were of true pioneer type and met the daily problems as they came. George apparently had some education as a boy, for soon after his marriage he felt the "call" to the ministry and commenced to study for that profession. There were no theological schools in Northern Indiana, and so far as known his preparation was the study of the scriptures evenings and Sundays. He may have been helped in his preparation by Bryant Fannin, but Fannin was busy in Southern Chester and Lagro townships getting churches started, so it is likely George had to depend on his own research for theological knowledge. He is termed the father of the Eel River Christian conference, and nearly half of the thirty churches of this conference owe their start to his zeal and effort.
W.E. Billings, in his "Tales of the Old Days," made an
exhaustive study of the life of Rev. George Abbott, and the story of Abbott
during the Civil war years is quoted as follows:
"In the early sixties when the call came for troops, George Abbott, the minister of the Christian church, went about with the recruiting officers, helping to interest people in their duties to their country. He was a powerful speaker, adding to a natural eloquence the element of sincerity, and strength of confidence those who knew him best had in what he said. On one occasion he talked at Liberty Mills calling for recruits and with his wonderful eloquence urging them to step forward at their country's call. As he closed and the men crowded forward to sign the enlistment blanks, he suddenly saw his two sons, Lewis and Levi stepping forward in the line. Like another father at that time, he had thought of them only as boys--little boys--forgetting that wars are fought by boys. But as the awakening came he did not waver. With tears rolling down his cheeks he stood by the side of the boys as they signed their names, and said, I never ask any parent to do a thing that I am not willing to do myself. The boys went into the 47th Indiana, and Lewis lost his life from exposure in the attack at Island No. 10. Levi F. lived to return, and is now living at Ashton, Iowa. Another son, Mahlon, was also in service, being in the 130th Indiana with General Sherman, and dying at Marietta, Georgia.
"All through the war George Abbott was fearless in his work for the Union army at home, going about cheering and encouraging his church people, and ever and always standing fearlessly for principles of the Union army and the flag. An incident is told that well illustrates the type of a man he was. The body of a soldier was brought to his home in Huntington county. The mother desired a funeral, but the Knights of the Golden Circle and kindred southern sympathizers were strong in that community, and had declared that no funeral service should be preached there for any Union soldier. Other preachers were asked, but excused themselves, and the mother sent an appeal to Rev. George Abbott. he accepted. Going to the Slusser school house on Silver Creek in which the funeral was to be held, and where the body was, he found it filled with people. In the back part of the house he recognized some of the ring leaders of the revel sympathizers. As he opened his Bible on the pulpit one of the fellows in the back part of the house made a move as if to get up to leave the building. Before he got any farther Rev. Abbot drew two pistols from his pockets, and dropping his elbows on the Bible said, 'I have been called here to preach the funeral, and I am going to do it. By the power of the Almighty God I will shoot the first one who makes a move to leave this building until the service is ended.' There was a gleam in his eye that told he meant exactly what he said, and the funeral proceeded with the pistols lying by the side of the Bible and with a quiet and attentive audience. It was with this kind of a spirit that he was busy at home cheering on those whose loved ones were at the front and who were in great need of brave hearts in their ministry to help them to go forward in making the sacrifices that the disloyal ones at home were trying to discourage."
In the Pleasant Grove cemetery, a little east of the grave of little Mary Simonton and her mother, rest the bodies of George and Nancy Abbott. Mrs. Abbot died March 14, 1888, and her husband died March 30, 1894. Their children are all dead. Mrs. William Feagler, mother of Mrs. Charles Reed of Liberty Mills, died a number of years ago, as did her sister, Mrs. F.M. McCutcheon, long a resident of North Manchester. The two sons, Levi of Iowa and David of Oregon, and later of Seattle, Washington, died only a few years ago.
Mr. Billings paid this closing tribute to Rev. Abbott in his
"Tales of Old Days",
"And while George Abbott was not the builder of material things that Judge Comstock was, nor did his vision conceive and take advantage of the opportunities of the workaday work as did this wonderful industrial man, yet who will say that he did not have an equal if not even a more permanent part in building the community, and in bringing about the splendid condition of today. Each built in his way, doing his mite, as it were, according to his talent--the one in a material way, the other in a spiritual way that helped make happy homes and a community of God fearing and man-respecting people."
Source: W.E. Billings, TALES OF THE OLD DAYS (1926), pp. 13-15.
LIBERTY MILLS' FIGHTING PARSON
For Liberty Mills' part in the Civil war there is one man who must receive great credit, and that man was George Abbott, for many years a minister of the Christian church, a man with the strength of his convictions, and a man ever forward in bettering the conditions of his home community, and of those about him. Considering that he was in Liberty Mills before the arrival of John Comstock, about whom considerable has been written, a sketch of his life and influence will not be out of the way. His father, James Abbott, was the second permanent settler in Chester township, coming here in 1834, when his son, George, was but little more than seventeen years of age. He entered the quarter section of land on which Liberty Mils now stands. A little later he offered the mill site and water rights of the river to Alexander McBride on condition that he start a mill. But McBride lacked the energy to get the thing moving, and probably some time in 1836, the same rights were offered to John Comstock, who accepted them, and the numerous manufacturing enterprises that have been mentioned were soon in operation. At the same time the water rights were given to John Comstock, Mr. Abbott sold to him the ground on which the town of Liberty Mills stands. As a boy of eight James Abbott had been bound out to a North Carolina slave owner who made life so miserable for him that he ran away from what to him was really a slavery, and at eighteen he landed in Tennessee to make his own way. In 1799 he was married to Catherine Tillman, thus bringing a link of connection between the Abbott and Tillman families. He served with General Wayne in the war of 1812, while his father had served in the Revolutionary war. With this ancestry there was little wonder that George Abbott took the part he did in helping to make Liberty Mills worthy of her name when the Civil war clouds hung heaviest.
In the early sixties when the call came for troops, George Abbott, then a minister of the Christian church, went about with the recruiting officers, helping to interest people in their duties to their country. He was a powerful speaker, adding to a natural eloquence the element of sincerity, and the strength of the confidence those who knew him best had in what he said. On one occasion he talked at Liberty Mills, calling for recruits, and with his wonderful eloquence urging them to step forward at their country's call. As he closed and the men crowded forward to sign the enlistment blanks he suddenly saw his two sons, Lewis and Levi, stepping forward in the line. Like many another father at that time he had thought of them only as boys--little boys--forgetting that wars are mostly fought by boys. But as the awakening came he did not waver. With tears rolling down his cheeks he stood by the side of the boys as they signed their names, and said: "I will never ask any parent to do a thing that I am not willing to do myself." The boys went into the 47th Indiana, and Lewis lost his life from exposure in the attack at Island No. 10 Levi P. lived to return, and is now living at Ashton, Iowa. Another son, Mahlon, was also in service, being in the 130th Indiana with General Sherman, and dying at Marietta, Georgia.
All through the war George Abbott was fearless in his work for the Union army at home, going about cheering and encouraging his church people, and ever and always standing fearless for the principles of the Union army and the flag. An incident is told that well illustrates the type of a man he was. The body of a soldier was brought to his home in Fulton county. The mother desired a funeral, but the Knights of the Golden Circle and kindred southern sympathizers were strong in that community, and had declared that no funeral service should be preached there for any Union soldier. Other preachers were asked, but excused themselves, and the mother sent an appeal to Rev. George Abbott. He accepted. Going to the building in which the funeral was to be had, and where the body was, he found it filled with people. In the back part of the house he recognized some of the ring leaders of the rebel sympathizers. As he opened his bible on the pulpit one of the fellows in the back part of the house made a move as if to get up to leave the building. Before he got any farther Rev. Abbott drew two pistols from his pockets, and dropping his elbows on the bible said: "I have been called here to preach this funeral, and I am going to do it. By the power of the Almighty God I will shoot the first one who makes a move to leave this building until the service is ended." There was a gleam in his eye that told he meant exactly what he said, and the funeral proceeded with the pistols lying by the side of the bible and with a quiet and attentive audience. It was with this kind of a spirit that he was busy at home cheering on those whose loved ones were at the front and who were in great need of brave hearts in their ministry to help them to go forward in making the sacrifices that the disloyal ones at home were trying to discourage.
What young man is there today who as he looks over a township that is crowded full of the very prettiest girls to be found any place, many of whom are even willing to admit it, can point in his mind a picture of what the township would be like if there was only one girl in it? Lots of times you may hear the fellow who has a recent attack singing something about "Just One Girl," but what he really means is just one at a time. With George Abbott it was different, for as he grew to manhood there was but one white girl in Chester township, Nancy Barrett, and he did just as was to be expected of him--he married her. That was in 1839, when he was about 22 years of age. She was the step daughter of Col. Richard Helvy, who with his family had first located at Lagro some time in 1832. He came there from near Indianapolis, and to that place from Virginia. As the Erie and Wabash canal was being constructed in 1832 it seemed to him that the Lagro country was getting too thickly settled, and he moved north, locating in Chester township, along the banks of Eel river and about a mile northeast of North Manchester in March of 1834.
Helvy lived without neighbors until in September of 1834, when James Abbott moved to a farm he had entered a short distance northeast of Liberty Mills. Even if there were no Henry Fords, or even horses and buggies in those days, the distance seemed short, and the two families were soon on the most friendly basis. It was this propinquity...that soon had George Abbott singing, "Just One Girl," or words to that effect....Tradition says that one evening just as the shades of night were falling fast, Abbott came down through the woods from his side of the river, humming aloud his favorite tune. The only way to get to the Helvy household was by boat. The boat was on Abbott's side of the river, but as he neared the stream he saw Helvy was nearer to it than he was. A foot race resulted in Helvy reached the boat first, and he shoved off into the river, intending to leave the lovelorn young man on the far side from the truly just one girl. It seems that Helvy had no particular objections to Abbott, but Nancy Barrett was a good worker, and Helvy wanted her to stay in his household. But the same spirit that took Abbott through the funeral sermon helped him in this emergency. Running at full speed as he reached the river he made a long leap and landed in the boat, so there was nothing for Helvy to do but to take him across the river to his sweetheart, but tradition does not say what Helvy said on the way across.
What young girl of today would think of starting to acquire a wedding trousseau when her highest wage was only fifty cents a week? Or what young man would think of starting a household when the biggest wages he had ever drawn was twenty-five cents a day? Yet that is what Nancy Barrett and George Abbott did. Her wedding dress was of gingham with a tiny red flower in it, and it was one of the grandest gowns of its day, costing twenty-five cents a yard. But after all there was not such a difference in cost and wages as one would think. It probably took four or five weeks for Nancy Barrett to earn the dress in which she was married, and despite the increased wages it would take the working girl of today fully as long, if not longer, to earn the money to buy herself an outfit in which she would take anything like the pride that Miss Barrett did in hers. Their wedding ceremony was performed in August of 1839 by John W. Stephens, the first justice of the peace in Chester township. But this was not the first marriage in the township, for in 1838 George Hapner and Elizabeth Simonton were married.
Mr. and Mrs. Abbott went to housekeeping in a cabin on what is now the George Forst farm, on the angling road about four miles east of town. They had no conveniences--simply a bare cabin. There were no windows and a heavy hide hung over the opening for the door. In the early days there was the dread of Indians and wild beasts. Then came the days immediately before the Civil war when Mr. Abbott was a marked man by the southern sympathizers because of his outspoken position on the war time issues. Knights of the Golden Circle from Huntington county often sent threats to the Abbott home, and younger members of the Abbott family recall with vividness their fears and dreads on nights when Mr. Abbott would be away on his work as a minister.
George Abbott was a home made as well as a self made man. With little chance in his early life to attend school, he grew to manhood with only the knowledge he could gather from the somewhat scanty means at hand. As time went on he felt the call to the ministry, and began preparations for work as minister of the Christian church. It was not possible for him then to go away to any of the theological schools, so he educated himself at home, studying after his day's work was over, and it is safe to say that he did a pretty good day's work, for he was a frequent employee of John Comstock, who as shown before in these sketches, believed in getting full service from his men. With a ready mind and a willingness to work he was soon prepared for his chosen work, and at about thirty-five years of age he was ordained as a minister. From that time on his life history is almost that of the Eel River Christian conference, for it was he who organized most of the churches of the conference, and who all his life was the foremost figure in the church work of the organization.
But while George Abbott was the kind of a man who could inspire fear when he looked at one over the sights of a loaded revolver, and while his life work with the church was filled with earnestness, yet he was not afflicted with the long faced solemnity that so many of the people of that day seemed to think went with religion, or with earnestness of any kind. On the contrary he was a genial hale fellow well met at all times, enjoying the best of life to the fullest extent, living a clean and happy life, respected and liked by those about him. Thus he grew to a ripe old age, spending the later days of his life in North Manchester, and passing away March 30, 1894, his wife, who was a helpful companion to him, having died about a year before. Their bodies rest in the Pleasant Grove cemetery, not very far from where they began their lives of activity in Indiana progress.
And while George Abbott was not the builder of material things that Judge Comstock was, nor did his vision conceive and take advantage of the opportunities of the workaday world as did this first wonderful industrial man, yet who will say that he did not have an equal, if not even a more permanent part in building the community, and in bringing about the splendid conditions of today. Each built in his way, doing his mite as it were, according to his talent--the one in a material way, the other in a spiritual way that has helped make happy homes and a community of God-fearing and man-respecting people. Mr. Abbott is survived today by three children, David Abbott of Oregon, Levi Abbot of Iowa, and Mrs. F.M. McCutcheon of this city. Another daughter, Mrs. William Feagler, passed away only a few years ago.