Source: North Manchester Journal, January 26, 1893

PIONEER SKETCHES. Some Interesting Reminiscences from the Life and Experience of Early Settlers.

Perhaps no one is better posted on the growth and development of this country than John J. Frantz, sometimes called "Black John" to distinguish him from other John Frantz's in the community. Mr. Frantz came to this country over forty years ago when it was nearly all woods and the town of North Manchester consisted of half a dozen houses in the brush. Just a short time before his arrival, which was on New Year's day of 1848, William Thorn's store, then the largest in the place, had been burned and the only store in the town was a little grocery kept by the late Billy Mowry, whose stock Mr. Frantz thinks he could have carried on his back. Mr. Frantz was a young and vigorous man of twenty-two when he came to settle in this country. His first visit, however, had been made the year before when he drove a team through from Montgomery county, Ohio, where he was born, for Jacob Karns to the town of Wabash, Mr. Karns to the town of Wabash, Mr. Karns to having settled in the country near this place. Mr. Frantz returned to Ohio at once but there seems to have been an attraction of unusual interest in the woods of the Eel River valley for a few months afterward he came to this country to stay and within two months after his arrival he married Mr. Karn's daughter Lydia, the ceremony taking place on the 22d day of February, 1848. Mrs. Frantz was not a stout woman and, unable to withstand the hard work of those days, she died in about three years. Mr. Frantz walked through the woods from Ohio, or as he expressed it, came on "Shank's horses." The Ohio country was pretty well settled up at the time and Dayton was a town of considerable importance so in coming to the woods of Wabash county there was a great change. Mr. Frantz told us of an incident happening him on his way from Wabash to this place. When some distance this side of Wabash he noticed a cabin some distance from the foot-path and saw a man shoot. He felt sure the man had fired at him from the suspicious way he acted and he became quite nervous but nevertheless proceeded on his way. A short distance further on he came to a swam in the edge of which was a newly made grave which he stopped and contemplated for sometime, and his fears increased every moment until the cold chills run over him for he fully expected to be murdered before getting out of the woods. He proceeded on his way and finally arrived safely at the cabin of Henry Strickler who ferried him across the river in his boat. He afterward learned that the grave was that of a child of some emigrants that had died and been buried on the way, and the man was probably firing at some game. This, he says, was the only time that he has every experienced fear in a lifetime, though on several occasions having been in great danger. Shortly after Mr. Frantz came to stay his parents followed and they secured land which is now the old John Blickenstaff farm northwest of town and the Jacob Warner place in Pleasant township. Several years after his wife's death Mr. Frantz married a daughter of Nicholas Frantz who is still his companion. When asked to given some interesting story of those days he said he could not remember anything but hard work and plenty of fun. Many a night, he said, he had worked all night clearing his own place and worked for some of his neighbors in the daytime in order to get their help when he wanted it. There was always plenty of fun at all gatherings, such as house raisings, and everyone enjoyed themselves. Everybody was friends and neighbors in those days and whenever a man passed within speaking distance, or a quarter of a mile, he never failed to come to you and have a chat. Very different from today, he says, when your nearest neighbors run up against you and fail to speak, apparently not knowing you. Mr. Frantz is now in his seventieth year, a hale and hearty man for his years and bids fair to live and enjoy life many years yet. He has been a hard worker but has accumulated a goodly portion of this world's goods to keep him in his declining years. He is the father of twelve children, ten of whom are living. The community is certainly better for a man like John J. Frantz having lived in it.