Source: News-Journal, January 4, 1940

Ogan Family Prominent in Early North Manchester History

What became of Peter Ogan, founder of North Manchester, and his brother, John? The question has often been asked but never answered with certainty. There is still no definite answer to what became of Peter, but John and members of his family are buried in the northwestern part of the Old Cemetery in North Manchester. John and Margaret Ogan were the grandparents of Albert and James Rooney of Laketon. Recently when the possibility of moving the bodies in the Old Cemetery was being discussed, the fact came to light that the John Ogan family is buried there.

As to Peter Ogan, he disappeared from Wabash county history in 1849. The last transaction recorded in the deed records at Wabash is a 71 acre tract located in the west half of the southeast quarter of section 8, township 29, range 7 east which was sold to John F. Smith June 4, 1849. That land is located south of North Manchester and later became a part of the S.S. Ulrey farm. The record also shows that his wife, or possibly widow, Mary Ann Ogan, transferred to Frame & Thorn lots 168 and 176 in the original plat of Manchester this transaction taking place February 7, 1850. Apparently by that time Peter Ogan had left Wabash county. Tradition is he operated a mill on the lower Wabash river and then went into western states. No one living today speaks with authority on the matter. But at any rate, the records which were filled with the land transactions of Peter Ogan in the late thirties and forties, no longer mention Peter Ogan after 1850.

It is with John Ogan and his family that this story deals. Peter Ogan is mentioned because it had been rumored he also was buried in the Old Cemetery. The known facts all point to the contrary. The exact time John Ogan came to Wabash county is now known. He and Peter probably came here about the same time. Peter built his log cabin on the bank of Eel River on the site near the old Williams drug store building. That was in 1834. About that time John located on what is now Poney Creek at the junction of a small creek from the south. This is now part of the Chester Ulrey farm in South Manchester. There Ogan located his cabin and built a small corn cracker mill. It was not much of a mill, but he probably operated it for several years as he retained ownership of the land until April 30, 1855 when he sold it to John Whisler. Peter Ogan in the meantime built a saw mill near what is now the site of the Ulrey mill. The old mill race cut across from near the covered bridge, to join the river back of the Ulrey mill. Albert Rooney says it is a tradition in the family that John Comstock got his grandfather's mill, but past history is silent on the subject.

Pony Creek was originally known as Ogan's creek, and the Ogan's Creek Church of the Brethren, which was abandoned only a few years ago, took its name from being near the creek. The story is told that a hideout of horse thieves was located on the upper creek, on what is now Mrs. Tony Stocker's farm, formerly the Kester farm. The thieves stole ponies from the Indians and settlers, and hid them in this area. Gradually the creek became known as Pony Creek instead of Ogan's creek.

If the Whisler sale was recorded immediately, then John Ogan did not live long after the sale, for he died June 13, 1855. Previously he had bought 80 acres of land southwest of North Manchester that is now a part of the Mrs. Charles Lust farm where Ervin Spath now lives. At any rate at the time of his death that farm was a part of his estate. The court docket at Wabash for the July term, 1856, has the notation that Reuben Smith was appointed administrator of the John Ogan estate. During the April term, 1857, there was a petition to sell lot 150 in North Manchester, and heirs were mentioned as Nancy, Almira, Caleb and John, Jr. Sale of personal property was approved during the April term 1859. Then followed several current reports. In the meantime Smith either died or resigned and Augustus A. Peabody was appointed administrator. On June 6, 1861, he petitioned court to sell the undivided two-thirds of the real estate, setting forth that it was necessary to pay debts of the estate. By that time Nancy had married Thomas Rooney, grandfather of Albert and James Rooney. Peabody reported the sale of the farm June 5, 1863, to Elias Ogan, the widow retaining her one-third interest.

This raises the question of who was Elias Ogan? Records at Wabash show he was active in and about Somerset. Was he a brother of John and Peter Ogan? There was evidently a close relationship, otherwise he would hardly have bought this farm when his home was in or near Somerset. he paid $533.33 for the two-thirds interest, and the commissioner reported it was the "highest and best offer." The John Ogan estate was settled in the February term, 1866, and the administrator reported he had $167.13 to pay to fourth class claims. Later the entire farm passed into the hands of George Ogan, probably a son of Elias. From there it passed to the Kircher families in the early eighties, and then to later owners.

Margaret Ogan died March 24, 1865. Daniel Kitson, Sr., grandfather of Dr. F.S. Kitson, was appointed administrator of her estate. That appointment was in November, 1867, and he gave bond of $700. He filed a final report in 1870, showing he had $116.10 to distribute among the four heirs, Caleb, Mrs. Thomas Rooney, Almira and John. John apparently was under age, for after Mrs. Ogan's death Joshua Farley was appointed his guardian. later John lived in Illinois, dying there about 1910. His widow is still living. Caleb ran away from home to escape the consequences of a boyish prank, and was never hear from.

The ages of John and Margaret Ogan at the time of their deaths is not known, but they were not of advanced age. In the Old Cemetery beside the bodies of the parents are the graves of William H., who died November 27, 1853 at the age of thirteen years; and Elias, who died at 1850 at the age of four. The name of the last child would indicate that the Elias Ogan who bought the farm was a close relative of John Ogan.

Recently in mentioning the need of permanent care for the bodies in the Old Cemetery it was stated that the bodies of many of our pioneer citizens rest in unknown or what will soon be unknown graves. There are no stones marking the graves of Allan Holderman and his wife, who gave the ground for cemetery purposes. some of the stones have been removed from the Ogan burial plat. The present generation did not know that this family, which had such a part in the early history of the community, are buried there. And so it is with other families. The Harters, Neff, Frame, Thorne and other families of which more will be told later. The present generation owes it to posterity to preserve the memories of these pioneers in a permanent way.


Source: W.E. Billings, TALES OF THE OLD DAYS (1926), p. 17-20


While Liberty Mills got onto its feet first as a town, yet it is probably that houses were being built in North Manchester before any were being built in Liberty Mills. Peter Ogan is credited with having built the first house in North Manchester, and that was some time in 1834, though the exact date is not available. He and his brother, John Ogan, came to this locality about that time. John located on the south side of the river, erecting a cabin and a mill on the banks of Pony creek. Peter, whom we first hear of as a road contractor, building a road from Anderson to Wabash in 1826 over which the supplies and the liquor for the treaty with the Indians were hauled, was the first to build a house in what is now North Manchester. This house was built on the river bank not far from where the Williams drug store stands. Martin Swank, son of Daniel Swank, Sr., and a half brother of the late D.D. Swank, was present when that house was built, and on several occasions has told the writer incidents of its construction. Martin Swank has now been dead many years, but in 1834 as a boy he with some other members of his family came here looking for a place to locate. The day after he arrived work commenced upon the Peter Ogan cabin, and he took great delight in telling that though but a boy he was put on one corner to fit the logs together as they were laid in place. He also said that to the best of his recollection it seemed to him that they had but one axe that day, though that seems hardly probably, as axes were almost an essential with every man. But the members of the Swank family did not stay here that year. It seems that winter was near at hand, and he has often told that there was no place to stay, so the family went back to Ohio to return here later, coming the next time in the fall of 1836.

After Peter Ogan completed his house it was not long until other houses were built, and the town started.

One of the least troubles of the people who came here in the early thirties or the early forties was their food supply. The woods were full of game, there being turkeys, and deer in abundance, with possibly an occasional bear, though they were not at all common. Something to go with the meat was harder to get than the meat. Salt had to be hauled for many weary miles, and meal and flour were hard to get. Here and there a “corn cracker” mill could be found, but most of the real meal or flour came from the Turkey Creek mill in Elkhart county, a long tedious journey, both coming and going. John Ogan built a “corn cracker” mill in 1837. Then in 1839 Joseph Harter erected his mill on Eel river. It was the pride of the country. It had two buhrs, one of imported mill stone used for making flour, and one of native “nigger heads” to grind corn. This was a prosperous industry, and by 1843 the first mill had been outgrown, and another built in its place.

Next to a grist mill came the need of saw mills and Peter Ogan in 1838 started what is said to have been the first saw mill in North Manchester, near where the Ulrey lumber company mill is today. He ran that for a short time as a saw mill and later added buhrs to grind flour and meal. But Peter Ogan was a good commencer but not a very good finisher, so he soon tired of the mill, selling it to other parties. After a number of trades the Harters bought what was left of it, and it was abandoned, they taking what they could use of the machinery, to their west side mill.


Peter Ogan, who built the first house in North Manchester, was a man of vision. He saw bigger and better things ahead. He was not satisfied when his first cabin was built. That evening after his work was done, and the roof was on the house, he stood and looked across what is now Main street. There was no picture on at the Gem theatre for him to go to that night, but the vision that he visioned, when compared with the reality of the day, was as wild a flight of fancy as any of the most fantastic pictures that have ever been shown there. He saw a town, filled with bustling happy people; a town of wide streets, and comfortable homes, and he set himself to work to make that vision come true. When he guilt his cabin he was only a squatter. He did not own the land, but there was no one to dispute his rights or to drive him off. It was in the fall of 1834 that he built the cabin, but it was not until a year later, October 12, 1835, that he bought that part of section 5 lying south of the alley between Second and Third streets and east of what is now Market street. Again that evening Peter stood by his cabin, and had another vision. He was made to see that the amount of land he had selected was not big enough for the town he wanted to see built. So next morning he bought eighty acres more of the government, that eighty lying immediately north of his first purchase.

There is no record of what Ogan paid for his land, but probably it was the same price that generally prevailed in those days, $1.25 an acre. Whether he paid cash or not is not told, but the deal was not concluded very quickly for it was not until March 30, 1836, that the purchase was acknowledged by President Van Buren, who issued him a deed.

Judge Comstock was in 1836 getting Liberty Mills started as a town, and this fact may have helped with Ogan’s vision. It seemed to him this was just as good a place for a town as where Comstock was starting his. The trees were just as big, the river just as wet, the land looked just as good, and the state did not seem overdone with towns, so Peter said: “Here goes,” or words to that effect, and called in a surveyor. I.I. Tomlinson, surveyor of Fulton county was the man called, and either by the direction of Ogan or the suggestion of Tomlinson a plat was devised that was remarkably complete in detail, and that provided for an ideal town arrangement. Later town boards have done some to spoil the ideas of Ogan, but were not able to completely change his plan. Wayne street was marked on the plat as a hundred foot street, but property owners crowded into it with their buildings, and finally a town board vacated a part of it. Fourth street, or Church street as it was indicated on the plat, was one hundred feet wide, but again the lot owners crowded in with the buildings. This accounts for the jog in Fourth street at Market. East of Market street the lot owners from the south crowded north 33 feet, while west of Market the property owners crowded south the same distance, making the jog in the street, and spoiling what would have been a most beautiful street east and west clear through town. Main street, Market street and Mill street were all outlined one hundred feet wide, and have continued at that width, with the exception that in the new additions the extensions of these streets were platted at only 66 feet. And thus we of a later generation who would like to see wide streets, with pretty lawns and boulevards do not need to go back to Ogan’s time to find some one to kick for not having them. His vision was all right. It was some of the middle men who came between then and now who botched the job he had planned so well.

The drawing as prepared by Surveyor Tomlinson, and from his sketch was copied into the plat book of North Manchester, is interesting. The survey was completed January 4, 1837, and was recorded at Wabash February 13, 1837, W. Steele being the Wabash county recorder at that time. The two little mills, a grist mill and a saw mill, at the south end of Mill street probably gave that street its name. Graphic pictures of these two buildings are shown in the surveyor’s drawing, they being probably the most important things he could see. He also pictured the mill race, the dam, which was just below where the covered bridge now stands, and the islands in the river. The river is marked as being 130 feet wide.

While the plat was not really made until January of 1837, yet there had been some lots sold before that time. October 22, 1836, a deed was made to Joseph Harter by Peter Ogan and his wife for lots 21 and 22. That was the property from the alley by the Union Trust building to the corner at the Standard Oil filling station. The building now occupied by the News-Journal is on part of this ground, and was the first brick business building erected in North Manchester. When Ogan put his lots on the market there was not a stampede to buy. He had no brass band, and no silvery tongued auctioneer. The price was $10 a lot, and doubters stood on the side lines and shook their heads, saying the price was too high, and that there never would be a town here. But Peter Ogan stood pat, and finally sold a great many of his lots at that price, selling some to people who were pushed out of Liberty Mills by Judge Comstock. There is no record of what became of Ogan. Tradition says he was a chronic pioneer, and that though he could see visions of cities, he was always ready to move onward before the vision could be realized. He soon shook the dust of North Manchester from his feet, and is supposed to have followed the star of empire as it westward took its course, but the date of his shaking off the dust is not recorded, nor de we know whither he went. [EDITOR’S NOTE & RESEARCH UPDATE: In the 1850 Federal Census, the Peter Ogan family is living in White County, Indiana. Later censuses place the Ogans in Tippecanoe County. The Peter Ogan family burial site was located October 15, 2010 by John and Bea Knarr at the Greenbush Cemetery (Section 26), Lafayette, IN.]

Few people living today remember ever having seen Peter Ogan. Without a doubt Mrs. Phoebe Butterbaugh, the first white child born in North Manchester, and who now lives with her son E.G. Butterbaugh, saw him often, but she was only a child. Her older sister, Elizabeth Lautzenhiser, mother of E.L. Lautzenhiser, and who died a few years ago, told the writer of having often seen Mr. Ogan. When asked of his appearance, she said he was rather a small sized man, and in searching her acquaintance for a man who resembled him she cited Esli Bonewitz, who himself is remembered only by the older residents. …