Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: NMHS Newsletter May 1997

Pioneer Days

Information gathered from


by T.B. Helm

In November, 1832 the first election was held in the area now included in Wabash County. Jackson electors received fourteen votes and Clay electors twelve. At that time what are now Huntington and Wabash counties were known as the Salamonie Precinct attached to Grant County for general purposes.

During this time a Capt Elias Murray, at La Gro was elected a Justice of the Peace and while he was a Grant County Justice a Joseph McClure and Elizabeth Keller concluded to get married and sent for the Captain to perform the ceremony. That part of Wabash County lying west of the line between Ranges 5 and 6 was then included in Miami County and Capt Murray was aware of that fact. He also knew that the bride lived in Range 5. He refused to perform the ceremony unless they would come within his jurisdiction. Accordingly, the entire party, bride and groom, with the fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers and friends of them present, mounted their horses and came this side of the range line, where, under heaven's broad canopy and the shadow of a tree, the first marriage was solemnized within the limits of Wabash County. The survey of the land lying between the Wabash and the Eel rivers was made in 1827 immediately following the ratification of the treaties with the Miami and the Pottawatomie Indians made at Paradise Springs. The Survey of the land north of the Eel was made in 1828. After these dates lands were subject to purchase and were purchased only after the survey was completed. This was a requirement of the treaty made in 1826.

The first purchase in Chester Township was made by Bryant Fannin on the 1st of October, 1833 of about one third of an acre now a part of North Manchester.(Township 30/ Section 32) Later that same month John Simonton bought 160 acres, Jacob Neff bought 200 acres and John G. Nelson over 300 acres in northern Chester township. In 1835 several purchases in southern Chester township were made.

In 1833 Samuel McClure, Jr. and his brother Robert, cut the first state road through Wabash County. The road began at "the twenty-mile stake" in Wabash County, went from there to Wabash and from there to the Eel River near North Manchester. The first wagon road ever laid out in the County was one running from Anderson in Madison County ... and the ground upon which the treaty of l826 were held. It was located and cut during the early fall of 1826 by Peter Ogan, Helvie and Rogers. The author comments that "In pioneer days the roads were almost bottomless, except during the winter when the mud was solidified by frost."

In the period from 1843 - 48 the Underground Railway by which so many slaves were piloted through Indiana from the Southern States to reach safety in the North was very active. What follows is an interview by a PLAIN DEALER reporter with Hon Daniel Sayre the postmaster of Wabash.

"There were three stations on the underground line in Wabash County and two that I knew of in Grant County. They were Charley Atkinson's near Jonesboro; Mose Bradford's near Marion; Fred Kindley's near New Holland; A.A. Peabody's at La Gro; Maurice Place's at North Manchester. I never knew the route from North Manchester. Place kept it a secret, and while it happened occasionally that a fugitive was captured between Jonesboro and North Manchester, I never heard of one being overtaken after he reached Manchester. There were very few of the early pioneers that would hide a runaway slave, and the professional slave hunters from Kentucky who rode through the country on horseback and armed with big revolvers were universally execrated. Indeed, so bitterly hostile were the people that the slave hunters were quite fearful of their safety. Of course, they had their confederates among us, who made money out of the information they gave the hunters, but these too, were held in general contempt.

How did you get the fugitives unobserved through the county? Well, it was mainly done by traveling at night. There weren't any roads to speak of, just simply a path marked out (we used to call them trails) and by traveling an indirect route we were able to dodge any pursuers. The county was so sparsely settled that we were in little danger of meeting anybody. I helped a party of twenty slaves once, to North Manchester, who were being closely pursued, but our superior knowledge of the country enabled us to pilot them safely. We had to take a different route for it, however. The party consisted of young men, principally, although there were three women, one of whom had a babe in her arms. At another time, seven fugitives were taken through LaGro in a big Pennsylvania wagon, ostensibly loaded with lumber, but with runaways stowed away between the lumber and the wagon bed.

I lived in those days on what is now known as the Straton farm, north of LaGro. One morning, just before daybreak, I was awakened by a knocking at the door, and getting up found a black man, about forty-five years of age, who stated that he was a runaway, hungry and tired. I gave him a loaf of bread and part of a boiled ham, telling him where to conceal himself until the following night. In less than an hour afterward, two rough looking riders, with horse pistols in their belts, called me out of the house to inquire if I 'had seen anything of a runaway nigger.' I told them I had, when they demanded to know which way he went. Throwing both hands up, one pointed to the right and the other to the left, I answered, 'that way!' One of the riders then drew his pistol, and said: 'D-n your soul, if you don't tell me which way he went, I will shoot you!'

My rifle hung near the door of my cabin and I had it in my hands in a jiffy. Drawing a bead on the ruffian, I said: 'Now, d-n you, if you don't leave these premises in sixty seconds, I will kill you.' Both were arrant cowards and the way they hustled off the clearing was ludicrous. I was never molested afterward. That night I went through the woods with the fugitive to Manchester where he was given over to Place's charge, and eventually made his way to Canada.

I don't recall the arrest of anyone in this vicinity for aiding runaway slaves. It was well known that Kindley, Peabody and Place were connected with the Underground Railroad, but so adroit were they that no proof could be secured to warrant their arrest. There were a good many of the old citizens actively enlisted in the work of helping runaway slaves, but nobody knew of it. The scheme was to pilot the poor wretches to a 'station' where they were placed in charge of another 'conductor' and nobody ever knew of your connection with their escape except the station keeper.

Wabash PLAIN DEALER, Sept. 2, 1880