Peabody Singing Tower

 NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 North Manchester, Indiana

Recipient of Indiana Historical Society's Awards--"2013 Outstanding Project Award" &
"2009 Outstanding Historical Organization".  Welcome to our web site!  Enjoy using this Portal to Our Past!

  Home  Eel River  Native Americans  Pioneers  Agriculture  Businesses  Roads  Railroads  Banks  Military    
N.Manchester   Liberty Mills   Laketon   Townships  College   Schools  Churches  Cemeteries  Deeds
Photographs  Biographies  Family Roots  Obits  Newspapers  Architecture  Newsletters   More  


Pioneers





  Copyright © 2009-2017
North Manchester
Historical Society
All rights reserved.


Please contact
our Center for History
if you find
inaccuracies or
inappropriate content.


     


Source: Clarkson W. Weesner, History of Wabash County Indiana (1914), Vol. II, pp. 843-845.


JOHN SIMONTON. Prominent among the families of Wabash county who have contributed materially to their section's welfare in various ways, is that bearing the name of Simonton, which has been represented here for eighty years. From the time of the sturdy pioneer who founded the family here to the present, the men who have borne this name have shown their general worth and good citizenship, honorable in business and loyal in friendships.

John Simonton, the progenitor of the family, was one of the real pioneers of Chester township. He was born January 18, 1813, in Preble county, Ohio, a son of John Simonton, Sr., who came to Wabash county with his family in 1835 from Ohio, journeying by teams from Ohio. They camped over night on the present site of North Manchester and finally settled on the old Simonton farm, October 1st of that year. The family first located one mile west and one-half mile north of the present homestead, to which they came in 1836. He belonged to that sturdy, self-reliant class to whose courage, determination and perseverance the county is indebted for its early development and subsequent growth, became a man of substance for his day, and gained and retained the respect and esteem of the people of his locality. He and his wife were the parents of three sons: Jake, who died at the age of eighty-four years; John, Jr.; and David, who passed away at the age of eighty-two years.

John Simonton, Jr., was twenty-two years of age when he accompanied the family to Wabash county. He had received a public school education in Ohio and had been trained to agricultural pursuits, in which he was engaged in his youth. At the time of his father's death he received his share of the old quarter section of land, to which he subsequently added forty acres by entry, and then purchased forty acres, later eighty acres, still later ten acres, and finally twenty acres, although he subsequently disposed of the two smaller tracts by sale. At that time the nearest mills were located in Elkhart county, and three days were required in making the trip from Mr. Simonton's home community, but finally he and a Mr. Abbott induced an Indian guide to show them a short cut through the woods, and they cut a path through north, and this was converted into a road. Even at this early day he was interested in road building and throughout his career he continued to promote the building and maintenance of public highways. While general farming and stock raising operations occupied the greater part of his attention, he also engaged in various other pursuits, and in each of his ventures met with well-merited success because of his excellent ability, his unswerving integrity and the close personal attention that he gave to details. At a very early period he was engaged in a general mercantile business at Liberty Mills, in partnership with his brothers, and he was also for a number of years employed as a brick mason, being a skilled mechanic in that line. From the time that he erected the first residence and barn on his land he contributed to the upbuilding of his section. In politics a stanch republican, he took a great interest in the success of his party, served efficiently in the capacities of township assessor and supervisor, and at all times was thoroughly informed as to the vital issues of the day. When he died, June 3, 1895, his county lost one of its most active and energetic citizens. On September 13, 1835, Mr. Simonton was married to Miss Martha Calhoun, who was born December 22, 1817, daughter of Robert Calhoun, and she died March 21, 1885. They were the parents of eleven children, as follows: David, whose death occurred in 1913; Sarah Ann, who became the wife of martin Huffman; Harriet, who married the late George Rittenhouse; Lavina, who became the wife of William Killer; Jacob H., who passed away in 1906; Mary Jane, deceased, who was the wife of John Cuppey; Mahala, deceased, who was the wife of Ben Nordyke; John C., who is a resident of Nebraska; Robert W., who is deceased; and Perry and Charley, who remain on the old home place.

Perry Simonton was born May 4, 1860, and Charley, September 6, 1862, both on the place they now occupy, a tract of eighty acres which they bought from the heirs. They are enterprising agriculturists who are making a success of their operations by the use of modern intelligent methods, and their property has been brought to a high state of cultivation. They have the best of improvements and buildings, and the present residence was erected after the old home had been destroyed by fire. Both have taken a great deal of interest in public affairs, being republicans of the stand-pat variety, and during recent campaigns have organized a fife and drum corps with which they have played all over the county in the interests of the Grand Old Party. They have a wide acquaintance throughout this section, are known as good and reliable citizens, and their friends are legion.



Source: News-Journal, February 1, 1940


PIONEER REMINISCENCES By Harry L. Leffel

The first couple married in Chester township was George Hapner and Elizabeth Simonton. Their license was issued by Col. William Steele, first county clerk at Wabash December 26, 1835, and they were married by William Caldwell, justice of the peace, January 2, 1836. Their marriage occurred only a few months after Miss Simonton's father, John Simonton, Sr., and a group of relatives had come to Chester township from Preble County, Ohio. It is not known definitely, but it is believed Hapner was a member of this party, and that he and Elizabeth knew each other in Ohio. The name of Hapner does not appear in the early records about Wabash and Lagro, and there were only a few other settlers in Chester township. Richard Helvey and James Abbott, Sr., had settled in 1834, and it is probable Peter Ogan had built his cabin some time in 1834 on the banks of Eel River. Simonton and his party arrived here October 1, 1835. They came overland, using wagons and bringing all their possessions with them. In this party were, Jacob Simonton and his family, oldest son of John, Sr., David Simonton, also married, and John, Jr., and his wife. Robert Johnson Calhoun, father of young John's wife, and his family were also in the party. They spent the first night on the south side of Eel River, probably where Riverside is now located, and the next day started "up the river" to the 160 acre farm the elder John Ogan had entered at the Fort Wayne land office two years earlier. The date of this entry was October 14, 1833, the fifth entry of Chester township land. Whether Ogan saw this land before he entered it, or whether he actually went to Fort Wayne from Ohio to make the transaction is not known. This land is the southwest quarter of Section 26, Township 30, Range 7 East, and the Pleasant Grove church, or "Lower Union", as it was first known, is located on it. Later Frederick Naber became the owner, and it is now known as the Peden farm.

Elizabeth came near being cheated out of the honor of being the first bride. Her brother, John and Miss Martha Calhoun decided to get married before they left their Ohio home. Their marriage occurred September 13, 1835, and from that date something is known of the time it took to make the trip from Ohio to Chester township. The Calhouns and Simontons must have been near neighbors in Ohio, for Jacob had married Leah Calhoun and David had married Rachael Calhoun, sisters of John's wife. The mother of those four Simonton children had died in Ohio. The father had married again, and it was the second wife, known only as Elizabeth, who came to Indiana with him. She was the mother of Eliza Simonton, mother of Frank VanCamp formerly of North Manchester but now living at Indianapolis. Mr. Van Camp is now 87 years old and was a well known brick mason in North Manchester, doing his last work here when the Central school building was built in the early twenties.

The younger Simontons were not long in acquiring land of their own. Jacob entered 120 acres of the quarter east of his father's, October 10, 1835. That was only the beginning. march 8, 1836 he obtained 83.80 acres in the extreme east part of the township south of Road 14, and on March 16, 80 acres in section 36, range 8. march 8 he also entered 80 acres in section 6, Lagro township, and November 10, 1836, he obtained the northwest quarter of section 11, township 29, range 7 east, which is located southeast of North Manchester.

John Jr., entered 40 acres in the southwest quarter of the section north of the Clevenger corner where Guy Sells now lives. That continued as the family home, passing to two sons, Perry, now deceased, and Charley, who lives on Riverside. The latter sold the farm several years ago. John also bought 40 acres to the south, and entered an 80 acre tract extending east from the Clevenger corner, part of which is now owned by S.W. Clevenger. He also acquired smaller tracts.

David did not get his land until later. He entered 40 acres remaining of the quarter first entered by Jacob. That was November 28, 1837. The elder Simonton, who was a man of middle age when he came to Chester township, did not obtain more than the original 160 acres. Johnson Calhoun, as he signed his name on the entry records, or Robert, as he was known by the early historians, obtained 80 acres directly east of his son-in-law, John, and that became his family home.

The three Simonton brothers were early merchants in Liberty Mills, but continued to live on their farms and were essentially farmers. John Jr., was probably the first to carry mail regularly between Lagro and Liberty Mills. He followed a trail out of Lagro past the Catholic cemetery, and straight north to the plank road that John Comstock built from Liberty Mills to Huntington. that route still is known as the Mail Trace Road. It is said John made the trip afoot and was a day going to Lagro and a day returning. One account says the county commissioners appointed John to view and establish a road between Lagro and Liberty Mills, and that he reported on the Mail Trace route. At any rate the road was cleared of brush in 1838 and 1839 by the energy of the Simontons, the Abbotts, John Comstock and others at the north end and by Lagro people at the south. It was not entirely cleared of big trees until 1844.

Tradition also has it that the elder Simonton and the three boys, together with James Abbott and his son, George, were the first to make a trip with an oxen wagon from Liberty Mills to the Turkey Creek prairie country in Kosciusko county and to the Wolf Lake mill in Elkhart county, then the nearest place where flour was milled, and seed wheat and other grain was available. It took them several days to make the trip, for part of the way they had to clear brush and logs from the trail.

Who does not remember a few years ago when Simonton Creek went on a rampage and washed out two bridges, one east of the Pleasant Grove Church and the other to the north? That creek took its name from the Simonton family, through whose land it flowed. The stream, placid most of the time, becomes a torrent in time of high water, and in the early days was regarded as dangerous because of its swift current. it flows into Eel river west of the Pleasant Grove Church.

Just inside the gate at the Pleasant Grove cemetery lies the body of little Mary Simonton, the first person buried in the cemetery, and one of the first in the township. Life in the wilderness was too much for her. She was the daughter of Jacob and Leah Simonton and was born October 2, 1832, just three years before the family came to Indiana. What caused her death? Members of the family do not remember, nor does history relate, but death came to her July 4, 1839 There were no cemeteries then, and so a spot was selected on the extreme southwest part of her grandfather's farm. It was a beautiful spot, the land level and well drained, and no doubt at that time covered by primeval forest. There, just north of where the east and west road should be, and just east of the north and south road, little Mary Simonton was buried. Charley Simonton remembers his father telling that brush and logs were placed over the grave, and a palisade fence built around it to keep the wolves from digging up the body. There 22 years later, the mother joined the daughter in death, and one tombstone marks both graves. One inscription, "Leah Simonton, born October 29, 1812, died October 2, 1851." just 29 [sic: 19]  years to the day after the birth of the daughter. The other inscription, "Mary Simonton, born October 2, 1832, died July 4, 1839."

There was probably no thought then of starting a cemetery. But a few years later a child of Joshua Simpson died. Simpson owned the farm on the south side of the Simonton farm with only the road between them. The Simpson child was buried on the northwest corner of the Simpson farm, only about a rod or two south of Mary Simonton's grave. thus was the cemetery started. There was no road then. Some old timers say the road or trail swerved to the south around the graves for a time. There were more burials and when the road was established it jogged north three or four rods, then east about fifteen or twenty rods, and then south to the section line again.

Simonton set aside a half acre of ground for cemetery purposes, and also a site for a church. Simpson similarly donated part of his land, and the width of the road added to the amount in the original cemetery site. Still later land to the south was donated or purchased.

Those early pioneers were religious and desirous of educating their children. In 1844 Elder Joseph Roberts organized a class of the Christian faith at the home of Isaac Robbins, who had entered the land north of the Simonton farm. Soon the congregation wanted a meeting place, and April 10, 1847, the half acre for the cemetery and an acre for the church site was deeded to the Wabash county commissioners to be used for cemetery and church purposes. and thus did John Simonton, Sr., set aside the land, where the grand child was buried, as a cemetery. Simonton stipulated that the people of any denomination should have the use of the church for the purpose of holding funerals. This condition was accepted and a log building built that was used as a school house during the week time and as a church on Sunday. A frame church was built in about 1858, and about fifty years ago the present church was built. The cemetery was deeded to the Wabash county commissioners, and when the Pleasant Grove Cemetery association was formed a number of years ago, was deeded to this association.


The name of John is common in the Simonton family. Five generations had members named John. The father of John Simonton, Sr., was named John. Then there was John, Jr., mentioned in this sketch, and he named one of his sons, John, who in turn had a son named John. John Simonton, Jr., father of Charley, is the John mentioned in the remainder of this sketch. John, Sr., died august 30, 1852, at the age of 71 years, 11 months and 15 days. His wife, Elizabeth, died May 8, 1851, at the age of 57. Both are buried on the lot north of their granddaughter and a daughter-in-law. Jacob later remarried and moved to Iowa where he became a circuit court judge, and gained a state wide reputation for fairness and keen judgment in trials. David and his family also moved to Iowa. Elizabeth and her husband moved to near Kalamazoo, where she died about sixty years ago, and where her descendants now live.

John, Jr., led an active life. In addition to his activities mentioned above, he at one time was township assessor. His outspoken opinion was the only thing that kept him from being one of the jurors that convicted John Hubbard of the murder of the French family. Hubbard was the only murderer ever hanged in Wabash county, but that is another story. The judge questioned Simonton as to whether he had any opinion about Hubbards' guilt. It is said Simonton replied that he had formed an opinion. Asked as to this opinion Simonton said in the blunt language of the day: "He ought to be stretched up by a rope and left there until the little ducks pick his toes to pieces." Possibly the judge was of the same opinion, but of course it disqualified John as a juror.

John and Martha Simonton were the parents of eleven children. They were David, Sarah Ann, wife of Martin Huffman, Harriet Rittenhouse, Lavina, wife of William Keller, Jacob H., Mary Jane, wife of John Cuppy, Mahala, wife of Ben Nordyke, John C., who died a few years ago in Nebraska, Robert, Perry, who also died a few years ago, and Charles, or Charley as he is familiarly known. Perry was born May 4, 1860, and Charley September 6, 1862. Both were thus children of the civil war period. After the war patriotic gatherings were quite the thing, while political meetings were scenes of wildest enthusiasm. Charley and Perry were literally born with drum sticks in their hands, and for many years they were part of a drum and bugle corps, that was used for many patriotic occasions. Both Charley and Perry were dwarfs in stature, and they created much attention as they marched along with their snare drums. Charles Felter, S.W. Clevenger, William Feagler, John Cox, W.E. Billings, W.H. Ballenger, Charles Thompson and others were members of this drum corps at one time or another. Today Charles Simonton is the last member of his generation, and possibly one of the few in Wabash county whose parents were among the early settlers.



Source: NMHS Newsletter May 2002 [Note: Information in the following article, although not attributable, was apparently taken from above article written by Leffel.]

The Simonton Family

John Simonton, Sr. and a group of relatives came to Chester township from Preble County, Ohio at a time when there were only a few other settlers here Richard Helvey and James Abbott, Sr. had settled in 1834 and Peter Ogan probably had built his cabin some time in 1834 on the banks of the Eel. The Simonton party arrived here October l, 1835. They came overland with wagons and brought their possessions. Early records tell of at least these persons in the group and there may have been others: John, Sr. whose wife, known only as Elizabeth was not the mother of his grown children who had died in Ohio; Jacob, his oldest son and family; David and John Jr. both married; and daughter Elizabeth. Robert Johnson Calhoun father of young John's wife and his family were also in the party. They may have been neighbors of the Simontons since two of their daughters were married to Simonton sons.

The group spent the first night on the south side of Eel River probably near Riverside and next day continued up river to the 160-acre farm the elder John Simonton had entered at the Ft. Wayne Land office two years earlier on October 14, 1833. This was the fifth entry in Chester township and may been entered from Ohio, sight unseen. It is the southwest quarter of Section 26, township 30, Range 7 East. later known as the Peden farm.

Young Elizabeth and George Hapner soon married the first couple married in Chester township. Their license was issued by the first county clerk at Wabash December 20, 1835 and they were married by William Caldwell, justice of the peace, January 2, 1836. Each of the younger Simonton men obtained several plots of land in the area east of Manchester.. and around Clevengers Corner, though some was in Lagro township The Elder Simonton was a man of middle age when he came to Chester township and was content with his original l60 acres. Johnson Calhoun., known as Robert obtained 80 acres east of his son-in-law, John.

The three Simonton brothers became early merchants in Liberty Mill, but were essentially farmers and continued to live on their land.

 
   
 

 
 

John, Jr. was probably the first to carry mail regularly between Lagro and Liberty Mills. He followed a trail out of Lagro past the Catholic cemetery and straight north to the plank road that John Comstock built from Liberty Mills to Huntington, a route long known as the Mail Trace Road. It is said John made the trip by foot and was a day going to Lagro and a day returning. One account says the county commissioners appointed John to view and establish a road between Lagro and Liberty Mills and that he reported on the Mail Trace route. At least, the road was cleared of brush in 1838 with the energy of the Simontons, the Abbotts, John Comstock and others and the Lagro people in their area. Not all the big trees were cleared until 1844.

According to tradition the four Simonton men and James and George Abbott were the first to make a trip with a wagon and oxen from Liberty Mills to the Turkey Creek prairie country in Kosciusko county and to the Wolf Lake mill in Elkhart county, then the nearest place where flour was milled and seed wheat and other grain was available. It took them several days to make the trip. Part of the way had to have brush and logs cleared from the trail.

The first death in the family was the daughter of Jacob and Leah Simonton born October 2, 1832 in Ohio who died July 4, 1839. There was no cemetery so a spot was selected on the southwest corner of her grandfather's farm. It was just north of where the east-west road should be and just east of the north-south road. A few years later a child of Joshua Simpson, who lived just south of the Simontons, died and was buried on the northwest corner of the Simpson farm just a rod or two south of Mary Simonton's grave. So a cemetery was started. There was no road then. There were more burials through the years and when the road was established it jogged north three or four rods, then east about fifteen or twenty rods and then south to the section line again.

Simonton set aside a half acre of ground for cemetery purposes and also a site for a church. Simpson similarly donated a piece of his land and the width of the road added to the amount in the original cemetery site. Still later land to the south was donated or purchased. Simonton stipulated that the people of any denomination should have the use of the church for the purpose of holding funerals. This

 
 
 
Page Four
 
 

 
 

condition was accepted and a log building built that was used as a school house during the week and as a church on Sunday. In 1844 Elder Joseph Roberts organized a class of the Christian faith at the home of Isaac Robbins, who had entered the land north of the Simonton farm. The congregation wanted a meeting place. On April 10, 1847 the half acre for the cemetery and an acre for the church was deeded to the Wabash county Commissioners for the church and cemetery.

A frame church was built in about 1858 and about fifty years later the more recent church was built. When the Pleasant Grove Cemetery association was formed in the 1930s, the cemetery was deeded to this association. It is still under their ownership. Many Simontons rest in the Cemetery. Leah Simonton, born October 29, 1812 and died October 2, 1851 just 29 years to the day after the birth of her daughter Mary, and they lie together.

John, Sr. died August 30, 1852, at the age of almost 72. His wife, Elizabeth, died May 8, 1851 at the age of 57. Both are buried on the lot north of their granddaughter and daughter-in-law. Jacob later remarried and moved to Iowa where he became a circuit court judge and gained a state wide reputation for fairness and keen judgment. David and his family also moved to Iowa. Elizabeth and her husband moved to near Kalamazoo, John, Jr. led an active life. He at one time was township assessor. His outspoken opinion was the only thing that kept him from being one of the jurors that convicted John Hubband of the murder of the French family in that famous trial. The judge questioned Simonton as to whether he had any opinion about Hubbards' guilt. He replied that he had and when asked his opinion he said, "He ought to be stretched up by a rope and left there until the little ducks pick his toes to pieces." The judge may have had the same opinion but it disqualified John as a juror.

John and Martha Simonton were the parents of eleven children. They were David, Sarah Ann, wife of Martin Huffman, Harriet Rittenhouse, Lavina, wife of William Keller, Jacob, Mary Jane, wife of John Cuppy, Mahala, wife of Ben Nordyke, John C. who died in Nebraska, Robert, Perry and Charles or Charley.. Both Charley and Perry were dwarfs and created considerable attention. Perry was born

 
 
 
Page Five
 
 

 
 

May 4, 1860 and Charley September 6, 1862. As children of the Civil War period, they were involved in many patriotic gatherings and political meetings. For many years they were part of a drum and bugle corps and Charley and Perry, marching along with their snare drums were a special sight. Others who were members of the drum corps at one time or another included Charles Felter, S. W. Clevenger, William Feagler, John Cox, W. S. Billings, W. H. Ballenger and Charles Thompson.

Charley Simonton survived as the last of his generation and one of the last children of the early settlers. If you look carefully at a map of Chester township you may note Simonton Creek which took its name from the owners of the land through which it flowed. This was a normally placid stream which flowed into the Eel River west of the Pleasant Grove church just north east of North Manchester. But in early days it was especially feared because of the swift current. On one occasion it went on a rampage and washed out two bridges. So we don't need to look far to find reminders of the Simonton family - especially a cemetery and a creek - even if other memories fade.




Source: North Manchester Journal, November 19, 1896

John C. Simonton, a young farmer east of town, will move to Nebraska in a few days, settling on a farm near Purdum, Blaine county. He expects to homestead a piece of government land and make a future home for himself. John is a hardworking and industrious man and the JOURNAL has confidence that he will make a success of life wherever he may locate.