Source: NMHS Newsletter February 1992

The Harter Family in Wabash County, by Don H. Garber 

It all began with Andreas Harter from Germany who signed an oath of allegiance in Philadelphia, colony of Pennsylvania, to the King of England on September 25, 1742.  Andreas was the father of eight children.

A son, Christian, and his wife, Elizabeth Eller, were the parents of Joseph Harter, Sr.  The early Harter families lived in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.  By the nineteenth century many began moving into Ohio and farther west.

Joseph Harter, Sr., 1783-1861, was born in Pennsylvania and his wife, Elizabeth Brower, 1785-1856, was born in Virginia.  They moved their family, together with the family of their oldest son, Eli, to the North Manchester community from Montgomery County, Ohio, in 1836.  They came by way of Indianapolis and wagon train.  They settled on land just north of Eel River and east of the old Wabash Road, on land later used as a dam and mill site.  In 1835, 1836, and 1837 Joseph, Sr., and Eli filed on 1795 acres of land in Chester Township and 960 in Pleasant Township.  In 1839 Joseph and his sons built a saw mill and grist mill near the present dam.  They had interests in an early mill at the south end of Mill Street.  [This had been established by the founder of Manchester, Peter Ogan.  See Billings Tales of the Old Days, page 18.]

Joseph Harter and his sons continued in early Manchester industry and real estate.  They built flour mills at Laketon and Collamer, and later Eli operated a mill on Treaty Creek at the south edge of Wabash.  In 1851 Joseph, Sr., turned most of his business interests to youngest sons, Jacob and Joseph, Jr.  One may consider the last of this real estate empire, if it was such, as that part of town known as Harter’s woods, finally platted as Oak Park Addition, now a part of Warvel Park and the residence of late Tom Peabody [300 West Seventh Street].

Joseph Harter, Sr., was the first resident preacher, elder, and moderator of the German Baptist Church (Dunkard) and preached in German.

The records of the Harters’ early residences are meager, but a cemetery was started east of the Controls Corporation plant, and early family burials were made there.  In 1878 Jacob and Joseph Harter, Jr., together with other citizens, organized the Oaklawn Cemetery, and all the Harter family remains were moved there.

The writer’s grandfather, Oliver Harter, was four years old in 1836.  I have heard him tell of remembering that his father and grandfather traded with the Indians on or near the college athletic field, a former Indian village site.  One would need to assume that this was a roving band of Indians, as the village itself would likely have been abandoned soon after the Treaty of 1835.

Joseph Harter, Sr., and his wife, Elizabeth, were the parents of 11 children, some of whom were life residents of the community.

Their oldest son, Eli, 1807-1890, and his wife, Julia Ann Young, 1812-? built the second house in North Manchester [which stood just west of the present town hall.  Billings, page 17].  They lived many years on a farm one-half mile south of State Road 114 on the Laketon Road at the creek.  The story is told that during the time which the Eli Harters lived there, the hired hand, Joe Crill, came in from the field one day and told Mr. Harter he was going to California and get enough gold to buy his farm,  He did just that and brought back $5,000 in gold and bought the farm.  The Harters moved to the Treaty Creek Mill south of Wabash, which they operated, built a substantial brick house, and possibly never prospered so well after that time.

Eli and Julia Ann were the parents of 12 children, six of whom I will mention.  Elizabeth, the eldest, married Joseph Lautzenhiser, and they lived in North Manchester.  A son, Amziah, was in the implement business.  Another son, Lincoln was a former postmaster in North Manchester.

Oliver married Melissa Blickenstaff, and they lived their married life on a farm five miles northwest of North Manchester.  Their six children were Elliot, John, Joseph, Julia (who married Sam Garber), Ovid, and Minerva.

Henry married Mary Dice.  They raised two sons and two daughters and lived in Missouri some years, a few on short rations.  Henry spent his last years two miles southeast of North Manchester.

Phoebe married David Butterbaugh.  She was the first Caucasian child born in North Manchester [Billings, page 17].  They were parents of Henry, Julia (who married John Shively), Esli, and Eli.

Joseph, a sergeant in the United States Army, 47th Infantry, was killed September 1862 in Kentucky. 

Doretta married John Domer.  Domer was president of the Lawrence Bank in North Manchester.  Their daughter, Emma, married Warren Dewey.  A son, Walter, was a medical doctor in Wabash.

Elizabeth, a daughter of Joseph Harter, Sr., married Abram Switzer, who had a harness shop in North Manchester.  They were the grandparents of Frank Switzer, a former judge of the Wabash County Circuit Court.

Susan, another daughter of Joseph, Sr., married Francis Eagle in Wabash.  Eagle was in various businesses there.

Jacob and Joseph Harter, Jr., the youngest sons of Joseph, Sr., married sisters.

Jacob married Catherine Cowgill.  They built the large brick house at 202 West Main Street, just east of the public library.  Their son, Dayton, was the father of three daughters, Mrs. Nita Martin, Mrs. Mary Hidy, and Mrs. Clarence (Kathy) Brady.

Joseph Harter, Jr., married Rowena Cowgill, and they build the brick house on Main Street directly across the street from brother Jacob.  They were the parents of two daughters, Emma, and Mrs. Art Grace) Smith.  Jacob and Joseph Harter, Jr., operated a drugstore (of sorts) at 116 East Main Street .

Israel Harter, 1806-1875, a nephew of Joseph, Sr., and his wife Charlotta Kitson, came to North Manchester from Ohio in 1837.  They first settled two miles west of North Manchester on Clear Creek.  Much of their later life they spent on a farm immediately east of the Main Street bridge.  Seven children were known and lived in this community.  Many descendants are living.  The children were Henrietta (married Peter Swank); Patterson; Stephan, a Civil War veteran, 1861-1865; Margaret (married David M. Shively); Martha (married Samuel Miller, a bee expert and nurseryman who build the house at 410 East Ninth); Tabitha (married Charles Smith).  Israel followed his uncle as preacher and second elder in the German Baptist Church.  Like many German immigrants the Harters were Lutherans, but many became German Baptists.

[Some of this material was obtained from the News-Journal and Lester Binnie’s Genealogy of the Early German Baptists. Don H. Garber.]