Source: The News-Journal, February 13, 1922



Plank Road Used Sixteen Years--Early Railroad Elections and Other Old Time Echoes

T.B. Clark, who is now visiting, with his daughter in Indianapolis, writes to the News-Journal that he has frequently been asked questions about the early history of North Manchester, and has undertaken to answer a considerable number of those questions at once and so all interested may have the information, therefore, having some time on his hands in the state capital, he takes his pen in hand, and tells his story. He says:

North Manchester is located in the northwest part of Chester township on the north bank of the "Great River Eel" opposite the "Crooked Bend." The original plat was recorded January 4, 1837, by Peter Ogan and contained 223 lots. The proprietor planned well for the future greatness of the little city by platting six streets 100 feet wide--Main, Mil, Market, Broadway, Church and Wayne streets were platted 100 feet wide. Broadway was vacated 65 or 70 years ago. Church street was vacated many years ago, and then replatted as Fourth street 66 feet wide. Wayne street has been narrowed down to a 66 foot street. The proprietor placed his lots on sale, pricing the best lots on Main street at $10 each. As the sale was slow the would be purchaser viewed the matter as Ingersol did the church seat, the price was too D.H.M. high.

Some of the first business of the town if not the first they were a close second:

Peter Ogan built the first house on the town site. Asa Beauchamp was proprietor of the first general store in a log store room on the lot where the Gresso store is now located. Peter Ogan built the first saw and grist mill and Samuel Leonard the first foundry in 1840, on the lot where the Ulrey, Tyler lumber yard is now located. They were run by water power. A dam was built across the river a short distance below the covered bridge and was conducted through what is now called the "old race" which made the power. Eli Gomery the first blacksmith. Dewitt West the first wagonmaker. William Mowrer the first shoemaker. Jesse Miller manufactured the first wood pumps. The first mail was received at Liberty Mills. A post office was established at Liberty Mills where the mail was carried on horse back one time each week over what is now called the "Mail Trace Road". Later a post office was established at North Manchester and John Aughinbaugh was the first postmaster. [sic--five other postmasters preceded Aughinbaugh: William Willis; Asa Beauchamp; Mahlon C. Frame; Jesse Davies; Amos Barlow. For a listing of Postmasters in North Manchester, click here.John Aughinbaugh operated a drug store, harness shop, saddler shop and post office in one small room. A mail route was established at Liberty Mills by North Manchester to Lagro, called the Tri-Weekly Mail. A gentleman from the country asked a man standing on the street corner what is a Tri-Weekly Mail the replay was a mail that went to Lagro in the morning and tried to get back in the evening and tried to make two trips each week. Col. Richard Helvey was proprietor of the first tavern which today would be called a house or hotel. Thomas Daugherty the first gunsmith. Alvin West the first plasterer, James Oakley the first painter, William E. Willis the first doctor. Samuel Busick's general store was the first business room burnt. V.T. Large the first merchant tailor, James Sheller the first cooper manufactured tight barrels. Madison Wilson operated the first tannery for the manufacture of leather. W.F. Daily was the first taxidermist. A.P. Sevitze was the first cabinet maker. Mrs. Phoebe Butterbaugh now living on North Wayne street was the first child born on the town site. Rev. Bryant Fanning preached the first sermon. Thomas Keeler taught the first school. Thomas Wallace was proprietor of the first woolen mill for the manufacture of woolen cloth. Harry Wythe was the first barber. J.J. Martin published the first news paper called the "Advertiser". James Oakley probably proprietor of the first fluid grocery. In the years of 1849 and 1850 a plank road was built from Lagro to North Manchester a distance of twelve miles by Ephraim Keller as superintendent. It was equal to any paved road of this later date. The planks were three inches thick and eight feet long laid crosswise on stringers near each end. The road was welcomed by the traveling public which, made the little village of North Manchester a near neighbor to the commercial world, the Wabash & Erie canal. But the plank road was a short life. About 16 or 17 years the plank was removed and the road went back into the control of the township supervisors in a deplorable condition.

In 1850 a railroad was surveyed through North Manchester called the D.E.R. and I. railroad on the route of the present Vandalia. The work progressed rapidly in a very short time. The grading was done, bridges and culverts built from Detroit to North Manchester when the company failed. Work ceased for 18 or 20 years. Every three or four years there would be railroad news that a company had been organized to build the road. But these railroad news faded away in the dim vista of the far off future until the session of the general assembly in 1869 when a law was enacted that when a railroad company was organized and fifty per cent of the estimated cost subscribed in stock the legal voters of townships or counties could voted the remaining fifty per cent of stock. It required a petition of 25 freehold votes to call a township election and 100 freehold votes to call a county election. Chester township petitioned for an election which was granted. Curtis Pauling, Clark Williams and T.B. Clark served on the election board and it was the warmest contested election ever held in Chester township--freehold voters living in southeast part of the township who were three or four miles nearer a railroad than the D.E.R. and I. We are putting the question easy when we say they were "hot under the collar". The appropriation was carried by a small majority. The election board certified the result to the county auditor and it was placed on the tax duplicate. About the same date or a little later another petition was filed asking for an election to vote a tax for the C.W. & M. railroad now Big Four. But before the second election was held work had progressed so rapidly on the D.E.R. and I. that railroad iron was laid in North Manchester on the fourth day of July, 1871. I drove over railroad iron laid across Market street. To see railroad track laid in North Manchester and hear the wild whistle of a locomotive engine put new life and energy in the citizens and the kickers at the first election fell in line and said competition would be the life of trade and two was more than one. The second appropriation was carried by an increased majority.