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 NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1995

Early Highways of Commerce

Information for the following article was taken from Helm's History of Wabash County published in 1884 as well as from a Journal article.

... In 1850, the project of a railroad was first agitated in the township. North Manchester was to be placed in direct communication with Detroit, and for awhile it looked as though the hopes of the citizens were to be realized. A large amount of grading was done, but suddenly the company failed, and the railroad project lapsed into inactivity. Twenty years passed, and the enterprise was revived and prosecuted vigorously. In 1871 it became evident that Manchester was to have two railroads, and the town received a new impetus. The Detroit, Eel River and Illinois Railroad was completed to this point in that year, making its terminal connection at Logansport late in 1872; and the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan Railroad was completed at very nearly the same time, with its southern terminus at Wabash.

The bustle and activity consequent upon the construction of these two roads marked a new era in the history of the town, and infused a commercial life into it unknown before. Up to that time, surrounding towns had drawn from Manchester a large amount of trade that was properly hers; but when it became evident that she could offer inducements equal to any of her neighbors, this trade was not long in finding its legitimate channel. Manchester rapidly rose in importance, and has never receded from her position as the second town in the county, and one of the most enterprising and flourishing towns in Northern Indiana.

A letter written by Samuel Heeter in August of 1871 complains that "worke is plenty money scarse labor high from 175 to 200 per Day the railroaid is the cose of aul this the railroid is in ful Blast now of aul the Digon and Scraching & Choping this Bets aul the general talke is the railroaid Here now the graiding is aul Don East But not aul Don West yet the iron is laid Within l 1/2 mile of liberty mils & Wood hav bin finished to manchester til now But they run out of iron the last noos was last evning that ther Was a car loid of iron in the road coming and if that is the case the cars Vil com to our town By next Saterday the Boys is fixing to Hav a Big Diner When the Roaid is Don to town the North & South Roaid Vil Bee finished to manchester this fall yet When Wee get 2 roaides it Vil giv our town a Hist."
The railroad company offered everyone a free pass to Detroit. Heeter's response was favorable: "if wee liv and kep vel til it gets warm wee air going to hed quarters. It is 196 miles up there."

In July, 1876 the JOURNAL made a positive assessment. "Five years ago the surrounding county seats captured most of the country trade, almost to our very doors -- being about to undersell and overbuy us, because of better facilities for transportation. But since the completion of our railroads and numerous mechanical institutions, our merchants are reaching out fully half way in all direction, and our largely increased prosperity has made serious inroads upon the trade heretofore enjoyed by our neighbors. In point of numbers, our business and manufacturing establishments will compare favorably with those of our more pretentious neighbors and another fact worthy of note - and one that speaks volumes in our favor, is that amid the crash of business all around us, no house established in business here previous to the panic of 1873 has failed in consequence of it."


RAILROADS

“The Railroads Make North Manchester” in Weesner, History of Wabash County (1914), 377:

Chester Township first agitated a railroad during 1850, the year of the completion of the plank road between La Gro and Liberty Mills; and the railway project gave North Manchester a broader outlook than she had heretofore enjoyed. It was proposed to place that town in direct communication with Detroit, and for a time it looked as if the hopes of the citizens were to be realized. A large amount of grading was done, but suddenly the company failed and the proposed railroad evaporated.

Twenty years passed and in 1871, when it became evident that North Manchester was to have two railroads, the town revived and all kinds of enterprises blossomed within its limits. In the year named the Detroit, Eel River & Illinois was completed to Manchester, making its terminal connection at Logansport late in 1872; and the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan Railroad was completed at about the same time, with its southern terminus at Wabash. Up to that time, surrounding towns had drawn from Manchester a large amount of trade which would have been hers, provided she had enjoyed sufficient transportation facilities to handle it. With the coming of these railroads the progress of the place was rapid and unimpeded, and for many years she has been considered one of the most enterprising and flourishing towns in Northern Indiana.

 

“Railroads and Towns” in Weesner, History of Wabash County, 456-7:

The general status of the railroads which traverse Pleasant Township, as well as their relation to the towns within its limits, in 1884, is thus described by a local authority of those times: “The Detroit, Eel River & Illinois Railroad was projected about 1854, and considerable work was done upon the route, but at that time it proved a failure. Many years afterward the project was renewed, and this time the enterprise was accomplished, being completed in 1871. It enters Pleasant Township in section 21, passes through sections 22, 15, 14, 11, 12 and 1, town 29, range 6. Its track is in the valley of Eel River and upon the south side of the stream. South Laketon (Ijamsville P.O.) is the only village upon its route in this township. The length of tracks of this railroad in Pleasant is five miles, running in a direction nearly from northeast to southwest, its course through Paw Paw and Pleasant being in a straight line for eight miles from a point southwest of Roann to about half a mile east of Ijamsville, and in a slightly varying course two miles more straight to the east line of Pleasant, passing thence into Chester Township and to North Manchester.

“This railway is now combined in the system called the Wabash, or more fully, the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific.”

The Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan Railroad passed from south to north, through Wabash and North Manchester, where it deflected to the northwest and cut through the northeast corner of Pleasant Township, which it left at Rose Hill, which was never more than a postoffice and a by-station.

The 1884 account continues: “The Chicago & Atlantic Railroad is a late enterprise, only completed in April, 1883. It passes through the township in a northwesterly direction, crossing the Eel River Railroad about half a mile east of South Laketon, passing between Laketon and Ijamsville about half a mile from each place and spanning Eel River itself near the latter. It crosses Silver Creek upon a high and extensive trestlework, and the track leaves the township near and south of the little town of New Harrisburg upon section 35, having entered it on section 13. The length in the township is about nine miles, crossing as it does its entire extent from east to west. This new road is of great advantage to Pleasant Township, since it passes near all three of its towns, offering the direct means of increase and development of traffic to them all, and thus to the township at large.

“The route promises, in fact, to be an important thoroughfare between the East and West, possibly the most so of any road in the county. It will be of considerable advantage, especially to the towns of Laketon and New Harrisburg, which before its advent were floundering helplessly and hopelessly in their distance from railroad facilities, and will in like manner be of great service to the country dwellers in their respective regions.”