Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: NMHS Newsletter Nov 2005

The Wabash Road and Chris Speicher too!
by Jack Miller

Through the years I have traveled up and down that road between North Manchester and Wabash hundreds of times. When I was a kid living in North Manchester, this road had a name: Hills-Lake Road, painted on telephone poles along the way. But everyone called it the Wabash Road.

I am guessing it was around 1840 when the road was established as North Manchester was platted in 1836, and became a town in 1837. It must have been a dirt rut in the beginning, as most of North Manchester's road money went east and south through New Madison (Servia) to Lagro and to the Wabash and Erie Canal.

Oh! I know Wabash had the canal, also, but that entrepreneur, John Comstock, who practically owned Liberty Mills, had already blazed a road down to Lagro. All North Manchester had to do was build a good road to lock into Comstock's. Comstock blew his stack, and built another road from Liberty Mills to Huntington and the canal over there.

OKAY! So much for that. What about Wabash road? There wasn't much improvement in the two ruts until after 1856. In 1856 the Toledo, Wabash and Illinois (Western? ed) Railroad arrived from Toledo from Fort Wayne, and business went to Wabash. Fresh gravel was used to improve the road and in the 1920s some crushed limestone was used. I remember well in the early 1920s coming to Wabash in my dad's Model T Ford Touring, the white dust from that limestone was worse than the foggiest day.

Now the Wabash Road took on real importance with commerce flowing both ways. In 1854, the 7-Mile town, Urbana, was platted along this road, halfway between North Manchester and Wabash. It didn't hurt that John Speicher moved to one mile east of this location. With 11 sons and four daughters, is it any wonder that the Speichers had such a good influence on this region? We all remember Daniel Speicher and that world-famous Cyclone Seeder, manufactured in Urbana.

Halfway between Urbana and Wabash was a new town called Speicherville. It went on the map by that name in 1881, but Chris Speicher was busy long before that day. I am sure he belonged to that John Speicher clan east of Urbana as he had that drive to make things go. I would say Chris was real busy by the time the Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan Railroad reached Speicherville coming down from Urbana. This one-man town had a post office, a store, drug store, school, community hall, church, sawmill, tile mill, blacksmith,. a hog packing house and two elevators. Chris issued his own script for money for payment of purchases good in any store in Speicherville.

I believe you can judge this Chris Speicher by this story told about him. When the railroad reached the little town coming down from Urbana, he wanted to know when the railroad was going to build him a depot like at Urbana. They tried to explain the population wasn't big enough. Finally, to quiet his demand, the railroad official said, "If you build a station and there is passenger, we will stop and pick them up."

Well, Chris did build a station, next to the tracks. Oh, it wasn't much - just a shelter big enough to hang a "Speicherville" sign on both ends. Four passenger trains per day passed by that little station, but no one got on or off. The night train number 40 ran north from Wabash about 8:30 in the evening. That climb up and out of the Wabash Valley was a battle for that little steam engine. They were just rolling good by the time they reached the level land at Speicherville.

Holy cow! Put on the brakes!! There was a red lantern waving wildly in front of the station. It was Chris Speicher. "See," he said to the infuriated engineer and conductor. "I've got a ticket to ride to Urbana." And he did! Then, he walked back to his namesake town in the dark.