|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
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.
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
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