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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
XXXVI. PROTESTANT BEGINNINGS
"While from yon lowly roof, whose circling smoke
O'ermounts the mist, is heard at intervals
The voice of psalms, the simple song of praise."
... James Grahame
AMONG THE INDIANS OF THIS REGION, the Jesuit missionaries had labored long and assiduously. Now the red men were gone. Now remained only the white settlers. And amongst these, practically at the very start of the settlements here, came the Protestant missionaries, seeking to save and to convert, and to augment the congregations of various faiths and beliefs.
A missionary by the name of Dillion is reputed to have been the first to visit Indiana. He came in 1702. It is not known for a surety who was the first Protestant missionary or preacher to visit the Lake Maxinkuckee region. The first may have been an itinerant preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church by the name of Owens. At any rate, the Methodist circuit riders were very early on the job. So were the Baptists.
When the first real emigration to Marshall County began in the early spring of '36, Abel C. Hickman was already established on the Michigan Road, two and a half miles south of Argos. It is generally believed that, the first log cabin built in the county was erected by him. He came evidently several years ahead of the pioneers of '36. In 1835, when the lands wore made subject to entry, Hickman secured a tract and moved off west of the road to the farm owned by Adam Bixel. There he put up another and more pretentious log cabin, taking the trouble to hew the logs and otherwise "modernize" his abode. It was there, according to the best authority, that the first society for religious worship was organized by Owens. For several years, the society continued to meet there, until 1844. Reliable authority also states that a house of worship, or a "meeting house," as it was called, was built on this farm, being the first building exclusively for church purposes erected by Protestants in the County.
"The student of the early history of the Western States," writes Julia Henderson Levering, will find in the reminiscences of old settlers no more interesting chapters than their recollections of the pioneer churches and their ministers. Into the fruits of their ardent labors, the present generations have entered; their memories are a heritage."
Among the mightiest of the influences in the development of the State was that of the early churches and their ministers "Indiana's obligation to these influences cannot be calculated," the historian continues. "The present and future generations can scarcely measure their indebtedness to those devoted Christian forefathers. A record of their labors in their various neighborhoods would be an invaluable addition to the archives of the Commonwealth. It is scarcely possible that an acquaintance with the greatly good, an intimate knowledge of their unpretending heroism, a sympathy with their unselfish sorrows and their lofty joys will not refine and elevate our lives."
Recollections of the early days and of the first log-cabin religious meetings in this section, as given by the late Phebe Thompson Willey, in 1925, are so authentic that they should be repeated.
"In pioneer days these people," she related, referring to the first settlers in what is now Union Township, "did not omit the assembling of themselves together. Before the coming of the log school house, meetings were held in the cabins of the settlers. Itinerant preachers were welcomed. When one arrived unannounced, children were dispatched in all directions to invite the neighborhood to a night meeting. Each felt a measure of responsibility for the message he would bring.
"My Grandmother told me of a occasion of this kind that occurred in Union Township. An evangelist came to the home of Elizabeth McDonald (Mother of the late Dan McDonald) one afternoon.
"Aunt Betty was an earnest, enthusiastic Christian and promptly started the boys to spread the news. After they had gone she began to inspect the evangelist and thought he might not be as well informed as desired. Being herself well-versed in Scripture she proceeded to question the stranger. Among the questions propounded was, ‘How many commandments are in the Bible?’ The answer, promptly given, ‘eleven,’ was rather disconcerting. When the neighbors filled the cabin and the preacher arose, Aunt Betty was anxious, but when he read his text--'a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another,' her fears vanished. Grandmother said the sermon was stirring and practical.
"It is worth while to mention the singing of these pioneers. The combination of Scotch and Welsh voices seems the best instrument for producing sacred music. Anthems and oratorios were suited to the high and low pitches and broad compass in the voices of this group of pioneers.
"A little later than the incident in which Aunt Betty figured, her twin sister, my Grandmother, had an experience which gives insight into the austerity of the time. These women were accustomed to lead in singing as their voices were strong and well suited to 'starting hymns'. This was before the days of suffrage and equality of men and women. Population had increased in our county and collective meetings were held, called Conferences. On one occasion Grandmother had been leading in the singing: The minister took as his text: ‘but I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over man, but to be in silence.’ He followed with some drastic comments on the place of woman in the church, the home and domestic relations. When he had finished his sermon he announced a hymn. No one responded. Turning to Grandmother he said, ‘Sister Thompson, will you start the hymn?’ She caused great consternation by replying, 'I suffer not a woman to teach,' and remained silent.
"It was a custom in the early days to speak of the people clustered around Maxinkuckee as the ‘lower’ settlement while those around and east of Wolf Creek were the ‘upper’ settlement. For many, years intimate relations were kept up between the two settlements. The majority of the people of both settlements being of the ‘New Light’ or old Christian church, late in 1836 or early 1837, a church with a large membership was organized covering both settlements.
"The ministers for a number of years were: William Thompson, Henry Logan and Abraham Voreis, all pioneers who came to Marshall County in 1836. These were the first who brought Christianity into this region.
"Henry Logan and several others of the organization held to the doctrines of Alexander Campbell, who was considered a reformer.
"In 1843, these with nearly the entire church membership, through the preaching of evangelists Miller and Hoyt and Mead Catlin, were converted to the Christian Advent doctrines and re-organized under the tenets of that denomination. This was the founding of what is now known as ‘The Church of God’ throughout the county.
"The site of ‘Pisgah.’ built in 1846 and said to be the first church built in the county is of interest to early settlers, being just east of where had been an Indian village and where a battle had once been fought between savage tribes as evidenced by arrows and other weapons of Indian warfare. This building was open to all denominations, a center of community life and recreation. Many stirring events took place within its walls. The singing schools-wherever else was heard such music as these Scotch-Welsh voices made? The few survivors who remember the ‘Easter’ anthems, the oratorios and the choruses will testify there has been nothing better.
"It is at Pisgah the 'Church of God' (with a congregation later in Union Township, at Burr Oak) had its real origin. The first elders, Henry Logan and Hugh S. Barnhill, having been elders in the old organization and in sympathy with the Advent doctrines, retained the same office in the new church.
"In January, 1850, elder S. A. Chaplain made his first visit to Pisgah. In this and other churches in the county he labored over forty years, often walking from his home in Pierceton. He spoke often of nature's beauty. Everywhere was a carpet of wild flowers and overhead the dogwood and other flowering trees. His sermons and also many snatches of verse were composed during these walks."
One of the early evangelists was Richard Corbaley. Worshippers increased so in numbers that a larger house of worship was required, and in June, 1864, "Antioch" meeting house was dedicated.
"The history of old Pisgah is unique inasmuch as it was the first church built in the county outside of Plymouth," a writer reminisced on the occasion of the Marshall County Sunday School Golden Jubilee. "Located in Green township, four miles south of Plymouth and one mile east of Wolf Creek Mills on ground purchased from Patrick and Martha Logan by William Thompson, Thomas McDonald and Thomas Logan, pioneer trustees, for the church organization known as The Church of God, Adventist. The deed was dated November 11, 1845, drawn by the venerable John B. Dickson, Justice of the Peace, and the building was constructed in 1846.
"It was used for public school house as well as church and its use was permitted for church services by other denominations.
"Old Antioch, located three miles east of Pisgah, was built by the same denomination in 1863 and later a school house was built in a place better suited to the community. Its glory having departed, Pisgah was moved to a neighboring farmyard and refashioned into a corncrib, where it is still (in the summer of 1925) doing service."
Historical data concerning the religious development of the extreme southwest portion of Marshall County was given by L. C. Zechiel, as historian, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the county Sunday Schools. He wrote: "This part of Marshall County was settled largely by those who came here from Ohio in 1850-60. Among then were many Germans, most of whom were religious and so the organization of churches came logically. Religious worship was conducted in homes and in the school house. The denominations were: Evangelical Association, The Reformed, The United Brethren, and for a short time The Protestant Methodist. In 1871-72 two churches were built, one by the Evangelicals and one by the Reformed. For the last twenty years or more (prior to 1925) the Reformed Church alone survives to serve the community. Earlier, a Union Sunday School was held in the Kaley school house, commencing about the first of April and ending with the advent of cold weather, the coming fall.
"Those were strenuous days and many times denominational zeal was more manifested than brotherly love and charity. Yet this community has served the cause of Christ creditably in sending no less than nine men out to preach the Gospel, all of whom are still living and actively engaged in ministerial work except one, who has retired because of physical infirmity. About 1870 the United Brethren disbanded and the Evangelicals moved their church to Culver. Fifteen years later quite an exodus from the Zion Church resulted in the organization of Grace Reformed in Culver. 'Zion' is a live wire today (in 1925), serving the entire community and beyond, for she gives to the county, in the person of Claude R. Newman, an Associate Superintendent in the whole field.
"Though but a rural church in an obscure community, yet many young lives have been influenced for good and God's gracious promise is ever theirs--'Lo, I am with you always.' "
Daniel McDonald said the first of the religious meetings he remembered personally was held at the log cabin of Elder William Thompson about two miles northeast of Lake Maxinkuckee. Ox wagons began to arrive early in the morning. Some folks came on horseback, many on foot. There was no fine dress; not a bit of it. Nearly all were attired in homespun. Some were without coats, merely in shirt sleeves. Some were even bare-footed. That made no difference. Dress didn't make the man in those days. And the "faith of our fathers" was a good old homespun religion.
The early denominations in these parts included the Baptists, the New Lights, Christians, Campbellites, Methodists and Presbyterians.
"In 1836," says McDonald, quoting Rev. Warren Taylor, an itinerant of the Wesleyan persuasion, "Rev. Stephen Marsters was, by the Indiana conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, appointed to a mission which embraced the counties of Marshall, Fulton and Kosciusko. In Marshall County he had four appointments."
Truly, as McDonald says, these early religious meetings were like angels' visits--few and far between.
|XXXVII. SUNRISE OVER A NEW TOWNSHIP|
" 'Tis morning; and the sun, with ruddy orb Ascending, fires the horizon."
... William Cowper
IT IS MORNING. The rising sun of the first day of March in the year 1840 welcomes a brand new unit into the union called Marshall County. And that unit takes the name of Union Township.
Let us turn back briefly to an earlier beginning. Indiana was admitted to the Union of the States on April 19, 1816. It was one of five States carved from a vast and fertile region of wilderness and prairie lying between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River that had been earlier known as the Northwest Territory.
Union Township is numbered "one" on the records of the county. The petitioners for the organization of the township, March 1, 1840, were Vincent Brownlee, William Thompson, John A. Shirley, Lewis Thompson, John Dickson, William Hornaday, John M. Morris, James Houghton, Elihu Morris, D. C. Hults, Thomas McDonald, John Morris, John H. Voreis, Platt B. Dickson, Elias Dickson, John McDonald and Eleazer Thompson. "The prayer of the petitioners," says Daniel McDonald, "asked that the township might be called 'Union,' and it was so ordered. The name was probably selected to perpetuate the name of ‘Union’ county in southern Indiana, from which some of the residents of that county came."
As now organized, Union Township is bounded on the west by Starke County, south by Fulton County, east by Green Township, and north by West Township. Incidentally, the boundary on the west (Starke County line) is the Second Principal Meridian. Union Township is not square . . . in its proportions, merely . . . but would be if it did not have the extra tier of sections across the north. It is six sections wide, east and west, and seven long, north and south. Its area is six by seven miles.
The preliminary organization of the township took place May 1, 1838. It was taken from the west part of what was originally Green Township. No change has been made in Union, as to its boundary lines, since its organization.
"A condition exists," writes Culver ex-editor A. B. Holt, "in the southwest corner of Marshall County (and in the same corner of Union Township) which is not duplicated anywhere else in the State. It is where the counties of Marshall, Starke, Pulaski and Fulton join one another. By the proper arrangement of his limbs a man can be in four counties at the same time."
Union Township lies between the Yellow and Tippecanoe rivers, which form roughly, though not actually, the north and south boundaries. The valleys of these rivers, because of the diverse features of the landscape, are not especially defined within the township confines. There are, however, two distinct watersheds contributing to these streams, whose trend, so far as the township area is concerned, is quite consistently westward -- if one may call the Yellow and Tippecanoe rivers consistent. The courses of these streams are erratic, and are distinguished for their traits: twisting, winding, and bending as they traverse the country. Both are by nature as sinuous as a serpent, though the dredging of the lower reaches of the Yellow River has rendered the course of that stream, west of Union Township, practically straight for considerable stretches.
Lake Maxinkuckee is the predominating feature of the landscape. A pleasing variety of scenery is provided by rolling hills, lakes, river valleys, the flat savannas (open plains), woods and thickets that characterize this region. East of the lake, the rounded hills rise to a commanding height above the waters of that beautiful expanse of blue. The highest of these eminences might be distinguished from the general run of Indiana hills by the name of knobs, so regular and steep are their slopes. These are especially noticeable close to the old Maxinkuckee settlement.
Quite a wild region was this back in 1840; now tame and polished and civilized. It was an old sun, back then, close to a hundred years ago, that rose over a new township. Our township is still very, very young. Compared with the age of the sun, the first hundred years of township history are but as a fleeting moment.
|XXXVIII. IN COMMUNITIES UNITED|
"Columns of pale blue smoke, like clouds of incense ascending,
Rose from a hundred hearths, the homes of peace and contentment."
... Henry W. Longfellow
NOT LONG AFTER THE FIRST WHITE SETTLEMENTS in Union Township, the people began to gather together in communities here and there. Like most folk the world over, they were naturally gregarious and longed for the companionship and neighborly nearness of one another. The first communities took the form of neighborhoods, so called, and rather scattered settlements; soon thereafter little villages sprang up, one or two of which progressed at a goodly pace, while the rest remained almost stationary and in certain cases even became retrogressive.
Among the first of the villages in the township was Maxinkuckee, situated half a mile east of the lake by the same name, on a high bluff from which is obtained perhaps the finest view to be had of the lake. This village was never regularly platted and laid out as a town. There are two streets: Lake street, running east and west, and Washington street, extending north and south. For many years, Maxinkuckee had a post office, but the rural free delivery system finally led to its discontinuance.
Union Town was originally laid out and organized, June 8, 1844, on the northwest shore of Lake Maxinkuckee. Bayless L. Dickson was responsible for laying out and platting the original town-site. He owned a farm bordering on the lake, a part of which embraced the land now covered by the town of Culver. Some years ago, historian Daniel McDonald wrote to Culver editor A. B. Holt to the effect that Union Town was platted and named by McDonald's uncle, Bayless L. Dickson, out of the southwest corner of Section 16, town 32, range 1 east. This was a slice from a parcel of land Dickson had entered for farming purposes. This was in 1844. A short time prior to that year he had married a second cousin of Daniel McDonald, Emma Houghton, who lived to a very advanced age. Daniel visited the log cabin of his uncle and aunt, after they had located in the Union Town neighborhood. "I am not sure," he told Mr. Holt, "but I think their log cabin was the only dwelling there at that time. My father and his family lived in a log cabin in the woods a short distance south of where Hibbard now is."
So far as McDonald could remember, Union Town was the first town or village, or whatever you might call it, that he visited in the county.
The statement of the original plat of Union Town says: "It is laid out in such a manner that it presents to the eye a view of Lake Maxinkuckee, and is surrounded with as good a country as can be found in northern Indiana. It has the advantage of three state and two county roads running through it. The streets are all 66 feet in width and the alleys are 16 1/2 feet." The statement was signed by Bayless L. Dickson as Proprietor, and the witnesses were G. S. Cleaveland and John L. Westervelt.
In 1851 the town was resurveyed and transferred to Mr. Dickson's brother-in-law, Thomas K. Houghton, and the name was changed by the board of county commissioners to Marmont. Dr. G. A. Durr, then a resident of the town, was responsible for having the name changed to Marmont in honor of a French general of that name. In 1857 Mr. Houghton filed a certificate attached to what purported to be an amended plat of Union Town. Peter Allerding, in 1884, filed what he called the "Vandalia Addition to said Union Town," and in 1886 Albert D. Toner made an addition to the Vandalia addition. Other additions, including the Ferrier, came later.
On October 4, 1895, the board of commissioners changed the name from Marmont to Culver City, on petition of O. A. Rea and ninety-nine others. The new name was in honor of Henry H. Culver. Later, the "City" was dropped.
In 1882 Burr Oak, Rutland and Hibbard came upon the scene. The description and plat of Burr Oak was filed in the office of the county recorder, November 1, 1882. Michael Burns was Proprietor. In 1885 Franklin Overmyer filed the plat of Overmyer's addition to Burr Oak station.
Besides these settlements there were various neighborhoods scattered throughout the township. Among them was the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, of which some years ago Ulee McClane, a pupil in Mt. Pleasant school, wrote: "The first families of this neighborhood were Nick Walley, Grandpa Cromley, Daniel Easterday, Grandpa Busart, Grandpa Hosimer, Zechiel and Brownlee."
"The first families in the township," the essay continued, "lived in a very different manner from those at present. They all lived in log houses. The houses had one large room below and nearly always an attic or loft above where the people slept. There was generally one window in the loft. Down stairs they had one door and a window or two. To go upstairs they had pegs driven in the wall to climb up on, or sometimes there would be a ladder."
Well known in early days, as now, were the Poplar Grove (with "Geiger Town"), Washington and Zion neighborhoods. Others took title from early settlers, as the Sickman, Osborn, Cromley, Shaw (called "Shawtown"), and Bucklew neighborhoods, to name a few of them.
So it was that, practically from the very beginning, the people who came to settle in this new western land sought encouragement and peace and contentment in community life within the bounds of Union Township.