History of Johnson Township, Gibson County, Indiana
From: History of Gibson County, Indiana
BY Gil R. Stormont
B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc.
Indianapolis, Indiana 1914


This is one of the southern sub divisions of Gibson county. Originally it took in much more territory than at present, for in 1899 the county commissioners created a new township from the southern part of Patoka and the northern portion of Johnson township, known as union. As now constituted, Johnson township is four by twelve miles in extent, running the longest way from east to west. The southwestern portion of this township is drained by Big creek. McGarry's Flat is a strip of rich black land, superior for its agricultural value. The early forests are nearly all gone and where the great trees stood a century ago now may be seen well tilled farms. At an early day its forests were known for their wild, yet charming scenes, that changed with the passing of the four seasons. Here was found the oak, poplar, maple, beech, ash, gum, walnut, sycamore, cottonwood, elm, honey locust, cyprus, catalpa and other trees. The pioneer well remembers the pawpaw bushes, some of which were almost a foot in diameter. In the springtime the knolls and hill tops are plumed with bouquets, brilliant with red, white and purple promises of fruitage. In the autumn the valleys are odorous with the fragrance of ripening fruits. The only rocky outputs in Johnson township are those at or near Haubstadt where the rash coals and their companion strata lay. These are of no economic importance, as the great depth at which anything valuable can be found precludes mining.


The first history of Johnson township dates back to 1804, nine years before the county of Gibson was organized. John Hamer and his family were indisputably the first pioneers of the township. They came from the mountains of Tennessee, and cleared a plot of land in the timber of section 30. Jesse Douglas and family, John Sides, of South Carolina, Samuel Spillman, William Mangrum, Cary Wilkinson, George Holbrook, Allen Ingram, Berry Jones, Andrew Douglas, Elisha Prettyman, Andrew Robinson were other first settlers.

In the spring of 1811 the people of the township became alarmed at the frequent outbreaks among the Indians, and accordingly a stockade of split logs was erected at the site of the present town of Fort Branch. The old fort has long since passed from view.

Probably the first schools were taught in this township in 1810 by William Woods. The teacher boarded around, of course, and his pay consisted of a small sum from each family represented by a child in the school. James Johnson and James Curry were later teachers. Stephen Strickland, the "Whiskey Baptist," was probably the first man to preach in the township. Other early settlers were Samuel Adams, James Blythe, Lewis Duncan, Prettyman Montgomery, Andrew D. Ralston and Joel Yeager, and many later were Germans, who came here to escape the monarchial oppression of the fatherland.

Among the early settlers of this township, as it was known before the formation of Union township, as above indicated, were the following: Jesse Douglas and family of section 20, township 3, in the autumn of 1806. He left many descendants, who still reside in the county. mostly in Montgomery township. During early days this was a prominent family in the south part of Gibson county.

John Sides and family, who came from South Carolina, came with the Douglas family, and their cabins were built only a few hundred yards apart. Sides was a noted hunter and trapper and very fond of the sports of the chase. He was an industrious, energetic man, and after years of toil accumulated a handsome fortune.

Hiram Sides was born in Gibson county in 1821, and became a well to do farmer and stock raiser.

Another settler of 1806 was Samuel Spillman from the mountains of Tennessee. He was by trade a tanner, and there had to earn his living under the ban of Southern aristocracy, which looked upon labor by white man as a disgrace. He sought out the wilds of this county and built him a rude cabin home near where Haubstadt now stands. Here he toiled many years and reared a family of seventeen children, all sons but four. After being here a few years he established a tannery, the first in this portion of the county. He built the first brick house in Johnson township.

Other early families were those of Mangrums, Wilkinsons, etc. Cary Wilkinson, wife and family of seven children came in from Kentucky in the autumn of 1808, settling about three miles southwest of Fort Branch. According to the best memory of Pioneer Wilkinson, sheep were first introduced by some of the settlers in the spring of 1815, but great care had to be taken that they were not killed by wolves. It was several years before they could be successfully raised. Cotton was also raised by many of the farmers in this part of the county between 1815 and 1830. Flax was introduced with the coming of the first settlers, and the fibers of this product made valuable tow which was woven by the good housewife and her grown daughters into a rough kind of cloth and found its way into the clothing of the family. Any boy or girl was counted fortunate if they had two suits of tow garments in a single year. These garments were made a good deal like a bag, open at each end, and a drawing string about the neck. This was for their summer outfit. Thus clad, barefooted and with a cheap hat, the boy or girl of the pioneer day was ready for school or to go to "meeting," as church was then always called. One pair of shoes for each member of the household a year was considered a plenty to have. These generally came about Christmas time. After sheep became more plentiful, cloth was made of wool and cotton into what was styled Linsey-woolsey (cotton chain and woolen filling). This was universally woven for many years and formed the chief clothing material for the settler and his family.

James Blythe came in 1812 from Giles county, Tennessee, locating on section 11, township 4, range 11, and after coming here married Olivia J. Mangrum.

Another pioneer character whose name must ever be handed down by each historian of Gibson county, for its true interest and unique qualities, was Stephen Mead, who came from York state to Gibson county in 1815, and married Mary, daughter of John Pritchett, a Revolutionary soldier, a native of Tennessee, and an early settler of Montgomery township, this county. This young couple located in what is now Gibson county, in Johnson township, where they reared a family of twelve sons and two daughters. By industry and frugality they managed to get on well in the affairs of this world, and later years made up for the trials and hardships of those early times. Then, it is related, they had no plates upon which to eat, so they made a long table of puncheon and on the top surface of these puncheon they dug out sixteen holes the shape of a bowl, and thus each member of the family had their own dish out of which to eat - a stationary wooden plate! At one of the Gibson county fairs this entire family was present and all were robust, well cared for persons and each rode a fine gray horse. John S., one of these twelve sons, was later county commissioner and had to do with the building of the present court house, a monument to him so long as it stands.

As has already been observed, Tennessee furnished many of the early settlers in Johnson township. Among others from that state was Joshua Duncan in 1821. He had, however, when a boy, moved with his parents to Kentucky and thence to Indiana. At Evansville he became acquainted with Sarah L. Logan and they were married in 1821 at old Stringtown, which hamlet is now embraced within the limits of the city of Evansville. Soon after their marriage Mr. Duncan and his young bride moved to Gibson county and settled in the dense forest about three miles southwest of Fort Branch and by toil and industry cleared a small patch of ground and by the aid of his neighbors raised a log cabin. It was made of round logs and with a mud and stick chimney. Mrs. Duncan says that during the first two years they lived on hominy, corn meal and game. That locality was then infested with wolves and bears and a few of the small animals of prey. Deer and wild turkey also abounded in great numbers, which furnished the tables of pioneers with good meat. The wife of Mr. Duncan was a native of North Carolina. They had born to them ten children. Mr. Duncan became a prosperous, rich farmer and for many years was a justice of the peace. A few years after coming here he built a two story house which was the best in his section of the county. It had a shingled roof and was weather boarded with poplar siding. The floors were of white ash. He also had a large barn and Esquire Duncan's place was regarded as among the finest in Johnson township. He died in 1861. His widow survived him and later resided at Princeton with a daughter.

Lewis Duncan and family were also early settlers. He was a brother of the above and was a member of the Baptist church and occasionally preached at the settlers' houses. Mrs. Lyda Duncan, a widow, and her family moved here and located on a timber land tract about five miles west of Haubstadt in 1818. She was a noted midwife of that section and was frequently called to minister. to the afflicted for miles around. She was an excellent horsewoman and on her trips generally rode a fleet and powerful stable horse and while on her missions of mercy to the sick, whether it be night or day, always carried with her a loaded pistol. Among the old residents of the township was Stephen Harris, who came with his parents from South Carolina in 1810, and settled in what is now Posey county, where Stephen married Polly Emerson and in 1824, with his young wife, settled on section 8, township 4, range 11, where Mrs. Harris died in 1869. They reared a large family of children.

Prettyman Montgomery, a descendant of one of the old and historic families of this county, was born in this county in 1815. He became a well to do farmer and stockman. John N. Mangrum was born in 1827 and was in after years a county commissioner, Another of the respected families of this township were the Yeagers, whose ancestor, Joel Yeager, a native of Virginia, emigrated to Kentucky and there married and in 1826 came to Indiana, locating in Posey county, near Cynthiana, and died there. His son, Absalom, came to Gibson county in 1841 and located in the timber in Johnson township, He was the father of seven children and among them was Henry A. Yeager, an attorney in Princeton.

From 1838 to 1841 there was a large influx of emmigration from Germany, on account of the tyranny of the ruler of that country, and this township received her full share of this German element, among whom may be recalled such noble characters as Dr. V. H. Marchland; John Sipp, who became county treasurer; Larentz Ziliak and Dr, Peter ottmann, Many of them were Roman Catholic in religious faith, Later, they established schools and churches at Haubstadt and St. James.

Since the creation of Union township, which took much of the original territory from Johnson, it leaves Johnson with only one town, Haubstadt.


This was formerly known as Haub's Station, an old stage stand on the state road from Evansville to Vincennes, It is ten miles south of Princeton, The town was laid out in the fall of 1855, by James H. oliver, who had before bought the land, Henry Haub, after whom the town is named, kept the stage stand and a general store, August Geiser was another early merchant, also L. Ziliak, Casper Keasel was the first blacksmith.

The present town of Haubstadt numbers about six hundred people, The election for incorporation was held on July 29, 1913, and shortly afterward officers were chosen, They were: W. W. Sipp, George Stiefel and Jacob Pfeiffer, trustees; Matthew Halbig, secretary and treasurer, and Joseph Gruebel, marshal, The town is composed almost exclusively of Germans and is a very flourishing and growing community. Good schools, progressive business interests and a well ordered town government are elements which contribute to the upbuilding of the place.

The following compose the business interests of 1913: Ziliak & Schaefer Milling Company; George D. Seitz, lumber dealer; general stores, the Henry W. Luhring Company, A. M. Schultheis Company, Heldt & Riffert Company and Stunkel & Halbig; hardware, George S. Trible; grain dealers, Theodore A, Stunkel, Ballard & Busing; implements, F. D. Luhring; drugs, Peter J. Emmert; saloons, William Hughes, Jacob Shultheis; blacksmith and wagon shop, Schiff & Pfeiffer; hotel, Margaret Singer; barbers, Anslinger brothers; restaurants, O. E. Padellar, Albert J. Singer; millinery, Henry W. Luhring, Helton & Riffert, V. H. Marchand is the resident physician.

The Haubstadt Bank was organized in 1904, chartered on June 4, 1904, and started September 2d of the same year, The first officers were: Alois Ziliak, president; Henry W, Luhring. vice president, and Thebes Ferthing, cashier, The present officers are: W, W, Sipp, president; George D. Seitz, vice president; A, J, Lynn, cashier, The capital stock is $25,000, surplus, $10,000, and deposits, $140,000. The bank building was erected in 1904, at a cost of $6,500.

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