History of Converse, Miami County, Indiana
From: History of Miami County, Indiana
Edited by: Mr. Arthur L. Bodurtha
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1914


When this town was laid out in April, 1849, by O. H. P. Macy and Willis Elliott, it was given the name Xenia. The first house was erected by Henry Overman the following summer. It was a log structure fifteen by eighteen feet and stood on the Delphi road, now known as Miami street. Later an addition was made to the building, in which the first stock of goods ever brought to Converse was offered for sale. In order to reach the "store," customers were compelled to pass through the living rooms of Mr. Overman's family James Mote, a carpenter, and Joseph Brazington, a cabinet maker, were among the early settlers. The former built his residence at the corner of Marion and Jefferson, and the latter at the corner of Jefferson and Sycamore streets. In 1852, Mr. Macy, one of the proprietors, erected a building for mercantile purposes and opened the first general store of consequence in the town. This building was afterward occupied for several years by Daniel Mendenhall. Other early merchants were John and Quincy Baldwin Christian Life, Cooper & Scott, John Grimes and Elisha Draper.

The original plat of Converse embraced a small tract in the northern part of section thirty two and showed thirty two lots and four streets - Jefferson, which runs north and south and is crossed by Wabash. Marion and Sycamore. About a year after the town was laid out all these lots had been sold. In March, 1856, O. H. P. Macy and Thomas Addington platted an addition of forty lots. F. M. Davis' addition to the town, consisting of twnety nine lots, was made in 1867, and two years later J. W. Eward and J. N. Converse each platted additions, the aggregate of which was thirty two lots. Several additions have been made since that time as the growth of the town demanded more room.

Converse, or Xenia, as it was then called, experienced a boom soon after the close of the Civil war, when the Pan Handle Railroad was built through the town. Then a number of saw mills were established in the immediate vicinity and large quantities of lumber were shipped from Converse, scarcely a day passing without one or more carloads going out to some of the factories in the large cities of the east. E. S. Lee established a planing mill and stave factory about 1869. A mill for making tow from flax was afterward added and the firm of Lee & Patterson carried on this line of business until the destruction of the mill by fire in 1874. A. B. Fisher began the manufacture of staves in 1870 and a few years later John Coyle started a tow and flax mill. Fisher removed his stave factory to Union city about 1875, and Coyle. after operating his flax mill for some time sold out to Lehman, Rosenthal & Kraus, of Peru, who removed the mill to that city about 1879 and 1880. Other early industries were the flour mill of Wright & McFeely, which changed hands a number of times during the first decade of its existence, and the tannery started by A. J. Saxton, about 1866.

In 1873, the auditor of Miami county directed the surveyor of the county to lay off and plat all the irregular lots in the town so that they could be listed for tax purposes in a systematic manner. The survey was accordingly made and the plat filed by the county surveyor has since been known as the official plat of Converse.

A second boom came to the town upon the discovery of natural gas in the vicinity and a number of new manufacturing concerns located at Converse. Among them were the Xenia Hoop Works, the Woolen Mills, the Hoosier Canning Company, the Peerless Glass Company, the Chandelier Works, a carriage factory and the Malleable Steel Works. When the supply of gas failed some of these factories were discontinued or removed elsewhere.

The first hotel in Converse was opened by James Mote and a large part of his patronage came from prospectors who visited the new town in quest of business opportunities. He was succeeded by Clayborne Wright and in 1868 a regular hotel building was erected by George Wood on Jefferson street, a short distance south of the railroad. It was destroyed by fire in 1884.

In 1868, Charles P. Thew, a journalist who was not afraid to venture, started the Xenia Gazette, an account of which, as well as its successors, will be found in the chapter on Educational Development.

The first school house erected for the accomodation of the children of the town was built in 1866. It was a modest frame building and stood in the western part of the village. By 1872 it became too small to serve the purpose for which it was erected and a two story brick building took its place, at a cost of $8,000. Two rooms were afterward added to the building and as thus remodeled it was used until about 1896, when the persent commodious building was erected at a cost of $25,000. In 1894 the superintendent of the town schools made application to the state board of education for a commissioned high school and, after an investigation as to the condition of the schools, the state board granted the commission early in 1895. In the school year of 1912-13, there were ten teachers employed in the Converse public schools and they received in salaries $5,021.50.

A fire department was organized on July 1, 1885, with twenty two members, and those who have witnessed its work assert that it is one of the best of its kind in the state of Indiana. Converse also has a well equipped system of water works, using both the direct pressure and stand pipe methods. The supply of water comes from tubular wells, over two hundred feet in depth, in which the water has risen to within six feet of the surface, affording an abundance of pure limestone water for domestic use and fire protection.

About two years after the town was laid out a class of Wesleyan Methodists was organized and a little later a small log church was erected. After several years dissensions arose among the members and the last meeting of the church was held some time in 1870. The United Brethren church was organized in 1856; the Methodists a year before that date; the Christian church in 1868, and the Presbyterian church in 1870. A more complete account of these congregations will be found in the chapter devoted to church history.

The Converse of the present day commands a large trade from the people living in the southeastern part of Miami county, the northwestern part of Grant and the northeastern part of Howard. It is the principal shipping point on the Pan Handle Railroad between Marion and Logansport. Converse has a bank with a capital stock of $25,000, a Home Telephone Company, some manufacturing enterprises, a large grain elevator, more than a score of mercantile establishments, and a number of handsome residences. The United States census of 1900 gave Converse a population of one thousand four hundred and fifteen. About the time that report was issued the supply of natural gas gave out and in 1910 the population was officially reported as one thousand one hundred and sixty four. Although these figures show a decrease in the number of inhabitants, there has been no diminution of energy on the part of the people of Converse and the town holds second place in Miami county, being excelled in population and wealth only by the city of Peru.

The Miami County Agricultural Association holds its annual fair and races at Converse and every autumn it is the Mecca for the people of Miami county, the citizens of Peru usually turning out in large numbers to this, the only fair in the county. Converse has for a number of years supported a summer Chautauqua, which is likewise well attended.

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