DEER CREEK TOWNSHIP
This township occupies the southwest corner of the county and has an area of twenty four square miles, being
four miles in extent from east to west and six miles from north to south. It is bounded on the north by Pipe Creek
township; on the east by Clay; on the south by Howard county, and on the west by the county of Cass. It was established,
with its present boundaries and dimensions, by order of the county commissioners on September 1, 1847, and was
named after the stream that flows a westerly course through the center of the township. Deer creek and South Deer
creek, with their tributaries, afford a fairly good water supply and drainage system for the township, though the
natural drainage has been supplemented by the construction of more than twenty miles of ditches and tile drains.
The soil in this part of the county is a black loam, of great depth and exceedingly fertile, and in no part of
the county are larger crops of corn, wheat, oats and hay raised than in Deer Creek township. When the first white
men came to this region they found a heavy growth of black walnut, hickory, oak, poplar, ash, maple and other varieties
of valuable timber. Much of this was wantonly destroyed by the pioneers in opening their farms to cultivation,
and it is no exaggeration to state that, in many instances, if this timber could be replaced at the present time
it would be worth more than the land upon which it grew.
Deer Creek township lay in the heart of the "Big Reserve" of the Miami Indians and was not surveyed and
opened to settlement as early as some other portions of the county. The land was not put upon the market until
1847, though a few adventurous white men had made settlements within the present limits of the township prior to
that time. The earliest settlers of whom there is any authentic record were David Hoffman, Richard Miller and Thomas
Pearson, who came about the year 1844. Hoffman settled near the northeast corner of the township; Miller about
a mile west of the present village of Miami, and Pearson about a mile west of Miller. During the year 1845 several
persons joined the three original pioneers. Among them were James McCrary, James Davis, David Armstrong, Jesse
Julian, Joseph McConnell, D. C. Jenkins, James Adamson, Richard Webster, Austin Herrell and William McConnell.
David Armstrong and Richard Webster afterward removed to Clay township, and James McCrary remained but a short.
In 1846 Oliver Sandifur, Isaac Herrell, Sylvester Tumlin, J. D. Larimer, Frazee and George Swinford, John Hicks,
William Mahon, Allen Busby, William Swinford and a few others established homes in different parts of the township.
Immediately after the lands were opened to settlement there was a tide of immigration to the southern part of Miami
county and during the years of 1847 and 1848 about one hundred patents were ranted by the government to tracts
in Deer Creek township. Among those who entered lands in those two years were: John B. and B. F. Brown, Joseph
A. Burr, Isaac Burroughs, John Beesly, Emery and William Daggett, John and Leonard Dixon, James Avelin, Oliver
and James Jenness, Adolphus Runnells, James Adams, Lewis N. Snodderly, William Marrow, Christopher Carter, Samuel
and Thomas Martindale, John Hinchman, James S. Davenport, Nathan Piles, Zebedee Wright, Joseph Graves, John and
Samuel Truax, George Pontius, Thomas A. Long, Thomas Woodrick, Jesse Gettinger, George Spray, Simeon Farlow, Arthur
Compton, James Lewis, Archibald Chittick, Daniel Russell, James Fettis, John Keever, and most of those who had
selected lands before they were opened for entry.
The first mill in the township was a small "corn cracker," which was built by Adolphus Runnells on Deer
creek in the western part. Here the first election for township officers was held a few weeks after the township
was erected by the county commissioners. D. C. Jenkins was chosen justice of the peace; Austin Herrell, Lewis Snodderly
and Thomas Pearson, trustees; W. H. Miller, clerk; Daniel Ellis, treasurer.
Runnells' mill was of the most primitive type. It was a log structure, with a single run of "nigger-head"
buhrs, and the meal it made was coarse, but for all its imperfections it was of great utility to the early settlers.
It was built about 1846 and continued to be the principal mill in the township for about five years. The water
of Deer creek supplied the motive power. About 1850 John Hicks built a mill on Deer creek a short distance southeast
of where the village of Miami now stands, and from the numerous stories told of this mill it must have been a curiosity.
One of these stories is to the effect that a customer brought half a bushel of corn to the mill in the morning
and toward nightfall insisted that Mr. Hicks take out some more toll, as he wanted to get home before it got dark.
Another is that one day, while the mill was crushing the grains of corn at the rate of thirty or forty a minute,
the buhrs suddenly stopped running. Investigation showed that an old sow had found a resting place in the mill
race, effectually shutting off the supply of water. Probably the first saw mill in the township was the one erected
by Oliver and Nelson Sandifur about 1850. It was what was known as a "sash saw," slow in its operations,
but for several years it supplied the settlers with lumber. The first steam saw mill was established at Miami,
by Alexander Blake, in 1852. Austin Herrell and Lewis Miller were likewise prominently identified with this line
of business, and "Eb." Humrickhouse built a large steam flour mill at Miami about 1871. He afterward
sold it to William Tubbs, who removed it to Walton, Cass county.
John H. Runkle, a former county superintendent of the Miami county schools, is authority for the statement that
the first school in Deer Creek township was taught in 1845, by a man named Henry Garrett, and that the first school
house was built the next year on the farm of Austin Herrell, where John Truax taught the first school. In 1913
the township had eight brick school houses, valued at $3,000, enrolled 194 pupils in the public schools, employed
ten teachers, who received in salaries the sum of $4,277.
The Lake Erie & Western Railroad runs north and south through the eastern part of the township. Parallel to
it is a line of the Indiana Union Traction system of electric railways, which has its northern terminus at Peru.
These two roads furnish excellent transportation facilities to the greater part of the township. Both roads pass
through the villages of Bennett's Switch and Miami, which are the only postoffices in the township.
As early as 1846 a few Methodists gathered at the home of Lewis Snodderly and held the first religious services
in the township. A little later a society of that faith was organized. Since then the Baptists, Christians and
some other denominations have organized and built houses of worship.
In the southern part of what is now Deer Creek township was the Indian village of the chief Shap-pan-do-ce-ah.
In 1846 this village consisted of a few log huts and a number of bark wigwams. The next year the inhabitants removed
to Kansas with the other members of the tribe of Miamis Among them was a white woman about fifty years of age,
who, like Frances Slocum, had been captured in childhood and brought up as an Indian. She accompanied her Miami
husband to Kansas in 1847.