Erie township is the smallest in Miami county. It is situated on the eastern border, directly north of the Wabash
river, and has an area of about nineteen square miles. On the north it is bounded by Richland township; on the
east by Wabash county; on the south by the Wabash river, which separates it from Butler township, and on the west
by the township of Peru. The surface is diversified, being somewhat rolling in the eastern and southern portions
and level in the northern part. Along the Wabash river the soil is of more than ordinary fertility and is under
a high state of cultivation. In the northern part, while the soil is less fertile than the river bottoms, good
crops are raised, and throughout the township agriculture is carried on with excellent results. Like the greater
part of the county, the surface of Erie township was originally covered with timber, the principal varieties of
which were black walnut, poplar, ash, maple, elm and sycamore.
In the fall of 1827 Samuel McClure established a trading post in the southwestern part of the township, where he
carried on a successful traffic with the Indians for several years, when he removed to Grant county. No efforts
were made by him to establish permanent improvements or cultivate the soil, and the honor of being the first actual
settler belongs to Henry King, who settled near the western boundary in 1835. Shortly after he had located his
claim Joseph Fox settled near the old Wabash & Erie canal, and before the close of that year Joseph and John
Hale, James Burton, Daniel Potter, L. B. Bartlett and Pierre La Vonture all selected land and settled within the
present limits of the township.
During the years 1836 and 1837 a few settlers located in this part of the county. Among them were James Fornash
and his son William, Slath Cole and Horatio French. It is related of William Fornash that he was fond of Indian
society, spent a goodly portion of his time with his red friends and, probably in a spirit of fun, was frequently
seen upon the streets of Peru decked out in Indian costume.
The settlement of Erie was rather slow until after the land sale at Peru in the fall of 1840, though the township
was erected by the county commissioners on August 27, 1839, when "that portion of the territory of Peru township
lying east of the recently established Range line and entirely east to the Wabash county line," was taken
to form the new township. The name conferred upon the new political organization at that time was "Black Hawk
Township," and it went by that name until in September, 1847, when the name was changed to Erie, after the
Wabash & Erie canal. Among the settlers who came into this neighborhood a short time before the organization
of the township were two brothers - Sylvester and Elam Henton. The former was known as "Black Hawk" Renton,
and there is a tradition that this was the origin of the original name.
Among those who settled in the township in 1839 and shortly after the land sale of 1840 were: John and James Bailey,
Alfred and Morris Baker, Anson Jewett, Jeremiah Taylor, Lewis King and John Misener. A year or so later came John
and James Bailey, Silas Chalmers, Salathiel Cole, Abner and William Beeson, Jeremiah Kaler, Solomon Wybal, John
and William Nicholson, Samuel Philabaum and a few others. By the time the name of the township was changed, the
territory was fairly well populated and most of the public land had been entered by actual settlers.
At the time the first settlements were made a large part of the township along the Wabash river was included in
the individual Indian reservations. In the southwest corner was the reservation of Francis Godfroy, No. 15, and
east of this were two reservations of Richardville, extending up the river to within one mile of the Wabash county
line. These lands have long since passed into the hands of the white men and are now some of the best improved
farms in Miami county.
The first blacksmith shop in the township was established by Thomas Kennedy in the southern part, on the line of
the old canal, where he carried on his vocation for a number of years. The first saw mill was built near the northern
boundary by a man named Williams. Some years later the mill was purchased by a Mr. Cowger and the boiler was taken.
to Peru. The first marriage was probably that of John Parson to Priscilla Fornash in 1838. The first white child
born within the limits of the township is believed to have been John, a son of John and Hannah Hale, who was born
in 1837, and the first death was perhaps that of Joseph Hale, in 1838.
The first election was held a few weeks after the township was erected, at the house of Anson Jewett, when Jeremiah
Taylor was elected justice of the peace and Henry King, Daniel Henderson and Samuel Philabaum, township trustees.
Early in the '40s Rev. John Davis, a Baptist minister, visited Erie township and held services at the house of
Salathiel Cole, which was the first religious meeting in the township. Members of this faith held services for
several years at what was known as the California school house. The Methodists, Christians and United Brethren
also held services at an early date. An account of these early organizations will be found in the chapter on Church
Erie township is the only one in the county without a village or a postoffice. Mail is supplied to the inhabitants
through the rural free delivery system from Peru. The Wabash. Railroad and the electric line of the Fort Wayne
& Northern Indiana Traction Company cross the southern portion of the township, and on the latter there are
local stations for the accommodation of Erie township people.
Owing to the sparse population during the years immediately following the first settlement, no public school was
taught in Erie township until the year 1844. Then two school houses were erected - one on the farm of Samuel Philabaum
and the other on the farm belonging to a man named Peer. Robert Taylor, Phoebe Cox and John Corwin were among the
first teachers. In 1913 there were four good brick school houses in the township and four teachers were employed
in the schools. The estimated value of the school buildings was $3,600, there were 84 pupils enrolled during the
school year of 1912-13, and the amount paid in salaries to the teachers was $1,645.