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


This township occupies the northeast corner of the county and is the largest civil township in the county. Its extent is seven miles from east to west and six miles from north to south, giving it a total area of forty two square miles, or 26,880 acres. It is bounded on the north by Fulton county; on the east by the county of Wabash; on the south by Richland township, and on the west by the townships of Allen and Union. The general surface is rolling, with some hills along the few streams that traverse the township. Geologists see in the surface indications evidences that at some remote period the region now included in Perry township was covered by small lakes, probably of glacial origin. By the gradual disintegration of the surrounding elevations, supplemented by artificial drainage, the beds of these shallow lakes have been filled up and made tillable, so that some of the best farms in Miami county are in this township. The soil is a sandy loam, with a clay subsoil, which. when properly drained, yields abundant crops of wheat, corn, oats and other cereals, fruits and vegetables that are adapted to this latitude. When the first white men came they found here a heavy growth of timber that had to be cleared away before farms could be opened. They also found considerable muck and tamarack swamp land, which has been drained and is now as productive as any land in the township.

James Malcolm is credited with being the first actual settler in what is now Perry township. He came to Indiana in 1833 and obtained a log cabin from an Indian village in the southeast corner of this township, where he settled and entered upon his self appointed task of making a home in the wilderness. There is something pathetic in the fate of this pioneer. No doubt he was buoyed up by the hope that some day he would see the primeval forest, the wild beasts and the uncivilized natives disappear before the industry of his own race, and the country become peopled by a civilized population, of which he would be a component part. He lived long enough to see his dreams realized, but circumstances compelled him to pass his declining years in the county asylum and he died a public charge upon the county he had helped in his earlier days to develop.

In 1834 William Akright settled near Malcolm and was the second white man to establish a home within the present limits of the township. His son, John Akright, was one of the early school teachers of Miami county and afterward was for several years a general merchant in the village of Gilead. Before the close of the year 1834 Mathias Moyer located a little north of Akright and not far from the eastern boundary of the county. Benjamin Musselman and Jacob Gill came either late in this year or early in the year 1835, but they did not enter land until some time afterward.

During the year 1835 there were a number of immigrants to Perry township. Among them were John and Adam E. Rhodes, the former of whom entered a large tract of land near the center of the township. Adam E. Rhodes settled where the village of Gilead is now located. Others who came during the year 1835 were Ira Mitchell, who settled a short distance east of Gilead; James Waddle, near Niconza; Peter Onstatt, about two and a half miles southeast of Gilead; James Fiers, in the southeast corner of the township; Rev. Wesley Borders, a Methodist preacher and early justice of the peace, settled near Mr. Fiers; Joseph Wildman and his son Joseph, southwest of Gilead; Alfred Dowd and Charles Cleland, a short distance west of Gilead; James Cleland, four miles southwest of Gilead; James Biggs, northwest of Gilead; Benjamin and David Marquiss, Jacob Richard, Willis Hill, John Walters, John Anderson, Matthias Bird and James Bunton, who located in different parts of the township.

During the years 1835 and 1836 lands in Perry township were entered by Nathan Seavey, Andrew Onstatt, Joseph Cox, John McCrea, Charles S. Lowe, John R. Wright, Jerome Hoover, Samuel Wallace. Noah Webb, John Wiseman, Adam Weaver, W. H. Dubois, James Adams, Philip M. Tabb, James Waddell, Daniel Gilchrist, Samuel A Manon, Miles Craig, William Robbins, W. H. Stubblefield, Daniel Hawkins, William M. Duff, Cyrus Taylor, Samuel and Townsend Hoover, Hiram and William Butler, John Howry, Joseph Beckner, John Webb, David Mowlsby and a number of others. Some of these men settled upon their lands and others bought for the purpose of speculation.

By the close of the year 1836 the population was sufficient to justify the establishment of a new township. Accordingly, on February 27, 1837, the county commissioners ordered the erection of Perry township, which included all that part of the county lying north of the present southern boundary of Perry. The new township was named in honor of Commodore Oliver H. Perry, who won such a signal victory over the British fleet on Lake Erie in the War of 1812. The first election was held a little later at the house of Peter Onstatt, Alexander Jameson acting as inspector. Wesley Borders was elected justice of the peace, and George Tombaugh, Hiram Butler and William Hester were the first trustees.

In November, 1837, the western part of Perry township was taken to form the township of Union. Brant & Fuller's History of Miami County, published in 1887, says on page 277, that a township called Lake was formed on June 7, 1842, which embraced the northern part of Miami county, but the boundaries as therein described by section lines are such that it is impossible to trace them correctly upon the map of the county. The records of the county commissioners were destroyed by the burning of the courthouse in March, 1843, so that the official description of Lake township is lost. It is certain, however, that the township was never fully organized as an independent political subdivision of Miami county.

Several births occurred in the families of the early settlers soon after they came to the township, and it is uncertain just who was the first white child born in Perry. The first death was that of James Bunton, who died in 1835, soon after settling on his claim. Among the early marriages was that of Thomas Clemens to a daughter of Joseph Wildman, in April, 1836, which was probably the first in the township. Peter Ihrig and Elizabeth Tombaugh were married soon afterward.

Peter Onstatt established the first blacksmith shop, on his farm in section 22, and the first mill was built by John Bowers. It was a sawmill and stood on a branch of Squirrel creek. About 1854 Alfred Dowd built a steam saw mill a short distance west of Gilead. The most convenient grist mill for the early settlers was that of. Benjamin Musselman, which was on Squirrel creek, just over the line in Wabash county. The first tannery was started by John Daggy, and a few years before the beginning of the Civil war John Anglehart established a small distillery in the northeastern part of the township. Other early industries were the cabinet shop of Joseph Miller, not far from the Wabash county line, and the pottery of Elias Slagle, near Niconza, where a deposit of clay suitable for earthenware was found about 1838. Mr. Miller also made the coffins for a number of the pioneers.

Probably the first religious meeting in the township was held at the house of James Fiers in 1835, when a few Methodists gathered there for worship. Rev. Arentis Dowd and Ansel Beech were among the first to conduct services in Perry. The Baptists organized soon after the Methodists and other denominations formed congregations and built churches in the township at a later date.

The first school house was built in 1837, shortly after the township was organized, on the Benjamin Landis farm, and the second school house was built the succeeding year on the farm then owned by Thomas Goudy. It is not certain who taught the first school, but among the early teachers were James Potter, Peter Smith, Alvin Dunbar, Amanda Dowd, James Adams and C. B. Ash. In 1913 there were eight brick and three frame school houses in Perry, valued at $17,700. Fourteen teachers were employed during the school year of 1912-13, three of them in the certified high school at Gilead, and the amount paid in teachers' salaries was $5,947.40

The only railroad in Perry township is the Winona Interurban Railway, an electric line that runs from Peru to Warsaw, passing through the village of Gilead, which is the only town of importance in the township. Some years ago there was a postoffice at Niconza, near the eastern boundary, and Stockdale and Wheatville were trading centers. But in the march of progress they failed to keep up with the procession and have perished entirely or remain only a shadow of what they formerly were.

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