After Perry, this is the largest township in Miami county. It is situated northeast of the center of the county;
is bounded on the north by Perry township; on the east by Wabash county; on the south by the townships of Erie
and Peru, and on the west by Jefferson and Union. On the northern boundary its extent is seven miles from east
to west, on the southern it is six miles, and it is six miles from north to south. The total area of the township
is about thirty nine square miles. The Eel river enters near the northeast corner and flows in a southwesterly
direction across the township, crossing the western border about two miles north of the southwest corner. Its principal
tributaries in Richland are Flowers and Bachelor creeks. This stream, with its tributaries, furnishes a good drainage
system for the township. The soil is of unusual fertility and some of the finest farms in the state are located
in the Eel river valley.
In the year 1836, David Williams built the first log cabin in what is now Richland township, and to him belongs
the honor of being the first actual settler in that part of Miami county. Soon after him came John and James Long
and William Jones, and so far as can be learned they were the only white inhabitants at the close of the year.
Early in 1837 Robert Miller, John Ellison, Allen Lockridge and James Conner located claims and began clearing farms
in the township Later in the year there were a number of pioneers selected lands in the Eel river valley. Among
them were John Conner, Martin Scruggs, Moses and Jesse Martindale, Richard Miller, Daniel Ward, Alvin Riddle, Edmund
I. Kidd, Thomas Smith and William Bish.
Although the population was rather scanty, Richland township was erected by the county commissioners on November
7, 1837, but the first township officers were not elected until in August, 1838. Then an election was held at the
house of David Williams. Edmund I Kidd and Martin Scruggs were chosen justices of the peace; Moses Martindale,
Thomas Smith and David Williams, township trustees.
During the years 1838 and 1839 there was a tide of immigration to Richland township which was so named by the commissioners
when it was erected in 1837, on account of the fertility of the soil. Henry Norris settled a short distance of
Paw Paw village; Amos Murphy, John Miller, R. C. Harrison and Robert Watson, in the eastern part; Samuel Rank,
near the northeast corner; near him located a man named Finley, on Eel river; Samuel Fisher, east of Chili; Caleb
Petty, in the southern part; Enos Baldwin and John Sellers, on section 23, about a mile and a half east of Denver;
and David Graham and Benjamin Baltimore, on section 13. Others who came in these years and settled in different
parts of the township were: Joseph Clark, Michael Taylor, Thomas Black, Josiah and William Petty, Peter Woolpert,
Reuben Overman, Samuel Hart, Reuben K. Charles, Jacob Peer, Samuel Jameson, Jesse Murphy, Willis Hill, Charles,
James and Amos Wooley, Jonathan Fisher, James Holinshade, Benjamin Griffith, David Marquiss, Samuel Heilman, Andrew
Hann, Jacob Lander, Alanson Dowd, Andrew Wolfe, Samuel Davis and James Tracy.
When the first settlers came to Richland the nearest grist mill was that of Burrell Daniels, in Jefferson township,
and to this mill the pioneers went through the woods with a "turn of corn," or, after their farms were
cleared, with a sack of wheat. About 1841 George Goudy built a mill on the Eel river, on what was afterward known
as the John Davis farm, and it was not long until he had a good patronage. The building was a frame and the mill
was supplied with good machinery for that day. Under various owners it continued in operation until about 1883.
John Long built a saw mill on Flowers creek, near Chili, about 1846. Later he sold out to William McColley, who
converted it into a gristmill and ran it as such for several years. William Miller then built a saw mill on the
Eel river, opposite the village of Chili. Sometime in the early forties Mr Martindale built a carding machine on
Flowers creek, not far from Chili, and about the same time Robert Miller established a saw mill on Paw Paw creek.
He was one of the prominent citizens, served a term in the state senate, and his son, Rev. S. C. Miller, still
resides in the township. The carding machine was subsequently converted into a flour mill. For many years the saw
mills did a good business, but after the most valuable timber was manufactured into lumber the mills were removed
to other localities or allowed to fall into decay.
In 1837 a few Methodists and their friends met at the house of Robert Miller for worship. About a year later a
society was organized and in 1842 a church was built on the farm of Richard Miller, the first in Richland township.
The Chili Methodist church was organized about 1839 and since then the Baptists and some other denominations have
organized congregations in the township, an account of which will be found in the chapter on Church History.
The first school house was built on the farm of Robert Watson in 1838, and Mr. Watson taught the first term of
school in it after it was completed. A year or so later another school house was built on the farm of Moses Martindale,
whose son was the first teacher in that district. In 1913 there were four brick and five frame school houses in
Richland, valued at $9,235, and the eleven teachers employed received $3,949.20 in salaries.
Probably the first white child born in the township was Robert, son of Robert and Rebecca Miller, who was born
in 1838. One of the earliest marriages was that of Willis Buck to a Miss Watson, daughter of Robert Watson, in
1839. Later in the same year Edmund Blackman was united in marriage with a daughter of David Williams. Margaret
Miller, a daughter of Richard Miller, died in 1840, which was the first death in the township.
Chili, a station on the Vandalia Railroad a little southwest of the center, is the principal town of Richland township.
East of Chili, on the same line of railroad, is the village of Pettysville. It has a postoffice and some shipping
is done from that point. Anson, Paw Paw and Wooleytown, once thriving settlements in Richland, are among the deserted
villages of Miami county. A history of these places may be found in the chapter on Towns and Villages.
The Vandalia Railroad enters the township from the west near the center of the boundary line and follows the north
side of the Eel river into Wabash county. At Chili this road is crossed by the Winona Interurban, an electric line
that runs from Peru to Warsaw. These two roads provide fairly good transportation facilities to the township.