History of Washington 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

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP

This township lies directly across the Wabash river from the city of Peru and extends southward to the line dividing townships 25 and 26 north. Its greatest length is nearly eight miles and it is four miles in width from east to west, having an area of a little less than thirty square miles. The northern boundary is the center of the Wabash river to the mouth of the Mississinewa, thence up that stream to the range line dividing ranges 4 and 5 east, which forms the eastern boundary. North of it is Peru township, on. the east it is bounded by Butler, on the south by Clay, and on the west by the township of Pipe Creek.

Little Pipe creek flows in a northwesterly direction through the central part of Washington and enters the Wabash river near the northwest corner. Big Pipe creek flows across the southwest corner and these streams, with the Wabash and Mississinewa rivers, afford good drainage to all portions of the township: Most of the surface is high land and along the streams are rugged and romantic bluffs, showing some of the finest landscape scenery in the county. A little of the land is low, but it has been reclaimed by artificial drainage. This land lies in the southern part of the township and it is related that the people who settled on the higher lands in the northern part were wont, in the early days, to refer to farmers along Big Pipe creek as "swamp angels."

But the patience and industry of these "swamp angels" in draining their lands have been handsomely rewarded. Their farms are among the most productive in the county, while the soil of the uplands has "run out," to some extent, and has to be replenished by the use of fertilizers. When the first white men came the soil of these uplands was quite fertile. The leaves that fell from the trees of the heavy forest acted as a natural fertilizer, but that source of repair has practically vanished. Large quantities of lumber and thousands of staves have been shipped from Washington township in the years gone by, and the constant cultivation of the land after the timber was cleared off has had its effect, though there are still many fine farms in the township.

The first white man to locate within the present limits of Washington township was Thomas Henton, who came in the summer of 1838 and built a cabin on a hill overlooking the old Strawtown and Miamisport state road. Mr. Henton was unmarried and for a few years after settling in Miami county kept bachelor's hall in his cabin and spent much of his time in hunting. He then married a Miss Dabney, daughter of one of the pioneers, and turned his attention more to the development of his farm. After his death his widow married William Demuth and the place entered by Mr. Henton became known as the Demuth farm.

During the year 1839 a number of settlers located claims in the township. Among them were Patrick O'Brien, who had come from Ireland in his boyhood twenty years before; John Bargerhoof, Thomas O'Meara, Daniel Taggett, Bradley Witham, George Beck, John Gindling, Michael Duffy, John Cleiker, Guinton Key and Patrick Colgan. Daniel Taggett located where the town of South Peru now stands and for some time operated a ferry across the Wabash river.

After 1839 the increase in population was gradual, but constant, a few new immigrants arriving every year until the township was fully settled. Jacob Struble and George Clickard came in 1840. Mr. Struble was one of the early road supervisors and opened some of the public highways, one of which is still known as the "Struble road." He was at one time the owner of considerable land. About the time of the arrival of Struble and Clickard, or shortly afterward, came Malachi Kuhn, Alexander Wilson, Emanuel Charpie, William Weakler and a few others. Others who settled in the township in the early '40s were: James Dabney, whose daughter became the wife of Thomas Henton, William Lycee, John Miller, Isaac Miller, Jacob Keller, Michael Case, John Allen, James Sharp, David Myers, Abel Hennen, James Downey, John Hunt, William King, John Davidson, Frederick Harter, John Scott, Amos Ranks, Thomas Goudy, Arthur Bland, Otis Fish, B. F. York, Jerry Shafer, Philip and William Mort, Samuel Jameson, Frederick Coleman, Caleb Corey, Ephraim Bearss, John York, Martin Flagg, David Dunn, John and Conrad Hawes, Robert McKinney and W. H. Misener, the last named settling on the Richardsville reserve, near the junction of the Wabash and Mississinewa rivers.

On June 6, 1843, the board of county commissioners issued the order erecting Washington township, which was named for General George Washington, "the father of his country" and the first president of the United States. As originally established, Washington township extended south to the county line, but in 1846 six miles was cut off of the south end to form the township of Clay. A few weeks after the township was organized the first election was held at the cabin of Thomas Henton, when Isaac Miller was elected justice of the peace and Patrick O'Brien, constable.

The first marriage was that of Patrick Colgan to Bridget Kennedy, in 1841, and their son, Lawrence, born the following year, is believed to have been the first white child born in the township. Probably the first death was that of John Hunt, which occurred in February, 1842.

As early as 1843 a minister by the name of Johnson visited the township and held services at the house of John Allen, but it cannot be learned what denomination he represented. About a year later two United Brethren preachers - Hoover and Simons - came into the township and laid the foundation for the congregation that was organized in 1846. The Presbyterians and Dunkards subsequently organized societies. (See Chapter XVII.)

In the matter of education, the people of Washington township have not been behind their neighbors in other parts of the county. In 1842, nearly a year before the township was organized, the settlers employed a teacher to open a school in a little cabin that had been built for a dwelling on the farm owned by John Allen. The succeeding year a regular school house was built on the farm of Patrick Colgan, in which the first school was taught by Lucy O'Brien. Other pioneer teachers were Abel Hurt, Alford Sparks and a man named Hobaugh. At the present time Washington has the only concrete school house in the county. In addition to this building there are in the township seven brick and one frame school houses, the estimated value of the whole being $18,500. During the school year of 1912-13 thirteen teachers were employed in the public schools and the amount paid for teachers' salaries by the township was $5,453.50.

About a mile south of Peru, in Washington township, is located the county asylum, or poor farm. It is on the old Strawtown road and a line of the Indiana Union Traction Company passes near the buildings. Farther east the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad runs from southeast to northwest across the township, but there is no station on that line within the borders of Washington. South Peru, in the extreme northern part, just across the Wabash from the city of Peru, is the only town in the township, hence it is hardly necessary to state that agriculture and stock raising are the principal occupations of the people, though some manufacturing is carried on in South Peru.

One of the first mechanics in the township was Abraham Bilheimer, a cabinetmaker by trade, who made some of the furniture used by the early settlers, a few pieces of which are still in existence. John Allen was probably the first wagonmaker. In early days there were a few sawmills located along the streams, but they have long since ceased to exist.

Eighty years have passed since the county of Miami was organized and the first two civil townships were established. In this chapter and the one preceding, the aim has been to present the names of many of the men who aided in redeeming this region from the wilderness and the savage; to chronicle some of the principal events that have occurred in different parts of the county during that period, and to show the progress of settlement and development that has led to the formation of the fourteen political subdivisions called townships. In these chapters the reader will doubtless have noticed and recognized the names of a number of pioneers whose descendants are still residents of Miami county. But the men who organized the county have passed from the stage of action, and few are left who assisted in shaping the destiny of the county during the early years of its history. Many interesting incidents have been forgotten, because they were allowed to pass unrecorded. If this chapter and its predecessor shall contribute in rescuing from fast fading tradition some of the simple annals of the pioneers, their object will have been accomplished. It has been said, and it is probably true as a rule, that the lives of the early settlers were aimless and void of ambition, their chief purpose having been to provide sustenance for the families dependent upon them. Yet they builded wiser than they knew when they braved the dangers and hardships of the frontier, worked out their self appointed tasks with patient energy, resolution and self sacrifice, and paved the way for the manifold blessings and comforts of the civilization the present generation enjoys. History is always ready to record the glorious deeds of the general who leads an army to victory, the scientist who gives to the world a great discovery, or the statesman who thrills a legislative body with his oratory. But the pioneer, who, with his ax and his rifle, pushed boldly into the unexplored and unconquered regions of the country and established his humble log cabin as the outpost of civilization, is no less entitled to honorable mention in the records of the nation's progress. True, they achieved no great victories over enemies, they made no great discoveries or inventions, but by their patient toil they made possible the introduction of the railroad, the great manufacturing concern and the cities with which the land is dotted over at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is to be hoped that some day their labors, customs and the importance that attaches to their simple mode of living will be better understood and appreciated. If these chapters shall assist, in the slightest degree, in bringing about that understanding and appreciation, they will not have been written in vain.


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