History of Washington Township, Porter County, Indiana
From: History of Porter County, Indiana
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago-New York 1912


WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP

Washington township, in the middle of the eastern tier, was created by the board of county commissioners on April 12, 1836. Several changes have been made in the western boundary, but the township of the present day has the original boundary lines as established when it was first erected. It is bounded on the north by Jackson township; on the east by Laporte county; on the south by the township of Morgan, and on the west by Center. Its area is thirty square miles, being five miles in extent from east to west and six miles from north to south. The surface of the township is affected by the great glacial moraine which passes through the central portion of the county, and is generally undulating in character. Crooked creek, which is the outlet of Flint lake, enters near the northwest corner and flows southeast to section 23, township 35, range 5, where it turns almost due south, crossing the southern border about two miles west of the Laporte county line. This stream has two small tributaries in the northeastern part, so that the township is well watered and well adapted to grazing and stock raising. The soil is similar to that of the surrounding townships, being composed principally of clay and loam sandy in places, and marshy in a few localities. Some of the finest farms in the county are upon the Morgan prairie, where the first settlements in the county were made.

William Morgan is credited with being the first settler. He came from Wayne county, Ohio in the spring' of 1833, and located upon the northern part of the prairie that still bears his family name. Before the close of the year, Adam S. Campbell, Isaac Morgan, Rufus Van Pool and Reason Bell also settled upon the prairie. Samuel Flint took up a claim where the village of Prattville was later located, and Jacob Coleman settled about two miles south of Flint's place. In 1834 James Blair, Isaac Werninger, James Baum and a few others, among whom was Ruel Starr, who afterward became prominently identified with the county's political affairs. Other settlers were David S. Holland, Benjamin Saylor, Levi Chamberton, Seth Winslow, W. B. Smith, Michael and Andrew Ault, George B. Cline, Joseph Todd, Henry Rinker, Anthony Boggs, Robert Fleming, John Shinabarger, Peter Cline, Joseph Brewer and Clark Babcock. All these men and a few others voted at the first township election on April 30, 1836, when Henry Rinker was elected justice of the peace, receiving twenty three votes. W. B. Smith received twenty votes and Peter Cline, seventeen, making a total of sixty votes cast.

There were still a few Indians in Washington township when the first settlers came. Near the place where Prattville was afterward laid out there was a Pottawatontie village of 100 or more inhabitants, with a burying ground near it. While these Indians were of some annoyance to the whites, they did not commit any serious depredations, and in 1836 they removed to another location near the Kankakee river, in the southern part of the county, where they remained until 1842, when they were removed west of the Mississippi.

The first white child born in the township was Reason Bell, Jr., a son of Reason and Sarah Bell, who had come from Wayne county, Ohio, in 1833. The date of birth of their son, who was also the first white child born in Porter county, was January 11, 1834. No record can be found to show the first death or the first marriage. The first "big" house raising was in 1834, when some thirty settlers gathered to assist Isaac Morgan in raising a double log house on section 16, a little north of the Laporte road. The first tavern was opened in this year by David Oaks not far from Prattville. A year or so later John Shinabarger started the second tavern about a mile north of Oak's place. The first store was opened in the double log house of Isaac Morgan above referred to, late in 1834 or early in 1835. In May, 1836, Andrew Ault opened a general store about three fourths of a mile west of Prattville. He also took out license to retail liquor, his license costing him ten dollars per annum. The first shoe shop was established in 1835 by Adam S. Campbell, who brought his leather and other materials from the state of New York The same year Russell opened the first blacksmith shop near Prattville. The first school was taught by Mary Hammond in the winter of 1835-36. The first school house was built the following year, and not long afterward the Luther school house was erected. Among the early teachers were Thomas Campbell, George Partial, Nancy Trim, Dr. Pagin and Lowry Hall In 1911-12 Washington had a township high school and five district schools, in which the teachers were as follows: High school, Elmore Perry and Mary Trudelle; District No. 3 (the Luther school), Bess Finney; No. 4 (Prattville), Gracia Green; No. 5 (Bryarly), Mariola Cornell; No. 6 (Island), Lillian Burns; No. 7 (Blake), Maude Green.

No stirring events have ever occurred in Washington township, hence its history differs very little from that of any agricultural community. The men who redeemed the soil from its wild state and brought it under cultivation cared little for the more exciting phases of life, and were content to pursue "the even tenor of their way." Their life was one of toil, sometimes privation, but it had its recompense. They saw the Indian and the wild beast disappear before the march of civilization; many of them lived to see the railroads come and place Porter county in communication with other portions of the country; their social intercourse was usually without envy or jealousy and their friendships were sincere, and they have handed down to their posterity an inheritance in which their children and their children's children may feel a just pride. As in other portions of the county, the early settlers were compelled to go to Michigan City for their supplies or to market their surplus products. The nearest grist mill was at Kingsbury, a little village about six miles southeast of Laporte, and for several years grain had to be taken there to be ground. In a few instances the pioneer farmers went nearly a hundred miles to obtain good seed for planting, yet with all these difficulties to contend with the courageous frontiersman persevered, and to him Porter county owes a debt that can never be repaid.

Washington township is crossed by four miles of railroad, all running in an easterly and westerly direction. Near the center of the township is the Grand Trunk, but there is no station on this line in Washington. The Baltimore & Ohio crosses the northeast corner. Coburg, near the northern boundary is a station on this line and a trading center for the northern part of Washington and the southern part of Jackson townships. The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago enters at the southeast corner and runs a little north of west through Valparaiso, and the New York, Chicago & St. Louisa (Nickel Plate) crosses the southwest corner. The time tables of the last named road show a small station called Nickel two miles east of Valparaiso and near the boundary line between the townships of Washington and Morgan. There are about fifteen miles of macadamized road in Washington, and as the distance to Valparaiso is not more than eight miles from any portion of the township, the people depend chiefly upon that city for their supplies. There is no postoffice in the township, but mail is distributed daily through the medium of the rural free delivery routes that traverse all parts of the county. The population in 1890 was 670; in 1900 it had fallen to 556, but during the next decade there was a substantial gain, the population in 1910 being 610.

The old town of Prattville, mentioned several times in the above sketch of Washington township, was laid out by Thomas Pratt, Wilson Malone and Lyman Beach. It occupied the east half of the northwest quarter of section 21, township 35, range 5, on the Laporte road, about two miles east of the city of Valparaiso. The plat was recorded on November 11, 1856, and a few lots were sold, but the town never became a substantial reality and the name is about all that remains.

Wilson Malone, son of Lester Malone, was born in Ross county, Ohio, June 18, 1805, and in that county came to manhood. The death of his parents in his youth left him to his own resources, and in 1826, when he was twenty one years old, he came west, stopping in Fountain and Montgomery counties, Indiana. On February 22, 1832, he married Sarah Swank, born in Springfield, Ohio, October 15, 1811, the daughter of Jacob Swank, an early settler in Montgomery county. In the same year of his marriage he removed to La Porte county and later came to Porter county, where he continued to reside until his death, December 22, 1876. His first earnings were invested in Porter county land; he was one of the prosperous men of his day and was the owner of more than 1,000 acres of land at the time of his death.


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