LA GRO TOWNSHIP
As the reader knows. La Gro was one of the two original townships into which the county was divided soon after
its creation in 1835. In 1836 it was first carved, eight miles square of its northern sections going to form Chester
and the same erea of its southern territory being erected into Liberty Township. In 1846 La Gro regretted its generosity
and recovered two miles from the north of Liberty, and subsequently favored Chester with a mile of its own territory.
The other changes which have brought La Gro Township to its present irregular shape have resulted in donating about
thirteen sections of land to Noble Township, leaving it with an area of about eighty five sections - which is a
little less than that of Noble. That is the La Gro Township to which the following descriptive and historical matter
THE WABASH RIVER
The chief streams in La Gro Township are the Wabash and its branch, the Salamonie River, and it is mainly to
them that the region owes its early settlement and the most interesting features of its pioneer history. The Wabash
River enters the township and the county nearly midway of the length of the township and flows in a general southwesterly
direction to the City of Wabash, about a mile and a half beyond its western limits. The course of the stream is
quite regular, having no extensive bends, one of the largest being just south of La Gro and west of the mouth of
The Wabash is a comparatively large stream in La Gro Township, with high, bluffy and sometimes rocky banks. Heavy
freshets sometimes occur and the main portion of La Gro being on comparatively level ground the town has been a
great sufferer from these overflows upon several occasions. The town was the most seriously under water during
the ice jams and floods of 1883 and 1913. The only machinery in La Gro Township ever propelled by the Wabash proper
was Lynn's mill, near old Belden postoffice, where the stream enters the county from Huntington.
THE SALAMONIE AND ITS MILLS
Salamonie River, however, which enters from the southeast at what was formerly New Holland postoffice, has a
considerable volume of water and as its channel is more confined than that of the Wabash, its derived power has
been considerable. The banks of the Salamonie are high and often rise into bluffs. Mills have been built upon its
margin, those of Robert English and J. L. Wines being the most important of early times. Considerably later, but,
at that, three or four decades ago, were the saw and grist mills at Dora, about a mile northwest of New Holland,
and the mills on the south side of the Wabash opposite the town of La Gro.
CREEKS IN THE TOWNSHIP
La Gro Creek, the principal northern branch of the Wabash, rises in section 12, northeastern part of the township,
runs in a generally southwest direction, and enters the parent stream about midway of the town. It is several miles
in length, and is very useful as a water supplier and fertilizer. Its upper course is through comparatively level
land, but as it passes onward the surface becomes rolling and even bluffy, and within a mile of its mouth its banks
are quite high and perpendicular, the adjacent lands being rough and hilly The channel of the stream is a little
east of old Hopewell Church, and it encircles the bluffs and high land upon which the old La Gro Cemetery is situated.
Enyart Creek heads in section 12, some four miles southwest of the headwaters of La Gro Creek, takes a course south-by-west,
and enters the Wabash two and a half miles west of the mouth of the latter.
Besides Salamonie River, Burr and Ross creeks come in from the south. The chief tributary of the Salamonie is Rush
or Deer Creek, which enters the township from the south through section 32 and joins the former at its big bend
just west of New Holland. Rush Creek is a strong, rapid and very crooked stream, with high banks and a rocky channel.
Above New Holland on the west of the creek and south of the pike are found deposits of gravel and sand, which
have been largely utilized in road building. Limestone is also plentiful in the vicinity of the stream, which,
in its day, has furnished power to several mills at and near New Holland.
The surface of South La Gro, away from the streams, is rolling and beautiful. On the Salamonie, as on Rush Creek,
it is very rough, with steep hills and banks, but the soil is uniformly good, consisting of a clay loam which inclines
occasionally to sandy.
Originally the surface was heavily timbered. White and burr oak, ash, elm, hickory, beech, sugar, linn, walnut
and poplar were abundant, but the old wooded tracts have been largely cleared without being replaced by second
There is a considerable amount of bottom land on Wabash River, but its bluffs, as well as those of La Gro Creek,
are somewhat high and broken, and for some miles back the face of the country is rolling and somewhat rugged. Further
north, the surface is level, and not unfrequently low and marshy.
Aside from the period when the Wabash & Erie Canal was being constructed through the township, the citizens
of La Gro Township have chiefly depended upon the products of the soil for their sustenance and comforts. Its crops
are usually good, consisting largely of corn, wheat and oats, and forage grasses such as timothy and clover hay.
As a live stock country it has made considerable progress, cattle, horses and hogs being raised with profit. The
poultry interests are also becoming noticeable.
FIRST LAND ENTRIES
Speaking in general terms, the first land entries and the first settlements in La Gro Township were made in
a strip of country lying about a mile and a half either side of the Wabash River and along the Upper Salamonie
to its mouth. Different parts of sections 1, 2, 6, 12, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35 were entered in the period
1827-33 by Jeremiah Cox, Austin W. Morris, J. L. Wines, Israel T. Canby, W. Daniels, Samuel Hanna, Lewis Rogers,
John Hurley, Robert Hurley, Samuel Wiley, A. N. Grover, Levi Bean, John Spray, John Townsend, Jacob Shappell and
Edward B. Walker.
In 1827 three entries were made covering 174.47 acres; 1830, nine entries, 946.32 acres; 1832, two entries, 173.80
acres; 1833, ten entries, 1,842.28 acres, or nearly three sections. Most of these entries were for settlement or
improvement. Jeremiah Cox, who made the first three entries in 1827, was a well known miller of Wayne and Randolph
counties. They embraced about two hundred acres, east and north of the mouth of the Salamonie River, for a mile
up that stream and half a mile up the Wabash, his idea being to secure favorable mill sites.
The three entries of J. L. Wines, made in 1830, gave him about three quarters of a mile on both sides of the Salamonie
River in sections 1 and 12 just below Dora.
Messrs. Daniels and Canby, the same year, made entries about two miles northwest of La Gro, and Morris entered
his land on the north side of the Wabash near the mouth of Enyart Creek.
Hanna's parcel of land, entered in 1832, was about three miles below the town of La Gro on the north side of the
Wabash, and Roger's land on the south side, not quite a mile below the mouth of La Gro Creek.
The banner year for entries was in 1833. John Hurley selected a quarter of section 11 south of the Salamonie and
half a mile distant, and Robert Hurley had an adjoining quarter in section 2. Samuel Wiley's tract, entered the
same year, was in section 33, a mile and a half west of La Gro. Spray, Townsend and Bean made selections "several
miles from nowhere."
Messrs. Spray and Townsend chose tracts up La Gro Creek in the neighborhood of what afterward became Hopewell Church,
the former selecting a parcel in section 14 and Mr. Townsend all of section 23. They were three miles from most
of the entries along the Salamonie. Levi Bean ventured several miles to the east, his entry of 200 acres being
about a mile west of Belden, or the eastern township limits.
Walker's entry, the last one made in 1833 (October 12) was the southwest quarter of section 27, northwest of the
town of La Gro and La Gro Creek.
LEWIS ROGERS, FIRST REAL SETTLER
Now as to the actual settlers - the weight of evidence is in favor of according the honor of first "permanent
citizen" of the township to Lewis Rogers, who, in 1831, lived for several months in the brick house built
by the United States Government for Chief Les Gros (La Gro) within the present corporate limits of the Town of
Shortly thereafter Robert McClure, brother of Samuel, obtained a lease from Gen. John Tipton of certain lands lying
on the north side of the Wabash, opposite the mouth of the Salamonie, and built a cabin there. During the year
he disposed of his lease to Mr. Rogers, who commenced to operate a ferry which had been started, not long before,
by Joseph and Champion Helvy, discontinued as an unprofitable venture and moved to Huntington.
THE FAMOUS FERRY
But Mr. Rogers was not of their opinion. The ferry was in line with the old Indian trail which had become a
favorite horse back route from Grant and Delaware counties, and other settled regions of the south, to Northern
Indiana and the lake region at Michigan City. The mouth of the Salamonie, which was the southern landing place
of the ferry, had always been a popular rendezvous for both Indians and white men. There was a ford across the
Wabash lower down, but it was difficult and not without danger when the water was high.
Therefore Rogers' ferry, which he commenced to operate regularly and as frequently as he had customers, proved
a great public convenience. When work commenced on the Wabash & Erie Canal in 1834, and the Town of La Gro
on the northern banks of the Wabash sprung up in a day, Rogers' ferry was more than ever an indispensable institution.
The ferry was, in fact, maintained at that point until the bridge was built across the Wabash about 1857.
ROGERS' HOTEL RIVALS BURR'S WABASH INN
Lewis Rogers also opened a tavern in two large double cabins, and had stabling accommodations for horses. As
to lodging in the '30s, forty or fifty are said to have slept at his hotel in a single night. As many as could
pack themselves on the floors of his cabins considered themselves well accommodated; it was far better than lying
out in the woods. As to horse lodging, after the stables were filled the remainder of the animals were tied to
near by fences and trees, or anywhere else they could be fed. The State Road from La Gro to Marion was surveyed
in 1833 and opened two years later, which added to the business both of Mr. Rogers' hotel and ferry. His inn was
a rival which gave David Burr and the Paradise Springs Hotel a hard tussle for the patronage of both man and beast.
It is even claimed by La Gro champions that the Rogers Hotel caught more travel than the Burr Inn, and that the
combined receipts of the hostelry and ferry would amount to $50 during a single morning.
The famous ferry was a rude scow made by Mr. Rogers himself, and was propelled across the stream by a rope stretched
from tree to tree on either bank. The boat itself was tied to a huge elm on the bank of the Wabash. A spring burst
from the foot of the bluff on the east side of La Gro Creek, in the east part of town, and was a welcome sight
in the early times, both to horses and men.
Of the three Helvy brothers, Richard came to La Gro soon after Rogers and occupied the old chief's brick dwelling.
He was an Indian trader on a small scale, and about 1834 moved his store to North Manchester.
YOUNG SAYRE, THE "CROOK"
In March, 1832, a young man named Daniel Sayre came to La Gro in search of a location and was put to work by
Mr. Rogers, in connection with the growing business of hotel and ferry. In time Mr. Sayre became prominent both
at La Gro and Wabash, being long postmaster of the city named. An interesting account of the coming and settlement
of the young man was thus written in the early '80s, when Mr. Sayre was postmaster of Wabash City: "Daniel
Sayre was an early comer into the Wabash region, whose settlement therein was determined by chance rather than
by intention. He was a lad, who like many another in those days, had set out on foot to 'spy out the land,' having
a little (and only a little) Ohio money and none besides. Some rogue, on seeing his Ohio money, had told him that
that kind of paper would not do in Indiana, and had kindly given him in exchange for his last $5 bill, another
all right, cheap and new, but, alas! counterfeit.
"When Daniel, poor lad! innocently offered his shining and beautiful note to Mr. Lewis Rogers in payment for
his bill for supper, lodging and breakfast (62 1/2 cents), the landlord cruelly pronounced it bogus, with an intimation,
moreover, that men who carried that sort of stuff were already too 'plenty in these woods.' Our young traveler
explained how he came by it and declared it to be all he had, good or bad. offering, however, to 'work out his
bill,' which was done instanter.
"Daniel quartered a large, knotty black walnut so vigorously and so rapidly, so promptly and so nicely, that
the mollified landlord hired the lad at once, and kept him at good wages for two years. Out of these wages Daniel
saved enough to enter land, first purchasing 107 acres of canal land and afterward 154 acres of the same, on usual
terms. The price of the former piece was $3.50 per acre, one quarter down and the balance in seventeen years with
interest at 6 per cent paid annually in advance, which was certainly reasonable enough. The second tract was $2.50
per acre, upon the same condition.
"In the spring of 1834, Mr. Sayre, then about nineteen years old, went upon his land, building a cabin, girdling
and clearing and fencing twelve acres, and cutting and piling (eighteen inches and under) eighteen acres more;
and letting the whole to a renter for two years to finish the clearing. He married Mary N. Grover in 1836, and
they have had nine children. Seven of them grew up; one son died in the army, and six have been married and are
"Mr. Sayre first resided upon the clearing above described, two and a half miles above Wabash, changing his
location after a few years to a farm near Hopewell Church, northeast of La Gro. After many years he moved to the
town of La Gro and spent two years there, coming then to Wabash, where he has since resided, except two years spent
at La Gro. Mr. Sayre has for some time been postmaster of Wabash, having been closely identified with the business
and prosperity of Wabash County for more than fifty one years."
LEVI BEAN AND THE HURLEYS
Levi Bean was the first white man to settle in North La Gro Township at a distance from the Wabash River. It
has been noted how in 1833 he made entries in section 30, about a mile west of Belden, and it is stated that he
moved to his land during that year. He was a citizen of Fayette County, but at once became prominent in his new
home, being chosen a member of the first board of county commissioners in 1835.
John and Robert Hurley, who entered lands in sections 11 and 2, south of the' Salamonie River on what afterward
became the Marion Road, settled thereon about 1833 and were the pioneers in the southern part of the township.
JOSIAH L. WINES
The only settler to dispute priority with them would be Josiah L. Wines, who had also made claims in those sections
in 1830, and it is not known positively whether he located on any of his tracts in 1832 or 1833.
THE MINNICK BROTHERS
Michael Minnick, who selected mill sites at Dora in 1834, wrote long afterward in regard to Wines: "We
(his brother John and himself) stayed two days (December 12 and 13, 1834) at Leonard Wines' cabin, who had located
one and a half miles below Dora on the east side of the river and was putting in his dam for a mill." The
Minnick brothers had come on foot from Clark County, Ohio, after having entered land at Fort Wayne for a mill site
above the Wines location. They leveled their site December 13th, stayed that night at Mr. Wines' dwelling and set
out the next day for home. In 1836 they built cabins at Dora in which to reside with their families.
SIX YOUNG MEN COME
The year 1834 witnessed not a few arrivals in La Gro Township, many young men having been drawn thither by the
promise of work on the new canal, with good wages which they planned to invest in lands. In April of that year
six active, strong young men walked from Indianapolis to La Gro, with that object in view; they were John Russell,
Samuel Layser, Michael Hushaw, Thomas Nelson and Adam Nelson. At first they secured employment in erecting shanties
for the laborers and afterward obtained work on the ditch itself.
A. A. PEABODY
In the fall of 1834 Augustus A. Peabody came, accompanied by Samuel Abbott, then a youth in his sixteenth year;
he was an orphan and Mr. Peabody was his guardian. Both became well known in the affairs of the community. Mr.
Peabody's family joined him in the following spring.
THE FRESHOUR FAMILY
Andrew Freshour arrived in the La Gro region looking for land, in the winter of 1834-35. On account of a heavy
snow which covered the country he was obliged to take a tract on "trust" lying three miles north of La
Gro. Fortunately, the land proved to be as good as if he had had the opportunity to carefully select it. The Freshour
family consisted of the parents and an infant (Calvin), and in the fall of 1835 they passed Mr. Peabody's cabin
afoot, on their way to their new home. Andrew Freshour is described as "a first rate citizen and a great acquisition
to a new county."
SAMUEL WILEY AND DANIEL BALLINGER
Samuel Wiley and Daniel Ballinger settled about a mile below La Gro in the early spring of 1835. In June of
that year, Mr. Ballinger commenced to serve as one of the first two associate judges of the Circuit Court for the
newly organized county. He became quite prominent in public affairs and was a leader in everything good which concerned
the township and county.
Mr. Wiley, with his family of nine sons and three daughters, settled a short distance west of La Gro. The entire
dozen were married and reared families.
ENOCH AND JOHN RUSSELL
After working on the canal through the summer of 1834, John Russell returned to Indianapolis and induced his
father, Enoch, to accompany him to La Gro. In December of that year they rode through the wilderness on horseback,
and in January, 1835, entered three eighties in section 13, not far from what became Hopewell Chapel or Church.
On March 12, 1835, John Russell married Elizabeth Ballinger. daughter of Judge Daniel Ballinger. He obtained his
license at Huntington and his marriage at the home of the bride's parents in La Gro is generally pronounced the
first ceremony of the kind in the township.
SETTLERS AT AND NEAR HOPEWELL
East of Hopewell meeting house John Nelson had settled in 1834, and John Reed and James Payne in 1835. John
Barrett located north of the Russell place in 1835, and in that year a number of German families also settled in
the vicinity, viz.:- Those of John Young, John Bitzer, Samuel Harter, John Harter, Samuel Boon and John Boon.
Among the best known contractors on the canal was Thomas Fitzgibbon, who came in 1834 and while continuing his
work in connection therewith entered a section of land south of the Wabash and southwest of La Gro. Portions of
this tract he afterward improved, dying upon his estate in 1865.
WILLIAM T. ROSS
William T. Ross was one of the first settlers of South La Gro, building a cabin for his mother and himself in
August, 1835. At that time there were not more than half a dozen houses between La Gro and Marion.
In 1835, when the county was created and divided into townships, the following officers were appointed from
La Gro Township, which then was the eastern half of the county; several of them will be recognized as residents
of the township as we know it today: Robert Hurley and James Wiley, constables; A. H. Keller and J. Galahan, overseers;
A. H. Keller, inspector of elections; William B. Caldwell and John Harter, fence viewers; James Darrow, supervisor
of District No. 1; Daniel Ballinger, supervisior of District No. 2.
At the first sitting of the Board of County Commissioners, La Gro Township was ordered to elect two justices
of the peace and for that purpose an election was directed to be held at the house of Jacob Shappell, on Monday,
July 8, 1835.
But even before Wabash County was organized and its territory was attached to Huntington County for civil and political
purposes, the old Indian village of La Gro was the scene of an election. In 1832, when the Helvys and Lewis Rogers
were trying to get settled at that point, the presidential election was held at which Andrew Jackson and Henry
Clay were candidates. The twenty six votes there cast, of which Jackson received a majority of two, represented
the electors of La Gro precinct, which then embraced Huntington County and nearly all of the present Wabash County.
The first incumbents of offices among the citizens of La Gro Township, as it now is, were as follows: Daniel Ballinger,
associate judge; J. Leonard Wines, sheriff; Levi Bean, county commissioner; William Moody, justice of the peace.
The first grand jurors from La Gro Township were Sylvanus McLane and Benedict W. Lowry; the first petit jurors
John Harter and Robert Hurley.
Of the foregoing, perhaps Mr. Wines became the most prominent, for, in addition to operating a successful sawmill
on the Salamonie about two miles above La Gro, he was influential in several public capacities. After serving acceptably
as sheriff he was sent to the State Legislature, being one of the first representatives from Wabash County.
THE IRISH SETTLEMENT
Soon after the commencement of work on the canal a number of Irish families gathered on a tract of land near
Andrew Freshour's farm, about three miles north of La Gro, and there, within the succeeding two or three years
was formed quite a settlement. Among the best known of these Irish settlers were John Eagan, John Coughlan, John
Dalton, John Shanahan and Michael Shanahan. Further southwest and nearer the Wabash, such sons of the Isle as Timothy
Kinneark and Patrick Kinneark were attached both to the work of the canal and the soil of La Gro Township as farmers.
In fact, the village was long the center of a large, industrious and (at times) rather lively, not to say turbulent,
colony of Irishmen. Before the canal was completed to Wabash in 1837, there had been several skirmishes at and
near La Gro by contending factions, which culminated in an encounter so decisive as to be ever afterward noted
in local history as the Irish War. Several hundred arrests were made, all the details of which trouble will be
found printed in the general account elsewhere given of the Wabash & Erie Canal.
RISE AND FALL OF TOWNS
Several towns have risen and fallen in La Gro Township; some of them have entirely disappeared; others declined
into mere postoffices and were finally absorbed by the Rural Routes, and several are still thriving.
LA GRO PLATTED
The original plat of the town of La Gro is not dated, but it is thought to have been made in the spring of 1834,
as it is known that lots were sold at that time. It was then in Grant County. The plat was not recorded at Wabash
until March 6, 1838.
UTICA AND BELDEN
Utica, on the north bank of the Wabash River just within the township and the county lines, was surveyed March
1, 1837. Although it made no headway as a village, a grain warehouse was built at that point and some business
was transacted for a number of years during the early period of canal activities. As stated, the plat was surveyed
in March, 1837. It lay north of the canal for ten blocks, and six blocks back into the country - sixty town blocks
in all! But aside from the little grain warehouse, there was virtually nothing to cover that magnificent expanse,
and in June, 1853, the town plat of Utica was vacated by the County Commissioners.
A portion of the original site of Utica was afterward included in the hamlet of Belden, which was laid out by Elijah
Hackleman, May 13, 1856. Its original proprietor was Archibald M. Kennedy. By the late '70s there were a sawmill,
a gristmill, a blacksmith shop, a store, a grain house, a schoolhouse and a few dwellings. A postoffice was established
in 1878. Belden has never been more than such a little hamlet as is described. Its postoffice has been absorbed
by the Rural Mail Routes.
MAJENICA AND NEW HOLLAND
Majenica was platted October 16, 1842, but was promptly squelched by New Holland which, on the 23d of the following
month, was laid out, across the Salamonie River at the mouth of Deer Creek. Although the former was named after
an Indian chief who once lived near its site, north of the river, euphony and romance had no saving virtues, and
after a short struggle Majenica succumbed to the greater enterprise and vigor of New Holland, across the river.
The proprietor of New Holland was Martin McFarland. George Jennings opened a store and John Wilson, a blacksmith
shop. New Holland soon secured a postoffice, a frame schoolhouse was built in 1844, and Hiram Pickering established
a little tannery in 1845. The tannery, variously improved, stood the stress of half a century, and was the one
really permanent industry of New Holland Kindley's original sawmill changed hands twenty or more times in forty
years, according to a local scribe, but the tannery went right along under Pickering's faithful proprietorship
and unvarying industry. New Holland, for years, was really quite a promising place, but now is but a very quiet
DORA AND URBANA
Dora was laid out as a town by John Minnick as proprietor, and is located on section 18 on the western banks
of the Salamonie River. The plat was recorded December 13, 1850. Mr. Minnick had already built and put in operation
two mills - a sawmill in 1843 and a gristmill in 1845. The first store was opened by Stephen Minnick about the
time the town was laid out, and a postoffice was established also. The town grew both in business and industrial
matters, and by the early '80s had about twenty five dwellings, two churches and perhaps one hundred and twenty
five people. A good township schoolhouse was built in 1875. The hamlet has since been on the decline.
Urbana, which lies partly in La Gro and partly in Paw Paw Township, was surveyed March 5, 1854, and a sketch of
it will be found in the history of the latter, to which it seems most closely related.
In the late '40s that fertile section of the township west of Deer Creek and drained by its little tributary
known as Buck Creek, commenced to be settled by a fine class of industrious and law abiding farmers, tradesmen
and craftsmen. About 1848 Christian Swaffer bought an acre of ground in that locality and set up a wagon shop which
he run for several years. Job Holloway, who came in 1854, was the village blacksmith for thirty or forty years.
He and his brother, Israel, had a monopoly on the smithy and wagon shop industries. Several large general stores
located, a postoffice was established in 1865, a shingle factory and planing mill followed, a large brick township
schoolhouse was completed in 1876, and by the time that was completed the community at the four corners of sections
25, 36, 30 and 31, had three churches.
The settlement had been known as Lincolnville since the establishment of the postoffice in 1865, and in 1876-77
the southwestern and the southeastern portions of the site were platted. The platted portions were in sections
31 and 36.
Lincolnville covers a generous plat of ground, whether it is platted or unplatted in a legal sense, and retains
its old appearance of being more a collection of pretty little farms and gardens than a town.
CHURCHES AT LINCOLNVILLE AND ELSEWHERE
At or near Lincolnville are several churches, the Methodist Society having about eighty members with Rev. A.
D. Burkett, of Mount Etna, as its pastor.
There is also an organization of the same denomination at Hopewell (old Hopewell Church) four miles northeast of
La Gro. It has fifty members and is under the charge of Rev. E. C. Farmer, of Bippus.
The Methodist Church at Lincolnville was formed in 1868, the first meetings being held in the schoolhouse and elsewhere.
The society completed a house of worship in 1878.
The Hopewell Church was one of the first to be organized in the county, a Methodist class having been organized
in that neighborhood in 1843. This region was long the center of famous revivals and is greatly endeared to Methodists
throughout the Wabash Valley
The Friends were formerly quite strong at and near Lincolnville. As early as 1840 they commenced to meet in log
cabins about a mile northeast of the present hamlet. As Lincolnville developed the membership of their society
became strong enough to warrant a regular Friends meeting house. They also maintained a cemetery, in connection
with their old house of worship, which was opened for burial in 1842.
LA GRO TOWN OR VILLAGE
As originally laid out in 1834 the town of La Gro lay wholly north of the Wabash & Erie Canal, with its
southern base resting on that waterway, which here is very near the river. The streets east and west were Washington,
Main, Webster and Jefferson; north and south, Davis, Dover, Spencer, Canal, Clinton, Tipton, George and Harriet.
They are parallel to the canal east and west. La Gro Creek crosses the eastern part of the town.
The first addition to the original town (Brady's) was surveyed May 25, 1840, and lay north of the canal and west
of the first plat. In 1843 that addition was extended to the westward, and in 1848 South La Gro, south of the Wabash
River, was laid out by Robert and Michael English.
This was the most ambitious addition to the town, the new plat embracing nearly two hundred lots on both sides
of the road southward from the bridge across the Wabash That highway was given the name of Main Street, which was
a continuation of the Davis Street of the original town. The ideas of the Messrs. English as to the growth of the
town southward were as large as the real estate men interested in the North Town. The plat of South La Gro comprised
the water power and the saw and grist mills built, owned and operated by the English brothers, who therefore had
several reasons to expect that their addition would grow rapidly. But their hopes were not realized, the settlement
of the town having been almost confined to the portions north of the river and canal. Even in that direction, it
has fallen far short of the expectations of its proprietors, who finally extended their plats so that they included
the grounds of all the cemeteries and the country far beyond them. The greater part of that area is now farm land.
CORPORATION AND SCHOOLS
La Gro was incorporated as a town in June, 1859, the members of the first town council, elected on the 25th
of that month, being as follows: E. W. Benjamin, First Ward; W. B. Barlow, Second Ward; William Murgotten, Third
Ward. A H Mills was elected clerk and assessor, and Peter S. Murphy, marshal and treasurer. Mr. Murphy evidently
did not favor the treasurership, as he failed to qualify in that capacity, and B. H. Lassell was appointed to the
A school building was erected in the town at a very early day - in fact, about the time it was platted by Gen.
John Tipton. Some years afterward a larger schoolhouse was erected, which, after the completion of the substantial
Township Union School in 1881, was transformed into a residence. The present principal of the Union School is Hugh
The first school established outside the village of La Gro is thought to have been located one and a half miles
north of Peabody's Creek and was probably opened about 1839. One of its close contemporaries was a log cabin which
stood a mile north of Hopewell Church. Jesse Springer was one of the earliest teachers in that neighborhood.
AT THE HEIGHT OF ITS PROSPERITY
From 1834 to 1837, while the canal was being built through La Gro Township, the town had a brisk local trade,
and though houses, stores and everything else were crude, the place showed rapid growth. Then came a season of
depression, while the canal was being completed at its Ohio end to Lake Erie. After that, for twenty years or more
- that is, from 1841 - the town of La Gro rivaled Wabash as a business and transportation center. The matter is
well put, in this wise: "The amount of trade in grain and stock at Wabash and La Gro, especially the latter,
was something marvelous. Grain was hauled from a vast region; from Goshen on the north to Anderson and Muncie,
and even to Indianapolis and Richmond on the south. For, though the roads might be better southward, yet the price
was better at the canal, there being a close and a certain connection with the Great East and the Atlantic seaboard;
and hence it came to pass that during a period of perhaps twenty years or more a very large amount of trade was
done at La Gro and Wabash, and a considerable portion of that time the advantage seemed to be largely with the
town at the mouth of the Salamonie.
"La Gro was in several respects easier of access. Into La Gro it was `all down hill', while the approaches
to Wabash from the south were vexed by severe ascents. And, moreover, a plank road was constructed from La Gro
in the direction of Marion, as also one from La Gro to North Manchester; and the amount of travel drawn to La Gro
by these was truly marvelous. Several grain buyers established themselves there, and all the grain and stock and
pork were brought to them that they could handle. During the busy and prosperous days of La Gro an immense trade
was carried on. One hundred teams have been known to be on hand by sunrise, and the wagons would stand in a long
train far out into the country, obliged to wait for hours and hours, and sometimes far into the night, before the
turn of each would come to unload, thus enabling them to do their trading.and go home."
In 1841 one of the English brothers erected a large warehouse, and Judge Comstock built another. John R. Murphy
began business with Mr. English, but soon became an independent merchant, rain buyer and stock dealer. In 1842
Amos L. Stevenson came from Marion and for about fifteen years kept a store and hotel, bought grain, packed pork
and dealt in live stock. Isaac Bedsaul engaged in the pork and grain trade for about a dozen years from 1844, and
then moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa. These are some of the best known business men of La Gro's booming period, for
as late of 1860 the town handled more grain and stock, and commanded more general trade, than Wabash itself; in
fact, there were several years during which La Gro was the greatest grain center in the Upper Wabash Valley.
La Gro's bright days were over when the "through" railroads commenced to push through the Wabash Valley
and more than take the place of the canal, the plank road and every other medium which had been bringing her trade
and prosperity. Since then the town has dropped out of the race, and has been, on the whole, decreasing in population
even for the past twenty years. The national census for 1890 gives the population at 549; that of 1900 at 456,
and that of 1910, at 463.
JOHN AND GEORGE TODD
Among the best known of the merchants of La Gro, who witnessed both the rise and the decline of their home town,
were John and George Todd, father and son, who were associated for several years as dealers in hardware and agricultural
implements. The latter, now in his sixty second year, sent the last freight down the Wabash Valley by way of the
Wabash & Erie Canal and of late years has established a large business as a builder and contractor. His home
is now in Wabash, whither he moved in 1914, after having lived near or in the village of La Gro since his infancy.
Both among the farmers and business men of La Gro Township no two men were better known or more thoroughly respected
than John and George Todd. The editor of this work therefore feels that he is fortunate in numbering the latter
as one of his associates.
John Todd, who died September 28, 1882, was born of Irish parents November 7, 1804. In 1811 the family moved from
his birthplace in Pennsylvania to Ohio and thence, after two years, to Franklin County, Indiana. He married Elizabeth
Lackey shortly before he had reached his twentieth birthday, and, in time, eight children were born to them. Soon
after his marriage his father died, leaving him in care of the homestead where he remained until 1849, when he
moved to Union County, Indiana. There his first wife died in 1850, and two years thereafter he married Miss Lee
Dare, a native of Maryland, by whom he had two children. George was the elder of these, both sons.
In 1854 John Todd located in Wabash County, occupying his first farm east of La Gro village. He remained there
for two years, when he moved into town and conducted a sawmill His next move was to buy the large farm two miles
northeast of La Gro, upon which he lived for eleven years. In this locality George reached manhood, was hardened
by farm work and educated at the union school in the village.
Father and son formed a business partnership in 1875, and for several years conducted a profitable business in
hardware and agricultural implements. At the time of his death in 1882, John Todd was accounted one of the most
prosperous citizens of the place, being the owner of a one half interest in the La Gro Flour Mills and more than
four hundred acres of valuable lands.
George Todd continued the lines of business thus laid down, continually improving and expanding all branches. He
also became business manager of the large flour mills situated a short distance south of La Gro, known as the Todd
& McClure Mills. The younger man dealt largely in grain, and, as stated, developed a large contracting business
before he moved his headquarters to Wabash. From his early manhood he had taken a deep interest in the public affairs
of the township, especially in the progress of its schools. Commencing with 1880, he served for a number of years
as school trustee, and was otherwise honored. Mr. Todd is a man of family, having been married in 1875 to Miss
Ada Tiller, an Indiana lady. Few were better known in La Gro than they, and their fine village residence was always
the center of sociability and culture. One of their sons, also now located at Wabash, is among the younger and
promising members of the Wabash County bar.
LA GRO OF THE PRESENT
The business houses of the present La Gro are scattered for a short distance along Main Street, and the houses
of the townspeople are sprinkled over pretty rises beyond. There are two or three churches in sight and a small
flourmill and grain elevator. It is hard to realize that this is the booming La Gro of the '40s and '50s.
The most interesting landmark of early times is the Western House, which has been conducted by the Egnew family
since 1867. On Christmas day of that year it was opened by Andrew Egnew and his wife, and when the former died
in 1890 the son, William, joined the widow in its management. The Western House is the hotel noted as having been
erected by Amos L. Stevenson in 1842. Of course it has been repeatedly remodeled to conform to the changing conditions
of the times. In March, 1914, a smoker to the members of the Commercial Club was given in the parlors of the hotel,
to commemorate the installation of electric lights in the famous old hostelry. So that the story of the lighting
of the Western House reads thus: Tallow candles, 1842; kerosene, 1868; gasoline, 1912; electricity, 1914.
The Morrow Grain Company and the La Gro Milling Company are the present day evidences of the immense trade which
centered in the town sixty years ago. It is now the center of a fair country trade, the finances of the townsmen
and farmers being handled by the Citizens State Bank of La Gro. That institution was organized March 9, 1912, and
now has resources of $127,000. It has but recently occupied a fine new building. Present officers: Charles Hegel,
president; Alex Fulton, vice president; D. W. Gillespie, cashier.
La Gro has also been honored with a newspaper since April 1, 1912, when the first number of the Press was issued
by E. W. Gumert.
La Gro has never been prolific of newspapers. Its first journalistic attempt was in the autumn of 1849, when John
Q. Howel commenced the publication of the Eagle, which fell to the ground in the following year. Then came a long
pause, for it was not until July, 1874, that any representative of the press again appeared. At that time an old
printer, Mr. Richards, issued the first number of the La Gro Express, which continued for three years as rather
a spicy publication. Midway in its career, it had a weak rival in the La Gro Local. After the suspension of the
Express in July, 1877, Mr. Richards founded the Laketon Herald.
THE M. E. CHURCH
The town has three religious bodies which are substantially supported The Methodist, Catholic and Presbyterian.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in La Gro by the Reverend McLain, a local preacher, in the year 1837.
This was the first Methodi Episcopal Church organized in Wabash County, and consisted of the following members:
E. W. Benjamin, class leader, Mary Benjamin, Frank Johnson, Margaret Johnson, William Cadwell, Madaline Cadwell,
and B. Abraham, seven in all.
In the fall of 1837 Rev. I. Harrison was sent on the Logansport mission. This included all the country from Logansport
to Huntington, and from fifteen to twenty miles north and south of the Wabash River. During this year, R. Adams
and family, with some others, moved to La Gro. This greatly encouraged the little band. In 1850, during the pastorate
of the Rev. W. S. Birch, the present church edifice was built. From this little beginning, other societies have
sprung up. At the present time both the La Gro and Asbury churches are in one charge.
Of the many noble laymen who stood by the church in years gone by, may be mentioned the names of John Watkins,
A. J. Robinson, John Young, Dr. J. Renner, R. H. Dare, M. Shaw, D. W. Wilson. E. N. Martin, and D. Eyestone. The
following ministers have served the charge: C. W. Wilkinson, C. W. Church, L. W. Monson, N. H. Mott, A. J. Lewellen,
J. B. Allman, L. M. Crider, A. C. Gerard, R. H. Smith, O. V. L. Harbour, J. D. Belt, A. S. Jones, W. W. Brown,
A. E. Sarah, E. F. Gates, M. F. Murphy, B. S. Stookey, Karl H. Carlson, W. W. Wiant, and the present pastor, Harry
A. P. Homer.
The present membership of the La Gro Church is 200 while the membership at Asbury is sixty five. The people in
La Gro expect to have a new church edifice, costing about twelve thousand dollars, in about a year.
Asbury Church, or Asbury Chapel as it was generally called in the earlier days, was built in the fall of 1859,
but preaching in connection with the society had been progressing since about 1848. The first services were held
in the schoolhouse near the Disciples Church, at the eastern edge of section 16, La Gro Township, with Rev. Morrow
P. Armstrong in charge. The house of worship built in 1859 and still occupied is just over the line in Noble Township.
ST. PATRICK'S CATHOLIC CHURCH
St. Patrick's Catholic Church of La Gro owes its founding to the gathering of a large number of Irish laborers
and members of the faith at that point during the construction of the Wabash & Erie Canal. Several years before
that period, Father Badin had stopped at La Gro and said mass, while on his way from Fort Wayne to Logansport.
But the church was fairly founded when, in 1838, Thomas Fitzgibbon, one of the canal contractors, donated two lots
for church purposes and a frame house of worship was erected. The list of resident pastors of St. Patrick's commences
with the name of Rev. Patrick McDermott, who served the charge from 1846 to 1847. Then came Rev. Mich. C. O'Flannagan,
1847-1848 and Rev. John Ryan from 1848 to 1865. During the earlier portion of his pastorate an addition was made
to the church building, and the La Gro charge was extended so as to cover Huntington, Wabash and Warsaw. A bell
was also placed in the church tower, one of the first in the county. In November, 1857, the two acres in the southeastern
part of town were laid out for cemetery purposes.
During the service of Rev. Matthew E. Campion, in 1868-73, the present brick church was built, in dimensions 50
by 114 feet. It was dedicated on March 17th of the latter year. At that time, when St. Patrick's was at the height
of its prosperity, it embraced some three hundred families in its ministrations.
Rev. John Grogan served from 1873 to 1882 and Rev. M. F. Kelly was his successor for a number of years. In 1888
Rev. Anthony J. Kroeger assumed the charge and during his incumbency of two years the school was opened in the
old frame church. He also established the church at Andrews.
Following Father Kroeger, the successive pastors of St. Patrick's have been Revs. Jeremiah Quinlan, 1890-91; Julius
Beeks, 1891-94; G. M. Kelly, 1894-95; Michael Hanly, 1895-97; Peter J. Quinn, 1898-1907; William D. Sullivan, 1907-10;
Joseph Mutch, 1910. Rev. Joseph Mutch has been pastor of St. Patrick's Church since July, 1910, and has within
his jurisdiction 250 families.
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The Presbyterians of La Gro organized February 5, 1849, and dedicated their first house of worship April 1,
1866. The neat church which the society now occupies was completed in 1911. The present membership of the Presbyterian
Church is 150. It is wider the pastorate of Rev. M. M. Lecount, whose predecessors from the first have been as
follows: Revs. C. Galpin, John Fairchild, S. Sawyer, John A. Veale, W. J. Essick, E. B. Burroughs, E. B. Thompson,
John J. Cook, F. M. Lynn, Andrew Luce, C. A. Kanouse, J. D. Schultz, C. D. Parker, L. H. Forde, C. K. Elliott,
D. R. Burr, William Worrall and Frank H. Heydenburk.
SOCIAL AND LITERARY
La Gro has the usual complement of societies, to satisfy the social and benevolent instincts of its men and
women. The Masons have lately moved into their fine rooms in the new bank building; the Odd Fellows occupy comfortable
quarters in their hall, erected in 1888. The Independent Order of Red Men, the Foresters of America and the Knights
and Ladies of the Maccabees, all have growing lodges, and the ladies of literary tastes have a special medium of
improvement and pleasure in their Century Club, organized in 1900.