History of La Gro Township, Wabash County, Indiana
From: History of Wabash County, Indiana
Compiles under the Editorial Supervison of
Clarkson W. Weesner
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1914


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 applies.


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 Salmanonie.

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.


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.


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 growths.

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.


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.


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 La Gro.

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.


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.


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.


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 still living

"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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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, 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 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 hamlet.


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.


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.


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.


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 office.

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 S. Jeffries.

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.


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.


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.


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 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 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 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.


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.

Return to [ Indiana History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ] [ Indiana Biographies ]

Indiana Counties at this web site - Cass - Clay - Dearborn - Elkhart - Fayette - Gibson - Hancock - Hendrick - Henry - Miami - Monroe - Montgomery - Porter - Posey - Putnam - Rush - St. Joseph - Tippecanoe - Wabash

Also see the local histories for [ CT ] [ IA ] [ IL ] [ IN ] [ KS ] [ ME ] [ MO ] [ MI ] [ NE ] [ NJ ] [ NY ] [ PA ] [ OH ] [ PA ] [ WI ]

All pages copyright 2003-2013. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy