History of Liberty Township, Wabash County,
From: History of Wabash County, Indiana
Compiles under the Editorial Supervison of
Clarkson W. Weesner
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1914
Liberty Township embraces about forty eight square miles in the southeastern corner of Wabash County, being substantially eight miles from east to west and six miles from north to south. It is, on the whole, a level and fertile region, depending for its drainage upon the headwaters of Treaty and Deer creeks, which flow northward into the Wabash and Salamonie. respectively, and upon the Mississinewa River and its branch, Grant Creek, which meander through its central and southwestern sections. Josina Creek has some of its headwaters in the southwestern corner of the township, after which it takes a loop through northern Grant County and joins the Mississinewa River in the southwestern corner of Liberty Township. It was near its mouth that the Indian village stood which was destroyed by 'Lieutenant Colonel Campbell in the War of 1812.
As intimated, much of the surface of Liberty Township is level or moderately rolling. Even in the vicinity of
the streams, there is mostly an absence of the high bluffs and rocky banks which are so noticeable in many parts
of the county. The only large watercourse in the township is the Mississinewa River in the southwestern part of
the township, and except near the mouth of Grant Creek the banks are level or beautifully sloping, with a gentle
incline to the very stream itself. At this locality, where Grant Creek approaches within about a hundred feet of
the river, is a narrow ridge called the Hogback. It is 100 feet high and makes a sheer descent to the bed of the
WILLIAM GRANT, FIRST SETTLER
As has been briefly narrated in the sketch of the early settlement of the county, the Grant family represented
the first permanent settlers in this section, making their homes on the creek which bears their name, on the eastern
edge of the Big Indian Reserve, near the present Village of La Fontaine.
Daniel Grant a second brother made entry of part of section 27, further south and nearer the present site of La Fontaine, in October, 1834, and may be called the second permanent settler.
Mahlon Pearson arrived in November to take possession of the eighty acres which he had entered in 1832 - the
east half of the northeast quarter of the same section (23) upon which Mr. Grant had located. His entry was the
first of record in the township.
FIRST NATIVE BORN WHITE CHILD
The Grants and Mr. Pearson were the only residents in what is now Liberty Township, in 1834, but the "settlers" therein had been increased by one through the good offices of Mother Nature who had presented Mr. and Mrs. William Grant with a daughter Malvina Grant, born a few days after the little cabin on the north bank of Grant Creek had been completed.
PRESLEY PRICKETT AND SMITH GRANT
It is probable that Presley Prickett located not long after the opening of 1835, as it is known that his son,
Gabriel, was born in a camp near the Range Line Meeting House on Christmas day, 1834. At that time he may have
been on his way toward the lands he had entered in April, 1833 - the east half of the southwest quarter of section
31, township 26, range 8.
ELDER JESSE D. SCOTT
A large number of arrivals is credited to that year. Jesse D. Scott, Baptist minister and subsequently elected associate judge, came in 1835. He was one of quite a colony from Fayette County. He was then in his thirty second year and had worked for about a year on the canal. Mr. Scott took up land in section 23, near what was afterward the Town of America, and during the following twenty years was prominent as a preacher in the Baptist and Christian churches, as well as in material and public affairs. About 1841 he took a claim on the Indian Reserve west of La Fontaine and cleared and improved a farm there. Mr. Scott and his good wife raised a family of fourteen children, two of whom died as soldiers in the Union army. He himself passed away in 1864.
The Garrisons, also of the 1835 colony, were even more prolific than the Scotts. Samuel Garrison lived on Killbuck Creek, three miles from Anderson, and had six sons who all settled in Liberty Township in sections 23, 24, 25 and 26. Elihu Garrison's entries were the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 23 and the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 24, which included the site of America laid out two years afterward. Of these brothers Elihu and William Garrison were especially prominent in the founding and progress of America.
WILLIAM R HALE AND DAVID RUSSELL
In October, 1835, about a year after he had made his entry, William R. Hale settled in fractional section 22, about a mile north of what was to be Ashland. He came in company with David Russell, already an old man, who had entered the east half of the southeast quarter of section 24, about two miles to the east and beyond America. They were of the Fayette County colony. Mr. Hale became a large land owner and a prominent member of the Disciples Church, being one of eight who formed the Boundary Line Church.
ELDER HENRY W. MCPHERSON
In 1835 Henry W. McPherson also settled north of Hale's place on the Indian boundary line, his entry (October, 1834) having been in fractional section 15. At first Elder McPherson was the busy carpenter of the locality. In August, 1836, a year after his arrival, he joined with seven others to form the first Disciples Church in Liberty Township and in 1839 was elected an elder. For more than forty years he preached and worked, prospering both in grace and worldly possessions. When the school system went into operation he was made treasurer of the township board and no one did more useful and faithful work in behalf of the public schools. In 1876 he moved to Greene County, Missouri, to the universal regret of all with whom he had been in any way associated.
ELDER JOHN L. STONE
John L. Stone. another Christian preacher and Elder McPherson's brother in law; settled still further north along the Indian boundary of the Big Reserve. Some years afterward he became somewhat prominent in politics, and during the Civil war was elected a member of the lower house of the State Legislature.
FIRST RELIGIOUS MEETING AND ORGANIZATION
Having introduced a few of the leading first settlers of Liberty Township, it is logical to note some "first
things" connected with the communities commencing to cluster around the headwaters of Grant Creek.
FIRST SCHOOLS AND TEACHERS
Although a room in William Grant's double log house is said to have been used as a gathering place for a few children, who were taught the rudiments of learning some time in 1837, perhaps the first regular house dedicated to education was that mentioned as the meeting place of the Disciples. It was built largely by the supporters of the church, and the first teacher to hold forth was James L. Dicken, afterward a practicing physician. Nathaniel McKimmey was also a teacher, as well as Miss Nancy McKimmey and David I. Jackson.
Mrs. Jonathan Scott, whose mother was a daughter of Mahlon Pearson, claimed that the first school was taught in a cabin built by Ferree, north of America on the old state road, in 1836-37, by George W. Smith, and that she was one of the pupils. She added that the first schoolhouse was built at America in 1837, and that she attended it in the summer of that year. Mr. Smith was its teacher also, and the Grant children were among his pupils.
MARRIAGE AND DEATH
The first marriage performed in the township was that of Henry Rummell to Maria Grant, daughter of William Grant,
in August, 1835.
LIBERTY AS SEPARATE TOWNSHIP
After the year 1835 the settlers no longer felt very lonesome; in fact, the accessions of population became
so frequent that the citizens, who had been relying on the civil and judicial authorities of La Gro Township, asked
for a separate organization. At the March term of the board of county commissioners for 1836, Liberty Township
was laid off from the south end of La Gro with an area of sixty four square miles, or eight miles square. At that
time its northern boundary was a mile north of Lincolnville and a mile south of New Holland. Some years afterward
two northern tiers of eight sections each were cut off and returned to La Gro.
TAX PAYERS MOSTLY VOTERS
At that time there were nineteen voters in the township and the following were listed as tax payers: Daniel Grant, Jeremiah Garrison, William Grant, Elihu Garrison, Moses Herrell, William R. Hale, Henry Kiser, John W. McDaniel, William Martin, Thomas Moore, John Mannier, Henry W. McPherson, Lucas Morgan, John Norman, Presley Prickett, John Prickett, Mahlon Pearson, David Russell, Charles R. Scott and Jesse D. Scott. It would therefore appear that of the twenty tax payers, nineteen were voters. Evidently there were few "stay at homes" in those days.
The town plat of America was recorded October 16, 1837, Jesse D. Scott and Elihu Garrison being its proprietors.
It was located on section 23 on the Marion & La Gro road. Both of the proprietors were pioneers of the White
Water Valley, and were political rivals in county polities. Each especially wanted to be an associate judge, but
Elder Scott, the democrat, was the successful candidate. Mr. Garrison, the whig, had been a soldier in the Black
Hawk war of 1832 and was for years a straight forward, businesslike citizen.
RISE AND FALL OF AMERICA
In 1850 the old Marion and La Gro road, which had already meant so much to the prosperity of the town, was laid
with planks, which further emphasized America's prominence as compared with Daniel Grant's upstart (Ashland), a
mile to the southwest. From 1850 to 1860 America reflected the even greater glory of La Gro, and Ashland was in
almost total eclipse.
ASHLAND (LA FONTAINE P. O.) LAID OUT
Daniel Grant laid out the original Town of Ashland, recording the plat January 14, 1845. It was located in section
27, on the state road from Marion to Wabash, chiefly on the north side of Grant Creek and on the west side of the
boundary line of the Big Miami Reserve. The site embraced twenty eight lots, No. 2 being designated as set apart
for the Church of Christ on Grant's Creek.
ADDITIONS TO ORIGINAL. TOWN
James Jackson also appeared among the solid business men and citizens in 1850. He had been the first postmaster of La Fontaine, and at different times operated a sawmill, conducted a store and invested largely in real estate. In 1854, with John P. McKelvey, he made the first addition to the original town Hiram Kendall made one the same year. A. Parker in 1870, John M. Logan in 1878 and George T. Vandegrift in 1874. The last named includes the only considerable portion of the town which is not west of the old Indian boundary.
LA FONTAINE INCORPORATED
As has been stated, the completion of the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan (predecessor of the Big Four) to La Fontaine was an assurance of a life of more or less strength. In 1880, seven years afterward, the town was incorporated, the board of trustees under the first election having been Judson Dispennett (president), Jerome H. Scott and William S Poston. John W. Moore was chosen clerk and assessor, and William Lindsey, marshal. The town was divided into three districts or wards. At first there was an almost equal division of sentiment as to the advisability of incorporation, and in May, 1883, it was put to popular vote, the affirmative decision being carried by a vote of 49 to 45.
THE SCHOOL SYSTEM
About that time the village also assumed independent control of school matters, under the trusteeship of G.
T. Vandegrift, D. E. McNiel and J. L. Dicken. Under the new arrangement, the La Fontaine school was created the
high school of Liberty Township.
CENTER OF RURAL TRADE
La Fontaine has always been the center of a substantial agricultural district and has especially controlled
a good grain trade. One of its largest and best flour mills was that built by O. P. Logan in 1882 and long operated
by him. At the present time its standing as a farming center is attested by several implement depots which do a
good business. There is also a large lumber yard in the place, and the power house of the Northern Indiana Traction
Company, which was completed in 1905, gives constant employment to a number of people who reside in La Fontaine.
LOCAL BANK AND NEWSPAPER
The La Fontaine Bank was established in 1893, with the following officers: Jelin Bannister, president; J. W.
Harper, vice president, and J. G. Harper, cashier. It has a capital of $16,000 and a surplus of $16,500. T. H.
Miller is president, James S. Crow, vice president, and A. P. Harper, cashier.
THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
The early history of the Christian Church has already been given, the present organization at La Fontaine being the successor of the old Boundary Line Church. The local society was formally effected about 1880 and now has a membership of some 300 under the pastorate of Rev. F. G. Myrick.
THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The Methodists were the second religionists to become established in the La Fontaine region. Their first society
was known as Bruner's. Class, and was formed in 1839 at the house of Henry Bruner, a short distance southeast of
the present village. Besides him were George Bruner, William Garrison, Elihu Garrison, Abram Bush and a Mr. Trotter,
with their wives, as well as Mr. Briggs, his wife and two daughters. The class was organized by Rev. J. H. Hull.
For ten years the, services were held at Mr. Bruner's house, but in 1845 the class was moved to America with Rev.
O. P. Boyden as pastor. There services were conducted for nine years in the log schoolhouse. In 1854 the class
was moved to Ashland, or La Fontaine. During this period the membership of the society varied, being the largest
at America where at one time it reached seventy five. Rev. H. Woolpert was the first Methodist minister to live
at La Fontaine, moving thither in 1856. Four years later, during the pastorate of Rev. A. M. Kerwood, an edifice
was built which served as a home for the class until 1903, when the present structure was dedicated during the
pastorate of Rev. J. L. Hutchins. Besides those already mentioned in connection with the progress of the church,
the following are among its best known pastors: Revs. J. II. Ford, W. K. Collins, L. Beers, N. E. Tinkham, I J
Smith, J. W. Cain, L. B. Monson, W. H. Mott, B. Sawyer, W. D. Brown, N. D. Shackleford, J. M. Baker, J. W. Tillman,
A. J. Casey, J. L. Hutchins, W. E. Murray, H. W Miller, O. B. Morris and C. G. Yeomans. Mr. Yeomans has been pastor
since 1911 and ministers to a membership of more than one hundred and eighty.
THE BAPTIST CHURCH
The old Antioch Baptist Church originated about four miles west of La Fontaine in a log meeting house which was erected in 1840. Its original members were: Hiram Kendall, Benjamin F. Lines, Thomas Lines, Reuben Sailors, John Bannister, Jehu Bannister, Samuel Stephens and their wives. In 1855 this society was consolidated with the one at America, and a church was afterward erected on the east side of the La Fontaine & Wabash pike, a short distance north of the village. In 1884 the house of worship now occupied was completed within the corporation limits. Among the best known early preachers of the Antioch Baptist Church were: Elders Thomas Lines, Jesse D. Scott, John Sparks, John Buckles, Abraham Buckles and Freeman T. Taylor. Rev. J. Harvey Daily, of Greenfield, Indiana, is the present pastor in charge of the La Fontaine Baptist Church, which has a membership of about seventy.