History of Liberty 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


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 Mississinewa.

Like much of Wabash County, the general surface of Liberty Township was heavily timbered, most of which has been removed and the strong and fertile soil which supported the forest growths is now cultivated to the grain crops and adapted to the raising of forage and livestock.


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.

William Grant entered the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 23, on the 16th of September, 1834, and sometime during that month is thought to have completed a log but on the north bank of Grant Creek, the first house built in Liberty Township.


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.

When Mr. Pearson came to take up his entry in section 23 he was in his thirty eighth year, with a wife and five children. For years he had been "flat boating" down the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers, his home having long been in Eastern Tennessee where he had owned a farm of 160 acres. He was therefore well qualified to make progress in the Wabash Valley, and was a strong accession to the township and the county. He lived to see six more sons and daughters added to his family, to prosper himself and enjoy the prosperity and good standing of several generations of descendants. His death occurred in 1876, in his eightieth year.


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.


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.

Smith Grant, the third of the brothers, occupied the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 23, in June, 1835.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

The first religious meeting held in Liberty Township was at the cabin of William Grant by Elder Daniel Jackson, the widely known preacher of the Disciples of Christ, who was living west of the Town of Wabash. These services were held in 1835. On the 4th of August, 1836, eight members of that denomination organized the noted Boundary Church. The organization was effected at the house of William Grant by Elder Jackson and Elder Jefferson Matlock, in what is now La Fontaine, and consisted, of the following: Henry W. McPherson and wife, Lucas Morgan. and wife, William R. Hale and wife, William Grant and Rebecca Grant, wife of Daniel Grant. The meetings were at first held in Mr. Grant's house and afterward in the schoolhouse that stood on the site of the church finally built for the society, a mile and a half north of La Fontaine, at the east side of the old Indian boundary line and nearly at the geographical center of the township.


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.


The first marriage performed in the township was that of Henry Rummell to Maria Grant, daughter of William Grant, in August, 1835.

The first man to die in Liberty Township was Charles Scott, father of Rev. Jesse D. Scott and grandfather of Mahlon Pearson. He died at America in 1839, aged seventy five.


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.

When the township was set off, an election was ordered at the house of William Grant on the first Monday of April, 1836, for the selection of one justice of the peace. William R. Hall was appointed inspector of elections and William Garrison was chosen justice.


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.

William Garrison, another brother, built the first house at America, completing it October 10th, six days before the town plat was recorded.

Being on the direct route along which much of the grain trade of North Central Indiana passed for years to the Wabash and Erie Canal, the proprietors and citizens of America had great expectations for the future of their town. And for more than two decades their hopes seemed to be founded on solid ground. General stores, sawmills, blacksmith shops, hotels, wagon shops, groceries, drug stores, churches and schools, with the usual frills of lawyers and doctors and other professionals, gave America quite a standing even before 1850.


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.

When, in the late '60s, it became evident that Ashland was to get railroad connection through the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan, America's sun commenced to set. The line was completed to Ashland in 1873, and in 1881 even the postoffice was discontinued at America.


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.

The postoffice at that point was called La Fontaine, after the Miami chief who became head of the tribe at the death of Richardville in 1841. The first house on the town site was erected by Jacob L. Sailors. In 1846 A. G. Wells opened both a store and an ashery, which marked the commencement of business at La Fontaine. A cabinet shop, a blacksmith's shop and a hotel followed within about a year, the last named being the enterprise of George Moore. B. F. Lines established himself at La Fontaine in 1848 and was for years among its leading merchants.


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.


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.


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.

The Liberty Township graded school, as it is now known, occupies a fine building, which was erected in 1908 at a cost of $22,000. There are about fifty pupils in the high school department and 180 in the grammar grades. In proportion to its population and wealth, no township has better educational facilities than Liberty Township. Jacob Sailors, a representative of the pioneer family by that name, is school trustee.


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.

The La Fontaine Telephone Company, organized in 1902, has been of great service to business men, farmers and residents of the village and surrounding country. It has about seven hundred and fifty patrons and is under the management of L. B. Morris, who is also secretary.


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 La. Fontaine Review was founded by W. G. Middleton in January, 1894, but in September of the following year was moved to North Manchester, as a more promising newspaper field.

The first number of the present Herald, of La Fontaine, was issued by H. R. Daniel, April 24, 1896. S. B. Lee afterward assumed control, and J. S. Dillon was its editor and proprietor from 1906 to 1912. In March of the latter year, Mr. Dillon disposed of the paper to Mrs. Vivian Neal, now its editor and proprietor.


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 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.

In the early day, the La Fontaine class was on the Marion Circuit. The conference of 1853 made America the head of the charge. From 1854-75 La Fontaine was the head of the circuit. The conference of 1875-76 placed La Fontaine with South Wabash. In 1877 La Fontaine was again put on the Marion Circuit, but in the following year was made the head of a circuit with a parsonage in the village. Thus it has remained. The number of preaching places have diminished until there are only two - La Fontaine and Jalapa, five miles apart.


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.

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