History of Paw Paw 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


Paw Paw is the smallest township in Wabash County, having an area of forty square miles which consists of five tiers of sections, each eight sections from east to west. It assumed its present form in June, 1873, and it is that political and civil portion of Wabash County to which the following chapter applies.


Eel River and its smaller branches drain the northwestern and northern sections of the township, while Paw Paw Creek and its tributaries water the central and southern portions. Bear Grass Creek, the largest northern tributary of Eel River, is noted for its numerous living springs, and abundantly drains much of the northern area of the township.

Squirrel Creek, a small northern branch of Eel River, rises in Pleasant Township, takes a sharp twist into Miami County, and reenters Wabash County through the northwest corner of Paw Paw Township, where it unites with the parent stream.

Paw Paw Creek itself is a branch of Eel River, but does not join the latter until it leaves the township and enters Miami County.


The first settlers in Paw Paw Township located along Eel River and Squirrel Creek, at and near Stockdale and Roann. In the spring of 1835 John Anderson, an Ohio man who lived for some time near Logansport before he came to Wabash County, journeyed along the north shores of Eel River and, with his wife, two sons and two daughters, settled in a little shack which they threw together on Squirrel Creek about a mile above what became, a few years afterward, the village of Stockdale.

About this time a young man from Ohio, Cornelius Halderman, came through that region on a tour of exploration, and said long afterward: "There was not a house from Anderson's to Manchester. A man by the name of Helvy had settled east of Manchester. I stopped there and made my way from that (Helvy's) cabin through the woods to Mr. Anderson's, in April, 1835, being then a strapping youth of twenty years. I bought some Whitley County land on the same trip, traveling on horseback."


From all accounts Mr. Anderson did not even hew the logs which went into his first rude family shelter, but he was not long in getting together a crude sawmill upon the banks of Squirrel Creek, as well as a "corn cracker;" and the two usually went together in these primitive times and regions. The date of the erection of these first twin industries of Paw Paw Township is given as about 1836.

Both soon gave place to the more finished plants of Thomas Goudy, who erected what might with justice be called a gristmill on Eel River on the site of the future Stockdale. Anderson's sawmill, however, endured for some years.


But the next permanent settler after John Anderson was Jacob Bryan, his wife, three sons and a daughter - most of the latter mature. They came into the Eel River region in September, 1835, and permanently settled in Paw Paw Township in March, 1836. Mr. Bryan was a native of North Carolina, who had moved to Indiana in his '30s. The year before coming to Paw Paw Township and settling near Stockdale, the family had lived on a leased tract of land across Eel River from Stockdale (Squirrel Village), but in Miami County. In the winter of 1836 Mr. Bryan and his three grown sons commenced to build a cabin about a mile away in Paw Paw Township, west of Roann. They made a hewed log house, and the family moved into it on the last day of March, 1836. In speaking of this period, Willis Bryan, one of the sons - one of a dozen Bryan children, who in time became prominent residents of Roann and the township said: "We began to clear land on the first day of April in the green woods, and got in six acres by the 20th of May. The clearing was done by cutting 'eighteen inches and under' and piling and burning; and no team was used. The whole thing was done by handspikes. The neighbors helped and we helped them back. The neighbors were Robert Ralston and John Ellison, and there were eight men of us, which made quite a gang at a `log rolling.' We had no whiskey, which was quite a wonder in those days, but there was none used in our gatherings from the very beginning. There were Indians in the country, but they did not help us much, for they did not know how.

"We had a good crop that year, and the next year we got ten acres more cleared. Father sold his oxen in the spring of 1836; one horse ran away and the other, an old mare, we kept up. Our first year's crop we let stay in the cabin loft, hauling it or bringing it, however, as we needed it. When we wished a grist of corn meal, sometimes one of us boys would go on horseback, get a sackful, ride two or three miles to a corn cracker mill there was in that region, get our grist ground and go home again. In 1837 our bread stuff gave out and we had none for about two weeks, and the corn had not come to 'roasting ears' yet. For meat, we had venison in abundance, although we never hunted. For a mere trifle, an Indian would bring us all we wanted; and to their honor be it said that though they had to have their 'quarter' beforehand, the venison was sure to come according to promise." Jacob Bryan died in 1852 in his sixty ninth year.


The first school taught in Paw Paw Township is said to have been conducted by Mr. Bryan in one of the rooms of his double house. It lasted five weeks during the winter of 1836-37. The school is reported to have had ten pupils, four of whom were from the Bryan family. The others were from the Beckner and Ralston families, whose fathers (Joseph Beckner and Robert Ralston) located about the same time as Mr. Bryan - Beckner on the present site of Roann and Ralston below Stockdale.


The first religious meeting held in Paw Paw Township was a prayer meeting at the house of Jacob Bryan, conducted in 1837. Mr. Bryan was a zealous Baptist.

There was preaching in the same year at the same place by Jesse D. Scott, then lately settled in Liberty Township near America. Soon afterward he formed a Baptist society, the leading members of which were Jacob Bryan, Sr., and wife, Moses Martindale and wife, Peter Woolpert and wife, and Benjamin Griffith and wife. The meetings were held at Messrs. Bryan's and Martindale's dwellings alternately, once a month at each. At this time Mr. Martindale lived at Chili, Miami County. The society was kept alive while these two men lived, perhaps until 1860, when the organization disbanded.


The Jack family came from Decatur County, Indiana, about the same time that the Bryans migrated from Miami County. James Jack, the father, was accompanied by his wife and numerous children, the emigrants making their appearance in the Wabash Valley as occupants of one of those huge "Pennsylvania wagons." The family settled just southeast of Roann, where Mr. Jack bought 285 acres of land and entered 160 acres more. He lived on his homestead there until his death in 1879, at the age of eighty four years. He had been an honest, industrious God fearing fanner all his life, and was the father of nine children. Of his five sons, Andrew Jack became a Presbyterian minister, serving both as a missionary to Africa and preaching at Shiloh, north of Roann and in the West. Five of the Jack children reached maturity and married, all honoring the family name by their probity and useful lives.


Joseph Gamble was a Virginian, who settled with his family, in 1836, south of Roann. His son, Samuel L. Gamble, then a lad of fifteen, became a county commissioner and otherwise prominent in the township, and his reminiscences of early times are precise and valuable.

The first wheat that the elder Gamble raised in Wabash County was hauled to Michigan City, by this son Samuel. That market was seventy five miles distant, and the price received was 60 cents a bushel.

The youth attended school in a little log cabin, built about 1839 and situated a mile south of Roann. This was one of the first schools in the township and was taught by Ward McCleese.


Albert N. Cox located southeast of Roann about the time that the Gambles came into the country. He was a strong Presbyterian and the first meeting house of that denomination in the township was erected on his land. Soon after coming to his new home, his wife presented him with a daughter, Sarah, the first native child.


The first marriage was of John Gamble, a son of Joseph, to Margaret Bryan, daughter of Jacob, on January 11, 1839; thus were the pioneer families of Joseph and Jacob united.

It is said that the first brick house was built by James Jack about 1840. It was a long, one story building, and stood on the family place for four of five decades. Mr. Jack burned his own brick. The first regular brick kiln was burned not long afterward by Jacob Bryan, the supply being intended chiefly for chimneys.


Stockdale, on the boundary line between Wabash and Miami counties, was the first settlement in Paw Paw Township laid out as a town. The date of its plat is October 26, 1839, but it was undoubtedly surveyed some time before that, Thomas Goudy, its proprietor, having both a grist and a sawmill in operation at that point. Mr. Goudy had also erected a dwelling for his family upon the town site. A resident of Roann, writing nearly forty five years afterward, says: "That (grist) mill was a good one, and for that day really a wonderful establishment, having four run of buhrs and doing work that might have done credit to an older settled region. The original structure was undermined by being washed in a great flood and was repaired; but, after long use, becoming decayed, the present mill was built by Baker & Rancke in 1857, remaining until now. The establishment has always been a good, serviceable mill, and it still holds the reputation of thorough, substantial, reliable work. The sawmill went down perhaps twenty five years ago."

For about ten years the mills and a few houses were about all of Stockdale, but in 1848 John Jones opened a store, and Thomas McKibben, and John McCrae followed him as merchants. Blacksmith and wagon shops were afterward established, other business houses came in, and in 1853 a postoffice was established. The gristmill continued to grind, through good and bad times, even after the Detroit, Eel River & Illinois Railroad was completed to Logansport in 1871, passing Stockdale by in favor of the newer Town of Roann, a mile to the southeast.

Stockdale now is little more than a memory, and might well resume its old Indian name, Squirrel Village.


The original plat of Roann was laid out by Joseph Beckner, proprietor, being surveyed by Elijah Hackleman, June 16 and 17, 1853, and recorded September 14th of that year. Its location was in the northwest quarter of section 1, south of Eel River. After the Detroit, Eel River & Illinois Railroad reached the place in 1871, additions were made by S. H. Butterbaugh and Cornelius Haldermann in the northeast quarter of section 2.

In 1853 Mr. Beckner, who not only owned the town site but much land in the vicinity, sold his estate to Mr. Halderman, who had moved to the locality in 1854. Several years before the town had been projected, although not surveyed, but no business had been attempted until the advent of Mr. Halderman. In 1854, the year he bought the Beckner estate, he opened a store at Roann and established a sawmill there. The mill continued to be a busy institution of the village for nearly twenty years. A postoffice was created in 1860, with John F. Baker as postmaster, but Roann's struggle for existence did not seem assured until the railroad reached it in 1871.

By the early '80s the place had reached the standing of a brisk little village of 600 people and over a hundred dwellings, with several churches and a neat brick schoolhouse. To be more precise, the population of Roann was 582 in 1890, 631 in 1900 and 447 in 1910.


Within the past few years, there have been signs of considerable progress in the affairs of Roann, and its population will now exceed the last named figure. It has the trade of a good country district and has a well organized bank, several creditable stores, a grain elevator, a sawmill, a cement post factory and a large yard for the supply of coal, lumber and cement. The grain, fuel and building material interests at Roann are controlled by T. J. Lewis & Brother.

The elevator dates from the year of the railroad (1871) and was erected by David Smith. The successive proprietors have been Gidley & Smith, D. Van Buskirk, Shillinger Lukens & Company, A. T. Gidley and T. J. Lewis & Brother. The first elevator was burned in 1884, the present building being erected immediately after by Shillinger Lukens & Company. The elevator came into the hands of the Lewis Brothers in 1900 and they became proprietors of the sawmill (which does more planing than sawing) in 1902.

The cement post factory was established about six years ago, and is operated by William S. Coble, who manufactures building blocks as well as posts.

The flour mill near Stockdale is operated by James K Deck, a resident of Roann.

The Exchange Bank of Roann was established in 1882. It has a capital of $15,000 and a surplus of $7,000, with D. Van Buskirk as president and Dow Van Buskirk cashier.


The township school at Roann is a large brick building, two stories and basement, and is a credit to the citizens and supporters of the system The main structure was erected in 1900 on the site of the schoolhouse destroyed by fire. In September, 1914, a large addition was completed at a cost of $13,000, making the school building as a whole one of the most complete and modern in the county. There are about sixty pupils in the high school department and 175 in the grammar grades. The superintendent, J. Elmer Landis, and principal, Laura E. Lynn, are assisted by seven teachers. J. M. Wagoner is the township trustee.

The local press is represented by the Roann Clarion, which is now controlled by the Wabash Plain Dealer. It has been established for many years.


The Methodists, Universalists and United Brethren have churches at Roann. The M. E. Church was formed some time before 1873, probably about the time that the railroad reached town, when everything, including the organization of religious bodies, was encouraged. The meetinghouse was built during the year named, and among the earlier pastors were Hosea Woolpert, J. J. Cooper, L. W. Munson, C. U. Wade and. David McElwee. Rev. L. G. Jacobs is the present pastor of a flourishing church which numbers about two hundred and seventy members.

The United Brethren have had organizations at and near Roann since 1859. Their first house of worship in the village was erected about 1864, at which services were maintained until 1878. The society was afterward revived.

There are now both conservative and progressive societies at Roann, the former being under the pastorate of Rev. George Swihart and the latter under Rev. H. H. Wolford. The progressive wing, which is by far the stronger, was founded in February, 1881, and the building in which the 160 members of that society now worship was completed in 1891. Its pastors have been Revs. J. H. Swihart, W. W. Summers, J. W. Fitzgerald, W. C. Perry, J. M. Bowman, L. W. Ditch, L. S. Bauman, W. H. Miller, L. O. Hubbard, E. D. Burnworth and W. T. Lytle.

Although the Universalists have no pastor at present, they maintain an organization on the basis of a small endowment fund. They are also the owners of a building which was erected and dedicated in 1875. The original organization was formed in Miami County, just across the line, some years previously, and was transferred to Roann at a meeting held in July, 1875. Among the pastors of the church have been Revs. J. W. Eldridge, T. E. Ballard, John H. Blackford, William Tucker and Nathaniel Crary.


The town plat of Urbana is located partly in Paw Paw and partly in La Gro Township, in sections 12 and 1, of the former and 6 and 7, of the latter. It was laid out by James M. Wright, William Richards. and Samuel Willman, proprietors; was surveyed by James L Knight, March 5, 1854, and recorded on the 13th by William Steele, recorder or Wabash County. From 1872 to 1882 additions were made in La Gro Township by George Schultz and Daniel L. Speicher.

At the establishment of the town, Quick & Company built a sawmill and a Mr. Van Dyne opened a shoe shop. Within a couple of years. appeared a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop and two stores, but the settlement wavered between life and death until the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan touched it in 1874. It then concluded to live and, although it has never been a flourishing village, as a rural town it has drawn its. share of trade from the surrounding country.

When the railroad was completed in 1874, Charles Miller built a depot for the Urbana people. He had been a shoemaker, had built a store and a warehouse, and at various times (sometimes simultaneously) was merchant, grain shipper and postmaster. In the early '80s the town had saw and grist mills, two resident physicians, two meeting houses. (Evangelical and United Brethren), perhaps thirty dwellings and one hundred and fifty people.

Urbana is still small, although its buildings cover considerable ground scattered over portions of the sections named in Paw Paw and La Gro townships. Much of its trade is conducted through the Bank of Urbana, with a capital of $10,000. and it is greatly facilitated by the operations of the Urbana Independent Telephone Company. This organization was: incorporated in September, 1904, is managed by J. L. Ulrey and has two hundred and ninety patrons.

The Elgin Creamery Company has a plant at Urbana, of which Fred Maurer is president, and there are other conclusive evidences of a growing rural trade.

There are many industrious and thrifty Germans in this portion of the township, and two prosperous religious organizations at Urbana are devoted to their spiritual welfare. Of these the Church of the Evangelical Association is under the pastorate of Rev. A. A. Knepper and the Reformed Lutheran Church, under Rev. William Koch.


In 1876 the first organization of the Church of the Evangelical Association was effected in a schoolhouse at Urbana, and in 1877 the society built its first house of worship one mile and a quarter east of town. For years this appointment was attached to the work of the Wabash Church; but in 1891 the present church building was erected at Urbana. The following pastors have served the church for periods ranging from one to four years: Rev. C. C. Baumgartner, Rev. J. K. Troyer, Rev. G. Sehmoll, Rev. E. R. Troyer, Rev. J. Berger, Rev. G. Schmoll, Rev. C. C. Beyer, Rev. John Hoffman, Rev. G. Roederer, Rev. James Wales, Rev. William Wildermuth, Rev. J. M. Dustman. Rev. August Geist, Rev. F. Rausch, Rev. M. L. Schneider, Rev. F. L. Snyder and Rev. A. A. Knepper. The present membership of the Church of the Evangelical Association (1914) is 214.


In December, 1856, about three years after the founding of Roann, Elihu Garrison, of Liberty Township, and one of the fathers of America, headed a petition to the board of county commissioners asking that a new township be created from Pleasant and Noble. It was deferred to a meeting called for January 5, 1857 and in the meantime several remonstrances were prepared against the proposed action, as well as any legislation which should change the existing townships. Four other petitions were also ready to be hurled at the reassembled commissioners, proposing as many brand new townships. The result was the stampeding of the board against anything for or against, including Paw Paw Township.

Thus the infant slept in embryo for fifteen years, when, in June, 1872, Cornelius Halderman, of Roann, presented to the board three petitions, numerously signed, looking toward that end. Action was deferred until September, when a strong remonstrance appeared; but in December, 1872, Paw Paw Township was created by taking three miles in width from the south side of Pleasant Township and three miles from the north side of Noble, making the new body six miles, north and south, and eight miles. east and west. It appears that this decision was especially unsatisfactory to the inhabitants of the southern portion of the new township, and such an agitation was continued that in June, 1873, the southernmost tier of eight sections was restored to Noble, leaving Paw Paw with the forty square miles it still possesses. It was afterward suggested that Paw Paw be distributed to Pleasant and Noble, as though it never had been created; but nothing came of that proposition, or of others having designs upon the township 's present form or entity.

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