History of Waltz 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
Waltz Township embraces forty eight sections in the southwest corner of Wabash County, being eight miles east and west and six miles north and south. It is drained and watered by the Mississinewa River and its tributaries, which traverse all but its northern sections; in these rise the headwaters of Mill Creek, which flows northward and empties into the Wabash below Wabash City. Ten Mile Creek, the chief tributary of the Mississinewa within the limits of the township, rises in the northern edge of Grant County, takes a westerly course through the southeast portion of the township, and enters the river a little east of Somerset.
The Mississinewa extends in a very crooked channel through the southern portions of the township, flowing in
a generally northwestern direction toward the Wabash River, which it joins at about the center of Miami County.
Its current is strong and has furnished an abundance of water power to the people of Waltz Township, who have established
several fairly successful mills on its banks in the vicinity of Somerset and Mount Vernon. Mill Creek is so named
not because of any industries which have been planted on its banks within Waltz Township, but because the Government
built the old Indian mill on that stream not far from its mouth in Noble Township.
DRAWBACKS TO SETTLEMENT
The chief reason for the tardy settlement of Waltz Township was that the lands within its limits were all included
in the Big Miami Reserve and, although they were surveyed in 1839, the year before they were ceded by the Miamis
to the United States, the Government did not issue patents, or titles to them until 1847-48. The consequence was
that settlers were loth to take up homesteads, the tenure to which was so uncertain, and especially as the bulk
of the Indians did not leave the country until 1847.
THE RICHARDVILLE TRACTS
Chief Richardville had a grant of seven sections altogether, under the 1840 treaty, to be located at his pleasure,
and his estate on Cart Creek, which his heirs held for years, cut out a large number of settlers there.
TWO FIRST SETTLERS
Moses Coppick, who built one of the first corn crackers on Squirrel Creek, Paw Paw Township, is said to have
been in the Mississinewa Valley and made a like improvement in the Somerset neighborhood, before any white settler
located within the limits of Waltz. But Coppick was apparently like John Anderson - even more so - considerable
of a wanderer, and liable to be "first" in more than one locality in a pioneer country.
LOCATED IN 1839-46
Among the settlers of 1839 were Francis F Cain, James T. Liston and William Shaw. There was quite an influx
in 1840, occasioned by the treaty with the Miamis by which their lands were ceded, with certain reservations, for
purposes of settlement. Those who located during that year in Waltz Township were: Levi Stanley, north of the river;
Tobias Miller, north of the future town of Somerset; Tense Massey and his son, James, from Randolph County; Joab
Price, Tense Massey's son-in-law; Benjamin Shaw; and John B. Eltzroth.
David Ridenour, who became a settler in 1841, accompanied his father from Tuscarawas County, Ohio. He married in Wabash County and had twelve children, all of whom lived to be married. The family homestead, upon which he was reared, was just west of old Waltz postoffice on a branch of Mill Creek. The treaty with the Indians had been made, but the original owners of the soil hung on for several years after the coming of the Ridenours. Neither had the land come actually into market for purchase; nor did not, until 1847. Like others who came early and waited for that happy time, they were "squatters." Afterward they entered their lands in a regular way and secured a clear title. David Ridenour became not only a large land owner, but invested in the sawmill near his place.
ENOCH JACKSON AND THE WEESNERS
As stated, Enoch Jackson came from Wayne County in 1845. He built a cabin in the woods in section 1, his claim being on both sides of a creek. At that time the Weesners had settled south of him - Johiel Weesner in section 18 and Nathan Weesner and Joseph Weesner in section 13.
LAND ENTRIES OF 1847
In 1847, under the Preemption Act of the preceding fall, most of the early settlers of Waltz Township made regular entries of their lands. Among the number were: Jacob Milnor, June 30th, southeast quarter of section 13, on the east township line directly north of the Me-shingo-me-sia Reserve, still owned by the Milnors; Johiel Weesner, July 20th, southeast quarter of section 18; Elihu Weesner, July 20th, southwest quarter of section 18, north of Red Bridge and on the north line of Reservation No. 26; Nathan Weesner, July 20th, northwest quarter of section 13, near the northwest corner of Reservation 26; Andrew R. Starbuck, August 10th. southwest quarter of section 25, four miles west of Somerset; Nathan W. Hiatt, August 10th, southeast quarter of section 26, next west of Starbuck's; James Shackelford, September 24th, northeast quarter of section 20, a little north of Sugar Grove Cemetery; John R. Davis, October 2d, northwest quarter of section 20, next west of Shackelford's; and Tobias Miller, October 4th, southwest quarter of section 28. across the river from Somerset.
ACCOUNTING FOR WALTZ'S AREA
The abstract of sales in Waltz Township, as taken from Land Office records, is as follows; 1840, 640 acres; 1841. 960: 1842. 880; 1843. 400; 1844. 1.745; 1845, 195; 1847, 8,018; 1848, 12.949; 1849, 232. Total, 26,179.01 acres. To that sum must be added the 4.560 acres embraced in reserves 25 and 26, the Richardville reservations and the Mesh-in-gome-sia tract, which makes a total of 30,739 acres. That is nineteen more acres than forty eight square miles, the area of the township; which is fairly accurate and must be allowed as against the inaccuracies of both surveyors and statisticians.
CREATION OF THE TOWNSHIP
In May, 1841, soon after the Miamis had ratified their treaty with the Government, the Board of Commissioners
of Wabash County created Waltz Township with the following bounds: Commencing on the township line between towns
26 and 27 and where the range line between 6 and 7 crosses, and running south to the county line, thence west to
the southwest corner of Wabash County, thence north six miles along the line of said county to where the township
line between 26 and 27 intersects the county line between Miami and Wabash counties, thence east to the place of
beginning. The township was named in honor of Lieut. Col. Frederick Waltz, who was killed at the battle of the
Mississinewa, December 18, 1812. He was a brave officer and a fine man, from every account we have of him.
TWIN SPRINGS, OR SPRINGFIELD
Twin Springs, or Springfield, as it was called during the first three or four years of its existence, was surveyed
by David P. Alder for Stephen Steenberger, proprietor, in December, 1843. Its location was on Twin Springs section,
selected for Richardville's estate, as one of seven granted him by the treaty of 1840-41, and comprised sixty four
lots on the south side of the Mississinewa River a short distance east of the mouth of Ten Mile Creek. Jacob D.
Cassatt was wont to affirm that when he was a member of the Legislature from Wabash, in 1846 or 1847, a bill was
introduced by him, which became a law, changing the name of the town from Twin Springs to Somerset.
About a mile further east, in the southwest corner of section 26, were also a few buildings standing upon the site of Mount Vernon (plat surveyed in July, 1847), about half a mile south of the river. Several years before Mr. Wherrett had started a blacksmith shop at that locality, but had decided that his prospects would be improved by locating at Twin Springs, or Somerset. By 1847 Peter King had started the grist mill on the other side of the river, east of the Mount Vernon Pike bridge, and several years afterward the mill on the south side of that stream, below the town, was erected. The former was quite an establishment for many years, but did nothing to enhance the growth of Mount Vernon.
Somerset, on the other hand, became a fair settlement for an interior town. Besides several new stores opened
in the late '40s, Elihu and Allen Weesner established a tannery and Joseph Perry set up a cabinet shop. Other establishments
came and went, and several mills were built on either side of the river both above and below Somerset. In 1861
Jacob Ullery erected a little woolen factory on the south bank of the Mississinewa, a mile below, but after a few
years the venture was abandoned. In that locality several large grist mills were successively erected by Ferree
& Albaugh, from fifteen to twenty years after the launching of the woolen factory, but each of them was burned
and the builders and proprietors abandoned the site as something taboo.
SUGAR GROVE M. E. CHURCH
Perhaps the first religious organization in Waltz Township was the Sugar Grove Methodist Church. Meetings were first held at John R. Davis' cabin in 1843, the preacher being Mr. Merrill. For about seven years services were continued without a meetinghouse, but in 1850 a new hewed log house of worship was erected. It stood on its original site for fifteen years, when it was moved to College Corner, and to the immediate vicinity of the meetinghouse of that name belonging to the Disciples, northwest of Sugar Grove. The Weesners and Shackelfords were all early worshipers of Sugar Grove Methodist Church.
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
By 1846 there was preaching by Reverend Mr. Hawes, of Marion, a Presbyterian, to the people of Somerset and vicinity. In that year Rev. Andrew Luce organized a society and conducted services in a little log schoolhouse, a short distance from town.
MOUNT PLEASANT M. E. CHURCH AND CEMETERY
Mount Pleasant Methodist Church originated in a class which was formed in 1845. Several informal meetings had
been held before, but in the year named Enoch Jackson, who had but recently settled on the southwest quarter of
section 1, threw open his large, comfortable cabin for religious purposes and a regular organization was effected.
In 1847 a log house of worship was erected in that locality, and in 1865 the society built a neat frame structure.
The Mount Pleasant Church proved to be strong and enduring.
GERMAN BAPTISTS OF THE TOWNSHIP
About 1847 John Whiteneck, who was an elder of the German Bap tist Church, moved into the vicinity of Mount Vernon. There were a few of his people on both sides of the Mississinewa River and he began to preach to them. These meetings were generally held in cabins and schoolhouses and, if they promised to be largely attended. a barn was brought into requisition. In time a society was formed of German Baptists in Waltz Township. That organization so increased in membership that it divided into two bodies, and a separate brick meetinghouse was erected for each - one north of the river in 1871 and the other at Mount Vernon in 1874.
PLEASANT GROVE WESLEYAN CHURCH
Pleasant Grove Wesleyan Church originated in the efforts of James Starbuck, of the prolific Wayne County family,
the original society in Waltz Township being formed at his house in February, 1847. Rev. David Worth, a noted abolitionist
and Wesleyan of that day, was the organizing minister. In 1860 the first house of worship was erected upon land
owned by Andrew R. Starbuck in the southwest quarter of section 25. In connection with this, a cemetery was also
platted, both west of Mr. Starbuck's residence.